Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Growing up at risk

Radio Commentary

Peter Benson’s book, “The Troubled Journey,” paints a portrait of youth from sixth through twelfth grade.

In it, he made an interesting observation.
He wrote: “It is not clear whether growing up now is riskier business than it once was, or whether we are simply doing a better job naming and counting problems that have always existed.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he wrote. “What matters is that there are too many casualties, too many wounded, too many close calls.”

Looking around our community, it is clear that he is correct.

His recommendation is one we can all agree with. He wrote: “Our highest national priority should be to mobilize our collective energy, commitment, and ingenuity to ensure a bright future for each and every child.”

It is hard to argue with that worthy goal.

The good news is that efforts are underway locally to help in that battle, particularly through various nonprofit and government organizations, and through our local school districts.

We should not, and cannot, rest until we make sure we’ve given every child an equal chance to succeed, in a safe and supportive environment.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Math tips

Radio Commentary

Here are some good math homework tips for parents:

It can be helpful to encourage children to use a daily math assignment book, even if one is not provided at school. Follow the progress your child is making, and check with your child every day about math homework.

Engage in frequent talks with your child’s teacher, especially if you don’t understand the math assignments. Terminology and techniques have evolved over the years, and it’s common for parents to be unfamiliar with the format of a question.

Ask your child’s teacher whether your child is working at grade level and, if not, what can be done at home to help.

If your child needs help, request after-school math support. Sometimes peer tutoring is the most effective, and children often enjoy learning from peers even more than from teachers.

Try to become familiar with how your child is being taught math skills, and resist the temptation to teach strategies or shortcuts that conflict with the approach the teacher is using. Ask your child’s teacher if there are online resources you could use at home.

Math is an essential skill for almost every human endeavor, and parents can often be very helpful in enabling their children to master these critical skills. When in doubt, check with the teacher. That’s the best advice of all.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Planning and structuring

Radio Commentary

The toughest time for parents to communicate with their children is during the young adolescent years. Thinking ahead about your own standards, and helping children structure their tasks, can be a great help.

In fact, one of the best tools for parents is being prepared.

In the middle school years, get ready for some conflicts. Before any issue reaches a boiling point, think carefully about what is truly important to you.

Know ahead of time what areas you are willing to negotiate and which are absolute for you.
Here’s another tip. When young people are feeling overwhelmed, help them organize their goals and tasks clearly.

Think about it: A disastrous bedroom, 12 overdue math assignments, a long-term project that’s “suddenly” due in a few days or hours. All of these combined can make a preteen decide to give up, rather than get started.

Help your child break those chores into smaller parts. For example: clean off the bed, get five assignments done tonight, and assemble materials for the project.

This will help them structure the tasks so that they seem more approachable and doable. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Birmingham pledge

Radio Commentary

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that one day human beings would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
That dream is not yet a reality. But we can all help bring it closer by giving our children the tools that will help them grow up as tolerant adults who embrace and celebrate America's great diversity.
 One of those tools is the Birmingham Pledge, an effort which aims to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual.
The pledge is a personal, daily commitment to remove prejudice from our lives, and to treat all people with respect.
The pledge states:
I believe that every person has worth as an individual and is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.
I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.
Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
It’s a pledge we can all make.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Detail skills

Radio Commentary

People generally talk about reading and writing together. Certainly, many of the skills that make children successful at one make them good at the other.

For example, one important reading skill that benefits from writing practice is identifying details.

Parents should encourage children to provide details in their own oral and written stories. This will help them become more aware of the way other authors use detail.

One writing exercise requiring details is to have children give directions. Ask them to write very specifically how to get from home to school, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When children write thank-you notes to friends or relatives, have them describe in detail the item and how they will use it.

Children can also take the clipboard along on family outings. Ask them to describe the “prettiest” thing they see on the trip, or the most “unusual.” Then challenge them to list as many details as they can, including shapes, colors, textures, and impressions.

One way teachers measure improvement in young writers is to look at their use of details. The same is also true for improving reading comprehension: details matter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Paying for college

Radio Commentary

Many parents would like their children to attend college, but are concerned about the costs.

While paying for college can be a challenge, it is important to know that there are many opportunities for financial assistance.

The factors that influence the cost of a basic college education are the type of school (such as public or private, in-state or out-of-state), the time it takes your child to finish (the longer he or she stays, the more it will cost), and location.
Location affects the cost of housing, food and transportation.
Federal and state governments both offer help, along with private sources and foundations such as the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Your child’s high school is the best single source of information about financial aid.

Here are tips that help reduce college costs:

  • Reduce the number of classes needed in college by taking Advanced Placement classes or courses at a community college.
  • Enroll in a community college and then transfer to a four-year school.
  • Participate in a partnership program that is formally linked to a college.
  • Take advantage of federal programs such as the HOPE Scholarship tax credit.

Remember the guiding principle: Where there is a will, there really is a way.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bad influences

Radio Commentary

Limiting children’s exposure to objectionable or harmful material is a top priority for parents.

A good start is to resist putting TVs or computers in your children’s bedrooms.

Rather, it’s a good idea to place the television and computer in areas of the house where everyone has access to them.

Choose a place where you can talk with your pre-teens and they can talk with you about what they’re watching or doing online.

Never underestimate the power of your influence.

Even though children won’t often say thank you for your sound advice, or act grateful when you set limits, your efforts will be appreciated in the long run.

TV, Internet, and video content can overload young people with violent or confusing images and ideas. They may believe or worry that outside the confines of your family those values are the norm.

Especially in the era of reality TV, these thoughts can be very troublesome.

By keeping TVs and computers in a shared area of your home, you can enjoy them together and monitor what is being viewed. It can also spark important family discussions.

It truly makes a difference.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Parents and reading

Radio Commentary

Sometimes the list of parental responsibilities can appear to be overwhelming. Generations ago it seemed sufficient to feed, clothe, and house a child, providing love and warmth whenever possible.

But the list of “must-do’s” has grown through the generations, and the impact of parental involvement has come into focus.

One item on the list, as most parents know, is the “must-do” of encouraging reading. And it’s clear that most parents are doing a good job of encouraging young children to read.
But research shows that their help plummets drastically once youngsters reach age nine.

A recent study showed that more than half the parents with children under age nine said they read with their children every day.
But only 13 percent of parents with older children reported that they read with them on a daily basis. And shortly after parental reading involvement drops, a child’s television viewing increases dramatically.

As the late Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said: “Parents are doing a good job of helping their children learn to read. But they give up too soon. Once a child begins to read independently, a parent’s job isn’t over. It simply changes.”

The study found that teachers see a major gain in reading ability when parents remain involved.

As parents review their “must-do” list of responsibilities, reading should remain high on that list.