Archive for the ‘ school ’ Category

Pilot’s New Pens

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Your kids may be back in the classroom already, but our guess is that you still have some odds and ends to

pick up to round out their supply stash. When you head to the office supply store this week, be sure to check out Pilot’s new line of FriXion pens.

Erasable pens used to be synonymous with sticky ink and poor erasers, but FriXion pens are changing all of that. Kids will love them because they write like a smooth roller ball pen and the ink resembles that of a gel pen in both color and consistency.

These new and improved pens are especially great for grade-schoolers who are getting away from using just pencils and, like their name conveys, they erase through friction which means kids don’t have to press as hard to correct mistakes and marks. The rounded rubber ball at the bottom of the pen wears away ink like magic. Plus the line comes in an awesome array of colors that are perfect for school and doodling at home.

If you love the pens, you’ll probably also love the brand’s erasable highlighters! Be sure to check out the FriXion Light Erasable Highlighters and the FriXion Erasable Gel Pens out here.

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5 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Back to School colored pencilsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Ready or not, it’s that time again. Your kids are trying on fall clothes, cleaning out backpacks from last year, and shopping for school supplies. Another exciting year of growth and development is on the horizon for your children. Here are five sure-fire ways to make this a year of growth and development for you as well.

Hold a weekly calendar meeting.

Each new year of school brings more complicated choreography to your kids’ schedules – and to your schedule as well. Every Sunday night, sit down with your kids and enter every commitment and event of their upcoming week into your personal calendar. There are 3 important reasons to do this: a) you should always know where your kids are; b) you have a head start on dinner conversation if you know what your kids have been up to all day; c) you may get a pleasant surprise – a meeting of yours is canceled in time for you to make the second half of a basketball game. But you’ll only know about the game if it’s on your calendar.

Volunteer at school.

Every school is underfunded and shorthanded. Your kids’ school can use your help and participating in an after-school activity can be a meaningful experience. Depending on your kids’ ages and their level of pride (or embarrassment) in seeing you at school, there are many roles to fill: homeroom parent, teacher’s aide, hall monitor, coach’s assistant, team parent, crossing guard, PTA, office volunteer, and field trip chaperone or driver, to name a few.  Spending a part of your day at school gives you an up-close look at interactions with teachers and friends, hallway dynamics, and locker lore. All this can lead to more good dinner conversation!

Drive a carpool.

Whether it’s driving back and forth to school or to and from after-school activities you learn a lot about your kids by driving the carpool. Mysteriously, the carpool driver becomes practically invisible to the passengers, especially when it’s more than just your own kids in the car. This allows you an invaluable “fly on the dashboard” opportunity to eavesdrop on your kids social interactions, catch up on grade school gossip, and hear about homework without even asking.

Help with homework.

Be involved with your kids’ homework every night. When they’re in grade school, sit with them for part of the time they’re doing work – not to catch every math mistake but to make sure they get the big picture. In middle school, just look over their completed work regularly for overall quality. Show you are happy to see them doing such a nice job. Your pride in their work will become their pride. By high school, it’s enough to ask each night if they’ve finished their homework and occasionally review a teacher’s comments on the graded work.  No matter the age, if your kids ask for help, do your best to guide them without doing their homework. Remember, you’ve already learned “times tables,” so now it’s their turn.

Manage extracurricular activities.

Beware of “potpourri parenting” – soccer Mondays, violin Tuesdays, karate Wednesdays, etc. Kids’ options for extracurricular activities are limitless, and you may be tempted to enroll your kids in everything, thinking you’re “enriching” them.  As long as your kids are enjoying these activities, and you’re not missing chances to spend more time with them, there’s nothing wrong with having many varied experiences. But if programming begins to replace parenting or if your kids are showing “enrichment fatigue,” reduce the amount of activities. Your time together as a family is almost always more enriching, especially since time with your young kids is fleeting. Don’t give it all away.

The school years won’t seem to pass by as quickly if you get involved in your kids’ school lives. So have a wonderful fall semester!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.  He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image: “Back to school” and colored pencils via Shutterstock

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Should You Start Saving for College Now?

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Editor’s Note: has partnered with to bring you a monthly series of posts about money topics related to moms.  These guest posts will be shorter, edited versions of longer features written by Cheryl Lock, Editor at LearnVest.

As we all know, the cost of parenting can last long after the kids are grown and out of the house.  Money spent on diapers and formula morphs into summer camp fees and back-to-school gear. Then, before you know it, you’re paying for your kid’s college loans well into your 40s and 50s.

Okay, so that’s probably not the way most parents envision spending their money as they near retirement, but according to recent data, quite a few are already feeling that sting. And it makes sense: The average cost of four-year universities rose by 15% between 2008 and 2010, and keeps on climbing higher. Not every family is willing to tax themselves beyond their limits to meet those new sticker prices, though.  In a recent survey, only 53% of parents (down from 64% in the 2009-2010 academic year) said they would stretch themselves financially to pay for college.

But taking out loans that you might not be able to pay back is a financial road you don’t want to go down.  Data released recently by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that middle-aged Americans are actually the age group struggling the most with student loan payments. Not only has the number of middle-aged Americans with student loans doubled since 2005, the delinquency rate (the percentage of debt on which no payment has been made for 90 days) for borrowers ages 40 to 49 was 11.9%, compared to a delinquency rate of 8.7% for borrowers of all ages.

While it’s definitely true that some of these over-40 debtors are still paying off their own loans from college, it appears that many are parents who have taken out student loans to help fund their children’s education.  In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal PLUS program, which allows parents to take out loans  to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid, is among the fastest-growing of the government’s education loan programs. 


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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Win Labels for Your Kid’s Stuff!

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I’m pretty certain that, before I had kids, you could not have convinced me that high-quality labels were a life’s necessity. But now I am one of them, the parents who spend more than $20 on a pack of labels because I am tired of trying to write on backpacks with Sharpie, frustrated from trying to mark tiny socks with initials, and sick of my kids’ stuff (like umbrellas, which cost $10 each) getting thrown in the lost-and-found.

I started ordering from and haven’t looked back. The stickers are created by moms who understand that they have to be impossibly good: survive laundry, dishwasher, and daily use, yet easily peel off. (For instance, just last week my daughter suddenly started using my son’s robot lunchbox with his blessing, so I had to get his label off and hers on. No prob.) The site offers specific labels for clothing, metal tags that are good to hang on backpacks, and labels to go inside shoes. I’m guessing half of your are nodding your heads, understanding the value of this, and the other half of you are saying, “How can a kid lose his shoes?” Eventually you’ll witness a party at a play gym or send your kid on a sleepover and find out.

My only issue with Mabel’s Labels was that the designs could be a little bit babyish. Cars and princesses are good for daycare and preschool, but kids get savvy fast these days (like…by first grade). Fortunately the site has just launched Tween Packs which, I’m happy to say, are age-appropriate for any kid. I recently got them for Grace and Joe. There’s a mix of little stickers and big, and a few pages of all different designs, 25 stickers for $21. They’re all pretty (the girl packs) or funky (the boy packs). 

The moms who run Mabel’s Labels are going to give five lucky commenters their own $21 Tween Pack, whichever design and name each winner wants. For your chance, leave a comment here, up to once a day, between now and the end of the day on Wednesday, September 5th. Maybe tell me the most frustrating thing your child has ever lost. We’ll pick five winners at random. Read the complete rules here. And Goody Luck—with this contest and with hanging onto your kid’s stuff!

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Was Your Child Held Back? Prepare Him for Repeating a Grade

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

It’s almost time to head back to the classroom, but what if your child has been held back a year? He wouldn’t be alone: Approximately 10% of K–8 students have repeated a grade, according to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Help your child adjust with these tips from Margret Nickels, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Children and Families at the Erikson Institute in Chicago.


  • Frame the situation positively. Try saying something like, “You know how it was so hard for you to pay attention and read? We’re going to give you a little more time to learn. You’ll feel less stressed because your brain is now in a better place to learn all of these things. It will be easier for you to do the things we’re asking of you.”
  • Boost your kid’s self-esteem. “By ages 7-8, kids start to compare themselves to others in terms of competition—who’s smartest, who’s best at sports—so issues of shame and failure becomes more pronounced,” says Dr. Nickels. Help your child reflect on things that he’s great at, whether it’s drawing or riding his bike.
  • Facilitate friendships. Ease your child’s social fears by helping her get to know her new classmates. Arrange playdates with neighborhood kids in the same grade. You can also enlist the teacher’s help. If another student shares your daughter’s love of soccer, maybe the teacher can suggest that they kick the ball around during lunchtime. If your student is worried about missing her old friends, remind her that they can meet up at recess or after school.


  • Blame your child. Kids are held back for lots of reasons, including behavioral, academic, and social issues. But it’s never productive to accuse your child of not trying hard enough.
  • Get discouraged. “Parents shouldn’t view this as a failure, but as a new opportunity,” says Nickels. “Repeating a grade can give your child the foundation and the space to develop at their own pace.” Focus on the ultimate goal: fostering an environment in which your child can flourish.

Image: Kids heading back to school via Shutterstock

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A Perfect Back-to-School Book

Monday, August 27th, 2012

My daughter starts second grade next week, which means only one thing: We’re in a frantic race to finish the summer packet she needs to bring in during the first week of school. She’s down to her final worksheets, one of which requires an extensive summary of a fiction book. She’s been dragging her feet, but I know a perfect book to get her moving: Rocket Writes a Story, by Tad Hills. Maybe your child has read the book this is based on, How Rocket Learned to Read: In it, Rocket the dog reluctantly gets reading lessons from an assertive little yellow bird, and the whole world opens up for him after that. In the sequel, he’s now an avid reader who’s eager to write his own story, but doesn’t think he has anything worth writing about. The yellow bird teaches Rocket about inspiration, and between that a new friend he’s made, he creates a beautiful story. If you read it, tell me if it was just me or if the ending got you a little teary-eyed, too…


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Your Child’s Top 3 Classroom Fears: A Back-to-School Infographic

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Is your child heading to school for the first time? Or heading back to new classrooms with new teachers? We polled our Facebook readers with the question, “What scares your child the most about going to school?”  Not surprisingly, a majority of kids were worried about not being able to make friends.

Based on the answers, we created this fun infographic to show your children’s top 3 fears, plus tips on how to help them ease into school.

For more ideas for gear, clothes, and lunches, visit our Back to School page:

Also, check out our Back to School board on Pinterest to start pinning fun images (like this infographic!):

Parents Back to School 2012 Infographic

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Lengthened School Years Increase Scores (and Germs!)

Friday, August 10th, 2012

You’ve heard it before: Schools across the U.S. just aren’t at the same academic level as other global leaders, including China, South Korea, and Finland. Although some state-led initiatives have made their way into the mix, some schools are deciding to put the students’ — and our future leaders — fate into their own hands.

Cities such as Chicago, Boston, and Phoenix are lengthening their school days and school years in efforts to increase the amount of time students spend in the classroom. Lengthening the academic year by 10 days or more, schools hope shorter summer vacations will help kids better remember what they learned during the school year.

And according to a report from the National Center on Time and Learning, it’s starting to pay off. Schools with longer academic years report higher graduation rates and higher test scores than those still abiding by the 180-day year.

With all that extra time in the classroom, your child is bound to bring home an endless list of yucky germs. Take a look at our tips to keep him healthy here so he can spend more time at school and less time on the couch (and we know you like that idea!).

Image: Children at school classroom via Shuttershock

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