Math just got a little more fun with PEG + CAT, the new animated series from PBS KIDS. The show premieres this Monday, October 7, and promises to make problem-solving skills a breeze for your preschooler.
In each 30-minute episode, Peg and her lovable sidekick Cat encounter dilemmas that require some big thinking. Whether they’re trying a hand at adding and subtracting or learning broader concepts like size and geometry, the pair never back down from a number challenge (or a catchy learning tune). With backdrops like a pirate island or futuristic planet, the program proves math can be exciting and happen in the most unexpected places.
PEG + CAT comes at a vital time when children’s math skills are in dire need. National assessments have shown that 60 percent of students are performing below proficient levels in math by the fourth grade, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress Report.
Another inspiring element of the show: The main character is a young girl. While women make up 48 percent of the workforce, only 23 percent are in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Let’s hope a character as spirited and outspoken as Peg will be inspiration for boys AND girls everywhere to get their brains calculating.
Beyond math, PEG + CAT shows young ones the process of trial and error, such as figuring out multiple ways to move 100 chickens back to their coop. She may not get it right the first time, but Peg eventually learns from her mistakes and seeks help from friends along the way, both awesome life skills for the real world as well.
Want to get a sneak peek this weekend? Visit the show’s interactive website pbskids.org/peg, where you can also find local listings for the show, or download the PET + CAT Big Gig app for games and learning resources now.
Check out the video below to see how PEG + CAT was created!
Parents caught up with tennis star, humanitarian, father (and now snack-creator) Andre Agassi upon the launch of his new snack line for kids, Box Budd!es. Agassi teamed up with V20 Foods to create snacks from milk boxes to granola bars.We particularly enjoyed the fun new Peachy Apple Fruit Pouch as a twist on traditional applesauce. The chocolate granola bars win the Parents vote since they’re the perfect size for a lunchbox treat, with only 100 calories and 5 grams of sugar each. Not to mention, all of the proceeds from these foods benefit the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. But aside from this endeavor, as dad to Jaden, 11, and Jaz, 9, this pro has plenty to say about healthy eating, kids and sports, and teaching your child kindness.
P: What got you started on the nutritional front for kids?
AA: The impetus was about education and it morphed into educating on two fronts. All the money goes to my Foundation for Education, so we can educate our future, and we also educate parents on how to make better choices for their kids.
P: The snacks are a bit healthier and the proceeds support education, but I have to imagine taste was a factor. Were Jaden and Jaz your taste-testers?
AA: They were two of them, let me put it that way. Their cousins were four more and their friends. As we got closer to the end product it became a fun thing in the house. We would line up all these blind taste tests and cut them into little tiny squares so you could compare them and then they would all do their little notes about them. It was actually a pretty fun process.
P: So are applesauce and chocolate milk some of their favorite foods?
AA: We have the same dilemma every parent has in that you keep your kids living a well-balanced health lifestyle and it starts with educating them on their choices and forcing them to eat something healthy before they eat something that’s not as healthy.
P: What are you tricks of the trade in getting them to choose that healthier option?
AA: Well, it’s a mandate. If you want something that’s unhealthy for a snack, you first have to eat an apple. You want to go to dessert, you have to finish this on your plate. It’s filling them up on the good stuff before they choose the bad stuff. If they ask for snacks, as long as they eat something healthy they can have the snack. We don’t discriminate against the snack as long as they start with the healthy option.
P: I know that you are involved with the Boys and Girls club, an organization that mixes education and athletics. Do Jaden and Jaz play sports to keep active and healthy?
AA: Yeah. My son plays baseball, full stop, and my daughter’s on two hip hop dance competition teams. She is rock hard now and she’s nine. I didn’t even know bodies could do those movements. It’s crazy to watch her do it.We’re there at competitions and games cheering all the time.
P: In your autobiography, Open, you talk a lot about how tennis felt pressurized for you. How do you keep athletics, or dance, or physical activity in general fun for your kids?
AA: Well, we’re not the kind of parents who expect them to do this for a lifetime. We try to nurture what they gravitate towards and they both found their niche pretty quickly. We just support it. There’s nothing to push them at. They just have to see through their responsibility. It’s really smiple: You’re going to fulfill your responsibility. Jaz is part of two dance competitions. She doesn’t have to do it next year, but this year I say, “You’re going to every practice, you’re going to go to every competition.” Same with Jaden—he can make his choices year to year if that’s what he chooses, but I harp on being responsible.
P: Through your Foundation and all of the wonderful causes that you’ve been a supporter of, giving back is clearly an important value to you. How do you go about instilling that value in your children?
AA: All of those things I did that led me to education. I got tired of sticking band-aids on issues and I wanted to give the tools for real systemic change. But I will tell you this, and one thing I’ve learned most profoundly as a parent: children will learn from what they see way more than what you tell them. So the fact that I’m in New York right now for two days and I’m not home with them, they want to know where I am and why I’m going. I walk them through what I’m doing, as an example, with Box Budd!es. They all of a sudden realize that I’m not really doing something I want to do—I don’t want to travel, I don’t want to leave them—but I have to because it is the right thing to do. So they see that more than telling them. Next thing you know on the weekend they’re having a lemonade drive for the ASPCA to save pets and animals. It’s remarkable how that correlates.
P: I know that Jaden has a birthday coming up, he’s about to turn 12. Do you have birthday plans?
AA: Both of them actually. Jaz wants to take her entire dance team to the Jabberwockies. So that would be the third year in a row she wants to do that. They’re better athletes than anyone I’ve ever seen on a tennis court. They’re remarkable what they can do. Jaden, his birthday is late October so he’s still sort of morphing back and forth between a very understated barbeque with just a few friends or a big movie night with his entire team.
P: Will you serve Box Budd!es at the birthday party?
I’m gonna push this as much as possible. I hope this brand builds. I hope that when people see that seal, that logo, that this is really going towards our future, that they trust the source, and that 100 percent of all my proceeds are going directly to our future.
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are intended to help children with learning disabilities and special education needs reach educational goals more easily, but they’re often a mystery to parents. A recent study found that schools nationwide could do more to explain the IEP process, which are a federal right of every student. Below are 4 pointers on how to start the IEP process:
Make a Request In Writing: A comment or request made verbally in passing to a teacher or school administrator technically didn’t happen. Remember always to place requests for an IEP evaluation or changes to your child’s current IEP in writing, whether by email or letter. Notify the school administrator in charge of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) in your school district.
Know Your Rights: After you’ve submitted an IEP evaluation letter of request, every school district nationwide is required by law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to respond within 10 business (or school) days. The school must provide you with written documentation explaining (1) the parents’ need for consent to conduct an educational evaluation’ (2) how the a determination of eligibility will be made; (3) the documentation needed to identify the existence of a Specific Learning Disability (SLD); and (4) confirmation that parents are invited to participate in the IEP process.
Be Patient: Your child’s school has 60 business days to complete the evaluation, which includes an interview with parents, a conference with the student, observations of the student, and analysis of the student’s performance (attention, behavior, work completion, tests, class work, homework, etc.). Legally the CSE (or IEP team) must include “you” the parent, plus at least one general educator teacher (even if your child is in one general education class) and one special education teacher in the meeting.
Speak Up: The IEP team is charged with developing, reviewing, and revising your child’s IEP at least once a year by law and more often if you are dissatisfied with your child’s lack of progress. If you’re not satisfied, speak up (and write emails or letters) as often as you need in order to get results! Remember that you are an equal partner with the school in the IEP process, and the IEP document is intended as a flexible, but binding, agreement that guides everyone involved to ensure the highest quality instruction and free ,educational services in the least restrictive environment.
Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Andrew Geant, co-founder and CEO of WyzAnt.com, a site which helps parents find tutors for their children quickly and easily. WyzAnt.com currently has 60,000 tutors covering all 50 states.
Your kids may be back in school, but class size or struggles with basic concepts may mean they need extra one-on-one help. Finding the right tutor, one who you can trust and who your child can connect with, can be a time-consuming and expensive process. How then do you find the right tutors? Here are the five things to consider when looking for a tutor.
1. Find a tutor that caters to your child’s specific learning style.
Each student has unique needs when it comes to their learning process, and tutors who are successful with one student may not be as successful with another. First, ask the school counselor to help determine whether your child is an auditory, kinesthetic, or visual learner. Share this information with the tutor and discuss whether or not their teaching style and approach to lessons will be a good fit.
2. Request tutor credentials and client references.
Depending on the topic, it is important to understand your tutor’s mastery of the subject. Obtained degrees and studied coursework can help you understand the tutor’s capability, but objective anecdotes and recommendations from past clients can be even more valuable.
3. Think safety.
When working with a private tutor it is important to establish a safe, comfortable environment that promotes learning. Do not hesitate to perform a basic background check on a tutor you are considering. Some parents also choose to meet candidates in a neutral location such as a public library or coffee shop before inviting them to the home.
4. Require feedback and open communication.
Establishing a productive relationship between a tutor and student is an important process that may take time. Consistent communication among the parents, student, and tutor will facilitate this process and benefit the student. By providing feedback after each lesson, parents and students will have a documented history of the topics covered during the course of tutoring sessions. Consistent communication is also important to avoid misunderstandings that can damage the relationship, such as questions about billing or policies related to canceled lessons.
5. Set goals to gauge the impact of tutoring.
No two students are alike. A student’s initial understanding of a subject before lessons, in addition to her motivation to work hard and learn the subject, will impact the success of the tutoring relationship. Establishing healthy, realistic goals (classroom performance or general understanding and comprehension) before beginning lessons can generate motivation and help all parties appreciate the impact and value of the tutoring lessons.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced the first White House Online Summit on Education yesterday morning, to talk about the current state of America’s education and the improvements the Obama Administration is making.
The summit took place on White House grounds, and I had the opportunity to be part of a diverse group of online media outlets that focused parenting, education, financial, and current news.
Secretary Duncan kicked off his speech with some sobering statistics: The U.S. currently ranks #16 in college education rates around the world (down from #1), and our country has a 25% college drop-out rate, with more than 1 million kids leaving school with no employable skills to find a job. And these lack of skills is increasingly a bigger crisis than our job crisis, impeding young adults from finding and keeping good jobs.
To help with the skills crisis, there is increased investment in long-term early childhood education, especially on K-12 reform for the next 15-20 years. Launching and investing $600 million behind the Race to the Top initiative has been one solution to help a future generation learn basic skills, such as reading, before reaching kindergarten. Also, 46 states have chosen to raise their educational standards, and more support been given to the bottom 5% of schools in the U.S., which has increased reading and math skills and decreased violence and discipline problems.
The Secretary also acknowledged that the No Child Left Behind Act is essentially “broken” and has caused states to “dumb down” academic standards during the past few years. The the White House is now partnering with 20 states to provide waivers and “empower” them to be more innovative with educational plans. Another goal is to train and retain talented teachers, to “elevate and strengthen” 1 million new professionals in the next 4-6 years. All this will work toward a challenge President Obama has set: to have the U.S. be the world leader in higher education by 2020.
Kids choose one of three science topics and then propose an original idea or experiment that relates to it. This year, the three topics are Zero Waste, Animal Smarts, and Meals on Mars.
Zero Waste challenges kids to invent a package using materials that will also be recycled and reused and never ends up in a landfill. Animal Smarts asks kids to design a toy, game, or experiment that will enhance a pet or zoo animal’s life as well as demonstrate its intelligence. Meals on Mars motivates kids to produce new ways of preserving, cooking, deliver, or produce sustainable food for space travel and for living on the planet Mars.
Three grand prize winners, one or each topic, are then selected and given trips to unique places (e.g. Green Mountain Coffee in Waterbury, Vermont; Oregon Zoo in Portland; and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas). Various other prizes will also be awarded, and the first 1,000 kids to enter the contest will also receive a free science kit.
As more parents worry about how their growing toddlers will survive the educational system once they enter school, they’re enrolling kids in after-school tutoring and learning centers such as Kumon. The New York Times recently wrote an in-depth profile on how Kumon is becoming parents’ defense against a changing educational landscape that focuses more on studying, memorizing, and taking standardized tests for reading, writing, and math.
Originally started in Japan during the 1950s for school-age kids, Kumon has expanded in the U.S. since 1974, where it grew in popularity among mostly Asian students. Now, kids of all ages and ethnicities enroll in Kumon to help them get a leg up on school work and studies. In recent years, a Junior Kumon program was created to enroll children ages 3 to 5, though toddlers as young as 2 are welcome. Junior Kumon lessons cost about $200-300 per month, and toddlers and preschoolers are tutored twice a week for one hour each.
Some parents see Kumon as a necessary means to building their children’s self-confidence and academic skills; a way to give them the means necessary to advance later in life. (In addition to starting them in sports classes or having them read chapter books.) Others, particularly child experts and educators, aren’t convinced programs like Kumon are enriching experiences that will help kids become innovative, vibrant, curious thinkers; instead, it only stresses memorization, repetition, and a linear way of thinking.
When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I remember weekend afternoons at my local Kumon, huddled around tables working on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and long division on numerous worksheets. I remember storing my worksheets and multiplication charts in plastic pouches Kumon provided us. At that time, Kumon only focused on math, not reading. Of course, as a kid, I didn’t enjoy working on endless math sheets. And ironically, despite all the math lessons, I grew up to work in a field that focuses just on reading and writing.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t intrinsic value in enrolling kids in Kumon, though 2 years old may be a bit too young. There are still other ways to teach kids how to achieve their truest potential, as the Tiger Mother debate has illustrated. But, then again, who knows where I would be now if I had enrolled at 2 years old?
Would you enroll your kid in enrichment programs like Kumon? Are toddlers ready for the pressure to succeed?
It’s allergy season again, which means your child may be experiencing watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and exacerbated asthma. According to Bill McLin, President and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), “asthma affects nearly seven million children in America, and it is imperative that we make an effort to further educate children and parents on asthma care and management.”
Mary Joe Fernandez, an Olympic medalist and tennis champion, is the site’s spokesperson. “Having battled the symptoms of asthma for many years, and now as the mother of a child with asthma, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of quality asthma care both at home and in school.” To help improve quality of care and education for school-aged children with asthma, EveryoneBreathe.com is partnering with the AAFA for a new Everyone Breathe Asthma Education Grants program. Parents who have children with asthma can apply for a $2,500 savings bond for their child’s continued education and a $5,000 savings bond for their child’s school to improve asthma care and education in the classroom. Ten winners total will be selected. The deadline is July 29, 2011.