Archive for the ‘ Education ’ Category

Bad News: If You Have Math Anxiety, It May Be Contagious

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

mom helping daughter do homeworkAs a child, I was a voracious reader. My ability to read at a young age led my mom to ignore California schools’ September 1 cut-off rule and enroll me in kindergarten early. Unfortunately, my math skills were sub-par, and I didn’t catch up until high school. I’ll never forget a scary meeting with my third-grade teacher and parents after I had majorly flunked a math test. “Math is the worst!” I thought to myself over and over again as I tried to look away from the all the angry red marks on my test. Learning math made me sick to my stomach. Even today, I find myself sweating when the bill comes after dinner with friends, because I’m worried I won’t be able to figure out what I owe. (Thank goodness for smartphones!)

I would hate for my future kids to have math anxiety as well. A new study reveals that parents who have math anxiety are more likely to pass it on to their children, and those kids will learn less math over the course of the school year. It is possible that there is a genetic component; however, the study suggests that the correlation exists only if the child’s parent frequently helps with homework. It likely has less to do with genes and more to do with how you might be revealing your math insecurities. While it’s a relief that genes probably don’t play a role, it’s not exactly easy to cover up anxiety.

In addition to making my husband — who is thankfully a math pro/civil engineer — be on homework help duty for life when the time comes, I plan on exposing my kids to math in fun ways from an early age. The study suggests that “math books, computer and traditional board games, [and] Internet apps” may help spread positive feelings toward math. I can’t remember being exposed to anything that was both fun and math-related as a child. Luckily, we’ve come a long way. There are some new dolls that aim to make math and science cooler for girls on the market  that look promising. I wish they had been around when I was a kid! Maybe I would have been less intimidated by math and science if there had been a Math Whiz Barbie.

Related: Make Learning Math Fun

Surprising Tip on Learning Math
Surprising Tip on Learning Math
Surprising Tip on Learning Math

Hannah Werthan is the associate social media editor at Parents.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Image via Shutterstock

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A New School Year is Starting. Make Sure YOUR Child Isn’t ‘Left Behind’

Friday, July 17th, 2015

The House and Senate have put forth competing plans to overhaul the No Child Left Behind act and the arguing continues in Washington. But 54 million U.S. kids simply can’t wait for the grownups to sort things out: School is starting soon whether they like it or not. As a parent you may find yourself wondering what you can do right now to make sure your child gets a great education.

Let’s start by what needs to happen at home. A good night’s sleep is no substitute for a top-notch school, but it’s essential to helping your child focus in the classroom. The National Sleep Foundation recently released updated guidelines for the amount of zzz’s kids need, and those ages 6 to 13 should get 9 to 11 hours a night. You’ll also want to investigate any health surprises that might undermine academic success. Up to one in four school age children have a vision problem that could impair learning, according to the American Optometric Association. Other to-dos:

*Turn off the devices during homework time and keep screens out of your child’s bedroom

*Ensure your child eats a good breakfast before school

*Get your kid to school on time

*Help make sure the homework gets done

Next step? Go to school yourself. Talk with teachers and administrators. The U.S. Department of Education just released a checklist to help guide that conversation. Focus not only on academics but also on how your child’s school handles everything from bullying to school lunch. For example, if my school had a zero-tolerance discipline policy that extended to kindergarteners, I’d want to change that. Don’t forget to ask about recess and gym. “The very high-performing schools I visit almost universally understand this and find ways to keep exercise happening,” says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The DOE also recommends asking administrators how they know a teacher is effective. “There is a huge variation in how schools determine teachers’ effectiveness,” Duncan says. “Ask your administrator, How do you help teachers get better every year? Professional development should be part of the fabric of a school.” If your child doesn’t seem excited about and engaged in school, that’s a red flag.

Finally, do some homework of your own. Attend a local school-board meeting to get a sense of what’s going on in your community. “There are 15,000 local school boards and whether it’s recess or discipline, decisions aren’t made in Washington but by local boards,” says Secretary Duncan. “We need more parents stepping up.”

Secretary Duncan, incidentally, isn’t super-optimistic about Congress sorting out the competing education plans this year. “No Child Left Behind has been broken for years. Congress has been broken for years,” he says. So expect education debates to be ongoing during the presidential election cycle. “Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, it doesn’t matter,” he adds. “If we had more parents in the voting booth voting around education I guarantee our nation would be stronger and better.”

Dana Points is Editor in Chief of Parents. Her two boys get most of their homework done.

Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries

Image: Shutterstock.com

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Strides Toward Independence

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

As a grade-schooler, I would climb over our backyard fence (which bordered a playground) and walk to class on my own. I usually came home for lunch, and remember bringing friends with me—sometimes without my mom being home. I wasn’t a latchkey kid by any means. I had loving, involved parents. It was simply a different era, when free-range kids were the norm and there was far less concern about stranger danger (not that the world was truly any safer, mind you).

I have no desire to return to that era of laissez-faire parenting. Still, when my 10-year-old daughter, Isabella, asked if she could start walking the three blocks to school on her own, I thought it was high time to let her. And the advice in our magazine confirmed that it was age-appropriate. First, though, I had to teach her to cross the street.

We went out on a Sunday afternoon and practiced together. I modeled how to look both ways and watch for cars that might be turning left or right into the crosswalk. I stressed the importance of waiting for the image of the pedestrian walking to light up before going—and never to cross when the red hand was showing, even if she was certain there was no traffic coming. (That was a challenging behavior to model, as New Yorkers don’t wait for an invitation to cross and constantly assert their right-of-way over cars regardless of what the lights indicate). Then I shadowed her, watching from half a block behind as she made her way home from school.

She was ready. Were we? Isabella had shown us that she deserved our trust, but how would we know she was okay? For many kids, technology is the answer: They call on their cell when they arrive safely. Only one problem: Isabella doesn’t have a phone yet. So we worked out a compromise: Once at school, she would go up to the school office and make a quick “I’m okay” call. The administrator agreed to let her—in part because she supported the idea of waiting to get her a cell.

Now I get a call five times a week from my darling daughter at 8:03 am: “Hi, I made it to school, dad.” I tell her I love her and wish her a wonderful day. And then my wife and I can rest easy. Isabella asks repeatedly if she can stop calling. The answer is no.

Still, she’s taken other noteworthy steps on the path toward independence this year. She now gets her homework done on her own before we return from the office, which has facilitated a far more peaceful evening routine. She picked out her fifth-grade science project (pictured) on her own, recruited and tested subjects without our help, and put the whole thing together with minimal help. Heck, she even got it done early. She has also started going for “out lunch” on Fridays with friends, a lesson not only in independence but also, we hope, in money management ($12 doesn’t go as far as you’d think, especially in Manhattan).

Recently, she got her ears pierced. My wife wanted to wait until Isabella showed she was responsible enough to clean her own ears three times a day for eight weeks so as to prevent infection. But Isabella had proved herself in other areas (including street-crossing), so she got her wish. True to her word, she has cared for them properly, and has only one more week to go.

I can’t claim that there aren’t areas in need of improvement. Isabella needs to be reminded to change the empty toilet paper roll and (sometimes) to set the table. We’re still working on life skills like fetching her own snack and sorting her own laundry.

Even so, she’s come a long way this year, and her graduation from elementary school is more than a formality. My baby is growing up. She’ll keep making strides toward independence during middle school, and we’ll gradually have to learn to let go.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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Should Kids With Lice Be Allowed in Schools?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

It’s never a pleasant topic to discuss, but we need to talk about head lice.

When I was young, I caught the tiny pests from another kid at daycare. I wasn’t particularly close with this girl, so I’m confident that we weren’t sharing hats or rubbing our heads together, but somehow, I ended up with lice anyway. This was years ago now, but my mom still shudders when she thinks about it. Because naturally, my sister caught them too, and my poor mother was forced to spend hours washing and combing out our long hair. And it wasn’t easy for me either—she bagged up all my stuffed animals for two weeks! (Experts have since determined that those grueling days without my plush friends weren’t necessary, as lice can’t survive without human blood. So even worse, my suffering was all for nothing!) Needless to say, the head lice era was a dark time in my family’s history.

I was interested to hear that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just updated their guidelines, saying that kids with lice should not be banned from school. Instead, the child should finish out the school day, be treated and then return to class the next day. Experts are reminding parents that lice are not a serious health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene—just a nuisance that can be dealt with.

I’m feeling a little conflicted about this. On one hand, I obviously trust that the experts know what they’re talking about, and I don’t necessarily believe that a child should be banned from school until every last bug is gone. But what if someone had forced that kid from my daycare to stay home? My whole family would have been a whole lot happier, I can tell you that much. Sure, lice won’t ruin your life—but they will be a massive pain to your family while they’re kicking around. (“Nuisance” is way too gentle of a word in my mind.) It seems to me that keeping your child out of school until you’ve gotten things under control is a reasonable request. Let’s just hope that no matter what the school policy is, parents will use common sense about when a child should stay home, much like with colds or other mild illnesses.

Tell us what you think: should kids with lice be allowed in school?

How to Identify and Treat Lice
How to Identify and Treat Lice
How to Identify and Treat Lice

Image courtesy of Shutterstock 

Chrisanne Grise is an editorial assistant at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.

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How to Get a Jump On Saving for College

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Ellie Kay, a Moms Money Clinic advisor for Parents, guest blogs regularly to answer mail about money issues. Today she’s helping parents learn about college investment options.

Q. What are the best tax-smart ways to save for college?

A. There are quite a few options, depending on your needs as a family and your savings goals. Here’s a quick rundown of my favorite investment options for college:

UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) Parents of young children can start saving now for higher education, but should do so in a tax-smart way. By investing in a UGMA in your child’s name, the income is taxed at your little one’s marginal tax bracket rather than yours. At age 18 or 21 (depending on the state), control of the assets is turned over to your child, who can use them toward college. Note: This can be a disadvantage when it comes to financial-aid qualifications.

EE US Savings Bonds If the income from these bonds is used to pay for education expenses, it may be excluded from taxes, depending on your income level.

529 College Savings Plan This education savings plan, operated by a state or educational institution, is designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. As long as the plan satisfies a few basic requirements, the federal tax law provides special tax benefits to plan participants. Most notably, the money invested grows tax free, provided that you use it for eligible education expenses (such as tuition, room, board, and books). Grandparents and other relatives can also contribute to a 529. These plans are usually categorized as either prepaid or savings plans, although some have elements of both. Every state offers a 529 plan, and it’s up to each to decide on the particulars, such as tax exemptions and credits. Go here to review your state plan.

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts A Coverdell lets you set aside up to $2,000 of pre-tax income to be invested as you like, assuming your family meets the modified adjusted gross income requirements. The funds must be spent before your child turns 30. On the plus side, they can also be used for private-school tuition prior to college. Because Coverdell funds can be rolled over into a 529 without penalty, parents can sidestep its principal drawbacks—the age limit and the fact that a Coverdell counts as a child’s asset (which can adversely affect his ability to receive need-based loans). Coverdells may be a smart investment option for parents whose income is below $50,000. The accounts are easier to set up than 529 plans, and people in this lower tax bracket aren’t usually able to take advantage of the maximum lifetime contributions allowed under a 529.

Free money Signing up with Upromise.com lets you get a percentage of your everyday purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, and other places you frequent anyway deposited into your child’s 529 account. Anywhere from 1 percent to 25 percent of each sale is deposited into your child’s 529. Be sure to have grandparents sign up and log in their spending too (they’ll need to set up their own 529 accounts to take advantage).

Ellie KayEllie Kay is a family financial expert, the author of The 60-Minute Money Workout, and a mom of seven. Read more of her advice at elliekay.com.

Save for College
Save for College
Save for College

Smart baby via ShutterStock

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