Posts Tagged ‘ education ’

The American Academy of Pediatrics Releases New Policy on Reading to Kids During Infancy

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Mom reading book to babyFor the first time, the AAP has made an official stand on early literacy, releasing a new policy today that advocates reading aloud to children every day, beginning from birth. The new policy urges pediatricians and policy makers to ensure that books are available to all families, particularly those with low income.

In addition to the announcement, the AAP has also partnered with four organizations, the Clinton Foundation, Too Small to Fail, Scholastic, and Reach Out and Read, to implement the new policy. The AAP and Too Small to Fail are creating a toolkit to include guidelines for parents on the importance of reading from infancy, which will be distributed to 62,000 pediatricians in the AAP network. Scholastic is also donating 50,000 children’s books that Reach Out and Read will distribute to 20,000 medical providers.

The AAP recommends restricting TV time for kids under 2 in favor of interactive play, and reading books can certainly be a part of that. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Pamela High, M.D., the lead author on the AAP early literacy policy, recommends that parents focus on the 5 Rs of early education: read together, rhyme and play with words, set consistent routines, reward with praise, and develop a strong relationship.

Being exposed to books at a young age will also foster early education, help kids prepare for school later in life, and possibly reduce the educational gap between low- and high-income families. There are also several amazing benefits of reading out loud to babies — it strengthens bonding, increases language skills, improves vocabulary, boosts brain activity, and fine-tunes social and emotional recognition — all important things for baby’s development. So grab some board books and start shaping a little bookworm today!

Activity Tips: Mia Reads Book
Activity Tips: Mia Reads Book
Activity Tips: Mia Reads Book

Image: Mother and child reading a book via Shutterstock

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Made With Code: Why Teaching Code to Young Girls Matters

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Made With Code Google Mindy KalingIf hearing the word “coding” conjures up images of men sitting in the semi-dark, staring at computer screens filled with an endless jumble of  numbers, letters, and symbols, Google’s on a mission to dispel the stereotype that coding is boring, difficult, and just for men.

On Thursday, Google debuted Made W/ Code (madewithcode.com), a site and program dedicated to inspiring young girls to learn code by connecting them with other like-minded female coders and letting them create colorful projects like animated avatars, short soundtracks, and customized bracelets (create one using a 3D printer here!) — all for free.

Currently, in the U.S., only 12 percent of computer science graduates are women and only 1 in 5 programmers are female. Google itself admitted only 17% of their programmers are female! With such low numbers, the site aims to show girls how fun coding can be in order to reduce the gender gap in the computer science and tech industry.

We attended the Made W/ Code launch event, which was hosted by Mindy Kaling (who got involved because of her best friend’s app company) and featured speakers like Chelsea Clinton, Megan Smith (VP of Google[x]), Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg (who worked on “Brave” and “Finding Nemo”), iLuminate’s Miral Kotb (who created a dance troupe fusing moves with LED costumes), and UNICEF’s Erika Kochi (who created a mobile system to track birth rates and diseases in poor countries). Some of the women talked about learning to write code as young as 7- and 9-years-old, which sparked a lifelong interest. In the audience were teen girls from local schools who were also interested in and involved in coding. By exciting and encouraging girls at a young age, Google hopes to reshape the perception of the tech industry and improve diversity so that a new generation will dare to do extraordinary things — with code, of course.

Made with Code Google bracelets Shapeways

Here are some of our editors’ thoughts after attending the Made W/ Code launch:

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant, Parents magazine
I couldn’t get over how empowering each speaker was! All my life my engineer dad has been telling me that I should get into STEM, but it just never clicked with me. After listening to brilliant women like Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg and iLuminate’s Miral Kotb talk about how coding brought them to their dream careers, my interest was definitely piqued. They did a wonderful job of explaining not only how coding is an essential part of their jobs, but also how it plays into our everyday life. Now I’m curious to know what I could do if I knew how to code!

Chrisanne Grise, Editorial Assistant, Parents magazine 
For me, the best part of the event was being surrounded by so much girl power. It was impossible not to be moved by the incredible women who have used code to make such an impact on the world. I was particularly inspired by Danielle Feinberg, the Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar. She spoke to the teen girls about her own high school experience as the only girl in an engineering class. (Naturally, she showed up all the boys!) It was a funny story, but also a great reminder to be brave and stay true to your passions, no matter what anyone else thinks. At the end of the night, I felt empowered and ready to take on the world — and wondering if I should have studied computer science instead of journalism!

Sherry Huang, Features Editor, Parents.com
When I was in college, I took a computer science 101-type class that introduced me to the world of binary numbers, basic HTML coding, javascript, CSS, and all these other scary-sounding acronyms. Long story short, I did not do well in that class. Ironically, in spite of that, I landed a web editorial job after college that required me to use basic HTML to code text and build tables in stories. So…somehow, the class I hated became the class that helped “launch” my career. At the Code event, I learned that early exposure, encouragement (from parents and teachers), and knowledge of potential career options were important to helping girls pursue a field dominated by men. Even though I learned coding “late” in life, I wish I had known super women like Feinberg, Kotb, and Kochi to help dispel the confusion and disappointment I felt. But I’m truly excited that these women are paving the way for younger women to pursue their coding dreams.

Watch a video below to learn more about Made W/ Code:

Photos by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic for Google

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End-Of-School-Year-Wisdom From Top Teachers

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Most days I can’t recall what I ate for breakfast. The passwords necessary to access my work files and bank accounts often escape me. But I can remember the names my favorite childhood teachers—the really great ones, who helped me along to an educational breakthrough, whether mastery of multiplication (Mrs. Tuttle) or my first long-form essay (Ms. Price). I also saw the impact of great teachers in my home while growing up, as my parents, both teachers, were both loved by many of their students. And now I see it as a parent as well.

I met more greats recently as I helped host the 2014 Blackboard Awards, given annually to New York City teachers by New York Family magazine. As the award recipients spoke, I learned a little about what has helped these educators flourish. They’re things you could look for in your own child’s educational experience and qualities that might make you speak up to say thank you during the final days of the school year:

A great teacher considers herself a student too: Many of the instructors spoke about how they’ve never stopped learning on the job. Fran Vogel, band director at MS 167, the Robert F. Wagner Middle School, has taught for 23 years, yet she says, “I consider myself a student. I am still learning. I’ve learned about patience, and not to get too attached to what I need in the classroom.”

A great teacher works in an environment of trust. Lisa Schalk, who teaches nursery at Chelsea Day School, praised the administrators at her school who, “trust me to run my classroom the way I feel it should be run.” Schalk, who became a teacher in her late 40s after a first career as an advertising copywriter, knew a great deal about how a business runs when she came to her classroom. Having supervisors who respected her knowledge helped her thrive.

A great teacher knows each day is precious. At age 74, Eileen Shostack, a special education teacher at PS 75, has been teaching for 44 years and has seen first-hand how quickly childhood passes many times over. “Education is a race,” she says. “Every day in a child’s life is precious.”

A great teacher knows it’s ok to fail “I have been fortunate to be at a school where teachers are encouraged to try and fail, and I did so—spectacularly,” said Bayard Faithfull, a social-studies teacher at The Beacon School. In order for kids to learn, we have to let them get comfortable with failing—how can they do that if we don’t model the behavior for them?

Check out this Back to School printable to help your child with homework!

Back to School: Advice for Every Grade
Back to School: Advice for Every Grade
Back to School: Advice for Every Grade

Photograph: New York Family Editor Eric Messinger celebrating with honoree Eileen Shostack, who at 74 may well be the oldest active teacher in NYC public school system.  She’s a 5th grade special needs teacher at PS 75.

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Battling the End-of-Year Blues

Friday, June 6th, 2014

For so many of my friends, summer has already begun. I’ve been positively pea green with envy as I see all those cute last-day-of-school pictures and celebratory ice cream cones. Because here, we’re still drowning in homework and the endless parade of end-of-school events, and we have about 12 days, four hours and 35 minutes left until it’s finally over. (Not that I’m counting.)

Don’t get me wrong—I love school. I ADORE school. And my kids generally do, too. It’s just that the end-of-year hoopla is as relentless and draining as the pre-Christmas/Hanukkah frenzy. And based on the hollow eyes and Walking Dead zombie shuffles I’m seeing at dropoff, it’s clear that my fellow parents are about one to-do away from collapsing on the sidewalk in a slightly soft and sweaty middle-aged heap.

For starters, my youngest daughter’s teacher is a sadist. She sent my daughter home last week (LAST WEEK!) with her very first (and fingers crossed, last) first grade project. It’s a report about an animal, with an accompanying diorama of the animal in its habitat. Her teacher insisted that we couldn’t half-ass it and buy one of those tubes of tiny plastic animals from the craft store (or 1-Clicking it from Amazon, which would have been my M.O.). So instead, we spent two hours modeling a cheetah-like creature out of clay so we could hot-glue it into her shoebox. I had planned to cover the outside of the box with paper to make it look nicer, but my daughter couldn’t care less, and neither can I. (If my daughter’s teacher had wanted a fancy paper covering, she should have scheduled this particular project in April, when we still gave a hoot.)

My schedule this week also includes two recitals (with accompanying dress rehearsals), an awards ceremony of indeterminate length, our regular slate of post-school activities, a Girl Scout moving up ceremony, a “fun Friday” event at the school, and naturally, baking a cake that my oldest daughter could bring in to her class to construct a massive map of New Jersey out of sugar, and then eat it with her classmates. (That’s the culmination of a full year of studying New Jersey history.)

My youngest daughter’s Girl Scout ceremony conflicts with her dress rehearsal, and comes right after “fun Friday,” which includes events like face painting, water balloon throwing and eating a full year’s supply of red food coloring in the form of Italian ice. We have argued every single day this week about why she can’t get her face painted, because we have had situations where even sandpaper doesn’t seem to get the face paint off of her thoroughly, and her dance teacher would probably frown on that accessory. However, I’m fully expecting that my daughter’s going to come home today with a big black owl painted on her cheek, which I’m sure will look lovely with both her rainbow sparkle tutu and her haphazardly adorned Daisy tunic (we lost about 79 percent of the badges before I had enough spare time to try to iron them on).

But that’s nothing compared to what my equally fatigued book club pals have. As we slumped in chairs and tried to resuscitate ourselves with prosecco and peanut butter cookies, we traded war stories. One was convinced her daughter stopped actually learning in March, so her class could squeeze in all the field trips, bonding events, and celebrations that come with graduating sixth grade. Her dance card’s still full with special breakfasts and ceremonies through the end of the year. Another has a second grade graduation to attend next week at 9:30 a.m.—and the note came home saying that “most kids go home afterward with their parents to celebrate for the rest of the day.” (She guesses most parents in her school must not actually work for a living.) Her school, inexplicably, goes one half-day longer than ours, but she’s rebelling and taking her kids to the beach on the last day of school instead.

I’m putting a plea out now, for next year, to all the extracurricular activity runners and the teachers: Go easy on us in June. We’re tired, we’re cranky, we’re sick of sending in healthy lunches and signing permission slips and nagging about homework. Move whatever you can to March or May or better yet, October, when we’re still fresh and excited and eager. Right now, all we want to do is sip iced tea in a hammock and let our kids run through the sprinkler. Or maybe sleep in a hammock for an entire day. Either way, I’m officially washing my hands of all cheetah-sculpting and book report reviewing—until at least September 1.

Tell us: What’s on your agenda for the rest of the school year? Or are you—lucky dog—already done?

If you’re looking for fun activities to keep the kids occupied this summer, check out our cool summer craft ideas. And sign up for our Parents Daily newsletter to get fresh ideas delivered to your inbox every day. 

Snow Cone Cupcakes
Snow Cone Cupcakes
Snow Cone Cupcakes

 

Image: Blackboard summer message by blackboard1965/Shutterstock.com

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College is Just Around the Corner

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Last night I asked my tennis partner, whose daughter is a junior at a private college in the Northeast, how much he was spending on her education. He estimated around $60,000 per year. If that sounds like a shocking figure, just imagine what college will cost in 18 years, when your baby is ready to attend. It’s enough to freeze many new parents into inaction. That’s natural: If you can’t envision saving enough to pay for college, why even try—especially when there are so many other, more-pressing expenses? Besides, you can always worry about college later.

Well, that thinking is wrong. College savings needs to be a priority as soon as your child is born. Socking away even $100 a month could add up to almost $50,000 (assuming a healthy 8 percent return) by the time your newborn is ready to leave the nest. Granted, that’s still only a small chunk of the big bill, but it could make all the difference to your child when the time comes. Keep in mind that you don’t have to fund college entirely on your own. Your could be eligible for financial aid and your child could earn scholarships and be eligible for student loans and work-study programs. So opening a college fund—early—is a vital first step.

That’s the idea behind National 529 College Savings Day, which is set for May 30. It’s designed to raise awareness about the importance of saving for higher education and the many advantages of 529 plans, which are the best way to save for college. This map shows what’s happening in your state. One example: Virginia is offering a $50 match for new accounts as well as a drawing to win a $2,500 bonus for your child’s future.

I won’t bore you with the details of how to choose the right 529 plan or open an account. You can read about it here  and here as well as watch this video.

Save for College
Save for College
Save for College

But I would like to offer these suggestions:

Pick a plan with tax advantages. Granted, not every state offers a credit or a deduction. But if yours does, trust me, you’ll be grateful come April 15.

Set up an automatic deduction. You won’t miss the money as much if it’s being taken out of your paycheck and will be less likely to forestall a contribution from your checking account if you’re forced to budget for it.

Get Grandma and Grandpa to help. Your parents and in-laws want their grandkids to go to college. So don’t be shy about asking them to contribute to your account or open their own in your child’s name. And at birthdays and the holidays, suggest that they give a small present and write a check for his 529.

I’m lucky: My parents believe strongly in education and have been contributing to my kids’ accounts since they came into the world. Even with their efforts, and ours, it’s unlikely our 529s will cover more than half of their tuition. Still, that’s a darn good start.

Create a monthly budget with our spreadsheet.

Baby with mini laptop via Shutterstock

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