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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?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Chrisanne Grise is an editorial assistant at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.
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Thursday, March 5th, 2015
Two related emails hit my inbox this week: In one, our manager reminded the staff that we can’t all take the same days off; in the other was our city’s school calendar for the 2015-2016 year outlining the many days our schools will be closed.
I know that districts nationwide have different calendars, but I feel like the way working parents of school-age children must hoard precious vacation days and then vie with coworkers for time off is universal. When my children were babies I could take a vacation in any old month. Then school ruined everything. Now I want to be excused from work on the same days as a couple dozen other people in the office. Namely: as much of the summer as possible, winter and spring break, random days like Election Day, the first day of school, the last day of school, if possible those crazy half-days they throw in for parent-teacher conferences, and many religious holidays. (We even have a Brooklyn-Queens day off in June that, I’ve been told, “is just a tradition.”) It goes without saying that the kids’ free days far outnumber the vacation time I have at my disposal.
I don’t have a solution here. This is just a lament. When I had babies and had to pay for all-day childcare, I couldn’t wait for school to begin so they’d be somewhere for free. But now I know that school gives just enough days off to be a real problem, and not enough for it to make sense to employ a fulltime nanny. (Not that I could afford that anyway!)
I am thankful that I have a husband who shares the juggling, a sitter who is flexible, and grandparents who, while they can’t rush in at the drop of a hat, are willing to play camp counselor with some advanced planning. And I guess that is what parenting school-age children has really done to me: I am now the kind of adult who plans things a year out. I pretty much know where we will be every day from now until December 31st. It’s just a short hop before I become the lady who buys all of her holiday gifts by the end of August, and packs for a trip a month ahead of time. In other words, I’ll be like my own mom. Because, come to think of it, she had to deal with this crap too.
Jessica Hartshorn, Senior Lifestyle Editor of American Baby and Parents, is taking the week of her kids’ April break off; she arranged that on January 5. She cleared her time off for July at the same time. And booked summer camps.
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Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
I’m a big fan of recent efforts to improve school lunch nutrition over the last few years. After all, about one in three American kids are considered overweight or obese (and even those who aren’t may still be enjoying too much junk food!) So I applaud everyone—whether it be Michelle Obama or a mom who packs healthy lunches for her children each day—who is focusing on this important issue.
That said, I can’t help but feel that the recent bake sale debate going on in Virginia is taking this issue a little too far. Long story short, students are no longer able to hold bake sales with homemade goodies to raise money for field trips, uniforms, and whatever else they need. That’s because new federal guidelines require that all food sold while school is in session must meet certain nutritional standards. And of course, the kids don’t want to pay for “gross” healthy food; a parent volunteer at Brooke Point High School told The Washington Post, “Since we’ve gone to the ‘smart snacks,’ sales have dropped by more than half. The kids just don’t want it.” Some lawmakers in Virginia are displeased about the situation, so they’re currently trying to come up with a bill that offers some exceptions to the rules.
Ultimately, I think we need to teach children the importance of moderation, rather than blocking them from ever enjoying an occasional brownie at a bake sale. My own mother is a health teacher who loves to bake, so she taught me to exercise, eat wholesome food, and also to indulge once in a while with a reasonable portion of a delicious dessert. By outlawing sugary or fatty foods outright, we risk making them more enticing to kids—who may find a way to eat them when adults aren’t looking, anyway. (See our earlier post from a nutritionist who lets her kids drink soda—she nails it.)
That’s not to say that I think kids in Virginia schools (or anywhere else) should be allowed constant access to homemade goods. If the lawmakers do pass an exception, I hope it allows just a few of these tasty fundraisers throughout the year, not an unlimited amount. After all, treats are often also available at birthday parties, club meetings, soccer games, and so on. But an occasional bake sale won’t destroy healthy eating habits—but it will teach kids important lessons about business, independence, and moderation. Those are lessons we can all support.
Chrisanne Grise is an editorial assistant at Parents. She’s an avid runner, mainly to counteract her uncontrollable sweet tooth. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Friday, February 13th, 2015
All across America, moms and dads with kids in grade school are yelling “Whoohoo! I love ’100 Days of School’ projects. I can’t wait until this arbitrary non-holiday comes around each year so I can help my child with the totally fun task of gluing 100 somethings to something else!”
According to a very unscientific survey I conducted amongst my Facebook friends, sentiment about 100 Days ranged from “definitely torture” to “so annoying” to a very generous “not so fun.” Adding to these less than affectionate feelings was the the injustice of the 100 Days hullabaloo happening the same week as Valentine’s Day in many schools.
If you have a school-age child, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If your kids are younger and you went to school before the mid-1990s, you are probably scratching your head right now. Let me take a step back and explain. In elementary schools, well-meaning teachers use the occasion of the 100th day of school to impart a math lesson on their pupils. Taken at just its educational value, it’s great. Young kids can learn concepts like grouping by 10′s in a fun way. Classes can take a break from worksheets and do some active lessons involving counting.
But, 100 Days is not just a math lesson in many classrooms, it’s grown into a full-fledged celebration with parties, games, and projects. It seems to be a relatively new addition to the school calendar – nobody I’ve talked to who’s currently in their 30s or 40s remembers doing anything special for the 100th Day of school. The earliest mention I can find came in 1996 when Angela Shelf Medearis wrote a book called “The 100th Day of School” filled with ideas for how the 100th day could be celebrated in classrooms. In an American Library Association article, Medearis describes what inspired her to write the book:
I was visiting a school when a tribe of first graders walked into the assembly wearing sashes and hats decorated with all kinds of odd things glued on them. The teacher was wearing a vest with 100 pennies glued all over it. I thought that maybe it was somebody’s birthday and asked the teacher. She told me that it was the 100th day of school. She was a first year teacher and I thought that maybe she was particularly happy to have completed 100 days! But, then she told me all about celebrating the 100th day of school and the counting and calendar activities teachers did. I knew immediately that I wanted to write a story about the 100th day of school to give teachers a tool.
Sounds lovely, right? So why all the hate? Well, the parental angst comes into play because 100 Days often involves a take-home project or assignment. When my oldest was in kindergarten his assignment was to bring in 100 of something to school to share with the class. My youngest came home last week with a sheet of posterboard where he’s to glue 100 somethings on to it. One of my friends has to help her son decorate a t-shirt with 100 of something. Another has to glue 100 plastic jewels on a crown.
Let’s be real here—at age 5 or 6, this isn’t a project for the kids, it homework for the parents. The kids need help and lots of it to complete these tasks. And while I’m not a total killjoy and am happy to help my kids, this is on top of the normal homework which can be quite torturous on its own. And let’s not forget, we also have to write out Valentines for the class this week. It’s just too much.
While I speak for the many moms and dads in America who also feel less than thrilled about 100 Days, there is another camp whom I should mention. These are the talented, crafty parents who look forward to 100 Days with glue gun at the ready. They “help” their children with very cool, but very clearly parent-orchestrated 100 Days projects. To these super-parents, I say “Rock on with your crafty selves!” And feel free to stop by with your glue gun and some googly eyes on day 99—we could use your help at my house!
Check out these 100 days projects posted on Instagram:
Tracy Odell is the General Manager of Parents Digital and mom to two boys. She doesn’t own a glue gun, but can do some amazing things with duct tape. Follow her on Twitter at @tracyodell.
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Thursday, January 15th, 2015
I spend a lot of time every week working for Parents on stories that rank things—from children’s hospitals to Caribbean islands, theme parks to birthday party places. By all accounts, the numbers geek in me should be all over my daughter’s school rankings, whether they’re from the state or an education website. But I don’t even bother looking them up anymore because I think the methodology is shaky. And if you’re using rankings to decide where your child is going to go to kindergarten in the fall, I’d put more stock in the gut feeling from the school tour.
Here’s why: The basis of these rankings is most often standardized test results (and they’re under a lot of fire these days for whether they’re a valid way to measure what kids learn). Even if you do have a sound standardized tests that all kids could take, you’d still have to be very careful when looking at the data comparing two schools because the number of children with learning disabilities, non-English speaking students, and economically disadvantaged kids (all of which likely have lower test scores) would probably be different at each school. What’s more, if a school has a lot of students who transferred there within the last year or two, it muddies the picture too.
A couple of years ago, a national magazine ranked a high school in my area the second best in the state. I was confounded at that because this school didn’t have high-school sports teams, a theater program, or much else in the way of extra-curricular activities. But the magazine didn’t take that into consideration.
For what it’s worth, I think the best schools have a diverse student body; loving, involved parents; dedicated teachers who are problem-solvers, as well as an administration who is willing to take risks. Unfortunately, school rankings come up short in giving up this information.
Karen Cicero is contributing nutrition and travel editor at Parents, and mom of a tween. You can follow her on Twitter at @karencicero.
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