Prepare Your Middle School Child for High School

 The transition from middle school to high school is a big one — and it comes at an already rough time in a teen’s development.  You can’t go to school with your child, but you can help them prepare for the transition and do everything you can to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.  Get Organized  High school brings a greater sense of independence and responsibility than middle school. It’s the last step before a child leaves the nest to go to college, and it’s important that students learn how to manage their time and keep track of deadlines.  Take a proactive role in helping your child create a system for managing these things, then check in with them regularly to help make sure they’re sticking to it.  Encourage Involvement  Getting involved in school activities will help make the transition to high school much easier.  Before the school year starts, spend some time on the school’s website checking out clubs and activities that might be a good fit for your child. You could point out how getting involved could help them build new skills, develop friendships, work on overcoming certain fears, and take part in other benefits they may not even be aware of yet.  Create a Strong Bond  Perhaps the best thing you can do to help your child through many of life’s transitions is to establish a strong and healthy relationship with them.  With so many unexpected challenges and social pressures your child may face as they grow, he or she will most likely need people they feel safe to talk to when the time comes. If you and your child have a relationship founded on trust and good communication, your child will know that he or she can come to you when stressed, feeling overwhelmed, or trying to heal from heartaches.  Make an effort to get to know your child, including some of his or her strengths, weaknesses, fears, and goals, so that you may be better equipped to encourage and guide them through their next transition.

The transition from middle school to high school is a big one — and it comes at an already rough time in a teen’s development.

You can’t go to school with your child, but you can help them prepare for the transition and do everything you can to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Get Organized

High school brings a greater sense of independence and responsibility than middle school. It’s the last step before a child leaves the nest to go to college, and it’s important that students learn how to manage their time and keep track of deadlines.

Take a proactive role in helping your child create a system for managing these things, then check in with them regularly to help make sure they’re sticking to it.

Encourage Involvement

Getting involved in school activities will help make the transition to high school much easier.  Before the school year starts, spend some time on the school’s website checking out clubs and activities that might be a good fit for your child. You could point out how getting involved could help them build new skills, develop friendships, work on overcoming certain fears, and take part in other benefits they may not even be aware of yet.

Create a Strong Bond

Perhaps the best thing you can do to help your child through many of life’s transitions is to establish a strong and healthy relationship with them.  With so many unexpected challenges and social pressures your child may face as they grow, he or she will most likely need people they feel safe to talk to when the time comes. If you and your child have a relationship founded on trust and good communication, your child will know that he or she can come to you when stressed, feeling overwhelmed, or trying to heal from heartaches.

Make an effort to get to know your child, including some of his or her strengths, weaknesses, fears, and goals, so that you may be better equipped to encourage and guide them through their next transition.

Boost Your Child’s Chances for Scholarships

 Scholarships are competitive, and becoming even more so as the cost of college continues to rise. With the pool becoming more and more crowded, here are some ways you can help your child stand out from the pack:  Read the Fine Print  Before you and your child spend any time on a scholarship application, make sure it’s one that you qualify for in the first place. Scholarships often have specific requirements, and people who do not meet them are automatically disqualified. Invest a little time at the beginning of the process to avoid wasting time on an unnecessary application.  Be Open and Honest  Scholarship applications are filled with essays that tell the reader what they want to hear, rather than giving an honest portrayal of the applicant. Letting your child’s true colors show will help their application stand out in readers’ minds and help them feel like they are making a personal connection.  Those connections make it much easier for scholarship awarding organizations to feel good about choosing someone for an award — they come away with a true sense of who the money is benefitting.  Track Essays and Recommendations  Missing just one deadline or one part of an application can be enough to disqualify your child. One way to help prevent that is to help create a spreadsheet or another tracking system to make sure that everything is submitted on time. Creating a system for organizing applications will make sure that doesn’t happen. It also provides a good model for your child to follow one day.  Stay Positive  The scholarship application process is a lesson in the notion that you can’t always get what you want. This might be one of the first times that your child has ever been denied something that they want.  How you handle that situation will greatly inform their reaction to it, so try to stay positive and encourage them to keep moving forward rather than feeling upset or frustrated with themselves.

Scholarships are competitive, and becoming even more so as the cost of college continues to rise. With the pool becoming more and more crowded, here are some ways you can help your child stand out from the pack:

Read the Fine Print

Before you and your child spend any time on a scholarship application, make sure it’s one that you qualify for in the first place. Scholarships often have specific requirements, and people who do not meet them are automatically disqualified. Invest a little time at the beginning of the process to avoid wasting time on an unnecessary application.

Be Open and Honest

Scholarship applications are filled with essays that tell the reader what they want to hear, rather than giving an honest portrayal of the applicant. Letting your child’s true colors show will help their application stand out in readers’ minds and help them feel like they are making a personal connection.

Those connections make it much easier for scholarship awarding organizations to feel good about choosing someone for an award — they come away with a true sense of who the money is benefitting.

Track Essays and Recommendations

Missing just one deadline or one part of an application can be enough to disqualify your child. One way to help prevent that is to help create a spreadsheet or another tracking system to make sure that everything is submitted on time. Creating a system for organizing applications will make sure that doesn’t happen. It also provides a good model for your child to follow one day.

Stay Positive

The scholarship application process is a lesson in the notion that you can’t always get what you want. This might be one of the first times that your child has ever been denied something that they want.

How you handle that situation will greatly inform their reaction to it, so try to stay positive and encourage them to keep moving forward rather than feeling upset or frustrated with themselves.

Activities to Keep Your Kids Learning This Summer

 The school year is almost over, which means that many kids may be counting down the days until they can leave the classroom behind for the summer.  Any teacher will tell you that they spend time at the beginning of the school year working to re-orient students to the learning process after a summer away. Make that transition easier for your child by engaging them in activities that will keep them learning all summer long.  Plant a Garden  Tending to a garden is a great way to instill a sense of responsibility in children. Let them choose what type of food to grow (within reason, of course), then create a schedule for watering, weeding, and other garden duties.  Not only will this give your child a little bit of structure to summer days, it will also provide an opportunity to learn firsthand about how food grows. Have them keep a journal to track progress along the way and reflect on what they are learning to ensure that it sticks with them when they go back to school in the fall.  Visit the library  There’s something for everyone at the library, even if your child may not love to read.  The  Redondo     Beach     Public     Library  offers programs and events for children nearly every day, including dance and music classes and summer reading clubs. Set a goal to visit the library at least once per week to check out a new book or to participate in one of the programs.  Reading and engaging in educational events will help keep those skills sharp, and might even spark a new interest that your child will be eager to learn more about.  Volunteer in the community  For older children and teens, volunteering can help take them outside of their bubbles and learn the importance of connecting with others.  Redondo Beach has many  nonprofit     organizations  that are always in need of extra help. Again, this will help provide structure to the day and provide valuable lessons in skills like empathy and respect for all types of people.

The school year is almost over, which means that many kids may be counting down the days until they can leave the classroom behind for the summer.

Any teacher will tell you that they spend time at the beginning of the school year working to re-orient students to the learning process after a summer away. Make that transition easier for your child by engaging them in activities that will keep them learning all summer long.

Plant a Garden

Tending to a garden is a great way to instill a sense of responsibility in children. Let them choose what type of food to grow (within reason, of course), then create a schedule for watering, weeding, and other garden duties.

Not only will this give your child a little bit of structure to summer days, it will also provide an opportunity to learn firsthand about how food grows. Have them keep a journal to track progress along the way and reflect on what they are learning to ensure that it sticks with them when they go back to school in the fall.

Visit the library

There’s something for everyone at the library, even if your child may not love to read.

The Redondo Beach Public Library offers programs and events for children nearly every day, including dance and music classes and summer reading clubs. Set a goal to visit the library at least once per week to check out a new book or to participate in one of the programs.

Reading and engaging in educational events will help keep those skills sharp, and might even spark a new interest that your child will be eager to learn more about.

Volunteer in the community

For older children and teens, volunteering can help take them outside of their bubbles and learn the importance of connecting with others.

Redondo Beach has many nonprofit organizations that are always in need of extra help. Again, this will help provide structure to the day and provide valuable lessons in skills like empathy and respect for all types of people.

Great Books for Animal-Loving Kids

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No matter what type of animal your child likes, you can find a book to match those interests. Animals can be superheroes, villains, and every type of character in between.

These books, which range from pictures only to chapter books, will spark your child’s imagination and create a sense of excitement that even the best TV shows may not capture!

“Babe, The Gallant Pig” by Dick King-Smith

We’ll start off with a classic. Dick King Smith’s book is about a pig who encompasses some of the best human traits — manners, intelligence, and compassion. Babe wants to be a sheepdog and has to convince his owner that he should be roaming the fields instead of on the table for Christmas dinner.

This book was developed into a successful movie that was nominated for an Academy Award in 1996.

“How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild” by Katherine Roy

Elephants are a mainstay of children’s literature, but you’ve probably never seen them in quite this way. This picture book is based on the experiences of real-life elephants during their first two years of life. It provides some great lessons in how animals grow and adapt to their communities.

Open this one up for discussion by asking your child to draw comparisons between baby elephants and baby humans.

“Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail” by Kate Messner

Dogs make great heroes in children’s books, and Ranger the golden retriever is no exception. After doing some digging in the backyard, he’s transported back in time to help a family trying to cross the Oregon Trail to the American West.

Ranger quickly bonds with his new family and will make you fall in love with him by the time the book is finished. This chapter book also provides history lessons about what it was like for families heading west in the 1800s.

Volunteer opportunities for middle school students

 Volunteering is a great way for kids of all ages to serve others and give back to their communities. However, it can be difficult for young students to find age-appropriate volunteer opportunities. The following community service ideas can help your middle schooler get involved.      -            Clean out your closets.  Many pre-teens experience significant growth spurts during middle school. Encourage them to regularly clean out their closets in search of gently-used clothing, shoes, accessories, and even toys. Collect these items and take them to your local Goodwill or other shelter.      -            Ask for donations in lieu of gifts.  Collecting donations for a local charity instead of gifts for an upcoming birthday or holiday is a great way to give back to the community. For example, provide party guests with a list of items for the local animal shelter such as treats, collars, cleaning supplies, or toys; collect the items at the party and take them to the shelter after.      -            Write letters to deployed troops.  Say thank you to the men and women serving our country overseas by sending them letters and care packages through Operation Gratitude [https://www.operationgratitude.com/]. Those living in the Los Angeles area can also attend a care package assembly day or volunteer as a letter screener for the group.      -            Help at a fun run.  There are dozens of charity races and fun runs held each weekend in the greater Los Angeles area. Sign up to volunteer in ways such as helping at registration, handing out snacks and drinks to runners, or giving out medals at the finish line.      -            Create “care kits” for the homeless.  “Care kits” can be easily assembled and distributed to nearby homeless shelters. Made using gallon plastic bags, care kits can include items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, granola bars, and more.      Other ideas for volunteer opportunities      There are a variety of others ways to get involved in the community, including:      -           Work at a food bank or soup kitchen   -           Walk dogs for the humane society or animal shelter   -           Tutor or read to younger students at the elementary school   -           Shelve books at the library   -           Visit residents at a nursing home   -           Collect trash from the park or playground   -           Sign up donors for a blood drive

Volunteering is a great way for kids of all ages to serve others and give back to their communities. However, it can be difficult for young students to find age-appropriate volunteer opportunities. The following community service ideas can help your middle schooler get involved.

 

-          Clean out your closets. Many pre-teens experience significant growth spurts during middle school. Encourage them to regularly clean out their closets in search of gently-used clothing, shoes, accessories, and even toys. Collect these items and take them to your local Goodwill or other shelter.

 

-          Ask for donations in lieu of gifts. Collecting donations for a local charity instead of gifts for an upcoming birthday or holiday is a great way to give back to the community. For example, provide party guests with a list of items for the local animal shelter such as treats, collars, cleaning supplies, or toys; collect the items at the party and take them to the shelter after.

 

-          Write letters to deployed troops. Say thank you to the men and women serving our country overseas by sending them letters and care packages through Operation Gratitude [https://www.operationgratitude.com/]. Those living in the Los Angeles area can also attend a care package assembly day or volunteer as a letter screener for the group.

 

-          Help at a fun run. There are dozens of charity races and fun runs held each weekend in the greater Los Angeles area. Sign up to volunteer in ways such as helping at registration, handing out snacks and drinks to runners, or giving out medals at the finish line.

 

-          Create “care kits” for the homeless. “Care kits” can be easily assembled and distributed to nearby homeless shelters. Made using gallon plastic bags, care kits can include items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, granola bars, and more.

 

Other ideas for volunteer opportunities

 

There are a variety of others ways to get involved in the community, including:

 

-          Work at a food bank or soup kitchen

-          Walk dogs for the humane society or animal shelter

-          Tutor or read to younger students at the elementary school

-          Shelve books at the library

-          Visit residents at a nursing home

-          Collect trash from the park or playground

-          Sign up donors for a blood drive

Steps to improve your child's reading comprehension

 There are two skills that students need in order to become successful readers: recognition and comprehension. While recognition is about speed, recognizing sight vocabulary, and using phonics to sound out unfamiliar words, comprehension refers to how well children understand and remember what they’ve read.  Because reading is an integral part of all other school subjects, it’s important for children to have a strong base in reading comprehension. Even if your child struggles with this critical reading skill, there are a number of ways to work on it both in school and at home. The following steps can help parents and teacher improve a child’s reading comprehension.      1.         Choose the right books.  Books that are too hard – or too easy – can affect reading comprehension. If a book is too hard, the child spends most of their mental energy on decoding the text; if a book is too easy, they’re apt to speed read or merely skim over paragraphs. Encourage students to follow the five-finger rule when choosing a book. Choose a book, open to a random page, and begin reading. Each time they come across an unfamiliar word, have them hold up a finger. No fingers or one finger is too easy, 2-3 fingers is just right, and 5 or more is too difficult.      2.         Read aloud.  While older children may scoff at the idea of reading aloud, it’s one of the most effective tools for reading comprehension. Students are forced to slow down as they read, giving them more processing time. Likewise, reading aloud gives them the chance to both see and hear the words, ideal for audio learners.      3.         Reread to build fluency.  To improve comprehension and gain deeper understanding of a text, rereading can be a valuable tool. While it may not be possible to reread entire novels, encourage students to reread short passages or paragraphs, particularly if they do not feel like they grasped the content the first time. Rereading can also be an extremely helpful test-taking strategy.      4.         Ask questions . Even if you aren’t familiar with what they are reading, ask questions about the text. Not only does this force children to reflect on what they have read, but it also encourages them to ask themselves questions as they read. For example:      -           Before reading.  What do you think this book will be about? Why did you choose it?    -           During reading.  What is your favorite thing about the main character? Is it turning out how you thought it would? What do you think will happen next?    -           After reading.  Can you summarize the book in three sentences? What did you most enjoy about the story? Does it remind you of anything else you’ve read?

There are two skills that students need in order to become successful readers: recognition and comprehension. While recognition is about speed, recognizing sight vocabulary, and using phonics to sound out unfamiliar words, comprehension refers to how well children understand and remember what they’ve read.

Because reading is an integral part of all other school subjects, it’s important for children to have a strong base in reading comprehension. Even if your child struggles with this critical reading skill, there are a number of ways to work on it both in school and at home. The following steps can help parents and teacher improve a child’s reading comprehension.

 

1.       Choose the right books. Books that are too hard – or too easy – can affect reading comprehension. If a book is too hard, the child spends most of their mental energy on decoding the text; if a book is too easy, they’re apt to speed read or merely skim over paragraphs. Encourage students to follow the five-finger rule when choosing a book. Choose a book, open to a random page, and begin reading. Each time they come across an unfamiliar word, have them hold up a finger. No fingers or one finger is too easy, 2-3 fingers is just right, and 5 or more is too difficult.

 

2.       Read aloud. While older children may scoff at the idea of reading aloud, it’s one of the most effective tools for reading comprehension. Students are forced to slow down as they read, giving them more processing time. Likewise, reading aloud gives them the chance to both see and hear the words, ideal for audio learners.

 

3.       Reread to build fluency. To improve comprehension and gain deeper understanding of a text, rereading can be a valuable tool. While it may not be possible to reread entire novels, encourage students to reread short passages or paragraphs, particularly if they do not feel like they grasped the content the first time. Rereading can also be an extremely helpful test-taking strategy.

 

4.       Ask questions. Even if you aren’t familiar with what they are reading, ask questions about the text. Not only does this force children to reflect on what they have read, but it also encourages them to ask themselves questions as they read. For example:

 

-          Before reading. What do you think this book will be about? Why did you choose it?

-          During reading. What is your favorite thing about the main character? Is it turning out how you thought it would? What do you think will happen next?

-          After reading. Can you summarize the book in three sentences? What did you most enjoy about the story? Does it remind you of anything else you’ve read?

STEM education apps for students

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Science and technology are transforming the ways we teach, work, learn, and live. Parents and teachers should work together to equip students with the STEM skills they may need to succeed in the future. Fifteen of the 20 fastest growing careers require a background in STEM subjects, while the Department of Education estimates that 33% of occupations will be STEM-based by 2020.

One of the most fun – and most effective – ways to teach STEM skills is through interactive apps. The following are just a few of the many age appropriate and educational STEM apps available for students. Using these apps can help children develop STEM skills that they can use both in and out of the classroom – as well as in their future.

 

-         Simple Machines

Children explore the fun side of physics as they design their own experiments using the six simple machines. Using levers, pulleys, inclined planes, wedges, axles, and wheels, students can create devices to destroy castles, send satellites into orbit, and more. The app also includes the free download of a handbook further explaining concepts such as force, conservation of energy, and mechanical advantages.

 

-          Basketball Fall

An educational app disguised as a game, Basketball Fall encourages students to hone physics concepts such as the effects of gravity, arcs, and predicting angles as they work their way through progressively difficult scenarios.

 

-          Hopscotch

Hopscotch teaches children to code and create their own games. Easy-to-follow tutorials allow students to work at their own pace and keep new learners from becoming frustrated and giving up. Kids can write code to mimic their favorite games or create entirely new programs.

 

-          The Robot Factory

In The Robot Factory, students can build and design their own robots. With 100 different available parts, there are thousands of unique combinations children can create. Once a robot is complete, it can be tested on a physics-based obstacle course on its ability to jump, move, and avoid obstacles. This encourages students to develop their creative thinking and problem solving skills.

 

-          Blokify

Blokify teaches the basics of computer aided design and 3D modeling software; children can opt for a guided building experience or create free-form Blok models. When finished, models can be printed using 3D printer software either at home, at school, or through a service provided by the Blokify app.

Job search tips for high school students

 A part-time job is a great way for high school students to add to their resumes, become more financially independent, and gain valuable work experience. However, searching and applying for jobs can be daunting, especially if a student has never worked before. The following job search tips can help high school students find the perfect part-time job.      1.         Create a resume.  Even if you don’t have any previous work experience, creating a resume is an important part of the job search process. In addition to highlighting your abilities and skills, it also helps show that you are serious about being hired. Include information such as your GPA, clubs or activities you are involved in, and volunteer experience.      2.         Compile a list of references.  While most entry-level jobs will not require letters of recommendation, most will ask for 2-3 references. Ask teachers, coaches, counselors, or close family friends if they would act as a reference for you. Let them know that you are beginning to look for a part-time jobs, and that they may get calls or emails from hiring managers.       3.         Set up a professional email address.  When applying for jobs – and colleges – it’s important to have a professional email address. A cutesy, immature, or inappropriate email address is a turn-off for many hiring managers. Keep it simple by using a combination of your first and last name or initials.      4.         Clean up social media.  If you are active on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, take the time to clean up your accounts before you start handing in applications. Remove any questionable posts, pictures, or tags and change privacy settings so only friends can see your updates.      5.         Apply for a wide variety of positions.  High school students are applying for many of the same part-time jobs. Because the pool of potential positions may be small, it’s important to apply for as many jobs as possible. Not only does this give you plenty of experience with the job application process, but it also helps increase your odds of being hired.      6.         Follow up after interviews.  Even when applying for an entry-level position, it’s  important to follow up after an interview. Send a short email or thank you note to the person you spoke with thanking them for the interview. If you haven’t heard back within 7-10 days, call back to check in on the status of your application.

A part-time job is a great way for high school students to add to their resumes, become more financially independent, and gain valuable work experience. However, searching and applying for jobs can be daunting, especially if a student has never worked before. The following job search tips can help high school students find the perfect part-time job.

 

1.       Create a resume. Even if you don’t have any previous work experience, creating a resume is an important part of the job search process. In addition to highlighting your abilities and skills, it also helps show that you are serious about being hired. Include information such as your GPA, clubs or activities you are involved in, and volunteer experience.

 

2.       Compile a list of references. While most entry-level jobs will not require letters of recommendation, most will ask for 2-3 references. Ask teachers, coaches, counselors, or close family friends if they would act as a reference for you. Let them know that you are beginning to look for a part-time jobs, and that they may get calls or emails from hiring managers. 

 

3.       Set up a professional email address. When applying for jobs – and colleges – it’s important to have a professional email address. A cutesy, immature, or inappropriate email address is a turn-off for many hiring managers. Keep it simple by using a combination of your first and last name or initials.

 

4.       Clean up social media. If you are active on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, take the time to clean up your accounts before you start handing in applications. Remove any questionable posts, pictures, or tags and change privacy settings so only friends can see your updates.

 

5.       Apply for a wide variety of positions. High school students are applying for many of the same part-time jobs. Because the pool of potential positions may be small, it’s important to apply for as many jobs as possible. Not only does this give you plenty of experience with the job application process, but it also helps increase your odds of being hired.

 

6.       Follow up after interviews. Even when applying for an entry-level position, it’s  important to follow up after an interview. Send a short email or thank you note to the person you spoke with thanking them for the interview. If you haven’t heard back within 7-10 days, call back to check in on the status of your application.

Tips for scholarship research and applications

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Searching for scholarships takes more than a single weekend. With tens of thousands of potential scholarships that each have their own vastly different applications and requirements, the entire process can seem overwhelming. However, there are a number of ways to make finding and applying for scholarships easier. The following tips can help students jump start their scholarship research and help make college more affordable.

1.       Apply for as many scholarships as you can

Applying for only a handful of scholarships can minimize your chances of being awarded financial aid. Instead, treat searching and applying for scholarships as a part-time job; set time aside each week to research scholarships, work on essays, and follow up with submitted applications. With scholarships available for different academic interests, extracurricular activities, geographic location, sports participation, and more, there are hundreds of potential opportunities for every student to receive additional aid.

2.       Check the requirements for prospective schools

Many students falsely believe that their college application includes an automatic application for school-specific financial aid. In fact, many universities have different application requirements – and deadlines – for financial aid. Check with both the admissions and financial aid offices at prospective schools to ensure you are maximizing your chances at receiving scholarships.

3.       Network within your groups

Local clubs, churches, clubs, and organizations may offer small scholarships to members, children of members, or students within the community. Check with churches, civic groups, unions, and other organizations to which you or family members belong to see if there are any scholarships available. These scholarships are typically smaller but may have less competition as they need to be awarded locally.

4.       More work means fewer applicants

Scholarships that require more than a simple resume – such as those that ask for a long essay, video, or other project – often have significantly fewer applicants. On average, scholarships that require essays with more than 1,000 words have fewer than 500 applicants; comparable scholarships with shorter essay requirement average more than 5,000 applicants.

5.       Ensure you meet all the requirements

If the application asked for a list of five strengths and you only provide four, you may be disqualified. To avoid having your application thrown out, ensure you meet all requirements such as GPA, geographic location, and group membership; likewise, staying within the word limit and removing personal identifiers from essays can keep your application from being thrown out.

Education apps for middle school students

 Smart phones and tablets have become an integral part of our everyday lives. While many parents associate technology with social media – and wasting time – there are a number of ways that students can use their phones and tablets to maximize learning and productivity.  While finding apps for fun can be easy, finding good educational apps can be more difficult. From note taking aids to subject-specific content, the following are some of the best education apps for middle school students.   -            Evernote   Evernote is a notetaking app that can help students with various learning styles take notes in class. Notes can be taken in a variety of formats including text, audio, video, photo, and even sketches. Notes sync across devices and can be shared for real-time collaboration with classmates. Paper notes can also be inputted into the app using cameras.   -            myHomework Student Planner   This digital planner helps students manage homework, projects, assignments, and tests for different classes. Calendars can be viewed in daily, weekly, or monthly form, and push notifications can keep students from missing deadlines.   -            Quizlet   Quizlet is a digital flashcard app that allows students to create their own flashcards and study tools. Likewise, students can share and download stacks created by others.   -            Duolingo   Whether your child wants more practice in the language they take at school or is interested in learning a second language on their own, Duolingo introduces basic vocabulary, phrases, and grammar. Mini-games and progress trackers help keep children’s interest as they work through lessons. Current languages include Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.   -            i  Tooch Middle School   iTooch is a comprehensive resource for students to receive additional practice in math and language arts. With more than 10,000 exercises for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, students can practice skills they are learning in school on the go. The app itself is free with subject areas available for an additional $5.99, less than the cost of a standard workbook.   -            Story Starters Pro   For students interested in creative writing, Story Starters Pro provides a nearly limitless number of interesting prompts.   -            EarthViewer   EarthViewer allows students to view and explore over 4.5 billion years of history on Earth. The research-based app includes interactive features, clickable details, in-depth maps, and engaging animations.   -            Swift Playgrounds   This iPad-only app teaches students the programming language Swift, which Apple itself uses to create their apps. This user-friendly app offers easy-to-follow instructions for beginners, a glossary of coding terms, a variety of levels, and is completely free!

Smart phones and tablets have become an integral part of our everyday lives. While many parents associate technology with social media – and wasting time – there are a number of ways that students can use their phones and tablets to maximize learning and productivity.

While finding apps for fun can be easy, finding good educational apps can be more difficult. From note taking aids to subject-specific content, the following are some of the best education apps for middle school students.

-          Evernote

Evernote is a notetaking app that can help students with various learning styles take notes in class. Notes can be taken in a variety of formats including text, audio, video, photo, and even sketches. Notes sync across devices and can be shared for real-time collaboration with classmates. Paper notes can also be inputted into the app using cameras.

-          myHomework Student Planner

This digital planner helps students manage homework, projects, assignments, and tests for different classes. Calendars can be viewed in daily, weekly, or monthly form, and push notifications can keep students from missing deadlines.

-          Quizlet

Quizlet is a digital flashcard app that allows students to create their own flashcards and study tools. Likewise, students can share and download stacks created by others.

-          Duolingo

Whether your child wants more practice in the language they take at school or is interested in learning a second language on their own, Duolingo introduces basic vocabulary, phrases, and grammar. Mini-games and progress trackers help keep children’s interest as they work through lessons. Current languages include Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.

-          iTooch Middle School

iTooch is a comprehensive resource for students to receive additional practice in math and language arts. With more than 10,000 exercises for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, students can practice skills they are learning in school on the go. The app itself is free with subject areas available for an additional $5.99, less than the cost of a standard workbook.

-          Story Starters Pro

For students interested in creative writing, Story Starters Pro provides a nearly limitless number of interesting prompts.

-          EarthViewer

EarthViewer allows students to view and explore over 4.5 billion years of history on Earth. The research-based app includes interactive features, clickable details, in-depth maps, and engaging animations.

-          Swift Playgrounds

This iPad-only app teaches students the programming language Swift, which Apple itself uses to create their apps. This user-friendly app offers easy-to-follow instructions for beginners, a glossary of coding terms, a variety of levels, and is completely free!

Children's books that celebrate diversity

 Children’s books are known for colorful illustrations, rhyming prose, and plot lines that encourage values such as friendship, family, and forgiveness. However, many children might not find themselves or their families reflected in the books they read. A 2015 study by the Cooperative  Children’s Book Center  found that while diversity in children’s literature is improving, white and non-human (animals, trucks, etc) characters still make up 85.8% of characters in books.  In our vibrant community, it’s important to include books that celebrate diversity in both our home and school collections. The following are just a few of the increasing number of children’s books that celebrate different abilities, colors, cultures, nationalities, and more.   -               The Good Luck Cat      – Joy Harjo  Woogie is a cat with plenty of luck. Unfortunately, he’s also used 8 of his 9 lives already. When Woogie suddenly disappears, will his good luck help him make it home? Ages 3-7   -             Round Is A Tortilla: A Book of Shapes   – Roseanne Thong  Beautiful illustrations and fun rhyming texts help children explore the shapes in the world around them! Young readers ages 2-5 will also enjoy other books from the series including  Round is a Mooncake ,  Red is a Dragon , and  Green is a Chile Pepper , which all celebrate the everyday beauty of different cultures in our world.   -             My Brother Charlie    – Holly Robinson Peete  Callie loves her twin brother Charlie; he knows lots about airplanes, can play the piano, and can tell you the names of all the Presidents. Charlie also has autism, which makes it hard for him to express his feelings, make new friends, or stay safe.  My Brother Charlie  is a great choice for siblings of children with autism, as well as those who want to better understand their autistic friends or classmates. Ages 4-8   -             Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match    – Monica Brown  Marisol is Scottish-Peruvian; she has red hair and brown skin, wears stripes with polka dots, and brings peanut butter and jelly burritos for lunch. When her classmates start teasing her, Marisol wonders if matching more would help her fit in. Perfect for multiracial children struggling to find how they “match”. Ages 4-8   -             Donovan’s Double Trouble    – Monalisa DeGross  Donovan thought fourth grade would be his best year yet. Instead, he’s failing math and might need his younger sister to tutor him. Donovan’s beloved Uncle Vic also returned from overseas a double paraplegic; what will the kids at school think when they see Uncle Vic in his wheelchair? A great addition for children struggling with their feelings about a disabled relative. Ages 8-12

Children’s books are known for colorful illustrations, rhyming prose, and plot lines that encourage values such as friendship, family, and forgiveness. However, many children might not find themselves or their families reflected in the books they read. A 2015 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that while diversity in children’s literature is improving, white and non-human (animals, trucks, etc) characters still make up 85.8% of characters in books.

In our vibrant community, it’s important to include books that celebrate diversity in both our home and school collections. The following are just a few of the increasing number of children’s books that celebrate different abilities, colors, cultures, nationalities, and more.

-          The Good Luck Cat  – Joy Harjo

Woogie is a cat with plenty of luck. Unfortunately, he’s also used 8 of his 9 lives already. When Woogie suddenly disappears, will his good luck help him make it home? Ages 3-7

-          Round Is A Tortilla: A Book of Shapes – Roseanne Thong

Beautiful illustrations and fun rhyming texts help children explore the shapes in the world around them! Young readers ages 2-5 will also enjoy other books from the series including Round is a Mooncake, Red is a Dragon, and Green is a Chile Pepper, which all celebrate the everyday beauty of different cultures in our world.

-          My Brother Charlie  – Holly Robinson Peete

Callie loves her twin brother Charlie; he knows lots about airplanes, can play the piano, and can tell you the names of all the Presidents. Charlie also has autism, which makes it hard for him to express his feelings, make new friends, or stay safe. My Brother Charlie is a great choice for siblings of children with autism, as well as those who want to better understand their autistic friends or classmates. Ages 4-8

-          Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match  – Monica Brown

Marisol is Scottish-Peruvian; she has red hair and brown skin, wears stripes with polka dots, and brings peanut butter and jelly burritos for lunch. When her classmates start teasing her, Marisol wonders if matching more would help her fit in. Perfect for multiracial children struggling to find how they “match”. Ages 4-8

-          Donovan’s Double Trouble  – Monalisa DeGross

Donovan thought fourth grade would be his best year yet. Instead, he’s failing math and might need his younger sister to tutor him. Donovan’s beloved Uncle Vic also returned from overseas a double paraplegic; what will the kids at school think when they see Uncle Vic in his wheelchair? A great addition for children struggling with their feelings about a disabled relative. Ages 8-12

Book series that get your child excited about reading

 Finding books that appeal to reluctant readers can be difficult. Exciting, engaging book series can be especially helpful for students who may not otherwise love reading; by following the same characters or story arc they enjoy from book to book, they are more likely to stay engaged with the series and want to read more. The following are a few series that can help get your child excited about reading.   -            Magic Shop   – Kate Egan  Mike, a fourth grader who spends too much time in the principal’s office, wants to find something he can be good at. At The White Rabbit, the local magic store, Mike learns that anything can be possible with a little magic! This four book series is recommended for grades 3-5.   -            The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place   – Maryrose Wood  The Incorrigibles are no ordinary children – but Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. While she thought she would be teaching them about Latin verbs or the right way to use a globe, she first has to help these wild children overcome their canine tendencies. This six book series is recommended for grades 4-8.   -            You Wouldn’t Want To Be series   This non-fiction book series puts kids in the middle of different periods of world history. With interesting information they might not learn at school, engaging graphics, and a serious sense of humor, this series makes history – and reading – fun for kids in grades 3-5.   -            Skylanders eight book series  – Onk Beakman  If your child loves playing Skylanders on their console of choice, the book series can encourage them to put down their controllers and open up a book instead. With the same characters from the games appearing in the books, Skylanders fans will be engaged with this 8-book series appropriate for ages 8 and up.   -            Diary of a Wimpy Kid   – Jeff Kinney  This bestselling series for 4th – 8th graders celebrates the highs – and lows – of Greg’s middle school career. With a writing style that combines hilarious, comic-style illustration with story lines that will keep kids laughing out loud, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are a great choice for reluctant readers.

Finding books that appeal to reluctant readers can be difficult. Exciting, engaging book series can be especially helpful for students who may not otherwise love reading; by following the same characters or story arc they enjoy from book to book, they are more likely to stay engaged with the series and want to read more. The following are a few series that can help get your child excited about reading.

-          Magic Shop  – Kate Egan

Mike, a fourth grader who spends too much time in the principal’s office, wants to find something he can be good at. At The White Rabbit, the local magic store, Mike learns that anything can be possible with a little magic! This four book series is recommended for grades 3-5.

-          The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place  – Maryrose Wood

The Incorrigibles are no ordinary children – but Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. While she thought she would be teaching them about Latin verbs or the right way to use a globe, she first has to help these wild children overcome their canine tendencies. This six book series is recommended for grades 4-8.

-          You Wouldn’t Want To Be series

This non-fiction book series puts kids in the middle of different periods of world history. With interesting information they might not learn at school, engaging graphics, and a serious sense of humor, this series makes history – and reading – fun for kids in grades 3-5.

-          Skylanders eight book series – Onk Beakman

If your child loves playing Skylanders on their console of choice, the book series can encourage them to put down their controllers and open up a book instead. With the same characters from the games appearing in the books, Skylanders fans will be engaged with this 8-book series appropriate for ages 8 and up.

-          Diary of a Wimpy Kid  – Jeff Kinney

This bestselling series for 4th – 8th graders celebrates the highs – and lows – of Greg’s middle school career. With a writing style that combines hilarious, comic-style illustration with story lines that will keep kids laughing out loud, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are a great choice for reluctant readers.

Ways to help your child choose a career path

 “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  From preschool on, children are asked this question time and time again. However, it isn’t until age 11 or 12 that kids become self-aware enough to begin seriously considering potential career paths.  While it can be tempting for parents to attempt to steer their children towards a specific career, it is important to act as a supportive yet impartial sounding board as children and teens explore potential jobs. The following are a number of ways that parents can help their children explore and choose the right career path.   1.    Help your child discover their strengths – and weaknesses   Have your child think about the things they are good at, both in and out of school. Likewise, encourage children, older teens especially, to take aptitude tests such as Meyers-Briggs or Strengths Finder 2.0; these tests can help them identify both their strengths and weaknesses, which can be helpful when discussing potential career paths.   2.    Expose them to a wide variety of experiences   Thinking about the nearly-infinite number of job opportunities and careers today can be overwhelming to many children. To help narrow down their choices and help them find what they are truly interested in, expose them to a wide variety of experiences. Whether through travel, volunteering, museums, the arts, and more, exposing them to a wide variety of subjects can help them begin to explore their interests.   3.    Equip your child with work and life skills   Choosing a career path is about more than just finding the perfect job. Help your child be ready for college – and beyond – by equipping them with work and life skills. Start at home by giving kids specific roles and responsibilities such as chores, helping younger siblings, or cooking meals a few nights each week. Likewise, encourage them to find a part-time job either after school or over the summer to begin learning how to manage a work schedule – as well as their own earnings.    4.    Be patient and encouraging    Finding a career path can be a long, frustrating experience for both parents and children. Try to be patient and encouraging as kids and teens explore their interests and experiment with different careers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most college students will change their major at least three times; parents can support their teens during these times of transition as they attempt to find the perfect career path. 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

From preschool on, children are asked this question time and time again. However, it isn’t until age 11 or 12 that kids become self-aware enough to begin seriously considering potential career paths.

While it can be tempting for parents to attempt to steer their children towards a specific career, it is important to act as a supportive yet impartial sounding board as children and teens explore potential jobs. The following are a number of ways that parents can help their children explore and choose the right career path.

1.    Help your child discover their strengths – and weaknesses

Have your child think about the things they are good at, both in and out of school. Likewise, encourage children, older teens especially, to take aptitude tests such as Meyers-Briggs or Strengths Finder 2.0; these tests can help them identify both their strengths and weaknesses, which can be helpful when discussing potential career paths.

2.    Expose them to a wide variety of experiences

Thinking about the nearly-infinite number of job opportunities and careers today can be overwhelming to many children. To help narrow down their choices and help them find what they are truly interested in, expose them to a wide variety of experiences. Whether through travel, volunteering, museums, the arts, and more, exposing them to a wide variety of subjects can help them begin to explore their interests.

3.    Equip your child with work and life skills

Choosing a career path is about more than just finding the perfect job. Help your child be ready for college – and beyond – by equipping them with work and life skills. Start at home by giving kids specific roles and responsibilities such as chores, helping younger siblings, or cooking meals a few nights each week. Likewise, encourage them to find a part-time job either after school or over the summer to begin learning how to manage a work schedule – as well as their own earnings.
 
4.    Be patient and encouraging
 
Finding a career path can be a long, frustrating experience for both parents and children. Try to be patient and encouraging as kids and teens explore their interests and experiment with different careers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most college students will change their major at least three times; parents can support their teens during these times of transition as they attempt to find the perfect career path. 

Tips to help improve your student's attention span

 Whether they are in kindergarten or twelfth grade, keeping a student’s attention for an extended period of time can be difficult. This is especially true at home where phones, friends, technology, and toys are all vying for their attention.  The average child’s attention span can be found by multiplying their age by 2-5 minutes; an average six-year-old can focus for 12-30 minutes, while an average 12-year-old can focus from 24-60 minutes. No matter where your child falls on the spectrum of average attention span, there are a number of ways to help them improve their focus.   1.    Include physical breaks     Many children who struggle with paying attention can benefit from brief breaks for active play. Break up learning or study time with physical activity such as jumping jacks, bouncing a ball outside, dancing to a favorite song, or stretching. Studies have also shown that engaging in 15 minutes of active, physical play before starting a challenging task can help children stay on task.   2.    Establish consistent routines    If completing homework is a nightly battle, start by establishing consistent times, locations, and routines. Doing homework every night at 5 o’clock at the kitchen table ensures children will not be distracted by other activities. Likewise, knowing that homework needs to be done at a specific time can help children focus on the task at hand, finish faster, and move on to something they would rather do.   3.    Remove distractions   Children may struggle to complete homework or other tasks if there are too many distractions. Taking away smartphones and tablets, turning off the TV, and removing clutter from the homework area can help reduce distractions and make it easier for children to focus.   4.    Break tasks into parts   Knowing how to start a large project can be difficult for kids of all ages. Instead of sitting down to tackle a big task all at once, start by breaking it into smaller, easier to finish parts. Not only does this give children the satisfaction of checking items off a to-do list, but it also allows them to take attention breaks while working; studies have shown that students who struggle with paying attention may complete tasks faster when using this method than when they attempt to complete it in one sitting.   5.    Rate – and adjust – difficulty   Ask your child to rate the difficulty of a task on a scale from 1-10; if they say that it is an 8 or higher, ask them what you can do to reduce the difficulty to a 2 or a 3. Doing this can decrease children’s frustrations, make them more likely to ask for help, and give them more confidence when completing homework or assignments.

Whether they are in kindergarten or twelfth grade, keeping a student’s attention for an extended period of time can be difficult. This is especially true at home where phones, friends, technology, and toys are all vying for their attention.

The average child’s attention span can be found by multiplying their age by 2-5 minutes; an average six-year-old can focus for 12-30 minutes, while an average 12-year-old can focus from 24-60 minutes. No matter where your child falls on the spectrum of average attention span, there are a number of ways to help them improve their focus.

1.    Include physical breaks 

Many children who struggle with paying attention can benefit from brief breaks for active play. Break up learning or study time with physical activity such as jumping jacks, bouncing a ball outside, dancing to a favorite song, or stretching. Studies have also shown that engaging in 15 minutes of active, physical play before starting a challenging task can help children stay on task.

2.    Establish consistent routines
 
If completing homework is a nightly battle, start by establishing consistent times, locations, and routines. Doing homework every night at 5 o’clock at the kitchen table ensures children will not be distracted by other activities. Likewise, knowing that homework needs to be done at a specific time can help children focus on the task at hand, finish faster, and move on to something they would rather do.

3.    Remove distractions

Children may struggle to complete homework or other tasks if there are too many distractions. Taking away smartphones and tablets, turning off the TV, and removing clutter from the homework area can help reduce distractions and make it easier for children to focus.

4.    Break tasks into parts

Knowing how to start a large project can be difficult for kids of all ages. Instead of sitting down to tackle a big task all at once, start by breaking it into smaller, easier to finish parts. Not only does this give children the satisfaction of checking items off a to-do list, but it also allows them to take attention breaks while working; studies have shown that students who struggle with paying attention may complete tasks faster when using this method than when they attempt to complete it in one sitting.

5.    Rate – and adjust – difficulty

Ask your child to rate the difficulty of a task on a scale from 1-10; if they say that it is an 8 or higher, ask them what you can do to reduce the difficulty to a 2 or a 3. Doing this can decrease children’s frustrations, make them more likely to ask for help, and give them more confidence when completing homework or assignments.

Fun STEM crafts and projects for kids

 Careers in math, science, technology, and engineering are more in demand than ever. Because of this, STEM subjects have experienced a resurgence in recent years. Learning or applying STEM skills doesn’t have to feel like school, however; get the most out of playtime with your kids by completing these STEM crafts and projects.    Invisible ink    Drawings and letters made in invisible ink have been entertaining children for decades; teach your own children the magic of invisible ink using simple items and ingredients from around your home. With lemon juice, paper, cotton swabs, and a lightbulb, kids can learn about chemical reactions – and have fun in the process.    Bath bombs    Forget rubber duckies – bath bombs are what make bath time lots of fun! While the ingredients for this project may require an additional trip to the store, kids of all ages will enjoy mixing and making these colorful bath toys. For additional fun, experiment with different colors, scents, or even hiding small toys inside.    Zip line toy transporter    Kids will enjoy using gravity to their advantage to move toys from one side of the room to another! This project incorporates several different science concepts including simple machines, resistance, and gravity; kids will have so much fun playing with their new toy transporter they’ll forget they’re learning science at the same time.    Pentominoes    Pentominoes are shapes created by joining five equal squares edge to edge; challenge your child to create 12 unique shapes or give them a pentominoes template to follow. Glue the squares together and paint the new shapes, then begin experimenting fitting the shapes together to create larger, different squares and rectangles.    Pocket nature collection    Spending time outdoors is a great way to spend time together as a family while enjoying nature. Get the most out of your nature walks by creating a pocket nature collection. Have kids decorate Altoid tins or other small metal containers using paper, paint, markers, or other materials. Fill the boxes with small collections such as shells, rocks, leaves, or other similar treasures found in nature.    Kid-made abacus    An abacus is a learning tool and can particularly useful for young children as they learn how to count. Kids can create their own using homemade paper beads, pipe cleaners, and an old photo frame. This interactive, colorful abacus can make math activities more fun and allow them to express their creativity at the same time.

Careers in math, science, technology, and engineering are more in demand than ever. Because of this, STEM subjects have experienced a resurgence in recent years. Learning or applying STEM skills doesn’t have to feel like school, however; get the most out of playtime with your kids by completing these STEM crafts and projects.

Invisible ink

Drawings and letters made in invisible ink have been entertaining children for decades; teach your own children the magic of invisible ink using simple items and ingredients from around your home. With lemon juice, paper, cotton swabs, and a lightbulb, kids can learn about chemical reactions – and have fun in the process.

Bath bombs

Forget rubber duckies – bath bombs are what make bath time lots of fun! While the ingredients for this project may require an additional trip to the store, kids of all ages will enjoy mixing and making these colorful bath toys. For additional fun, experiment with different colors, scents, or even hiding small toys inside.

Zip line toy transporter

Kids will enjoy using gravity to their advantage to move toys from one side of the room to another! This project incorporates several different science concepts including simple machines, resistance, and gravity; kids will have so much fun playing with their new toy transporter they’ll forget they’re learning science at the same time.

Pentominoes

Pentominoes are shapes created by joining five equal squares edge to edge; challenge your child to create 12 unique shapes or give them a pentominoes template to follow. Glue the squares together and paint the new shapes, then begin experimenting fitting the shapes together to create larger, different squares and rectangles.

Pocket nature collection

Spending time outdoors is a great way to spend time together as a family while enjoying nature. Get the most out of your nature walks by creating a pocket nature collection. Have kids decorate Altoid tins or other small metal containers using paper, paint, markers, or other materials. Fill the boxes with small collections such as shells, rocks, leaves, or other similar treasures found in nature.

Kid-made abacus

An abacus is a learning tool and can particularly useful for young children as they learn how to count. Kids can create their own using homemade paper beads, pipe cleaners, and an old photo frame. This interactive, colorful abacus can make math activities more fun and allow them to express their creativity at the same time.

Books that inspire kindness and compassion

Booksthatinspirekindnessandcompassion-2.jpg

Books can be a powerful tool to help children of all ages learn about positive character traits. While it feels like these lessons often go unheard when given by parents and teachers, books are a subtle way to reinforce things like sympathy and empathy. The following are just a few of our favorite books that will help inspire kindness and grow compassion in children.

The Smallest Girl In The Smallest Grade – Justin Roberts

Sally McCabe is the smallest girl in the smallest grade, but that doesn’t stop her from noticing everything from the number of keys on the janitor’s key ring, to the bully on the playground. When she decides to make herself heard, Sally learns that sometimes the smallest girl can make the biggest difference. Ages 3-5.

A Sick Day For Amos McGee  – Philip C. Stead

Caldecott winner A Sick Day For Amos McGee follows zookeeper Amos as he takes care of the various animals in the zoo day in and day out. However, one day Amos is too sick to go to work; he is surprised when the animals show up to take care of him for the day. This gentle story emphasizes friendship, kindness, and loyalty. Ages 3-6.

Why Am I Me?  – Paige Britt

Two children ride the subway home from school one day, unaware they are thinking the same things and asking the same questions about the diverse people around them – who would I be if I were someone else? Gorgeously illustrated, Why Am I Me? invites readers to appreciate the differences that make us unique – and the similarities that bind us together. Ages 4-8.

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed – Emily Pearson

Mary is an ordinary girl on her way home from her ordinary school to her ordinary house when she discovers some ordinary blueberries. But when Mary picks the blueberries for her neighbor, something extraordinary begins to happen. This one deed starts a chain reaction of kindness that spreads around the world – and will inspire children to do the same. Ages 4-12.

Come With Me – Holly M. McGhee

The world can seem like a scary, mean place to children – especially when all they see is hatred and fear on the news. When a little girl asks her papa what she can do to make the world a better place, he responds with a simple “Come with me.” What follows is an inspiring story that will help children spread kindness wherever they go. Ages 5-9.

 

Ways to start teaching kids about managing finances

 Doing chores to earn an allowance, babysitting, or getting a part-time job are all ways to help children appreciate working hard to earn their own money.  However, this may not teach them how to manage the money that they earn.  Teaching children how to manage their finances is one of the most important and practical ways parents can help prepare their children for the future. The following are just a few ways parents can help their children learn about how to manage their own finances.   1.    Start early   Children as young as five can begin learning how to effectively manage their money. Once they are ready to start earning an allowance, give them the freedom to spend it how they choose; while kids will often spend it all at once at first, this opens the opportunity to begin discussions on short-term and long-term savings. Opening a savings account at a local bank or credit union is another way to incentivize savings.   “There are many things at actually quite a young age that children will understand,” said Ted Beck, the president of the National Endowment for Financial Education.   2.    Encourage smart credit card spending    Signing up for a credit card can be tempting for many teens; unfortunately, this can lead many into debt in just a few short months. Instead of starting with a credit or debit card, give teens a prepaid gift card that can be reloaded each month. This teaches them how to manage and monitor their spending each month in a low-stakes environment.   3.    Discuss your own financial mistakes    Don’t be afraid to share your own financial mistakes with your kids. Whether it was taking out too many student loans, signing up for a high interest credit card, or getting underwater on a mortgage or car loan, talking to your children about your own financial mistakes can help prevent them from repeating them.   4.    Teach them budgeting basics   Whether it’s saving their allowance for several weeks to buy a new toy, or creating a spreadsheet to track how they spend their paychecks, kids of all ages can learn how to budget. For young children, a visual reminder such as multiple piggy banks or jars can help divide their money into different “accounts”; jars for money they can spend now, save for later, and donate to charity are the beginnings of budgeting. Older children and teens can benefit from creating a paper budget including expenses such as car payments or insurance, savings for college, and more.     

Doing chores to earn an allowance, babysitting, or getting a part-time job are all ways to help children appreciate working hard to earn their own money.  However, this may not teach them how to manage the money that they earn.

Teaching children how to manage their finances is one of the most important and practical ways parents can help prepare their children for the future. The following are just a few ways parents can help their children learn about how to manage their own finances.

1.    Start early

Children as young as five can begin learning how to effectively manage their money. Once they are ready to start earning an allowance, give them the freedom to spend it how they choose; while kids will often spend it all at once at first, this opens the opportunity to begin discussions on short-term and long-term savings. Opening a savings account at a local bank or credit union is another way to incentivize savings.

 “There are many things at actually quite a young age that children will understand,” said Ted Beck, the president of the National Endowment for Financial Education.

2.    Encourage smart credit card spending

 Signing up for a credit card can be tempting for many teens; unfortunately, this can lead many into debt in just a few short months. Instead of starting with a credit or debit card, give teens a prepaid gift card that can be reloaded each month. This teaches them how to manage and monitor their spending each month in a low-stakes environment.

3.    Discuss your own financial mistakes

 Don’t be afraid to share your own financial mistakes with your kids. Whether it was taking out too many student loans, signing up for a high interest credit card, or getting underwater on a mortgage or car loan, talking to your children about your own financial mistakes can help prevent them from repeating them.

4.    Teach them budgeting basics

Whether it’s saving their allowance for several weeks to buy a new toy, or creating a spreadsheet to track how they spend their paychecks, kids of all ages can learn how to budget. For young children, a visual reminder such as multiple piggy banks or jars can help divide their money into different “accounts”; jars for money they can spend now, save for later, and donate to charity are the beginnings of budgeting. Older children and teens can benefit from creating a paper budget including expenses such as car payments or insurance, savings for college, and more.
 

 

Ways to start prepping for college in high school

 No matter what year in school your student is in, there are a number of ways high school students can begin preparing for college. The following guide can help parents and students starting prepping for college all four years of high school.   Freshman Year    Meet with a college counselor.  Meeting with a college counselor can help them map out a course schedule for the next four years that will leave them prepared to go to college after graduation. Focus on completing general education requirements rather than classes for a specific career; this gives teens flexibility in exploring their areas of interest for different majors or careers during high school.    Get involved.  Encourage teens to try out different clubs, volunteer opportunities, or sports teams. Even if they have a wide range of interests, try to narrow down their involvement to a few favorite activities; this keeps teens from being over-stressed and over-scheduled, as well as lets them get more deeply involved in their chosen groups. Write it down. Make sure to write down activities, awards, and accomplishments for their future resumes!   Sophomore Year    Begin attending college events.  While graduation is still three years away, now is a good time to begin investigating different colleges and universities. Would your teen prefer a large or small school? In state or out of state? Starting now can help students avoid feeling overwhelmed by hundreds of choices during the actual application process.    Take practice tests.  Sign up for practice PSAT, ACT, or SAT exams if possible. Taking the test now can help demystify the testing process and help them feel more comfortable with what to expect when they take these extremely structured exams.   Junior Year    Seek out jobs and internships.  Encourage your teen’s burgeoning independence by helping them find a part-time job, internship, or job shadowing experience. In addition to being great resume builders, these opportunities can also help students explore potential career fields.    Explore scholarship opportunities.  Begin researching local and national scholarship opportunities; some scholarships allow juniors to apply or have deadlines for summer and early fall for seniors. Creating a master calendar or spreadsheet noting application deadlines and requirements is a great way to help teens stay organized without micromanaging them.   Senior Year    Take standardized tests for the final time . If you aren’t happy with your scores, there is still time to take the ACT or SAT one last time. Make sure to register for an early Fall testing date so scores are ready in time for application deadlines.    Narrow down your college list.  In general, students should apply to 6-8 schools: 2 safety schools, 2-3 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools. If your child has their heart set on one specific college, encourage them to apply for early admission.    Enjoy the last few months of high school.  Senior year is equal parts stressful and nostalgic. Make sure to take time to enjoy the last few months together as a family before your child goes off to college!

No matter what year in school your student is in, there are a number of ways high school students can begin preparing for college. The following guide can help parents and students starting prepping for college all four years of high school.

Freshman Year

Meet with a college counselor. Meeting with a college counselor can help them map out a course schedule for the next four years that will leave them prepared to go to college after graduation. Focus on completing general education requirements rather than classes for a specific career; this gives teens flexibility in exploring their areas of interest for different majors or careers during high school.


Get involved. Encourage teens to try out different clubs, volunteer opportunities, or sports teams. Even if they have a wide range of interests, try to narrow down their involvement to a few favorite activities; this keeps teens from being over-stressed and over-scheduled, as well as lets them get more deeply involved in their chosen groups.
Write it down. Make sure to write down activities, awards, and accomplishments for their future resumes!

Sophomore Year

Begin attending college events. While graduation is still three years away, now is a good time to begin investigating different colleges and universities. Would your teen prefer a large or small school? In state or out of state? Starting now can help students avoid feeling overwhelmed by hundreds of choices during the actual application process.


Take practice tests. Sign up for practice PSAT, ACT, or SAT exams if possible. Taking the test now can help demystify the testing process and help them feel more comfortable with what to expect when they take these extremely structured exams.

Junior Year

Seek out jobs and internships. Encourage your teen’s burgeoning independence by helping them find a part-time job, internship, or job shadowing experience. In addition to being great resume builders, these opportunities can also help students explore potential career fields.


Explore scholarship opportunities. Begin researching local and national scholarship opportunities; some scholarships allow juniors to apply or have deadlines for summer and early fall for seniors. Creating a master calendar or spreadsheet noting application deadlines and requirements is a great way to help teens stay organized without micromanaging them.

Senior Year

Take standardized tests for the final time. If you aren’t happy with your scores, there is still time to take the ACT or SAT one last time. Make sure to register for an early Fall testing date so scores are ready in time for application deadlines.


Narrow down your college list. In general, students should apply to 6-8 schools: 2 safety schools, 2-3 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools. If your child has their heart set on one specific college, encourage them to apply for early admission.


Enjoy the last few months of high school. Senior year is equal parts stressful and nostalgic. Make sure to take time to enjoy the last few months together as a family before your child goes off to college!

Tips to improve your child's critical thinking skills

 Critical thinking skills are one of the most important traits parents and teachers can help children develop for the future. The ability to compare, contrast, analyze, and make inferences will help children learn and develop more in the long run than simply being able to recite a list of facts from memory.   Developing critical thinking skills can begin with preschool aged children and continue through high school. The following tips can help you improve your child’s critical thinking skills.   Provide opportunities for play.  While play is often emphasized in early childhood education, play sometimes falls by the wayside after children enter school. Provide ample opportunities for play; play allows children to try something, see the reaction, and then try again. Even young babies are beginning to develop critical thinking skills when they drop a spoon over the side of their high chair over and over!    Develop hypothesis.  A simple “What do you think will happen next?” can help children pause and reflect on the information they already have and use this to predict what will happen next. An especially important skill in reading comprehension, making a hypothesis can be used in everyday life when cooking, playing a game, or even when watching a television show or movie.    Avoid immediately intervening.  When our children are in trouble, our first instinct as parents is often to step in and fix things for them. However, it is important to give our children the opportunity to attempt to solve the problems on their own. For younger children, patience is key; for older children, provide enough guidance or information for them to avoid frustration without directly solving the problem for them.    Create and solve riddles.  Riddles may seem like play, but they are actually a fun way to practice critical thinking skills. By analyzing the information, children learn to look deeper into what is written and think about what they have read. Writing their own riddles can be a fun and silly way to further practice these skills.    Ask open-ended questions.  Instead of directly answering a question, help develop critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions in return. “What do you think is happening?” or “What ideas do you have?” can open a discussion and help your child express their own ideas. Likewise, instead of immediately telling them they are right or wrong, encourage them to explain their own thinking by asking questions such as “Why do you think that?”

Critical thinking skills are one of the most important traits parents and teachers can help children develop for the future. The ability to compare, contrast, analyze, and make inferences will help children learn and develop more in the long run than simply being able to recite a list of facts from memory.


Developing critical thinking skills can begin with preschool aged children and continue through high school. The following tips can help you improve your child’s critical thinking skills.

Provide opportunities for play. While play is often emphasized in early childhood education, play sometimes falls by the wayside after children enter school. Provide ample opportunities for play; play allows children to try something, see the reaction, and then try again. Even young babies are beginning to develop critical thinking skills when they drop a spoon over the side of their high chair over and over!


Develop hypothesis. A simple “What do you think will happen next?” can help children pause and reflect on the information they already have and use this to predict what will happen next. An especially important skill in reading comprehension, making a hypothesis can be used in everyday life when cooking, playing a game, or even when watching a television show or movie.


Avoid immediately intervening. When our children are in trouble, our first instinct as parents is often to step in and fix things for them. However, it is important to give our children the opportunity to attempt to solve the problems on their own. For younger children, patience is key; for older children, provide enough guidance or information for them to avoid frustration without directly solving the problem for them.


Create and solve riddles. Riddles may seem like play, but they are actually a fun way to practice critical thinking skills. By analyzing the information, children learn to look deeper into what is written and think about what they have read. Writing their own riddles can be a fun and silly way to further practice these skills.


Ask open-ended questions. Instead of directly answering a question, help develop critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions in return. “What do you think is happening?” or “What ideas do you have?” can open a discussion and help your child express their own ideas. Likewise, instead of immediately telling them they are right or wrong, encourage them to explain their own thinking by asking questions such as “Why do you think that?”

Educational podcasts to help your student keep learning (For high schoolers)

 Few high schoolers are interested in continuing to learn when the school day ends. However, podcasts can be a great way to both entertain and inform; if they find the subject interesting, students will be too busy enjoying themselves to realize they are learning. The following are just a few of the many educational podcasts to keep your high schooler learning outside of the classroom!    Revisionist History    Revisionist History, a podcast by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, examines and reinterprets past events, people, ideas, and even songs. In addition to helping them learn more about history, this podcast encourage students to think critically about what they hear or read. High schoolers will particularly enjoy the three-part series on college in season 1.    Math Mutation    This podcast is short, easy to listen to, and fun, making it a great fit for math lovers and those who struggle with the subject alike. Covering topics in mathematics that are rarely covered in school textbooks, Math Mutation can help expand the minds of teens beyond what is taught in their math classes at school.    Killer Innovations    Based on the blog by author Phil McKinney, Killer Innovations focuses on creative thinking, innovation, and leadership. McKinney also regularly interviews leading innovators about their own personal paths to success. With more than 12 seasons, this podcast can help encourage students to follow their dreams and bring their ideas to fruition.    How Stuff Works    Whether your high schooler is a true techie or naturally curious, How Stuff Works helps answer questions about how some of most commonly used items run. Rather than just offering rote, scientific explanations, co-host Charles Bryant keeps things lively, entertaining, and interesting.    Good Job, Brain!    What started as a simple Kickstarter campaign in 2011 has morphed into a worldwide phenomenon. Good Job, Brain! has nearly 200 episodes that are part quiz show and part offbeat news broadcast. This podcast shows there is plenty to learn outside of the classroom, and parents will appreciate that it is free from explicit language.    Stuff You Missed In History Class    Created by the staff of How Stuff Works, Stuff You Missed In History Class covers people and events that rarely make it into history textbooks. From Hawaii’s pineapple industry to the history of veterinary medicine, Stuffed You Missed In History Class has a wide range of topics that will keep even reluctant listeners tuning in weekly.

Few high schoolers are interested in continuing to learn when the school day ends. However, podcasts can be a great way to both entertain and inform; if they find the subject interesting, students will be too busy enjoying themselves to realize they are learning. The following are just a few of the many educational podcasts to keep your high schooler learning outside of the classroom!

Revisionist History

Revisionist History, a podcast by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, examines and reinterprets past events, people, ideas, and even songs. In addition to helping them learn more about history, this podcast encourage students to think critically about what they hear or read. High schoolers will particularly enjoy the three-part series on college in season 1.

Math Mutation

This podcast is short, easy to listen to, and fun, making it a great fit for math lovers and those who struggle with the subject alike. Covering topics in mathematics that are rarely covered in school textbooks, Math Mutation can help expand the minds of teens beyond what is taught in their math classes at school.

Killer Innovations

Based on the blog by author Phil McKinney, Killer Innovations focuses on creative thinking, innovation, and leadership. McKinney also regularly interviews leading innovators about their own personal paths to success. With more than 12 seasons, this podcast can help encourage students to follow their dreams and bring their ideas to fruition.

How Stuff Works

Whether your high schooler is a true techie or naturally curious, How Stuff Works helps answer questions about how some of most commonly used items run. Rather than just offering rote, scientific explanations, co-host Charles Bryant keeps things lively, entertaining, and interesting.

Good Job, Brain!

What started as a simple Kickstarter campaign in 2011 has morphed into a worldwide phenomenon. Good Job, Brain! has nearly 200 episodes that are part quiz show and part offbeat news broadcast. This podcast shows there is plenty to learn outside of the classroom, and parents will appreciate that it is free from explicit language.

Stuff You Missed In History Class

Created by the staff of How Stuff Works, Stuff You Missed In History Class covers people and events that rarely make it into history textbooks. From Hawaii’s pineapple industry to the history of veterinary medicine, Stuffed You Missed In History Class has a wide range of topics that will keep even reluctant listeners tuning in weekly.