9 Tips for Parents If Your Child is Changing Schools

newscoolMy last blog discussed my reactions about our recent move. I’m happy to report we are settling into our new home, and I thank everyone for all of the good wishes.

The anxiety I experienced as an adult made me think of all of the children who may be changing schools come September. Whether your family is moving — or your child is changing schools for any number of other reasons — there are steps you can take now to ease the transition for your child.

Whatever the age of your child, it’s a good idea to arrange a visit to the new school. Although school is not in session over the summer, a visit will demystify the new school environment by enabling your child to see the physical building, including classrooms, playground, and cafeteria. The principal may be around, and as the school year approaches, teachers may be at the school setting up their classrooms. Meeting some of the school personnel will familiarize your child with the new cast of characters in his or her life.

There are also many excellent children’s books for young children that deal with school, such as Curious George Goes to School by Margret Rey, and The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Jan and Stan Berenstain. My all time favorite book for children and adults of all ages is Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. It inspires kids of all ages to be bold and courageous in new situations.

Here are some tips to help you and your child become comfortable in the new school.

1.   It is normal for both you and your child to be anxious about entering a new school, but if you have concerns, please don’t express them to your child. Express confidence and optimism about his/her ability to meet the new challenges.

2.   Look for opportunities for your child to meet his/her classmates over the summer. Check with the school principal, PTA, religious and social organizations and other groups to find connections.

3.   If your child has special needs, such as a learning disability or food allergy, work with the new school as far in advance as possible to determine placement and to line up services and support.

4.   Keep the spark of learning alive during the summer. Students can lose from one to three months of learning during the summer, so plan to keep your child engaged by encouraging reading, word games, math and nature activities. Simply cooking and baking with kids can help develop math, reading, and science skills.

5.   Call the PTA or PTO president and introduce yourself. Parent organization leaders are in a good position to share information and issues about the new school with you. Ask how you can contribute your skills and interests. Getting actively involved in your child’s new school benefits you and your child! Research indicates that the more involved parents are, the more successful their own children will be.

6.   Know the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of your children’s teachers, principal, and school nurse. By all means, contact them if you have questions or concerns.

7.   Become familiar with your school and school district websites, and check them for calendar changes, meeting announcements and minutes, news, policies and procedures, and other information.

8.   Check your mail for the publication of the annual calendar/directory. Keep it in an accessible place.

9.   Find out how your school communicates important information to parents and then be alert to those messages. Is it by automated phone message, e-mail blasts, electronically through systems such as Parent Portal, newsletters, snail-mail, or in your kids’ backpacks?

Staying on top of information and issues will enable you to be a proactive and informed parent. Your ongoing engagement, support, and encouragement will expedite your child’s transition into the new school.


Moving Memories

photo-8When people ask me whether I miss the house our family lived in for more than three decades, my knee jerk reaction is an unqualified NO.

It wasn’t until our eldest son expressed the desire to “see my house one last time,” that I thought about what, if anything, the house meant to me.

Through his eyes, I saw our house as the home we made.

It was the house in which he took his first steps, the house in which we brought home from the hospital two more newborn baby boys, and in which we celebrated all of their accomplishments and milestones. It was the house in which I cried when the babies were old enough to go to kindergarten — and then camp and college.

My eyes welled up as I pictured my parents parking their Buick in front of our house and coming in for their weekly visits  — always carrying food.  There were countless holiday celebrations and lifecycle events with our parents, siblings, extended family and friends.

It was the place in which we entertained prospective daughters-in-law and where I pondered what it meant to be a mother-in-law. It was the same house in which we were consoled by our family and friends after my father, mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law died over the span of seven years.

But before that it was a party house where I catered numerous kid and adult birthday celebrations, anniversaries and assorted get-togethers.

It was also the place where we grappled with problems and analyzed issues. We searched for faith and attempted to inculcate values. It was the sanctuary in which we shared our disappointments, rejections, and hurts, and sought words of wisdom to comfort each other.  It was simply put – home.

So much has changed in the world since we moved into our first house so long ago. We had been married less than three years, younger than all three of our children are now.  There were no cell phones, cable TV or Internet.  There were 34 children on the block, and after dinner each evening there was a friendly parade of strollers. Neighbors rang the bell bearing pies to welcome us.

But that changed over time, as the mothers went back to work and the children grew up and moved on.

The house felt empty and quiet. The time was right for us to start anew.

The Optimum commercial says: “Moving is hard.” And it is. It is emotional; it is stressful; it is exhausting. What to save, what to toss — as lives are relived through photos and papers and objects.

Do I miss the house in which we raised our children? No, I do not miss the physical house. It was merely the canvas in which we lived our life as a family.

The memories do not reside in the house; they live forever in our hearts. We take them with us to our new home.

The Living Memories Project, by Meryl Ain and her co-authors, will be published later this year by Little Miami Publishing Company.


10 Tips to Encourage Summer Learning

FDRhseThe hot weather is signaling to us that summer is on the horizon. School – with all of its structured routines, homework, testing, and projects — will soon be over.  Summer – with its outdoor play, excursions to the parks and beaches, and vacations — will replace the frenetic daily school schedules.  Both kids and parents are likely to be more relaxed!

But did you know that when students return to school after summer vacation, they’ve often lost one to three months of learning?

Research indicates that math skills are most in jeopardy. Elementary students at all socio-economic levels typically lose math skills, while middle class students often make slight gains in reading. But the weak economy has taken its toll on families across the board. Fewer parents will be able to afford camps, tutors, and the plethora of other summer programs that can enrich learning during the summer. And school budget cuts have also reduced free summer educational programs that existed in the recent past.

So what’s a parent to do? Here are 10 tips for maintaining your child’s skills and learning levels during the summer.

  • Foster the expectation that summer is a time for learning. Ask your child what he/she would like to learn over the summer. It’s also helpful if you are a role model for learning. Discuss with your children what you plan on learning this summer.
  • Encourage reading by providing your children with plenty of books that interest them. Use school summer reading lists and library grade-level reading suggestions. Visit the library often and check out special summer events. Read with your children, and discuss the books they are reading with them. If you are really ambitious, organize a book club with a few of your child’s friends.
  • Understand that any topic of interest to your child can be a source of learning. For example, if your child is interested in baseball, surround him or her with baseball books and magazines. Watching a baseball game and keeping score or cataloguing baseball cards can be a lesson in statistics, i.e., RBI, ERA.
  • Car trips can evolve into math or geography lessons. Instead of the perennial kid question: “Are we there yet,” ask your children to estimate and calculate the travel time to a destination. Encourage your kids to recognize different state license plates, and talk about those states with them, fostering their geography skills.
  • For social studies learning, make day trips to local historical sites, such as Teddy Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, or FDR’s home in Hyde Park, NY. Overnight trips to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Boston, offer a wealth of information about our nation’s history. And for science skills, don’t overlook children’s science museums and zoos, as well as outdoor natural wonders to explore, such as caves, beaches, and parks.
  • Let your child calculate what the change should be at stores, restaurants, and activities that require admission fees. If your children are old enough, ask them to calculate tips in restaurants.
  • Try word games, including board games, such as Scrabble, and crossword puzzles and Sudoku to build vocabulary. Encourage your child to learn a certain number of new words during the summer.
  • Sharpen your child’s math skills by playing games with him or her that require computation, such as Monopoly or dominoes. Let your child be the scorekeeper or “banker.” You can also use flash cards to help review addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Go online for worksheets that match your child’s learning needs and skill level. Many of these can be printed or downloaded for free.
  • Don’t overlook the kitchen as a wonderful learning lab.  Involve your children in cooking and preparing meals, and they will exercise their reading, math and science skills. For example, have them read recipes, measure ingredients, and observe how the combination of different ingredients leads to the creation of something amazing.  For advanced learning, ask questions, such as how many pints are in a quart, or what made the dough rise?
  • Inspire your children to write about their summer learning experiences. Remember to keep learning fun. You want your children to return to school in September with improved skills and a renewed love of learning!

###


Scholarships Keep Memories Alive

brentwoodscholarship2013

The 2013 recipients of the Herbert J. Fischman Memorial Scholarship with Meryl Ain

On Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Brentwood High School Awards Night as a presenter of two scholarships in memory of my father, Herbert J. Fischman, a former teacher and elementary principal in the district. With this gesture, I joined with many other individuals and groups who together awarded hundreds of scholarships to Brentwood’s deserving graduates.

Principal Richard Loeschner and his family were among the presenters, memorializing their mother, Mary Ann Loeschner. There were also countless relatives, colleagues and friends of former Brentwood employees, local residents and students who also presented scholarships

The evening, which was coordinated by Paula Santorelli, was filled with warmth, spirit, and excitement. It was particularly inspiring to hear presenters speak about the loved ones in whose memory they were donating the scholarships. Listening to the speakers actually brought me closer to my father, who worked in the school district for 25 years. I recognized many of the names as colleagues and friends with whom he had worked, all of whom were so dedicated to the students, staff, parents, district and community.

In these difficult economic times when discretionary funds are diminishing, a scholarship — no matter how small – is particularly meaningful because it can have such a positive impact on the life of a young person. It also perpetuates the living memory of a loved one. The more scholarships that are available, the more opportunity there is to acknowledge young people who work hard to do their very best, as well as those who exemplify character traits that our communities and country desperately need, such as service and caring.

Four years ago, while writing a book with my husband and brother, I decided to establish the scholarship in memory of my father. Our book, The Living Memories Project, due to be published this fall, is about honoring memories and carrying on legacies. The idea for the scholarship came from two of our interviewees — Nick Clooney, the father of George Clooney and brother of Rosemary and Betty Clooney, and Yeou-Cheng Ma, the sister of cellist Yo Yo Ma. Both separately suggested that one of the easiest ways to honor a loved one was to establish a scholarship in his or her memory. It was then that I made the commitment to continue the scholarships each year.

While the students are the recipients of the scholarships, attending the assembly and presenting the scholarships each year has been both cathartic and therapeutic for me. For example, I met retired teachers who worked in my father’s school and who shared with me their reminiscences, as well as their affection and admiration for my dad.   In addition, listening to others speak about their loved ones confirmed that dedicating a scholarship, no matter what the amount, helps to keep alive the memory of those who are no longer here.

Since establishing the Herbert J. Fischman Memorial Scholarship I have met some amazing students, parents, teachers, and principals in the Brentwood School District. I thank them for the opportunity to enable me to honor the memory of my father in a meaningful way!


Why Coming Out Benefits Straights as Much as Gays

collinsThe recent news that NBA center Jason Collins is gay was greeted with widespread attention and acceptance. In a measure of just how much public opinion has shifted, the 34-year-old Collins was lauded for his courage in coming out of the closet as the first openly gay professional athlete in this country. Collins even received a call from President Obama.

Most agreed this is a good thing for professional sports. More important, it is a good thing for young gay people struggling with their own sexuality. Hopefully, Collins’ announcement will help save lives. Gay rights advocates claim gay and lesbian teens are three to four times as likely to commit suicide as their straight counterparts.

The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people under 24, weighed in on the announcement:

“For nearly 15 years, The Trevor Project has heard from young people all over the country who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. Too often, they struggle with accepting who they are, or helping the important people in their life love, understand and accept them. Coming out is a brave thing to do for anyone because of the prejudice, fear and hate that too often confront LGBTQ people for being who they are. Today’s public announcement by NBA veteran center Jason Collins that he is gay is an important step in professional sports and makes a great deal of positive difference for his young and impressionable fans…”

As Collins told Sports Illustrated, his announcement impacts most families:

“Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.”

In an interview with New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Collins described how difficult it was to conceal who he was:

“It’s tough to live a lie. It’s really tough: I describe it as you know the sky is blue but you tell yourself it’s red. It’s an insane logic. It’s tough to continue to live with lies and half-truths. It weighs on you. You put on a mask, but at the end of the day you’re not happy telling yourself a lie over and over again to the point where I am now being honest and truthful and not having to have a censor button; it’s liberating.”

“Coming out” isn’t just healthy, necessary, and liberating for gay people; everyone else benefits as well. Lies are destructive, not only to the person telling them, but also to everyone else who becomes collateral damage. For example, Carolyn Moos, who had an eight-year relationship with Collins, told TMZ that she had no idea that he was gay. His former fiancée said she never suspected at all, and she could not understand why he broke up with her.

“It’s very emotional for me as a woman to have invested [eight] years in my dream to have a husband, soul mate, and best friend in him,” she said. “So this is all hard to understand.”

Hopefully, she will now go on with her life and find a husband, soul mate and best friend. But despite her shock and heartbreak, she added that she wants Collins to be true to himself, and wishes the best for him.

I suspect that is what most people who love someone who is gay – boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, child, niece, nephew, cousin, or friend — would want for them. If they only knew! It’s time to open all of the closets for the emotional health of everyone in the family.

George Will, the conservative pundit, once said that to his children’s generation, sexual orientation is no more consequential than eye color.

Perhaps with honesty, love, forgiveness, acceptance and understanding, that day is not too far off.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#ixzz2S2ooVyQl

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/jason-collins-former-fiancee-carolyn-moos-had-no-170001023.html

http://bruni.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/qa-with-jason-collins/


April is Autism Awareness Month: 4 Great Reads from Parents in the Know

WAA-DayApril is Autism Awareness Month, a time when the public pays attention to autism – something parents and teachers in the special education and autism community live with every day.

One in every 50 children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And because it is Autism Awareness Month we are seeing a plethora of wonderful articles – filled with sensitivity, insights, wisdom and first-hand knowledge – written by those who are the true experts on the subject. Here are four great reads on the topic.

Ellen Seidman @LoveThatMax shares her take on autism awareness through the prism of her son Max. In her blog in the Huffington Post, World Autism Awareness Day: The Problem With Labels, she writes why stereotyping her son and other kids with autism prevents others from experiencing their uniqueness as human beings.

“But here’s the thing about labels: they whitewash the uniqueness of the child,” she wrote. “When people figure that Max has autism because he looks or acts a certain way, or when people think that kids with autism are like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, they presume to know what our children are like — which does our kids a major disservice. That’s where we, their parents, come in.”

All of us can do the following:

“…Help people understand that kids with special needs are distinct individuals with definitive preferences, likes and dislikes. You know, like any kids. Help dismantle the stereotypes that accompany the labels. Help people see the ability in disability.”

To read the whole article, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-seidman/world-autism-awareness-day_b_3001124.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

Dennise Goldberg @SpecialEdAdvice, who writes the Special Education Advisor blog, says in her article, April, a Time for Autism Awareness……a Time to show Compassion, that April may be the only time of year when the entire society discusses autism. Believing that there are many who have yet to be diagnosed, she calls for compassion for all those who struggle with the disorder:

“We’ve all seen other children or adults who struggle with autism-like behavior, but for whatever reason they are or were unable to receive early intervention.  We all know the importance of early intervention to assist anyone with special needs; the reality is that not everyone who needs it will be given the opportunity to benefit from it.

“My hope is that as a society, we not only look at all those who have been diagnosed but we do not ignore those who haven’t.  Don’t forget about those you might see in your child’s school, in the market, at a sporting event, the mall and the list goes on and on!  If you see a child or an adult struggling to navigate in a social situation show some compassion for them.  Maybe they are having a bad day or they have yet to be diagnosed with a disability and receive the necessary help they desperately need; we can offer assistance instead of judgment.”

To read the entire article, go to:

http://www.specialeducationadvisor.com/april-a-time-for-autism-awarenessa-time-to-show-compassion/

In another Huffington Post blog, Saint Judy, Leda Natkin Nelis writes in praise of her mother who has provided her and her autistic son consistent and loving support from day one. She writes that every parent of a child with special needs should have support and an advocate like her mother.

“Raising a child with special needs has been challenging to say the least. Convincing the medical community that my concerns about my son were valid, and then attaining a proper diagnosis, was a gruesome battle. My mother has been right there in the trenches with me from day one. My gorgeous and successful Asperger’s son would not be where he is today without Judy’s belief and support. From the day he was born, I struggled to understand why this tiny baby was clearly in pain. Family members judged me as a parent and judged my child. Mothers at the playground whispered and pointed at the non-functional displays of behavior. Throughout it all, Judy’s belief in me and in my son never swerved. She insisted that together we would find answers, and always asserted that she could see in his eyes that my son was a genius.”

She goes on to urge all mothers of special needs children to not feel ashamed to seek support:

“We all, as vulnerable mothers of special needs children, need an advocate. Your advocate can be a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a charity worker. Do not be afraid to ask for support. Do not feel ashamed.”

To read the entire article, go to:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leda-natkin-nelis/saint-judy_b_2996965.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

In his blog, Autism from a Father’s Point of View, Stuart Duncan @autismfather presents the facts about the disorder to strip away the fear. He says that while awareness is “mandatory,” the facts and figures can often lead to fear. He urges parents who have received an autism diagnosis for their child to “embrace the fear.”

“What I mean by `embracing the fear’ is that some parents fight against the autism and thus fight against their own child, pushing them to not be themselves, to not be autistic at all and take that fight outward as they try to find someone or something to blame and forcibly share more and more information that they find in an attempt to perpetuate the fear onto others so that they can fear autism as well.”

To read the whole article, go to:

http://www.stuartduncan.name/autism/autism-awareness-day-a-few-things-to-consider/


Dismal Jobs Report: What are the best and worst careers of the future?

The March jobs report was released last week and it is disappointing. There were just 88,000 new jobs created in March and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent, indicating that about a half-million people stopped looking for work. This means that these individuals are so discouraged in their job search that they have given up.

Hopefully, the economy will improve. But whether it does or doesn’t, the workplace is changing due to advances in technology and the ubiquity of the Internet. There are certain fields that are waning and others that are booming. That’s certainly something young people and their parents may want to keep in mind as they look toward the future.

Kiplinger’s Report analyzed employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the best and worst jobs for the future. It analyzed fields that are expected to add the most positions at the fastest rates through 2020. Additionally, Kiplinger’s looked for occupations that pay well and have been increasing wages. Included are fields that both require higher education and those that offer good pay and opportunity with less schooling.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/05/the-march-jobs-report-in-seven-charts/

Top 10 Worst Jobs of the Future

1. Post Office Clerk

2. Switchboard Operator/Call Receptionist

3. Semiconductor Processor

4. Sewing Machine Operator

5. Printing Press Technician

6. Desktop Publisher

7. Door-to-Door Salesman

8. Floral Designer

9. Newspaper/Magazine Reporter

10. Jeweler

Read more 10-of-the-worst-jobs-for-the-future

Conversely, other fields are booming due to changes in demographics and technology.

10 hot jobs of tomorrow

1. Registered Nurse

Projections indicate that more than 711,000 RNs will be added to the employment rolls by 2020, the most of any occupation. As the population ages, there will be more patients requiring care. To become a registered nurse, you need a degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program, as well as a nursing license. For an advanced nursing position such as a nurse practitioner, a master’s degree is required.

2. Systems Software Developer

This is a burgeoning field due to the escalating computerization of our personal and professional lives. It’s necessary to have a college degree in computer science or software engineering, and a master’s degree is required for certain positions.

3. Plumber

The demand for plumbers is expected to grow with new building construction, heightened attention to water efficiency, and the perennial need for plumbing maintenance.

Most plumbers begin with a paid four- or five-year apprenticeship. You might also need to be licensed, depending on your state’s requirements.

4. Construction Equipment Operator

As soon as it becomes a priority to repair the country’s rundown infrastructure, construction workers will be in demand. This is a field that is typically learned on the job, but there are also apprenticeships or private trade school programs available.

5. Electrician

The need for increased connectivity at home and at work, the growing use of alternative energy, and housing renovation and construction will offer more opportunities for electricians.

Most electricians get started with a paid four-year apprenticeship. Most states also require you to be licensed.

6. Personal Financial Advisor

As baby boomers age, they will need investment and retirement advice.

A bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, accounting or a similar field is the best preparation, but most employers don’t specify a required major. Certification, which requires a bachelor’s degree, at least three years of relevant work experience, and passing a rigorous exam on a wide range of financial issues, enhances your professionalism. Licensing is required to sell certain types of insurance and investment products.

7. Physical Therapist’s Assistant

The aging of the population will increase the demand for physical therapy professionals.

Therapist assistants fall between full-fledged physical therapists and lower-skilled therapist aides in terms of pay and training required. Although assistants typically earn about $27,000 less a year than physical therapists, they just need an associate’s degree, as opposed to a therapist’s doctoral degree, to get started.

8. Computer Network Administrator

To become a network administrator, who runs the day-to-day operations of an organization’s computer network, you will need a degree in computer or information science, or in computer or electrical engineering.

9. Painter

Little experience is necessary to become a house or building painter; you can get on the job training. But formal paid apprenticeships are also available. To become an industrial painter, you may need certifications for certain jobs, which can take one day to several weeks to obtain.

10. Dental Hygienist

In addition to growing demand for dental hygienists, the numbers of dentist and dental assistant jobs are expected to increase by 20.7% and 30.8%, respectively.

To become a dental hygienist, you usually need a two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene, which requires you to study anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiography and periodontology. You also have to get a license to practice. Requirements vary by state.

Read more at kiplinger.com