The New School Year Can Be Terrifying by Ellen Stumbo

It’s that time of the year when kids go back to school. A new year. A new teacher. Perhaps even a new backpack or wardrobe. But it also means new classmates. New friends.

As a special-needs mom, the new school year can be terrifying. I am not sure what your experience was, but when I was in school, the children with disabilities were not in class with me. They either had their own class or their own school.

Back then, I was afraid of disability. I was told to look away, to ignore, to not ask questions, to not be rude. So I thought disability was bad. Really bad. Then I became a special-needs mom and let me tell you, this is how you take a crash course on disability.

But I remember being on the “other” side, the side where you are not so sure how to respond to people with disabilities, how to act around them, perhaps even how to treat them or talk to them. And you know, your child might be going to school with a peer with who has a disability. Thankfully, we now practice something beautiful called inclusion, where kids of all abilities learn together, and learn from each other.

And this is why a new year is terrifying. Will my daughter with Down syndrome have friends? Will there be a kid in their class that will be able to look past the poor speech and see the wonderful, beautiful, funny person that she is? Will my daughter with cerebral palsy have friends that play with her during recess? Will they still include her even if she cannot run and keep up with them?

I want my children to have friends.

So dear mom with typical kids, it’s okay if you have not taken the crash course on disability (or any course at all). The only thing that matters is that you encourage your kids to get to know my kids. That you teach them that although they might be different, we are all uniquely gifted. That you stress out that disability is just a part of life, and not what defines a person.

And you know what, as your kids get to know mine, maybe we can get to know each other too. I might also need a friend.

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.

What IS Labor Day, Anyway?

Maybe it’s just me, but when my kindergartner wanted to know why she had Labor Day off from school, I was a little tongue-tied. I’m never quite sure why exactly we have Labor Day! If you’re in the same pickle as I am, here are some resources for you.

From Time for Kids:

A New York City carpenter named Peter McGuire is credited for coming up the idea for Labor Day. In 1872, after working many long hours under poor conditions, McGuire rallied 100,000 workers to go on strike. The workers marched through the streets of New York City, demanding a better work environment.

McGuire spent a decade fighting for worker’s rights. In 1882, he proposed the idea to create a special holiday for workers. On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, more than 10,000 workers hit the streets of New York City for the first ever Labor Day parade. Two years later the celebration was moved to the first Monday in September. And in 1894, Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday.

Read the whole Time for Kids article to get a little more background.

Here is a great video from the History Channel about the history of Labor Day as well. Watch it with your kids. (No language but a brief show/mention of violence against a strike.)

I thought it was funny they chose September to fill the long holiday-less gap between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful holiday!

Back-to-School Bonanza

backtoschool

Heading back to school soon? (Schools in Nashville and Chattanooga have already started! Eek!) Here is a round-up of our back-to-school posts here on ParentLife to help you out.

I hope you’ll click through and see some great advice from our varied writers. What’s your best back-to-school tip?

Packing Lunch: Prepping for the New School Year

backtoschool

 

Oh, my. Is it time to think about back-to-school already? In these parts, yes. Public school starts again around August 8th. And that is slowly but surely creeping up!

Maybe you have until after Labor Day … and if so, I’m jealous.

But since we’re all getting there eventually, it’s time to talk lunches and snacks. Here are a few great products as you think about school lunch in 2013-14.

KIND Yellow

 

KIND snacks have no artificial or secret ingredients and come in 28 varieties. From Maple-Glazed Pecan and Sea Salt bars (for Mom?!) to Peanut Butter clusters, all KIND products are made with ingredients you can pronounce and are full of antioxidants and fiber. A great lunchbox or snacktime treat.

hadakilunchpod

 

Hadaki Lunch Pods are the fashionable way for your older kids and teens to carry their lunch to school. In a large variety of prints, these pods are insulated, have a magnetic snap closure, and wipe down easily.

Kidz-Zone-Perfect-Bar-Nutrition

Kidz ZonePerfect is a kid-friendly line featuring 23 vitamins and minerals, five grams of protein and three grams of fiber. They are available in Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Caramel Crunch, and Yellow Cupcake. Better yet, ZonePerfect asked everyday moms and their kids to help design the new bars. By holding build-a-bar workshops, ZonePerfectwas able to deliver the nutritional needs of moms and the taste preferences of active kids – a win-win! Kidz ZonePerfect bars can be found at retailers like Walgreens, CVS, and Wal-Mart. See their website for a $1 coupon.

sn_puffs_2012_grilled_cheese_4oz_fnl

 

Snikiddy is a line of all-natural snacks made from simple, wholesome, real-food ingredients. Snacks now come in 1.5-ounce packages for optimum lunchbox packing!

 

ParentLife was provided with samples of some of these products. All opinions are our own. 

10 Tips for Bullying Prevention in Schools

Cary Woods Elementary School playgorund
source: VickyvS

Bullying is an issue that schools around the country are paying attention to. It’s one that is leaving many seats in the classrooms empty each day. In fact, it’s estimated that, around the country, roughly 160,000 students stay home each day because they fear bullying. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that schools can do in order to help successfully prevent and address the issue on their campus.

 

  • Focus on prevention. When you begin working on bullying as a school-wide issue, place the emphasis more on preventing it so that it is not as big of a problem to begin with.
  • Establish a committee. Create a task force at the school to focus on bullying. That committee should include members from staff, teachers, parents, and students. Together, they can work together and have their input considered.
  • Create a plan. Within the committee, work together to create a bully-prevention plan for the school. Include what the consequences will be if people are found to be bullying others.
  • Start early. It is never too early to start working with children about treating others with kindness, respect, and acceptance. Start at the earliest grade that the school has, leaving no children out of the plan.
  • Keep it going. As children work their way through the school, advancing to the next grade, reinforce the bully-prevention message. They need to hear the message every year, as opposed to it being given to them only once.
  • Think multiple methods. Children learn in different manners. Some learn by listening, others learn by hands-on projects, and still others learn by watching. Try to incorporate multiple ways to get the bully-prevention message across to students. Include things like books, plays, games, movies, and more.
  • Encourage peer advocacy. When students go from being bystanders to being “upstanders,” attempts to address bullying will be more successful. Students should be taught to stand up for other students.
  • Teach what to do. Even though the focus should mainly be on bullying prevention, students still need to know what to do if it happens to them. Teach them acceptable ways to handle bullying if they do encounter it.
  • Work with parents. Parents want a bully-free school as much as teachers, staff, and students do. Nobody wants their child to come home in tears after a day of being bullied. Get the parents involved in the bully prevention effort in order to make it more successful.
  • Evaluate and adjust. Once or twice per year, give the students an anonymous survey to fill out, where they can answer questions about bullying on the school campus. This will provide a look at how the students feel about the school atmosphere, and will give staff the chance to see if the bully-free plans need to be re-evaluated.

“Schools want those children in their seats every day, rather than avoiding school out of fear,” explains Karen Goldberg, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with parents and families. “When schools make bullying a priority and take real steps to help prevent and address bullying, everyone is better off. It takes some dedication and focus, but a successful program can be created and implemented.”

See also: Linda Mintle’s response to parents of children who are being bullied.

Real Men Aren’t Afraid to Carry Bibles by G.G. Mathis

This post is part of our monthly series encouraging leaders and parents of preteens. You’ll find more information and a great curriculum at the FLYTE blog

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source: giratikanon

Kelton’s parents gave him a Bible for his eleventh birthday, four months ago. He’s never taken it out of the box.

Jaden brings his Bible to church, slams it on the table, and sits the rest of the hour with his arms crossed.

Barrett, certain he won’t need it at home, leaves his Bible at church on Sundays.

Hang around preteen boys at church, and you’ll discover that these behaviors, though undesirable, are not uncommon.  You have a unique opportunity to help boys (and girls) recognize the value of God’s Word. Here’s how:

Use navigational aids. Remember that some of your preteens are new to church, and a thick book arranged in neither alphabetical nor numerical order is hard to navigate. Assure boys, “It’s always OK to use the table of contents!” Frequently and briefly review the significance of chapter and verse numbers.

Use Bibles every session. Technology makes it possible for teachers to flash verses on a screen, use search engines to find them, or spit out a printout of a Bible passage. Don’t forget to encourage preteens to experience the Bible the traditional way—hands-on and minds on! (You can add technological techniques as kids improve in Bible-handling expertise.)

Use affirmation. Privately recognize boys who bring their own Bibles to church. Encourage them to show you what Bible translation they are using, as well as the maps, dictionaries, or other study helps it contains. As time and conversation permit, explain which study helps are your favorites and why.

Use natural preteen curiosity. How do you get boys to use their Bibles in between Sundays? Trick them, of course! Bait boys with bits and bites of Bible stories about heroes, battles, spies, and God’s supernatural power. Tell enough of the story to pique their interest, then tell boys where they can read the rest.

Use your Bible! Let boys see you carrying, reading, and respecting your Bible. Tell them about meaningful passages you read and how they helped you make it through a tough week. Keep up the habit of marking and memorizing Scriptures and sharing them with preteens when you teach.

What suggestions do you have for making preteens excited about the Bible?  

G.G. Mathis teaches preteens at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, Missouri.

Planning for Fall Break by Jennifer Waters

First foliage on Noyes Pond
source: jaycollier

The cool breezy air, crunch of leaves underfoot, and feel of excitement in the air make fall a special time. For many families though, including my own, it is also a time of transition from the slower summer pace to a busier routine with school, sports, and other family and church activities picking back up. By mid-October, we are so tired that we often wish it was summer again! That’s why when the first break of the school year rolls around, we are ready for it. Fall Break here we come! The only question is what are we going to do? To capitalize on the opportunity to re-energize and reconnect, everyone needs to enjoy the break.

The key is to let everyone help plan! Try dividing up the time and assigning family members a time frame to be responsible for planning. Just be sure to leave some open time for relaxing and unplanned activity, as well. Discuss parameters, such as price limits, travel distances, who must be able to participate, and any other specifications you feel necessary. Then, let them loose to start planning!

For young children, you may need to help them think of options, but leave the decision up to them. For older children, let them brainstorm and research independently. Provide assistance only when needed. Mom and Dad should ponder ideas for an assigned time, as well. When all the brainstorming and planning is done, convene a family meeting to share and discuss.

Ask each person to present their top idea to the rest of the family. Unless the idea really isn’t feasible, such as going to Disney World when you said you had a budget of $10 per person, get excited about it and go with the idea they chose! Then, make a schedule and get started!

Do you have plans for Fall Break?

 

Jennifer L. Waters is a writer, childhood adventure planner, and mom of two energetic boys, ages
6 and 4. She and her family live in Statesboro, Ga.

10 Easy Tips for Getting a Great School Picture

The beginning of the school year means school picture time is probably drawing close again. Here are ten tips from Linda Russell, the CEO of Mugshots.

Johnny Compton - Vintage 1944 School Portrait

  1. Avoid hats. Photographers will often remove for the shoot and then the child is left with “hat head.”
  2. Parents should stay away. Children are more natural when no one is watching — that means you, Mom, peeking around the corner!
  3. Don’t practice poses with your child. Let the photographer unlock their natural expressions, not cheesy grins they’ve rehearsed for hours.
  4. For boys, the best bet is a collared shirt that compliments their eyes and hair. Small patterns or solids are best. Avoid words, superheroes, and pop culture images on T-shirts.
  5. Ironing your child’s collar in the morning will make a big difference in those head shots.
  6. For girls, avoid spaghetti straps. They tend to hang low and if it is chilly, the goose bumps on their arms show.
  7. A gap tooth or braces are beautiful. Let them shine. Don’t have kids keep their mouth closed — show off the smile!
  8. For eyeglasses, non-reflective lenses are best. Feel free to ask the photographer to shoot a photo with and without the glasses to see which you prefer.
  9. Schedule a haircut at least 10 days ahead of photo day.
  10. Ponytails are great with barrettes or hairpins to manage fly-aways.

Did you have a favorite or least favorite school picture? In my favorite, I’m wearing a pink sweater with cows and have a side ponytail, but I look happy! In my least favorite, I’m wearing a paisley-print dress and refusing to show my buck teeth. (See #7…) — Jessie (ParentLife Blog Guru)

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. This post added to Top Ten Tuesday at OhAmanda.

Hooray for You! by Donna J. Noble

Looking for a new tradition for the first day of school? Check out this idea submitted by ParentLife writer Donna Noble.

We have a back-to-school tradition in our family. It began the year my nephew Brian was in kindergarten. I am sure that my sister never anticipated on the day of the first-ever “Bus Party!” that the celebration would lead to another and yet another, until the wheels on the bus had gone around and around, carrying us 20 years down the road.

A Bus Party

schoolbus.jpgWhat is a bus party? It is simple. All you have to do is make a few treats and a pitcher of lemonade and, at the end of the school day, park yourself by the bus stop. When the bus comes into sight, you jump up and cheer in celebration of your child completing her first day of the school year

If all of this sounds a little funny, believe me, it is! You should see my sisters, my mom, and me each year! As we shout, “Hooray! It’s the bus party!” we get a few questioning looks from the bus driver. (Come to think of it, our kids have had a new bus driver every year. Is it possible that we scare them off?) Still, these incredulous bus drivers have never turned down the brownies we have offered them through the window.

Every year, our children know to expect this bus party silliness. Though the kids look a little sheepish as they descend the steps of the bus, try as they might, they cannot hold back their laughter. Once again, demonstrative affection triumphs over embarrassment.

The bus pulls away, but we stay and eat goodies. We talk about the day, about new teachers, and about our hopes for the year to come. Best of all, we share a very special bond.

Special Memories
Though every bus party is similar, each one is also unique. Sometimes we sing silly songs, read inspirational verses together, or simply reminisce about past bus parties.

One year, it rained so hard that only my 72-year-old mother and I were brave enough to dance around in the front yard. Everyone else waited under-roof for the guests of honor to arrive. When the bus finally came, the kids dashed straight past poor Grandma to the shelter of the barn where they joined their cousins and the faithful aunts for a great celebration.

Future Bus Parties

Once upon a time there were more little ones waiting on the blanket than riding the bus. Then there were more on the bus than on the blanket. Now our wonderful high schoolers would not miss celebrating their elementary school-aged cousins’ bus party days. The celebration continues for my children: the last two of the bus party of 12!

The Deeper Truth
One thing is for sure: The children in our family have gained the confidence to venture forth on their own because they know how much they are valued at home. And here is the icing on the bus party cake: Together we have experienced a sense of community that some people may never understand. Success calls for celebration … even if it is just an ordinary day, like the first day of school.

Donna J. Noble and her husband, Darrin, are co-founders of PineCross Ministries, LLP (www.pinecrossministries.com), whose focus is hospitality and encouragement to families. She writes from PineCross Acres in Hartville, Ohio, where she and her family love to celebrate ordinary days.

Does your family have any back-to-school traditions? Leave us a comment and tell us about them!

 

Taking the Stress Out of School

Is your preteen tired of school? Is she feeling the pressure of completing school work, earning good grades, and fitting in with her peers? Help her take the stress out of school.

  1. 28_homework.jpgEncourage excellence but emphasize to your preteen that she does not base her self-worth on grades. There is a balance here. Push her to do her best but assure that her value is grounded in being a child of God. 
  2. Ensure that your preteen has enough time to study and complete homework. Procrastinating or rushing through assignments will catch up to your
    preteen sooner or later. Be proactive in this area. Know what
    assignments are coming up and help your preteen set aside enough time
    to get all of them done.
  3. Celebrate your preteen’s success. Be eager and quick to point out when your preteen does well. When she earns a good grade, praise her! When she writes a paper, ask to read it and give her positive feedback. If the only time you talk about school is when you are critical, your preteen most likely will worry more.

For more help on teaching your preteen to see herself through God’s eyes, be sure to check out ParentLife’s 9 to 12 Years Growth Spurt article “Self-Identity” in the March 2009 issue.

What school struggles is your preteen facing? Do you have
stress-reducing suggestions to share with other parents?  Leave a comment and
let us know.