Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Reading Club

Summer Reading Club – The Happiness Project

Summer’s here, and I can’t wait to give my brain a break from keeping up with the kids’ schedules and activities. How about you?
And summer’s the perfect time to relax with a good book, isn’t it?
That’s where I got the idea for the Good Moos Summer Reading Club. (Hey, someone has to pick up where Oprah left off…)

Have you heard about this book The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin? She devoted a year to reexamining her life and finding ways to enjoy more happiness every day. I’ve read snippets of the book here and there, and this seems like the perfect time to dive in. Won’t you join me?
Each week, I’ll talk a little bit about a section from the book, and I’ll open up comments so that you can join in the conversation. Whether you pick up a copy of the book or just decide to read our discussions each week, I hope you will find this fun and a great way to recharge your batteries.
Here’s a trailer that Gretchen made about the book, which shows little previews of the various mini-resolutions she made during her journey:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Reading Activites

Thrifty Thursday: Free Summer Activities for KidsBy Apryl Duncan, Guide June 2, 2011

Have you noticed how kids count down the days for school to be out and then one week into summer break they're whining about how bored they are? The good news is, there are plenty of free summer activities for kids that will entertain them right up until school starts again.

At my house, we've planned our strategy for all of the freebies on the list. Our first activity is the free summer reading program at our library, followed by Vacation Bible School and then we'll take advantage of free admission offers to children's museums, theaters and art museums.
That's just phase 1. There are a dozen freebies on the list so we'll be having fun all summer at no cost.
It will be a long summer if we just sit within our 4 walls. We're going to make sure we take advantage of all of the free summer activities available.
Which free summer activities are you looking forward to your children participating in?

Thrifty Thursday Tips from Parenting Guides

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Art Education

Over the past year or two we've seen the emergence of significant studies to determine the levels of access to arts education by students in a given state or in some instances a city. Later today, the New York City Department of Education will release its second Annual Arts in the Schools Report. This year, they're not inviting press to the release. More on that report later this week.

I came across this study by the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Arts Council.
Not surprisingly, the study finds "that while most schools offer some formal arts education to a majority of students, an estimated 29,000 students attend public schools that do not offer any formal arts education."

Importantly, "offer" only tells us so much. There is always a major gap between what's offered and what is received. For instance, in some research related to a Wallace Foundation grant to the NYCDOE, it was estimated that while 50% of the middle schools "offer" dance, only 10% of the students receive it.
The study also claims that "new data reveals that Colorado public high schools offering more arts education have higher scores on state tests in reading, writing and science - regardless of student ethnicity or socioeconomic status. They also have lower dropout rates."

Naturally, these finding are not about "transference" of arts education to reading, writing, and science. They are looking at statistical relationships between students who study arts and their grade scores in certain subject areas, as well as dropout rates. We've seen these claims before, particularly in regards to SAT scores and the number of years a students studies music in high school.
Nevertheless, the more we have to understand the state of access to arts education, the better the position we are in to advocate.

If you're interested in this area, be sure to look at both the SRI report for the Hewlett Foundation and the census report done of all schools in the State of New Jersey.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pros of an Employed Teen During the Summer!

According to the blog InvitingSmiles, there are pros and cons for a teen working during the summer.  This summer is more difficult for teens to find work than in years past.  Below is an article about the pros of summer teen jobs:

Pros for a Working Teen

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
teen-jobs.jpgThere are Pros and Cons for a working teen. My perspective comes from being a parent of two working teens. Therefore, this week we will discuss the Pros of an employed teen from a parent’s point of view.
• Many school activities cease during the summer. A job gives the teen somewhere to be rather than roaming the streets, or sitting in front of a television.
• Teens will learn about the world outside of home: good and bad influences by co-workers and management (parents keep an eye out for those bad influences!)
• They will need to budget their money, especially if parents are requiring some payments for a car, car insurance, gasoline, fun money, etc.
• They will learn responsibilities that benefit others, not just themselves: helping customers, keeping your work area clean, making a good sale, etc.
• They will learn skills to help them in future jobs: how to deal with rude adults, snotty management, unruly children*, etc.
*My daughter is working in a children’s store. She has been there 3 days. She has already learned the importance of teaching young children how to behave in a store. Not because she has encountered so many behaved children, but because there are so many parents that allow their children to run unsupervised through the store. This is a lesson that will benefit my daughter and her future children. A personal note: If a 16 year old can tell the importance of supervising small children in public, surely an adult can.
There are many pros of a working teen. However, there are some cons to consider as well. Next week we will speak of those cons. Until then, click here for tips on Parenting Teens:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Walk to Remember

According to an article in January 2, 2011 Parade,  walking isn't just good for your waistline, it benefits your memory too.  A new study that followed 299 adults for 13 years found that walking six to nine miles a week may stop your brain from shrinking as you age.

"Exercise increase the amount of blood going to the brain," says lead study author Kirk Erickson, a University of Pittsburgh professor.  "This means that more of the important nutrients necessary for the brain to function are distributed."

Researchers found that the more participants walked, the more gray matter they retained (though exceeding nine miles a week provided no additional benefits). Those who walked the most had half the risk of developing memory problems as those who walked the least. "Some loss of brain matter is normal with age," Erickson says.  "But with increased exercise, the parts of the brain that support memory function , the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, are spared.  The earlier you start exercising, the better, but it's never too late," he adds.  "Any amount you do will help."

This study simply advises the entire family to get out and take a walk and keep increasing the blood flow to the brain.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ban Bedtime Texting

Getting enough sleep is very important for everyone especially children.  When our kids don't get enough sleep it can effect their concentration and attitude.  Many parents who think their child may have ADD or ADHD found that just making sure their child get the right amount of sleep can make a big difference in treating these conditions.  Below is another study showing how important sleep can be for all children.

 According to an article in the May 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, kids who text or surf the Web right before bed have a harder time falling and staying asleep, and suffer from more mood and learning issues during the day, reports a study from JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J.  The technology engages kids' brains, keeping them alert. 

"Get it out of the bedroom at night," says primary investigator Michael Seyffert, M.D.  And ban media for 45 minutes before bed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Watch What Your Daughter is Watching On TV

Your daughter's must-see TV may be sending the wrong message, reports the Parents Television Council (PTC).  An analysis of top teen-viewed shows found that when girls in them were sexually objectified only 5 percent were upset about it. 

This tell you that when girls are watching sexually explicit TV shows, they can become desensitized to these sexual behaviors.  Therefore, a generation of young women are growing up not understanding what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

"Engage with your child about what she watches," says Melissa Henson, the PTC's communications and public education director.  "Ask, Doesn't she deserve more respect?" 

Or in my opinion, don't allow your daughters to watch such shows.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 More Secrets for Surviving a Family Vacation

Family vacations can definitely be a challenge, but Gretchen Rubin found 10 strategies that help keep that time enjoyable. In the article below Gretchen writes about how to take charge of a family vacation and have fun at the same time. The following are tips 6 -10:

6. Tackle one irksome task on vacation. Some interesting studies suggest that interrupting a pleasant experience can intensify a person's overall pleasure. As a consequence, I try to assign myself one annoying chore to tackle while on vacation; on Gretchen's last vacation, she worked on updating her address list, a boring, time consuming chore that she'd been putting off for months.  Being away from her usual work routine made her feel relaxed, and completing one irksome task gave her the feeling of having earned time to goof off.

7. Allow yourself to overpack (when possible).  People may disagree with Gretchen about the happiness-boosting qualities of overpacking, and this strategy doesn't work if you're hiking or doing lots of moving around.  It's a luxury just to toss a bunch of stuff in the suitcase, but when you can, do.  A simple problem, like not having a bandage handy, can turn into a major hassle when you're away from home.

8. Make peace with technology.  The fact is, Gretchen has much more fun when her e-mail and Internet service are working; otherwise, she brood about it an spend a lot of time trying to get connected.  So she made getting service a priority.  Other people want to disconnect completely; that''s fine, too.  Just recognize whether connection or disconnection will make the vacation experience as pleasant as possible for you and plan accordingly.

9. Be grateful. Because of the psychological phenomenon of the "negativity bias," we're all more sensitive to negative events and thoughts than to positive ones.  It's so easy to get annoyed by the broken air conditioner, by the traffic, by the fact that she packed for 80 degree weather when it turns out we'll be in 50 degree weather. By mindfully focusing on feelings of gratitude and enjoyment, you keep yourself in a happier frame of mind.  Also, if anyone on a family vacation is getting on your nerves (yes, it has been known to happen!), by focusing on reasons to feel grateful to that person, you help squelch emotions like annoyance and resentment.

10. Go ahead and unwind. Perhaps the most important tip for a family vacation is remember to take a vacation! Especially given the technology these day, it's tempting to have a change of scenery and call it a vacation.  But a vacation really means taking a break from work and routine. Have fun, enjoy the moment, and let yourself relax.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 Secrets for Surviving a Family Vacation

Family vacations can definitely be a challenge, but Gretchen Rubin found 10 strategies that help keep that time enjoyable.  In the article below Gretchen writes about how to take charge of a family vacation and have fun at the same time.  The following are the first 5 tips:

1. Make time for your own kind of fun. Gretchen has learned that she needs to take time for the activities that she finds fun on vacation. Everyone will have more fun when everyone has fun, so it's not selfish to prioritize some time for yourself.

2. Leave plenty of time to get where you need to be. Nothing takes the pleasure out of a vacation faster than missing a plane, arriving late to a show, standing in an enormously long line because because you arrived at a peak time, or having to keep screaming, "Hurry up! Hurry up!"  Gretchen identified a speed rule: When you're trying to get out the door, for every child, add 20 minutes to the time it would usually take to accomplish any action. (The same applies to slowpoke adults.)  Set your departure time with this in mind.

3. Document happy memories.  One of the best ways to make ourselves happy in the present is to recall happy times from the past, so making the effort to take pictures and videos, keep trip books, or gather souvenirs (meaningful ones, not just knick-knacks from a gift shop) will really boost your happiness later.  After all, when you think of the possessions in your home, aren't your photographs and mementos among the most prizes?

4. Recognize your children's limits.  You also need to remember your own limits too.  When you keep children at the table too long, mess with their schedules too much, let them skip applying bug repellent, make them walk too far, or let them get too hot or too cold, things can get pretty challenging.  Never travel anywhere without a few bags of almond, raisins, dry cereal, or other treats.  You will learn the hard way if the kids get hungry.

5. Take time to exercise.  Some people view vacation as an escape from daily burdens, such as exercising.  Don't think that way! Exercise is energizing and cheering, and it promotes sleep and relaxation.  Vacation is an opportunity to make exercise fun, not a chore, by taking a new class or adding a new backdrop to your usual routine.

Tune in tomorrow for 5 more secrets for surviving a family vacation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Get More Vacation for Less: Part 2

A travel industry insider shares her nine best rules for stretching your budget during vacation. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher states that everyone wants a great summer vacation, bu no one wants the steep credit card bill that can too often tag along. Does that mean you have to Google yourself into a frenzy and invest countless hours in trying to find the lowest airfares and hotel rates? Not at all. Below part 2 of Suzanne's vacation saving tips:

5. Hit the Beach:  If you like the idea of spreading out but really want to be by the shore come summer, snag a beach house or a condo, rather than a hotel room.  This way you live large and save big.  Try vacation rental sites like or (VRBO stands for "vacation rentals by owners")  to get your feet wet. 

6. Save On the High Seas: In the not-too-distant past, you had to fly to Florida or Los Angeles to board most cruises.  But today there are many more options, and if you live near the coast, you may be able to skip the pricey plane ticket and instead drive for a few hours to the nearest cruise port.  Another way to be a money-smart traveler: While typical cruises last full week, most lines now offer three-four,and five day sailings, which can suit a slimmer budget. Just be sure to use your travel e-alerts with family-friendly cruise lines like Carnival (, Disney Cruise Line (, Norwegian Cruise Line (, and Royal Caribbean International ( to help pare down your cost even more.

7. Park It: Of course, vacationing at a state or national park is a terrific way to spend quality time with your family in the great outdoors.  And it's affordable: In Ohio's Hueston Woods State Park, for example, you can reserve campsite for $24 a night.  But if sleeping bags and tens really aren't your thing, some state and national parks also have lodges and cabins that feel quite resort-like thanks to indoor and outdoor pools, Wi-Fi, and fitness rooms.

8. Drive a Great Deal: You know AAA membership is a lifesaver if your car breaks down, but it's also a key ingredient in an affordable vacation.  For the basic membership fee of $38 to $85 per year (go to for details), you can get discounts on rental cars, train tickets, hotel bills, and more.

9. Take the Skies Less Travel: Airfare can be the biggest budget-buster these days, but if you're willing to travel a bit farther to get to the airport, you can save some serious cash.  To scan savings on airfares check the list of nearby alternative airports at

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is editor in chief at

Monday, June 20, 2011

Get More Vacation for Less: Part 1

A travel industry insider shares her nine best rules for stretching your budget during vacation.  Suzanne Rowan Kelleher states that everyone wants a great summer vacation, bu no one wants the steep credit card bill that can too often tag along.  Does that mean you have to Google yourself into a frenzy and invest countless hours in trying to find the lowest airfares and hotel rates? Not at all.  Below part 1 of Suzanne's vacation saving tips:

1. Account for Deals: Create a new e-mail account specifically for vacation planning by using your name combined with a relevant word like "travel". Sign up for e-alerts at a few deal-finding websites.  Suzanne's picks include Travel Ticker (, Travelzoo (, FareCompare (, and Priceline (  Also enroll with your favorite resorts, airlines, cruise lines, and hotel chains, plus state and city tourism websites.

2. Find Flights on Wednesday: Sales on plane tickets don't just pop up randomly.  There's a pattern to the pricing, and it often looks something like this:  On Monday, Aline A announces that  it's having a sale.  On Tuesday or Wednesday, Airlines B and C jump on to the fray with lower prices too.  By Wednesday morning, you have a much wider selection of low sale fares to choose from.

3. Get Your Coupon On: Before you head off on a vacation, make sure you consult the Entertainment Book (, a compendium of local deals and discounts that was available in 154 geographic editions at press time. These books usually contain hundreds of pages of coupons and savings like free admission to museums, half -off restaurant deals, and dollars off on shopping.  The book cost $35 or less, which can be quickly recouped.

4. Whittle Dining Cost: Eating out is not cheap, and it's way worse when you do so for almost every meal on vacation.  Choose an extended-stay hotel, like Homewood Suites by Hilton, Residence Inn, or Hyatt Summerfield Suites, whose accommodations usually will b equipped with a kitchen so you can cook up some meals and save.  Their rates can be on a par with standard hotel rooms, plus rather than being cramped in one hotel room, you and your family can use the extra space to spread out and relax.

Check out 4 more vacation tips tomorrow.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Day Wish

I was reading a book of poems about dads. It is filled of words sharing appreciation for the love of a father from their daughters. Not every child can write such a poem about their father. It is very important for every child to have a father who loves, supports, and accepts him/her unconditionally. I had a father that I adored and continue to adore to this day. He always made me feel special and I never doubted his love. My sisters and I know our father loves us. He is a man who continues to love and guide his children to be respectable, independent, responsible women.

Men please love your daughters and sons and show them what a real man should be in the life of your children. Show them how they should be treasured. Show your children how a real man should treat a woman and take care of his family and business. Whatever it takes, please be in your children's lives. We need fathers to step up and be fathers more than ever. We need fathers that are going to make sure every child in their reach are successful and get the "Best Education Possible".

                            HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Eat Tomatoes For Your Health

According to an article in the May 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, add tomatoes to the list of superfoods with skin benefits.  When 20 women incorporated 55 grams (about 1/4 cup) of tomato paste into their daily diet for 12 weeks, their skin was less sensitive to ultraviolet light than the skin of those who ate none, says researchers at the University of Manchester in England.  They credit the lycopene in tomatoes with helping boost the woman's internal SPF. 

"Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight the inflammation caused by UV rays," explains Los Angeles dermatologist Jessica Wu, M.D., author of Feed Your Face. " That's why, we think, it protects against sunburn and sun damage." 

Processed tomatoes in tomato paste, ketchup, and marinara sauce are rich in lycopene; surprisingly, raw tomatoes are not.  Eat these food for extra protection from the sun, Dr. Wu says, but don't rely on diet alone; when you're outdoors, be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fine Arts and Physical Education (Ages 12-14)

According to a post from Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori school at, education in fine arts and physical education is offered according to the age and development of the child.

Middle School (ages 12-14)
Middle school students enjoy a year-long class in visual arts. Taught by an art specialist, the students extend their exploration of various visual arts media that they began in the elementary program. Students also have semester-long classes in physical education and music.
In addition to these classes, a weekly "Self-Expression" time is built into the schedule. Maria Montessori described this component of the adolescent program as follows:
The Opportunities for Self-Expression For this purpose there would be all kinds of artistic occupations open to free choice both as to the time and the nature of the work. Some must b e for the individual and some would require the cooperation of a group. They would involve artistic and linguistic ability and imagination, including: Music: Auditions where the children learn to recognize the composition, its composer, and the period, as is done in literary studies. Choral singing. Practice in playing instruments, both solo and in orchestras. Language: Diction, elocution. Acting of stories or poems. Practice in making speeches and in logically presenting ideas, debates, and discussions. Practice in public speaking so as to be audible and hold the attention of the audience. Open discussions where they can present their own ideas. Art: Drawing. Modeling (in plasticine, etc.) either for: ornamental design, reproduction of nature, creative work of the imagination. This work is not to be considered as a proper training in art, but a means of giving expression to individual aesthetic feeling with special reference to handwork and to the learning of modern techniques.
The middle school teachers and the art specialist all guide the students in their work in self-expression.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fine Arts and Physical Education (Ages 6-12)

Fine Arts and Physical Education
According to a post from Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori school at, education in fine arts and physical education is offered according to the age and development of the child.

Elementary (ages 6-12)

In addition to the integration of art, music, and movement into the regular curriculum, elementary students are offered weekly classes taught by specialists in art, music, and physical education.
Art classes explore a variety of media, and often integrate with areas of study from the classroom curriculum.
Music classes utilize work with Orff and rhythm instruments, singing , notation, listening, and study of music history.
Physical education classes focus on fitness, a variety of motor skills, and games and sportsmanship.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fine Arts and Physical Education (Ages 3-6)

 According to a post from Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori school at, education in fine arts and physical education is offered according to the age and development of the child.

Pre-Primary (Ages 3-6)
Activities and materials for art and music are part of the child's day-to-day classroom work. Children express themselves artistically with a variety of media, such as crayons, chalk, pencils, paint, clay, textiles, dyes, and various papers. Musical experiences include singing, dancing, moving to rhythms, and even songwriting. Music and art are also explored culturally as they connect to historical periods and geographical places. Drawing a flag, dancing a folk dance, or listening to a work by a great composer can be part of an exploration of a country. Small- motor activities are guided in the classroom both in group and individual settings. Children have a daily outdoor play time (weather permitting), where they engage in free play and large-motor activities, as well as outdoor games offered under the teacher's guidance.
Beginning in kindergarten, students have a weekly physical education class taught by our phys. ed. specialist. A weekly music/movement class is also offered to kindergartners. The teacher is both a musician and a dancer, and these disciplines are thoroughly integrated in the weekly music/movement class.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Music Education

When legislators cut school funding one of the first programs to go are the music and the arts programs. On a post from, UK Government watchdog Ofsted has published a report on music education in primary and secondary schools, Making More of Music, and warns that British schools aren’t giving children adequate music classes. The BBC has asked several musicians about the importance of quality music education in school curriculum’s.

Lis McCullough, Chair of the National Association of Music Educators, says:

“Music itself matters. Music is part of what makes us human, so it’s part of our all round development.”

Baz Chapman, director of the Government’s Sing-Up Program, says
“Music can also enliven other parts of the curriculum – where there are things to remember, like dates for history or times tables in math, rhythm and melody can help.”
McCullough asserts that music must be part of the school curriculum in order to fully educate a child. “The music curriculum in schools has changed enormously over the last 30 years – it’s much more hands-on, with involved engagement,” she says. “Of course a lot of music goes on outside of school, but this is not necessarily the case for all – access is still fairly patchy.“
Music is part of our society in many ways, in the tone of our voices, in the making of sounds, in the natural chaotic noise of the world, in the music industry. Music education should be a fundamental part of our growth as human beings, and schools are the first places that need to be supported.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Four Reasons Why Children Should Listen to Music

According to a post from Singing Kernels at, the childhood years should be a lot of fun for the child and the parents as well. During this stage, it is very important that the parents would give attention to avoid delays in the development of their child. They should make every activity a fun and learning experience. One of the best ways to do so is by letting them listen to the right kinds of music. This would help them enhance their mental, physical, as well as their emotional foundation all at the same time. Read on to know some of the other skills that would be developed in your children when you let them listen to music.
Reason 1 – They have better concentration compared to those who do not listen to music from the start
Children who are taking musical lessons usually develop better concentration. Why? They will be taught how to focus on their activity during the whole duration of the lesson. When they do this with their music instructors, they would also do the same with their teachers at school as well. They can give more attention to their subjects, thus improving their academic performance and grades. Moreover, they can also do this when doing other activities and projects at the same time.
Reason 2 – They have enhanced hand-eye coordination
Whenever they practice their musical instrument, they would improve coordination in their hands and their eyes. The children would also get to develop their motor skills too. It is the same with the benefits that they can get whenever they play basketball, volleyball, and other sports.
Reason 3 – While learning, they can also relax at the same time with music
As a matter of fact music is a great therapy and one of the most effective medicines for all those who are stressed or having emotional dilemmas. Studies also show that when listening to music, children are less likely to experience tantrums. It can also be your way to calm them down especially before nap time.
Reason 4 – They will have stronger social skills
Children would be able to interact with others through listening. They would be aware of the relationship of the emotions and the sounds that are present in the song. According to the experts, children would easily know the emotional state of the other people by listening on how they speak.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Do You Have An Anger-Management Issue?

A question was asked in an article from the May 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Could you be past "hot-tempered" and into the realm of needing professional help?  Jerry Deffenbacher, Ph.D., shares warning signs:

1. You lose your temper several times a week, even daily

2. Your anger is causing problems in your relationship with your spouse or your kids

3. When anger, you engage in dysfunctional behavior such as drinking too much

If this sounds all too familiar, ask your doctor or religious leader for a reference to a counselor, or consult these anger-management resources:

*The Anger Management Source-book, by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D., and Melissa Hallmark Kerr
*The National Anger Management Association (, a website that provides a state-by-state directory of trained therapists. 

Remember your children are always watching you and you don't want them growing up having anger-management issues. So, be honest with yourself and get some help if you answered yes to any of the three questions above.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Smarter You - In Minutes

According to the May 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, activities that put you in a happy mood can get the creative juices flowing.  In a research at the University of Western Ontario, people who listen to peppy music (Mozart) and watched a happy video (a laughing baby) were better able to solve certain kinds of problems than volunteers who listened to sad soundtrack clips (from Schindler's List) or watched neutral videos (Antiques Road-show) or negative ones (earthquake news).  The happy folks did better then the others on problems that specifically called for classifying patterns, but you can try it for any project where you need to think innovative, suggested lead author Ruby T. Nadler: "It doesn't require much effort or time.  Just a few minutes with something that makes you feel good will work."
I'm sure this will work with children.  Children need to listen to positive music, watch positive videos, and positive television shows anyway.  What goes in will come out! So safeguard your children's minds.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Erase Stress For Good

In an article from January 2011 issue of Better Homes and Garden magazine, if you are feeling a little on edge, you should try sharpening your serenity skills. Environmental triggers can set off the body's stress response without you even realizing it, says psychologist Shelly Carson, Ph.D.  Below are four annoyances worth nixing:

1. Ambient Racket: Studies show that back-ground noise from TV droning in another room, stimulates the release of the stress hormone cortisol.  If you can't quiet the clamor, try to distance yourself.

2. Wardrobe Woes: Itchy sweaters, too-tight hosiery, pumps that pinch.  An uncomfortable ensemble can leave you on edge all day.  So when choosing an outfit, don't focus on how it looks until you consider how it feels.  Not comfy?  Slip on something else.

3. Chronic Clutter: It's not how much stuff you have; it's how you store it.  Stress sets in when objects are hard to find or appear disorderly.  Two quick moves that help: Clear tabletops and pick up loose objects from the floor.]

4. "Urgent" E-Mail: E-mail cause more stress for women than men because women feel greater pressure to respond immediately.  So try turning off your e-mail alerts, and check your in-box when the timing is right for you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Save Big This Summer: Part 2

In an article by Leah Ingram, from the July 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, on saving big during the summer. This season is a got time for bargains, on back-to-school and more. Below is part 2 of  cost-cutting strategies that could lower your bills by $4,500 - plus.

1. Minimize Your Kids' After-School Expenses: If your child is planning to play violin in the school orchestra, don't automatically sign up for the instrument-rental plan; buying could be a better bet.  For instance, renting a violin or trumpet from Music & Arts, a national chain with 105-plus locations, typically cost $20 to $27 per months.  Instead, look into buying a used instrument at a store like Music
Go Round (, where purchase prices usually equal one year of equipment rental (when we checked, violins and trumpets were available for $250 to $300). The savings grow the longer your child sticks with an instrument.  And if your child doesn't want to continue? You can sell the instrument back for 50 percent of the purchase price.
Resale stores can be a real boon for parents of athletes, too: At Play It Again Sports (, a 357-store chain, you can find good condition used sporting gear to outfit your kids, whether you need tae kwon do padding or a bigger bat and glove.
2. Go Where Replacement Are Free: It's one of parenthood's great mysteries how kids manage to break, split, or otherwise destroy what seemed like a perfectly good pair of jeans or a nice sturdy backpack.  When a mother's son, now 18, wore through two backpacks in a single school year, she decided to buy a better backpack: a pricey ($75) model from Jan-Sports ( that came with a guarantee.  It paid off: First, her son broke the backpack's straps, and JanSport repaired them free.  When he busted the zipper, they sent a brand-new backpack , also for free.  She learned the important lesson that spending more on items form companies that stand behind their products can save you money in the long run.  L.L. Bean and Lands' End offer similar return policies.
3. Crunch College Cost: Purchasing new textbooks can take a bite out of any college budget, but there are new ways to save online.  The rental site will rent students a popular biology textbook for a semester fro $49, versus the $186 to buy one new ( provides a similar service). You can also apply for a tax credit to get reimbursed for up to $2,500 in college tuition and expenses, including book cost, via the American Opportunity Tax Credit (

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Save Big This Summer: Part 1

In an article by Leah Ingram, from the July 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, on saving big during the summer.  This season is a got time for bargains, on back-to-school and more.  Below are cost-cutting strategies that could lower your bills by $4,500 - plus.

1. Save on Keeping Your Cool: If you cringe before opening your summer utility bills, see if your local provider offers what's known as an AC conservation plan.  For instance, Shakopee Public Utilities in Minnesota offers a free Smart Switch option, which saves users up to $30 on their electric bill for the summer months (June to September) by switching off their ACs automatically for 15 minutes at a time (a quick switch-installation visit by licensed electrician is required.
2. Trim Your Haircut Cost: Most of us he hard the myth that hair grows slightly faster in the summer, but don't let that lead you to more frequent (costlier) cuts.  Instead, space out your and your kids' trips to the salon, and don't opt for a cut when a trim will do. If you can stretch the time out between appointments, say from every two months to every three, by adding some fringe-snipping, you'll have more cash in your pocket.
3. Take Down Tech Fees: If you're in the market for a new laptop, summer is one of the best times to buy; the sale prices can be comparable to those offered on Black Friday.  That news should pleas anyone who has a child heading off for college and in need of some hardware. 
Also consider a new venue for savings, as Lindsay Barhold, 24, of Los Angeles, did when helping her parents research which computer to buy her college-bound brother.  Barhold discovered, which is akin to an online version of Marshalls.  Stores send their products to when they can't sell them, or when the store doesn't put returns back on sale.  Some items come in an "open box"; others are brand-new, as was the Dell laptop Barhold found that, at $350, was $250 cheaper than anything she'd seen.
4. Snip Back-to-School Expenses: By the time the cute clothes and myriad supplies are purchased, the typical American family has spent over $500 getting ready for the school year, reports the National Retail Federation. To trim your tab, try a shopping portal like, which rewards you with money back.  How it works: Start your online shopping at their portal, which links to hundreds of e-commerce sites (,,, and more); these sites pay a commission, part of which Ebates passes on to you, usually 10 to 15 percent off the purchase.  Savings up to $60.

Stay tuned tomorrow and get more big summer savings.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ideas For Camping Fun At Home

According to the June 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, their summer vacation guide has more fun ideas than the most dedicated camp counselor.  Below are some of the ideas from that article:
1. Backyard Camp out - Kids love pitching a tent no matter where it lands.  Set up your own or jury-rig a  pup using a sheet stretched over a rope tied between two trees, with rocks t hold the corners.  If local laws allow, add some fire.  Now you're ready to sing campfire songs and play flashlight tag. 
2. Drive-In Movie - No matter how old you are, outdoor films are a treat.  The easiest arrangement is with a laptop, projector, and either PC-powered speakers or an adapter that plays music thought your car radio.  Set up the projector on a table or on the roof of your car, stretch a white sheet over your garage doors, then show the movie while the kids are sitting in the car and chowing down on popcorn.  If you have a station wagon, turn the car around so that kids can stretch out in the back, or borrow a friend's pickup and spread blankets on the bed.
3. Make Your Won Mini Golf - For kids, building their own course is almost as much fun as the game.  Use whatever materials you have handy.  Make a ramp form loose bricks and aluminum siding; lay an old pipe or a roll of wire on its side from a tunnel.  Create water hazards by burying plastic buckets ad filling them with water.  Stick flowerpots in holes marked by sticks with paper flags to catch the balls. (Don't want to dig? stakes or tipped and weighted plastic cups are fine targets.) Young kids might do better with croquet mallets and balls, but older kids can use regular golf clubs and balls.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Let's Read Aloud!

Reading aloud to your child encourages the love for good literature.  When you read aloud to your child, try reading books that are one to two grade levels above their current ability  This will build vocabulary and comprehension.  Below is an  article submitted by Tara_Librarian.  As a bonus, she gives her favorite books to be read aloud.

Did you know that reading aloud with your family strengthens literacy skills for everyone, fosters a life-long love of reading, and gives eveyone happy memories of being together? You don't have to do voices or read like a pro to have fun and create happy memories! What book do you love to read aloud with your family?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Preventing Cancer

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research a recently reported study found that a striking 38 percent of breast cancer, 45 percent of colon cancers, and 70 percent of endometrial cancers could be prevented if we all did just three things:

1. Follow a plant-heavy diet
2. Exercise
3. Maintain a healthy weight

Now how hard is that?  You may not be able to guarantee that you or someone in your family won't get cancer, but if there are easy steps that can be incorporated into your lives, do all you can do.  Especially for our children.  The earlier we start our children on good healthy habits, the easier it will be for them to maintain that lifestyle.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Good Fish 4U

I love to share health information with families, so they can make intelligent choices.  According to an article from the March 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, the next time you're shopping for seafood, check out your choice before buying.  Simply text the word "fish," followed by the type (say, "tilapia"), to 30644.  The nonprofit blue Ocean Institute will text you right back to alert you if the fish has high levels of mercury or (PCBs - contaminants that pose a health risk.  The message will also tell you whether it's a sustainable species, so you'll know when your selection is safe for your family and the planet. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Reading During The Summer!

Do you want to know how to keep your child interested in learning during the summer break? Read to your child or have them read 15-60 minutes every day. You will see an improvement in their overall academic performance during the school year and reading will widen their interest in other topics. Let them read topics that interest your child and discuss the book together.

Students of all ages should read every day during the summer.  Students that don't read will lose reading fluency, (reading smoothly, with expression, and understanding), and it will take some children a full year to regain the pace of reading they left the year before.  Reading will improve the academic performance in every subject. So, it is extremely important that your child is reading something!!

Read with your child and have a WONDERFUL summer break.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Practical and Financial Concerns For Online Courses

What about practical and financial concerns?
By Kay Johnson, Linda Broatch, M.A

It doesn't matter how good an online school is if it's not compatible with your family's schedule, technical capabilities, and budget. Look for maximum flexibility and choices in any program you're considering for your child.

* Does the school operate year-round?
* Can students begin courses at any time of the year?
* How long does a student have to complete a course?
* What if my child gets sick or we go on vacation?

* How much does each course cost?
* Does that figure include everything my child will need to complete the course?
* What kind of computer and other equipment will we need? * Can you tell me if and how your program will work with my child's assistive technology tools?
* What computer skills are required of my child?
* What computer skills are required of parents?
* Do you provide technical support?
* What is the response time for technical questions?

Since most online schools are for-profit enterprises, and since their regulation varies from state to state, parents should view the decision to secure online academic courses for their child from both an educational and a consumer perspective. Taking time to ask key questions can result in an educational experience that benefits your child and your family

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Teacher Qualifications for Online Courses

What are teachers' qualifications, and how do they interact with students?
By Kay Johnson, Linda Broatch, M.A

Teaching is an interactive process. Or, as Rick Perkins, Instructional Leader at FLVS puts it: "Curriculum doesn't teach itself. Students still need the guidance of an instructor." In high-quality online schools teacher-directed instruction plays an important role. Regular student-teacher and parent-teacher check-ins are required, and students can contact teachers as needed. Timeliness of teacher response to students is also important. The rule of thumb at FLVS, Perkins says, is to return assignments within 48 hours and to respond to questions within 24 hours.

This one-on-one relationship with a teacher has potential benefits for kids with learning difficulties. "Sometimes in a regular classroom," says Kay Johnson, "those quiet students are the ones who have learning difficulties, and regular contact can bring those to a teacher's awareness." Individualization of instruction is also possible. "It's often said that every student has a front row seat in online learning," Johnson says, "and it's true; teachers can individualize instruction in ways that just aren't possible in a classroom of 30 students."

"We're essentially teaching for mastery," she adds. "That includes repetition of important content; many instructional approaches for learning the same material; hands-on learning; immediate feedback on errors, and other methods that may benefit students with learning difficulties."

Here are some suggested questions to ask about teacher qualifications and teaching approach:

* Are teachers credentialed?
* Are they highly qualified to teach their academic subject(s)?
* Are there teachers on staff with special education credentials?
* How many students is each teacher responsible for?
* How much of the instruction will be teacher-directed?
* How much of the instruction will involve a group of students?
* How much and what kind of contact will a student have with the teacher?
* How quickly will the teacher get back to my child if he has questions or gets stuck on an assignment?
* How will my child's learning be evaluated?
* Will the evaluation include mastery in real-world applications?

What are the courses like? Will my child work all alone?
To assess the quality of an online course, it's important to look beyond the "whistles and bells" of the website to the substance, organization, and basic presentation of content. "Coursework should be fun and engaging," says Rick Perkins, "but be sure the 'gee whiz' factor doesn't overshadow everything. Content should be challenging, dynamic, clean, and visually organized. And look for assignments that get kids away from the computer."

As is the case in traditional schools, a student's online learning will often benefit from interaction with other students. Hearing and responding to other students' questions, ideas, and opinions can enrich a child's understanding of the topic of study. "The online learning experience shouldn't limit a student's interactions or ability to work with others," says Rick Perkins. "In fact, it should enhance them."

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