Posts Tagged 'school'

Summer slide: It’s not a dance

boy reading

We’re all excited as the school year ends and summer is upon us. Most children are so happy on the last day of school as it means sleeping in, staying up late, and best of all: no homework! But many parents know that we must keep our children reading, writing and doing math to prevent the “summer slide.”

What is the summer slide?

This is the slide in academic skills that happens over the summer. When our children return to school, they’ve fallen to a level lower than they were at when they left school in June. Typically, students can lose up to two months of learning in the summer and it takes the next grade’s teacher four to six weeks to get students back to the level where they previously were. The most profound thing about summer slide is that it is cumulative.

Over the years, the one- to two-month slide adds up and creates a gap by the time the child reaches high school. However, a parent can help your student avoid the “summer slide,” provide the opportunity to step right into the new grade level, and even learn the new grade level materials.

Summer slide is more common in lower-income levels, although no student is exempt.

Reading over the summer

Research shows that the amount of time that students spend reading outside of school is linked to gains in reading achievement. In fact, it shows that if your child reads just six books during the summer months, the summer slide can be avoided!

However, these books need to be “just right fit” books. Talk with your child’s teacher before the end of the year to find the right reading level. The books can’t be too hard or too easy; they need to be just right. This video can help determine a “just right” book.

A child is most likely to read books that he or she selects. We need to give children the time needed to select books that will motivate them to continue to read all summer.

Summer reading programs

  • Most libraries offer free reading programs that are motivating and fun. Check out your library online or at your next visit, so your child is signed up and ready to participate. Libraries are meant to be a place to read, have fun and learn as a family. When my children were little, I packed a lunch, went to the library, then headed to the park to spend some time both playing and reading.
  • Some bookstores offer summer reading programs and discounts on books. One chain even rewards summer reading with a free book at the end of the summer. Also, purchasing books for your own home library may be fun for your child, especially for high interest books. Many stores have a book list for each age and grade that children love, as well as the top picks for different age groups.

Just keep on reading

One of the most important tips that I can offer to parents is to keep reading! It isn’t meant to be something we do for a half an hour a day. It can be done all day and every day.

In the morning, grab a newspaper and read the comics, the headlines or weather. In the afternoon, provide time for your child to read the “just right” books that they selected. In the evening, find time to read with your child and encourage them to read aloud to you. Talk about the vocabulary that you encounter in your reading. Reading together helps build listening skills, as well.

When your child was an infant, you may have had books all around the house. As children grow, we tend to keep books in a central location. Instead, I suggest keeping high-interest books all around the house because kids are more likely to pick up a book and read if they are conveniently set around the house. You might also keep some books in the car; children spend a lot of time while moms drive them from here to there. It’s the perfect place to keep a few books for them to read.

There are many online reading programs that find a student’s level and provide motivational activities and books for your child. Talk to your school to see if this is available for you to purchase.

Another idea is ordering a magazine that your child enjoys. It gets delivered right to your house each week or month. They can be very motivational and can keep kids reading.

Don’t forget about math

Math is another area where students slide during the summer. Provide level-appropriate workbooks to practice the skills that your children learned during the school year.

Estimation is an important skill that can be practiced whenever you can. It can be how many miles to you think it is to grandma’s house, how long you think it will take to get somewhere, how many M & M’s are in the jar. Whatever you think of to support this skill will benefit to your child.

Write, write, write

Writing over the summer is also important. Provide a fun summer journal. Each day, have your child take time to write. It can be a journal of what they are reading, or maybe a place to write a story or poem. It is often fun to reflect in writing what they have done that day. Of course, a letter to grandma is always loved and appreciated. Just find time to practice writing.

Enjoy your summer!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Things I learned outside of the classroom during Study Abroad

young woman in front of a canal in Europe

My mom was asked to write an article about my study abroad preparation. She, in turn, asked me to write a mirror article so that you, dear reader, could see both perspectives and gain understanding from both the parent and the child. Maybe this will help you if your child ever decides to study abroad.

Who I am

I don’t remember exactly when I realized I loved traveling, but I learned the word “wanderlust” in high school and have identified with it ever since. I adore traveling; I like seeing new places and exploring. I like being able to touch history, try new foods, and have fun and unique adventures. I travel with friends and family; sometimes I go alone, much to my mother’s dismay. My dream job would be traveling and blogging about it. I’m currently I’m doing it on my own dime and not getting paid, but it’s still lots of fun. Check me out at

You can meet so many different people while traveling too. I have a talent for making friends so this aspect is always fun for me. I’m also a bit of an adrenaline junkie; I like things that go fast and are a little on the crazy side. In fact, my bucket list includes cliff jumping, sky diving, bungee jumping and more. When I heard about studying abroad, I was instantly drawn to it. It helped that my school offered exchange programs where my scholarships applied and my credits transferred. I could travel and study at the same time, making a great combination.

The planning stage

The planning was mostly on me, with some reminders from my parents about making sure I was checking into things and that I knew what I needed. I’m usually organized but sometimes things fell through the cracks like forgetting an important document and having to figure out where to print it only an hour before my visa appointment in Chicago!

It stresses me out when other people get stressed, so with my parents being stressed and getting on me about me not having somewhere to live along with, “Why haven’t you packed? You leave in two-and-a-half days!” really got me in gear. Though I’m the one who did the preparations, my parents lit a fire under me about doing them in a timely fashion. It would have gotten done no matter what, because once I had my parents on board, there was no way I wasn’t going abroad; I wouldn’t let that happen.

Battling homesickness with technology

In her article, my mom mentioned loving technology. It really is great, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been exposed to it for a decent chunk of my life. Technology is a life saver! It can help when you get lost, it can help you find places to stay and to eat, it can help you plan all aspects of your trip. Mostly, I use it to keep in touch and battle homesickness. As I said, I love traveling but I’ve rarely ever gotten homesick. Sure, this is probably because I’m usually traveling with family, am not that far from home, and not gone for that long.

That being said, this trip does not meet any of the standards that I am used to. So while I don’t get homesick at school because I’m two hours from home, surrounded by friends, and crazy busy with classes and extracurricular activities, I’m missing a lot of that over here in Europe. I’m usually about six hours ahead of everyone else, which means I don’t hear from anyone until Noon at the earliest. I also only have classes here without any of the extracurricular organizations that I regularly participate in. Being less busy means more time to myself just sitting, thinking and missing home. When I left, I didn’t expect to be homesick, even though the Education Abroad advisers warned us that it would happen. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

Being homesick is rough. My support system is more than 3,000 miles away and six hours behind time-wise, so they aren’t always available when I need to talk. On top of that, I don’t like talking about it anyway so I usually bottle it up.

I found that FaceTiming the people at home helps a great deal. I talk to my family via FaceTime once or twice a week; yes, I am guilty of FaceTiming my boyfriend more than that (sorry, Mom). I also call some of my friends every couple of weeks. One of these calls was with my two of my fraternity brothers who I hadn’t talked with face-to-face in three months. We were on Skype for five hours until they pretty much kicked me off so I would sleep! FaceTime also means I get to see my dogs which is great because people don’t really pet each other’s dogs in France (and that’s weird to me but that’s a totally different story). Long story short: technology, specifically video calling capabilities, really help you handle the huge distance and homesickness.

Expect the unexpected

Ha. This has been a theme with me since the start of the year when I went to Chicago for my visa. Things like to not go according to plan for me. This can be inconvenient, like having to postpone my Ireland trip three months or sitting on the freezing cold floor in Union Station for hours because my train was delayed because of ice (both of these examples were caused by winter weather … maybe I should avoid that). Sometimes delays can be fun; my extended stay in Edinburgh let me make a bunch of friends with the other people staying in my hostel.

These situations led me to my biggest travel tip that I will be sharing continually until forever because it’s so valid: Pack your patience. This can be hard sometimes, like when I was in Edinburgh freaking out about getting back to Nantes in time for class and my mom was an ocean away telling me to chill out (a bad joke considering the weather at the time, I know). But packing your patience is so essential. It helps you find a solution to your problem faster because you aren’t freaking out. It also makes a more pleasant experience for you and those around you because you’re calm and rolling with the punches. Plus, you never know, these crazy situations might bring about good things like personal growth (I’ll get off my soapbox in a second). Being put in situations that were very stressful made me a better critical thinker, and more patient and understanding because everyone around me was facing the same difficulties and having to find a way out. So now that you’ve read this, the number one thing on your packing list, study abroad or not, should always be your patience.

Stay strong

As for strength, I knew this experience was going to be rough on my mom, partially because she told me a lot that it would be and partially because it was going to be difficult in general.

I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed my first day in France trying to weigh kiwi in the supermarket on a scale in a foreign language, but I was and I got through it. I know having me in Europe and not being able to help as much is stressful for my mom, especially since I’m the first one out of the nest. But we’re doing good! Less than a month left! (She’s been counting down since Christmas!) Communication and detailed preparation I think helped ease this a little for us, and it probably will help you too if your child is hoping to study abroad.

I’m not saying it’s the easiest thing it the world (that’s baseball), but it will be worth it. Your child will grow and learn and you will too.

Katie Capozello, BGSU Analytics major. She is the daughter of Nicole Capozello, Beaumont Parenting Program Staff.

Why do they fall apart when fall comes around?

Tired boy with head on a book

I don’t know about you, but I was really ready for the new school year to begin. I felt like old milk: expired. I had run out of things to do with my kids and the bickering between the four of them was putting me close to my breaking point.

Don’t get me wrong, the summer months made for some great memories, and I’m sure soon enough I will miss those days. However, right now I’m putting all of my energy into getting my kids back into their school routines.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern in this transition time. In our house, the first few weeks of school are the easiest. My kids are eager to get up early, tuck their shirts in, wear their belts, do their homework as soon as they get home, get to bed on time — there is a peace and order in our household that feels reassuring and timely.

And then something happens around the end of September, almost as if the beginning of the fall season brings it in. I struggle to get kids out of bed in the mornings, apparently school is really boring, there are complaints about going to practice or too much homework, bed times are getting ignored and most of all, the children I’m sending to school in the mornings are coming home as cranky and irritable monsters.

I can deal with a lot. I know that being consistent around my expectations for morning and night routines will get my kids back on track. I’m also used to being the emotional punching bag for my kids. But I’m not going to lie; the cranky and irritable monsters that rear their heads back home can be challenging to deal with, especially when all four of them are acting up at the same time.

However, here’s what I’ve finally learned. My kids are really well behaved in school. They follow the rules, respect their teachers, do their work, and enjoy their friendships.  So when they get home, they need to let go, unwind, and release the “good student” handcuffs that have been keeping them in line all day. While it can make some afternoons pretty miserable, I’m learning to give them this space without over analyzing it or engaging with it. I’ve stopped complaining that my kids are like disgruntled workers at home because now I understand why.

So if your kids are like mine when they get home from school, try to remember that they’ve just spent eight hours keeping it together: following someone else’s rules, problem solving, reading, writing, getting to class on time, making good decisions, interacting with adults, and trying to fit in with their peers.

To be honest, just thinking about doing all of that is making me cranky. 🙂

– Andree Palmgren, Beaumont Parenting Volunteer and mother to kids ages 13, 11, 8 and 4

Green up your school lunch


Close up of a bento-style lunch with sandwich, fruit, carrots and snack

image credit: Meredith at

With our children back in school, we may find ourselves stocking up on brown paper bags, zip-close plastic bags, and “lunchable”-type goodies. After all, a well-stocked pantry can make all the difference in having a smooth school morning or an anxiety-filled mad dash for the door.

But let’s follow that lovingly-packed brown paper bag into the lunchroom. Where does it all go when the bell rings, lunch is over, and it’s time to run off to recess?

The EPA estimates that a child who brings a brown bag lunch to school every day throws away about 67 pounds of waste each school year. Other estimates are as high as 90 pounds per student per year. Multiply that by over 58 million students in the U.S. and you don’t have to be a math whiz to realize that millions of tons (between 1.9 and 2.6 million tons for the star students out there) of garbage could stay out of the waste stream with a little tweak to our school morning preparations.

Lunchboxes and lunch bags

First, let’s replace the paper bag with something that is reusable and can hold a little more weight. Have older kids worried about style? Check out the resources below for simple canvas lunch sacks, modern insulated totes, or retro metal lunchboxes.

As we are shopping and doing our best for the Earth, let’s also think about our health. Plastic lunchboxes and containers may contain numerous chemicals of concern, including leadphthalatesvinyl (PVC), and bisphenol-A (BPA). Some brands may infuse Microban®, an antimicrobial chemical (triclosan), into the fibers of a child’s lunchbox. While this may seem like a good idea to avoid germy boxes, health advocates warn of serious health and environmental concerns associated with the chemical. Learn more about triclosan.

For lunchboxes without chemicals of concern, look online or in stores for brands such as Crocodile Creek (PVC-free, phthalate-free, BPA-free), Ecobags (Organic cotton), Kids Konserve (100 percent recycled plastic bottles or recycled cotton canvas). Find many brands and materials (including stainless steel) at Reuseit.

Food and drink containers

The iconic brown paper bag is not a horrible thing in and of itself. After all, it’s what’s inside that counts. The plastic sandwich and snack bags, disposable applesauce or yogurt containers, one-time-use water bottles or drink boxes, etc. that we smartly bought to prepare for the morning hustle are now all in the trash — after only being used for a few hours. Yet, they will last in the waste stream for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Instead invest in a sturdy set of reusable food containers (which can save trips to the store too). Look for stainless steel, which is dishwasher-safe and a great alternative to plastic and glass (no breakage!). LunchBotsKlean KanteenKids Konserve offer stainless steel waste-free lunch kits. If you opt for reusable plastic, look for lead-free and BPA-free, such as Crocodile Creek. Online retailers, such as Reuseit, carry a plethora of options. Also consider insulated food jars to give you and your kids more lunch options (think: warm soup, mashed potatoes, spaghetti and more). Check out Target, Meijer, ACE, or other local retailers for Thermos and Aladdin brands.

Feeling like there are too many small containers to fit into the cute or stylish lunchbox? Check out the latest craze: all-in-one bento boxes, which have two to four compartments in one container.

Be sure to toss in a durable fork or spoon (one that you won’t mind if it doesn’t find its way home) and a small cloth napkin.

OK disposables

For food wrappers that don’t need to be hauled home each day, yet are more eco-friendly than plastic wrap or bags, reach for unbleached wax paper or parchment paper. These come in individual sheets, long rolls, or pre-formed bags. Rolls of unbleached parchment paper and wax paper are available at most grocers. Check health food stores or the health food aisle for disposable wax paper bags, such as those from If You Care.

Drinkboxes and snacks

After this thoughtful preparation, some mornings will still call for a quick grab and go. But you can still be a waste-free hero. Schools or families can collect juice pouches, chip bags, or granola bar wrappers and send them to Terracycle in exchange for a donation to your favorite school or charity. TerraCycle recycles items that most recycling programs won’t accept. Participating brands include CapriSun, Clif Bar, Honest Kids, Kool Aid, Lays and others. Go to TerraCycle to learn more and start a lunch recycling program at your child’s school.


Lastly, it’s not just the containers that get thrown away! Food also winds up in the garbage pail. According to the USDA, Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium, almost one third of which is wasted at the retail and consumer level. They suggest extending lunch periods to 30 minutes to save 30 percent or more of lunch room food waste. Schools can schedule recess before lunch to save another 30 percent. Visit the USDA’s website for more Creative Solutions to Ending School Lunch Waste.

At home, be sure to involve children in making their own lunches. They will pack what they like (with grown-up approval) and — like anything that requires a bit of effort — they will have pride and appreciation for the end product. Remind yourself and your children to only pack what they can eat in a 20 minute sitting (the standard amount of time allotted for school lunch). Feeling stuck in a PB & J rut? Check the Internet or magazines for fresh ideas; 100 Days of Real Food is one of the many resources out there.

Happy (waste-free) lunching!

– Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at or visit

Class of …

Young girl holding a "Class of 2025" sign

My wife is crafty. Not in a shifty poker player “crafty,” but more of help with wedding centerpieces kind of “crafty.” So it came as no surprise when she put together a project when our oldest daughter headed to kindergarten four years ago.

It consisted of poster board, glue and construction paper — pretty much what my daughter used to create her masterpieces in class that year. But much like my wife does every day, she surprised me with what she created.  It was a sign that read “Class of 2025” that she wanted my daughter to hold in front of the house on the first day of school each year (which she has done, more reluctantly with each passing year; say a prayer for us as we inch closer to those teenage years).

OK, so maybe a poster board sign won’t hang at the DIA in the years to come, but did you see that? Class of 2025!

I’m a child of the ’70s. I lived through Y2K when the world was supposed to end because of a computer glitch. But now I’m reading a sign that is two-and-a-half decades past when the 1s and 0s were going to be our demise. It’s hard to wrap your mind around.

I’ve learned to come to grips with her world differing totally from mine. She learns in totally different ways than I ever did, and I’m OK with it (except for the math! Different blog…). I know she’s going to be smarter than I am, and in some ways she already is. When I played football, I was an offensive lineman; I made space for others to go on to do great things. I’m trying to do the same thing by clearing a path so she can do her own great things. I have faith she’s going to change the world; it’s up to her on how big her impact is.

This year my wife will get out a new piece of poster board, glue, letters and numbers for our youngest as she starts kindergarten.  That sign will read “Class of 2029.”  Please help us. Not that we feel even older (we do), but we’re unleashing one of the sassiest 5-year-olds on the world. She’s quick witted, understands sarcasm, has a heart of gold, and will somehow wrap you around her little finger in a matter of minutes as she sizes you up for one of her patented jokes. She too will change the world somehow, but I won’t have to help cut her path. If I tried all I’d hear is “move.”

As we enter a new school year, I want to thank the teachers in advance for all of their hard work; it doesn’t go unnoticed. And if you’re lucky enough to have our youngest in your class, it might be good if we set up a safe word just in case she tries to take over the class with one of her comedy routines.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Organizing for back to school

Cute pails filled with school supplies

Cropped image. Nick Amoscato, Flickr. CC license.

Back-to-school shopping has taken over the seasonal section of all department stores and your children probably have all their supplies ready to go. Now here are some tips to help with organizing for back to school.

  • Get all necessary school items … and then some

Hanging school supplies storage

Don’t buy only the items on your children school supply list. Instead, plan to buy two or three extra of each item so when your child needs a new highlighter mid-year or poster board for a project, you don’t have to rush to the store at 8:00 at night. Keep these supplies out of sight so your kiddos don’t see them and want to use them just because they’re new; try a nice shoe storage rack in a closet or in a basement.

  • Have a designated homework station

This is a place where your child can sit down and focus on school work. If possible, it should be away from distractions — like siblings, TV or electronics — and with their backpack and needed supplies close by. This can be something as simple as a special spot at the kitchen table or a mobile homework tray they can take into a living room. Be creative!

  • Have a snack station/lunch refill station

Container with healthy snack options.

When your kiddos come home from school and are starving (because they only ate 3 hours ago and need something before dinner), designate a snack box for parent-approved snacks. Limit the number of snacks your child can take at a time. Let the kids have their own shopping list when going to the grocery store for refilling this box. You can also take from this stockpile when packing lunches the night before school to make things easier so you aren’t scouring the cupboards for something to pack.

  • Designate a spot for important papers

Hanging "important papers" area

Have somewhere designated in your home (e.g., a file folder, an individual clipboard for each kiddos, a collective bin by the door, etc.) for important papers to be dropped off by your children, but also for them to grab before school. This could be papers that need to be reviewed and signed, money for lunches, field trip permission slips, and so forth. Basically, have somewhere to keep these papers so your child isn’t asking you where that permission slip is when the school bus comes!

  • Daily reminders list

This is my favorite. Keep a chalkboard or whiteboard by the door that includes any daily reminders. For example, “Remember that we have soccer today instead of Thursday this week” or “Remember to grab your ___ for school” so hopefully you don’t walk out the door forgetting these last-minute details!

  • Return-to-sender box

Have a return box where you can put library books that need to be returned, friend items that were left at your house, and so forth. Anything that doesn’t normally have a spot at your house can be found there.

Lastly, here are some general tips to keep you sane:

  • Create a routine. This will keep you sane in the rush of projects, field trips, extracurricular activities, friend sleepovers, and school madness!
  • Plan ahead as much as you possibly can.
  • There will be bumps in the road and surprises. Hopefully if you do these first two tips, the surprise late night projects will be the exception and not the norm.

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of one with another on the way.

Tackling Test Anxiety

Photo of a hand completing a multiple choice test

Cropped image. Alberto G, Flickr. CC License.

Spring is here, along with the rounds of college entrance and advanced placement exams. For school-age children, the M-STEP testing is coming up soon. Most of us hope our children will do well, but for some families there is an extra layer of worry: their children suffer from “test anxiety”.

“I studied and I knew the material. But as soon as I started looking at the questions, I felt nervous and sweaty. My mind went blank. I couldn’t remember much of what I’d learned. I just started guessing. I did horribly on the exam and now I’m angry and sad.”

What exactly is test anxiety? The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) describes test anxiety as a type of performance anxiety.

There are several reasons for test anxiety.

  • Students who had previous negative experiences with test-taking may develop worry in anticipation of the test.
  • Another common reason is poor preparation. Students who struggle to get organized and/or manage their time wisely will be challenged to prepare adequately.
  • Fear of failure also contributes – thinking that our self-worth is wrapped up in that grade causes extra tension and stress. This is a double-bind, because all that worry and fear inhibit the ability to set up a structured plan and prepare effectively.

Luckily there are a variety of tips and tricks for managing test anxiety, including these from the ADAA:

  • Be prepared. Be aware of when tests are happening and study in smaller increments over time rather than pulling all-nighters or “cramming”.
  • Be a good test-taker. Read all the directions carefully. Complete questions you know first, and then go back to harder ones. Outline essay answers.
  • Stay positive. Your self-worth is not dependent on a test grade. Reward yourself for staying on track with study goals. Some anxiety is normal and natural, expect it and let it be there. Let anxious thoughts come and go, but stay focused on the task of studying or taking the test.
  • Stay focused. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; focus on the test in front of you. Avoid talking to others about the material before the exam.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Taking slow, deep breaths and consciously relaxing your muscles one at a time can help energize you and sharpen your focus.
  • Stay healthy. Get enough sleep, exercise, and eat healthy foods. Exhaustion and fatigue do not good test-takers make.
  • Get help. If needed, your school counselor or college counseling center can help with needed resources. Sometimes special accommodations are needed, but most of the time, test anxiety can be managed effectively by following these guidelines.

– Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital


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