Detecting Reading Problems in Your Children

In my blog, I write frequently about the importance of children reading from a very early age.  My mother taught me to read from a very early age.  When I was just 3 years old, I could read basic words.  When I was 4 years old, I was more advanced in reading than children in first grade.  My mother begged the administration of a small private school to admit me and after they tested me, they agreed and enrolled me into first grade.  But, what happens if you notice that your child is not learning to read as you had hoped?  What should you do?

In an excellent online article, author Melissa Taylor writes about 7 Early Signs Your Child May Have A Reading Issue.  This article is very helpful and I will briefly discuss some of the points she raises.  She stresses to have your child taken to a specialist as early diagnosis of any issues is critical to your child’s development.  Here are the 7 signs:

1.    Your child does not remember basic letter sounds, such as /a/ as in apple.

2.    Your child confuses letters that look-alike, such as “d” and “p”.  It is common for a young child to do this but as the child grows older, this confusion should not continue.

3.    Your child has a problem rhyming simple, basic words such as “mat” and “cat”.

4.    Your child does not remember easy sight words such as “a”, “her”, “to”, etc.

5.    You child does not pronounce the ending of some words, such as “-ing” or –“ed”.

6.    Your child has a poor memory and does not remember a recent book that was read.

7.    Your child misspells the same word throughout a document.  For example, she may write the word “because” in one paragraph and spell it correctly, but later in the same document, she misspells it as “beacuz” or “bekus”.

Other experts refer to your child’s vision as a possible issue.  Consider taking your child to see a physician to get his sight tested.

It’s important to not just sit back and believe your child will “grow out” of a reading problem.   Speak with her teachers and physician and seek assistance.  When there is early detection of a challenge and assistance given to help your child overcome that challenge, your child will definitely thank you.

Ms. Taylor has links to other websites in her article to further help you.  You can read her entire article by clicking here.

Talking to your Children About Drugs and Alcohol

Have you spoken with your children about drugs and alcohol?  Many parents hesitate about broaching these subjects with their children, but you must.  Schools are supposed to provide drug and alcohol education as well, but as a parent, I always believed it was better for my children to hear about those subjects from me and my husband rather than someone else as we were also teaching about our Christian beliefs and values in the process.

Focus on the Family has an excellent series of articles online about talking with your children about drugs and alcohol.  It starts with a parent taking opportunities to talk whenever you can, as you cannot wait for the perfect moment.  Look for teachable moments when your children are with you, undistracted.  Remember that it is never too early to start talking about these issues.  Of course, if your children are young, you will want to taper what you say to their age range.  Ask questions.  Inquire as to what they already have heard about the subjects. 

Never tell your children a lie.  The author of the online series of articles mentions a girl in his class who said that her mother told her that if she smoked marijuana, her hair would fall out.  The girl knew other students who smoked but still had hair. Of course, she now did not believe her mother.   Would she believe her mother on other subjects?  That is a very good question.

There is a lot of misinformation out there, so it is up to you to know the subjects and be ready to give good counseling.  Ask your children’s teachers and school nurse for recommendations as to how you can prepare yourself and what literature there is to support what you say.   Your children will more likely listen to you if what you are saying to them comports with what they can find out online or at their school.  Give them literature so they can read for themselves as well.

To read the full series of articles, click here.

Gaining Respect by Displaying Exemplary Behavior

The idea of respecting parents and other elders is practically engraved into the minds of all children everywhere from a very young age.  It is certainly important that they know to respect those around them, but it can be hard to put into practice when they are not being shown the respect they too deserve. Yes, deserve! Just as adults deserve politeness and deference, so do children.  Respecting children not only shows them how to treat other people, but it also increases their confidence and self-esteem.

Respect should be given out of love and not just as a result of an adult’s power. Punishments or bribes should never be the driving force behind obtaining your children’s respect.  Each person has value, whether young or old, and respect should be extended in recognition of that value.  Children deserve as much respect as adults because they are valued in the eyes of God.

1 Timothy 4:12 speaks of a message given to Timothy from his mentor, the Apostle Paul.  It was about setting an example for those around him by his maturity of speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Timothy was a young church leader at the time and his youth may have caused some in the church to deem him imprudent.  That is why this message was so significant.  While we cannot be completely clear as to what these people thought of Timothy, we do know that it was important for him to understand how God had called him to present himself as a dedicated follower of Christ and a leader.

Though children and adults alike should regard one another with esteem, this verse discusses certain attributes to be found in young people that build respect:

  • Children are to speak positive words into the lives of others, praise God, and express gratitude for their blessings. That positivity should also extend into their actions.  Negative or curse words do not bring glory to God or establish that the person speaking them is mature.

  • Volunteering for church events and following through on commitments are examples of the conduct of an exemplary child.

  • The described ‘purity’ extends to spiritual purity as well as physical. Do they mean well in all their actions? Is their faith in God strong? The answer to these (and similar) questions should be “yes”.

Just as Paul advised his protégé Timothy, God wants the same from your children. He wants them to know that regardless of their age, they are worthy of respect.  Importantly, they are to carry themselves in a way that is pleasing unto Him and as they do so, they will gain more and more respect from those around them.

What are Healthy Sleep Habits for Children?

Now that school has begun, it is important to ensure that our children are getting to bed at a decent time to have the rest they need.  Their performance and learning ability in school depends on it.  But, just how much sleep do our children need each night?

There is an excellent article online about our children’s sleep habits at healthychildren.org.  It may be surprising to you to find out that children from 3 to 5 years old need 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day and children from 6 to 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours of sleep a day. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours.

Some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are:

1.    Have a daily family routine for sleeping.  Include nap times as well during the day.  Children will understand and be ready to go to sleep when there has been a regular routine established at night and bedtime is set. 

2.    Be sure to keep all sorts of electronic screens out of your children’s bedrooms at night as they have been known to cause sleep disruption.  In fact, it is recommended that all electronics be turned off at least 1 hour before bedtime.

3.    Prepare your children for going to sleep.  For example, you may want to incorporate a bedtime story just before tucking them into bed and turning off the light.  Children love being read to and I can’t think of a more perfect way for children to wind down and get ready for sleep than having a story read to them.

4.    Be sure to monitor your children’s sleep patterns.  Are they going to sleep easily? Are they having problems waking up in the middle of the night? If you have any concerns, speak with your family’s pediatrician about them.

To learn more, please visit the following website: CLICK HERE

Some Tips for Parents as Their Children Leave for College

When we dropped off my oldest son at college for the first time, I thought I had prepared myself well.  Unfortunately, I had a difficult time leaving him and then traveling back home.  Even weeks later, I suffered from a very empty feeling of loss.  My late husband and I had prepared him to be independent and confident, yet we struggled with having him leave us and our home. 

I learned a lot from that transition so that when my youngest son was ready to be dropped off at college, I was able to handle the transition much better.  Here are a few tips that I learned that will help parents adjust quicker as their children leave the nest and head to college:

1.    Even though it is a sad turning point for you, please do not let your son or daughter see you too upset.  Remember that this is an amazing starting point for their lives as adults and you have taught them all you could over many years.  Let them know how difficult is it for you to transition without them, but be very encouraging to them.  The last thing that you should want as a parent is for your children to be overly worried and concerned about you when they should be studying and making new friends as well as planning for their future careers.

2.    Contact them to make sure they are doing well but do not be communicating with them too much.  This is the time for them to learn to be on their own and use the skills you taught them to adapt and solve problems.  Calling, emailing or texting too often does not give your children the space they need to continue learning and growing on their own.  Sometimes they must learn from their wrong decisions.  We have all had to.

3.    Help them if they need assistance to deal with a challenge but do not take over control.  Again, guiding them to make the right decisions is critical in their maturing process.  When you take over complete control in solving problems, they can lose confidence in their own abilities.

4.    Assist them with their monthly expenses but do not splurge on them or allow them to spend money frivolously.  They must learn to live within a budget.  After assisting them with establishing that budget, be there for them in the event of a financial emergency, but again, do not allow them to spend frivolously and then bail them out.  This is their time to learn how to manage their allotted money.

5.    Get busy with your own lives.  Spend more time giving your talents and energies to others, such as your church and community organizations.  You still have a lot to experience and contribute, so do all you can to be active.  Your community needs you.

It will always be difficult for parents to transition from having their children at home to an empty nest.  However, this is a time for you to grow too!  Have confidence in the fact that you have done all you can to raise your children well and that you have much more to give to the world.  Get busy doing that!

Some Fun & Interesting Websites for Your Children this Summer

During the summer months, parents struggle to find interesting and creative activities for their children.  The last thing we want them doing is playing mindless video games all day long.  Finding alternatives for them that are fun and still allow them to use the computer can be challenging.  We have done the work for you and found some interesting websites that we believe your children will truly enjoy and learn from:

1.    Science News for Children https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/ - This is an interesting and challenging website full of facts that children will enjoy.

2.     Cool math http://www.coolmath.com/ - There are so many cool math lessons, your children will be amazed.

3.    Is it possible for your child to become a genius? “Make Me a Genius” claims that it can http://www.makemegenius.com/

4.    National Geographic for kids https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/ - This website provides almost everything your child will ever want to know about animals, nature, countries, etc.

5.    Games that help children learn http://thekidzpage.com/ - All kinds of puzzles and other games are featured that will keep your child learning and having fun.

6.    How stuff works https://www.howstuffworks.com/ - This website provides answers to many questions in a variety of areas.  Nothing boring here!

7.    The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids  http://www.almanac4kids.com/ - So much fun information for your children that they cannot possibly get bored.

Working Parents: Have a Plan for Taking Time Off From Work When Your Children Need You

Whether your child has an illness or injury, or the babysitter could not make it, taking unexpected time off from work can be tricky.  When both parents work, this can cause unnecessary tension because of arguments about who is going to stay home and take care of the child.  To prevent this from happening, it is very important to develop a plan ahead of time with your spouse about unanticipated “at home” days.

One important consideration is who has the most flexible schedule on any given day.   It may be that an arrangement can be worked out where both parents  divide the caretaking day in half.  If one spouse has mostly morning meetings and the other spouse has them in the afternoon, you can both work around your schedules.  My late husband and I did this.  His schedule was generally more flexible than mine, since as a lawyer, my schedule could be extremely busy.  We worked it out though between us, always keeping our focus on what was best for our children.  Compromise is very important as it reduces the parents’ stress levels and aids in flexible decision making, which of course, leaves more time for you both to focus on your child who needs you.

Speak to your office manager or human services representative ahead of time about the protocol for working from home or having children in the workplace. Many companies allow a parent to work from home if he is unable to come to the office and some allow children to be in the office under special circumstances.

If you and your spouse are not able to do any of the above, research alternatives.  Often retired relatives or friends will assist for a short while.  What is critical is that you do not wait until you need assistance to find a solution.

Raising children can be filled with ups and downs.  Having a plan and being willing to compromise - those are the key elements to surviving a sudden at-home stay.  Life is always going to throw curveballs at you, but being proactive can make them a little easier to catch

Helping Your Children Develop Social Maturity

When it comes to our children’s performance in school, as parents, we are almost always focused on their academic progress.  Although that of course is critical, it is also beneficial for us to ensure that they are getting the most out of their schooling, and that includes being socially proficient. Whether your children have issues with their social development or are just naturally shy, there are several ways that parents can teach social maturity.

It is best to start teaching your children social graces before they start school.  For example, you can take them to the park where they can interact with other children while you sit, observe, and possibly strike up a chat with their parents. You should be looking for a few things as your children mingle with others: are they sharing, actively involved, and laughing?  These are crucial in friendly interactions.  Use what you have observed to talk with your children about how they can improve their behavior during the next social event.

If your children are in school but still having challenges interacting with their peers, consider how to assist them.  Students are surrounded by the same people every day and having a familiar environment helps many children thrive socially.   A great way for your children to actively meet new people and socialize with friends, even in a new environment, is for them to join a club.  Clubs are smaller groups of people who have similar interests and who interact with each other based on these common interests.  My sons participated in many different clubs based on their interests, such as sports clubs, chess clubs, church clubs and music clubs.  And, they developed long lasting friendships that exist to this day from those clubs.

Another way for children to develop socially is working with others on homework.  Often, teachers assign projects to a small group of students.  The students in those small groups then get together and plan and prepare what to do for each project.  By helping each other, friendships are developed.  My nephew is in 9th grade and one of his teachers often assigns group projects.  He and his fellow students meet frequently and after they have dedicated time to their project, my sister takes the group out for a treat.  All during this time, social skills are being developed, as well as academic skills.

Parents have tremendous influences on their children’s lives.  When speaking with your friends, family members, or even strangers, be sure to display kindness, compassion, and confidence.  Children learn best from what they see and hear. Be the best example to your children that you can be!

A well-rounded child is not just one who excels academically.  Social growth and maturity are key to a child’s ultimate success in life as well. 

Help your Children Plan and Prepare for their Exams this Exam Season

It is exam season and your children might either be freaking out about it or blissfully oblivious as their exam dates get closer with each passing day.  Regardless of their state of mind right now, exam season is always a stressful time.  Parents can play a significant role in relieving some of that stress by assisting their children to prepare for their exams.

Before beginning, parents must understand the type of learner their children are.  Of course, each child is different.  Is she a visual or hands-on learner?  Is he a mix of both? Does she work better alone or in a group? How long is his attention span? Talk with each of them about it and come up with methods for exam preparations that are the most conducive to his learning style(s), not yours.

Many parents, including me, assist their children before a test. Some use flashcards, others ask probing questions, while others make mock exams - the effectiveness of each technique is completely determined by each child’s learning style.

I have written some tips in a couple of articles on this blog about spending time with your children and being involved when they do their homework, that can be applied to helping your children study for exams.  The most important takeaways from these blogs should be scheduling, location and your overall involvement.  Studying in a clear - somewhat secluded- area helps your children focus on their tasks without distraction.  Planning a schedule to study for each class gives a sense of order during a time that may be chaotic for most students. Parents can assist by checking up on your children every once in a while to observe their progress or assist with a problem.  This shows them that you care about their academics and it gives them the chance to share what they have learned. It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions on what they may not thoroughly understand yet.

That is not all! According to an article on the U.S. Department of Education’s website, one of the best things you can do for your children is to talk to them about their exams. Find out what subjects they are confident and not-so confident in. Speak with them about the areas they think they need to focus on. Speak with their teachers and present these inquiries to them, too.  Use your newfound data to help your children set up a study plan that strengthens their weaknesses and enhances their strengths.

Be sure to confirm with their teachers the correct exam dates and ensure that they start studying well in advance.  Children can get confused about dates, especially if they have not written them down.  Also, having a longer time span for them to go over the information for each subject, gives your children a better chance of actually learning and comprehending the information rather than just memorizing it.  Comprehension signifies that the information can be applied to many different situations; however, memorization makes it much harder to do so.

Parents know what exam season is like. We all have been through it. We can use our experiences, along with these tips, to ensure that our children handle studying and taking exams better than we did and are more successful.  You can find the U.S Department of Education’s article for more tips on how to help your children by clicking here.

The Best Way to Prepare Your Children Academically for Preschool is by Reading

From the day of their birth, children are learning languages, and the words that they are exposed to for the first few years of their lives influence their language development and academic performance for the years to come.  When preparing your children for preschool, it is critical that you take time out of each day to read to and with them.

For generations, parents have read stories to their young children and for good reason - the developmental benefits are endless. The transition from daycare to preschool will be much easier when reading has been a part of their daily routine.  

When you read a story, don’t just read it quickly as if it is a task that needs to be finished right away.  Take your time.  Talk about the meaning of a word if it is a new word.  Encourage your children to look at the pictures on each page.  As a children’s author, I know the importance that not only words have on each page in a book, but also the pictures.  I hired a children’s artist to design and paint the pictures, according to my direction and input.  Pictures convey a specific message so I wanted to ensure that each picture told the message that I wanted the child to know and learn. 

In addition to looking at the pictures and discussing them, a parent should make reading fun by changing the intonation of his voice.  Also, if it is a woman speaking, try to speak as a woman.  The same thing if it is a man.  Make a silly voice if the character is a funny character.  I think you get the gist of what I am trying to convey. 

Try not to limit your reading times to bed time.  If there is a lull in the afternoon on a weekend, pull out a book to read to your children.   There should always be plenty of books in each room in the house.   Or, ask one of your children to find a book that you can read to them. 

We parents want our children to be prepared for preschool.  The foundation of literacy is the most important and lasting foundation that you can give them.

Getting Your Children Interested in STEM

STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math - are commonly disliked subjects among children, especially girls.   However, that does not have to be so.  By introducing our children to real life applications, we parents can get them to be amazed at the wonders that come alive and have them asking for more. 

In her online blog titled How to Get Your Kids Interested in STEM (Without Forcing it on Them), writer Melanie Pinola gives some very good advice for some real life applications:

1.  Introduce food science while cooking, as children will love to eat the results.  In fact, there are many books that have edible science experiments for children. 

2. While shopping with your children or doing banking, encourage them to participate with numbers.  For example, you can compare the costs of similar store items and have them do simple calculations in their heads.  Also, talk to them about how interest works.  I assisted my sons with opening up their own savings accounts with their accumulated allowance money when they were very young and talked with them about how a bank will pay them interest on their money.   Have them calculate what the interest is every month.

3. Play STEM games with your children and buy them STEM toys.  One of the most favored STEM toys, especially with boys, are the Lego building blocks.  One of my nephews only wants gifts of these blocks and his bedroom is filled with all the different building projects he has completed. 

4. Watch STEM shows, especially those that cater to children. 

STEM subjects are critical to the development of our economy and will provide our children with good-paying, secure careers.  So, let’s start them at a young age learning and appreciating all that they can offer.

Read her entire blog by CLICKING HERE.

Be Sure To Celebrate the Week of the Young Child: April 16-20, 2018

Every year, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrates young children and learning, and this week April 16-20, 2018 is dedicated to just that.  According to the NAEYC, the reason that a week is set aside annually is “to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.”

Local communities throughout the United States hold events for the celebration.  Events vary from a fun hat day to an ice cream social, a parade in a school and even a trip to the mayor’s office.   Importantly, the focus is on young children learning.

In the U. S. Virgin Islands where I live, I always participate in some way.  This year, I will be visiting an elementary school.  I have been asked to read a local  story to children and join in a special hat parade. 

Where ever you reside, please consider volunteering your time and talents to make this a special time for children in your area.  Whenever I visit a classroom or school to participate in an activity, I find that the children are always excited to have a special visitor who thinks they are important.  I am certain that it will be a blessing for you too, as it is for me!

Encourage Your Child’s Creativity- It Shapes the Way He Views the World

One of my favorite quotes about encouraging curiosity in our children is by Dr. Bruce Perry in his online article “Curiosity: The Fuel of Development” on Scholastic.com: “Curiosity dimmed is a future denied.”  That sentiment holds so much truth.  Curiosity has led to innumerable world changing inventions and innovations, and stifling it not only does a disservice to the individual, but also potentially the world.

Dr. Perry is an internationally acclaimed authority on brain development and children.  In his online article, he discusses how important curiosity is in the development of a child.   As a child grows, he is more and more curious.  If he is encouraged to ask questions, explore, discover new things, and share his discoveries, he will grow in confidence and knowledge. 

Dr. Perry also discusses how we parents can hamper curiosity.  Three common ways are through fear, disapproval, and absence.  If a child is afraid, he will not be curious.  He will not want to take a chance and ask a question.  He will seek comfort with the status quo and conforming. 

If a child hears disapproval from his parents, he will not be curious.  What forms of disapproval are parents using?  Examples begin with the word “don’t”.  Don’t touch that; don’t get dirty; don’t ask questions! When your child knows that you are disgusted or upset when he does a particular thing, he will not want to do it or anything similar to it.  A child seeks approval from his parents and if his parents do not approve of him being inquisitive, he will not be.  Plain and simple!

A curious mind also needs a parent who is supporting and motivating.  A smile, kind words, a look of encouragement – all of these and much more encourage a child to continue asking and seeking. If a parent is absent, the nurturing that a child needs is not there.  

Encourage your children to seek, explore and discover.  Who knows – you may have a budding Einstein in your family!

To read more of the article, CLICK HERE.

At the Beginning of a New Year, Start a Children’s Book Club to Promote Reading

Book clubs are usually regarded as reserved only for parents.  A typical scene is adults gathered in the living room, sipping on a beverage, and talking about that exciting scene in their last read.  However, book clubs can be much more than that, especially for children.  These clubs give their members the opportunity to encourage each other in reading (and  all the benefits that come along with it); collectively immerse themselves into their book’s reality, leaving their own behind if only for a moment; and make new friends along with strengthen existing friendships.

Children already have such vivid imaginations and what better way to develop creativity than through books.  The idea of a club may not initially seem exciting to them, but gear your ‘pitch’ toward one of their favorite things.  For example, if they love robots, suggest some futuristic novels about artificial intelligence.

Filling the club with your children’s friends is a surefire way of making it more enjoyable.  There are several issues that need to be taken into consideration in planning, such as book genres to read and discuss, as well as convenient schedules and locations.  Be flexible as book clubs are not obligated to center around one theme.  At the start of a new club, have your children choose one or two books of their liking and then discuss with the other members of the group and their parents what types of books they would like to read.

Hosting the club once every two weeks or more makes scheduling easier and gives the children the opportunity to make reasonable headway on their reading assignment. Remember - it is unlikely that this is the club members’ only extramural activity, so discuss their existing schedules with their parents to come up with the best schedule and time for the meetings. When there actually are meetings, have a plan as to what should be accomplished in each session. They can discuss their favorite characters, make chapter/book predictions, relate the novel to an aspect of their lives, or act out their favorite scene.  The possibilities are endless!  Be prepared and organized so that the sessions run smoothly and children are encouraged to return.

It is critical that you find a good location for the meetings. Club meetings should be hosted in a convenient location and have enough space to seat everyone comfortably, including parents who may want to sit at a distance and listen. Perhaps rotating among members’ homes would be acceptable.

A further encouragement for your children’s participation would be having another “fun” activity planned afterwards that they can all look forward to.  For example, they can participate in the book club meeting and then go to the movies together. 

Reading is fundamental and book clubs can make it fun, too! You can find many of suggestions on PBS.org and SheKnows.com.

When Should Your Child Have a Smartphone?

When Should Child Have Cell Smart Phone Soraya Coffelt

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, parents are busily looking for gifts for their children.  One such gift is a smartphone.  Parents, though, are often hesitant about purchasing cellphones for their children for a myriad of reasons, the most important being its negative effects on social skills.  While this is a genuine concern to have, smartphones can be great tools in assisting your children with the many challenges they may face.  Here are some suggestions to help you decide whether to purchase one, and if you do decide to purchase one, to determine what parameters should be established for its use:

1.    What age should your children be?  Generally, around the age of 14 is a good, practical age, but it all depends on the maturity levels of your children.  Are they responsible?  Cell phones are costly and children are prone to lose things.  Will your children abide by rules that you set for their use?

2.    How will it be purchased?  Many parents require that their children do chores at home to earn at least a portion of the purchase price of a cell phone. That builds in the child the importance of earning money and using money wisely.  If the cell phone device itself is a gift, consider having your child earn the money to pay for the monthly charges.

3.    What rules will be established for its use? The rules are completely up to you and what you, as the parent, determine is most important.  Use of the device during family times and meal times should be off limits, though.  Will you require a shut off time at night? If so, what hour? What about your free access to the phone to monitor goings on?  That should be made clear to your child from before the phone is purchased.

As with everything else, you cannot use the “do as I say, not as I do” method. Children learn best from observing their parents and if they see you contradicting yourself, it will only confuse them and cause them to rebel. If you tell them to put their phones away during meals, but you are busy calling and texting during dinner times, there will be problems.  

4.    What type of services or apps should be on a cellphone? You will need to monitor your children’s cell phones closely to ensure that they do not download any unacceptable apps.  In fact, one rule of use should be that they do not download anything without your knowledge and permission.  Be vigilant in monitoring their phones as there are a huge variety of apps out there.

One highly recommended service for a cell phone is called location services. It is very helpful because you can keep track of your children’s locations.  There are various apps that provide these services at the app store, but parents can include family locator services in their cell phone plan (usually for an additional price) as well. The already embedded GPS in cellphones is very beneficial in the event that your children are at unfamiliar areas and need to find their way to a specific destination or back home.

Getting their first cell phone can be an exciting time for your children.  Parents should, however, spend time preparing and planning for one.

Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  It was established to honor children fighting cancer and support the development of treatments.  You do not have to know someone with childhood cancer to commemorate or contribute to this extremely worthwhile cause.

There are many ways that you and your children can show support for children affected by cancer, and here are a few:

Volunteer.  There is an abundance of volunteer opportunities to choose from and you should include your children too. If there are any children’s cancer centers or hospitals in your area,  donate your time to read to the patients.  Your children can bring toys to play and spend time with them too.  Consider baking cookies and other sweet treats to pass out to patients, doctors, nurses, and volunteers.  Showing you care by spending your time and having friendly interactions with the patients makes a loving and lasting impression on them.

Donate.  Consider making a monetary donation to a reputable charity, hospital or research lab that strives to benefit the lives of children with cancer. Whether you have $1 or $1,000,000, a donation is always valuable.  Additionally, talk with your children about making a donation too.  Emphasize the goal of the organization or hospital and explain how their donation will benefit it.  By using a portion of their allowance, they can contribute to the cause and help children in need. This teaches them to become more considerate and loving of others and it gives them a sense of accomplishment knowing that their generous deed benefitted someone else.

Another idea is to have a group fundraising event involving food or bake sales, car washes, or even yard sales.

Help a family. If you know a family affected by childhood cancer, there are many ways to assist them.  Consider calling or texting to check up on them and sending hand-written cards with friendly messages.  Make decorating and writing cards a fun family event.  A short message such as “Best wishes from our family to yours. We are always here if you need anything and will continue to pray for you,” can provide comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

Also, volunteering to do chores such as house sitting or lawn mowing can take a lot of extra pressure off adults in the family and give them more time to focus on their loved one in need.

There are so many ways and opportunities for you and your family to commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  As Christians, we are called to show our love to others, and what better way than assisting children in need.

How Did Labor Day Start?

In the United States, we will celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 4.  It is not just a day to pull out the barbecue grill one last time before autumn hits.  It is a very important federal holiday commemorating the Labor Movement of the 19th century that sought to end the poor and unfair treatment of American workers.   Take some time to learn about the history of this holiday and share it with your children because there is quite a lot to learn and commemorate.

In the late 1800s, during the period known as the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the majority of people worked in factories, mills, and mines under unsafe and unsanitary conditions, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, for very little pay.  Children as young as 5 years old were working as well for less pay than adults.  There was no quality of life in the work place. The only way that workers believed their voices would be heard was through forming unions and taking part in strikes and organized marches.  

The first and arguably the most influential march was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City.  This was the same day that the union, Nobel Order of the Knights of Labor, was planning on meeting in the city, so it decided to invite other unions as well.  About 20,000 workers gave up an entire day’s pay to participate and the march soon turned into a parade.  This was the first parade of many to come.  Over a decade later, in 1896, President Grover Cleveland decided to make the day a national holiday while many states, such as Oregon, New York, Colorado, and Massachusetts, had already recognized the day for several years.

There were some workers who were not allowed to participate in these marches or parades, such as African Americans.  While the Knights of Labor union was race inclusive, African American workers could not be members of the majority of white labor unions.  Despite the racism and aversion by the white workers towards them, African American workers were still able to band together and create unions of their own, one of which was the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU).  The Knights of Labor and the CNLU were some of the most powerful unions at the time.

The Knights of Labor union was almost fully responsible for the first Labor Day celebration and the CNLU was successful in arranging employee benefits and fair wages for its workers.  Unfortunately, the two unions would eventually die out before Labor Day was recognized as a national holiday.

It is important for our children to understand the history behind our national holidays, including this one.  Labor Day is not about barbecues and marking the end of summer- it is about ending the unfair treatment of workers and actually celebrating the innovation and creativity of American workers and the many contributions they have made. 

Celebrate National Women’s Equality Day on August 26

There has been a long history in this country of women fighting inequality, whether it be the start of the feminist movement in the mid-1800s or the women of today demanding equal treatment in the workplace and in politics.  Even with the strides that women have made since the banding together of the Suffragettes, there is still more work to be done.  Importantly, however, we must acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of many outstanding women, including the following:

1.    Ida B. Wells. This courageous woman played one of the most integral parts in the feminist and civil rights movements. As an African American woman born in 1862 Mississippi, she knew first-hand about discrimination. Her struggles inspired her to create an all-black publication titled The Free Speech, which exposed the inequalities and mistreatment that came with being black in the South. When given the choice to stop her publication or be killed, she did neither.  She moved to the North, and she never stopped production of The Free Speech.

Not only was she disliked by white men at the time, but also some women. When she marched in the 1913 suffrage parade, she was shunned by many of the women involved - some even refusing to march alongside her because she was a woman of color. Through it all, she stayed headstrong and continued to focus on issues that plagued the African American community.  She never gave up the fight. She truly was an exemplary woman and is still a role model for many today!

2.    Patsy Mink. Born in Hawaii in 1927, Patsy grew up to become a lawyer and then became the first Asian American elected to Congress. She was actually the first woman of color to serve in that position. In her time there, she co-authored Title IX, a federal law that prohibits any educational facility from discriminating against a person because of his/her gender.  

3.    Sylvia Mendez.  Sylvia’s father was a Mexican immigrant and her mother was from Puerto Rico.  In the 1940s, when she was a child, schools in California were segregated into “Whites only”, which had better books and curriculum, and “Hispanics”.  To fight this racism, her parents attempted to enroll her and her siblings in a “Whites only” school, but were denied.  They took the matter to court and eventually won.  As a result, the governor of California was forced to desegregate all schools and public places.  Her lawsuit paved the way and was a reference for similar cases, such as the famous Brown v. Board of Education, which brought desegregation to all schools. She is one of the primary reasons that we have integrated classrooms today.

4.    Wilma Mankiller.  Wilma gained notoriety after her very memorable protest at Alcatraz Island alongside other Native Americans who were reclaiming the land in 1969 since the federal government was not using the prison anymore.  She later began working for the Cherokee Nation government as a director of community development and was eventually able to climb up the political ladder and become the first female principle chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1985.

5.    Molly Dewson.  College educated, Molly began her foray into politics in her home state of Massachusetts, where she worked for an organization promoting women’s education, the rights of women in the workplace, and the social advancement of women.  Later, she joined Eleanor Roosevelt to motivate women to vote in the 1932 presidential election for Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his victory, she was instrumental in getting women to be appointed to high government positions, including Secretary of Labor.  

What women inspire you?  Talk with your children about those referred to in my blog and other famous women.

To find out more information about these and other phenomenal women, visit THIS PAGE or CLICK HERE.

Finding the Balance between Your Children’s Activities and Their Well-being

In a prior blog post, I wrote about the importance of having your children participate in a variety of after-school activities and the benefits that doing so provide.  Today, I would like to extend a cautionary note that those activities should enhance their childhood experiences, not inhibit them.  Children who are overexposed to activities can suffer from headaches; feel tired, anxious or depressed; and suffer a drop in their grades.  Here are a few tips on how to have your children involved in extracurriculars, while still giving them the chance to be children:

  1. Time: According to most experts, children should not spend more than 10 to 20 hours a week participating in out of school activities. If they spend any more time than this, they will not have enough time to do their homework, adequately prepare for tests, and be with their families. Choosing activities that meet bi-weekly or monthly could be healthier options for children, rather than those that meet once or several times a week.
     
  2. Request: Before enrolling your children in an extracurricular activity, it is best to ask if they want to join in it. This way, it will be an activity that they want to do, not an activity that they are being forced to do. Also, try not to pressure your children to outdo themselves or anyone else in their respective activities. Never compare what they are doing or not doing with other children.
     
  3. Your schedule: Ask yourself whether you or your spouse have the time to drive them to and from each activity.  Adding too many activities can wreak havoc on your schedule too and cause a lot of stress. 

The balance between school, homework, play, and family time can be difficult.  The important issue is that you try to balance all four, with an emphasis on what works for the family unit as a whole.   No activity should take the place of spending quality time together as a family or put too much stress on family life.

African Americans and Women Played an Important Role in the Fight for American Independence

Tomorrow is the 4th of July or as Americans have come to know it as Independence Day.  It is well known what this day celebrates- our hard fought independence from the British almost 250 years ago - and the many people who played key roles in the fight.  We frequently think of our founding fathers as the central figures in the war.  What many may not know, though, is that there were also African Americans and women who played a critical part in securing our freedom.

Salem Poor is one of those people. He was born in Massachusetts as a slave, but at the age of 22, had saved up a year’s salary so that he could buy his freedom.  Once freed, he enlisted in the army and this would bring him his notoriety only a year later.  Poor was instrumental in the Battle of Bunker Hill- an important battle in the fight for America’s freedom- defeating several British officers and inspiring paintings commemorating the victory.

Also Massachusetts-born was former slave Peter Salem. He was not only an important soldier in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but also in the entire American Revolutionary War.  At the time of his recruitment, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety only recruited free African Americans.  He traded his life as a slave to fight in the army.

Women such as Margaret Corbin also played major roles in the war. Corbin and her husband helped in defending Fort Washington, but when he got injured, she took over, manning the canon. She did not hesitate to take it upon herself to do a job meant for two.

These and many other men and women are often forgotten in history.  But, do not let that happen.  Teach your children about this day and all the different people who risked their lives to fight for a cause they profoundly believed in.  It makes our history much more vibrant and interesting by doing so.