In the Parenthood
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Education and child care

Easing back-to-school transitions -- for you and your child

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse August 26, 2010 04:08 PM

At the end of the summer, almost everyone is facing some sort of transition. Parents have to adjust to juggling work and home and school-related responsibilities; kids may be worried about having homework for the first time (or, at least, for the first time since June). Whether your child is off to kindergarten or off to college, going to a new school or returning to the one she's always gone to, it's important to leave time to cope with the change that back-to-school time brings.

"You spend so much time getting your child ready for school, there's so much excitement, and you?re trying to help your child feel good about the transition," Amy Gold, director of curriculum and instruction at the Rashi School in Dedham and the mother of a second-grader, told me in an interview. "Parents forget what it means for them, that their child is going to school, some of them for the first time."

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Is childhood obesity more than a parenting issue?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 26, 2010 12:35 PM

Though the majority of weight-loss and anti-obesity initiatives emphasize exercise and healthy eating, a seminar last month at The Children's Museum in Boston made me wonder if childhood obesity is more than just a matter of too much junk food and TV time. Is it -- along with crime, education, and access to medical care -- a social justice issue as well?

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Summer reading doesn't have to be a chore

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 20, 2010 08:42 AM

Reluctant readers are not uncommon. For those who struggle with processing issues, or for those who haven't yet discovered a literary niche that suits them, reading can be a problem rather than a pleasure. For these kids, that summer reading list casts a long shadow.

Nancy Traversy, CEO of Barefoot Books in Concord, has dealt with reading issues with her own four children. She remembers when one of her daughters, now 18, was about 9 and a teacher told her that she was too old for the beautifully illustrated fairy tale book she enjoyed, and should be reading chapter books instead. "She actually hid my book under her bed because she was so embarrassed by it, and she was being forced to read something she didn't really like. She was getting put off reading."

Encouraging kids to read what they love can help foster an interest in reading in general. "If you force a child to read something they don't want to read, then I think that can have long term damage," she says. "Make sure your child loves whatever they read. You can get them to read anything and engage their imaginations."

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Would you encourage your child to drop out of school?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 31, 2010 10:23 AM

Over Parent Dish, Ericka Lutz writes about her daughter dropping out of high school -- and how she supports her teen's decision to do so:

Parenting a teenager is all about trust. I can't force Annie to go to school, though I tried. I can't force her to want to be in school, and unless she wants to be there, she won't go. I trust my daughter's instincts, and I know that a path is not always linear. And she comes from a strong family tradition of alternate paths. It took me nine years to get my BA and I ended up with a successful and creative career. Her father didn't start community college until he was 24. By the time he died, he was the special adviser to a head of state.

I see her point, but I'm not sure I agree. There's more to high school than just academics, in my opinion: There's self discipline, perserverence, collaboration, cooperation, and basically learning how to learn. Not every child is able to gain those skills on his or her own.

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Easing end-of-school transitions

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 28, 2010 11:24 AM

Regardless of whether she goes to kindergarten or first grade in September, my 5-1/2-year-old will be coping with a new school and new friends this fall. Her very best friend is zoned for a different elementary school, in fact, and the two of them are already trying to find ways to spend as much time as possible together, not just this summer, but next school year as well.

It might not seem like that big of a deal to us now, as adults, but for little kids, "graduation" from kindergarten or preschool to elementary school can make for some serious stress. There's some great advice out there about getting your child ready for her next academic adventure, but what about easing the transition out of the setting she already knows and loves?

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Keeping summer brain drain at bay

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 26, 2010 10:59 AM

My youngest kids are young enough that summer is merely an extension of their regular preschool experience, albeit with more sunscreen, field trips, and water play. But older kids who deal with academic testing and boatloads of homework during the school year are likely to be looking forward to a summer of, if not laziness and leisure, at least a little downtime.

And that's fine -- they've earned it. But can you give kids their downtime without giving in to the dreaded summer slide?

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Fostering a love of music in your family

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 10, 2010 06:31 AM

The benefits of music education are well known: Playing an instrument can help the development of areas of the brain devoted to language and reasoning, reading music can help children understand fractions and proportional math and boost their abilities in science and technology, practicing music underscores the rewards of dedication and hard work, and performing in front of a crowd helps kids learn how to evaluate risk and handle anxiety. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, really.

In spite of this, music and arts education continues to be one of the first things on the chopping block as cash-strapped schools try to trim their budgets. What can parents do to bridge the gap at home?

From the Top is a Boston based non-profit organization that celebrates the performances and stories of the nationís best young classical musicians. The experts there have plenty of information and advice about how parents can help foster a love of music within their kids, as well as profiles of some pretty inspirational young people. This is the first of a series of guest posts that From the Top will offer Boston.com/Moms about music and children; it was written by the organization's co-founder and co-CEO Jennifer Hurley-Wales.

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Parenting teenagers on the autism spectrum

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 5, 2010 12:01 PM

One of the hardest things about parenting older kids who are on the autism spectrum is recognizing that the issues they're dealing with as teens are very different from the ones they dealt with in elementary school. It's so much easier -- and more comfortable -- for us to think about birthday parties and playground friendships than it is to tackle the prom and dating, isn't it?

 "Suddenly, the question is not simply, 'How do I teach my child this or that?' but a much more complicated 'How do I teach my child not to need me to teach him anymore?'" writes Claire Scovell LaZebnik in Growing Up on the Spectrum: A Guide to Life, Love, and Learning for Teens and Young Adults with Autism and Asperger's.

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Teaching kids to be savvy about advertising

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 3, 2010 12:59 PM

I try to watch what my kids watch, which right now means lots of Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. and PBS. It also means that the commercials I sit through are aimed either at kids (Toys! Games! Candy!) or moms (Body wash! Convenience foods! Household cleaning products!). Or, I should say, "moms," because as I've said before, a commercial pitched directly to most multitasking parents I know would involve wine and sleep.

As far as the kids go, at least, the ads are obviously working: Even PBS has "spots" featuring their sponsors, and though my 5- and 3-year-olds have yet to set foot in any restaurant with a giant-rodent theme, they're clamoring to go -- without really knowing what they're clamoring to go to.

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Autism Awareness: Causes and controversey

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse April 28, 2010 12:36 PM

While the search continues for a cause -- and for a cure -- autism in general has become part of the mainstream. But while children's programs like PBS's Arthur are encouraging acceptance and understanding about autism spectrum disorders, controversey is what's making headlines in the news.

Last night, PBS broadcast its Frontline piece on "The Vaccine Wars," touching on the MMR vaccine-autism debate and the Thimerosal-autism debate, both of which are still ongoing in some communities in spite of the fact that the supposed links have been debunked. The show pitted anecdotal evidence from parents against research and advice from medical professionals, creating, as Dr. Jay Gordon put it in an open letter to one of Frontline's co-producers, "a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: 'Irresponsible moms against science' was an easy takeaway from the show."

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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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