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Archive for August, 2007

FAB FIVE: Family Field Trips

Car kidsSchool’s just around the corner, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with this Fab Five of family outings for the waning days of summer:
1. Ferris Bueller on the big screen – Anyone? Anyone? – a back-to-school outdoor bash tonight at the Livermore Community Center.

2. One last campout in the backyard or at a nearby park like San Rafael’s China Camp. Check it out in this week’s “Taking the Kids” column.

3. Star gazing or a lunar eclipse? Chabot Space Center is hosting “Once in a Red Moon: Total Lunar Eclipse” – a full moon hike, lunar activities, and big fun in the wee hours Aug. 27-28.

4. Get thee to the theater! Grab your older teens or college-age kids and head to the City for “Avenue Q,” the hilarious Tony Award-winning musical that riffs on “Sesame Street” and life as a 20-something.

5. Or grab the whole family and head to “Peter Pan” at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts. Opens Aug. 31.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2007
Under: Fab Five, Family Outings, Kids & Tweens, Teens | No Comments »

Over-reactive schools: Kid suspended for doodle of gun

Kid draws a picture of a gun on a homework assignment. A lecture maybe? Nope. A five-day suspension.

Parents complain and the suspension is reduced to three days. I’m glad the school officials decided to be reasonable. I mean, it’s not like there were reports of paper cuts.

The school hasn’t released a copy of the drawing, but here’s a story with an image of what the family says is a similarly dangerous doodle. I’m not sure the kid’s got a future as an artist.

Related links:

Editorial: Chandler student’s suspension over a drawing is heavy-handed nonsense

Video: Student’s mother interviewed

Posted on Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
Under: Health & Safety, Just Bizarre, Schools | No Comments »

aPARENTly Speaking: Schools in the news

School signSchool headlines you may have missed…
No Child Left Behind guaranteed that children would be taught by “highly qualified teachers,” but sometimes, that’s not how it works out. On Tuesday, families from the West Contra Costa, Hayward and Los Angeles school districts filed a federal lawsuit against the US Department of Education, reports the Times’ Shirley Dang, for accepting teaching interns as “highly qualified.” A Hayward mom says her son’s first grade teacher – an intern – misses class twice a week so she can complete college courses; some 10 percent of the teachers at Richmond High are interns; and at one Pittsburg school, it’s nearly a quarter.

In other news, Danville’s Monte Vista High School and other San Ramon Valley high schools are being audited after that district discovered that nearly $100,000 in student funds had been spent on items class leaders hadn’t authorized. In West Contra Costa, school tax proponents have spent a quarter-million dollars to get voters to approve a $14 million a year parcel tax that would pay for librarians, counselors, art, sports and more. Alameda school officials are shelving a plan – temporarily at least – to battle overcrowding at Edison Elementary with a lottery. And L.A. schools are teaching the Bible as literature.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Kids & Tweens, Schools, Teens | No Comments »

TEENS: Facebook and roommates

HarvardIn yesterday’s Times, we looked at Facebook, college kids and roommate compatibility. But you may also be interested in seeing the results of a reader poll on whether it’s appropriate for parents to monitor their college-age kids’ social lives online. As of 9 o’clock this morning, 263 people had voted and the tally was running heavily in favor of “monitoring,” with 81 percent saying “As long as I’m paying the bills, I’m the parent and I’ll check regularly,” and just 7 percent saying “No, they’re supposed to be adults.” Interesting comments posted too. Check it out, and add your comments to the poll page or do it right here by clicking “comments.”

And if you have someone headed off to college, you might find these roommate compatibility tips helpful too.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: College Apps & Angst | No Comments »


teacher Dear Miss School Manners:
Last year, my 10-year-old daughter, Euclidea May (not her real name), had a P.E. teacher who wouldn’t let kids drink water during class, even when exercising in hot conditions. The teacher claimed children don’t need water while exercising. Is this true? Euclidea had coughing fits because her throat was so dry. She also frequently got side cramps. With the new school year starting, I’m starting to worry all over again. Signed, Concerned in Concord

Dear Concerned: Wow. That’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous. You need to step up and advocate for your child, and this may help: you’ll have the backing of the American Academy of Pediatrics…

(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)

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Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Kids & Tweens, Miss School Manners, Teens | No Comments »

Teens: Dreaded fundraising letter

Sports money ILLUS.jpgWe’ve all seen them — the form letter begging for money for the sender’s sports team, school organization or church group. Unless coming from a family member, these letters usually end up in our shredder. Not because we purposely avoid being charitable. We simply don’t believe that authority figures (coaches, sponsors or church leaders) should be turning kids into solicitors.

Consider the kids. My friend’s son was in tears because his coach insisted each player send out 10 letters asking friends and family for money. If he didn’t, this young man had to run laps after practice. Since when did begging for money become a stipulation for playing high school sports?

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Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
Under: Teens | No Comments »

aPARENTly Speaking: Clever hacks

DadEvery now and then you run across something so practical, quirky and brilliant, you wonder how you ever existed without it. Our new favorite web site, ParentHacks, is a compendium of parenting advice, little hacks or work-arounds that parents have devised.

So what’s there? A serendipitous mix of helpful little things. Lost your juice box straw? Plastic coffee stirrers work just as well. Midway through a kiddie disease? Trying to remember how many doses of the pink stuff you’ve dispensed? Mark the bottle with a Sharpie pen each time you spoon out another dose.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Monday, August 20th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots, Kids & Tweens | No Comments »

aPARENTly Speaking: Tooth fairy tales

fairy Does the tooth fairy have change for a $20?

We are entering the tooth fairy years with our first child, and so far it appears it will be a journey of learning to expect the unexpected. And isn’t that probably parenting’s biggest lesson?

Tooth No. 1: It’s wiggly for weeks. Lacy, 5 1/2, is a mixture of excitement and dread. When will it fall out? Will it hurt? Will it bleed? Will she look funny? And what IS the tooth fairy? How does she know to come?

I hit and am not overwhelmed by the choice of books explaining this phenom to children. Most seem to approach it as some mystical fairies “needing” children’s teeth to do various fantastical construction projects where ever it is fairies live. I am slighly grossed out by this prospect, for some reason. Castles built of teeth. So I settle on “Dear Tooth Fairy” by Alan Durant (Walker Books, $14.99).

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Posted on Sunday, August 19th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots, Kids & Tweens | No Comments »

Baby: Move over Prince, meet ‘@’

Exclamation sign ILLUSIf a Chinese couple gets their wish, they plan to name their baby “@.” That’s right, the same symbol used in e-mail addresses. Is it a boy’s name or a girl’s? Good question. The father will say only that the letters ‘a’ and ‘t’ can be pronounced to sound like “love him” in Chinese, so we’re suspecting it’s a boy. (And if it’s a girl, hire the child a psychologist now.)

There is some hope for the child. Police issue identity cards in China, so it’s possible officials have rejected the unorthodox name. If not, one day that poor child may be signing up for an e-mail account that reads
Ann Tatko-Peterson

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots | No Comments »

KIDS & TWEENS: Musical mania

High School MusicalIt’s back. “High School Musical 2” has been the endless conversation topic in my household all week. The sequel to the popular musical airs on the Disney Channel at 8 p.m. tonight. (But have no fear — as the first one showed us — if you miss tonight’s premiere, it will air again. And again. And again.)

Ever since “High School Musical” skyrocketed to shocking success, pop culture aficionados have compared it to the musical of my generation, “Grease.” As luck would have it, my stepdaughter, Dana, stumbled across the classic on a cable station this past weekend. “Is this any good?” she asked. Bless you, I thought. This was my chance to expose her to a real musical revolution.

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Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2007
Under: Kids & Tweens | No Comments »