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Archive for September, 2007

College prep or, um, child abuse?

HarvardHarvard’s 02138 magazine just ran a tongue-in-cheek guide to Crimson admissions that included advice on prenatal tutorials, exotic community service projects and high-octane extra-curriculars. Because hey, if junior can’t be captain of the baseball team, you’re better off switching him to cricket or Rubik’s Cube, right?

So we were going to do a playful little riff on enhancing junior’s Cal prospects with a Birkenstock drive for villagers in Somalia, or by having him coach underserved children on how to protest in trees, that kind of thing. But the sad thing is, Harvard’s tongue-in-cheek guide echoes the **serious advice** some college admissions counselors are giving families. You think we’re kidding?

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Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007
Under: College Apps & Angst | No Comments »

High school theft sobering reminder

keysAbout $700 in cash, two cell phones and two iPods were stolen from the band room at California High School in San Ramon on Friday. The room was apparently left unattended for about two hours. School district spokesman Terry Koehne says such thefts are uncommon at the district’s schools, but this is a reminder that students need to be diligent in securing valuables.

Let’s take it a step further: don’t bring your iPods to school, only carry as much cash as you need for that given day and keep your cell phone and keys on your person at all times. The reasons for the first two are pretty obvious — remove temptation and thieves have nothing to gain. The third bears further explanation. Last year, my niece attended Northgate High School where there was a bomb threat called in. Administrators responded appropriately by clearing students from the school building. Problem was, a significant number of students then were separated from their car keys and cell phones. The school was locked down for a few hours. These students had to scramble to find a way home.

We live in a state where earthquakes are an ever-present possibility. They strike with no warning. If students are cleared from school buildings in such situations, it could be hours until they are reunited with their personal belongings and it could take even longer for parents to reach them. Preparing for the worst is better than the alternative.
Ann Tatko-Peterson

Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007
Under: Health & Safety | No Comments »

MISS SCHOOL MANNERS & Books for grieving

teacherDear Miss School Manners:
My mom and I were talking about my grandpa, who passed away when I was like 18. It was a light chat about how great he was, etc., when my kindergartner, Sofia, chimes in, “Does everybody die?” Without thinking or hesitating, I said yes, but she didn’t have to worry because it would be a long time till we left, and that’s why it’s important that we eat right and exercise and take care of ourselves, etc. Since then, she’s still asking questions. She’s a bit worried and as she put it, “It makes me sad.”
Eek. Now what? I looked at Barnes & Noble this weekend, but no book was quite right.
Signed, Anxious in Antioch

Dear A in A: Sounds like you handled that so well! But your daughter’s worries are a natural thing and you’re on the right track with the book idea. Stories can be very comforting, says Pleasanton child psychologist Jacqueline Golding, because they show children they’re not alone in their feelings…
(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)

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Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots, Kids & Tweens, Miss School Manners | No Comments »

Chair-throwing teacher honored in Japan

FightJust when you think you’ve heard it all comes the tale of a Japanese high school teacher whose school board dubbed him “Super Teacher” – which we’re guessing is akin to our “Teacher of the Year” – for the third year in a row, even though he’s been repeatedly reprimanded for physically attacking students. In one instance, he threw a chair at his volleyball team. Ahem. Apparently his teaching methods have resulted in improved student performance, i.e., higher test scores, and the guy’s considered a “role model.” We’re wondering just what role that would be. Rambo?

The Kyoto teacher went on medical leave after the latest accusation of physical aggression and attacks on students. Reuters reports that he resigned Friday, and that the next day his latest Super Teacher honors were announced. Incredibly, this is all going down just as some Japanese politicians are calling for stricter classroom discipline and more severe punishments in order to boost student achievement.

Jackie Burrell

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2007
Under: Just Bizarre | No Comments »

Preschoolers face academic pressure

preschoolSunday’s Times story, “From ABCs to Ph.Ds, Preschoolers Face Academic Pressures,” is eliciting a great deal of reader comment. Being a preschooler is tough these days, particularly in communities with high-achieving schools and Ivy League aspirations, and in a state whose politicians are eyeing future test scores with alarm. Reader Donna Sneeringer is concerned on two fronts:

“First, as a mother of a 22 month old daughter, I fear that she and her peers, who are so energetic and curious will have the joy of learning taken from them before they even start first grade. The pressure to ‘perform’ academically is intensifying and we all need to remember that our youngest children deserve the opportunity to play, be joyful and learn to love learning by being curious about the world around them …

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Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots | No Comments »

Parent talks & college fairs

MentorThe hills – and school auditoriums – are alive with the sounds of advice these days as a new season of parent ed talks gets underway. Up first, a trio of talks for college-bound teens and their parents:

“Princeton Review: Getting Into College Seminar”
Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Lafayette Bookstore, free.

College Fair
Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. Meet reps from 75 colleges at Dougherty Valley High, San Ramon.

“The Organized Student: Planning for Now and the Future”
Sept. 25 at 7 p.m., Acalanes High School Theater, Lafayette
Speaker: educational consultant and author Donna Goldberg, free, sponsored by Acalanes Adult Ed

And another half dozen talks for parents of babies, tots, tweens and teens from now through Oct. 9…

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Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2007
Under: College Apps & Angst, Kids & Tweens, Parenting Issues, Schools, Teens | No Comments »

Five continents, 28 countries, 1 family

London bus
You think you’ve got the travel bug? Swing by REI in Concord on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. and you’ll hear the saga of the Higham family who ventured from the Alps to the Amazon – 52 weeks, 5 continents, 28 countries and one family with amazing stories to tell. The lecture is free, but if you get inspired to duplicate their journey …
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2007
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

Calling all stargazers!

starsRead all about Chabot’s Lunar Lounge and stargazing scene in tomorrow’s TimeOut section. Reporter Laura Casey gives readers the lowdown from a “cool place to take a date” perspective, but it’s a great outing for families with astronomy buffs too, and Chabot’s Lunar Lounge is popular with teens and adults. Then take a peek at this: an interactive map of favorite star-gazing spots. Click on the flags and up pops a little description – the Hercules Stargazers’ telescope fest, the Mt. Diablo Observatory, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall. Very cool, and you can add your own finds with a click of the mouse.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2007
Under: Family Outings, Kids & Tweens | No Comments »

Miss School Manners & tween book clubs

teacher Dear Miss School Manners: Last year, we read a Times story about a mother-daughter book group and now we’re inspired! But we can’t find the article on the Times web site, and it had tips on how to start a book club. Help! Signed, Martinez Mom

Dear MM: The Moraga high school seniors who started a book club back in fifth grade? We loved that story too. Kids and teens’ book clubs are undeniably hot these days. Many bookstores and libraries host book clubs for all ages, and there are a number of how-to books on the market, including American Girl’s just published “Book Club Kit.” But the secret to the Moraga mother-daughter club’s success was its structure…
(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)

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Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2007
Under: Kids & Tweens, Miss School Manners | No Comments »

FAB FIVE: Weekend outings with the kids

PirateThis weekend, Benicia throws open its museum doors to families with a penchant for history and ice cream. Plus we’ve got four more cool ways to fill those weekend days.

1) Benicia’s “Passport to Adventure” includes tours of the fire museum, Camel barn and state historic park, plus crafts, ice cream and wine tastings (for mom and dad) this Sunday.

2) Looking for baby gear? A trike or two? Check out the Iron Horse Mothers Club’s Baby & Toy Blow Out. This philanthropic flea market benefits US Foster Kids and it’s this Saturday, 8-2, at 9444 Olympia Fields Dr. in San Ramon.

3) Take your teens and tweens sailing with the Cal Sailing Club this Sunday.

4) Channel Things 1 and 2 at a Dr. Seuss Party at Studio 7 Fine Arts in Pleasanton Saturday.

5) Or – arrrr – check out the Brentwood Library’s Pirate Party. Rsvps required: 925-634-4101.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots, Fab Five, Family Outings, Kids & Tweens | No Comments »