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Articles and expert advice to help you guide your child to educational success.
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Infographic: Child Portion Control

March 20, 2014

Child Portion Control InfographicChild portion control infographic

Illustration by Leah VanWhy; Written by Jessica Vician

Liberal Arts: A Valuable Degree

March 19, 2014

By Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

"The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many fact, but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks." Albert Einstein

As college and university tuitions go higher and higher, parents and their children worry about getting their money’s worth from these schools. Even more stressful is that many high school graduates don’t have a career goal yet. Rather than pushing your child into a major that may not be his or her strength, consider liberal arts.

Is a liberal arts education right for your child? In order to answer that question, we should first talk about what the liberal arts are. They include English, math, the sciences (physical, biological, social), history and civilization, humanities, the arts (art, music, and theatre), languages, and similar fields of learning.

Most major colleges and universities require all freshmen to take and pass a series of courses– mostly liberal arts disciplines– as a foundation or core. If students approach these courses seriously, they will provide a solid grounding for any of the professional, job-oriented programs.

Students develop a number of valuable skills in the liberal arts. These skills can be applied in work of all sorts. These skills include:

  • Knowing how to think in a coherent and relevant manner.
  • Acquiring a broad knowledge base that reaches around the globe, through the past centuries, and across many disciplines.
  • Learning to integrate that diversified knowledge to solve problems, create new ideas, and advance the goals of businesses, government, and other institutions.
  • Being able to communicate effectively and gracefully in writing, speaking, and through social and public media.
  • Being equipped to think critically and independently and to make sound judgments.
  • Developing a global perspective through a mastery of foreign languages and cultures.

Employers are looking for people with these skills. The Association of American Colleges and Universities conducted a recent national survey regarding what employers are looking for in college graduates. Nearly all those surveyed said, “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”

It sounds like they are looking for liberal arts graduates. This study finding further demonstrates the need for liberal arts graduates: 90 percent want to hire people with ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for new learning.

After all, one third of the Fortune 500 CEO’s have liberal arts degrees. Liberal arts graduates are equipped to go in many directions; they are flexible and agile, quick to learn and creative. Not surprisingly, many start up their own businesses.

As President of Oregon State University Dr. Edward J. Ray declared, “…in today’s world of changing demographics, 24/7 news cycles, and a global marketplace, the liberal arts are critical to success in every economic sector. There can be no doubt that they play an essential part in providing a foundation for learning in every professional field.”


My Story: Choosing a Daycare

March 18, 2014

By Ana Vela

Ana's sonogram

My husband and I live 1200 miles away from our families, work full-time jobs, and are expecting our first child. I never imagined that I wouldn’t have family nearby to help us raise our child. Growing up, my mother raised my siblings and I herself. As a grandmother, she has helped raise my two nieces. Naturally, I had planned for her to help raise our child as well.

I thought this was only common where I grew up, but I was surprised to discover that the U.S. Census Bureau indicates 49 percent of children ages 0–4 with employed mothers were still cared for by a relative. Only 24 percent were in a center-based care facility. It is nice seeing how common it still is to have relatives help with childcare. Since that is not an option for us, we really didn’t know where to begin our search. Here’s what I learned from trying to figure this out.

Discuss what you’re looking for.
Before we started searching, my husband and I decided that we needed to be on the same page about what we want in childcare. We came up with a list of what we are looking for:

  • Budget-friendly childcare
  • English and Spanish language accommodations during care (it’s important for us to promote bilingualism with our child)
  • Convenience and flexibility (hours, location, emergency plan)
  • A welcoming, diverse, friendly, and safe environment

Start researching ASAP. 
I quickly discovered that some childcare facilities have waiting lists now for care that starts in July! Start your search six months prior to needing the care. Ask other parents for recommendations either in person or in online forums, read online reviews, and drive around to find nearby locations.

Look at available resources. 
I discovered that many states have nonprofit organizations that provide online lists of quality childcare resources and referrals in your area. Many of the lists include information such as accreditations, ratings, and years of service. If your employer offers any kind of benefits for childcare, talk to them for information. My husband’s company hosted a childcare fair where he met with several daycare centers to ask questions and get rates.

Understand care options. 
Through research, we discovered there were several options for childcare (listed in order from least to most expensive):

  • At-home daycare
  • Off-site daycare facilities
  • Au pair or nanny services (an au pair is a foreign visitor who lives with you and provides childcare)

Know your budget and stick to it. 
Some employers offer benefits such as flexible spending accounts for childcare, matching contributions, discounts, and priority placement on waitlists at certain daycares. This information helped my husband and I set a budget for childcare. We want to choose care that’s within our budget to ensure we are not stressed over finances and that we have a safety cushion for emergencies.

Visit the options. 
I learned that many sites allow one free day of care for your evaluation. Take advantage and schedule tours to ask questions. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Are you accredited by NAEYC?
  • Do you accommodate cloth diapers or only disposable?
  • How do I provide breast milk for my child?
  • What is the child-to-teacher ratio?

Choosing childcare is a big decision and we are very nervous about it. We still have several visits to make before we make a final decision, but as long as we stay true to our list of needs and wants, we are confident we will make the right choice.


Parenting Doesn’t Stop at the Classroom Door: Parental Engagement at School

March 17, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

A parent chaperones a child at the zoo.

From the day children are born, all the way through high school, 92 percent of their time is spent at home. Only eight percent of their time will be spent at school. Go ahead and do the math: 13 years of school from kindergarten through 12th grade, 170 days of school each year on average, 6 hours of school each school day. When compared with 365 days in a year and 24 hours in a day, you can see just how small a portion of our children’s lives is spent at school.

What we do as parents is vital to the kinds of people our children grow into and how much success our children will have, both in school and in life. We have to be involved. We are the only ones with enough opportunity to be a strong, consistent influence in our children’s lives. It is up to each of us to make sure our children’s needs are met, but that doesn’t mean that schools don’t play their own role. Schools and educators all share the same goals for your children that you have: each of you wants your child to succeed. Make it a priority to work with the school to be involved and engaged.

Visit the school.
Don’t wait for an invitation-- just go. You can even plan to visit when teachers or staff aren’t expecting you so you can see how the school regularly works. Remember not to disrupt students during the school day, though. Make sure dropping by is allowed at your school by checking with the school office first.

Volunteer at the school.
It doesn’t even have to be in your child’s classroom. Ask the teacher or the principal where they could most use your help.

Join councils and committees.
Get involved in the decision-making and let your voice be heard. Even though children only spend eight percent of their time in the classroom, if you are involved in that part of their lives as well, the values and skills you promote at home are more likely to be present in school as well.

Chaperone field trips.
Take time to spend the day with your child and learn new things together.

Stay for the game.
Don’t just drop your child off at sports practice or a game. Watch him or her play and interact with others. You will learn about his or her strengths.

The extent of your involvement with your child’s school life will always depend on what fits into your schedule and what makes sense for you and your family. Making an effort, no matter how small, shows your child that you care about his or her education, that you believe education is valuable, and that you believe he or she should value it as well.


National Poison Prevention Week

March 17, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Did you know that 50 percent of all poison exposures happen to children under age six? Most poisonings occur from ingesting products that you probably have sitting around at home.

This week is National Poison Prevention Week, which is the perfect time to go through your home and poison-proof it. If you have young children or pets, get on your knees and look around your house. Where are your cleaning supplies and medications? If you can see them or the cabinets they’re in when you’re kneeling at your child or pet’s height, make sure those cabinets are locked and the products are behind the cabinet door.

Poisoning doesn’t just affect young kids, though. If you have any prescription medications, such as pain or sleeping pills, don’t share them with your teenagers and college-aged children. Each dosage for medication—even a prescription-based ibuprofen—is carefully prescribed for you and your condition. Sharing them with anyone else could potentially be deadly.

Click through to this infographic on important statistics and information on poisoning from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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