Hit the Road! Vacationing with Kids

As summer approaches, thoughts turn to family vacations. We at GCP love hitting the road with the kids, and have been doing so since they were tiny tots. Family vacations can provide some of the best times of your life. Whether it is a road trip of a few hours or a journey to another part of the world, introducing your children to different places and cultures at an early age helps hone their powers of observation and understanding, and gives them great memories of family fun.

Here are a few tips culled from a variety of sources (including our own GCP wisdom) to help make your family vacations into fun adventures:

1. Start with a Positive Attitude: Some parents refuse to consider taking their little ones on the road for fear that the children will be terrible travelers. One of the best ways to avoid this fear is to start traveling with them early, so that they grow up understanding how to behave on the road. Sure, you will have to plan long trips carefully and bring lots of fun activities to distract them on a lengthy trip. But be sure to believe in your children’s ability to be good travelers!!

2. Keep Them Busy On the Road: Bring lots of fun things on the road: books, toys, stickers, educational games, portable DVD and game players, books on tape, and music CDs to sing along with. Make age appropriate activity travel bags for each child. Be sure to include a few surprises in the bag. Save the bag for when the first signs of fidgeting appear.

3. Leave the Special Toy at Home: Rather than take the favorite bunny or lambie on the road, better to buy a special friend for the trip a few weeks before. Nothing threatens to spoil a trip more than discovering that Bunny didn’t make it out of the last hotel.

4. Bring the Medicine Cabinet: Be prepared for any emergency, big or small. Make a trip to the local drugstore and load up on everything you could possibly need for everything from a minor boo-boo to a major head or tummy upset. Here’s an unusual but useful tip: stick a packet of ground coffee in your bag. If the little one happens to throw up in an enclosed space (on the plane, in a car), coffee grounds mask the smell pretty quickly.

5. Plan Realistic and Flexible Days: Don’t try to fill every waking hour of a trip with activity, even if it is child friendly activity. Children tend to tire easily on the road, so take your cues on the length of the day from them. Maybe you won’t be able to hit every spot of interest in every port of call, but better to have a shorter day than have to drag a cranky little one around. And be prepared to make stops that your children request that you might not have included in the original itinerary. In the early days we visited more wax museums than I could ever have imagined (or wanted to imagine). But we had a blast, and still talk about those museums, so many years later!

You can take your sons and daughters on the road and have a great time! Start planning now.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Entertainment, Holidays, Parents, Resources

New Report: Time to Focus on Reading

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Common Sense Media has recently issued a report on children, teens and reading. While the report found here has some good news about children and reading, some of its findings relating to boys of color are particularly troubling.

First, the good news: Reading is still a big part of many children’s lives. Young children read or are read to for an average of between 30 -60 minutes daily, and 50 percent of parents with children under 12 read with their children every day. 60 percent of children 8 and under read daily. (Where do you and your children fall with respect to these statistics?) Reading scores among children and young teens have improved steadily between 1971 and 2012.

Now the not-so-good news: There continues to be a persistent and significant reading achievement gap between white children and Black and Hispanic children. Only 18 percent of black and 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders are rated as “proficient” in reading, while 46 percent of white fourth graders earn this rating. Even more troubling is the fact that the size of this reading achievement gap has been largely unchanged over the past two decades. And there’s more bad news: There is also a gender gap in reading time and achievement, as girls read for pleasure for an average of 10 minutes more per day than boys. This gender gap persists as the children get older, and has remained statistically the same over the past 20 years.

What Can Parents Do? Common Sense Media’s report suggests that there are specific things that parents can do in order to increase their children’s reading frequency: They can keep print books in their home, spend time reading themselves, and set aside time daily for their children to read.

How do you encourage your son to read? GCP wants to know!!!

childreading

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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Books

Thoughtful Thursday: Lorraine Hansberry

Saw “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway this week. If you are in the New York City area between now and June 15th, by all means go and see it. Even if you have seen the play many times before, this production and cast is well worth seeing. Standout acting in a production that feels as if it could be happening in present day rather than in the post World War II era in which it was set.

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday pays tribute to A Raisin in the Sun and its playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Lorraine Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. She finished A Raisin in the Sun in 1957 and it had its Broadway debut on March 11, 1959, becoming the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. Hansberry won a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for the play in 1959, and was the first Black playwright and the youngest American to do so. Throughout her life she was heavily involved in civil rights. She died at 34 of pancreatic cancer.

Below are several Hansberry quotes, most of them from A Raisin in the Sun. Could not resist ending with the Langston Hughes poem which gave the play its title. Enjoy.

Lorraine Hansberry Quotes

“The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.”

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”

“There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing… Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning — because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ’cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

“Seems like God don’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams — but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile.”

“I want to fly! I want to touch the sun!” “Finish your eggs first.”

Harlem

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

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Tell Your Sons: Tech It Off — October 10th, 8-9pm

Diane Primo, founder and chairman of marketing company IntraLink Global and mother of three (a daughter and two sons), challenges us all to help our children thrive by encouraging them to Tech It Off–turn off all devices–for one hour, on October 10th, 2014, from 8-9pm.

Primo is greatly concerned that our children, our beloved Millennials, who
are consuming media for 18 hours a day, are stuck in a high-stress, constantly plugged-in, sleep and time-deprived culture. She worries that their addiction to their devices will limit their effectiveness, productivity, and growth, and may well ultimately block their ability to truly thrive.

Inspired by Arianna Huffington’s new book “Thrive”, which explains how we need to expand the definition of success beyond monetary or material measures to include empathy, compassion and caring, Primo wants us all to consider how we can help our technology-obsessed children understand the importance of having uninterrupted think-time, getting enough sleep, and caring about others. When will they have time to focus on these important values if they are plugged in and preoccupied for all of their waking hours?

Primo’s suggestion: Tech It Off. Devote one hour on a specific day, worldwide, to going tech-free. She wants us all to Tech It Off on October 10, 2014, from 8-9pm in every time zone. She acknowledges that asking our children to de-tech for just one hour is a baby step, but notes “Baby steps start the conversation”. If we start with this one hour, and help our children understand that stepping away from their devices for periods of time will help reduce their stress and restore balance to their lives, she believes, “this simple act can start to change their lives, and ours, for the better”.

Read Diane Primo’s challenge to Tech It Off in full here. We at GCP are big fans of this idea. What do you think? Can you, will you, encourage your sons and daughters to Tech it Off on October 10th, 2014??

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, Entertainment, Resources

Quick Study Tips for Tests

As finals and other year end tests approach, pass on to your sons these tips for effective studying:

Find a Good Study Spot: Identify a place in your home which will be the designated study spot for tests and quizzes. Make sure it is free from clutter and distraction, and is away from noise and activity.

Review the Main Concepts: Begin your overall study plan by reading through your notes and refreshing your memory on major concepts. This will make it easier to fill in the details later on.

Rephrase What You Know: Restate the main concepts in your own words as if you were teaching it to someone. Being able to clearly explain things ensures that you fully understand them.

Study Out Loud: Read your notes aloud and talk to yourself about them. When you hear yourself think, it is easier to figure out what you know well and what you need to study more.

Rewrite your notes: Make a study guide using your notes. The process of writing what you already know will help cement it into your brain. Organizing the information by subject and section helps keep the information organized in your memory. After you write the guide, continue to use it to study.

We’ll be passing on additional study tips over the next few weeks. Good luck to all our boys on their final exams!!!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Inspiration for Graduates

Graduation season is upon us! (We at GCP are especially excited about this, as one of our young’uns is graduating in a few weeks.) For this week’s Thoughtful Thursday offering, we are serving up a few quotes from commencement speeches to inspire us all. Enjoy.

“You have been tested and tempered by events that your parents and I never imagined we’d see when we sat where you sit … And yet, despite all this — or more likely because of it — yours has become a generation possessed with that most American of ideas: that people who love their country can change it for the better. I dare you to do better. I dare you to be better.” President Barack Obama

“Think hard, always think hard, but don’t worry too much about figuring out a precise strategy, a step-by-step plan. Instead cultivate a faith, a specific faith that, by and large, doing the best you possibly can at what you value doing will bring you the chances and opportunities you need.” Social Psychologist Claude M. Steele

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Former Apple Computer and Pixar Animation CEO Steve Jobs

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

“Every encounter and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you to be more of who you are… [F]igure out what is the next right move. The key to life is to develop an internal moral emotional GPS that can tell you which way to go. Oprah Winfrey

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Inspiration from the Sports World for our Sons

Some inspiration for our boys from the world of sports:

Princeton Renaissance Athlete:

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Caraun Reid, a December 2013 Princeton graduate, is a two time All American and an N.F.L. prospect who some predict could become Princeton’s highest draft pick in over 30 years. As reported in a recent New York Times article found here, Reid, a 305 pound defensive tackle who didn’t play organized football until his freshman year in high school, isn’t just a talented football player awaiting his fate in tomorrow’s draft. He is also a talented singer, who regularly performed with a Princeton a cappella group; a musician who had regular gigs with his jazz band (he plays guitar and drums); a gospel singer and an executive board member of the campus ministry program. Small wonder that one of his challenges as he headed into draft season was convincing scouts that he was sufficiently serious about football. But his stellar performance in a pass rushing academy and the Senior Bowl convinced them that he was N.F.L. material.

Reid’s parents, both immigrants from Jamaica, encouraged their son to maintain balance in his life by combining athletics with music, schoolwork and worship. His father, Courton Reid, explained, “We believe in that — we believe our children should be well-rounded. We’d say you never know what could be your niche.” Good advice for life, and refreshing to hear in a world where athletic boys are trained to be singularly focused on their sport from an early age. Hope things go well for him in tomorrow’s draft.

Kevin Durant, NBA M.V.P:

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Grab a box of tissues and your son and watch Durant’s speech as he accepts the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. Not only does he give a heartfelt personalized shout out to each of his teammates, he saves the highest praise for his mom, thanking her for the many sacrifices she made to raise him and his brother, and calling her “the real M.V.P.”. Great speech from a thoughtful young man with some good home training. You can watch the long-but-worth-it speech here.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Sports

Great Websites for Parents!

As we do from time to time, GCP has scouted the web and found some really interesting sites for you to check out:

The Educators’ Spin On It: Recently voted “Best on Pinterest” by Parents Magazine, this pinterest board (found here) and website (found here) are chock full of interesting and creative ideas for fun projects for parents and kids to do together. Two former elementary school teachers have pooled their experience as educators and moms to create these sites through which they pass along all sorts of creative ways to make “everyday moments into teachable opportunities”. At both sites you will find activities about reading, math, science, literacy, cooking, gardening, crafting, writing, and learning a second language for Ages 0 to 8. Lots of really great suggestions, just in time as you start to plan how to help your children avoid the “summer slide” away from active learning.

Speaking of the brain drain that summer break can bring on, here is your chance to hear more about it, and have your questions about it answered as well. On Thursday May 8th, 9pm EST, Educational Psychologist Michele Borba will participate in the first ever Parent Toolkit Twitter Chat, where she will answer your questions about how to help your children stay sharp over the summer. We wrote about the Parent Toolkit back in October 2013 (Education Nation: Parent’s Toolkit, October 3, 2013), a website that offers parents great resources to hep guide their children’s academic development. Here’s how the Parent’s Toolkit Twitter chat works: Send your questions to @EducationNation now using #ToolkitTalk and join them for the live conversation with Michele on May 8th where she will answer your questions and more. And be sure to check out the Parent’s Toolkit website here. Great and useful stuff!

Summer Reading 2014 Sites: Despite what you may be experiencing weather wise in your neck of the woods, Summer is approaching quickly, and along with Summer comes Summer Reading Programs!

Today Scholastic announced its 2014 Summer Reading Challenge. This is its annual effort to encourage reading globally. Head over to their Summer Reading Challenge website (found here) and read all about it. Children are encouraged to read every day, log their minutes into a global log, take weekly challenges and earn rewards, and help set a new reading world record. This year’s theme is “Reading Under the Stars”, and the home page features videos from astronauts (a diverse crew of astronauts, thank you Scholastic) talking about their work in space and encouraging kids to join the Summer Reading Challenge.

Does your teenager like to read the New York Times? Even if he doesn’t, would you want to encourage him to do so? The New York Times recently announced its Fifth Annual New York Times Summer Reading Contest. Every Friday from June 13 through Aug. 15 they will ask teenagers ages 13-19 the same question: What interested you most in The Times this week? Young readers are encouraged to pick any NYT article, essay, video, photograph published in 2014 and post their answer. Winning posts will be featured online the following Tuesdays. Check out the details of this contest here.

There is all sorts of good summer reading info on the 2014 Summer Reading at New York Libraries website, found here. Book lists, craft suggestions, and much more. Go to the Parent’s section here to find additional summer reading tips and materials.

Enjoy perusing all these great sites, and try to figure out how to incorporate some of their suggestions into your son’s summer!

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Thoughtful Thursday: May Day

Today, May 1st, is May Day. May Day celebrates the arrival of Spring, and in many parts of the world children dance around the maypole as part of the May Day commemoration. In many cultures, May Day, also known as International Worker’s Day or Labor Day, is also a day of celebrating work and workers.

This week’s Thoughtful Thursday offerings pay tribute to both celebrations of May Day. An excerpt from “May Day” by Ralph Waldo Emerson heralds the arrival of Spring, and Sara Teasdale’s “May Day” describes the wondrous new growth of the season. Two poems related to work and working round out our Thoughtful Thursday. “Always Finish” is a quick inspirational ditty we can encourage our sons to memorize, and Edgar Guest’s “Results and Roses” reminds us of the value of hard work. Enjoy.

Excerpt from May Day

Wreaths for the May! for happy Spring
To-day shall all her dowry bring,
The love of kind, the joy, the grace,
Hymen of element and race,
Knowing well to celebrate
With song and hue and star and state,
With tender light and youthful cheer,
The spousals of the new-born year.
Lo Love’s inundation poured
Over space and race abroad!

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1881)

May Day

A delicate fabric of bird song
Floats in the air,
The smell of wet wild earth
Is everywhere.
Red small leaves of the maple
Are clenched like a hand,
Like girls at their first communion
The pear trees stand.
Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The raindrop try with my lips,
The grass with my touch;
For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain?

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

ALWAYS FINISH

If a task is once begun,
Never leave it till it’s done.
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.

Anonymous

RESULTS AND ROSES

The man who wants a garden fair,
Or small or very big,
With flowers growing here and there,
Must bend his back and dig.

The things are mighty few on earth
That wishes can attain.
Whate’er we want of any worth
We’ve got to work to gain.

It matters not what goal you seek
Its secret here reposes:
You’ve got to dig from week to week
To get Results or Roses.

Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

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Boys and the Power of 8th Grade Grades

In a recent report on gender, economic mobility and college success, a team of Columbia and Ohio State University researchers have concluded that they have seen the future, and it doesn’t look good for boys.

In their paper, found here and reported in the NY Times here, they assert that eighth grade report cards tell the story: if an 8th grader gets A’s and B’s, that student will likely earn a college degree. If he or she gets B’s and C’s, he or she is much less likely to complete college. By the 8th grade, girls are already well outpacing the boys academically on a national basis, which the researchers believe explains why women have had much greater success than men in completing their college degrees.

The researchers’ rationale behind using 8th grades as predictors is that social and behavioral skills, which are key to academic success in college, are established by 8th grade. The gap in these skills between girls and boys starts in kindergarten and widens through 5th grade. The researchers believe this gap to be “considerably larger” than the gap between children from poor and middle class families and the gap between black and white children.

This study aligns with what we at GCP have been talking about for years now: it is very important that our sons get and stay focused academically at an early age, and we parents have to do all within our power to support and help them in this effort. For those of us with sons who bombed the 8th grade; do not despair, all is not lost. Boys can and do get it together in high school, but they need attention and focus to make sure they are making their best efforts. This is a wake up call for all of us to focus not only on our individual sons’ performance, but on what needs to be done with a national school system that produces such lopsided results.

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