high school

Your Thoughts: Do Kids Really Need Homework?

Written on August 28, 2012 at 9:02 am , by

When we (the editors of Family Circle) started kicking around the idea of a piece on homework, I grabbed the reins because it’s a huge issue in my household. To put it bluntly, after a full day of school, my 8-year-old son doesn’t want to do more work—and frankly, I’m not at all convinced he should have to. I mean, he hasn’t even reached a double-digit age yet. Shouldn’t seven hours of school cover it for younger kids academically?

Apparently not, as evidenced by his homework assignments in multiple subjects. This necessitates me having to suggest, ask, nudge, prod, and finally, flat-out demand that he do the work, which is a dynamic between us that I have come to loathe at the end of the day. (If he’s forgotten a book he needs, because of the crush to pack up quickly, that’s a whole other source of aggravation.)

Of course, absolutely and without exception, whether it is technically “assigned” or not, I would insist he spend time every day reading. I would think that would go without saying, but I will say it lest anyone be tempted to call me out on the reading issue. When I say “homework,” I’m referring to worksheets and similar tasks.

Anyway, I’m fascinated with the writings of educator Alfie Kohn, who makes a convincing case against after-hours assignments. In his piece in Family Circle‘s October issue, he writes:

Doing homework has no statistical relationship to achievement in elementary school. In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores, but it’s usually fairly small. And in any case, it’s far from clear that the former causes the latter. And if you’re wondering, not a single study has ever supported the folk wisdom that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits such as self-discipline, responsibility or independence.

Other educational experts obviously, and vocally, disagree. In my mind, the topic at least merits spirited debate, rather than just rote compliance.

So speak up! Tell us your stance on homework in the comments below.

Jonna Gallo Weppler is articles director at Family Circle magazine.

Prom Shopping for Teen Boys

Written on May 17, 2012 at 10:13 am , by

 

Guest blogger Marian Merritt, member of Family Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board, on her “prom mom” experiences.

If I were to say to you “prom” and “fashion,” you immediately think of dresses, long and short, sparkly and sleek. Did you even consider what the boys are wearing? Moms of boys deserve equal time here! As I’ve been worrying about what my daughter was going to wear to her prom, I completely ignored what her boyfriend was doing to figure his own clothing out. Before I discuss that, I have to think back to my own high school days and what the boys did back then for prom clothing.

At my Southern California high school, there was the usual assortment of groups and cliques, each identified by what they wore or how they styled themselves. Open up any of my yearbooks and you’ll see styles of clothing for boys and girls ranging from retro preppies (remember The Preppy Handbook?) and 50’s rockabilly styles to surfers and punks. It was a pretty fertile playground for fashion experimentation and embarrassing yearbook photos.

Influenced perhaps by their parents, many of whom were employed in the entertainment industry, the boys at my school were willing to experiment with clothing and hairstyles. Many of us followed the fashion we were seeing on TV and in local clubs: Farrah-feathered hair styled with mousse and gel, lace and leather, black eyeliner or pukka shell necklaces. Camp Beverly Hills t-shirts and tight, high-waist jeans.

When prom rolled around, most people seemed to conform what they wore to evening attire standards. As I recall, the nightmare for most girls was if their boyfriend chose a colored tuxedo or (shudder) the dreaded tuxedo shirt with a ruffled front. If anyone’s date showed up with “interesting” shoes like Vans surfer shoes or a flamboyant bowtie, I don’t recall any fuss. My own date played it safe in his father’s tuxedo with a plain front white shirt but he jazzed it up with an old top hat he’d found but was too shy to wear in any of the photos.

My daughter’s boyfriend styles himself a “hipster” in his everyday life: skinny jeans, funky hats and indie music tastes.  So I have to admit, I’ve been pretty curious if he’s spending any time putting his prom look together or is he going to play it safe with a standard black and white tux. M. told me he wanted to match his tie to her dress and when we dropped the dress off to be hemmed, we snipped a small bit of fabric to give him.  I asked his mom to give me a peek at what’s going on in their household:

It is now about 20 days until prom and M’s date S., who also happens to be her boyfriend of several months, has yet to take the first step to obtain his tuxedo. Well that’s not 100 percent correct: S. has summarily rejected his dad’s suggestion that he borrow the old tux that dad last wore to a wedding in 1991. Instead S. plans to go with his mom to a tuxedo rental shop sometime this week (or next). He hopes that they will still have some cool tuxedos in his size because he is slim. He does not want to wear a vest, but S. is most excited about the tie. In fact, S. has posed the question, “What do you think of a bow tie, mom?” S. believes that this may be one of the few occasions in his life that a bow tie may be an option. The tie is also important to S. because he hopes to color coordinate it and his handkerchief with M.’s dress. Then, there are the shoes and the socks. S. doesn’t want patent leather shoes, and he plans to wear his own hipster socks with hot pink heels. S. is pretty fashion conscious and yet he’s not sweating it because there are not too many choices for the young man going to prom. The biggest choice is the gal he asks and S. has got that covered.  He is very, very happy with his date. Oh one more thing, S is thinking about the corsage and boutonniere. He plans to go to the flower store soon, too.

Boys have many prom style options if they are willing to go out on a limb. From colored tuxedos (though I’m not a fan, personally) to varying the cut of the jacket (single breasted, double breasted, shawl-collared, etc.) to patterned or colored cummerbund, bowtie and pocket square, there are numerous ways a boy can corral a complete look that is true to their personality. Yes, there is pressure for the couple to achieve a “look.” It’s also possible the whole effort can go terribly wrong and condemn their prom night photos to the “Can you believe we wore this??” web pages of their future. No wonder so many kids decide to play it safe, get the standard black tux and just mess around with accessories that don’t cost much and can even be removed as the evening progresses.

Marian Merritt is a mother of three (two teens and a tween) and works for security company Norton by Symantec. You can read her internet safety blog at www.norton.com/askmarian. She serves on Family  Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board and has written the award-winning Norton Family Online Safety Guide, now in its third edition.

Teens Stand Up Against Bullying

Written on January 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm , by

Guest blogger Shawn Edgington on the NO BULL Challenge.

“Mom, I can’t go back to school, they want to kill me!” These are the words every parent fears, and hopes never to hear.  As the mother of a teenage girl who received death threats by text and on her Facebook page, I know first-hand how difficult it is when cyberbullies target your child.  I also know how critical it is for parents and educators to take the right steps before a cyberbullying situation goes viral.

It’s difficult to know when to act, because more than 80% of the time, adults don’t really know what’s happening within a child’s online world.  That said, what is a parent or an educator to do if they aren’t aware when a child really needs help?  Teens are falling witness to cyberbullying incidents every day, and in most cases, make the decision to remain silent about what they see or read.

The important questions to ask yourself are:  Does your constantly connected teen know when to take a “friend’s” dark or desperate status update as a serious cry for help?  Can your teenager recognize a potentially unhealthy or dangerous post when they see one?  The unfortunate truth is, most of the time we are left to rely on another child’s online friends to intervene by getting help on their behalf, which isn’t happening enough.  This is why every teen needs to know what to watch out for, how to stand up for their peers, when to report and who to go to for help before it’s too late.

What can parents and educators do to empower teens to stand up and help their fellow students in need?  Have them take The Great American NO BULL Challenge, the largest student-led campaign to fight bullying and cyberbullying in America. The annual campaign inspires America’s 25 million teens to learn how to eliminate bullying from their lives by creating a video with an anti-bullying message.  Students and educators are provided all of the information they need to know about making a video, cyberbullying basics, standing up, prevention, and intervention tips via the online NO BULL Cyberbullying 411 toolkits. View one of the NO BULL teen created videos submitted at: http://nobull.votigo.com/contests/showentry/1016336

The NO BULL Challenge gives teenagers the chance to compete for $25,000 in prizes and the opportunity to have their winning videos introduced to the world at the star-studded NO BULL Teen Video Awards show in San Francisco, promoted by Live Nation.  At the Teen Video Awards gala, students will watch artists perform live and meet their favorite celebrities on the red carpet. The spotlight will shine on the student-made films pertaining to NO BULL, offer students the chance to win thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes, and have their video presented center stage for the world to witness.

The Great American NO BULL Challenge is a massive collaboration between iSafe, National Organizations for Youth Safety, FCCLA, Dr. Mehmet Oz’s HealthCorps, teenDailyStrength, 4-H, Students Against Destructive Decisions, The Anti-Defamation League, Business Professionals of America, Project Change, American School Counselor Association, The California Endowment and Health Happens Here, iKeepSafe.org, The Megan Meier Foundation, National Collaboration for Youth, The Bully Police Squad, Communities in Schools, and The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Formspring, among others.

Now through March 14th, students in the 6th through 12th grade can submit their video at www.nobullchallenge.org and at www.facebook.com/NOBULLChallenge.

There is one thing that I know for sure; if we can educate and inspire America’s teens on how to stand up for what is right and say “NO BULL!” to all of the online mayhem, we will be steps ahead on the war against cyberbullying.

–SHAWN EDGINGTON

Shawn Edgington is the Founder and President of the Great American NO BULL Challenge and the bestselling author of The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media:  Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital World. Shawn is also the CEO of a national insurance firm in California where she lives with her family.

 

Ask Rosalind: How can I help my son with Asperger’s who just started high school?

Written on October 17, 2011 at 10:00 am , by

Smart ways to help your tweens & teens navigate the real world by Rosalind Wiseman

Q: I’m worried about my 15-year-old, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and just started high school. He is bright and high functioning but has trouble socially and is very small for his age.

 

A: I totally get your concern. Navigating the complex world of high school social dynamics is hard enough, but kids with Asperger’s have even more difficulty reading others’ social cues. On top of that, they can be so concrete-thinking and honest that they may not pick up on people making fun of them. All this makes them especially vulnerable to being mocked or bullied. On the positive side, a lot of Asperger’s students I know want friends—they’re just not as concerned about fitting in or keeping up with the latest trends. So it’s crucial that your son learn three things: social skills, like not interrupting or constantly sharing stories about himself; communication tools, so he can speak to others about his Asperger’s (being honest and direct works well for my students); and strategic plan development, in case someone is cruel (this will help him reach out to teachers or counselors at school).

Read more Ask Rosalind.

– ROSALIND WISEMAN

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book Queen Bees and Wannabes inspired the hit movie Mean Girls. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com.