What Was Miley Cyrus Thinking?

Good question. Perhaps she intended for her performance at the 2013 VMAs to be edgy and artistic. Maybe she was trying to break away from her wholesome Hannah Montana image. Maybe she just couldn’t control her excitement about being relevant again. Or maybe she knew exactly what she was doing and she is smarter than we all thought. Without her sexually charged, sloppy, and (forgive the term) trashy “dance moves,” she would be slipping further into obscurity. But we’re talking about her more than Syria.

As a mom, my mind goes straight to how my kids would interpret the performance if they had seen it. My son knows that Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines is currently my favorite song, and I don’t want the image of Miley twerking up against him when he hears the song. By the way, did you know the word twerking is in the Oxford Dictionary? My daughter would probably do her sassy dance and mimic Miley, which would give us scary visions of the future (please, no!).

Srsly though, what do we do about the influence of sexy young pop stars? I don’t think it’s Miley’s responsibility to remain a wholesome role model for future generations. And she’s not the first or last to shock us. Our long term plan for keeping our kids safe and responsible is an authoritative parenting style, in which we place limits on their behavior, but also respect and encourage their opinions and keep them communicating with us. As the kids get older, I know it gets harder to keep communication lines open, so it probably will be harder than it sounds. We plan to continue to have age-appropriate conversations about pop culture, including Tween stars, and how we expect our kids conduct themselves. Hopefully, something will sink in.

How do you address the influence of pop culture on your kids?

What Is a School Psychologist?

A school psychologist has earned a masters or doctoral degree and is certified and/or licensed by the state. The school psychologist has completed internships in school or clinical settings and may practice in a school, hospital, clinic, or private practice, with the appropriate credentials. Training in school psychology includes intelligence testing and learning disability identification, research design and statistics, therapeutic techniques, and special education law and procedures.

The school psychologist is different from the school counselor or guidance counselor in their training and role. Like the school psychologist, the guidance counselor helps students succeed academically and socially by meeting with them for counseling; but, they refer students with serious psychological, emotional, or intellectual problems to the psychologist. The guidance counselor also gives advice and is in charge of course selection, internships, post-secondary vocation, and college applications.

All students who are classified as requiring the services of special education, whether due to a physical, intellectual, or emotional disability, will be served by the psychologist. The school psychologist is always a member and often the chairperson of the Committee on Special Education, the team of individuals who create, maintain, and implement the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of every student in special education.

Check out the National Association of School Psychologists for more info.

Happy birthday to me!

I had the perfect 34th birthday. Went shopping with my kids and my mom. Then had my favorite Chinese takeout from Orchid restaurant and a cake from Walls bakery with my family. For our birthdays, my son likes to get us items that he can play with too…smart kid. So, he got me a Lego set and Karate Barbie. We played “Transformers” and my new Barbie helped my son’s Autobots kick some Predacon butt. Check out the video; it’s full of lovely sound effects provided by my husband and son.

My Closet Is a Sea of Navy

I used to be really fashiony. In fact, I wanted to be a fashion designer as a kid, drawing modern outfits and wedding dresses and collecting Vogue magazine. Then I thought I wanted to be an architect or interior designer because I loved studying floor plans and imagining my dream house. Just before entering college, I decided I had more interest in psychology and less talent in the design field, and the rest is history. Apparently, my sense of style is history too. Then motherhood chased away any glamor I had left.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating. I still love fashion, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed as I try to be stylish on a budget. Even without a budget, I just don’t see the sense in spending too much money on clothes and accessories, especially now that I have two extra people to clothe (my kids)! I know, that’s so anti-feminine.

To stay on budget, I try to follow two rules when I go shopping:

  1. Don’t buy anything retail. If it’s not on sale or I don’t have a coupon, I don’t buy it. I don’t think I should pay twice as much for something that cost half as much to produce. I have pretty good will power that way.
  2. Only buy what you love or absolutely need. So, for example, I might break rule #1 if I desperately need a little black dress and I find one that looks great on me. On the contrary, I might see something that’s a great deal, but I try my best not to buy it if I don’t really love it or need it. I test this rule on Zulily.com all the time. Sure, everything’s a great deal, but I have to stop myself and ask, “Does my son really need another superhero t-shirt, even if it’s only $9.99?”

The trouble with following these rules is that I don’t take risks with my wardrobe., because I’m always second guessing a purchase. When I ask myself, do I really love it, it’s highly likely that I will buy something navy blue, fuchsia, or preppy, so my closet is a sea of preppy clothes in navy or fuchsia.

IMG_2224

Even my bags are navy, fuschia, or navy and fuschia!

IMG_2226

So, I’m on a little quest to find frugal fashion…let me be blunt, cheap fashion.

Should I follow my rules, or do I need more style in my closet?

Stay tuned to see how it goes!

What are the Common Core State Standards?

Common_Core_State_Standards_logo

You may have heard the phrase Common Core in regards to your school district’s curriculum. Here are the basics that are relevant to parents of children in American public and many private schools.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of educational expectations for all American students to meet at each grade level (K-12). Before the CCSS, educational curriculum was left up to each state, so standards varied from state to state. Now, 46 states are implementing the CCSS. They are goals for learning that are commensurate with other top-performing nations and focus instruction on the skills and content predicted to prepare students for college and career. The subjects included are English Language Arts and Mathematics and focus on understanding more than memorization. They are  designed to be clear and concise so that teachers, parents, and students know what is expected.

Ideally, the CCSS will foster equity in the level of core instruction every student receives regardless of where he or she lives. In addition, it should enable collaboration between states on tools and policies (e.g., textbooks, assessment systems, teacher training).

Critics assert that the CCSS imposes too much federal governmental control over education. However, the CCSS were not developed by the federal government.  “States across the country collaborated with teachers, researchers, and leading experts to design and develop the CCSS.” –corestandards.org

Another criticism of the CCSS is that it will perpetuate the high stakes testing movement and teachers being compelled to “teach to the test.” Currently, data collection is not required in order to implement the CCSS. Assessment is left up to the state. However, assessments based on the CCSS are being developed and will be available for the 2014-15 school year. In the meantime, schools will continue to administer state assessments as they begin to implement the CCSS.

The National PTA has posted a Parents’ Guide to Student Success with grade-specific information, activities, and tips.

Do you think the Common Core State Standards initiative is good for education in America? What are your thoughts on how it will affect your kids?

“The Digital Mom Handbook” Helps a Beginner Blogger

The Digital Mom Handbook
The Digital Mom Handbook

I sent away for The Digital Mom Handbook by Colleen Padilla and Audrey McClelland because I’ve been following Audrey for a while now and thought I would learn some important basics about getting into the  Mom Bloggers’ “club,” as I see it, toward which I still feel I am an outsider looking in. I got more than I bargained for…in a good way.

Immediately, I have connected to their advice regarding the purpose and reason for blogging. They ask, “What is your passion?” How often did we hear this as we came of age and chose our professions? In reality, many of us followed a certain path due to chance, circumstance, or financial incentive, not our passion.

I was lucky to follow my passion for several years, first in the workplace, then studying for my doctorate in psychology, and finally in the workplace again.  However, the arrival of my children complicated things.  I had a new passion, and it competed with my work. When I worked full time, I was 100% in. Despite working in schools with great hours and vacation time, like many people working in education, I came early, stayed late, worked at home and on vacation, and took on more than my job description dictated. Compartmentalizing isn’t one of my strong points. When I came home, I had little energy to take them to the park, cook their dinner, potty-train, discipline, help with homework, bathe them and put them to bed. I often felt that, while others seem to be able to do it well, I found it so hard to “have it all.”

This is why I started the SchoolPsychMom.com. Currently, I work part-time and work on my blog when I can. The prospect of making money on this blog is enticing, and The Digital Mom Handbook offers a lot of great advice toward that end. But, for now, I’m following the authors’ advice to find my passion and write about it. I feel the same enthusiasm I felt when I worked with students, parents and teachers as a school psychologist, but the schedule works a lot better for me. I’d be proud to know my blog is resourceful to someone seeking information about mom-relevant topics. If more comes of it, it’ll be the icing on the cake.

Have any words of wisdom or encouragement for a new blogger?

Review: Leap Frog Videos

Math Circus, Letter Factory, Math Adventure to the Moon, Word Caper
Math Circus, Letter Factory, Math Adventure to the Moon, Word Caper

I know TV time should be kept at a minimum, and it is recommended for children under 2 to refrain from watching TV at all. Mommy Confession: My kids watch TV.  I try to keep a TV clock in my head and not let viewing time go over 2 hours for the day. To keep the Mommy guilt at a minimum, I make sure the shows they watch are somehow educational. Often TV time is during Mommy’s shower time or cooking time and I honestly don’t know how else I would I do either task. The Leap Frog videos are my go-to for TV time.

I’ve been a fan of the Leap Frog videos since a friend recommended that I show them to my son about four years ago. He started watching the Letter Factory when he was a toddler, then we found Word Caper, Math Adventure to the Moon and Math Circus. Now my 18-month-old enjoys them too.

The best thing about these videos is that they are engaging; even my 5-year-old still likes to watch them. We meet Leap, Tad, and Lily, and follow them on their learning adventures. Kids learn phonics, word building, counting, patterns, addition and subtraction. The major perk is their educational value. I distinctly remember my son singing the Letter Factory song when he was my daughter’s age…”A says ‘ah,’ B says ‘buh,’ C says ‘kuh…'”

Each video lasts about 35 minutes. Letter Factory is recommended for ages 2-5 and the others are for ages 3-6. Like I said, we started Letter Factory before age 2. Each video retails at $14.98, but you can get them drastically reduced individually or in a set from Leap Frog or Amazon.  There are other Leap Frog videos of this kind. I’ll let you know if we try any new ones.

How much do you let your kids watch TV?

18 Month Old Not Talking

IMG_2172

I’ve been anticipating my daughter’s 18 month check-up, not because of the shots and tears, but for the developmental check list. Last time we were at the doctor, I said she wasn’t talking like her brother was at that age. She has about 15 words now. I was assured that it was classic for the second child; her brother does all the talking for her. This is absolutely true, she can’t possibly get a word in edgewise in this house. But now she’s 18 months old and it’s time for her to be speaking more for herself.

Here’s one of those times my training comes in handy, then goes right out the window. I know the developmental milestones she should be meeting, red flags that signal a problem, and where to find more information if I need it. But when I have a concern about my kids’ development, I can’t help but fluctuate between denial and irrational hysteria. That’s why I rely on my pediatrician and these check-ups. Our decision was that I would check in again in 3 months to see how much progress she has made. She should be picking up a new word a week, so we’re going to track her words and keep reading and talking to her.

Its important to identify a Speech-language delay as early as possible because early intervention is key and because speech delay may be a sign of a developmental disorder that needs to be addressed. The trouble is that children develop differently especially in the early years, so many “slow talkers” will catch up. Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine with certainty if a child is just a slow talker or a child with a speech-language delay. So, talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development.

Check out the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website for age guidelines.

Learn the signs of an autism spectrum disorder at Autism Speaks.

Starting Kindergarten

My “baby” is starting kindergarten in September and he’s a bit apprehensive. When we talk about it, he expresses his worry about the things that are unfamiliar to him. The bus, his new teacher, and his new classmates are things that seem to be on his mind. Commonly, a child’s anxiety about starting school has to do with uncertainty about what to expect. So, preparation is key if you want to set your kindergartner up for a good start. Here’s what I’ve learned as a school psychologist and as a mom.

Tips for Starting Kindergarten

  • Talk in a positive way about starting school. This rule should prevail all year long. When you say things like, “Ugh, I hate homework” or “Yuck, it’s almost time to go back to school,” you slowly strengthen the belief that learning is boring and painful, instead of fun and rewarding. So, focus on the things she likes, such as making new friends or playing games and sports.
  • Set up a time for your child to see inside his new school. Even better, tour the classroom and introduce him to the teacher.
  • Let her teacher know about your child’s apprehension about school. The teacher will be glad to have prior knowledge of her worries and may be able to ease her fears from Day 1.
  • Go shopping for school supplies with your child and try to find a couple of items he or she will be excited about, like a Superhero backpack, a personalized lunchbox, princess folders.
  • Help your child pick out a first day of school outfit he will be proud of. For example, if your child hates collared shirts (like mine does), compromise with a preppy t-shirt. Now’s not the time to fight that battle.
  • Practice reading and writing all summer. If he can’t do either on his own, DON’T put pressure on him to do so by the end of the summer. Instead, take baby steps. Insist he complete a task you know he can do once a day, like draw a picture after you have read him a book. Praise his hard work and build upon his successes with assignments of increasing difficulty.
  • Make play-dates now and when school starts. They may not become best friends, but the more familiar she can be with her classmates, the more invested she will be in attending class.
  • Be prepared parents! Check the deadlines and event dates and be on time for them. Don’t burden your child with the stress of missing the bus or misplacing important materials.
  • When you drop off your nervous child or get him on the bus, make your goodbyes short, sweet, and positive. Rather than following your child all the way to the classroom or indulging in “one more” tearful hug, give him one big hug, tell him it’s time to go with a smile, and get out of sight. If you give him and inch, he’ll take a mile!  Give him the slightest idea that you might stay or comfort him endlessly, and he will continue to be upset. Faculty at your school can be helpful, especially if forewarned, to help guide your child away from you and to the classroom and care for him until he gets more comfortable.
  • Set aside time every evening for your child to work with a caregiver to work on homework and reflect on her day. Start teaching good time management skills early.
  • Keep your own nerves in check. Your kindergartener will pick up on your anxiety, so speak positively about the new school year while creating excitement, not worry. Remember that most kids warm up to kindergarten within the first few weeks, so hang in there!

What’s your advice (or your worry) about you kids starting school?

Blue Lizard Sunscreen

Look at my pasty white kids!
Look at my pasty white kids!

My kids are lucky enough to have inherited an allergy to chemical sunscreens. We develop itchy bumps on sensitive areas of skin, like our inner arms, face, and behind the knees. Of course, I would prefer not to use chemicals on my skin or theirs anyway. However, I’d love to have the convenience of sheer and spray sunscreens, that commonly have a combination of the chemicals, oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. I have found that we don’t experience any reaction from sunscreens with purely mineral ingredients (i.e., zinc oxide and titanium dioxide). So, for the past few years I have searched and tried dozens of sunscreens and found a favorite, Blue Lizard Baby Sunscreen. See below for my 3 pros and 3 cons.

Blue Lizard Baby Sunscreen
Blue Lizard Baby Sunscreen

Pros:

  • Chemical Free
  • Relatively sheer and easy to apply
  • Bottle changes color in UV light

Cons:

  • More expensive than big brand chemical sunscreens
  • Thick formula (although relatively more sheer than other mineral sunscreens I’ve tried)
  • Not available in spray (although this is true for all mineral sunscreens)