Posted in Education, Family, Opinion, parenting, pop culture, Social Change, teaching, Uncategorized

Kindergarten is hard

“Kindergarten is the new first grade”- everyone in education ever

Kids are growing up faster these days.

When I was in kindergarten it was a half day. We had quiet time on our mats. I remember eating graham crackers with peanut butter. Letters were learned, numbers were counted, and we went home with paint on our hands.

I don’t remember tests. I don’t remember stress. I don’t really know if I had a “desk” per say.

“Five- and 6-year-old kids now spend hours in their seats doing academic work, often with little or  no recess or physical education, or  arts, music and science.  These kids are tested ad nauseam and expected to be able to do things by the time they leave kindergarten that some, perhaps even many, are not developmentally prepared to do” (source).

Since the early 2000’s kindergarten classes have been under attack to be more and more academically focused. More reading! More math! More STEM education! We need those computer engineers knowing what they’re doing early on! (Yes I realize the photo is not a kindergartner just stay with me here)

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But it’s not just quantitative data from a group of disgruntled moms, dads, or teachers. It’s actually a legit change in curriculum that has been studied since the 1990’s.  “The researchers compared kindergarten and first-grade classrooms between 1998 and 2010 and found that kindergarten classes had become increasingly like first grade” (source) Its not just the lengthening of the days and the increasing intensity of the subjects, its the lack of thought about their interest stimulation and the amount of testing (TESTING!) that kindergarten involves now.

“In 2010, 73 percent of kindergartners took some kind of standardized test. One-third took tests at least once a month. In 1998, they didn’t even ask kindergarten teachers that question. But the first-grade teachers in 1998 reported giving far fewer tests than the kindergarten teachers did in 2010” (source).

This is one reason I think the whole “play equals learning” movement has been thriving so much. Montessori schools, Tinkergartens, the interest in Swedish education systems, have all risen here in the U.S. because we don’t want our kids turning into intelligent zombies. This is also why a lot of people believe the diagnosis of ADHD, ADD, and other disorders has dramatically increased. I can’t say yes or no to that one, but I do feel that this sort of learning at such a young is detrimental to what is natural for a child.

One parent said “I’m worried that my son is going to hit a point where he doesn’t like learning in school because he thinks learning is humiliation and frustration, and discouragement and anger rather than curiosity and encouragement, and fun and discovery. I think that a lot of the policymakers don’t care. They think there are kids that are disposable” (source).

Children are curious by nature. Every child wants to learn when they are young. It’s exciting, and fun if you let it be.

“We saw notable drops in teachers saying they covered science topics like dinosaurs and outer space, which kids this age find really engaging,” says Bassok, the study’s lead author” (source). 

“The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. Daily art dropped from 27 to 11 percent” (source).

But why is this movement towards more strict lessons and academics for such young students still gaining momentum when so many people seem to be against it?

“Much of this is tied to the belief that academic performance should be the sole measure of school and teacher effectiveness” (source). 

That. Right there. “Effectiveness”. Qualitative data. Competitions. Seeing our students succeed “better” than other countries. Better then other states. Better than the county next to us. Better. Because more academics means higher test scores, which means your class is “better”. It’s kind of a sad premise. What about people skills? What about emotional learning? What about art skills? Music ability? Physical ability? What if your child is an amazing unicycle rider, is there nothing good to say about that? I couldn’t do it. I think it’s awesome.

What about soft skills? Things that you can’t teach an adult. Things that you learn as a child. Empathy, understanding, and all that hippy dippy stuff that makes you a decent member of society. You learn those things in kindergarten.

What about the argument that this rise in a more strict curriculum of math and language arts is only due to the fact that children are entering kindergarten more school ready? That this emphasis on early education is creating children who are already able to read and write at the age of five? I say fine. That’s great if kids are grasping these concepts early because they want to. I love early literacy initiatives when they are in a fun and open environment. But the structure and the testing doesn’t need to change in order to stimulate a child’s intellect. Centers, dramatic play, art, music; all these things still play crucial roles in their development and do not hinder them reading and writing.

So I’m just going to leave this here to wrap all this up. I love this little poem so much it was even read at my wedding. Maybe one day we can get back to it but for now, this has been a huge deciding factor for me to homeschool. I know not everyone can and I’m not trying to sway you to, but just keep in mind your kids are going through more after a day of kindergarten then we ever had to.

All I Really Need To Know
I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put thing back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

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Posted in Education, Social Change, Uncategorized

Finding hope for at risk students

Generally I try to keep my two jobs distant from each other just for the sake of not liking an “open concept” work life. However, we are doing a day of giving for the nonprofit I am the Executive Director of, Horizons Salisbury, May 16th 2018, and I feel compelled to shed some light on what that means exactly.

1. 132 students will not have Summer Learning Loss.

For those who do not know what summer learning loss is, it’s a phenomenon that has been studied since 1906. They found that during long breaks (be it summer, vacation, lapse in traditional instruction) students would actually regress in their education. Low-income students are generally more at risk for summer learning loss (or “the summer slide”) and year after year this will result in an achievement gap, putting them at a disadvantage to their peers. Programs like Horizons Salisbury is trying to close this gap through educational programming for these students.

2. 132 students will get the chance to swim, many still learning how to.

Swimming may not seem that important to everyone. However, there’s two major reasons why it is indeed crucial for our program. It’s a life saving skill. Again, low-income are more at risk for drowning. Why? Well for one, their access to swimming pools and instruction is limited, if available at all. Secondly, swimming is a skill that takes time and patience to develop. It’s harder for some children to learn it than it is others. But once they do (and they do learn to swim, it’s not just free time in the pool!) It’s a confidence builder the students take back to the classroom with them.

3. These at risk students will get “out of school time” education that generally is a privilege for students in higher socioeconomic households.

As stated in point one, without these initiaves our low-income students are automatically put at a disadvantage. We need to give them a fair chance at success in their academic careers.

4. These students will be one step closer to graduating high school.

Studies have shown, again and again, for the reasons mentioned above, that low-income students are more at risk for not graduating high school. Our goal is to get them to graduation to be college or career ready. In today’s competitive work force students need their diploma to have secure financial future to be able to end the cycle of poverty.

5. A small community like Salisbury, MD, will be stronger.

Even if you are reading this and you do not live in Salisbury, our community is probably very similar to yours. We have good points and bad. We’re not a huge city with ample opportunities for our students but were not small either. We consistently fall on the lower end of the scale when looking at the wealth in the state of Maryland. (Wicomico County)

Horizons Salisbury has dreams of expanding to all the shore but we need to keep the Wicomico County program strong first.

Our students are the future of our communities, and the more we support them and get them the education they deserve, the better we will all be as a whole.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions or concerns about the above information email me at Bglenn@horizonssalisbury.org. we appreciate your consideration in helping this cause and remember, no donation is too small to make a huge difference for at least one student.

If reading this after National Giving Day, you can support us anytime at http://www.horizonssalisbury.org

Posted in Family, Mother's Day, parenting, Social Change, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

“Oh Fudge”…only she didn’t say fudge

oh fudge

My daughter is…spirited. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, she’s spirited to the point I sometimes wonder just how she doesn’t explode violently from all the energy flowing in such a small little body. Spirited, anxious, defiant, silly, hyper, restless, intelligent, on and on. All of these things I have known for awhile and I have always (for the most part) watched my mouth around little miss spirit because she is a parrot like no other. So, it was a great surprise when we were getting ready for school one morning and I say;

“Hey Geegee, what are you doing?”

*she’s around the corner so I can only half see her

“Putting my f*****g boots on.”

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“Um, you’re what?”

“Um, putting my f*****g boots on?”

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Yes, it was almost cute but it was more horrifying. Seeing that pretty little face scrunch up and say the dirtiest of dirties right to my face!

Well naturally I was totally calm and cool about it.

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But after, I tried to recap and figure out how to end this cycle of bad language.

To be clear- this is not the first curse word my angel has uttered nor am I that delusional that it will be the last. However, I do think there’s plenty of little tips to keep you from becoming the parent of an Italian mobster.

Ignore it

This was the first advice I was ever given. My daughter’s first word of choice is the “s” word. And she uses it correctly. If she drops something she’ll go “oh s***”. Of course I told her no the first few times, then I tried ignoring it like was recommended. However, in our case when I ignored her she just repeated it, and repeated it, and got closer to me and said it again. How can you can you just not discipline that?

I do agree however, that exploding, or going overboard over something as simple as boundary and language testing (because to me that’s all it is) is a little much and probably doing the opposite of what you want. Letting the child know, “I heard what you said, I don’t like it, and I will now be ignoring you until you apologize or find a better word to use”, has been MUCH more helpful. So now it usually goes;

“Oh s***.”

“I don’t like that language, please say something else.”

“Oh my gravy?”

“Perfect.”

Monitor Language Learned

As I mentioned in World War Mommy, I’m not all about helicopter parenting. Kids are going to hear things and see things that you wish they wouldn’t. I don’t think hiding it is the right way to go. On the same note I don’t think Game of Thrones is a family night show either (sorry GOT, love you dearly). One study I read showed that despite our efforts, “between the ages of one and two, Dr. Jay found boys knew an average of six taboo words, and girls eight.”

There’s a limit to the amount of exposure you should agree is okay. Keeping really violent and seedy things off of the tv and tablets is a great start. Listen to what your child is saying too, a lot of times I hear a certain a child’s name associated with a new choice word. I haven’t had to talk to that child’s parent or anything yet but at least I know there’s an accomplice.oh fudge 2

Encourage Clean Humor

I think majority of kids think they are funny. Not all of them are, the little dears, but they try. A lot of language play is an attempt at humor to make you laugh and pay attention to them. Instead of blowing up over a dirty word, encourage some clean jokes. “Guess what, chicken butt” is one in particular I hear daily.

Anger vs Angry

My daughter struggles with her anger, as do a lot of young children. It’s an intense emotion for anyone. We are learning that it’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to release anger. The difference being how you actually respond to those emotions.

We are now learning how to walk away from an anger evoking situation. When I tell her we can’t watch something because it’s too late or we can’t go outside I’m about to feed her brother, she is learning to walk away (usually to her room or playroom) and start to read or do something to take her mind off of it. After having a small fit of course. The fit is good though as long as she’s releasing her frustration safely.

Learning how to verbally express feelings will diminish the need for foul language in an aggressive way.

Check Yo Self

Don’t curse in front of your kids! I figured that’s a given but after some of the instances I’ve seen, it’s definitely not. I’m not going to say it hasn’t slipped out, it’s just bound to happen at some point. If your child calls you out on it (I think most will) then scorn yourself, don’t give them the old ‘I’m the grown up I’m allowed’ routine. Kids are smarter than that.

I have had to fess up and say “you are right, mommy should not have said that. What I should have said is “why is this lovely gentleman in front of us on the highway going so slow, I’m sure he has good reason”.”

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Posted in Family, health, Mother's Day, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

World War Mommy

I know it’s probably been written about way too much in the past few years; however, it’s still amazing to me how much mom-shaming goes on via social media and other outlets. Yes, you should always be caring, nurturing, attentive, and loving (I would think that’s obvious) to your children. If they are being taken care of then it’s really no one else’s business on how/when/where/why.

I read an article the other day that finally made me want to write something on mom-shaming. Fed is Best Foundation has an article on their website by Mandy, who explains how she was basically starving her newborn. Her story is one that I know I can relate to and I’m sure plenty of other women out there can too. I think a lot of the hindrance to formula feed was due to the mom shaming that goes along with it. To think that poor baby could have suffered even worse that he did just from that is pretty heartbreaking.

So, here’s my list of topics that cause mom-shaming, mommy wars, mom blogging, judging, watching, look at the baby, look at the baby, and why they’re stupid to fight about. Ready to fight and go:

Breastfeeding

I guess we’ll just start there since that’s the kickoff idea I had to this article. When you’re asked about breastfeeding, if the “f” word starts to escape your lips, you may get that horrified face from some mothers that looks something like this:Image result for shocked face gif

You might as well tell them you are going to try and see how much arsenic a baby can handle.

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Breast is best. Yes, I agree. However, it’s not the only option. Some moms have a surplus supply. Some moms don’t. Some moms stay home and have time to pump and feed at will. Some moms don’t. Some moms feel the love and bonding that is supposed to come from breastfeeding. Some moms just plain don’t. Does that make them less of a mother? No. So that argument just needs to go away.

Personally, I think breastfeeding at least for the first few weeks (months if possible) is the best option for the baby. I get that argument. But again, I’m not going to shame a mom who just plain can’t do it. There are medical reasons, there are factors in the household that might make it impossible or too difficult, there are psychological reasons. For a mother who really wants to and can’t, to have to listen to this shaming over and over, I can imagine how heartbreaking that probably is.

On the same note, there’s the argument of how long. A year seems pretty standard. Over a year and some moms will start to make faces and avoid eye contact with you. Some moms go up into toddler years. Again, personally I would not do this but to each his own. I feel like this shouldn’t be a topic of debate.

Natural/Medicated Childbirth

You don’t love your child more because you suffered more. That’s my opinion on it. If you are doing it for self preservation reasons than fine. Stop shamming moms who used meds to keep their own sanity. Not to mention, a 12 hour birth is not the same as a 3 day one, so keep that in mind too.

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Epidurals are safe. Say it with me- epidurals are safe. It’s okay to request them. The most common side effects are fevers or spinal headaches for the mother. If you want a natural birth that’s beautiful. More power to you. Just keep that shaming thing to yourself.

Helicopter Parenting

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Are kids more spoiled now than they used to be? I think so. I also think that a lot of “bad” kids from decades past probably weren’t all bad. Emotional needs, mental disabilities, learning disabilities; these weren’t really considered problems until recently. So, in those regards some kids need to be helicoptered. In others, parents need to chill the hell out. Little Susie is going to fall and little Johnny is going to get sick from eating too much dirt. It just needs to happen for them to be normal kids.

Crying It Out

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Babies cry. Sometimes it’s your fault. Sometimes they need to learn things and then that in turn leads to more crying. Personally, I struggle with it to a point just because it’s hard to listen to. I don’t really blame moms who do it though if there’s an end goal in mind.

A lot of the older (early 1900s) parenting advice and mothering columns suggested basically training your six month old to sit quietly in the crib and that “the mother should stop (holding it) immediately if her arms feel tired”. Because you know, that’s just inconvenient and you got stuff to do.

Many argue that using the cry it out method causes psychological damage. I don’t think enough research has been done to prove this theory but I can definitely see where it stems from. Using a more supportive approach first I think is best for everyone involved and then if you don’t get any results, you are kind of on your own as far as what to do. The problem with the cry it out method is when does it get borderline neglectful? fifteen minutes? twenty minutes? a half hour? That sort of hazy distinction makes this argument a tough one. I never did it over the ten minute marker for my own sanity as well as the kids.

VACCINATIONS!

Holy moley vaccinations.

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Remember that kid in your class that died of Polio? No? Oh that’s right because it’s gone, thanks to science, research, and oh yeah, vaccinations.

I think the amount of testing and amount of vaccinations offered are a bit much, I will agree with that. But some of the more severe ones that are offered, I take it. You bet. Again though, mom shaming over vaccinations shouldn’t be an issue. You either believe that vaccinations could cause autism, or you don’t. You’re either worried your child will have an adverse reaction to them, or you’re not. Shaming the other side of a delicate issue like this is not going to solve anything. More studies are being done on the links between vaccinations and autism, and I imagine, they will continue for quite awhile. However, from what I know about them, most vaccines have little to no side effects. Either way, whether you’re choosing to get them or not, you’re doing what you think is best for your child. Ergo, so are other moms.

 

Working Moms

This is the mom shaming I take the most personally. I work. Full time. 40+ hours a week. I love my job (usually) and I love my side job even more (writing). I was lucky enough to stay home majority of the time with our daughter when she was born and only work part-time. The next time around I wasn’t so lucky. My husband is the one who works part-time and stays home with our son. Do I get jealous? Yes, of course I do. I want to be home with my baby, I’m not a monster. However, I have a good job. I make enough money that my husband can stay home, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Having to work, or even choosing to work, does not make you a bad mom. So stop it. On the flip side, working moms are now striking back with little quips about “having two jobs” because of working all day and being a mom all night. Yes they’re both hard, please stop bitching about it.

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To me, the real shame is the lack of help for working moms. I know there’s resources for parents; WIC, parenting classes that are free, Medicaid if you’re eligible. But more employers should offer some sort of childcare help. I don’t even necessarily mean in an economical sense either. Some places like state hospitals, colleges, and other businesses will have on-site daycare for their employees. I feel if more places offered this, or at least had umbrella type of daycare establishments, it would help ease the struggle of working moms.

Co-Sleeping

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Every parent ever has had a Chris Farley night. Sometimes, it’s just easier to pop that kid or baby in your bed and tell them to “shhh” so you can both nod out for a few hours. Some parents prefer to do this every night because of the bonding. Some won’t let their children sleep in there bed no matter the circumstance.

NO RIGHT ANSWER

I know I’m a broken record now, but that’s the whole point of this post. It’s a personal choice. Yes, there are some dangers listed for parents who co-sleep, there are also dangers for children sleeping alone. Not to mention lack of sleep progressively building after several nights of battling your child to sleep in their crib or bed.

In many parts of the world, co-sleeping is the norm. I’ve read that some doctors argue for co-sleeping because it helps promote breast feeding. Other doctors say you could squish your baby. One argument is though, once your baby is older (past the first three or four months anyway) if they are still in your room but not in your bed is that co-sleeping? Yes it is, it’s not bed-sharing. Now, there are plenty of things available if you want to make bed-sharing a little safer. The one thing I think most professionals will veto is couch sharing.

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Many claim that they can’t sleep when they are away from their babies. Kind of the reverse of the what you normally think of for reasoning behind it. But that makes sense if you think about it. I have to get up at least 3-4 times a night for my kids and they’re both over 1. If they’re right next to you it’s so much easier. Does co-sleeping create bad sleeping habits? Maybe…I don’t know if there is enough research out there for it but I think I would argue yes it probably does. However, when you’re sleep deprived, it’s hard to care.

So what’s the point? I think I’ve said it…stop it.

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Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

They’re after me Lucky Charms!

There are three things that I am very passionate about. Three things, that if I were asked five years ago would I care about them, I would have probably answered with “eh not so much”. Simple living used to mean being boring, education used to mean finishing college- didn’t really care about the general education system, and nutrition meant making sure I ate something in between my three daily energy drinks.

Now these things mean so much more to me.

I would like to start with a nutrition post. I know I’ve already lost some of you, but I promise I have good reason!Image result for nutrition meme

Growing up, I knew what healthy was. I still know what healthy food is. Everyone knows what healthy food is. But do you know just how unhealthy the unhealthy food is? And do you know how unhealthy some of the healthy food is? And do you know why we don’t know these things? How are we all not dead yet?

Well, it sounds like we’re speeding up to it. I heard a quote recently that I cannot for the life of me remember where I heard it, but in short it said; our generation of children growing up now, will be the first to not live as long as their parents. THAT’S TERRIFYING.

There are plenty of areas to pick on: fast food, sodas, processed foods, etc, etc. But what I accurate breakfast cereal cocoa puffs box changedam going to focus on is a food that hurt me. It hurt me deep.

I grew up on bags of off-brand sugary cereals. We also had the “healthy” cereals like Cheerios, Corn Flakes, etc, but those usually got topped with a spoon full of sugar. All of these were mixed with skim milk, so you know, totally healthy breakfast.
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This probably sounds pretty normal to most of us. Without these sugary cereals I probably wouldn’t have made it through college. Most poor college kids ate Ramen noodles, I ate Captain Crunch. My pregnancies were both a blur of doctors appointments, insomnia, getting fat and swollen, and Fruit Loops. Then I discovered Fruit Loops with marshmallows; forget about it! I could go days just eating that.

*Before I start savagely ripping into cereal companies I want to say that I am only picking on them so hard because I felt the most duped. Yes sugar is blatant but the rest…eh…

Cereal companies are some of the biggest villains in the advertising world. Cartoon characters are featured on almost every cereal that is catered to young children. Why? Because kids like cartoons. They also are easily swayed with brand recognition (hello Disney). Those brightly colored familiar faces are all placed strategically towards the lower shelves where little eyes can see them better. Cereal companies also are great with flowery words that hide some of their horrible ingredients. A few years ago (2013), Kellogs had to pay a few million because they were advertising that Frosted Mini-Wheats helped children focus and do better in school. Obviously that’s an unfounded claim but I bet it was totally believable when you saw it on tv. Kellogs also got busted for claiming that Rise Crispies were beneficial to your health. Eh, not so much.

As I have posted about before, my daughter has had emotional problems pretty much since birth, if that’s possible. I have an autoimmune disease that is steadily getting worse it seems like with no plausible cause or cure other than medications that I refuse to take. Both of us seem worse off when we have cereal in the morning. Is that science? Not really, but it did make want to do some research.

Youtube brought me to a gentleman who introduced a chemical to me that I had never heard of. Trisodium Phosphate.

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I checked my own box at home, and sure enough this isn’t propaganda. It was right there in front of me.

“As the cereal maker noted repeatedly, “TSP itself is safe and the amount of TSP in cereals is tiny. It’s a water-soluble salt that helps adjust acidity.”” This was taken from an article defending General Mills. I understand that as a counter argument but I just can’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be eating a chemical cleaner. Now, it has been compared to baking soda, which can also be used as a chemical cleaner but is found in many baked goods. Possibly the same? I don’t know, I’m not comfortable with it because I don’t know. And I feel like most people weren’t aware of this either.

They are supposedly removing artificial coloring from their cereals slowly but surely so there’s that. As of now though, a lot of cereals still have these artificial coloring in them. Let’s look at those shall we?

They are known as the Southampton Six by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which have been pushing for the removal of these dyes). The Southampton Six include: Red 40, Ponceau 4R, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Quinoline Yellow, and Carmoisine.

Red 40: comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars. Mmmm yummy. Red 40 can cause allergic reactions in “some people”. No big whoop, a lot of things do. They can also cause hyperactivity in children especially if they have ADHD or ADD. *Collar pull* eh okay, I mean so can sugar and stuff so go on…it also contains “p-Credsidine, which the U.S. Department of health and Human Services says is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.” Ah…well…shit.Image result for red 40 coal tars

On studies done on poor little lab mice, Red 40 caused immune system tumors, lower reproduction success, decreased brain weight, and lowered the chances for their offspring to even survive. The argument is, as usual, it’s okay in small doses. The problem is, on FDA labels there is no guidelines that makes companies list how much Red 40 is in their products. Ergo, you have no idea how much you are eating. I think just skipping it entirely would be your best bet. Red 40 can also be called Allura Red, Allura Red AC, and Red No. 40. The other problem is some foods that are not red or orange still contain Red 40. Pickles, dressings, BBQ sauce, and some cheese may have it in there.

Yellow #5 or Tartrazine: I remember in high school hearing that guys that drank Mountain Dew had lower sperm counts.

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Apparently, this view was widespread enough that the Wall Street Journal ran an article about it and Dear Abby advised her readers to not use Mountain Dew as birth control. The culprit is tartrazine. Again, tartrazine has been linked to hyperactivity in children. In 2010, the FDA actually released a memo that stated “for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including but not limited to, artificial food colors”. Of course this is only going to effect a small number of consumers who have ADHD, ADD, or other mental disorders. There have also been studies done on allergic reactions to Yellow 5, particularly with children on medications, and their inability to fully get beneficial treatments because of it. Yellow 5 is already banned in some European countries.

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But what about the sperm issue? Apparently there was a study done in 2009 in Algeria and another done in 2010 in India that showed reduced sperm count in mice when they were given tartrazine. Just slightly, mind you, so I wouldn’t bank on that for safety.

Blue, dabbodedahboodah: Blue No.1 & Blue No. 2: “Brilliant blue” was originally made from coal tar like red, but now a lot of places are able to make it from an oil base. “Indigotine” is a textile dye. Again, these are both relatively safe when ingested in small amounts but have been linked to hyperactivity. Blue dyes have a unique set of worries because their dangers have been linked more to skin absorption and entering the bloodstream via tongues. A study using pigs and the blue dye showed the dye did indeed enter the bloodstream. This was worrisome because “several studies show that these dyes might inhibit cell respiration”.

In addition to dyes there is the ever present argument of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar is obviously one of the main ingredients in most children breakfast cereals. There is a laundry list of problems associated with excess sugar consumption: liver damage, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, metabolic dysfunction, even things like depression can worsen with too much sugar. It has been proven that sugar is as addictive, or more so, than cocaine. Again, the problem with sugar being on the ingredients list is you are given the grams. So, let’s say Golden Grahams has 14 grams of sugar per serving which is probably a cup, or half a cup. What does that mean to you? Probably not much. Food companies are not required to put a percentage next to sugar to show how much you should consume in a day like they do other ingredients. Like so:

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I do believe that there are motions to put another label under sugar that says “added sugar”. Again though, it will only give you grams, no percentages. It would seem that if they can give you percentages for fat and sodium, they should for sugar too right?

So what am I saying? Do you have to cook a homemade breakfast every morning or risk feeding your kids and yourself poison? No, that would be ridiculous. My daughter loves Lucky Charms. Loves them. Like if a box of Lucky Charms and I were hanging off a cliff and she could only save one I would be worried about my chances for living. However, I will definitely create a better diet that will restrict Lucky Charms, and all the other unhealthy cereals, to very limited consumption. Everything in moderation. So what do you do the rest of the mornings? Here are some things to limit and/or stay away from if you can manage it, and a list of better options:

 

The Good

Puffins cereal

Cascadian Farms

Kix

Kashi

Oatmeal

The Bad

Lucky Charms- the first ingredient listed is whole grains…that’s about where anything nutritious stops. The following ingredient is marshmallows or sugar. However, there is about 3 grams of fiber but there are also color additives. So, it’s a battle for this one but on rare occasions I think I will still allow Lucky Charms in my cabinet.

Frosted Flakes- Anything that says “frosted” you should probably not consume in high doses. Frosted Flakes is fat free and all that jazz but high is sugar and carbs. I don’t think any dyes to speak of though, so an occasional bowl is probably okay.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch- Surprisingly, this cereal has a little less sugar than it’s siblings. I think maybe the cinnamon flavoring helps? I don’t know but they are made from whole grain with only 28% of it’s calories being from sugar so that’s better than some. Still very high in carbs.

Corn Pops- A little less sugar, a little more fiber, but does contain hydrogenated oils. So not an everyday cereal by any means.

The Ugly

Honey Smacks- Used to be called Sugar Smacks but they wanted to sound a little more healthy. They have one of the highest sugar levels of all the breakfast cereals available. No fiber to speak of and an additive that actually makes you overeat makes this one Image result for crying facecereal I will probably not buy again. And this was one of my favorites.

Apple Jacks/Fruit Loops- Huge amounts of sugar, like no fiber, and tons of color additives. Pass.

Crunch Berries- I love the captain, I really do. And apparently most people that make eye contact with him do too (28% of consumers who made eye contact with the Captain bought Captain Crunch). However, I will have to exclude Crunch Berries from my occasional splurge because of the sugar, and the dyes.

Cocoa Puffs- I’ve never been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs but even the few times I may crave these sweet chocolate cereals I will have to pass. The second ingredient listed is sugar with no healthy ingredients to combat the amount of sugar per serving.

Reeses Puffs- Although not as high in sugar content as some of the others on my ugly list it is high in color additives.

Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen

Teaching Teens Tolerance

In light of recent events, I thought it was fitting to do a post about teaching tolerance of others to teens. I honestly am not a fan of the word “tolerance” since it has the connotation of just “putting-up with” or merely “tolerating” those who are different from you. I instead like to think that teens can be understanding and accepting of others. I think they can actually enjoy the differences, imagine that. We as a society have obviously messed something up somewhere but this cycle of hate doesn’t have to continue.

In a lot of ways young adults today seem to have more experience with different races, religions, and sexual orientations than past generations. Classrooms are becoming more diverse and even the media is breaking down a lot of diversity stereotypes (on the other hand however, they are making some worse). Most parents welcome this, as they should, while others seem less enthused.

One way to promote understanding is to make all students aware of the truth. This means teaching them history accurately. Not the watered down, Disney esque, version that is taught in most politically run schools today. I mean the real history of the world. All the nitty gritty details of it. The book Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of my absolute favorites. A tough read for teens but as a parent, who is educating your child, I suggest you give a read through.

I have to mention, that I believe you should try to be unbiased as possible when teaching history to your children. It’s very easy to sway historical events to be the fault of this group or that because you personally feel that way. Stick to the facts. Come to the understanding that no group has clean hands when it comes to history. I will be posting a history cheat sheet for anyone who needs a little help to better explain some complicated historical events, like the Crusades.

We can just talk about the elephant in the blog and mention Islam education. Their religion is a complex one and it is important for our teens to understand it. It would appear that tensions in the Middle East and tensions with the U.S. are not going to subside anytime soon thanks to the control that ISIS has acquired. I think teens should have a general understanding of all world religions in order to be able to make better assumptions and judgements of current world issues.

Tolerance isn’t something that needs to even be as vast as world religions and politics. Teaching teens to be tolerant of other students and members of the community is a great place to start. Most teens I have encountered understand to respect others who are handicapped or impaired in anyway. Some will still find an opportunity to mock the other’s pain but for the most part I feel that young people are generally good natured in that way. However, I think it’s much easier for teens to make fun of, or belittle, those with less visible ailments. For instance, a student who is suffering from Asperger’s may be a target because they do not understand the same social cues as everyone else. Their impairment is not a visible one making it easier for teens to target someone with a social problem.

I think a great way for parents to explain this to a teen if they talk about a student who maybe isn’t the best at socializing (or who is extremely solitary or who takes too long to answer questions in class) is to explain they think and process information differently than your teen does. This doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than your teen. In fact, the student struggling may have skills your teen does not. For instance, they may be very artistic or know more about a particular subject that your teen struggles with. Making light of their talents instead of their social inequalities is a good way to see them as equals for your teen.

Getting out to volunteer is another way to teach tolerance. Places like homeless shelters, nursing homes, other schools, libraries, and other community outlets will introduce them to people they may have not encountered otherwise. Seeing the less fortunate can do the same. There are many inspiring stories out there about young people starting fundraisers and doing great acts for those who need it. There’s an organization called Teen Line where teens volunteer to speak or text with other teens who may be in crisis or just need someone to talk to.

Never discourage your teen’s (or younger child’s) curiosity of those around you. Sometimes you may be asked something that you think is rude, or racist, or unacceptable; however, if they are generally unsure about something you need to be able to answer them honestly and respectfully. Steer them towards the appropiate response and reactions to the world around them.

The biggest and best way to teach tolerance to your teens? Be tolerant yourself. I know, this is groundbreaking stuff. But if you are accepting and helpful to others they will see that and emulate you. Remember that they are listening, all the time. So be wary of using hateful slang and furthering any sort of stereotypical ideology that you may have grown up with yourself.

 

 

Some reading recommendations for teaching diversity to teens:

 

 

“Chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.”

 

 

“Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness.”

 

 

“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

 

 

 

“Tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces.”

 

 

 

 

“A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.”

 

 

“The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl.”

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, Social Change, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

Early Literacy Starts with You!

 

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Finally! It’s ready for sale, on Amazon.com. Early Literacy Starts with You! is my eBook that 1) explains why early literacy education is so important. 2) Gives you a better idea of our education system today and why we need to he;p our students at home. 3) Tips and tricks to get your child interested and excited about reading and writing, no matter your schedule.

It’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited 🙂

 

Please share!