Monthly Archives: January 2012


Creating the perfect password isn’t necessarily easy. In between school, online banking, e-mail, credit cards, student loans, paying bills, and social networking, I easily have over twenty different accounts that require a username and a password. Although it’s embarrassing to admit, my first password attempts were easy. Try “password” easy. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, my password habits have changed. Of course, it may only be fair to admit that my easy password habit was broken mostly by the fact that the majority of websites now place strict requirements on acceptable passwords. 

Some sites simply require that your password be over a certain number of characters. Others, however, require you to include a capital letter, a number, and a symbol. Even if a website doesn’t require a particularly complicated password, it’s still best to choose passwords that aren’t necessarily easy for someone else to guess, which means staying away from obvious and easily-guesed choices. 

The first step to finding the perfect password is realizing that you shouldn’t use the same password for everything. Even though this means that I now have more than five passwords to remember, I’ve come up with a system that works for me. I think of my passwords as puzzles, with different components. Depending on the venue, I place the pieces in a different order, or choose to leave some pieces out. This means that my password is quite adaptable but is also memorable. It also means that when I forget what my password is for a site, I can usually guess it within three or four tries.

As tempting as it may be to leave your password near your computer space, that ultimately defeats the purpose of a password. Keep a list of your passwords written down somewhere secure in your house, just in case. 

For children, it’s also important to emphasize that they shouldn’t be sharing passwords with their friends or staying logged into websites. I’ve seen lots of kids taken advantage of by friends who thought they were being funny, but were really being inappropriate. 


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Family-Friendly Television

The new ABC series Once Upon a Time may be one of the few shows I would truly designate as family-friendly. Of course, there are plenty of shows on television geared towards kids that are watchable for kids of all ages. But if you’re like me and the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants makes you nauseous, you may be wishing for something that was a little more adult that would still entertain and be appropriate for the younger members of your family.

While spending excessive amounts of time watching TV isn’t good for anyone, building in family television time can help decrease the amount of time kids spend watching TV overall as well as making television a healthy part of your family dynamic and your child’s life. After all, television, like a novel or a play, can spark individual thought and group conversation. Television can also encourage your child to begin reading. Once Upon a Time does just that. After all, what’s the fun in watching a show about fairy tales if you don’t know the original fairy tales to begin with?


If you're a sucker for fairy tales you'll love the blend of contemporary and fanciful the show provides. (Image Credit:

The premise, which is a contemporary American town populated by fairy tale characters who have forgotten their past identities, blends the new with the familiar seamlessly. Episodes alternate between the characters as they are in the present and as they were in the fairy tales. Each week tends to focus on a different character; for example, this past week the focus was on Snow White’s evil stepmother and the genie who became the “Mirror, Mirror on the wall” that is so familiar to generations of Disney lovers. The fairy tale characters make the show relatable for younger audiences, and the compelling relationships between characters make it compelling for older viewers. The show deals with some tricky themes, including adoption gone wrong, occasional light violence, and a few racier subplots that so far haven’t made the show uncomfortable for parents to share with their children.
What are some of your favorite family-friendly television programs?

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

© Charles M. Schulz

Life’s lessons occur in the strangest places and at the oddest times. So this one happened last Friday night.  I was at our small village library with my children.  We were in the same room together. They had some things stolen from them, while I talked to a friend.

This is not a blog about the dangers of libraries. You will not find a larger advocate of libraries and their benefits to children, adults and society. I guess it is a piece about another little bit of innocence lost.  You know this occurs. You know some of the predictable ways and times this occurs. But when it occurs and you’re not prepared for it to happen, the sting is that much sharper. Luckily it was not worse.

The reality is things get taken anywhere: libraries, schools, hospitals, doctor’s offices, churches, etc.  but, you feel you should be able to protect your children from everything and all things. The girls who stole from them were not very old, themselves…maybe 10 or 11?  But it happened before my distracted eyes.

So when confronted, the girls denied it. I was told I should have scared them a little bit. I was told I could have pretended to call the police. I don’t think like that when something happens. I also hoped when I gave them a chance, they would kindly and quickly pass the toys over.  I am too nice and naive.  It was not about the toys so much at this point, but giving them all the chance to make things right.

So making this a learning opportunity for us, this event continued a conversation the girls and I were having about the conscience. I think my seven and a half year-old is at the prime age of when one forms, while the four year old is still too little. Our religious traditions and beliefs were also discussed around stealing. We talked about how sad it was that this occurred, but what was sadder was that the girls did it and did not seem to know any better. Sad to me was that pre-teen girls did not have an adult or parent with them on their visit to the library. What a learning experience and bonding opportunity the parent and the child are missing out on. What was the saddest part was that it had to happen at all….but I’m glad I could use it as one of those life lessons for my daughters and me.

(Note: A really nice site focused on life’s lessons found here on WordPress and that we follow is “Lifes Lessons – An Owners Guide“)

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The To-Do List, Organization and Now Scheduling

We have had other posts on the importance of organization and the ‘to-do‘ list but time and time again we find how really important these are to our success. To help keep us on track we thought we’d share this blog from our head office that has some good advice about scheduling. Questions for you: “Can you be too Organized?” “Is there such a thing as to many To-Do Lists?”.

So, without further ado, here is your reading to-do…

Get Organized With a Schedule That Works For You

We’ve all done it. It’s the night before your exam/test/assignment/presentation and you are bent over your desk, palms sweaty, trying to fit three weeks worth of work into a single evening. If only you had started earlier! You swear that if you get through this, you will never leave anything to the last minute again. If you are serious about that promise, then you need to get organized.

Being an effective student means applying yourself throughout the year, rather than cramming all your studying in just before the exams. Working effectively during the year will mean that your class marks are high and that you have a good grasp of the material before you begin studying. Learning to manage your time and workload is an essential life skill that will make you a happier, more organized person.

Get a diary: Use a phone app, get a book, make a schedule for your wall or create a diary file on your computer. Whatever will get your attention and is easiest for you to use.

One for one: Set aside one hour of study time for every hour of class time. During this time, you should do homework, study for tests and prepare your projects and assignments for each class. Put this study time into your diary and stick to it.

Worst first: Schedule the study time for your hardest subjects first. This will mean that your brain is fresh and you will be more likely to complete your work than if you left the worst until last.

Balance your time: Alternate one or two-hour study sessions with other activities. This can mean spending time with friends and family or playing sport. Don’t set aside unrealistic times for study and don’t take on too many after-school activities that may jeopardize your study time. Be disciplined about spending time with friends. Remember that friend time is more fun when you don’t have that guilty feeling that you should be studying.

To Do: Make a daily and weekly “To Do” list that reminds you of upcoming events, tests, exams and project due dates so that you don’t get caught off guard.

Reward yourself: Plan fun events, trips or relaxing “you” time for when you have completed your studies. This will give you a guilt-free break and help you to recharge for your next study session.

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The Great Computer Disaster; or, Backing Up: A Cautionary Tale

Four days ago, the unthinkable happened. My computer stopped working.

Well, to be honest, the computer itself didn’t stop working. What actually stopped working was the battery. My formerly portable laptop had become a desktop, tethered to my desk and the power cord snaking across my living room floor. My first instinct when my computer battery stopped working? I scoured the internet for possible solutions. After all, the computer still recognized the battery was inserted, and the battery itself lit up and said that it was 83% charged. I tried various battery updates and finally updated to a new operating system. I reset the PRAM and the SMC (or is it SCM) and everything else. It became clear the problem was beyond me and my father, who I had harassed for hours over the phone.

I took the computer in on Monday night. “Well, if somebody doesn’t look at it tomorrow, they’ll definitely look at it by Wednesday.” On the verge of hysteria, I informed the helpful customer service attendant that ready or not, I would be picking up my computer the next day. While this experience has sparked a lot of reflection on the ways in which we as a society and educational community have become hooked on technology to the point of incapacitation without it, this isn’t the point of this post.

The real point of this post is what happened afterwards. The computer specialist confirmed that my battery was obviously defective and would have to be replaced. “It should work fine, as long as it’s plugged in to the wall,” he assured me, and I believed him. For the most part, my computer is working fine. Tonight, however, a realization worse than a broken $160 battery occurred.

My undergraduate folder was missing. Gone. Vanished. As if it had never existed.

An accurate depiction of my face when I realized my folder was missing. Don't let this happen to you! (Image Credit:

Now, this may not sound like a big deal. However, that folder was my life. From the summer of 2007 until the spring of 2011, that folder held all my productivity. Every lesson plan from student teaching, every essay I’d written for over 120 credit hours worth of classes, was gone. At first, I tried not to panic. I checked every place I thought the folder may have been moved to. I searched the entire hard drive for key words. I checked in my empty trash can, hoping for a miracle. Those 15 minutes of frantic searching were some of the most painful in my entire life.

In the depths of my despair, I had a suddenly realization. I had backed up my computer the previous weekend, and so an entire copy of my computer hard drive was sitting on my coffee table, waiting to be put back into storage. My hands trembled and so I fumbled the cords as I tried to contain my tentative joy. I rationalized that the folder must have only vanished within the past few days, probably in the middle of one of my many attempts to fix the battery.

Lo and behold, the folder was there. I clicked and dragged it out of the Time Machine and on to the desktop. I’m not trying to rub my wonderful computer back-up experience in your face. What I am trying to do is communicate to you how important it really is to back up all your work. Investing in an external hard drive that you update on a fairly regular basis may seem like an unjustifiable expense, until you have the feeling of doom that I felt this afternoon.

My story has a happy ending, but other such stories do not. Entire photo albums, erased. Doctoral dissertations, lost. Expense reports, vanished. How do you emphasize to others how important it is to back up electronic work?

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Early childhood is an incredible time for firsts in life and indelible memories.  As my preschooler delights in her first friendships, she reminds me of the pure joy of friendships and how to be a good friend.  Her whole face lights up when talks about her friend and she spends many moments  before school thinking of ways in which she can show her how much she thinks of her.  Oh the drawings and other creations that have been made for this little girl! For as the great writers Ana Nin said, “Each friend represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born
,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, ”The only way to have a friend is to be one.

For preschool children and I do believe children of all ages, one of the best ways to teach your children about friendship is by mirroring the qualities you find in a friendship.  Parents can: be a good listener; show interest in what in their child is talking about; teach them empathy by trying to understand their point of view, even when you may wholeheartedly disagree with what they are saying; plan activities that involve things that especially interest them; and show them how to win and lose gracefully when you are playing a game together. Also let them see you being a good friend to your good friends and enjoying their company.  Friendships renew everyone’s spirits.

From initiating friendships to activities for friends to do together once the friendship has been cemented, the website has many good suggestions about friendship. For some children, just as adults, this comes more naturally.  Yet it is a crucial and normal part of growing up. We know, without the studies telling us, that people with friendships are healthier, happier, and more secure in life. As the writer Isabel Norton tells us: “In a friend we find our second self.”  Lastly, as Richard Bach says, ”Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness.”

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Cursive: Will We Miss It?

Remember practicing the endless pages of patterns and curls that culminated in cursive? I struggled to master many of the letters and longed for the simple lines of print. Cursive writing was traditionally introduced in the second grade and mastered in the third, but many schools are skipping over cursive to opt for the more tech-savvy options. Once children have learned how to write, educators are increasingly moving them on to the keyboard so that they can learn to type. Could this spell the end of cursive writing?

It would seem so, as 46 states have adopted the Common Core Standards which no longer mandate the teaching of cursive in elementary schools. Of course the need to type in today’s computer-centric world is obvious and many schools move second and third graders who have mastered printing their letters straight to the keyword.

Jan Olsen, founder of “Handwriting Without Tears”, laments the loss of penmanship saying; “If you stop teaching handwriting in the second grade, you’re going to have a generation of people who write like second graders.”

Some parents are also sad to see the end of the elegant script. Lisa Faircloth, an Atlanta mother of two, says she’s really glad that her son Joe learned cursive before it was cut. “I feel like it has helped him with his fine motor skills and made him more graceful,” she says. “He shows more of an interest in art because he is able to form things he hadn’t before and has new muscle movements that he didn’t know before.”

Other researchers are not concerned with the possibility that future generations may not be able to read the Declaration of Independence or sign autographs. They are content to have students read important documents transcribed in digital form and sign their names in print.

The only remaining argument in support of cursive writing is the speed at which it enables the writer to work. If most students had access to laptops or PCs which made it possible for them to type in-school assignments and exams, then the death of cursive would be a moot point. But with most of the work in schools still done by hand, a legible handwriting that can be quickly executed is invaluable. Under the stress of exams and with time constraints, students may not have enough time to write legibly; an impediment that may see them lose valuable marks. If your child can write legibly in print and fast enough to keep up during exams and while taking notes in class, they may not need to learn cursive writing.

Good penmanship has always been an asset to the well-rounded individual. Perhaps it’s old fashioned, but most people appreciate the personal touch that a hand-written letter or card conveys so much more than their digital counterparts. But sentiment must give way to progress as the need for children to be able to type outweighs the romance of cursive writing.

So what do you think? Is cursive old-fashioned goodness, or out of style?

(Note: This post is adapted from a Tutor Doctor corporate post dated Jan 16th, 2012)

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