Monthly Archives: May 2013

Kellogg Mini-Wheats Settlement


Not much of a post today, but it might be of interest to some readers. While at the Gym yesterday I saw a news story about a proposed settlement of a lawsuit involving Kellogg, the company that makes Frosted Mini-Wheats. The Lawsuit claimed that Kellogg falsely advertised that its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal improved kids’ attentiveness, memory and other cognitive functions to a degree not supported by competent clinical evidence. Kellogg stands by its advertising and denies it did anything wrong, but is going to reimburse consumers who bought the cereal. Below is some of the mumbo-jumbo from the site.

In summary, if you purchased Kellogg Mini-Wheats i the last couple of years Kellogg will provide repayment for up to 3 boxes of the cereal. You need to complete a form that can be found here.  No deadline has been established on submission yet, but I’d suggest filing ASAP.

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FROM THE LITIGATION SITE:
The Court did not decide who was right. Instead, both sides agreed to a settlement. By agreeing to a settlement, the Parties avoid the costs and risk of a trial and the Class will get compensation. The Class Representatives and their attorneys believe that the settlement is in the best interests of the Class Members.
You may have received notice concerning a prior settlement of this lawsuit. That settlement was overturned by the Court of Appeal and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. This settlement is the result of those further proceedings.
What Does The Settlement Provide?
Kellogg has agreed to create a fund of $4 million. The fund will be used to pay class notice and administration costs, attorneys’ fees and expenses, named plaintiffs’ incentive awards, and cash payments to Class Members who submit a Claim Form. Under the settlement, Kellogg also agreed to make certain changes to the Frosted Mini-Wheats marketing and labeling. Details are described in the Settlement Agreement, which is available here. Cash payments will be made if the Court gives its final approval to the proposed settlement and after the final approval is no longer subject to appeal.

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Father’s Day Gift Ideas


Spring is almost over and that means Father’s Day is quickly approaching.  No matter what your age, your Dad is really there for you and you want to give a gift this Father’s Day that represents the appreciation and gratitude you feel for all he does for you during the year. So what do you get that guy who seems to have everything and doesn’t give you a hint?  We suggest that you celebrate your Dad this June 16th with a special gift and a great memory.

With Mother’s day and Father’s day, it really is the thought that counts. Its not the size or cost of the gift, but rather the idea and sentiment behind it. This is great news for those of us who have a limited budget. Here are some ways to give your dad a great experience on his special day.

Great Memories
Being a Dad to three great children I can say that Dads like nothing better than to spend the day with their families on Father’s day. Pick an activity that you know your Dad enjoys and share this with him on Father’s day. Book a round of golf and be his caddy, plan a fishing trip at one of his favorite fishing holes or buy tickets to a concert, show, or game that he would like to see. Spend time with your Dad and make sure that he feels super special.

Grill Master Gifts
Dads love to barbecue and they always love new gear. Get your Dad a new barbecue or accessories, a big steak and some cold beers, wines and enjoy a lovely barbecue with him outside. If you Dad is a sports fan, put together a tailgating party with some friends, some drinks and a portable barbecue before a Baseball, Football or Soccer game.

Camping Trip
Plan a camping, hiking, fishing, beach or canoeing trip for you and your dad to enjoy. You can get him some hi-tech camping gear to take along and try out. Camping with the family or with other Dads and their kids can make this a really fun activity.

Movie Night
Get your Dad a box set of his favorite films. Is he a Clint Eastwood fan? Does he love Kung Fu movies? Get a couple of his favorite films, make some popcorn and snacks and get the family together to share in a fantastic movie night.  If it is a nice night out you might even be able to do it outside under the stars by setting up your own outdoor theater or going to an old fashion drive-in.

Gift of the Month
Get him a package of gifts for every month until next Father’s Day. Examples include the beer of the month, wine of the month or bacon of the month packages. This is the gift that really does keep on giving and he will be reminded every month of just how much you appreciate him.

Do It Yourself
The best gifts are always those you make yourself. Make your Dad something he will really enjoy like handmade candies, an item of furniture, a painting or picture or a movie of his life from all the pictures and video footage you already have of him. Even a handmade card and dinner are a great way to spoil dad on Father’s Day.

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Life After The Great Recession


Now that the experts seem to think what has become known as the ‘Great Recession’ in the USA is over (interesting that the Fed. Reserve is still propping up the economy though and Europe is back in another recession) a great deal has changed in American society.  Some of these changes are notable and are having a big effect on parents and our ability to raise our children. For better or worse some of the changes and challenges to be aware of now and in the near future are:

Less Time Off Work – As reported by The Exchange “Nearly one of four Americans (23%) has no paid vacation and 23% have no paid holidays, while most of the world’s developed countries offer workers at least six paid holidays a year. These statistics come from a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), “No-Vacation Nation Revisited,” which could cause Americans to lament their too-much-work, not-enough-play lives”.  The U.S. is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation.

Obamacare – Only time will tell on this one, but for now if you do have healthcare you can expect continued premium increases, more healthcare advertising, coverage for your dependents up to age 26, a shortage of primary care providers, the increased power and wealth of healthcare insurance providers, annual free well-visits, and the IRS becoming a bigger part of your life.

Shrinking Middle-Class/Increased Poverty – If the disparity between the poor and rich in the USA is allowed to increase further the implications for society, education and our children’s future is sad at best.

The ‘War on Terror’ – The true cost in lives, privacy and dollars of 12 years of constant, large-scale military engagement will only be fully recognized by history. I tend to believe that like Vietnam it will probably be seen as a senseless waste of resources compared to the benefits it provided American Society.  As reported by Brown University’s Cost of War Project: “Our tally of all of the war’s recorded dead — including soldiers, militants, police, contractors, journalists, humanitarian workers and civilians — shows that over 330,000 people have died due to direct war violence, many more indirectly”.  For the USA the number of soldiers who have died in the wars is over 6,600 but what is also startling is disability claims continue to grow with over 750,000 disability claims already approved by the Veteran’s Administration.  Cost estimates hover around 4 trillion USD…probably enough to build a small colony on the moon?

Mom’s As Primary Family Breadwinners – As reported by the Pew Research Center and reported in the Huffington Post on May 29, 2013 by Hope Yen “America’s working mothers are now the primary breadwinners in a record 40 percent of households with children – a milestone in the changing face of modern families, up from just 11 percent in 1960”.  Women now account for 47% of the American workforce and women outnumber men with bachelor degrees. The implications of this change are for individuals, families, children, employers, society, government and our education system are discussed in the article but the bottom line is that it is a dynamic that is here to stay and has yet to be fully addressed by anyone affected.

CCSS –  The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity, were developed by mapping backwards from college and career success, internationally benchmarked, and informed by research. Bottom line is that school will be made more challenging for UPK to  grade 12 students so they are educationally prepared for college. This is great, but in my opinion they fail to look at college standards, jobs for college graduates and the increasing difficulties of students and parents being able to even afford college/university without becoming an indentured servant of their student loan.  I personally see this as a new form of slavery built for the 21st Century. (Note:A description of how to find the CCSS standards in NYS are included at the end of this post).

UPK (Universal Pre-Kindergarten) – The age of starting formal school is quickly becoming 4 yrs. old.  This is being done in order to meet the CCSS standards and to reduce the stress on families trying to afford day care while they work.  Sure, UPK and Kindergarten are not ‘mandated’ as of yet in most states. Thus, school districts do not need to offer these educational opportunities to their residents and if they are offered parents do not need to send their children. However, Parents do need to be aware that they NEED to know the 1st grade entrance standards and have their child ready for them. This is not an easy task and parents need to know how serious it is and plan. I’d advise you to talk to your local school district counseling department or an educational consultant to assist you in getting your child ready for school starting at the age of 3 or earlier.

Charter Schools – As the Federal and State governments continue to become more involved in our children’s education you can expect to see the continued rise of private enterprise; ‘quasi-governmental’ run charter schools. The rise will mean the reduction of public education as we have known it. For most teachers this will means that benefits, security and pay will be reduced.

 

The following was taken from education.com and is great support for knowing what the new CCSS standards are in New York State for each grade level. Most of these standards are the exact same for the other 45 USA States that have adopted the CCSS.

How Do I Find the State of New York Academic Standards?

  • Choose a subject area from the links on the main curriculum page.
  • Under the “Resources” section on the subject area main page, look for the “Core curriculum”document.
  • This link will take you to the Curriculum page where the K-12 curriculum standards can be downloaded in PDF, Word, or HTML.

Standards are available for Grades K-12 in the following disciplines:

  • Arts
  • Career Development and Occupational Studies
  • English Language Arts
  • Health, Physcial Education, and Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Languages Other Than English
  • Math, Science, Technology
  • Social Studies

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Lemonade Stand – 2013


Lemonade StandYour student’s teachers will be the first to tell you that the summer vacation has serious effects on your child’s learning if you as a parent don’t provide some type of academic stimulant through the summer. While it’s good to take a break from the books, teachers often struggle for weeks to get those brains back in gear come September.  Plus, with the new academic standards the time to do this is reduced because the volume of new material in a year has increased.  Our role as parents is to creating fun summer activities for our children that help them to exercise their brains and keep learning alive.

We have written many posts in the past on the virtues of the Summer Lemonade Stand for a child…and you.  In this installment we’ll focus on more of the educational benefits.  The lemonade stand is a fun way for your child to learn through the summer. It teaches a range of life skills and gets them to practice math all while having fun and learning the fundamentals of commerce. While you can teach a number of lessons through a lemonade stand, remember that it’s mostly about fun.

Spreading The Lemon Love
Start by working with your child to select a charity that they really love. Whether they need to raise funds for their Girl or Boy Scout troupe, or they want to give the proceeds to a local pet shelter, together you can find a worthy recipient of your lemonade income that will teach your students about the importance of community and charity. Another donation option and source of inspiration and information is Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Marketing Savvy
Once you’ve decided on a charity, the next thing you can teach is the fundamentals of marketing. Here you can discuss locations and why some would be better than others. Next, take on the lemonade stand itself. Discuss ways in which you can decorate your lemonade stand to attract attention. Get your students to make signs that advertise their lemonade stand, the charity they are supporting and the items that will be on sale. They can also make posters to advertise the lemonade stand in advance. Glitter, balloons, pictures and other decorative elements can help to add a creative facet onto your educational endeavor. Also discuss ways in which your students should greet customers and how they should help them.

Green Your Lemonade Stand
This is also a great opportunity to focus on the environment. Make your stand and posters from recycled materials.  You can use boxes from your local grocery store to create a store front and posters.  Opt for biodegradable cups or plastic cups that you can wash, sanitize and reuse.  Make sure that all the materials end up in the recycling once your lemonade stand is taken down.

Math Whizz
Keep lots of change on hand and let your child work out how much change each customer needs to get.  They can also count the money to see how much they have made.  This is a great way to get them to practice their math skills while having fun.  Working with money is a valuable skill and one which is becoming very rare due to the proliferation of registers and calculators.

Nutrition
Help your child determine the nutritional value of the lemonade and anything else they sell. If they are making it from scratch they can learn how to derive the information from the individual ingredients and then combine them. Different sizes of cups also provides some great math practice as they increase or decrease the nutritional values. Make sure to post this information for your customers.

 

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


norman rockwell school teacher classroomI came across a great quote recently about electronic devices and children. In April,  “The Atlantic” ran an article on electronic devices and their effect on the toddler brain.  In the article “The Touch –Screen Generation: What’s this technology doing to toddler’s brains?” Hanna Rosin states that, ” Norman Rockwell never painted Boy Swiping Finger on Screen….:” a ubiquitous  site if there is one. I do believe this quote captures some of the anxieties and complexities of modern parenting and the parental sense of “grasping at straws” when it comes to dealing with the use of technology and our children.

I think there is a spectrum of parental comfort and discomfort   with electronic devices  and feelings among parents about their proper role and use. In this household, we have been wrestling with the issue. Recent events led my husband and I to allow our nine year-old to purchase an iPod Touch with her saved money. As we foisted limits on her with it, left and right, it has still left me a little unsettled and conflicted about the issue.  I try to see its advantages. It has many neat capabilities, that she can navigate.  Navigating these devices makes her a leg up on technology and builds a comfort zone in her rather than a fear of using it.  The games she likes seem very innocent. For example, they are games in which she simulates making cakes and cookies; buys dragons; and makes her screen turn into fireworks. She can check the weather; look up information: and takes notes on it. Yet when  she immerses herself in it, I get this visual of her turning into too many children I have seen who are engrossed with them; do not play with other toys; do not go outside; do not respond to conversation, etc. etc.  For us, strict limits were the plan from the outset. Currently, she gets 30 minutes on it a day. She cannot save time from the other days. When behavior goes south, so do her privileges on it. We will also probably institute a screen free day.  She has to ask before she gets on it, each and every time. All in all, this has worked out okay.

While it seems part of my Norman Rockwell version of childhood has been permanently altered; I never wanted to make the technology that is available with these devices forbidden either. Our world is awash in technology and its many exciting opportunities. But as the saying goes, with knowledge comes great responsibility. Our daughter must behave and follow our wishes with this privilege, or it is gone..

In the article “Sound Advice on Managing the Media from Parents’ Choice,” at the Great Schools.org website, they list some helpful hints for successfully dealing with this issue.  Advice ranges from time limits and place limits to parents going on these devices  with their child and having some fun. I would like to hear from you and ask you how you handle this important issue in your home.

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Adam’s Lessons


cliff-divingWill Learning Ever End?When I was growing up I was a silent kid. I would sit back at family events and school and just absorb everything. I played sports, had friends and was quite extroverted amongst those I was comfortable with (somehow not being my own family until I was about sixteen), but for some reason I would just learn from my environment and adapt to the people around me. I did this for the full fifteen years of pre-collegiate school. It is astounding now that doctors and child psychologists have finally established that what I did in high school is now a sign that kids are bored and under challenged by their schooling… something I find to be entirely true.

The repetition involved, at least in the schools of the USA allows children to learn the facts at a very young age and keep regurgitating this information back, just adding slightly more specific details to the events. However, this shall not be an entry about the lack of efficiency that I find in present day American education.  Instead, I’ll explore the joy you can find in everyday lessons and this is where the link from my silent childhood comes into play.

I am proud to say that I was a silent kid, it is what first got me interested in psychology. I was able to adapt in every social environment, I was a social chameleon, which is a beautiful thing. This skill allows me to be friends with everyone I meet which further allows me to expand my knowledge about everything. When I studied Astrophysics and Astronomy I got to meet some of the greatest minds in the World, including Alexi Filipenko, who may not ring a bell with most people, but who is a man that I truly idolized because he could talk about phenomena in the universe on the History Channel and he got to live in Hawaii while he was doing his research with some of the World’s most expensive telescopes that are on the peaks of dormant volcanoes. I could actually hold a conversation with this man, while at the end of that day, go out to one of the cheap bars in downtown Toronto and talk to the drunken fool about his life experiences. Both conversations engaged me, were authentic and added to my knowledge!

Even now after being in Kelowna, BC for just about a month I have learned an impressive amount of information about food, wine and have had the pleasure of meeting the man responsible for introducing Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Corona to the prominent American marketplace. I have also had the delightful pleasure of meeting, and working with a TV personality Chef, a Chef who was invited to cook for the Queen of England by her own word, as well as meet the new generation of outstanding North American Chefs.

So what would my lesson be for today? Well, to summarize everything that I have described that makes me feel quite proud of the way that my young career has turned out, I would say that you simply can’t rely on the education systems to put you where you need to go to be successful and happy. At the end of the day, whether it’s college, university, high school or one of the top schools in the World, you are merely getting a piece of paper that hundreds of thousands of others will be getting at that exact same moment. To be where you need to go and be happy and successful you have to be willing to expand your knowledge beyond that of your program, you have to be willing to drive for change in your life and be willing to go where no one else is. That is certainly what Gates, Jobs, Dell, Brin, Page, Zuckerberg, Ford, Edison etc. did as they changed the world.

I was raised in a town where my graduating class was 100 students, I moved to one of the largest cities in North America, to a school where I would only be a number on one of three sprawling campuses that had over 60,000 students. I then made the change to use my life-long skill of adaptability and understanding to decide that I need to study Hospitality and not the Sciences. I then made the move across the country to one of the most under rated beauties of the New World, to a World class winery where all I have to do is learn about food and beverage. This is how I believe need to live your life. Take into account what you’re amazing at, even if it seems like a simple skill that everyone should have, mine was being able to make people happy, and squeezing every last essence from that to get to where you want to be. My path is still winding as I pick up the skills and knowledge needed for my future and even then I know I’ll be squeezing!

My high school quote was that “Flying is nothing more than falling and being able to miss the ground.” This quote has given me more insight into what I needed to do with my life than anything, but I won’t be giving you my interpretation, that I leave to you, but the answer to the lead question of this post is … Learning never ends!

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Reducing Summer Brain Drain aka Summer Learning Loss


summer-vacationThe feeling of the summer vacation stretching ahead of you is great for students. And while reading and math may be the LAST thing they feel like doing, not doing anything during the summer holiday can lead to setbacks in ability. The National Summer Learning Association at Johns Hopkins University claims that students can lose as much as two months of reading and math ability over the summer break.

The summer brain drain means that teachers waste the first four to six weeks when school restarts in September reviewing work that students have forgotten. Students can fall behind if they are slow to get back into the rhythm and then they will spend the rest of the year trying to catch up. Summer doesn’t have to be all about education, but there are ways in which you can help your child/children to stay sharp.

Reading is fun
Take them to a bookstore or a library and get them some books that they will enjoy reading. Books don’t have to be boring, and it doesn’t matter what they’re reading, which means that comic books, anime books and magazines are all great summer reads.

Get them to participate in cooking and baking by reading and following instructions or try some summer projects like woodworking, building robots, building remote controlled airplanes, sewing clothing, learning a musical instrument or making a movie.

Set goals for the summer
Work together with your student to set up summer projects you want to pursue. You can do some of them together and some of them separately. Ensure that they are part of the process so that you have some really big goals that utilize extra summer time and keep young brains working. The summer is a great swathe of time that can be used to make real improvements to you family’s skill set. Imagine learning a new musical instrument, building a canoe to take camping for older students and making a kite or building a playhouse for younger family members. Make sure you set goals for the summer that will help you to spend time together, give you something to look forward to and ensure that your students aren’t bored over the break.

Get a tutor
This may not be something your child wants to do over the summer, but taking a little time out each week will make such a huge difference to the coming year. If your student has been struggling in a subject, or is preparing to write the SATs or ACTs, then a couple of hours of tutoring each week will make the coming year so much better. Get an in-home tutor to help your student to fill in the missing building blocks and gain confidence while improving grades.

Learning experiences
Summer is also a great time for learning experiences like a trip to the aquarium or the zoo, or the museum, watching documentaries or going to the art gallery. Remember that the travel time can be used for reading or conversation. It is also valuable to have your child help plan the trip and prepare for it by planning the route, budget for the trip and pack food and beverages if appropriate.  Learning these skills now will serve your child well down the road!

Post is adapted from a 4/22/13 post on the Tutor Doctor corporate site titled “Summer Brain Drain: How to Keep Sharp Over the Summer Vacation

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