Rethinking the Bag Lunch

image of a bag lunchThe brown paper bag lunch was the only choice for school lunch when my son was in the elementary grades.

There was no school cafeteria, just a lunch room. He could purchase a container of milk. And, then sit with friends eating, sharing and trading what was in his brown paper bag.

Given the lack of refrigeration at his school, my daily challenge was to pack a lunch that wouldn’t spoil.  There were a few hours between the time he left for school and his lunch period.

Today’s elementary schools have cafeterias, where a child can purchase lunch or, if he or she qualifies, participate in a subsidized lunch program. However this is not the case in many daycare centers and preschools where a child must still carry his or her own lunch.

A recent study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, raised concerns about the safety of carrying and eating a bag lunch even when the lunch is in an insulated bag that contain ice packs or other coolant.

About half of daycare centers in the U.S. require kids to bring lunch from home. The investigators examined lunches of 235 daycare attendees at nine Texas centers. The individual contents of their bag lunches were assessed on three random days between 9:30 and 11 a.m.

Of the 705 lunches, 11.8% were stored in a refrigerator, but teachers often left them sitting out for a couple hours first. The rest were stored at room temperature without much air circulation.

While about 91% of the lunches were sent in insulated plastic bags, the mean temperature of food items reached nearly room temperature (63.7 °F). Just 22 of the 1361 perishable food items (1.6%) were in the “safe” range below 39.2°F.

Ice packs didn’t help much. Only five of the 61 perishable food items with multiple ice packs in the lunch bag stayed the right temperature (8.2%).

Investigators found nearly all lunches packed from home got too warm to prevent food-borne illness despite use of ice packs. Even with the use of multiple ice packs, more than 90% of perishables in the lunches reached unsafe temperatures.

The study points to the need for:

  • Preschool and daycare staff receiving more training in food safety
  • Parents finding better ways to pack lunches safely
  • Manufacturers developing ice packs and lunch bags that do a better job


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Keep Your Children Reading Over the Summer

readingWhat can you do to keep your children reading during summer vacation?

There are so many things to do during the summer other than reading. Yet, every child needs to keep up their reading skills. Family members can motivate children to read by using strategies that integrate reading into summer activities and events. Here are a few:

  • Before going to the beach, a park, visiting a historical site, a sporting event, or other activity make reading about the upcoming activity part of the planning, and then talk about the book and the activity over a snack, afterwards.
  • Check you library’s summer reading programs. Make attending these programs a summer activity, as well as stocking up on books to borrow.
  • Let your children see you reading regularly. Grab a magazine when you are in a waiting room. Bring a book to the beach.  Have a book on your night stand.
  • Talk to them about what you have learned and continue to learn from books.
  • Build reading time into your child’s  day, not as something to do when day is done and kids are too tired to do anything but zone out in front of the TV.
  • Much reading during the school year is required reading; make summer a time for fun reading on subjects of interest to your children

  • Give your children the opportunity to read a variety of materials, not just storybooks,  such as magazines, newsletters, and papers geared to their age and interests.
  • Road trips area great time for children to get in some reading
  • Encourage your children to join or start a  friends book club that can meet every two weeks to discuss a book they all read.

Reading during the summer will give your children a jump start when returning to school, not only with reading but with vocabulary and grammar!

 

 

 

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Home school Preschool Rocks!

With a growing number of parents choosing to home school their child(ren), I thought  a reprint of the following post, Home school Preschool Rocks! by MommieKate on October 25, 2010 might be helpful for some of our readers who are considering homeschooling as an option.

Six weeks ago I officially joined the many who have decided (at least for now) to educate my son at home. Let me just say: IT IS AWESOME!  I admit, I didn’t feel that way at first.  I was excited and then (while doing endless internet research) it hit me.  Hit me hard.  I mean, this is one of the biggest decisions that will affect my little boy FOR LIFE.  I started to panic. Have you seen the ka-zillion choices out there? There are so many different education styles and ten times that in curriculum choices. I became overwhelmed.  Nauseated even. And then…

I found some lovely blogs that helped bring me back to “OK, I can do this” state.  More on them later (plus links). While I am in no way an expert, I did figure out a few things over the summer.  Here is a summary of my Crash Course for Home School Newbies:

  • Start with the legalities. Find out what the laws are in your state.  This will help guide you through your curriculum choices. You may not even want or need a curriculum. My state is one that has few requirements and gives parents great freedom.
  • Consider your own skills and limitations as well as your family’s. Do you follow a tight schedule, a flexible routine, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?  Are you creative?  Do you need the guidance of a curriculum? How much guidance?  What is your budget? I chose mine based on flexibility and budget.
  • What support will you have? Is your spouse on board?  Will he be able to help – to what degree?  Is there a homeschooling group in your area? I joined a local Christian HS group to get ideas & guidance from veteran parents and for the field trip opportunities.
  • Have a firm idea of why you want to pursue this. You will want it in neon flashing lights.  I’m not kidding- it starts with the curriculum choices, the HOURS of prep work, and ends with a lot of negative questions and comments from others. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, but it is HARD WORK.
  • Relax and keep it all in perspective. Nothing is set it stone. You will explore and change styles, methods, and curriculum many times as you grow and your school days go by.  You’ll learn as you go. You may even change your mind all together about home education. Homeschooling is ALL ABOUT FLEXIBILITY and doing what is best for each stage of your family’s life. What I’ve learned so far is Home school Preschool Rocks!
Don’t stress.  Trust God to guide you.  Trust yourself.  Have fun.

I want to give blog hugs to Sue, thehomeschoolchick and to Erica at confessionsofahomeschooler. These ladies gave me confidence, a place to start, and shared a sense of humor in the process. They have great links to other helpful sites. If you are homeschooling you probably already know them.  If you are still in the consideration stage, go check out their sites- you’ll be glad you did. Also, to find out your state’s laws visit http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp.  HAPPY HOMESCHOOLING!

 

 


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New Year’s Resolutions: A Family Affair

 New Year’s resolutions are a family affair. Adults can help children to understand the meaning of resolutions, and how and why we make them.

The following New Year tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They are offered to help parents encourage their children to make healthy resolutions.

resolutionsResolutions for Preschoolers

  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I won’t tease dogs or other pets, even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help, or  I am scared.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.

Resolutions for Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible, and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get into a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends.I’ll asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will never encourage or even watch bullying, and will join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.

Resolutions for Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day. I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • I will choose non-violent television shows and video games.  I will spend only one to two hours each day, at the most on these activities.  I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.
  • I will help out in my community by  giving some of my time to help others.  I will work with community groups or join a group that helps people in need.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress.  I will exercise, read, write in a journal or talk about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date.  I will always treat the other person with respect and not force them to do something or use violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco, cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.
  • I agree not to use a cellphone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

 

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What Parents Need to Know About Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs: A Look at the Pros and Cons

For 35 years of my career, I worked with children with special needs. So, when Jackie Nunes wrote me and asked if I would accept an article about homeschooling a child with special needs I readily accepted. Jackie is a former pediatric nurse and now a full-time home school educator. She is one of the founding members of wondermoms.org  

photo of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs

What Parents Need to Know About Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs: A Look at the Pros and Cons

The single best thing about homeschooling my child with special needs has been the high fives. When you have a child with disabilities, you have to throw the typical milestone timetables out the window. Very few skills – walking, talking, potty training, learning letters – come on schedule. Things that are easy for most children take much more perseverance and hard work for our kids.  However, few feelings can match the surge of pride when they finally master a new skill. In our house, we celebrate every victory, large or small, with a round of high fives.

Homeschooling wasn’t an easy decision for my family. It was a financial sacrifice. Then there were all the worries about whether I had the knowledge, resources, and temperament to do it well. There were a lot of pros and cons to consider. At the end of the day, we knew it was the right decision for us.

If you’re thinking about taking the homeschooling plunge, it’s important to weigh both the benefits and disadvantages. Here are some of the things we learned along the way.

Advantages of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs  

The benefits of homeschooling are about flexibility, and being able to teach in a way that’s best for your child.

  • Learn at your child’s speed: With homeschooling, you set the pace. You can go as quickly or as slowly as your child needs. If your child has strengths in a particular area, you can move through it faster. At the same time, if your child has trouble with something, take your time and try different ways to make it click. If your child is obsessed with trains or dinosaurs, try connecting it to that. If music or movement helps, go for it.
  • You control the learning environment: Kids with special needs are often either sensory seekers or sensory avoiders. When setting up your home school environment, you can tailor it to your child’s needs and preferences. Make your classroom soothing and quiet, or incorporate bright colors, an indoor swing, and a miniature trampoline. Create a space that works for both of you.
  • Social interaction is monitored: While it takes a bit more effort to schedule get-togethers, parents who home school can keep a much closer eye on their child’s social experiences. Homeschooling reduces the risk of your child getting bullied.
  • Learn around a schedule: Homeschooling may also be beneficial if your child has many different doctor or therapy appointments on their schedule. Parents who home school are able to fit lessons in between appointments or move schooling to another part of the day. If your child is having a hard time with something, you can take breaks to prevent frustration.
  • School is less overwhelming: Children who are home schooled don’t have to deal with the everyday stresses of traditional school. They can focus much more on their learning. Public schools bring a plethora of sounds, sights, and smells. Pair those with having to deal with throngs of fellow students and anyone would start to get stressed. Being able to better control your child’s learning environment helps your child learn without distractions.
  • Kids learn constantly: With all of their quirks and differences, kids with special needs can be especially tricky to “figure out.” Teachers are heroes, but they are often overworked and underpaid with a room full of kids to educate. A teacher may not have time to find just the right way to introduce a concept so he understands. This is one area where parents have a huge advantage. Parents know how their children learn best. They often find “teachable moments” outside of the regular school day to connect schoolwork to life.

Disadvantages of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs

You  will find that in addition to the advantages of homeschooling a child with special needs, there are some drawbacks. Here are some to consider:

  • Not enough structure: The biggest advantage of homeschooling can also be one of the biggest drawbacks: flexibility. Many kids thrive on routines, and that can be especially true for children with special needs. It’s hard to recreate the rhythms of a traditional school routine when you teach at home. Some kids find it hard to distinguish between learning time and play time. To provide some structure to your days, write a loose schedule and keep it hung up where your child can see it. It’s also a good idea to dedicate one room in your home to school only. Once your child is in that room, no matter the time of day, she knows that it’s time to learn.
  • No nurse: Being home schooled means your child won’t have a nurse to go to if they get hurt or aren’t feeling well. Because of this, many parents, who home school, elect to learn basic first aid skills. They become CPR certified before starting to teach their kids at home.
  • Less socialization: Children who are home schooled often don’t socialize with kids their age as much as they would in a traditional schooling environment. To combat this, parents often network with the homeschooling community in their city to meet other homeschoolers and their kids.
  • Finding outside professionals: Public school districts usually employ various counselors and therapists to see children who have diagnosed learning difficulties. Depending on where you live, your child may loose access to these professionals if you withdraw from the school system. Parents need to research what their rights ar,e and other ways to get assistance for their child.
  • Access to art and sports facilities: Public schools usually have accessible facilities including gymnasiums, art rooms, music rooms, science labs, auditoriums, media centers, and sports fields. Those are hard to replicate at home. However, you can sign your child up for after-school activities. He can join a youth sports league, or participate in Special Olympics program. You can keep a well-stocked craft cupboard at home.

Is Homeschooling Right for Your Child?

homeschooling your special needs child

As with anything, homeschooling has both benefits and drawbacks. When you have all the information about the pros and cons, you will be able to make the best decision for your family.

Before homeschooling, the hours my daughter spent in school were largely a mystery. Besides the odd note from the teacher, I had almost no insight into how she spent her days. I worried about everything. How much attention was she getting?  Was she was eating her lunch? Was anyone bullying her?

Homeschooling isn’t easy and it may not be right for everyone. But I don’t wonder about my daughter’s days anymore. Now I know. And it’s pretty awesome.

 

 

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