Trick Your Family into Spring Cleaning!

Spring CleaningOkay, I know this sounds impossible, but I actually got my kids (and husband!) to VOLUNTEER to spring clean my house! No, I didn't bribe them, or threaten them.  This time. :)

So here's how I did it:  I made a list of all of the things that needed spring cleaning: organizing closets, rearranging gardening supplies, cleaning out the fridge, cleaning windows - you get the idea. It felt good just to make the list of all the things I'd been wanting to clean and organize over the winter. Then, I called a family meeting on a Sunday morning and served up everyone's favorite breakfast -- huevos rancheros!

This wasn't a "bribe", exactly, but it helped when setting them up to volunteer for spring cleaning. I WAS PREPARED. I put up giant Post-it Notes on the walls and listed all of the individual things that needed to be cleaned. Instead of demanding that they participate, I started with a perk:  I told them that we would be hosting a party for family and friends in a month, and we needed to get our house and property in tip-top shape for our visitors. They were thrilled to hear about our future guests and we talked about fun things to do with them.  So far, so good. 


Then, I told them to write their names next to the tasks listed on the Post-it Notes. When they saw something that they hated doing -- like cleaning toilets or washing out garbage cans, they jumped up to claim the things that they considered easier jobs.  What happened next was shocking. They actually signed up for EVERYTHING ON MY LIST! 

When they asked me why I didn't sign up for anything, I told them that I'm responsible for making sure that they have all the cleaning supplies, organizational materials, and guidance they need.  Couldn't believe it but they bought it! Phew! I didn't need to nag about getting it done because they all knew the deadline -- the weekend of our party!

And that's how you get your family to VOLUNTEER to do chores!

New Study Detects Autism in the Placenta with 95% Accuracy

ResearchersAbnormalities in the placenta can measure risks for developing autism. A Yale/UC Davis study shows that with over 95% accuracy, researchers can detect signs of autism by the number of trophoblast inclusions on the placenta at birth.  Why is this important to know?  With earlier diagnosis and treatment, the child will have the opportunity for effective intervention because the brain is most responsive to treatment during the first year of life. 

Very interesting research.

Admissions Committees Are Gaming Their Rankings

Penn StateAs if the college application process isn't stressful enough, top colleges spam would-be hopefuls to apply to their colleges even after their official deadlines! They give these seniors false hopes that they might just get in with their less-than-stellar grades or SAT/ACT scores. That's just plain cruel!  This year, a record number of colleges actually rolled back their deadlines and emailed thousands of students to encourage them to enroll after their deadlines had passed. What is this teaching our students who applied by the deadlines? RULES DON'T MATTER.

What is this saying about admissions ethics? By getting more students to apply (and pay between $50-$75 for each application -- DO THE MATH!), it lowers the college's acceptance rate -- something that U.S. News and World Report uses to rank the colleges. I'd love to see the colleges cough up some stats on how many of these "late deadline submissions" are actually accepted. My guess is that the number would be even closer to zero than their "official" acceptance rate.

Algebra 2, Community College and You

No mathGreat news, community college students! As of now, liberal arts majors can get through community college in 2 years instead of 4 or 5! Whew! Until now, UC's required all community college students to complete Algebra 2 before transferring, which often meant that non-math savvy students would have to take 2-3 remedial math classes just to take the college-level Algebra 2 course. 

That often translated to 3 semesters of math BEFORE they could even attempt Algebra 2. And even then, some students had to retake this course several times before passing with a C- or better! In California, about 75% of community college students take remedial math classes before they can take college-level Algebra 2, and only about 10% actually transfer to a 4-year college. So glad this will be a thing of the past - I've watched really bright kids forgo college because they knew they'd never pass Algebra 2. 

And of course, there's the question "WHEN WILL I EVER NEED ALGEBRA 2 IN REAL LIFE"?  If I had a nickel every time I've been asked that, I'd have X nickels! <--MATH JOKE

Read on for details!

Making Seafood Sausage!

I'm trying something a little different today...I'm not ONLY going to talk about kids and college here!  There will also be food!  

In this instance, the subject is seafood sausage. If you'd like recipes or more details, please let me know in the comments, but for now, click the title of this post or "Read more" below to see some photos of Operation Seafood Sausage:

"Everyone Wins" is a Philosophy for Failure

Helicopter ParentsDid you know that there are parents out there who will stop a game between a group of kids before the game is over? Who would do this? People who don't want their kids to experience failure. Which is pretty much the best way I can think of to guarantee future failure.

I mean, what lesson is being taught by stopping a game before the end? That mom or dad will always stop anything bad from happening to you? If you lose sometimes, doesn't that make winning even sweeter? There are so many lessons that are lost when helicopter parents (hovering protectively over their children and micromanaging their lives) attempt to shield their kids from the normal things that happen in everyday life.

What are they thinking? Competition fires up the adrenaline, gets the wheels turning upstairs and gets kids to strategize and to work as a team. THESE are vital life skills. 

Today's Schools: Too Much Pressure & Too Few Safety Valves

pressure cookerI shared an article yesterday written by Carolyn Walworth, a Palo Alto High junior. Something that wasn't really covered in the article (but which is completely relevant to the current situation) is that there have been a number of student suicides in the Palo Alto area over the past few years. When teens start feeling like their only recourse is to jump in front of trains, we need stop to rethink what we, as a society, are doing to our students. Carolyn's article shared her despair with the pressure of excessive homework (even during finals week when teachers are supposed to lay off homework) and the academic bullying towards students in the "dumb" math lane or the "late" readers (compared to the "early" readers). 

HUNDREDS of people have commented on Carolyn's poignant article, but few offered viable solutions. 

Stress and the Modern Student

Carolyn WalworthI commend Carolyn Walworth for writing a revealing and courageous essay about her painful academic experience in the Palo Alto Unified School District. While I believe that both Paly and Gunn have excellent teachers and counselors, we need to rethink how many AP courses students should be allowed to take and offer students more engaging activities that allow them to explore their passions. Please take a few moments and read what she has to say.

(Photo copyright Carolyn Walworth)

Dirty Little Scholarship Secrets (And How To Avoid Them)

ScholarshipDid you know that colleges can actually take scholarship money away from students? It's called DISPLACEMENT, it's a common practice, it's highly unethical, and it makes my blood boil more than just about anything else (except MAYBE Maury Povich). What's worse is that they can take money they said they'd give to YOU and give it to someone else instead. The money you bring in from outside awards/scholarships DISPLACES (or replaces) any awards the school has said it would give you. And often, students don't even realize this until very shortly before they start school, which can put them in a very difficult financial situation.

Here's how it works: 

Child Care for Free? No, You're Not Hallucinating (Part Two)

BabysitterAlright, let's get the math out of the way first: do you know how EXPENSIVE it is to hire a babysitter these days? It's not like those nice 80's movies where you can get the neighbor girl Tina to look after Little Billy for 4 hours, at the end of which you pay her $10 and hope her boyfriend Troy was at football practice all afternoon. No, today's babysitters are sleek, efficient, expensive individuals with Linked In profiles who accept credit card payments via their website.

Just how bad is it? According to a recent Yahoo article, you can expect to pay somewhere between $13 (the average) and $16 (in San Francisco) per hour for a babysitter. That doesn't count tips, annual raises or the obligatory background check (seriously, don't cheap out on the background check). So that's $13 per hour. You're going out to dinner as well? Tack on another $50. Catching a movie after? Shell out another $40. Popcorn and snacks? Listen to the sad wailing of another $15 leaving your wallet. Oh, and you decided to watch the most recent 3 hour 7th part of your favorite trilogy? That's at least 5 hours of solid babysitting time, which brings our total to a whopping $170 plus tip. WHO CAN AFFORD TO PAY THAT??