"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??

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

Those Crazy KidsOne of the biggest shocks to new parents is just how much being a parent COSTS. Forget all the furniture, the car seats, the designer diaper bags, the "Kiss Me, I've Been Changed Recently" onesie, all of it. Childcare is one of if not THE biggest cost. You will literally need 2 full incomes to support this ONE expense, and it'll be at the expense of other things you like, like eating nice food or driving something OTHER than a lime green Gremlin with one orange door.

Unless you're one of the lucky ones with a mom who is available 24/7 to help take care of your babies so you can work or to give you a break, you're probably struggling with the rising cost of childcare and after-school programs. I have two things to say to you: One, you are not alone, and Two, there is a way to get child care for free, and I'm going to tell you how to do it. 

3 Things That Will Mess Your Kids Up (And How to Avoid Them)

Self Esteem!From the minute I was pregnant, I immediately devoured every scrap of info I could get my hands on to see if my development was normal, and I did things like comparing my body to other pregnant mothers. Of course, everyone is different, so this was a fun little emotional rollercoaster: some days I was elated, others I was devastated, and the worst part is that I did it to myself, AND it’s very easy to transfer this sort of thinking to your kids. What I didn't know then is that the way we talk to our kids will have a deep and direct impact on how they feel about themselves. We're talking about self-esteem here.

SO! Let’s think about how we interact with our kids, and keep from screwing them up.  Here are 3 easy things you can avoid:

Will Failing Grades Kill Your UC Dreams?

Fail :(So you've worked hard to maintain mostly A's and B's, and an occasional C, and you were setting your sights for the UC's. UCLA in So Cal or Cal up in Berkeley for you high achievers. Santa Barbara with the beaches or Santa Cruz with the redwoods. Everything's set. Life is swell. But then you check your grades and find out that you actually bombed your pre-calc final, and ended up with a D! Oh noes!

Your head starts spinning. Your dreams vanish. You think you'll be the only one in your class who won't get into any colleges, and you'll wind up working as a purse-dog swapper for a socialite. But wait, IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. 

FAFSA Secret That Will Improve Your College Admission Chances

FAFSA Secrets!Ok, I know that headline is a little click-baitey, but I promise you this IS an actual thing that almost no one knows about. It WILL make a difference, and it involves a bit of sleight-of-hand. The way the system is set up now, you (as a high school senior) log into the FAFSA site, and you see that you've got 10 spots to list the colleges you're interested in. Great, right? Almost everyone just fills all of those fields out, submits, and calls it a day. BUT WAIT! There's a problem with this.