The List

by AustinMom

The Washington Post has compiled its annual list of what is “IN” and “OUT” for 2017. The article also provides a link to lists as far back as 1978.

What do you think of the list? Will you be happy that the “OUT”s are leaving us? Did you see the “In”s coming? Or, did you have look up what some of the items are?

Discuss!

The List 2017

To Vaccinate or Not

by AustinMom

In my area, as noted in the article, we have a fairly large opposition to vaccinations for children. I think, as the article notes, that many parents of young children today never had the disease vaccinations target nor even have known anyone who had them which leads them to think the disease is eradicated vs. controlled. Our family knows families who by choice do not vaccinate at all by, vaccinate selectively, and/or vaccinate on a much longer schedule than recommended for healthy children. We also know a family who can only vaccinate on a limited basis due to health reasons. Lastly, I grew up with a friend who cannot build an immunity to chicken pox and would have it almost annually; even as a mature adult still gets it every few years.

My mom, who passed away in her early 90’s, was very pro-vaccination as she and most everyone she knew had these childhood diseases and she saw first hand the symptoms and the effects. I received all the vaccines that were available during my childhood. As there were no vaccines, I had chicken pox (mild case) and mumps (on one side and then on the other), but not measles. My children have had all their shots and some that at the time were recommended by our pediatrician before they became required by my state for attending school. While still not required, my children have had the HPV series.

I fully understand families with health issues that prevent them from vaccinating or that require vaccinating on a modified schedule. I understand how vaccinating their peers helps reduce the likelihood that those who cannot be vaccinated will become ill. My pediatrician, who is clearly pro-vaccination, hasn’t issued any requirements for being vaccinated to remain a patient.

Do you think that families should be able to refuse to have their children vaccinated for any reason other than medical necessity? Would you change pediatricians/clinics if they required all patients to be fully vaccinated, unless prevented by health issues?

On vaccinations, a pointed shift for pediatricians

The Mixed Message: School’s Creating Helicopter Parents

by AustinMom

Last week I went to a freshman (high school) parent night and was told about all the things I should be doing to ensure my child’s success. These included (1) making sure they were using the agenda the school gave them, (2) regularly checking their grades, (3) each weekend helping them select the appropriate FIT sessions for the next week, (4) subscribing to the teachers’ webpages for those using that system to get emails when each assignment is posted, (5) logging into my student’s account to see what the assignments are for the teachers using that system, and (6) in my account, I should also set it up so that I get a notification for missing grades, absences/tardies, and when the child’s average falls below a family determined level.

Before I go on, FIT sessions are mandatory 25 minute tutoring/study sessions that occur 3 days a week. Teachers post the topic/style of each of their sessions each week, such as Q&A review for Pre-AP Biology Test 2 or Review of Quadratic Functions, or the student can select a quiet study hall or a “open” study hall that allows talking so kids can work on group projects. Teachers or counselors can sign a student up for a FIT session that the student cannot change.

Yes, I set up my parent account so I can see grades, get notifications for missing grades and when an average falls “too low”. However, I think the rest of those items are my student’s responsibility, but I am absolutely willing to help her with any issue if she asks. The teachers and counselors have told them to do these things and have showed them how. I believe that my student should not be counting on me to do these things and then remind her about all her assignments. If she does not handle the responsiblity appropriately, then it is my job to step in and help her figure out what needs to happen differently.

The next day this article (Standford Dean) comes through my feed about the negative effects of helicopter parenting and not to do “everything” for them. The event last night that told me what “good”, “involved” parents should do seems to be promoting helicopter parenting.

About 5 days later I attended a set of college presentations with my HS junior. One of the speakers introduced the term “helium parenting”. The article (Helium Parenting) describes it better, but think about how a balloon is tethered to your hand when you hold it, but it can still move around freely within limits. Then, when you let go, it goes off completely on its own. Helium parents provide that freedom within boundaries knowing that they will ultimatley let go.

Totebaggers, do you feel that you are getting mixed messages about how “involved” you are to be in your child(ren)’s school life? Do you feel like you are a “helicopter” or “helium” parent?

What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids

Helium Parenting

The Sandwich Generation

by AustinMom

I am a typical member of the sandwich generation that the article below describes – caring for an elderly parent and raising minor children. As regular Totebaggers know, I lost my father about eight months ago and, as an only child, have been taking on more and more caregiving responsibilities for my elderly mother, whose health is also declining. Thankfully, my parents worked very hard to ensure they have sufficient resources at this stage in their lives and I am not providing financial support. I provide almost all the emotional support to my mother as well as handle most of the major decision making and a fair number of day-to-day tasks such as bill paying and grocery shopping. And, I attend all doctor appointments and try to be present a significant amount of time during any hospitalization and visit almost daily when she is in any type of rehabilitation situation.

This article talks more about the statistics and less about the physical and emotional challenges of the sandwich generation. While some articles look at these issues, I find they fall into (1) how to prepare financially so that when you are the elderly parent you have sufficient income/wealth, (2) resources for you to wade through to find a community/facility/services appropriate for the elderly person, or (3) caution caregivers to be aware of their own symptoms, usually focusing on mental health. But, there doesn’t seem to be much about how to balance or appropriately handle all the different directions you are being pulled.

I have been looking for those articles because lately I am just feeling exhausted and very pressed for time. While I am thankful that my mother has been around this long in my life, I also feel that I am missing part of my children’s lives as they will soon be entering college and moving on. And at the very same time, I know my children are looking at my actions for what is reasonable and ethical behavior for handing elder care.

The Sandwich Generation

So Totebaggers – Are you part of the sandwich generation? Do you feel that you are always blazing the new trail or that one is there that is easy to follow? Are you that primary caregiver? If not, how to you feel about the other family member who is providing all this care?

Would you welcome Syrian refugees in your community?

by AustinMom

I came across three links in my Facebook feed this week that I found very interesting. The first I thought it was a helpful primer. The second shows where those refugees already allowed into the US have been settled. The third shows those states opposed to and/or refusing to accept more refugees. My state is one that has a number of refugees and is “refusing” more. How do you feel about this? Would you welcome them into your community?

And, lastly, is a fourth link about the US opposition to accepting Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Do you see this as the same or different and why?

Syria’s war: A 5-minute history

Paris Attacks Intensify Debate Over How Many Syrian Refugees to Allow Into the U.S.

Here’s a map of every state refusing to accept Syrian refugees

Pre-WWII poll shows that Americans did not want to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany

Parent Teacher Conference Season

By AustinMom

It’s that time again, the announcement and sign up for parent teacher conferences is here. Elementary conferences were pretty straight forward, with usually only one teacher to visit. If you weren’t certain about what topics to raise a quick search provides a plethora of results.

Middle school and high school conferences, at least in our area, are both set up for you to allow you to visit every teacher, or at least as many as you choose to. For both of our schools, you get a 10 minute slot per teacher, making it important to use that time effectively. With the current technology, we see grades posted online and generally have a good idea in advance of how they are doing from a numeric perspective.

At this level, I find that the teacher rarely has something specific they want to convey and the parent must lead the conversation. I have a few questions I ask every year tailored to each of my kid’s general approach to school. For my introvert, it focuses on class participation and advocating for herself. For my child who receives minimal accommodations, it focuses on feedback that these are working, which generally tells you if the teacher is implementing them. I also always ask for feedback on where each child is compared to their peers, about any standardized tests that have been taken, and anything that is coming up before the end of the semester that I should be aware of, especially if they require parental involvement. In the Spring I ask about next year’s class placements, will they be recommending the more rigorous courses, such as accelerated math in middle school or AP Calculus AB or BC in high school.

Totebaggers, Do you go to the conferences? If so, what do you try to glean from them? Do you have a favorite question or topic to discuss? Or, do you think they are a waste of time?

School Start Times

by AustinMom

I know my kids’ private school start dates are earlier than many as both start the week of August 17 this year.  The article below talks about school start times and how middle and high schoolers shouldn’t start before 8:30 am given their internal clocks stay up to11 pm and they need to get the requisite 9 hours of sleep.  Our middle school begins at 8:00 am and high school begins at 8:20 am.

In our metro area we have at least 6 different school districts with different start dates, though not before August 24, and different start times.  Those high schools with 9 am start times do not let out until 4 pm and kids riding the bus are often not home until 5 pm.  The main complaints of parents I have heard about this later start time are (1) the kids have an hour or more at home after the parents have left for work before they have to leave for school, (2) after school sports practices then often go over into the dinner hour, and (3) it often means the kids are up doing homework after parents have gone to bed.

Some discussions I have had with other parents have raised the following points about 9 am starts – (1) start time really doesn’t matter because often club or some sports practices are moved to the mornings which still puts the kids on campus as early as 7 am, (2) after school activities are just shifted later, so a 4-6 pm practice moves to a 5-7 pm practice, which interferes more with the dinner hour, especially if you have younger kids whose school hours in the same district are 7:45 am to 2:45 pm, (3) kids with lots of homework (especially after an after-school practice) often aren’t in bed by 11 pm as you have just shifted it later in the day, and (4) even to take the bus for a 9 am start kids are to be “at the stop” by 8:15 am, so assuming they are getting up at 7:30 am, they would have to be in bed by 10:30 pm to get their 9 hours.

Totebaggers – What hours do your kids attend school?  Do they start earlier than 8:30 am?  Do you think it’s a problem?  Do you like later start times, if your district has them.

You won’t believe how early school starts in some states

Rewards That Aren’t Raises

By AustinMom

When we first start out in our careers, it is often all about the money as parents withdraw their financial support and our paychecks must cover all of our basic needs plus our desires. However, when pay exceeds those basic needs, do we value that raise or other rewards, such as more time off?

The article below opines that workers who are taking other rewards in lieu of raises may be hurting themselves in the long run. In my opinion, the article mixes some non-monetary and monetary benefits in the same category. For example, paid health insurance – assuming you will carry health insurance, shifting the cost from the employee (automatic payroll withdrawal) to employer paid does free up cash for the employee. Others, such as time off or access to a gym membership you won’t use (due to location or desire) do not impact your paycheck.

Has your company shifted to other rewards in lieu of raises? How has it affected you? How do you see it affecting the next generation of workers (including your kids)?

Companies have found something to give their workers instead of raises

Summer Homework – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by AustinMom

Students scramble to complete summer homework

I came across this article, just after my daughter received her third summer homework assignment. So far, she has to (1) read a novel for English class, (2) read a book for World History, (3) read a couple chapters out of the World History textbook and answer some questions, (4) read a chapter out of one Chemistry text and answer the questions for that chapter, (5) read 2 chapters out of the second Chemistry text and answer the questions for those chapters, and (5) watch 2 Chemistry videos and complete the guided notes. All this is due on the first day of school. She is also expecting some pre-calculus homework as well.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is the equivalent of 2-3 nights of homework for each class or similar to what a week will feel like once school starts with her block schedule. If it seems overwhelming now, it will give her the chance to change her schedule the first day from all AP and Pre-AP to a mix that includes some “on level” classes as well. On the other hand, she worked very hard in school all year, she uses summer to catch up on her pleasure reading, and she went to an academic camp for 3 weeks that included reading almost the entire textbook, a short research paper, a presentation on another topic, and small group project. In short, she isn’t vegging out for 11 weeks in front of the tv or computer. But, even if she were, don’t these students deserve down time?

Totebaggers, do your students have summer homework? Did you? Is this summer homework really necessary? Does it only result in students dropping higher level courses to get out of the homework? Do the students benefit? If so, then why is summer homework focused on the higher performing students and not assigned across the board?

Rich or Poor – Can You Teach It?

by AustinMom

Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children

This came through my Facebook feed as it likely did for other totebaggers. I found the initial list of items of how the rich differ from the poor as interesting. However, the author then provides a list suggesting what we (parents and schools) should teach our children. I was expecting some level of parallelism between the two lists, but to me it seems that he went on to suggest what he thought was important. I noted that he did not suggest that parents attend back to school night, encourage academic achievement in order to make the honor roll, or instruct their children on proper flossing habits. What did you think of the list? Do you have other things you think are more important than the list the author provides?

Middle Class Discussion

by AustinMom

While the term “middle class” is frequently used, even the Census Bureau does not have an official definition because the middle is relative to the entire spectrum.  A 2011 Pew Charitable Trust Study, listed the range the 30 to 70 percentiles of income in America (in dollars that is $32,900 to $64,000). However, this percentile income range for “middle class” also varies based on the cost of living and salaries in your area.  This means “middle class” is more about a frame of mind or what is viewed as important – as of August 2012 that was a secure job and health insurance (Secure Job – Ticket to the Middle Class).

The nebulousness of middle class is borne out in two recent articles.  The first article talks about middle class from a psychological perspective, near the end is an interactive chart that is interesting. (Economically Insecure Middle Class)

The second one shows how defining “middle class” by income as a fixed dollar range can be misleading.  (Living Paycheck to Paycheck on $75K).

I used the this Census site (Census State Income) to get a rough estimate of middle class based on the percentile definition. The range is $25,000 to $75,000. Based on this figure, we have dipped into the middle class in the last 10 years, but overall have remained slightly above that. However, within Texas I live in an area (as are most big cities in the state) where the cost of living is slightly above the average national cost of living. (Cost of Living)  Including this measure, our income is slightly more than the city’s average cost of living. Since that does not include saving for totebag important items such as retirement and college, I would say our family falls in the definition of middle class.

Do you think you are middle class based on your income and location?