Category Archives: Resources

Organizations, companies, groups that can help parents with a variety of educational/academic issues

Thoughtful Thursday: A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay

Thoughtful Thursdays are back! To the newcomers, on Thursdays GCP offers a poem, a song, a sampling of African American created or inspired culture to uplift your day, and share with your sons. Today’s offering comes courtesy of the wonderful journalist Michele Norris, who tweeted this poem out this morning. Given the beauty of the poem, and the times we live in, we just had to share it. “A Small Needful Fact”, by Ross Gay, focuses on an aspect of Eric Garner’s life not otherwise noted in the coverage of his death at the hands of NYC police.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Gay is the author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award and a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award; Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011); and Against Which (Cavankerry Press, 2006). He earned a BA from Lafayette College, an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and a PhD in English from Temple University. He teaches at Indiana University. Speaking about this poem during a PBS Newshour, Gay said, “What that poem, I think, is trying to do is to say, there’s this beautiful life, which is both the sorrow and the thing that needs to be loved”.

A Small Needful Fact

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Ross Gay

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Filed under Featured, Latest News, Resources, Thoughtful Thursday, Uncategorized

GCP: Back in Action, Back to School

Greetings GCP‘ers!  Hope you enjoyed your summer break (we certainly did) and are settling back into your fall parenting routine. We at GCP have been spending a good bit of our break focusing on ways to improve this site and create a stronger and more interactive GCP parenting community. Stay tuned, upgrades coming soon.

So much to focus on for our boys as school begins! As you work on getting your school aged guys back in the groove of early morning wake-ups and full days of school, there are lots of ways to make sure they are getting the best back to school start possible. Here are some:

Parent Tool Kit: Check out the Parent Tool Kit, found here. It is chock full of resources to help you monitor and support your son’s academic and personal development. Download the new free Parent Tool Kit app so you can keep track of his progress and receive helpful parenting tips from your smartphone.

Common Sense Media Back to School Guide: Common Sense Media, a great site that provides parents with information, advice, and tools to support their children’s safe and positive use of media and technology, offers a guide to help parents answer the many questions that commonly come up at the start of a school year. This guide, found here, addresses issues for children of all school ages.

Help Your Kindergarten Son Get a Great Start to School: Common Sense Media also shares tips for helping your kindergarten son make the adjustment to “big boy school”. Check out “Get Ready for Kindergarten with Practical Tips, Tricks, and Tools” found here and “5 Teacher-Approved Apps to Get Your Kid Ready for Kindergarten” found here.

Secrets to Raising Really Smart Kids: In August 2014 Essence Magazine published “Secrets to Raising Really Smart Kids”, found here. This very thoughtful article gives parents “Achievement Prescriptions” for helping children of all ages reach their academic potential.

Easing the Back to School Transition: There are lots of resources on-line to help you guide your son through the tough transition back to a school schedule with a minimum of stress. The National Association of School Psychologists shares“Back to School Transitions: Tips for Parents”. PBS Parents’ offers “Back to School Tips for Parents”. Scholastic has an impressive assortment of back to school articles and resources for parents in “Back to School: Start Smart”, found here.

SchoolHouse Rock Lives!!: Couldn’t resist sharing this blast from the past: Remember SchoolHouse Rock, those delightful cartoon video shorts aired on ABC on Saturday mornings which taught us about grammar (“Conjunction Junction”), history (“I’m Just a Bill”) and other subjects using really catchy tunes? On Sunday September 7th, ABC will celebrate this beloved series with a new special, “The ABCs of SchoolHouse Rock”. LOVE SchoolHouse Rock!! When my kids were little I found a DVD of these videos, and this became our go-to car entertainment. To this day any one of us can belt out ” Interjections” upon command. This is undercover learning at its best. If you don’t know about it, run over to YouTube and check them out. And watch this ABC special!!

* * * * * * * *

Can’t get back to GCP blogging without mentioning the horrific killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and its aftermath. We have watched every parent’s (especially every Black parent’s) nightmare come to life with the tragic death of an unarmed young man at the hands of the police. So much has been said about this already. So much analysis, so much anger, so much angst. We are encouraged by the news that the Justice Department has just launched a broad investigation Thursday into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri in addition to its ongoing investigation of the killing of Michael Brown.

As always, GCP must ask: How do we talk to our sons about Michael Brown and dealing with the police? We will address this in an upcoming post. Stay tuned. Welcome Back!!!

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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources

Fight Summer Slide with Apps and Games

As summer vacations begin, so does the “summer slide”, where our sons (and daughters) lose academic ground during the months they are not in school. Summer slide can result in our children forgetting what they have learned and slowing the pace of their future learning. As a report from the National Summer Learning Association explains, “It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.”

What can parents do to fight summer slide without spending the summer being academic drill sergeants? One way is to encourage our sons to keep their skills sharp with fun apps and games.Commonsense.org recommends “5 Apps to Boost Math Skills over the Summer”, found here, which are both fun and skill building. Does your son want to play outside and/or in the park all day? Check out “13 Dazzling Discoveries Kids Can Make with Outdoor Apps”, found here, to find ways to bring out the budding scientist in him as he spends his days outdoors. Take a look at their “Summer Learning Guide” found here for great games, apps and websites designed to encourage your son to continue his learning over the summer.

We’ve offered you tips on encouraging summer reading in recent posts. Be sure to check out Reading is Fundamental’s article on “What Can Families Do to Keep Children Reading During the Summer? found here.

We’ll keep adding resources as we find them to fight summer slide. Send us your tips!

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Filed under Resources, Summer Camps and Programs

GCP Event: Great Advice on Raising Boys from Kathryn Chenault

This past Saturday GCP had another live event: A conversation with GCP mom Kathryn Chenault. Kathryn, an attorney who stepped away from her professional life to devote time and effort to raising her two sons (who are now wonderful young men in their 20′s), graciously hosted us at her glorious home. Beautiful surroundings, great weather, and wonderful advice from a boy mom extraordinaire.

A great group of mothers were there to hear Kathryn and join our conversation about raising boys of color. Kathryn had so many words of wisdom to share, and the other mothers had lots of questions and stories of their own to share.

Here are five of Kathryn’s many helpful tips for raising boys:

1. Help Them Feel Good About Themselves: From the time that her sons were very young, Kathryn focused on helping them feel good about themselves and making sure they knew that she was their ally. She regularly told them “they could do anything”, that success would be theirs if they worked hard for it, and that they should talk to her about their issues and concerns. While we imagine and hope that most parents feel this way about their sons, Kathryn reminded us how important it is to tell them this on a regular basis. She also regularly talked with her sons about the golden rule, telling them that they should “treat others as you would want to be treated”. Basic but important lessons to remember to teach our sons.

2. Be a Parent Volunteer at Their Schools: Kathryn described spending a lot of time at her sons’ school, particularly in the earlier years when the school was generally more receptive to parent involvement in the classroom. (We at GCP were especially happy to hear this, as we have been encouraging our parents to spend as much time as possible at school, or if their jobs prohibit this, do what they can and befriend a mom who spends more time there.) She talked about the benefits of being able to observe her sons in school with their classmates, and as importantly, the benefits of developing a relationship with the teachers which helped ease communication throughout the school years. When she observed something in school with which she didn’t agree, however, she was careful not to challenge the teacher directly at that moment, or suggest to either her sons that she didn’t want them to follow the school’s rules. This is key, as parents should try to avoid behavior which labels them as a constantly complaining or troublemaker parent, most importantly because it rarely gets them to the desired results.

3. Read Along with Your Son: Beginning in their early years and continuing through high school, Kathryn independently read some of the novels her sons’ were assigned and chatted with them about the readings. Not only would this give her a good sense about where they were with their reading comprehension, it allowed her to fully participate in interesting conversations at home with her sons about the books they were reading at school. (We at GCP learned this from Kathryn years ago and were surprised and delighted to see an increase in our sons’ enthusiasm about talking about school work.) Short on reading time? Cliff Notes work too!

4. Keep them Grounded: Kathryn would regularly remind her sons not to get too comfortable in whatever creature comforts she and her husband have been able to provide for them. She let them know from an early age that they should take nothing for granted, especially any luxuries they might currently enjoy. She also told them from an early age that they would need to get good jobs to be able to afford the nice things they seemed to like and desire. (Since both boys are college graduates pursuing careers, this message seems to have stuck.) Parents who have been fortunate enough to be able to provide well for their children must remember to make sure their children know that they will have to work hard to continue these great lifestyles for themselves once they are through with school. This message is particularly important now, as current economic data suggests that our children’s generation may not surpass us on the economic ladder. Best that they get the message of “every tub on its own bottom” sooner rather than later.

5. Encourage Them to Seek Mates with Similar Values: One of the mothers asked Kathryn for advice concerning our young adult sons and dating. This sparked a candid conversation about how different the dating world seemed to be these days, and that advising our sons to “find someone just like us” didn’t seem to be working so well. We ultimately agreed that the best advice we could give our sons would be to look for mates who shared their values and who made them happy. Considering the passion and enthusiasm with which the mothers engaged in this discussion, we could have had a whole session on this topic!

Thanks so much to Kathryn Chenault for giving us so much food for thought about parenting our boys and for hosting this great event. Thanks so much as well to Gwendolyn Adolph for inspiring and planning it. We hope to have more GCP live events; we will keep you posted!!

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Filed under Experts, Guest Bloggers, Resources, Saving Our Sons

Thank A Teacher!

Although Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) has come and gone, it is not too late to show your appreciation for special teachers in your son’s life. In fact, the end of the school year is a great time to thank teachers for the hard work they have put in all year on your son’s behalf. Looking for cute year end gift ideas? Check out these Pinterest boards here, here and here.

Be sure to involve your son in the process of figuring out what to do for his favorite teachers. It will help him understand the importance of showing appreciation and celebrating great teachers if he participates in the purchase or making of a teacher’s gift. As you focus on year-end gift giving, please note that teacher’s gifts are much more about the thought than the price tag. In fact, many schools have dollar limits on what you can spend on a teacher’s gift. Check with your Parent’s Association/PTA reps for this information. And don’t forget about the people who work hard in your son’s school outside the classroom to make sure he has a good day, like the security guard or the school nurse. They should be appreciated as well!!

As you talk with your son about the teachers he wants to thank, talk to him about some of your favorite teachers. Not only is it fun to share your stories, but by sharing your memories of teachers you had decades ago, you will help him appreciate how important and influential a good teacher can be.

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Filed under Academics, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources

Hit the Road! Vacationing with Kids

As summer approaches, thoughts turn to family vacations. We at GCP love hitting the road with the kids, and have been doing so since they were tiny tots. Family vacations can provide some of the best times of your life. Whether it is a road trip of a few hours or a journey to another part of the world, introducing your children to different places and cultures at an early age helps hone their powers of observation and understanding, and gives them great memories of family fun.

Here are a few tips culled from a variety of sources (including our own GCP wisdom) to help make your family vacations into fun adventures:

1. Start with a Positive Attitude: Some parents refuse to consider taking their little ones on the road for fear that the children will be terrible travelers. One of the best ways to avoid this fear is to start traveling with them early, so that they grow up understanding how to behave on the road. Sure, you will have to plan long trips carefully and bring lots of fun activities to distract them on a lengthy trip. But be sure to believe in your children’s ability to be good travelers!!

2. Keep Them Busy On the Road: Bring lots of fun things on the road: books, toys, stickers, educational games, portable DVD and game players, books on tape, and music CDs to sing along with. Make age appropriate activity travel bags for each child. Be sure to include a few surprises in the bag. Save the bag for when the first signs of fidgeting appear.

3. Leave the Special Toy at Home: Rather than take the favorite bunny or lambie on the road, better to buy a special friend for the trip a few weeks before. Nothing threatens to spoil a trip more than discovering that Bunny didn’t make it out of the last hotel.

4. Bring the Medicine Cabinet: Be prepared for any emergency, big or small. Make a trip to the local drugstore and load up on everything you could possibly need for everything from a minor boo-boo to a major head or tummy upset. Here’s an unusual but useful tip: stick a packet of ground coffee in your bag. If the little one happens to throw up in an enclosed space (on the plane, in a car), coffee grounds mask the smell pretty quickly.

5. Plan Realistic and Flexible Days: Don’t try to fill every waking hour of a trip with activity, even if it is child friendly activity. Children tend to tire easily on the road, so take your cues on the length of the day from them. Maybe you won’t be able to hit every spot of interest in every port of call, but better to have a shorter day than have to drag a cranky little one around. And be prepared to make stops that your children request that you might not have included in the original itinerary. In the early days we visited more wax museums than I could ever have imagined (or wanted to imagine). But we had a blast, and still talk about those museums, so many years later!

You can take your sons and daughters on the road and have a great time! Start planning now.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Entertainment, Holidays, Parents, Resources

Tell Your Sons: Tech It Off — October 10th, 8-9pm

Diane Primo, founder and chairman of marketing company IntraLink Global and mother of three (a daughter and two sons), challenges us all to help our children thrive by encouraging them to Tech It Off–turn off all devices–for one hour, on October 10th, 2014, from 8-9pm.

Primo is greatly concerned that our children, our beloved Millennials, who
are consuming media for 18 hours a day, are stuck in a high-stress, constantly plugged-in, sleep and time-deprived culture. She worries that their addiction to their devices will limit their effectiveness, productivity, and growth, and may well ultimately block their ability to truly thrive.

Inspired by Arianna Huffington’s new book “Thrive”, which explains how we need to expand the definition of success beyond monetary or material measures to include empathy, compassion and caring, Primo wants us all to consider how we can help our technology-obsessed children understand the importance of having uninterrupted think-time, getting enough sleep, and caring about others. When will they have time to focus on these important values if they are plugged in and preoccupied for all of their waking hours?

Primo’s suggestion: Tech It Off. Devote one hour on a specific day, worldwide, to going tech-free. She wants us all to Tech It Off on October 10, 2014, from 8-9pm in every time zone. She acknowledges that asking our children to de-tech for just one hour is a baby step, but notes “Baby steps start the conversation”. If we start with this one hour, and help our children understand that stepping away from their devices for periods of time will help reduce their stress and restore balance to their lives, she believes, “this simple act can start to change their lives, and ours, for the better”.

Read Diane Primo’s challenge to Tech It Off in full here. We at GCP are big fans of this idea. What do you think? Can you, will you, encourage your sons and daughters to Tech it Off on October 10th, 2014??

2014-05-02-TechItOffHour-1

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, Entertainment, Resources

Quick Study Tips for Tests

As finals and other year end tests approach, pass on to your sons these tips for effective studying:

Find a Good Study Spot: Identify a place in your home which will be the designated study spot for tests and quizzes. Make sure it is free from clutter and distraction, and is away from noise and activity.

Review the Main Concepts: Begin your overall study plan by reading through your notes and refreshing your memory on major concepts. This will make it easier to fill in the details later on.

Rephrase What You Know: Restate the main concepts in your own words as if you were teaching it to someone. Being able to clearly explain things ensures that you fully understand them.

Study Out Loud: Read your notes aloud and talk to yourself about them. When you hear yourself think, it is easier to figure out what you know well and what you need to study more.

Rewrite your notes: Make a study guide using your notes. The process of writing what you already know will help cement it into your brain. Organizing the information by subject and section helps keep the information organized in your memory. After you write the guide, continue to use it to study.

We’ll be passing on additional study tips over the next few weeks. Good luck to all our boys on their final exams!!!

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Great Websites for Parents!

As we do from time to time, GCP has scouted the web and found some really interesting sites for you to check out:

The Educators’ Spin On It: Recently voted “Best on Pinterest” by Parents Magazine, this pinterest board (found here) and website (found here) are chock full of interesting and creative ideas for fun projects for parents and kids to do together. Two former elementary school teachers have pooled their experience as educators and moms to create these sites through which they pass along all sorts of creative ways to make “everyday moments into teachable opportunities”. At both sites you will find activities about reading, math, science, literacy, cooking, gardening, crafting, writing, and learning a second language for Ages 0 to 8. Lots of really great suggestions, just in time as you start to plan how to help your children avoid the “summer slide” away from active learning.

Speaking of the brain drain that summer break can bring on, here is your chance to hear more about it, and have your questions about it answered as well. On Thursday May 8th, 9pm EST, Educational Psychologist Michele Borba will participate in the first ever Parent Toolkit Twitter Chat, where she will answer your questions about how to help your children stay sharp over the summer. We wrote about the Parent Toolkit back in October 2013 (Education Nation: Parent’s Toolkit, October 3, 2013), a website that offers parents great resources to hep guide their children’s academic development. Here’s how the Parent’s Toolkit Twitter chat works: Send your questions to @EducationNation now using #ToolkitTalk and join them for the live conversation with Michele on May 8th where she will answer your questions and more. And be sure to check out the Parent’s Toolkit website here. Great and useful stuff!

Summer Reading 2014 Sites: Despite what you may be experiencing weather wise in your neck of the woods, Summer is approaching quickly, and along with Summer comes Summer Reading Programs!

Today Scholastic announced its 2014 Summer Reading Challenge. This is its annual effort to encourage reading globally. Head over to their Summer Reading Challenge website (found here) and read all about it. Children are encouraged to read every day, log their minutes into a global log, take weekly challenges and earn rewards, and help set a new reading world record. This year’s theme is “Reading Under the Stars”, and the home page features videos from astronauts (a diverse crew of astronauts, thank you Scholastic) talking about their work in space and encouraging kids to join the Summer Reading Challenge.

Does your teenager like to read the New York Times? Even if he doesn’t, would you want to encourage him to do so? The New York Times recently announced its Fifth Annual New York Times Summer Reading Contest. Every Friday from June 13 through Aug. 15 they will ask teenagers ages 13-19 the same question: What interested you most in The Times this week? Young readers are encouraged to pick any NYT article, essay, video, photograph published in 2014 and post their answer. Winning posts will be featured online the following Tuesdays. Check out the details of this contest here.

There is all sorts of good summer reading info on the 2014 Summer Reading at New York Libraries website, found here. Book lists, craft suggestions, and much more. Go to the Parent’s section here to find additional summer reading tips and materials.

Enjoy perusing all these great sites, and try to figure out how to incorporate some of their suggestions into your son’s summer!

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April is Volunteer Month — Tell Your Sons About This Inspirational Volunteer

Did you know that April, in addition to being Poetry month and Mathematics month is also Volunteer month? (Who makes these designations, we ask?) Anyway, in April we pay tribute to the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in our communities. And here at GCP we are happy to spread the word about young Hector Montoya, a 9 year old from Grand Prairie, Texas, who took impressive action to solve a community problem.

Hector had been saving up his money to buy a Playstation 4 game console, when he learned that a house in a nearby town had caught fire, and the mother and daughter in the house were killed. Hector decided to use his $300 in Playstation 4 savings to buy almost 100 smoke detectors for homes in his neighborhood for people who didn’t have them, including seniors and shut-ins. “It really hurts my heart to see people die in a fire,” Hector told local reporters. “Saving a life is more important”. When people heard of his good deed via the local news, they also responded generously, by rewarding Hector with a new Playstation 4, and contributing an additional $150 towards the purchase of additional smoke detectors.

Check out the video here. Share Hector’s story with your sons and talk with them about the importance of doing for others, not just in April but every month!

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Parents, Resources