Articles


Your family can create traditions of their own

By Emma Kress

When I was little, anytime we did anything fun, I begged for it to become a “tradition.” Naturally, as a parent, I love creating family traditions.

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How to offer space and tools for imagination

By Emma Kress

In last month’s column, I made a case for saving our children’s imagination—the mother of creativity and essential academic skills. While imagination is innate, we must exercise it just as we do our muscles and intellect.

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School’s demands should not crowd out play

By Emma Kress

I grew up in a house that backed onto eight acres of bird sanctuary. An only child of hard-working parents, I often found myself alone in the woods climbing trees, building forts, or listening to the sounds of leaves crunching beneath my feet and strange birds chattering above my head. Or I got together with the neighborhood kids, creating complex games with elaborate rules that could last whole summers. I also read. A lot. As a result, I developed a pretty good imagination.

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Kids need chances to figure stuff out

By Emma Kress

A friend told me she started saying “yes” to her kids more. She had noticed she almost always said “no” whenever her kids asked to do something, often without really thinking about the question.

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Self-directed learning is the best kind

By Emma Kress

The best way to get kids to be successful in school and life is to build up intrinsic motivation. This is the drive that comes entirely from the individual, as opposed to outside forces such as parents, grades or status.

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Strategies can help with attention disorders

By Emma Kress

When parents learn their child has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they react in various ways. One parent might see himself in his child (attentional disorders are often hereditary), while the other might feel confused because organization comes naturally to her.

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Plagiarism hurts the perpetrator as much as anyone

By Emma Kress

Sometimes, my 6-year-old cheats. During a game of Qwirkle (an incredible game that I can’t praise enough), she sometimes peeks in the bag as she’s picking out her allotted number of tiles.

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Prepare your child for kindergarten

By Emma Kress

Sending a child off to kindergarten is one of those Big Parenting Moments that we remember forever. But before we outfit our kids with shiny shoes and bright backpacks, we need to be sure they’re ready for the important year to come. You have plenty of time before September to get your pre-schoolers ready for that all-important beginning to their school lives.

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An election season is loaded with lessons

By Emma Kress

Whether your family discusses politics around the dinner table or changes the channel every time a campaign ad comes on, chances are your children have noticed that something big is brewing. Even if you don’t talk about politics much, the presidential election every four years is a good opportunity to make your child aware of what it is to be a member of a voting public.

 

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Team sports can teach students a few things

By Emma Kress

More and more, I find myself using sports analogies with my students. Some of the most desirable traits in a student can be seen every day on the playing fields outside my classroom window.

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Parents and daughter make plans for staying close

By Emma Kress

Going away to college is a watershed moment. After all, everything changes: friends, living situations, expectations, rules, academics and independence. Most schools now offer orientations not only for incoming freshmen but for their parents as well since the adjustment can be so great. In particular, the relationship between the college-bound child and her parents can change significantly in these years.

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Set up your household for stimulating summer fun

By Emma Kress

Ahhh, the start of summer. I won’t have to grade papers and my life won’t be regimented by bells. I can catch up on my reading, plan leisurely for fall lessons, and spend oodles of time with my kids and husband.

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What parents need to know about this social network

By Emma Kress

I am not a tech-savvy girl. I got a cell phone years after most of my friends. I opened a Facebook page only after being nagged to post pictures of my kids, but I rarely use it. But I knew loads of my students used and loved the social media service Twitter, probably because their parents had invaded Facebook.

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Recognize the upsides to a learning disability

By Emma Kress

People with dyslexia have trouble reading, spelling, articulating, memorizing and retrieving words. Thanks to improvements in brain imaging, scientists are actually able to see the biological differences between dyslexic and typical readers.

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Students’ success means talking to the teacher

By Emma Kress

Asking for help is hard. Our society glorifies independence so much that we think asking for help is a sign of weakness. In truth, I think asking for help allows kids to become more independent, and as a result, more motivated, confident and self-sufficient.

 

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Is your child having problems at school?

By Emma Kress

As a parent, I hate to see either of my children suffer. When a dose of time or medicine gets them back to their usual bouncy selves, I’m relieved. But what happens when you suspect that school, not a simple virus, is the cause?

 

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Successful students share their secrets

By Emma Kress

On a fall afternoon, I sat down with four Cicero-North Syracuse High School seniors to talk about strategies for school success: Anna Bruzgulis (ranked first out of our graduating class of 787), Edwina Kisanga (third), Julie Hauberg (fifth), and Brittany Paul (sixth).

 

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Audio books offer new ways to appreciate reading

By Emma Kress

Maahhmmmeee,”—the whiny pronunciation of Mommy—“I wanna watch TV!”

Here’s the problem: I know the research. I know that TV watching isn’t great.

But sometimes we all need a break. My 5-year-old has not taken a nap since she was 2 1/2 and even then not very reliably. Yet that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t get tired. Or cranky. (Or that I don’t.)

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Young adult books tackle grown-up realities

By Emma Kress

In recent months, a debate’s been heating up the Internet: Are books for young adults too dark? Too explicit? Too sexual?

 

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Have better conversations with your kids

By Emma Kress

The same conversation unfolds at dinner tables across the country every September:
“How was school?”
“Fine.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing.”

 

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Central New York attractions pair beautifully with books

By Emma Kress

Field trips are a great way to make abstract facts more accessible. They expose children to worlds they might never otherwise see. They build the informational knowledge base so that when students encounter a new topic in school or a difficult passage on a standardized test, they have a richer sense of meaning from which to draw. Yet, in this economy, it’s harder than ever for schools to take students to the latest exhibit at the zoo or museum. But that doesn’t have to stop you. Create your own educational excursions while the kids are on vacation.

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Explore the life of your child’s mind

By Emma Kress

When I first toured the Syracuse University Early Education and Child Care Center, the director, Joan Supiro, walked us around the kid-sized school. Anytime Supiro turned away from us, I mouthed “I LOVE THIS PLACE” to my husband. I actually cried during one moment in the pre-school room when I saw the arrangement of the space and the way the kids were free to play and learn as they wished.

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Meditation and yoga can help kids concentrate

By Emma Kress

As a teacher, I love incorporating breathing and yoga into my classes. I don’t attempt anything too complex. (Who wants to do low plank on a high school floor?) But I have found that teaching a few strategies can help students (and me) relax, refocus and re-energize.

 

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Teaching is way more than a job

By Emma Kress

In this age of job cuts and economic uncertainty, I feel lucky to have a job. But I don’t have just any job. I get to teach. As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I decided to express my love for . . . teaching.

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Teachers value thoughtful—not pricey—presents

By Emma Kress

As the holidays approach, I often struggle to come up with the right gift for everyone on my list. And since there are always so many people I want to thank and appreciate this time of year, I get a bit overwhelmed by the amount of money involved. But remembering the teachers on your list doesn’t have to add to your holiday financial burden.

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Organize your household for school

By Emma Kress

Let’s face it: Some kids are born with secretaries in their heads and some aren’t. Besides, the part of the brain that organizes, prioritizes and plans doesn’t fully develop until we’re in our 20s. When your child grows up, he’ll be rich enough to hire his own organizational help. In the meantime, you need to teach him how to compensate.

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Make friends with the SAT

By Emma Kress

I hate the SAT. Yet I teach a class to prepare students for this test.

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Sneak in some warm-weather brain work

By Emma Kress


Most students lose more than two months of math skills and some students lose the same in reading skills over the summer. But you can’t expect your child to do worksheets on a July afternoon. So how can you enjoy summer and help your child keep his brain busy?

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Understand, don’t label, kids with special needs

By Emma Kress

Health problems forced me to use a wheelchair for a few months and crutches and canes for years. While I am able to walk without assistance now, I do not take walking for granted. My experience awakened me to prejudice toward people with varied abilities. Later, I became a learning specialist, working mainly with students labeled with learning disabilities. Perhaps the most disheartening piece of my job was realizing how these labels gnawed at self-esteem, making kids feel stupid.

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Story time can be even better with some tweaks

By Emma Kress

Reading aloud with your child is one of the best ways to nurture future reading and school success. Yet reading aloud shouldn’t stop when your child enters that kindergarten classroom.

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Nurture your child’s language skills

By Emma Kress

As parents, we eagerly await our child’s first words. My father lobbied extensively for “Grandpa” and was devastated when “puppy” won out. But language expression is not a competition. It’s how we begin to know our child’s thoughts and dreams. We use language to make sense of and interact with our world. But your child begins to understand language long before the first fully formed word leaves his lips. In fact, your baby began responding to language when he was still in the womb. He is ready to learn from you the moment he is born. How can you help him learn?

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How to discuss skin color with your child

By Emma Kress

February is Black History Month, which many schools celebrate with a “heroes and holidays” approach. Although this approach guarantees that white children will have heard of Kwanzaa and Martin Luther King Jr., it doesn’t send much of a message about racial equality and integration. If we limit our children’s racial education to a particular month, then we teach them that the black experience is not integral to their white experience. As a mom, I want to raise my daughter to understand and appreciate the value of everyone. As a white mom, I need to be sure “everyone” includes people with different skin color from my white daughter.

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What to make of grades, from A to F

By Emma Kress

Soon, you’ll get hard evidence of how well your child is performing in school: a report card. How do you make sense of the numbers or letters? How will you react? If it’s “good,” will you pin it on the fridge? If it’s “bad,” will you deny him TV privileges? Most importantly, which reactions will most benefit your child’s growth?

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Making the most of a parent-teacher conference

By Emma Kress

Parent-teacher conferences may be your first opportunity to meet your child’s teacher. Having coached parents and teachers, and been on both sides myself, I know how apprehensive everyone can get. Each person carries a lifetime of assumptions that can cloud that all-too-short meeting. And yet, for many of you, this is your only time to have a meaningful conversation with your child’s teacher. So how can parents make the best of their minutes?

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Use Halloween’s treats to work on school skills—painlessly

By Emma Kress

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. First of all, people just give you chocolate. And I loved becoming someone or something else for a single night. And did I mention the chocolate?

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Get back into the school-year groove

By Emma Kress

If you’ve ever been to London, you’ll recognize the phrase “Mind the gap.” It’s what a woman’s voice with a serene accent warns as you leave the subway car and step onto the platform. It’s the restrained British way of screaming “Watch out!” But I like to think that the use of “mind” also encourages us to be mindful. As parents, we need to be particularly mindful at this time of year as our child leaps from summer to school.

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Get your kid into reading

It’s August. Your child has been swimming, biking, and playing video games. But has she been reading?

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