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kids & teens special occasions

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Tablets, e-readers among most popular gadgets students crave

What’s on top of the school supply list this year? It isn’t T-shirts and tennis shoes. It’s the other T, for mobile tech.Kids as young as elementary age are looking for smartphone upgrades, while the college set is sussing out the explosion in tablets, said Craig Johnson, president of the retail consulting and research firm Customer Growth Partners in New Canaan, Conn.“The single most important thing is the acceleration of technology for back to school. Kids don’t get excited about a new lunch box these days, or a new backpack. Cool means technology,” he said.


Back-to-school tech also means tablets. Once hallowed Apple ground, iPad 2 competitors are everywhere. Apple is still the big kid, but Android technology is in pursuit.In addition to the iPad 2, tech analyst Andrea Smith suggests the 10-inch Toshiba Thrive (starting at $430) for back to school. It runs on Android, has two USB ports and an SD card reader. The new TouchPad (starting at $500) by Hewlett-Packard, runs on webOS, has a 9.7-inch screen and touts easy multitasking among open apps.For analyst Natali Morris, iPad 2 (starting at $500) “really is the only tablet on the market that kids are coveting,” though she added that some Android technology is good for note-taking and syncing.Tablets are cool, but are they practical for actual schoolwork? That might have everything to do with the popularity of bluetooth-enabled keyboard add-ons, including the new one Smith and Morris like from Logitech, with a case that easily turns into a tablet stand. Toshiba has a keyboard, too, also sold separately.


Morris’ picks for student laptops: MacBook Air with an 11- or 13-inch screen (starting at $1,000 and $1,300, respectively). They weigh as little as 2.3 pounds and boot up in about five seconds, she said. Those features are good for students moving from class to class.Going head to head with MacBook Air for PC-prone students is the sleek new Samsung Series 9 (starting at $1,650), Morris said. It’s light, boots Windows in 20 seconds and offers 160-degree viewing for group work.


While not as powerful or versatile as tablets and laptops, high functionality — like highlighting and touchscreens — are coming to e-readers. “All of the features are out now or in the process of coming out,” Johnson said.The new Nook ($139) from Barnes & Noble has a six-inch touchscreen and crisp, clear print for reading in bright light. It also has received praise for long battery life.



Post-It Flag PenThis highlighter-pen combo comes with room for 50 color-coordinated flags on a shirt clip. You can find it at various stores that sell office supplies. It’s sold solo ($3.99 on and in a three-pack ($7.55 on

Crayola DryErase CrayonsAn alternative to white-board markers, these dry-erase crayons ($5.04 on come with an eraser mitt.

Azuna 3D NotebooksAzuna 3D technology adds a new dimension to notebook covers (one-subject notebook $2.99, only at Staples).

7 Things To Tell the Teacher


What can you tell a teacher that will help him do his job better? You might be surprised. While your child’s teacher is the expert in education, no one knows more about your child than you do. It’s just as important for parents to tell teachers about issues at home that may affect school performance as it is for teachers to report how children are doing in the classroom.

Students do best when parents and teachers work together as partners. The start of a new school year is a great time to open a dialogue with your child’s teacher. Not sure where to start? Here are seven things teachers wish you would tell them. Sharing this information with a teacher will help her better understand your child’s needs and lay the groundwork for a cooperative relationship throughout the school year.

1. Health conditions: If your child is diabetic, uses an inhaler, is allergic to peanuts, or has a serious health condition, her teacher should know. It’s also helpful to let the teacher know whether your child has been diagnosed with conditions like ADHD, which may affect behavior and concentration.

2. Family issues: Fill in the teacher if your family is going through a major change that could affect your child, such as a divorce, a death in the family, or a move. Even if your child seems to have adjusted well, alert teachers so they can watch for behavioral changes.

3. Personality traits or behavior issues: Maybe your son is painfully shy and is worried about making friends at a new school. Or perhaps your kindergartner has been having tantrums at home and you’re concerned she’ll do the same at school. It’s best to make teachers aware of these issues before they become a problem at school.

4. Strengths and weaknesses: Your daughter is a star student in math but is embarrassed to read aloud. Your son loves language arts but struggles with science. If you tell teachers these things up front, they’ll have more time to help your children improve in the areas they need it most.

5. Learning style: You’ve spent years teaching your kids, from potty training to tying shoelaces, so you have a good idea of their learning styles. If your child learns better through hands-on activities than through listening to explanations, mention that to his teacher. Also share any teaching strategies that you’ve found work well with your child.

6. Study habits: Does your son speed through math homework but labor over reading assignments? Do your daughter’s grades suffer because she spends so much time at skating lessons? Tell teachers about your children’s study habits and any issues they face in completing the work. Teachers often can offer suggestions to make homework time go more smoothly.

7. Special interests: Knowing more about your child’s hobbies or interests can help the teacher forge connections in the classroom. Let the teacher know that your young son loves a particular comic book superhero and that your middle school daughter is a gifted painter.


Reprinted with permission. ©


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Start the school year right


Forget last year’s late-night homework sessions and missed bus rides—the start of a new school year is a great time to reevaluate family routines and set guidelines to help your child succeed.

This year, make going back to school about more than buying school supplies. Think ahead to help your family ride out the surprises the year is sure to bring, and follow these expert tips to start off right.

Lay the Groundwork

Going back to school doesn’t have to mean homework fights and bedtime protests. While some experts advise creating homework schedules or activity charts, parenting coach Erin Brown Conroy says the first step parents should take to minimize disputes is to communicate their expectations clearly. Talk about homework rules and daily routines before school starts. Then, enforce family rules consistently.

Even on the toughest of days, it’s important to keep a positive attitude. Instead of focusing on what children “have to do” for homework, emphasize what they “get to learn,” Brown Conroy says. If your child becomes overwhelmed by homework, help break down the work into easily accomplished tasks.

Brown Conroy, the author of 20 Secrets to Success With Your Child, also advises parents to think ahead to what difficult situations their children may encounter, such as making new friends, and to talk about ways to deal with these situations before they occur.

Ease Anxieties

Starting a new grade or moving to a new school can be frightening. Parents can ease these anxieties by helping students feel prepared for school. If your child walks or rides a bicycle to school, walk or ride the route with him. If your child rides the bus, show her where the bus stop is, tell her about the schedule, and make sure she knows how to find the bus after school. Remind your child where he will go after school, whether it’s home, to an extracurricular activity, or to a babysitter.

This is also a good time to talk about strategies for dealing with bullies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends telling children to look the bully in the eye, stay calm, and stand tall. Teach children to respond to bullying by saying, “I don’t like what you are doing,” “Please do not talk to me like that,” or “Why would you say that?” Tell your child to walk away from a bully, and teach her when and how to ask for help.

Meet School Staff

It’s best to make an appointment for you and your child to meet the principal, your child’s teachers, and even the school counselor before school starts, says John Wherry, president of the Parent Institute, a private company that encourages parent involvement at school. Alternatively, find out when the school will hold an organized teacher night and make plans to be there.

“Let your child see what the place is like instead of just riding a bike around the school all summer and not knowing what goes on behind those doors,” advises Wherry, a former teacher.

If your child has special needs, inform the teacher before classes start. Also let the teacher know of changes that may affect your child’s behavior, such as a divorce, an illness or death of a family member, or a recent or pending move. In addition, help the teacher connect with your child by mentioning his interests or hobbies, Wherry says.

Learn About the Curriculum

The No Child Left Behind Act has made standardized tests more high-stakes than ever. Help your child do her best by understanding what she is expected to learn in her grade level. Because each state has different standards, the National Education Association recommends contacting the state department of education, the school district, or your child’s school for a copy of the standards.

The NEA suggests finding out the goals your child’s teacher has for the year and how students will be tested. In addition, look for ways to help your child develop academic skills at home. Younger children’s literacy skills, for example, can benefit from playing reading and rhyming games with parents. More advanced readers should be encouraged to talk about what they’ve read. For additional ideas, ask your child’s teacher to recommend educational books, websites, games, or crafts.

Get Involved

Find a way to be more involved in your child’s education this year. It might be volunteering to help in the classroom, or it could be as simple as talking with your child each day about what he’s learned. Set the stage for sharing by telling your child highlights of your day, Wherry advises. “Just by asking and paying attention you send a message that you think school is very important.”

Wherry recommends asking children to talk about the best part of the day, whether they learned anything that surprised them, and whether they asked good questions in class.

Plan Healthy Meals

Keep nutritious food on hand for breakfast or make sure your child eats breakfast at school. Students who eat breakfast focus better in class, perform better on tests, behave better, and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.

Find out how to obtain a copy of the school menu and pack lunch on days the school serves meals your child doesn’t like. If your child packs her own lunch, establish guidelines about what she is allowed to take. Consider limiting sugary soft drinks or drink boxes and junk food with low nutritional value, such as potato chips. In addition to fruits and vegetables, nuts and low-fat cheese make healthy snacks.

Build a Parent Network

You never know when you might need to call on other parents for help or advice. Seek them out at school events and parent group meetings. If the school publishes a family directory, write notes in the margins with information about parents you’ve met.

Compile a list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses to coordinate carpooling and emergency baby-sitting. Keep a copy at work so you know whom to call when your schedule changes unexpectedly.

Reprinted with permission. ©


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Back-to-school parent homework


Let’s face it: Kids aren’t the only ones with a lot of work to do at back-to-school time. Not only do you need to shop for school clothes and supplies; you also have to sign countless forms and make decisions about your family’s new routine. The good news is that by doing a little homework, you can look forward to a less stressful, more productive school year.


 Know when and how the school will notify you of your child’s new teacher and what school supplies she will need. Call the school office if you have questions. Now is the time to find out whether your son needs to bring a change of clothes for gym class or what to do if your daughter must take medication during the day.

Research Project

Check with your child’s school, the school district, or the state department of education to find out what your child will be expected to learn this year. For extra credit, seek out videos, books, and enrichment activities to help your child master the material.

School Rules

Before classes start, outline your family’s ground rules for completing homework, doing chores, watching television, playing video games, and other activities. Establish school-night bedtimes and talk with your children about their morning and after- school routines.

Discussion Period

Talk with your kids about their worries or concerns for the new school year. Try to convey the importance of education, but don’t put too much pressure on them to be perfect.

Required Reading

Take time to review all the paperwork from the school as it arrives. Read the school handbook, paying particular attention to the procedures for keeping a sick child home, visiting the school, and taking your child to appointments during school hours. Submit sign-up forms and permission slips promptly, and watch for notices about how you can volunteer at school.

Writing Assignment

Mark important events on a family calendar, including school holidays and extracurricular activities. If you don’t have an opportunity to talk with your child’s teacher before the first day of school, write her a short note telling her about your child’s special interests, hobbies, strengths, and weaknesses to help her get to know your child faster.

Reprinted with permission. ©


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