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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz, CA

August 28, 2014
Happy Labor Day!

5 Issues to Discuss with Tweens and Teens before They Go Back to School

Suki: Back to Home/School - Vive La Difference

The Learning Myth: Why I'm Cautious About Telling My Son He's Smart

Steve: Great Snakes and Short boys

This Week
Capitola Begonia Festival
continued... Five Issues to Discuss with Tweens and Teens
continued... Suki: Back to Home/School
continued... The Learning Myth
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  Happy Labor Day!

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Traditionally we've celebrated Labor Day with parades, like this one in New York City 1882.  Labor Day is a holiday for recognizing the contributions of labor to our country.  Always the first Monday of September, it has also become a symbolic separation between the end of summer frivolity & relaxation and back to school & work, sort of a last hurrah with barbecues, family gatherings, beach picnics, a final campout et. al. before we all, parents and children, get down to business. 

Continuing with the theme of labor, I came across a touching story about a child "working through" a challenge to learn.  I hope you enjoy Sal Khan's article.

Suki's timely "back to school/home" story is a great example of my thoughts on all the educational choices available to us.

All over the country state fairs are bursting with homemade products and animals, bands entertaining us, farmers and young farmers showing off their animals and organizations showing off their wares. Locally the Monterey County Fair is Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 followed by the Santa Cruz County Fair September 10-15.  Act now to score discounted tickets.

(Photos General) SandCastle_Dribble.jpg(Photos General) Sand-Castle_2014.jpgIf you grew up making simple dribble castles at the beach, you will be amazed at the sand castle art arising from the beach during the Capitola Begonia Festival.  Running Friday through Monday, the festival is full of family friendly activities!

Thank you for your interest in our newsletter. As always, your questions, comments or concerns are welcome.  To find more events than we've highlighted below, just click for everything Friday through Sunday!


Have a great Labor Day weekend with family and friends! 



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  5 Issues to Discuss with Tweens and Teens before They Go Back to School

by Jay Scott Fitter MFT

(Photos General) TeenwithStyle2.jpgBack-to-school time always comes with a mixture of emotions for kids. They're excited to see friends again, but may have trepidation about fitting in with new social groups. As a result, they may experiment with new behaviors in order to be accepted or simply not "stick out."  

High school is a microcosm of our society. Within those walls are future gangbangers, drug dealers, murderers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. The groups your children choose to associate with can have a significant impact on which path their future will take. 

Before school starts, ask your kids what types of things they're worried, anxious, or excited about. You can get kids and teens to talk to you by asking questions that can't be answered yes or no; by listening without interrupting, judging, or advising; and by then paraphrasing back what they said. When they're completely done talking, you can give an opinion or maybe offer a strategy or two.

Here are five topics you or they may need to discuss. Clothing , Academics, Girlfriends/Boyfriends, Peer Pressure and Rules & Expectations.  Read on>>>>>

* * * * * 

Jay Scott Fitter MFT has two decades' experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is a popular parenting workshop leader, speaker, and the author of a new book, Respect Your Children A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting (


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  Suki: Back to Home/School - Vive La Difference

(Photos General) SukiWessling2013.jpgAnother year, another set of decisions about education. When my son was going into kindergarten, we thought we'd choose a school and that would be it until 6th or 8th grade. Ah, doesn't the universe have a way of making a mockery of everything we know?

I took this photo for an article I wrote about my daughter's choosing to go to school...for an unschooling magazine! Amazing how life changes and we parents just have to roll with it.

My older child has attended: Read on>>>>>>>


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  The Learning Myth: Why I'm Cautious About Telling My Son He's Smart

By: Salman Khan, Khan Academy

Join the #YouCanLearnAnything movement

(Photos General) SalKhanandSon.jpgMy 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he'll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was "gratefully." He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, "Dad, aren't you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing." I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a "growth­ mindset."

But this wasn't by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach. Continued below>>

Being founder and faculty means Sal's busy setting the vision for Khan Academy and expanding our library of educational videos. Before quitting his job as manager of a hedge fund to run Khan Academy full time, Sal also found time to get three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.


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  Steve: Great Snakes and Short boys

Steve Spitalny

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Yesterday I told a story to a 5-year-old friend. While telling, I tried not to look too much at her, but I couldn't help glancing over from time to time and seeing her mouth hanging open and her eyes focused somewhere far away as she sat still and listened. I was telling her a fairy tale and she was spellbound. Later in this post I include a story in its entirety for your reading pleasure and maybe you can go to that faraway place my young friend visited.

"Fairy tale" for me is distinct from other types of stories. It is a true story in imaginative pictures of an individual's soul and spirit development, a symbolic representation of the struggle to become a whole and free human being. The characters in the story are all in each human being; in me and in you. The story is the story of us all. Fairy tales describe how a spirit being descends into matter and lives as a human being, and finds its way to connecting with all of its parts, to self actualization. The path to the marriage of one's own soul and spirit is therein articulated.

Fairy tales give nourishment to the developing human being as seeds of moral strength. In the telling of fairy tales to children, the children receive images of strength and determination to carry through, to overcome the evil, to learn to see. It is not always clever and older siblings who are best suited to the task, or young, strong and handsome men. While archetypes abound, it is possible for a human being to break out of a mold, to become something unexpected. Within is the promise that weak can become strong, poor can become rich, donkeys can become musicians, and what once was lost can be regained.

If you really read the fairy-tales, you will observe that ...Read more>>>>

Explore the world of the young child with writer, speaker and consultant Stephen Spitalny. Steve was a kindergarten teacher at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School for 24 years.  His book "Connecting with Young Children: Educating the Will" was published in 2012. Steve now offers workshops, coaching and mentoring in the U.S. and around the world. Find Steve here.


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  This Week

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Events in the Parks

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School Corner


SSCDC Preschool Open Houses Tuesdays & Wednesdays


LitWits Master Classes High School, September


Gateway School K-8, Still Enrolling, Open for Tours


Spring Hill School K-6, Open House 9/10


Mount Madonna, Campus Tour Day 10/22


Tara Redwood School Pre-5, Call for a Tour

Daily Citron

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Salads To Go
by Arnel Ricafranca
is free right now on Amazon. 

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I haven't read it yet, but it's rated 4.5 stars with over 400 reviews, so there's got to be a few good tips in there. It's an Amazon Kindle ebook, but even if you don't own a Kindle you can still enjoy it by downloading it to your computer (PC or Mac), Android, iPhone, or iPad. The instructions for doing so are included under the "Buy Now With 1 Click" button.

PLEASE BE AWARE that the price could change at any time, so always check the price before clicking Buy Now.

Hurry, these promotions don't last long.  Let me know what you thought of this book!

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Tune up Your Parenting Skills

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Take a Parenting Workshop

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Aug 27 - Sep 1


Next event:
SATURDAY September  6, 12-2pm

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Seahorse Swim School
is giving back
to the community!


FREE lessons are
the first Saturday
of each month


Lifestyle Fitness



Schedule a consultation session with Steve.

The start of a new school year is around the corner.

Get a head start on working on your family issues with your young children before school starts.


Special August rates.

Contact Steve at
for details.

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 Capitola Begonia Festival

Capitola Begonia Festival

Capitola Village
A Labor Day weekend filled with fun events for the whole family. Beautifully decorated floats, concerts, sand
Date: Every day (Aug 29-Sep 1) from 7:00am to 8:00pm

A Labor Day weekend filled with fun events for the whole family. Beautifully decorated floats, concerts, sand sculpture contests, movies, art, fishing derby and more! 

Let's Dance! Review - 5 PM - 9 PM
Come down to Esplanade Park and enjoy dance reviews performed by local talent!


8am-12pm Sand Sculpture Contest at Capitola Beach. Registration begins on the beach at 8:00 AM. Guidelines and info for the event are available to view and download here

Float Construction Viewing-  all day until 10 PM
Stroll along the banks of Soquel Creek and watch as the floats begin to take shape.

(Site Photos) Sandcastle1.jpgSand Sculpture Contest  8:00AM to Noon at Capitola Beach
Registration begins at 8:00 AM on the beach. Trophy judging will be held at Noon.Budding Artists Event 9am-12pm Budding Artists Event  at the Esplanade. View the work of local student artists!

Begonia Mural  Noon - 7:00 PM, on Upper Esplanade Lawn
New event this year! Everyone come try your hand at attaching begonia blossoms onto chicken wire - just like the float-builders do! We will create a wall of flowers and a perfect photo opportunity!

Meet the Artist 2:30 - 3:30 PM
Gloria Souza - this year's poster artist, will be signing posters during the Festival at the merchandise booth.

Concert in the Park 4-6pm Beach Cowboys - back again this year and live at the beach in Esplanade Park. Bring the family, a picnic dinner, chairs, blankets and your dancing shoes!

MEET THE ARTIST 4-7pm at Pacific Gallery Framing, Pacific Gallery Framing, 321 Capitola Avenue . Capitola Village . 831.476.3588 Light refreshments will be served

Saturday Movie Night at the Beach  -  Begins at dusk.
Join us as we present a Broadway classic - Annie. Bring friends and family, a picnic dinner, chairs, blankets (it does get chilly) and we'll provide the movie!


Horseshoes on the Sand 8am - Finish Doubles tournament at Capitola Beach in front of Zelda's Restaurant. Teams will be chosen by drawing names from a hat.  Participants must pre-register. Fill out an online form or call (831) 475.6522 for information.

Float Construction Viewing Take another stroll along the banks of Soquel Creek in the morning, and watch as the floats get their finishing touches.

Chalk Art on the Seawall 9am-12pm, Sign in at Esplanade Park. Open to children of all ages. Create your own masterpiece atop the seawall on the Esplanade for all to enjoy! Art chalk provided to all participants.

Begonias to go, Head to Toe! 10am -12pm Esplanade Park, Become a part of the Festival! Create and design a festive hat for the occasion! Bring your own hat. We provide the begonias.

62nd Annual Nautical Parade 1-3pm, Begonia covered barges float down Soquel Creek to the Lagoon. Great views from the Stockton Bridge, Cliff Avenue and Wharf Road. ADA access available, click here for map or call (831) 475.6522 for information.

Concert in the Park 4-6pm
The Houserockers live at the beach in Esplanade Park. Bring the family, a picnic dinner, chairs, blankets and bring your dancing shoes!

(Special Event Page Graphics) BegoniaFestival_Fish.jpgMeet the Artist 2:30 - 3:30  PM
Gloria Souza- this year's poster artist, will be signing posters during the Festival at the merchandise booth


Fishing Derby 6am - Noon, Capitola Wharf, Registration begins at 6:30am at the end of the Wharf. Bring your own fishing poles.  Open to all ages. Final Tally begins at 11am.

Children's Art Project  11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
In Esplanade Park. Children of all ages are welcome to come and create a "make & take" memory of the festival.

Hoops for Everyone!  11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Come join Move Hoops at The Bandstand for 3 hours of fun-filled hooping. Members of Move Hoops will be showing their talents and teaching you a few moves, too!Rowboat

Rowboat Races beginning at 1 PM - Finish
Timed heats on Soquel Creek with two people per boat - We supply the boats! Registration at the pathway by the Stockton Bridge from NOON until 1 PM.

Daily Free Shuttle 10am-8pm

Phone: (831)476-6522 •website Capitola Village

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  continued... Five Issues to Discuss with Tweens and Teens

Clothing Trends

Tweens and teens use clothing to help express their individuality, but they also feel peer pressure to fit in. It's okay for parents to set parameters, and it's not your job to be your child's friend. How kids dress offers peers and parents clues as to the group they're associating with--groups that could be involved with drugs, promiscuity, or gangs, for example. A school counselor can advise as to what type of clothing is associated with high-risk behavior. If your child suddenly starts painting her fingernails black and dressing in all black, for example, you might start by saying, "I know that people who dress like this are into things that are inconsistent with what we believe, and I'm not comfortable with this. What do you think?"


As parents, it's important to explain to our children that even though they'll be presented with many fun alternatives to studying--such as parties, girls/boys, TV, and video games--high school academics will play a big part in shaping the rest of their life and career. They could be shut out of many career options by the choices they make in high school. Colleges look at their grades, how much they challenged themselves (with honors courses, for example), and how well they sustained or improved their grades over their high school career. In many colleges, the high school transcript is more important than SATs. Remind them that high school homework is not designed to be fun. Ask kids about their goals, and talk about how their coursework and academics fit in with those goals.


When hormones are raging, kids are more interested in the attention of a girlfriend or boyfriend than they are in school. They may even pursue a "bad boy" or "wild girl" as a revolt against schoolwork. Find out what kinds of clubs, athletics, and extracurricular activities the school offers, and encourage them to get involved with at least one of these. This will help them build up a resume for college, but it also keeps them well-rounded and socializing with like-minded kids.

Peer Pressure

Talk with your kids about the fact that peer pressure exists and that people are going to encourage them to do things. Friends might push them to drink, use drugs, be promiscuous, cheat on a test, steal, or even be a bully to someone else. Remind your tween or teen that if it's an activity or behavior they don't want to do, or goes against what your family believes, they should say no and, if necessary, walk away from the situation. The tough choices they make now could have an impact for decades to come. Prepare your kids for peer pressure by helping them develop a prevention plan or strategy ahead of time. For example, tell them they can call you if they're at a party with no safe ride to take them home. 

Rules and Expectations

Part of being a tween or teen is keeping independence, but these kids still need rules and boundaries--and consistent consequences. Talk about why these are your expectations and rules, so they don't just think you're being mean or strict for no reason. They may not ask for them or even like them, but rules and boundaries create a sense of security and opportunity for growth. When you give kids rules, make sure they know the consequences if they break them. It's very important that you stick to the stated consequences and not give in to their complaints.

  continued... Suki: Back to Home/School

My older child has attended:

  1. 1 preschool
  2. 1 private kindergarten
  3. 1 charter school
  4. 2 private elementary schools
  5. 1 middle school public homeschool program
  6. 2 online schools
  7. 1 high school public homeschool program
  8. community college both online and in person

My younger child has attended:

  1. 2 preschools
  2. 1/3 year kindergarten at a private school
  3. 1/3 year kindergarten in a public homeschool program
  4. 4 more years in that homeschool program
  5. 1 online school
  6. 1 neighborhood public elementary school

No wonder I sometimes feel weary when people ask me about their own educational choices. What have I NOT tried?

What I've come to realize is that education is always a year-by-year decision. Even when parents think their child will stay in the same school forever, they probably face a coming year with some qualms. Is this the right educational choice? What if it's not a good fit with the teacher? What if my child is more interested in after school sports than math? Would we all be happier unschooling? Is there a better school, with better teachers and perhaps better friends for my child? Am I screwing up my child's future??

Well, I at least have decided to let go of that last one. I'm doing what I can to create the right education for each child. This year, our choices for each child are radically different:

The fifteen-year-old is just loving being a homeschooler. He loves the hours (though he's not a late sleeper). He loves the flexibility which allows him to pursue his passion, computer science, with an almost single-minded fervor. He really likes his public homeschool program, where he has met some good friends and is reminded that it takes all kinds to make up a community. He enjoyed his community college class last spring and is going for more this year. He really, really loves not having to do PE.

The eleven-year-old, my original homeschooler, decided last year that she wanted to try school. She was in sixth grade, but it was Middle School Lite because our neighborhood elementary had two self-contained sixth grade classrooms. That meant that she was in a school with a total of less than 300 kids, in a room with the same 31 kids and the same teacher each day. This year? We looked at all sorts of options, including homeschooling, a small charter school, and our district junior high, and she has decided to go for the big guns and attend a 700+ student middle school in a neighboring district. Today, in advance of the first day of school, she spent over an hour poring over their lunch menus, their student newspaper, and anything else she could find online.

I hope that each of my children excels in the environments we've chosen. I think my family is a clear example of why you simply can't say that there is one right way to educate children. Who would have believed that I would become a committed homeschooler? Who would have believed that my child who couldn't last a full day of kindergarten simply loved public school last year? Who would have believed that my compliant "good student" would become a happy homeschooler-bordering-on-unschooler?

I read with great interest articles by people on all sides of the education debate about what works for students. But if there is one thing that turns me off, it's someone who refuses to acknowledge that the most important thing our educational system needs is flexibility and choice. You can cite all the test scores and studies you want-what I know is what I have seen with my own kids and with every other family I know. The safe option, the easy option, and the obvious option is not always the right option. My two kids, born of the same parents and raised in the same house, are going two very different directions.

May they both thrive!

Vive la différence!

Suki Wessling writes about parenting, education, gifted children, and homeschooling. If you'd like to learn more about Suki please click here.

  continued... The Learning Myth

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They've found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones. What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people's mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

Sal and his son

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they're malleable. What's really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call "growth mindset interventions," which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person's mindset. For instance, praising someone's process ("I really like how you struggled with that problem") versus praising an innate trait or talent ("You're so clever!") is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn't) based on a fixed trait. And we've seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.

The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind. However, society isn't going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra - it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument. If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.

And now here's a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you've just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (­­for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­) can begin to change a person's mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We've made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.

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