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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz County

September 13, 2012

Small Schools
Mount Madonna School
Suki: The 15-minute Learning Window
Springhill School
Science Fun with Christine: What is a Normal Child?
Santa Cruz County Fair
Viva: Cash Only Challenge Goes on Vacation

This Week
Day for Kids Street Carnival
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(Graphics) School_BusyFun2.jpgSmall or large: which is better when it comes to school size? I googled the topic and found an abundance of facts and opinions pro and con, so once again dear parents, the factor that can tip it for us is our knowledge of each of our children. This can include the variables of how well they have done in small (15) or large classes (25+), connections with particular teachers, the educational philosophy of a particular school, whether the school is run by teachers, administrators, parents or a combination, etc.


I found mild disagreement on what constitutes small, medium or large schools. The range was from 50 to 2,000. I personally have had Pre-K through 12th grade experience (as student, teacher and administrator) with small schools in the 200 to 300 size and then in college the 400 to thousands sizes. I like small best, however there are arguments for larger schools at appropriate times in a student's readiness and course requirement needs.


There appears to be no disagreement on the value of class size with 15-17 being ideal and there is evidence that larger class sizes (30 or so) change the dynamics. For example discipline and organizing can take a larger share of class time. Many other variables enter into the learning environment, which again takes us back to parental responsibility for research into and consideration of what is the best environment for each of our children.


There is also the school/class size of one. For a growing number of parents homeschooling -the smallest of all schools- works well. This week Suki discusses the amount of time spent teaching, implementing skills, socializing with other homeschoolers and going on cultural excursions.


I identify four current movements and trends that operate on the concept that small is best: 1) homeschooling, 2) charter and magnet schools, 3) the historical, enduring existence of small private schools, and 4) a movement to break up large public schools into smaller, autonomous units.


School/class size is a genuine case of "one size does NOT fit all". How does this affect you now? You want the best for your children. Be vigilant. Ask questions. Be courteous. Considering all options is a good plan.  We get to choose.

Now for fun, let's go to the fair, or Kids Day at the Boys and Girls Club, or bird watching via the Watsonville Birding Festival!  Parmalee

  Small Schools

New evidence that small schools work?

You might have forgotten about the small schools movement amid all the recent hubbub about overhauling teacher evaluations. But a study released on January 25th reminds us that only a few years ago, reducing the number of total students in a school was seen as a key weapon in the arsenal of urban school reform, and suggests that perhaps small schools shouldn't have been so quickly abandoned as a reform strategy. Read more>>>


As Florida's last one-teacher school, Duette Elementary, faces closure, a community must consider its values

Out here toward the center of the state, in the far northeast corner of Manatee County, there sits a school.  Duette Elementary is a small, white wood building with a front porch and tall windows with red trim. It's Florida's last one-teacher schoolhouse. Thursday was the last day of school.  Maybe forever.

Duette is tiny and isolated, fence-post, wide-sky rural. The volunteer fire district, 136 square miles, has fewer than 1,000 people. There's no post office. There's the Duette Country Store, there's the Dry Prairie Baptist Church, and there's the school.  It's been here for nearly 80 years, set on 10 acres surrounded by citrus groves, strawberry fields and phosphate mines. Read more about what happens in a school with 10 students>>>  Now read: Is Duette still open?


Are small schools better?  Considerations for Safety and Learning

From the perspectives of both safety and academics, new studies and experience from the 1990s have strengthened an already notable consensus on school size: smaller is better. There is overwhelming evidence that violence is less likely in smaller
schools. And a number of studies also find a correlation between smaller size and higher achievement for poor and minority students, with all students performing at least as well if not better than in large schools.

This Policy Brief outlines key research findings and looks at what the research says about why size appears to make a difference, how small is small enough, effective approaches to downsizing, and key barriers. Finally, it offers policy implications and recommendations. Read this study>>>


Is Smaller Better?                                                        by Alain Jehlen and Cynthia Kopkowski

Many teachers in the "small high schools' movement shout "Yes!'-but others are less convinced. Here's what you need to know about this latest wave of reform.

It started as an experiment led by a group of dedicated innovators. Their early successes grew into a reform movement. Now, the effort to transform large urban high schools into small schools has turned into a virtual stampede, driven by a giant carrot (Bill Gates' money) and an even bigger stick (No Child Left Behind).
Thousands of new schools, generally with 400 or fewer students, have been launched in the last few years. Many are stand-alone schools created from scratch. Others were formed by dividing big schools into several "small learning communities," or "academies," which still share the old building. Most keep teachers and students together for several years to strengthen their relationships.  Read more of this NEA position>>>

  Mount Madonna School

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  Suki: The 15-minute Learning Window

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I was at the river the other day with hordes of other homeschoolers, splashing around and having fun while our public-school brethren are going full-swing into homework and test preparation. A mom who is starting her homeschooling life this year with her 8-year-old daughter asked a very good question: What with all these fun activities, when do you have time to homeschool?

Our whiteboard gets used for math, to do lists, and other pursuits!

There are lots of answers to that question - as many answers as there are homeschooling families. But I gave her the answer that helped me a lot when I was new to all this: All you need is 15 minutes.

In school, time is taken up by a variety of things: organizational activities like getting from one room to another, preparation activities like finding the right books and making sure everyone has a pencil, parts of a lesson that have nothing to do with 80% of the kids in the room, like when a few kids are having trouble learning a concept, discipline problems when the teacher's focus is taken off everyone in the class but one child. School children spend about 6 hours in school per day. Very structured homeschoolers figure they cover the same material in less than 3 hours per day.

Then there's the rest of us... Read more >>>

Read more of Suki's writing... >>>

  Springhill School

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  Science Fun with Christine: What is a Normal Child?

There have been lots of scary stories in various news media about the over-medication of young children. The area I have concerns about is behavioral. People are medicating children to get to a "normal" behavior. Some children certainly can benefit, but how many really need this kind of intervention? This goes back to a definition of "normal." I discussed this in a previous blog. Some researchers are now trying to define "normal" behavior for young children. This is a wonderful step. I don't believe small children can be judged by the norms of older kids or adults. It sounds like most work in small children has been with kids with extreme behavior. 


(Graphics) TemperTantrum.jpgThese researchers took a bunch of data from a range of children. They didn't judge, they just took data. They found that normal behavior in small kids is less than one temper tantrum per day. An occasional bad day is also normal. They also distinguish between typical and atypical tantrums. A typical tantrum occurs when a child is tired or hungry or frustrated, or involved in some activity that can be difficult. An atypical tantrum seems to come out of the blue and can exhaust the child.


The researchers found a continuum of behavior in children. There is no line where on one side a child is normal and on the other they have a serious problem.


This is good science. Sometimes you need to define a problem before you can look for answers. These people didn't come up with any solutions for troubled kids, but they have helped clarify when parents really need to be concerned. I hope they continue their work. I have a 5-year old so I will be reading their papers. 
Science Daily  ~  Wiley Online Library

More posts at Science Fun with Christine Cockey, local scientist and mom.

  Santa Cruz County Fair

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  Viva: Cash Only Challenge Goes on Vacation

(Photos General) VivaGravatar.jpgMy husband and I are in the midst of an unofficial Three Month Cash-Only Challenge, in which we reluctantly forego credit cards and use actual, physical cash for all of our purchases.  If you're curious as to why would go cash-only despite our love of credit card rewards, check out Part I, "The Accidental Players."

Six weeks into our unofficial Cash-Only Challenge I got the opportunity to try out our new cash-only lifestyle while traveling.  On previous vacations we've always carried an absolute minimum of cash (maybe $20, to cover transportation tips and airplane food), and blithely charged all of our vacation expenses to our credit cards.  Of course, we then had to deal with the arrival of the credit card bill a month later, and even though our spending was usually "reasonable," it was always a bit of a downer to have to cough up money for a vacation that was already over.

A cash-only system changes that- all the money has to be saved and allocated up front, so there's no "hangover effect" of having to pay after the fun is over.  But regardless of whether the money is paid before or after the vacation, what I really wanted to know is whether going cash-only would result in less money spent overall.  The verdict?

Going "cash-only" on vacation saved us a lot of money

Why?  Because it forced us to set limits up front as to how much money we could spend. Rather than going into a vacation with a vague notion that we should only make "reasonable" purchases, a cash-only lifestyle required us to nail down our travel expenses ahead of time so that we could make sure we were carrying enough cash with us, and/or make sure there was enough money in the bank for a mid-trip ATM visit.  And by looking at those expenses ahead of time, we became a lot less inclined to fritter our money away on needless purchases.

Our vacation in this instance was an 8-day trip to Georgia and North Carolina to visit family.  Only my daughter and I went, as my husband wasn't able to get time off work.  The tickets were already purchased before our Cash-Only Challenge started, and we were staying with relatives instead of at hotels, so in budgeting for the trip I only accounted for the following expenses: Read on! >>>>

 
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Mama Yoga and Belly Dancing
with Megan Hawk
Vini style Prental Yoga classes that weave in circular movements of the ancient art of Belly Dance

 

Blossom Belly Hypnobabies & Birth Doula Services
with Susan Collum

Professional support for mothers and partners as your childbearing year unfolds and blossoms


Dance Wilder
with Heather Wilder

Basic dance skills in a gender neutral, free spirited and safe environment


Kids Connecting
with Sarah Paulson

Speech, Language, and Social Learning

 

New Family Support
with Lisa Piediscalzi

Acupuncture, craniosacral therapy and lactation consultations & classes

 

Luma Yoga
with Valerie Moselle & Lynda Meeder, Kate Tripp & Jada Giberson

A family-focused yoga center that nurtures and supports parents and children

 

My Core Fitness
with Jessica Goodwin

Pre and post natal training: Restore the Core, High Intensity Interval Training and Half Marathon Training


Rose Blossom Nursery School
with Sharon Rose

Engaging environment for children 2.6 through entry to first grade

 


Romanoff School of Music
with Alexandra Romanoff

Individual piano and lever harp instruction

 

The Santa Cruz Village
with Krystal Long

Groups, classes and events for your entire family!

Tune up your parenting skills in local Parenting Workshops!

New Leaf

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 Day for Kids Street Carnival

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Day for Kids Street Carnival
Saturday, 9/15, 1-4-pm
Kids 6-18 and parents, Free

The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Cruz will be celebrating the national Day for Kids on Saturday, September 15 with a fun, free street carnival with a bounce house, rock climbing wall, games, food, and raffle prizes! Kids and their parents/guardians are invited to help us celebrate kids and the positive mentors in their lives.


Boys & Girls Club, 543 Center St, Santa Cruz

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Monterey Bay Birding Festival
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  Monterey Bay Birding Festival
Monterey Bay Birding Festival
Date: Every day (Sep 24-Sep 27)
Details: Join one of the most spectacular birding and wildlife venues in North America- the tenth annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival.
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