‘Uptown Funk’ Goes To School – How an Assignment Turned Into a Viral Video

This week my son had a project due in his music appreciation class. His subject was British musician Mark Ronson, whose collaboration with Bruno Mars resulted in the wildly popular hit ‘Uptown Funk’.  It’s a good thing I love this song – because of his project, I’ve heard it about 50,000 times in the past few days! Apparently Dallas high-school theater teacher Scot Pankey thought it was pretty popular too, because he assigned the song to his students, and the result is a video that’s gone viral (my son and his buddy did a PowerPoint presentation that got an ‘A’ but did not go viral). Here’s the joyous performance by the teacher and his students:

And the video even got a shout-out on Twitter from none other than Bruno Mars himself:

 

 

Pretty cool, huh? Break out your Chucks and Saint Laurent and check out the original video performed by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson – you’re welcome. 🙂

Help for Homework Hassles

keep calmNow that the holiday season is officially underway, homework is probably the last thing on any kid’s mind!   But with  the first quarter of the school year over and report cards distributed, this might be a good time to check in with your child and review how he or she is handling the workload.  Are they feeling overwhelmed?  How are they doing prioritizing tasks and juggling projects?  And the homework – do they need help in organizing assignments or just getting down to work?  The task of completing homework can sometimes be a battleground that affects both a child’s self-esteem and your relationship with your child.  Here are some tips from a piece I wrote for FamilyCorner.com about developing a homework routine for your child that can help take the hassle out of homework:

Expectations:  Examine the school’s homework expectations and guidelines, then discuss them and your own expectations with your child regarding  how long to spend on homework each evening and/or any goals for the upcoming semester.  Make sure the two of you are on the same page regarding these expectations.

Set up a calendar:   A visual aide like this can help with long-term planning and setting priorities.  Make note of assignment and project due dates as well as test dates.  Advise your child to get the phone numbers of his ‘homework buddies’ – two other students in his classes whom he can call in case of missed assignments or notes – and write these numbers on the calendar.

Concentration takes energy:  No one works well on an empty stomach.  Offer a healthy snack before they sit down to begin homework.

Set up a time and space for homework to happen:  For some kids, that means starting homework right after school; others may need a little time to unwind.  Agree on a start time and stick to it.  Set up a space that’s conducive for work, be it the desk in his room or the kitchen or dining room table.  This space should be away from distractions like the television or computer (unless it’s necessary to complete homework).  Stock the space with the necessary supplies (paper, pencils, pens, rulers, etc.) to complete homework with minimal interruptions.

Be the fly on the wall:  You don’t want to do their homework for them, but let them know you’re there if they need help (or a little encouragement!).

Packing up:  At the end of the homework session have your child neatly put away all papers, binders/folders and supplies into their backpack.  It’s better to do this the night before than the following morning when it’s more likely that something might be forgotten.

If they need extra help:  There is often a ‘homework help’ period available after school with a teacher or a peer tutor.  Check if this is available at your school or if something can be arranged if your child is having trouble managing the homework load.

Will your child be writing a book report over the school break?  Check out Tips to Help Your Child Write A Successful Book Report for some ideas to organize the process.

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A Well Visit Wake Up

courtesy of Google images

I recently took my 11 year old son for his yearly well visit with the pediatrician.  At the end of the appointment, and after being assured all was indeed well, the doctor handed me a nifty little printout detailing the visit.  The first page listed current height and weight, any labs and tests ordered, results from vision and hearing screening, and any follow up appointments that needed scheduling.  How nice to have all that information neatly summarized on one page for easy reference – thank you, electronic medical records.

Then I turned the page.

The next page was captioned “11-14 Year Old Adolescent Visit”.  Adolescent?  My visceral reaction to reading this was “Holy sh*tballs! For reals?  Where did that come from?” I was just getting used to the term tween.  Tween is cute.  Last week he was still 10 years old.  This week he’s 11 and suddenly the word adolescent is being bandied about?  That just has a clinical ring to it I’m not sure I’m ready for.

And “11” is light years away from “14”.  In my inner panic all I could picture was a sullen, monosyllabic sleeping and eating machine who is six inches taller than me, at risk for trigger thumb from too much texting and suddenly interested in commercials for Axe deodorant.  This is a far cry from my sweet little boy who still reaches for my hand whenever we cross a busy street (if no one’s looking, of course).

I don’t know why I was so floored.  From infant to toddler to preschooler to big kid to tween (and technically I think I can still hold on to that one), my son’s new identifier as “11-14 Year Old Adolescent” is just the next step, right?  But there it was in black and white, mocking me as if to say “ready or not, here I come!”

The document went on to list information and guidelines about topics such as school performance, immunizations, testing, nutrition and oral health, physical, social and emotional development, and talking to your newly minted adolsecent about “risk behaviors” – you can just imagine what that’s about.

“Doctor,” I said, “Don’t get me wrong, I think this handout is great, but that ‘11-14 Year Old Adolescent’ thing kind of grabbed me by the throat.”  This man, who has been my son’s pediatrician for 10 years, laughed and said, “Yes, I know it’s a shock, but it’s here.”

And the hormone talk, like spring, must be in the air.  A few days later as I was looking over the curriculum topics to be covered in his class after the spring break, I noticed that “Puberty” was nestled in there between the Latin American Unit, Rocks and Minerals, and Essays and Fiction Writing.

I turned to my son and asked him if he knew what puberty was.  “I don’t know”, he shrugged “something about growing up, I guess”.

I have this tucked away. . .

Like the doctor said, it’s here.

It’s really here.

Have you had “the talk” with your kids yet?  How did you handle it?  What’s in store?  I really want to know!

Tips to Streamline Those Hectic Mornings

What mom hasn’t gotten that frantic phone call from their kid at school – “Mom, I forgot my ________!”  You can fill in the blank with any variety of items – homework, lunch, violin, lacrosse stick, glasses -whatever can get left behind usually does at one point or another.

If the same crazy chaos keeps happening day after day, like “Groundhog Day” for the school set, planning ahead and establishing some routines can streamline those manic mornings and help to better organize the day.  Get the kids to assist in the prep work – let them “earn points” redeemable for extra computer time or whatever else might motivate them to take part in setting up a plan of attack and sticking to it.  It’s just as easy to love a good routine as it is a bad one, so check out some tips to help you get started:

  • Pack it up the night before – as soon as homework is completed, pack up all papers, books, folders, etc. into the back pack, zip it up and leave it in a centralized location (by the door, in the kitchen) every evening so it’s easy to locate in the morning.
  • Lay out clothes the night before.  It’s easier to let your child have a say in this the night before than fighting about it 5 minutes before you have to head out the door.  Everyday items like a watch or jewelry, wallet, or cellphone should also be included with the wardrobe.  And how many times have I heard “where are my glasses”?  Check out this cute glasses holder from The Container Store.  My son hasn’t misplaced his glasses since I put this on a shelf by his bed a few months ago.
  • Breakfast hassles? While multigrain cereal or some whole fruit are nutritious options, some mornings my son likes a hot breakfast.  He loves pancakes, so I make a batch on Sunday, freeze them, and then microwave them during the week for a hot, homemade breakfast any time.  Since I’m making my own, I can add bananas, walnuts, flax seeds – it’s healthier and less expensive than the frozen store-bought kind.
  • A calendar outlining activities and events for each day (math test, sports and club activities, music lessons, etc.) is a visual reminder of what items are needed to complete daily tasks – and gather them ahead of time.  It’s also a good place for writing down a to do list – charge cellphone, get lunch money, etc.  If kids can see what’s coming, it’s less overwhelming and easier to manage for everyone.  I use this erasable calendar decal from PBTeen.

These methods have cut down on my morning chaos and have helped my son stay organized – what strategies do you use to reign in the madness?  I’d love to hear about them and learn something new!