School Choice: A Lightbulb Moment

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Most teachers will tell you that there is nothing more exciting than seeing the “lightbulb moment,” when, suddenly, everything clicks and a student understands a new concept.
And most parents will tell you that seeing their children develop a “spark of inspiration” about a new subject, topic, or interest can be incredibly heartwarming and encouraging.
The idea of school choice combines the need for more “lightbulb moments” and “sparks of inspiration” in our country.
Simply put: school choice gives students the opportunity to attend schools that meet their learning styles and encourage their interests at the same time, making them more likely to be successful in school and in life.
During National School Choice Week (Jan. 20-26), we celebrate the importance of opportunity in education, raising awareness of all different types of schools that are available to American families.
We recognize that every child is unique, and that a one-size-fits-all approach to education doesn’t properly serve students of all stripes, from all backgrounds, with every type of need, passion, and skillset.
One student might thrive in a traditional public school while another student might find her passion at a magnet school, a charter school, a private or parochial school, a virtual school, or through homeschooling.
School choice doesn’t mean elevating one school, sector, or program above another. Instead, it is about matching students with learning environments that meet their individual needs – and about providing the highest-quality education to the next generation.
If you are searching for a new or different school for your child – so that you can see more of those “lightbulb moments” and “sparks of inspiration” in your household – January is the time to start your school search.
Many school and scholarship applications will be due soon, so it’s a great opportunity to attend school open houses and fairs and find out what school is best for your child. In fact, more than 40,500 events and activities are planned during National School Choice Week, and you can learn more at www.schoolchoiceweek.com.

School Choice Opens Doors

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – We are just weeks away from the nation’s largest annual celebration of opportunity in education. That celebration is called National School Choice Week, and it is taking place in every neighborhood and community, through 40,594 independently-planned events and activities.
At open houses, school fairs, coffeehouse meetups, rallies, and more, millions of Americans – students, parents, teachers, school leaders, small business owners, elected officials, and individuals – are gathering to raise awareness of the importance of opportunity in education and the doors that it opens.
At its heart, that is what school choice is all about: opening doors.
For families, school choice opens doors to different types of schools, making it more likely that students can find education settings that inspire them to succeed and be happy.
These options include traditional public schools, magnet schools, charter schools, private and parochial schools, virtual schools, and home schools. All of these choices are important, and all of these doors should be opened, because every child is unique. A school that works for one student may not work for another.
And school choice continues to open doors for students after they graduate.
With a strong K-12 education, students are more likely to be successful in college, in a vocational program, and in their careers.
In my eight years as President of National School Choice Week, I have witnessed story after story of children finding opportunities they never thought possible, precisely because of school choice.
I have seen students attend college and go on to graduate with masters’ degrees, even though their parents hadn’t finished high school.
I’ve seen students with special needs find a setting where they’ve thrived. I’ve seen students who discovered their passions, escaped bullying, and grew in confidence.
And that’s what makes school choice – and National School Choice Week – so exciting.
Everyone can be a part of this celebration.
So whether you’re looking for a school for your child and want to learn more about your options during the Week, or whether you take time to get informed about all the choices available in your area and share that awareness with others, you’re helping the children in your neighborhood.
Above all, I hope you will use National School Choice Week to open doors, for your family or for other families. The next generation will thank you.
Start today by visiting schoolchoiceweek.com.

No Arms, No Legs, No Worries

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – One might not think that someone with no arms and no legs could swim, much less scuba dive, but with the help of one non-profit organization based in the Chicagoland area, children, veterans and people of all abilities around the world can benefit from zero gravity and scuba therapy.
The Downers Grove-based Diveheart Foundation has been serving individuals with everything from spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries to those on the autism spectrum and with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since 2001, this 501 C3, volunteer-driven charity has done everything from helping to facilitate cutting-edge scuba therapy research with university medical centers around the country to launching a leading international adaptive scuba training program for scuba instructors, dive buddies and adaptive divers (Diveheart refers to people with disabilities as adaptive divers, not handicapped or disabled divers).
“It’s not about scuba diving,” according to Tinamarie Hernandez, Diveheart Executive Director.
“Diveheart’s ultimate goal is to take the unrealized human potential that exists with individuals with disabilities and create a paradigm shift in their lives,” she says.
“We take Chris in the wheelchair and help him or her become Chris the scuba diver. Now Chris is no longer defined by his or her disability,” she adds.
“Diveheart then helps direct them to activities like coral reef restoration, marine biology and oceanography, giving them focus, purpose and helping them to feel valued while they are learning to become good stewards of the environment.”
Diveheart’s free scuba experience programs reach from coast to coast in the U.S. and are replicated by Diveheart teams as far away as Malaysia.
Researchers from around the country have found that the benefits of scuba therapy and zero gravity underwater range from relief of symptoms caused by post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain to increased focus and a sense of well-being in those with developmental disabilities.
Researchers have also discovered that there are big benefits in going deep because the body produces an extra output of serotonin once divers reach 66 feet underwater. However, those with developmental and physical disabilities can benefit from the very first pool session.
Diveheart’s ultimate goal is to secure funding to build a deep warm-water research and training facility so that the benefits of scuba therapy can be replicated in a safe, confined, warm-water environment.
More information on Diveheart and scuba therapy can be found at www.diveheart.org

Scent-imental: Holiday Smells Evoke Happy Memories

(NewsUSA) – Does a whiff of cinnamon bring back memories of your grandmother’s kitchen? Is the smell of a fir tree unalterably linked to Christmas morning? The sense of smell is uniquely connected to memories, especially during the holiday season.The connection between smell and memory is strong because it is so immediate.In fact, did you know that the sense of smell is the only one of the five senses that bypasses the rational part of the brain and goes directly to the limbic area, where memory and emotion are? Which is why when you smell something, it immediately takes you on a walk down memory lane, allowing you to recall the emotion associated with that scent from the first time you smelled it.This direct connection between smell and the brain is how aromas become strong memory triggers, often without our awareness until we smell the same scent again.Now think about how that plays out in your home.When you or a guest walks in, the strongest first impression will be the scent, and it will be the number-one thing that is sure to be remembered. It’s not a detail you want to overlook!Part of the fun of holiday festivities is revisiting the sights, sounds, and smells of the season.During the holidays, many Americans bring Christmas trees and greenery into their homes to create a festive atmosphere and evoke memories of wonderful smells from childhood of hanging wreaths and visits to tree farms. However, real greens are not always a feasible option due to allergies, pets, mess, and many other factors.More and more families in the U.S. are displaying artifical Christmas trees and greenery, and products such as ScentSicles Scented Ornaments provide an alternative that offers the beauty of holiday smells that bring the memories home."I genuinely believe that the sense of smell is the most important sense, because it is so closely tied to memory. One’s life is made up of nothing but a collection of memories and experiences. To have a sense that can literally take you back 40 years to your childhood on Christmas morning in an instant – well, it’s incredible," says Emrie Oliver, in-house fragrance expert for ScentSicles.The ScentSicles family of products includes Scented Ornaments that are designed to be hung on trees to add a fresh-cut scent to an artifical tree or extend the scent of a real tree.Scented Table Ornaments in the form of decorative glass jars with fragranced paper ribbons bring the aroma of the holidays nearby with no mess and no flame.Lastly, Scented Sprigs can be easily tucked into wreaths or garland to create holiday nostalgia and Christmas cheer. The products are created from natural, sustainably-sourced paper and infused with pure, holiday-inspired fragrance oils.Current ScentSicles fragrances include: White Winter Fir, O Christmas Tree, Snow Berry Wreath, Two Dashes of Cinnamon, and, new for this season, Spiced Pine Cones.Visit scentsicles.com for more information about the range of holiday options that help preserve old memories and make new ones.

Christmas Comes Early with Family Holiday Movies on UPtv

(NewsUSA) – The holidays are almost here, and fans of uplifting Christmas television can look forward to 45 films on UPtv, including seven Sunday night premiere movies. The network, known for family-friendly fare, kicks off 55 days of holiday programming starting November 1."At UPtv, we celebrate families through uplifting and inspiring stories," says Amy Winter, general manager and executive vice president at UPtv. "Our Christmas programming slate has something for everyone – whether viewers are looking for great movies about the true meaning of Christmas, the heart and humor that comes along with family, or just a little holiday romance, UPtv invites you to join us this holiday season," she says.In addition, UPtv brings back the fan favorite, Gilmore Girls "GilMORE the Merrier" marathon, for the week of Thanksgiving.The 153-episode binge-a-thon starts with a showing of the first episode on Monday, November 19, and concludes with the seventh season’s series finale on November 25. The marathon is hosted by actor Scott Patterson, who played Lorelei Gilmore’s love interest, Luke, on the show.This year’s original films maintain the UPtv holiday tradition of celebrating family, friends, love, memories and the true meaning of Christmas.The season kicks off with "A Christmas Switch" on Sunday, November 4. In a classic body-switching storyline, the movie puts two very different moms in each other’s lives to learn some valuable lessons as Christmas approaches. Struggling singer Audrey and wealthy record executive Julia learn that luxury isn’t more important than family, but that family time needs to be balanced with time for oneself.Other original features include "Christmas on the Coast," in which a crusty New York novelist seeking to lift her writer’s block goes home to small-town South Carolina and finds not only a change of scene, but also a change of heart.In "Christmas with a Prince," a dedicated pediatrician finds herself tending to her high-school crush (who happens to be a prince, and a spoiled one at that) after he breaks his leg on a nearby ski slope. However, tough love and Christmas spirit prevail to bring the unlikely couple together.To learn more about UPtv’s Christmas movies and to get the full schedule,visit www.UPtv.com, or check for updates on Facebook at facebook.com/Uptv, Twitter on @Uptv and Instagram at UP_TV.

Even During School Year, Fun Reading Important for Kids

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Most young kids love reading, but when the busy school year starts, it can be challenging to find the time to encourage them to read for fun.
It’s important to remember, however, that the more kids read on their own time, the higher they tend to score on tests.
In fact, about 76 percent of students who report reading for fun on their own time once a week or more perform at the high end of basic level testing, while 14 percent of students who never or hardly ever read for fun perform below the basic level, according to the American Library Association.
So how can we get kids reading during their free time when they’re already so busy in and out of school?
“Kids should be exposed to a variety of books and genres so that they can figure out what they enjoy,” says Stephanie Fryling, Vice President of Merchandising, Children’s Books, at Barnes & Noble. “If kids love the books and topics they’re reading about, like a graphic novel, they’re much more likely to reach for a book as often as a video game.”
It can be a challenge, however, to know what reading to get for your kids, let alone put down money for them.
That’s part of the reason bookseller Barnes & Noble started a national Kids’ Book Hangout. This free, seasonal event offers kids, parents, and caregivers a chance to gather together to learn about a range of books for grades 1-6, as well as play fun games and activities related to the stories and characters.
“We wanted to create a fun, friendly environment for kids to learn about new books and genres so they can find what interests them,” Fryling says.
The first Kids’ Book Hangout, held this summer, was a big success, drawing over 10,000 kids to Barnes & Noble bookstores around the country. Fryling expects the next Hangout to be even bigger.
The second Hangout will take place Saturday, October 20, at 2 PM, and features a range of books and graphic novels about friendship, adventure, and mystery. Barnes & Noble partner with Penguin Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books on the following titles:
* “The Cardboard Kingdom,” by Chad Sell
* “5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior,” by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel
* “The Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic Beyond,” by Max Brallier
* “Squirm,” by Carl Hiaasen
* “Monstrous Devices,” by Damien Love
During the Hangout, booksellers will introduce the books to the kids along with games, activities, and free giveaways. Barnes & Noble will also sell the books for 20 percent off in stores and online on the day of the event.
To sign up at their local Barnes & Noble, parents can go to bn.com/bnhangout and register for free.
For this Hangout, Barnes & Noble also partner with DOGObooks, where kids can discuss, rate, and review the selected titles. Kids can visit the Kids’ Book Hangout page at DOGObooks.com before or after the Hangout.

New Solution Helps Parents Manage Kids’ Device Use at Home

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Nearly three quarters of parents wish they had a way to turn off their children’s Wi-Fi access, according to results of a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Comcast.
Parents are right to be concerned as device use reportedly rises with the warmer temperatures. In fact, they say that children spend as much as four more hours a day online during the summer months.
Comcast’s latest “Active Time Alert” feature on Xfinity xFi, available with Xfinity Internet, however, can help parents set healthy time limits for their child’s device use at home. Xfinity Internet customers with a compatible wireless Gateway can easily access xFi features for no additional charge online, on their TV via the X1 voice remote, or on the xFi mobile app. Parents simply create and choose a child’s user profile within the xFi app and set time limits on the in-home network for weekdays and weekends.
The survey also found that use of Wi-Fi devices can easily overtake other vacation activities. Over half (56 percent) of the parents of teenagers responded that they thought their teens would prefer to go online rather than play in the ocean during a vacation.
Additionally, according to the survey, 76 percent of parents report that their children are more addicted to their devices than to candy. So what is a parent to do?
Of the parents surveyed, about 73 percent say that they set limits on devices such as computers and gaming consoles, and 51 percent report setting limits on only their children’s devices, such as laptops and tablets.
The xFi platform lets users know exactly which devices are connected to the in-home network at what times and for how long. With “Active Time Alert,” parents can choose to receive a push notification, text or email alert when their child is approaching his or her device time limit. Once parents receive the alert, they can either choose to extend the time or pause the child’s Wi-Fi access. Another xFi feature allows parents to either pause or stop the Wi-Fi connection to a child’s device in the home anytime and to prevent devices from accessing Wi-Fi.
This survey and Comcast’s new xFi feature align with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to prevent device use from interfering with sleep, exercise, and face-to-face family interaction.
The Wakefield Research and Comcast survey include responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 parents in the United States aged 18 years and older.
Xfinity xFi is available to Xfinity Internet service customers with a compatible Xfinity Gateway and is limited to the home Wi-Fi network. For more information about the Xfinity xFi platform and availability, visit www.xfinity.com/xfi.

Summer Break Means 25 Percent Break for Educators, Administrators

(NewsUSA) – Teachers deserve every break they can get. Reports show that wages for educators have been declining, and some work two jobs to make ends meet. Meanwhile, many teachers pay out of their own pockets for books and supplies. As the new school year approaches, Barnes & Noble wants to make it a bit easier for these dedicated educators and administrators.Year-round, the bookseller recognizes all the wonderful things that educators do by giving them 20 percent off school supplies. Each weekend in August, Barnes & Noble amplifies their thank you with an Educator Appreciation Month. Each weekend in August, Barnes & Noble increases its discount to 25 percent for most books, gifts, games and toys for teachers and administrators, including items in an expanded back-to-school section."Educators do so much for us, our children, and our communities," says Tracy Vidakovich, Vice President, Business Development for Barnes & Noble. "That’s why we try to give back in different ways, including our year-round offers for teachers, as well as special appreciation periods like this August’s 25 percent discount for most merchandise in our stores."While educators are shopping during these August weekends, they can also treat themselves to drinks and food at Barnes & Noble Cafés for 10 percent off. In addition, they can snag educational tech products, such as Code Gamer learning kits, at a 10 percent discount.When it comes to back-to-school shopping, Barnes & Noble has a lot to choose from this year. The bookseller not only has the books, pens, and other school supplies educators need, but it has an expanded collection of back-to-school items that includes JanSport backpacks, S’well water bottles, and Skullcandy headsets."Between grading assignments, communicating with parents, and planning classes, teachers are busy well beyond the school year," Vidakovich says. "That’s why we want to support them and make things easier by helping them save throughout the year, whether they’re teaching or preparing for their next class."Barnes & Noble’s Educator Program has been dedicated to providing discounts to public, private, and home-school educators for about a decade. Sign-up is free. After this August’s Educator Appreciation days, Barnes & Noble’s next major educator deal will come in the fall, with another Educator Appreciation Week from October 6-14, 2018.To take advantage of these discounts, educators can enroll in-store, or by completing the Educator Application online and bringing it to their nearest Barnes & Noble location. Educators can also find more information at www.bn.com/h/bn-educators

Making Reading Social for Your Kids at New Book Hangouts

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – With so many TV shows, videos, and games vying for a child’s attention, it can be hard to keep him or her inspired to read. It can be even harder to do so in “real life” settings, but interacting with other kids and sharing excitement for a series or character is often more powerful than swiping a screen.
Enter the Barnes & Noble Kids’ Book Hangout. This new nationwide program invites kids aged 6 through 12 to go to their local Barnes & Noble to hang out, talk books, and play fun games and activities – all “in real life.”
Through this new program, Barnes & Noble booksellers will lead kids in games and activities related to select titles that showcase a range of genres and tastes.
“The whole idea of the Hangout is for kids to see how much fun reading can be, and that enjoying characters, stories, and books really can be a social experience,” says Stephanie Fryling, Vice President of Merchandising, Children’s Books. “If the kids walk away with a new favorite character or series that motivates them to keep reading, then we’ll have done our job.”
The first Kids’ Book Hangout starts Saturday, July 28, at 2 p.m. in every Barnes & Noble store nationwide. Kids don’t have to read the featured books, and everyone from 6-12 is welcome. The national bookseller will continue to host Hangouts on a seasonal schedule.
For the inaugural gathering, Barnes & Noble has teamed up with Penguin Young Readers to showcase titles that include heartfelt poetry, a hilarious Caveboy, a mysterious adventure, and a Beatle-crazed young woman. The books are:
* Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
* More Scrawny Than Brawny, by Aaron Reynolds
* The Basque Dragon, by Adam Gidwitz
* She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah), by Ann Hood
The four titles will be 20 percent off all day at Barnes & Noble on July 28, and Frappuccinos and smoothies will be $1 off for Hangout participants.
The first Hangout comes at a great time for parents struggling to keep their kids reading during the summer. When school starts up again, the Hangouts will be a good reminder that books aren’t just for classrooms.
“The relationship people have with books and reading often starts in childhood, and we hope these Hangouts will help parents and caregivers lay a great foundation for young readers,” Fryling says.
The program adds to Barnes & Noble’s other offerings for kids, including the earn-a-free-book Summer Reading Program, and weekly Storytimes for younger kids.
The bookseller has more information on its website: www.bn.com/bnhangout, and will be posting about the event at #BNHangout.

Everything Newlyweds Should Know about Coupling Finances

Turns out that “coupling” doesn’t just mean “pairing” in the traditional sense, but is also a catchphrase when it comes to finances. As we head into wedding season, it’s especially relevant. Because as much as you may think no two people have ever been more in love than you are, the truth is that it could be less than smooth sailing ahead if you’re not on the same page when it comes to financial matters.

“Couples have a very hard time talking about money,” Joan Atwood, a Hofstra University professor of marriage and family therapy, bemoaned on an NPR “Money Coach” segment on the issue. “I would say it’s the last taboo.”