National School Choice Week – Time to Start a Conversation

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – The world’s largest celebration of opportunity in education starts next week.
National School Choice Week 2018 begins on January 21, shining a positive spotlight on traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.
The goal is simple: to let parents know that they have choices when it comes to their children’s education, and to celebrate the many different and effective education options available for students.
For almost every parent in America, there are ways to get involved in this positive, inspirational week.
If you are looking to find a new school for your child and want to know how to start the process, use the Week as a time to research your options. Download a free school choice guide for your state at www.schoolchoiceweek.com/mystate.
If you want to learn more about the different schools and education environments in your area, consider using the week to attend a special event. More than 32,000 are being planned during National School Choice Week – everything from information sessions, school fairs, and open houses, to rallies. Find an event in your community by visiting www.schoolchoiceweek.com/map.
If you are happy with the choices you have made for your child’s education, take time during National School Choice Week to thank a teacher or school leader, or to brag about your child’s school in a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can also share your story with us at schoolchoiceweek.com/share.
If you think that your community or state needs more educational choices for children, use National School Choice Week to speak up and make your opinion known.
Making a difference is easier than it sounds. All it takes is starting one conversation.
You can start that conversation on social media (using #schoolchoice in your posts), or by talking with a friend, coworker, or member of your family.
“Did you know that this is National School Choice Week?” is a good question to get the discussion going.
When more Americans talk about opportunity in education, more parents will discover the options available for their children’s education. That means that more children will have the chance of being matched with schools that meet their unique talents, challenges, needs, and interests.
This National School Choice Week, all that it takes is one conversation to brighten the future of a family. Will you start one?

School Choice Is About Parents, Not Politics

(NewsUSA) – As tens of millions of people across the country prepare to celebrate National School Choice Week Jan. 21 through 27, our goal is to focus on parents and children, not politics or politicians.During National School Choice Week, schools of every type – traditional public, charter, magnet, online, and private – will join homeschool groups to celebrate the things that make their education environments unique and effective.As a nonpartisan awareness effort, National School Choice Week provides an opportunity to bring conversations about education out from the political sphere and to the kitchen tables and living rooms of parents in communities across America.This is important because, even though education is a matter of public policy, it is also deeply personal.At its core, school choice affirms the special bond between parents and children. School choice empowers parents to turn the love and concern they have for their children into action. It encourages them to talk to their children and make decisions together about what schooling environments fit the talents, interests, and challenges that are unique to every student. And it recognizes that while one school might be a good fit for some students, it isn’t necessarily a good fit for every child.By exercising school choice options, parents who want their children to learn Mandarin can send them to a school where they will learn Mandarin; parents who believe their kids need a lot of time outdoors or who want to affirm their faith tradition can follow that path; parents who didn’t go to college but want their kids to have that opportunity can find a college prep choice.Parents choose schools for a variety of reasons. For example, a survey of Indiana parents found that parents considered factors such as academics, morality, social skills, diversity, college preparation, an appreciation for nature, patriotism, the ability to enter the job force without a college degree, and an opportunity to learn another language.These choices reflect the diversity and individualism of our great country, and they should be respected and celebrated. After all, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we all share the same goal: to unlock the potential for success and happiness in every child through a great education tailored to who they are and who they want to be.

Give Expectant Parents a Once-in-a-Lifetime Gift This Holiday Season

(NewsUSA) – While the latest gadget, toy or jewelry still has its place on holiday wish lists, there is a desire among Americans, especially millennials, to receive gifts better aligned with their values.According to a recent *on-line survey among approximately 2,200 US adults, 79 percent said they want the gifts they give to their family this holiday season to better reflect with their values.In fact, 54 percent of millennials surveyed said they would like to give or receive gifts that represent more than material value. The survey went on to ask if costs were the same and they could choose from experience gifts, gifts to protect their health or donation to charity, Americans would rank experience gifts the highest, those that could help protect their health, second, and donations to charity, third.Cord blood banking – a process whereby blood left in a newborn’s umbilical cord that contains valuable, pristine cord blood stem cells, is collected at birth and stored for potential future use – is one such health-related gift that may resonate with millennials as they start to plan for families. After learning more about cord blood banking, 68 percent surveyed say that they’d likely recommend it to expecting parents."The moment of birth presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture and preserve a newborn’s stem cell-rich cord blood, but 95 percent of valuable cord blood is discarded. Expecting parents should understand that cord blood stem cells have the potential to help treat many diseases. Arming parents with information about the value of cord blood can help them make the right decision for their family," says Frances Verter, founder and director of the non-profit Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.Cord blood stem cells have already been used in more than 40,000 donor transplants worldwide to reconstitute healthy blood and immune systems. Cord blood is currently being investigated for its potential use in regenerative medicine to treat brain injury, hearing loss, autism and congenital heart defects.Heather Brown, vice president of Scientific and Medical Affairs for Cord Blood Registry, the largest and oldest family cord blood bank with over 700,000 units stored, explains, "Preserving a baby’s newborn stem cells may give that child access to his or her own cells for potential future regenerative medicine uses and your baby isn’t the only one who may benefit. Depending on different factors, preserved newborn stem cells can potentially be used by siblings and parents."With research evolving, a gift of cord blood banking may be the perfect gift this holiday season.To learn more, visit www.cordblood.com.*This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of AMAG Pharmaceuticals from November 28-30, 2017 among 2,196 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact media@amagpharma.com

Parents Want Fun, Safer Messaging Solutions for Kids

(NewsUSA) – Today, parents are increasingly allowing their children to use tablets and smartphones at younger ages. In fact, nine in ten 6-12-year-olds in the US have access to tablets or smartphones, and two out of three use tablets or smartphones on a daily basis. But parents often have questions and concerns about how their kids use them and which apps are appropriate.Whether it’s using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she’s working late to say "hi," parents want safe messaging options that are also fun for kids to use.Messenger Kids, which launched this month in the US on the App Store, is the latest solution to answering these parents’ needs."After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the US, we found that most feel there’s a need for apps that let kids connect with people they love, but also have the level of parental control parents want," says Loren Cheng, Product Management Director.Standalone apps such as Messenger Kids have many benefits, including:Connection. Apps are a great way for children to connect with the people they love. With Messenger Kids, kids can video chat and message with parent-approved contacts once their account is set up by a parent.Creativity. An app should be fun, and should allow kids to express themselves within the limits set by parents. Messenger Kids features a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools that let them decorate photos and videos and have more fun with live video chats.Control. Messenger Kids helps ease parents’ concerns about how children are using devices and whether they are using apps that are age-appropriate. It also gives parents more control. Parents fully control the contact list and kids can’t connect with people that their parent does not approve.Convenience. Apps, especially for kids, must be easy to setup and use. Messenger Kids was designed with input from thousands of parents and over a dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety, children’s media and technology. Once the account is established, the home screen shows kids at a glance whom they are approved to talk to, and when those contacts are online.This preview of Messenger Kids is only available in the US at this time on the Apple App Store, and will be coming to Amazon App Store and Google Play Store in the coming months.For more information, visit messengerkids.com.

How Parents Can Have A Device-Free Meal with the Tap of A Button

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Technology, the pletho- ra of devices, such as smart phones and tablets, and social media have brought convenience to our finger- tips today in ways that we didn’t know were possible just a few years ago.
It has made life easier for families and businesses in so many ways, more than we can count.
But, with that immediate grat- ification we, as a society, have some serious consequences to con- sider and address.
A new Comcast survey shows that the majority of parents across the country believe that disconnecting from devices during mealtime improves family bonding, with more than 2 in 5 (42 percent) not able to remember the last time their family had a device-free meal.
However, children aren’t the only ones to blame: more than half (52 percent) of parents have been told by their children to put their cell phones away during meals. A new DeviceFreeDinner campaign featuring comedian Will Ferrell captures this very issue. Comcast offers a solution for parents called Xfinity xFi, a new way for users to personalize, monitor, and control their home Wi-Fi, including the ability to instantly pause Wi-Fi connectivity by user or device.
The “pause device” feature is the most popular xFi function, with users tapping “pause” about five million times since launch, most often between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Parents will be happy to learn that they are not alone in their concerns about screen time and its effects.
Comcast’s nationwide study of parents, conducted by Wakefield Research, also found:
* Dinnertime is bonding time -Nearly every (98 percent) parent surveyed agrees that disconnecting from devices during mealtime im- proves family bonding.
* Millennial parents have an especially hard time remembering the last time they sat at the dinner table without a device at the table (49 percent), compared to Gen Xers (37 percent) and Boomers (33 percent).
* Sneaking screen time – Par- ents admit to taking away their children’s devices an average of once per week and more than half (56 percent) have found their chil- dren trying to sneak their devices when they were banned from them.
* Going to extremes to discon- nect – Nearly one-third (31 percent) of parents make their children leave their devices in a basket be- fore bedtime, while 14 percent go so far as to disconnect their modems to stop Wi-Fi usage.
The American Academy of Pe- diatrics recommends that parents develop personalized plans for their children’s device use, warning that excessive screen time can displace important activities such as face-to-face interaction, familytime, outdoor play, exercise, and sleep.
“Technology should adapt to meet our customers’ needs, not the other way around,” says Eric Schaefer, Senior Vice President of Internet and Communications Ser-vices for Comcast Cable. “With xFi’s ‘pause device’ feature, parents have the power to decide when it’s time for family members to connect with each other, rather than their devices.”
For more information about Comcast’s xFi, go to: www.xfinity.com/xfi.

Encourage a Love of Reading During National Family Literacy Month

(NewsUSA) – For many parents, it’s a struggle to get kids to read outside of the classroom, but November is the perfect time to change that, because it’s National Family Literacy Month.The importance of reading goes well beyond acing a test or getting an "A" on a book report. It’s a lifelong skill that helps you to better understand the world around you and even yourself. And it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure that kids don’t become non-readers in their busy, over-connected daily lives."Reading opens up so many possibilities, from discovering a new interest to sparking untapped creativity. Best of all, it is a great way to spend time together as a family," says Emily Levitt, vice president of Education for Sylvan Learning.Here are a few suggestions to help kids to fall in love with reading, and to share fun, memorable reading experiences together as a family.* Read Aloud — The easiest way to get kids interested in reading and to build their vocabulary is for parents to read aloud to their children, no matter their ages. Kids will often skip over words they don’t recognize when reading alone, but if they hear their parents say the word, they may ask for the definition. Putting aside just 15 minutes a week to read aloud to kids can make a difference.* Start a Book Club — Starting a book club with a group of your kid’s friends and their parents is a great way to make reading fun. Give participants a month to read the selected book, then organize a party where everyone can chat and enjoy themed snacks.* Stick with What They Like — Kids will be more inclined to read if it’s about something they’re already interested in. And if you can share that interest with them, that’s even better! And because not everyone loves the same subjects or genres, try to at least hook them with engaging books on whatever they enjoy — be it baseball, magic or anything else.* Monkey See, Monkey Do — It’s important that kids see their parents reading. If they don’t, it’s an unspoken statement to your child that it’s okay not to read. From crossword puzzles to comic books, it’s easier than you think to build literacy as a family. Make a conscious effort to set time aside time for you and your kids to read together.* Deploy Backup — Not every child is a natural born reader and even kids who are great readers can use reading help.Sylvan Learning offers reading programs from Pre-K through Grade 12. And because no two children are exactly alike, they personalize reading tutoring for each child, giving kids the personal attention and confidence they need to thrive.For more information, please visit www.sylvanlearning.com

Back To School Means Early-Morning-Wake-Up Call

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – It’s that time of year again — back to school.
Kids may not be happy, but moms are most likely thrilled to get organized, prepared and back into a routine.
It can be difficult to put a schedule in place after a summer of sleeping in, staying up late, hanging out at the pool, and just relaxing.
If this sounds like you and your family, here are some great tips to get you started:
* Breakfast is essential. During the summer, both moms and kids experience inconsistency. To help get everyone back in a routine, work on a consistent breakfast time. Remind kids that if they don’t eat, lunchtime at school will feel an eternity away. Quick and easy options for the most important meal of the day include cereal and milk or apples or bananas with nut butter. If you’re looking for diversity, Malt-O-Meal brand cereals come in more than 30 varieties — something for every taste bud in the family.
* Order the school supplies online. Who has time to run all over town, stopping at four different stores for items on the list? Order what you can online and save time and money. Many stores offer back-to-school sales and everything will be delivered to your door.
* Over the weekend, get groceries and meal prep done for the week. You can help yourself by chopping up produce, making soups and casseroles to freeze, and assigning portions to containers.
* Reevaluate what your kids can do or contribute to. Kids are perfectly capable of helping out: based on their age, they can make their own lunch and snacks for school, put laundry away and take out the trash and recycling.
Sometimes, there are good lessons to learn, too. For example, the Malt-O-Meal cereal bags from breakfast can be recycled through a free program in partnership with TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based recycling company. Through the Malt-O-Meal Cereal Bag Recycling Program, you can ensure that none of it ends up in the landfill. And the bonus? It’s a great way for kids to get involved.
So think about what your kids and family can do to help you during this school year. They are able to do more than you think. Be organized, plan ahead and get that school routine in place so the rest of the year is a breeze.

Study Suggests Today’s US Students Are Less Efficient Readers

(NewsUSA) – Do today’s students perform better than their peers in 1960? Given the advances in education and technology, it would be natural to assume that the answer is a resounding "yes." But, when it comes to reading efficiency, new research suggests that that’s not the case.The research, published by the International Literacy Association, compares the comprehension-based silent reading efficiency of US students (grades 2-12) in 2011 with data collected in 1960.A key finding was that students fall further behind as they advance through the grades, wrote Alexandra Spichtig, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer of Reading Plus, and first author of the study.The study showed that today’s second-grade students are comparable to their peers of 50 years ago, but that by the end of high school, students’ comprehension-based silent reading rates average 19 percent slower than the rates of their 1960 peers."What we know — and the data underscore this — is that for many students, the progression to efficient silent reading does not develop naturally. Many students need structured silent reading instruction," explains Mark Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Reading Plus, a web-based silent reading program for schools.Some of the benefits of implementing silent reading instruction at home or in school are:* Expanded vocabulary* Improved comprehension* Increased efficiency* Enhanced reading enjoyment* Improved writing skillsExperts agree that without extensive silent reading practice in the classroom or at home, students will continue to struggle and literacy rates will continue to fall short or fall behind."Effective reading instruction must integrate fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension practice tailored to meet each student’s unique needs. This study demonstrates that as long as structured silent reading practice is neglected in this country, the literacy problem is likely to continue," Taylor adds.While researchers can’t pinpoint reasons for the decline in silent reading efficiency from that of 50 years ago, it stands to reason that those students who engage in structured silent reading practice become more efficient readers and take with them a love of books that lasts far past their high school graduation.For more information, please visit www.readingplus.com

Misconceptions About Conception

(NewsUSA) – As straightforward as the idea of getting pregnant may seem, there is still a great deal of confusion about infertility. A survey of 500 participants, conducted by The Stork Ib2C, Inc. uncovers the most prevalent misconceptions about conception.When asked how long respondents assumed it would take to see a positive pregnancy test, nearly 56 percent thought only three to six months. In actuality, most will take up to a year to conceive. Fertility is often out of our control, and these false expectations can lead to disappointment and stress early on, and that can negatively impact fertility and the conception process.The survey also revealed a psychological impact from fertility issues as 38 percent described feeling sad or upset that others were pregnant while they were not.Although friends and family are supporting the couple’s success, not being able to give those loved ones the news they want to hear causes the same percent to feel unwanted pressure.Thirty-three percent were concerned about financial barriers of fertility treatments, questioning how they would finance expensive treatments, particularly at a time they were saving for a new baby. Clinical fertility treatments vary in price, but most procedures are not covered by health insurance and can reach well over $10,000.More than 52 percent thought multiple births were the number-one risk associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF), and 67 percent said they would not try the most invasive of the clinically fertility treatments. Surprisingly, many did not recognize the risks associated with ovulation-stimulating hormones. The high price of clinical procedures doesn’t equate to greater success rates, a component only 13 percent cited as a risk they associated with treatments.The average cost of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is $500, but yields only a 16-21 percent rate of success, similar to the 20 percent of cervical cap insemination, the technique the Stork OTC offers, but at a considerable lower price .The Stork OTC home conception device is a low-cost option that affords couples the opportunity to assist their chances of conception without engaging in invasive and costly treatments. The FDA-cleared, over-the-counter device provides a way to keep a higher sperm score concentration at the cervix compared to natural intercourse. For more information, visit www.storkotc.com

Boomers, Grandchildren Find Common Ground Through Music

(NewsUSA) – "It was 20 years ago, today…" 50 years ago actually. June 2, 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the release of, what many describe as "the greatest rock album of all-time" — "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band."The eighth studio album by The Beatles spent 27 weeks at the top of the U.K. charts and 15 weeks at no.1 in the U.S.This summer, Billy Shears and the gang were back on top, hitting no. 1 once again, as one of this year’s highest-selling albums. Many people remember exactly where they were the first time they heard one of the iconic songs included on the album during the Summer of Love.Considering that David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd and many more have also been listed at the top of the charts this year, one might be inclined to dust off an old turntable or 8-track tape player.But unlike the other classic music talent mentioned, The Beatles have inspired a new revolution these days, this time for kids even younger.Meet Buzz, Walter, Jay, Crick, and Kumi: the Beat Bugs.Josh Wakely’s Beat Bugs is an Emmy Award-winning animated kids series featuring songs made famous by The Beatles.This Netflix hit revolves around the lives and adventures of these five best friends, charming and funny childlike bugs who explore and learn life lessons in their suburban backyard home.Each episode ties in a song made famous by The Beatles, reimagined in an innocent and child-friendly fashion, sung by one of the characters or guest stars that include mega-musicians Pink ("Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"), Sia ("Blackbird"), Aloe Blacc ("Rain"), The Shins ("The Word"), Jennifer Hudson ("I’ll Follow the Sun"), and more.Beat Bugs introduces a new generation to the music of the most influential band in rock history.Groovy.In support of the Netflix success, Target has curated a line ofBeat Bugs interactive merchandise, including toys and games, DVDs and books, apparel and accessories and more.Many products available come complete with the musicality of the show.From the Beat Bugs Hijinx Alive that magically sing along on cue to the show playing on Netflix or the app, to the Musical Submarine that plays excerpts from, (you guessed it) "Yellow Submarine" to the Sing Along Microphone and more.Even Beat Bugs books and the backpack play music!Shop for Beat Bugs at http://beatbugs.toys/NewsUSA.Fans "Across the Universe" have had a similar reaction to the show and the products, stating that it is such a thrill to be able to introduce The Beatles to a new generation in a refreshingly fun and innovative way.Actor, comedian, television host ("The Late Late Show with James Corden"), and singer James Corden lends his voice to "I’m a Loser" for Beat Bugs. During his recording session, he stated, "My son is four years old and I can’t wait for him to watch this.""I would be amazed if he didn’t just start to fall in love with these songs."So kick back, relax, and cast some special time with the kids or grandkids, who no doubt will be impressed that you already know all of the words to the songs.Fifty years from now, they’ll remember being by your side the first time they heard "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band," or any other Beatles song.Righteous.