Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Are Schools Pushing Our Children to the Limit and Making them Sick?

Is homework causing your child to get sick? This is a question that might result in some eye rolls, but reliable research and surveys conducted in middle-class areas present a pretty convincing case. 

Pressure for children to succeed in both sports and in the classroom has led to a desire, fueled both by parents and teachers, to not only achieve but overachieve. Of course we want our kids to be the best they can be and succeed in everything they do, and having a slightly competitive spirit is not a terrible thing given society’s competitive nature- but are we pushing our kids too far? 

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and co-author of a study on Experimental Education, says that these days children are doing an average of three hours of homework per night, some less and some up to five hours. The problem has become so severe that some schools even have to place a limit on the amount of homework teachers are allowed to give. High achieving schools are separating kids at younger and younger ages, placing them in advanced classes and honors courses in grade school! 

Pope’s study focused in on upper-middle-class school districts because it is known that affluent families whose children attend privileged schools often do not question how much homework their child is being given and, as you can imagine, parents paying a lot of money for their child to be a student at a particular school expect results. But how is the pressure
privileged schools put on children affecting their health and happiness? To answer this question, Pope conducted a survey of over 4,300 students from 10 high-performance high schools. The results showed that 56% of students felt homework was the primary cause of stress in their lives. These levels of stress due to excessive homework not only affected the happiness of the students, but also their physical well being. The connection was very clear, high levels of stress were causing all kinds of physical problems, including sleep deprivation, weight loss, migraines, stomach aches, and even ulcers. Not to mention the impacts stress had on their mental health as well, causing depression and high levels of anxiety. Although the study was conducted with high school students, Pope also has data that presents the same conclusions with younger students. 

To stretch even beyond just homework, by having these attitudes drilled into student’s heads  at a  young age we are setting ourselves up to raise a self-centered, overly competitive, and“all work no play, winner-takes-all” generation of people. 

So how can we fix the issue and help our children’s mental and physical health while still raising smart, hard working people? Pope says the level of homework that showed the best results is two hours for high schoolers and a maximum of 90 minutes for middle schoolers, as well as finding a balance between sports and time to just relax. And it is up to parents to monitor their child’s health and find a way to teach them responsibility and being a hard worker without going overboard! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Being the Happiest Mom You Can Be

If you ask a mom if she enjoys motherhood, she’ll probably say yes. She will probably tell you it’s tough but rewarding, that it made her life better and that her kids are the light of her life. And I’m not trying to suggest that she’s lying- because those things are all probably true. But most parents are hesitant to tell the whole truth, like it would be a crime to ever suggest that your kids don’t make you happier than before you were a parent. The rewards of being a parent have always been something people have never been afraid to share, however, talking about the difficulties that motherhood brings seems to be more of a taboo subject. Becoming a mother is a beautiful thing that opens up your heart to a kind of love you could have never previously imagined, but don’t have kids because you are trying to become a happier person…because if that is the case, you might be disappointed. 

Being a mother is a rich and rewarding experience, but it can also be emotionally taxing. Luckily, there are ways you can improve your level of satisfaction and happiness as a parent within your daily life. According to Karen Reivich, a research associate in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the first step to becoming a happier mom is to recognize how important your job as a mother is and to place a lot of value on it. And once you start acknowledging how you’re basically just short of a
superhero…you'll start enjoying your job more!

The next step to being a happier mom is to not sweat the small stuff. Don’t let yourself get really stressed over the little things, but on the flip side, when you are stressed, it’s okay to admit it. Being stressed out or having a bad day does not make you a bad parent, because we all know being a mom can be seriously stressful sometimes! Having a really bad day? Take a second to have your own private mommy meltdown, then let it go and move on! Reorganize your priorities because there are somethings that you go crazy over that at the end of the day just aren’t that important. If you can afford someone to clean your house, hire them! This way you can have a clean house and spend more time with the kids. A house cleaner doesn’t fit the budget? No big deal but ask yourself, is it really that important for the entire house to be spotless? You could spend the time you use obsessing over having every bed made playing with your kids and I promise you, that will be more fulfilling. 

Part of not letting the little things weigh you down is learning to go with the flow. Psychology studies on happiness have shown that people who can go with the flow and adapt tend to be happier people overall. And this idea can definitely be applied to parenting. So the trip to the zoo you organized isn’t going exactly how you planned…instead of getting stressed out over it, just go with it and make the most out of your situation. Kids can turn almost anything into a game, so take that idea and use it towards your own tasks or chores. Reivich uses the example of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, make it less boring and repetitive by turning it into a cooking show with the kids! It's an easy way to make the most fun out of the least fun situations.

Another key to being a happier mom is to appreciate the small things. Even if it is a ten minute cup of coffee to yourself each morning, savor and enjoy those ten minutes as your own personal morning ritual. Take up yoga as your form of exercise. Start a new hobby like gardening or baking. These things will help you to feel more relaxed and have a more positive outlook on each day. They will also help you to be ready to handle the stressors that will inevitably come your way. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

20 Ways You Can Know For Sure You're a Mom

If there is anything about parenting that is for sure, it is that it is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Having a child involves a lot of laughs and a lot of tears, sometimes both at the same time. Once you become a parent, your life and behavior changes in a way that someone who doesn’t have a child can't totally understand, and it doesn’t take long after the birth of your child for these changes to become apparent. When real moms were asked how you know that you have fully entered mommy mode, these are the things they said:

You Know You Are a Mom When:

1. As an adult, you can carry around a Hello Kitty backpack on your back through the airport and you don’t get any double takes. 

2. Instead of running away from projectile vomit, you are pushing your way through the crowd ready to use your hands as a paper towel if necessary. 

3. You have perfected multitasking to the point where it resembles an art.

4. Your new best friend is wine. And you guys have a great relationship.

5. Happy hour is no longer between 4-5 but now it is the small window of time between when you’ve put your kids to bed and you collapse into bed. 

6. Even being able to pee without an audience becomes a rare and appreciated event

7. You know more about the shows on the Disney Channel and Nick Jr. than the shows your friends watch.

8. Getting a brand new mini van with automatic doors feels kind of like getting a brand new sports car

9. Moms’ nights out are sacred and necessary for your sanity.

10. A 10 minute shower with the door locked parallels a day at the spa. 

11. Even your nicest purses have stashes of baby wipes and Tide to Go.

12. You would give yourself a fever, a cold, or even the flu in a heartbeat to prevent any of your kids from it.

13. The amount of milk you buy in one week could keep an entire dairy farm in business.

14. You can change a diaper in record time, in the dark, and possibly while they are still going to the bathroom.

15. It is not unusual for you and your husband to not be the only occupants of your bed.

16. Breakfast for dinner is a celebration to your kids and vacation for you.

17. You’ve spent more money on carpet cleaner and stain removers than make up.

18. There are crayon or marker scribbles on various surfaces in your house.

19. You have to hide your nail polish in places your daughters will never find it.

20. Fast food and drive thrus are two of the best things that have happened to you. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The 5 Best Cities to Party in on Saint Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is an awesome holiday for so many reasons. It’s basically a day where you can dress all in green and drink beer for breakfast, judgement free. And who wouldn’t love that? Irish or not, it’s an easy holiday to get in the spirit for- but some places around the country really know how to get into the festivities. So what are the best cities to be in on St. Patrick’s Day?

1. Boston, Massachusetts
This one comes as no surprise! Boston was actually the first city to host an annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Created by the Irish Society of Boston in 1737, the amazing parade even started before Dublin, Ireland had one! If you ever get the chance to attend the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it surely won’t disappoint. It is complete with all the St. Patrick’s Day festivities you can think of, including floats, a marching band, bagpipers, over 850,000 attendees all dressed in green, and of course plenty of booze. 

2. New York City, New York
Like Boston, this was also not much of a surprise. Combine the city’s reputation for their spectacular holiday celebrations with the prominent Irish community and you’ll get one heck of a St. Patrick’s Day party. In addition to their jaw dropping parade, that has more than 2 million people in attendance, you can also head to countless restaurants, Irish pubs, and countless festivals and events for an awesome St. Patrick’s Day party. Take, for example, the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Open Day. This event is hosted at the Irish Arts Center where you and your family can indulge in Irish music, eat delicious authentic Irish cuisine, attend workshops, and watch dances. 

3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
After Boston, Philadelphia gets to take credit for having one of the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parades. And since it’s creation, it has not gotten any less amazing! Over 500,000 people gather in the city streets to drink, eat Irish food, and celebrate among each other. 

4. Chicago, Illinois
You may not know it, but it is in fact Chicago that takes the reign for one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States. This probably comes from the fact that Chicago has not one but two parades to ring in the holiday. The first parade, on Columbus Drive, draws a crowd of around 350,000 people and the second, on the South Side, sees numbers around 250,000. But perhaps the best and most unique feature Chicago brings to it’s St. Patty’s Day celebration is the “Dyeing of the River.” Each year on March 17 for the past 43 years the city dyes the Chicago River bright green to acknowledge the exciting holiday. I’m definitely putting this city on my bucket list for St. Patrick’s Day!

5. Kansas City, Missouri

This city was a little more of a surprise, but after reading about it I can definitely see why each year over 200,000 people turn up for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Not only is the parade a spectacularly fun event but they give out prizes too. And the grand prize? An all expense paid trip to Ireland. Now that is truly a celebration of the Irish! Even once the parade has concluded, you can continue the party with dozens of Irish pubs to choose from. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lupita Nyong'o Blows Us Away with Her Powerful Words About Beauty and Being a Woman

Just days before Lupita Nyong'o amazing win at the Oscars for her performance in 12 Years a Slave”, she accepted another award for the “Best Breakthrough Performance” at the annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon.

Her double dose of wins would have been impressive no matter who it was but did we mention this was her first movie? So we can already admire her for her talent but after the speech she delivered at the Luncheon I admire a whole lot more about her than just her acting skills. The speech was moving, inspirational, and a little heartbreaking all at the same time- and something every little girl needs to hear. In the United States, March is Women’s Month and Lupita Nyong’o is an example of a woman who definitely deserves to be celebrated. She is an excellent role model for young girls everywhere and her touching words reveal the beauty, power, and strength that all women are capable of. 

Watch Lupita Nyong’o's Incredible Speech here:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Today is International Women's Day! But Where Did it All Begin?

Being a woman is a wonderful thing, and deserves to be celebrated. But the history behind how a day dedicated to the awesomeness of women is equally amazing. Countless strong and admirable women worked to get this day to be created, so it is not something to think little of! Be sure to take today to recognize their hard work and think of how lucky we are to be where we are today! 

The first time Women's Day was recognized was in 1909. This was a time of oppression and inequality among women. Events leading up to this included the march across New York City by 15,000 women in 1908 demanding voting rights and better pay. Originally the holiday was celebrated on February 28th, it wasn't until 1913 that it was changed to March. 

It was Clara Zetkin who was the original advocate for an International Women's Day. In 1910 a conference of over 100 women from 17 countries gathered to create the day dedicated to women that has been recognized ever since. 

The next year over one million men and women gathered to advocate women's right to vote, hold public office and putting an end to discrimination. When the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City occurred less than a week later, it increased the amount of attention to the issue of women's rights. 

Since then International Women's Day has only continued to grow in both popularity and significance. Since 1975, March 8th has been the day to women worldwide. Large conferences, parades, and rallies have been held on this day ever since to honor the achievements of women and encourage them to continue to push towards complete equality. 

Since the new millennium International Women's Day has been recognized in countless
countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, Ukraine and more. In certain countries the holiday is even as big as Mother's Day, where the women are given flowers and small presents by their husbands and children.

Women fought so hard to have the rights we have today and each March 8th we honor those accomplishments by celebrating International Women's Day, and the United States continue these celebrations throughout the entire month of March by naming it Women's History Month. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Celebrate Being a Woman this Saturday on International Women's Day

The upcoming weekend is a time of excitement for a lot of people, for college students it may be the start of spring break, for others it may just be a time to relax. But this weekend is an exciting time for other reasons too- because on Saturday it’s not just the start of the weekend, it’s also International Women’s Day!  

International Women’s Day is a special holiday because it is a day where the whole world is celebrating and acknowledging the beauty of being a woman. This day is also for remembering the influential women in our history and how their bravery and motivation has gotten us women where we are today. In addition to honoring these women, on this day and every day after, we are encouraged to follow their example when forging ahead and creating our own milestones in gender equality. 

The message of this day deeply resonates with our own messages and beliefs at ONCEkids. We at ONCEkids applaud the accomplishments women make everyday in historical ideas and shifting societal norms. Excelling in both their careers and in their roles as mothers, modern women have achieved and are continuing to achieve what was once thought to be impossible- what we were once told was impossible. 
their home and at work. Women everywhere are stepping out of the shadows to rise above as powerful employers and employees, challenging

It is because of the women in history that were not phased by stereotypes and did not take no for an answer that we are where we are today. International Women's Day is a day dedicated to not only remembering the accomplishments of those women, but also reminding ourselves of our own accomplishments. And it is a day to not just remind ourselves of this, but also remind young girls that being a women is something to be proud of and that their future is bright and their possibilities infinite. The United States has even extended the celebration of women to the entire month, dubbing March as Women’s History Month!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Celebrate Reading on World Read Aloud Day

Help your children celebrate reading with us tomorrow during World Read Aloud Day! 

Read Aloud Day is a movement dedicated to advocating reading and literacy as a “a right that belongs to all people”. This fun and creative awareness day is celebrated around the world each year on the first Wednesday of March. 

Even as technology and all of it’s wonders advance, reading is a past time that should not be left behind. This day is purposed to remind us of the power of our words, and how that power can be used to create the changes we wish to see in the world. 

Four years ago, one little boy looked up at his teacher and said, “Mrs. Allyn, let’s make sure everyone knows how good this feels. Let’s have a holiday for the read aloud” - and then Read Aloud Day was born. Since then, it has become an international event, spreading to over one million families in more than 65 countries!  

The love of reading is often times something that begins in childhood and continues through adulthood. So parents, don’t forget to read aloud to your children! Not just tomorrow, but every night after. This is not only building a healthy and educational hobby and passion, but also giving you and your child a time to bond over a wonderful book. Studies have shown that having parents who read and emphasize the importance of reading can have a greater impact on the child’s education, skills, and reading frequency than that of household income. 

The joy, creativity, and imagination that comes from reading is something that all children should know, so help us change the world one book at a time, and participate in tomorrow’s Read Aloud Day! 

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