- Special Sections
(BPT) - To succeed in today’s classrooms, students must be more than book smart - they must be digital learners as well. Modern technology such as e-books, online tutorial programs, educational social media options and apps are providing access to personalized learning opportunities which were not available to previous generations of students.
And while this technology is helping children learn and develop in innovative ways, it is also collecting important data about how these students are learning. E-books, for example, have the ability to track which pages a student has read, monitoring a student’s progress. Data collected during learning sessions can help teachers evaluate student progress and recognize those students who are facing challenges. This can help to personalize learning for all students.
These technologies can help improve the educational experience for students, but there is the potential that the collected data could be accessed by others. Companies who create some of the apps used in an educational setting are typically able to review the data the apps generate; they may even be able to sell it to marketers.
The thought of student data ending up in the hands of marketers may make parents anxious, but the potential sharing of student data is preventable. When school districts adopt new technology for use in their classrooms, there will be a user agreement that accompanies the technology. As a parent you have a right to be informed about the data being collected about your student and how it is being used.
The first step in monitoring your child’s data is to access a full list from the school of the technologies or apps students will be using in the classroom. This list may be posted online as part of the supplies needed list or handed out during the first week of school with the rest of the important school information.
Once you have this list, go online to read the user agreements for those sites. This is where you’ll discover how the data collected will be used. Some questions to keep in mind while reviewing the user agreements are:
* What data points are being collected about my child?
* Why do you need that data? How are you going to use the data about my child?
* What are you doing to protect my child’s data? What measures are in place to protect the data?
User agreements can often be long and difficult to understand, so look for these terms as you read to help you make a more informed decision:
* Staff responsibilities: Here you will learn what staff’s role is in using the data, especially as it applies to privacy.
* User responsibilities: What actions are expected of the user to ensure data is being used correctly and accurately? You’ll find that information here.
* Acceptable use: What is defined as acceptable use, both for the technology and the data? This section should outline how that data can be used and by whom.
* Unacceptable use: Don’t expect acceptable use to cover everything. There may be a section entitled unacceptable use that will provide insight into what practices are forbidden regarding the technology and the data it attains.
* Differentiating characteristics. This term itself won’t be included but you’re looking for mentions of gender, age, ethnicity and other terms that may be used to quantify your student.
“The responsibility of safeguarding students’ data can be overwhelming to schools and parents alike. Use this opportunity as a ‘teachable moment:’ together, with your kids, look at the default settings of the apps and sites’ your kids like to use, and read the privacy policies,” says Darri Stephens, director of digital learning for Common Sense Media. “Ask your kids about their favorite digital tools and gain insight as to how they communicate, collaborate, and create online. At the same time, stress the importance of never relinquishing any private ‘Personal Identifying Information,’ when setting up personal online accounts. Too often, our kids don’t understand that the data they generate by engaging in the digital world is valuable to many companies, third party marketers, and others who would take advantage of it. Kids need our support and guidance in considering the long-lasting consequences of over-sharing in the digital world.”
You can learn more about user agreements and the educational benefits of technology by visiting www.k12blueprint.com, which is sponsored by Intel.
(BPT) - There’s a big push for students to excel in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and for good reason. The careers available to students pursuing degrees in these areas present students with plenty of exciting and challenging opportunities. What you might not realize is how many of those opportunities exist in the Navy.
The Navy is looking for intelligent students with critical thinking skills who are interested in careers that involve working on the world’s most-advance weapons systems, developing the next generation of medical technology, or a number of other fields of STEM study. It is estimated more than 1 million STEM jobs will be created by 2020, creating a great need in the market for qualified employees.
For these reasons, talented, committed individuals with a STEM education will be needed to maintain the U.S. as a world technology leader. The U.S. Navy is partnering with organizations across the U.S. to help promote an interest in STEM subjects among elementary to college-level students. The Navy STEM for the Classroom tool is available for teachers and students, providing lesson plans and interactive tools to increase learning in these subjects.
One program incorporating STEM subject learning with real-world experiences is the Oceanography and Meteorology lesson, which provides students and teachers in the classroom tools to learn, study and measure the principles of oceanography like waves, tides and currents. Once they understand how these principles affect ocean navigation, students will be able to pursue other exciting opportunities like a hands-on search-and-rescue scenario.
The Navy also offers the Navy Proving Grounds widget, which is an interactive tool for students to test their minds in diving missions, flight school or at-sea trials.
Students with a background in STEM courses have the opportunity in the Navy to work with some of the most awe-inspiring ships, submarines, aircraft and communications systems, develop unmanned vehicles and robotics that keep people out of harm’s way, and pioneer advances in everything from nuclear propulsion to biofuels or medical research. A STEM-related career in the Navy provides almost limitless possibilities for leadership and relevant experience.
Joining the Navy allows students interested in STEM subjects to continue their learning with ongoing development opportunities during nearly all stages of their career. These opportunities include:
* Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship program with up to $180,000 available for college.
* Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program, which offers up to $168,300 for students who finish a degree in math, engineering, physics or chemistry, and allows them to begin the process to become a commissioned Navy Nuclear Officer.
* Civil Engineer Collegiate Program giving students pursuing civil engineering degrees the opportunity to pursue projects around the world right out of college. This program also offers up to $113,100 while finishing a college degree.
For more information about opportunities to serve in the Navy, call 866-408-1241 or visit navy.com.
(BPT) - The summer months are over and the school year is in full swing. As a parent, this means you’ve traded those lazy summer days for school sports and activities, colder temperatures and the morning rush to the bus stop. If you feel like your home’s organization is hanging on by a thread, take heart; there are some simple things you can do to return order and make the rest of your school year run smoothly. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
* Take the hectic out of those hectic mornings. Let’s be honest, the mornings are pure chaos. There’s breakfast to prepare, school supplies to collect and outfits to pick out. It’s a whirlwind. However, you can return some sanity to your mornings by accomplishing some simple tasks the night before. Before they go to bed, have your children pick out their school outfit for the following day and pack their backpacks – this will reduce the risk of forgetting something.
* Make snacking simple. Snacking is a mainstay for families on the run. Whether it’s an addition to a lunchbox, an option for an after school snack or something to eat at halftime, your kids’ snacks need to be simple. Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps Minis are the perfect choice for kids on the move. Pair them with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate for a delicious snack mix, or serve them individually when you’re on the go. Available in Original and Cheddar flavors, and at just 110 calories per serving, Pretzel Crisps Minis are a better option for your children than greasy potato chips.
* Create a homework station. As a parent, nothing is more frustrating than learning your child received a failing grade simply because they lost their assignment. Keep your home organized and your child’s assignments accounted for by creating a designated homework area in your home. A space in your office, a desk in the kitchen or a spot at the dining room table works great. You can even add a calendar to help your students keep track of the due dates for larger projects.
* Adjust the bathroom routine. Of all the routines that create morning chaos, the battle for the bathroom is king. Simply put, this space is a one-at-a-time area, and if you have more kids than bathrooms, tension will arise. You can circumvent this by putting some of your children – or even yourself – on the evening shift when it comes to showers. Small children or children who require less mirror time in the morning are the logical choice, but you may want to set up a rotating schedule to keep the peace.
* Have a plan. If you have multiple kids in multiple activities, it can be impossible to keep track of who needs to be where and when, so don’t try. When your child joins a new activity, ask to see the schedule and instantly add the appropriate dates and times to your calendar. Don’t rely on your kids to remember when they need to be somewhere; they won’t remember until they are already 15 minutes late. You simply don’t need the headache.
The school year is a far cry from those relaxing days of summer, but you don’t have to let the crazy control your life. Institute these simple changes to maintain some order, and you’ll reach the following summer with a smile on your face and your sanity intact.
(BPT) - A natural-born athlete, Erin Hamlin grew up playing a variety of sports, although it wasn’t until the age of 12 that she was introduced to luging. Her prior athletic experience instilled a great deal of concentration, dedication and strength of mind and body, and it wasn’t long before she worked her way through the national team’s developmental luge program and was living and training full-time in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Hamlin’s hard work paid off and she went on to compete in the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games and recently made history when she became the first American luger to win a medal when she earned bronze at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. In addition, her momentous feat was recognized by the United States Olympic Committee at its 2014 “Best of Us” Awards Show where she earned the title of Best Female Olympian of the Winter Games.
Q: What was it like to compete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and make history by becoming the first U.S. singles luger to win an Olympic medal?
“Each time I’ve competed at the Olympics, I’ve learned and grown so much. The challenge of being the greatest in the world is what drives me to pursue my Olympic dreams,” says Hamlin. “Becoming the first American luger to win a medal in the history of the sport was a surreal experience. Standing on the podium and accepting my medal was the culmination of years of preparation, dedication and persistence to achieve success in my sport.”
Q: Now that you’ve made history and achieved Olympic success, what other life goals are you looking to reach?
“After I retire from competing, I want to help corporations plan more environmentally friendly events. Being a part of many sporting events over the years has shown me that there is room for improvement from a sustainability standpoint. Continuing my education and earning a degree will allow me to explore a career in which I can achieve this,” says Hamlin.
She adds, “To help me reach this goal, I am preparing for my career by earning a bachelor’s degree in technical management with a specialization in sustainability management at DeVry University.”
Q: How do you balance you athletic training with your academic endeavors?
“Since I can take my courses online it allows me to balance my school work and my rigorous training schedule. I feel that learning helps me look forward to what is next and earning my degree will prepare me to achieve success off the track, as well,” Hamlin says.
Q: What advice do you have to share with young athletes who aspire to compete in the Olympic Games?
“It can certainly be intimidating to balance school and other life responsibilities – especially when you aspire to be successful in athletics or any extracurricular activity,” says Hamlin. “The big picture can be very overwhelming. It’s important to remember to stay focused on the end goal and break it down into smaller steps – that way it becomes much more manageable.”
DeVry University is an official education provider of the United States Olympic Committee. To learn more about Hamlin or other Team USA student athletes who have competed in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, visit newsroom.devry.edu.
(BPT) - Education is not a one-size-fits-all system. Much like each public university has its own unique culture, so does each type of higher education institution. In addition, the goals of each student are not the same. Some students are fresh out of high school and looking forward to the social opportunities that a public university will give them, and they are not in a hurry to get their degree. Some are single parents, already working full-time jobs, who just want to go back to school and quickly get a degree and get a better job. For these latter students, a four-year university may not be the right fit for their needs. Instead, career colleges really can be the way to go.
Many people are recognizing the importance of skills training in the workplace as it relates to their chances of a promotion and increase in pay, according to a recent article in Business News Daily. These people are turning to career colleges because they know they can quickly learn the skills they are lacking and start moving up the professional ladder through the programs offered.
According to Westwood College – Dupage Campus President Jeff Hill, career colleges “are focused on providing students with hands-on learning and quick degree completion which help develop a trained workforce for employers and can positively impact the economy. Without question, education is one of the biggest factors with regard to economic advancement in today’s society and career-focused schools play a vital role as one - of many - education options for students.” If you’re interested in a new career? Check out Westwood’s degree programs.
Demand for skilled labor plays a huge role in the economy. It is not uncommon for employers to have available jobs, but not enough trained workers to fill them. Many employers discuss their plans to grow their companies and hire more people, but aren’t sure where they will find workers with the skills they need, according to a recent article published by the Newark Advocate. It’s not a problem just for businesses in Newark, New Jersey. Companies across the country face this issue. Many businesses looking to expand or move struggle to do so because it can be difficult to find a town or city with enough skilled workers to do the jobs.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts those jobs that tend to require some form of higher education will grow faster than those you can get with just a high school diploma or less. The department also predicts a shortage of more than 35 million skilled workers over the next 30 years.
(BPT) - Almost 500 years after the death of artist Leonardo da Vinci, the world-famous Mona Lisa painting continues to fascinate people of all ages. An estimated 6 million people view the painting each year at the Louvre in France, and many more read and study about its history and the theories surrounding the legendary work of art.
The identity of the woman
One of the most debated mysteries of the Mona Lisa is the identity of the woman behind the iconic smile. Following 12 years of investigation, academic and art historian W.N. Varvel has confirmed that the painting took place in the Italian duchy of Mantua, where da Vinci promised to paint in color the portrait of Marquesa Isabella d’Este, considered to be an intellectual prodigy.
“Leonardo made three preparatory sketches during his stay in Mantua in 1500,” says Varvel. “The key to unraveling the mystery behind the painting’s iconic woman was the discovery of the final preparatory sketch of Isabella d’Este within a private art collection in Florence. When you compare Leonardo’s final sketch to the Mona Lisa, her true identity is immediately obvious.”
Varvel explains several new theories about the Mona Lisa in his book, “The Lady Speaks: Uncovering the Hidden Secrets of the Mona Lisa” (Brown Books Publishing Group).Through illustrations and maps, he details research that identifies the woman and explains the correlation between the painting and the bible.
Hidden meaning behind symbols
Intrigue deepens around symbols hidden in the painting. In fact, Varvel has identified 40 separate symbols comprised of 15 geographic landmarks and 25 religious representations. Several of note include:
The composition of the Mona Lisa combines three separate elements: a map of the Old City of Jerusalem, a pen and ink sketch of Isabella d'Este done in 1500, and verses found in chapter 14 of the Old Testament Book of Zechariah.
The symbols within the composition of the Mona Lisa present the message contained within the 21 verses of chapter 14 of the Book of Zechariah. This message states that the Christian concept of the "New Jerusalem" will not begin on earth until women’s rights to the priesthood of Jesus Christ are recognized.
Secret of the smile
The smile of the Mona Lisa is not meant to entice viewers to ponder her physical identity, but to recognize her theological rights and what is being hidden directly behind her back. The answer to this question is the "New Jerusalem." The body of the Mona Lisa has been painted within the exact geographic markers that define the boundaries of the "New Jerusalem" as stated in Zechariah 14:10.
“Leonardo placed symbols in the Mona Lisa as tantalizing clues to reveal the theme of the painting,” says Varvel. “Each of these 40 symbols specifically correlates to a verse found within the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah. This reinforces the theory that Leonardo used this single biblical chapter as his source of inspiration. When Leonardo combined the pen and ink sketch of Isabella d’Este with the map of the Old City of Jerusalem by placing her silhouette within the boundaries of the geographic landmarks, Leonardo married the subject of the painting to its stated theme in Zechariah.”
Summarizing the findings of the research, Varvel concludes, “For 500 years, the general public has suspected that the Mona Lisa was hiding something grand and now we know what it is.”
A video by the author on “The Lady Speaks: Uncovering the Secrets of the Mona Lisa” can be found at www.theladyspeaks.com. The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and IndieBound.
(BPT) - Summer is a time when kids and parents get to take a break from the school year routine and have a moment to enjoy some ice cream, the outdoors and family time. But parents know that just as everyone begins focusing on fun, it’s already time to begin planning back-to-school to-do lists and prepare for the coming school year.
Back-to-school tasks for parents of pre-teens and teens often include such items as stocking up on school supplies, purchasing some new wardrobe items, coordinating extracurricular activities and organizing fall schedules. But getting prepared to go back to school also presents a great opportunity to talk with your child’s health care professional about recommended vaccines for your pre-teen or teen boys and girls.
As children get older and become pre-teens and teens they can be at risk for other diseases for which vaccines are available. Children tend to have fewer regular visits with their health care professional as they get older and visits are usually for sports physicals or because of illness. These types of visits, in addition to wellness checkups, can be used as an opportunity to ask about vaccines.
“Many parents know to vaccinate their children when they are younger, but there are some parents that may not know that there are vaccines that are also recommended for older children,” says Registered Nurse Beth Battaglino, Chief Executive Officer of HealthyWomen. “The school year can be hectic, so I encourage parents to use the summer break to make appointments with their child’s health care professional or take advantage of already scheduled appointments to discuss vaccines and their dosing schedules that are recommended for their pre-teens and teens.”
Vaccines are recommended not only for children, pre-teens and teens, but across an individual’s entire lifetime to help maintain health and wellness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccines to help prevent more than 15 diseases, and has vaccination schedules that cover children, pre-teens, teens, and adults. According to the World Health Organization, vaccines help prevent more than 30 infectious diseases worldwide.
To learn more about vaccines for all stages of life, people are urged to talk to their health care professional and visit www.LifetimeOfVaccines.com. The website provides information from Merck about the importance of vaccination, how vaccines are developed, approved and manufactured, and infectious diseases for which there are vaccines. It also offers a resource that can be used when talking to a health care professional about vaccination.
(BPT) - You’re spending your nights standing on the sidelines, cheering your daughter as she dribbles a soccer ball across the field. Or maybe you’re cheering on your quarterback son as he yells “hut” at a football scrimmage. The school year - and its associated sports - is an exciting time. But with that excitement comes the risk of traumatic injuries - including concussions.
Concussions are generating a lot of attention these days as an increasing amount of research highlights the difficulties in treating them.
To this end, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has developed Sports Concussion Guidelines - available in both English and Spanish - to help coaches, schools, parents and athletes better understand concussions, and when an injured athlete should be allowed to return to play. The guidelines cover the following:
Players: Concussions can happen in any sport and at any time during the season. A concussion can occur when the head hits, or is hit by, a solid surface. It can also happen when the head’s motion is stopped suddenly, even if it doesn’t strike, or is struck by, a solid surface. If you witness changes in the behavior or personality of a player on your team, or if you see them giving a blank stare, acting disoriented, suffering from memory loss or even vomiting, ask the player if he/she was involved in a collision. Alert your coach if you witness or are involved in any violent contact while on the field.
Parents: Educate yourselves about the signs of a concussion, as you know your child best when he/she might be exhibiting unusual behaviors. Download the AAN’s concussion reference sheet for parents, coaches and players at AAN.com/concussion, and share with your young athlete your concerns about him/her playing with a head injury. While cheering for your child in practice and in games, keep an eye on the play for any potential head collisions and report anything significant that may have been missed.
Coaches: Have a conversation with your players early in the season about the dangers of concussions, and communicate clearly that they can happen in any sport at any time. The AAN offers a Concussion Quick Check mobile app to help coaches, parents, and athletic trainers quickly identify if a player is exhibiting signs of a concussion. Additionally, listen to your players if they are talking about someone having taken a hard hit. Enforce the rule that players should not be allowed to return to play following a head injury until they are evaluated and cleared by a physician.
Physicians: Concussions are also generating more attention in the medical field. Physicians are ethically obligated to safeguard the current and future physical and mental health of the student athletes they treat, whether the student has a concussion or not. This includes providing parents and athletes with information about concussion risk factors, symptoms and discussing the potential for long term brain health effects from repeated blows.
“Brain disease threatens to steal from us what makes us human,” says retired NFL player Ben Utecht, who suffered five known concussions during his football career and is now the spokesperson for the American Academy of Neurology and its foundation, the American Brain Foundation. “I will fight relentlessly to see that through research we can in fact find the origins of healing through the cures that are waiting to be discovered.”
(BPT) - You’ve probably been to a youth sporting event when an argument broke out between coaches and parents. Or maybe you’ve watched youth athletes refuse to help one another up or congratulate an opponent on a great play.
And you wonder where has sportsmanship gone?
A new effort by Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Play Positive program looks to renew the spirit of sportsmanship and remind youth sports coaches and parents of the importance of this life lesson. Parents and coaches are asked to take the Play Positive Pledge to promote good sportsmanship. Taking the pledge could even help your youth sports team or organization earn $2,500 toward providing a better youth sports experience.
Recently, a survey of 2,000 youth sports parents and coaches conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance revealed shocking statistics about the decline in sportsmanship in youth sports, underscoring the need for a stronger emphasis.
According to the survey:
* 50 percent of parents and coaches believe that sportsmanship has worsened in youth sports since they participated as children (while only 12 percent think it has improved).
* According to both parents and coaches, learning “teamwork” and “sportsmanship” are the two most important aspects of participating in youth sports.
* 26 percent of parents say they have witnessed a verbally abusive coach, and 16 percent say they have witnessed a confrontation between parents.
* 55 percent of coaches have experienced parents yelling negatively at officials or their own kids, and two in five have experienced parents yelling negatively at other kids.
So how do parents and coaches stop this trend and improve sportsmanship for the next generation? It starts with teaching children the value of sportsmanship. Seventy-five percent of parents and coaches say that teaching sportsmanship is the responsibility of parents. If you want to help your child learn the value of good sportsmanship and playing with a positive attitude, follow these tips:
* Play with integrity. One of the most essential lessons a child can learn from sports is to follow the rules. Make sure your children understand the rules and don’t break them, even if they have the opportunity to get away with it.
* Respect the officials. It’s important that youth athletes – as well as parents and coaches – learn to respect referees and officials. Showing respect for the officials will set a good example for your children. Remember, they are always watching and learning from you.
* Be a good sport. This means teaching your child to do what they can to lift up their teammates. Teach them that being a good teammate also means being a good person on and off the field regardless of the outcome.
* Maintain self-control. Help your child learn to keep their cool, have a positive attitude and avoid overreacting during practices or games.
* Let the coaches coach. Avoid chiming in with your coaching advice for the team or other parents. Let those in charge run the plays. This will help your children learn to respect their coaches and the coaches’ decisions.
“Growing up as a youth athlete, my coaches and parents were constantly using examples of poor behavior on the field as an opportunity to teach me about the importance of sportsmanship,” says actor Chris O’Donnell, Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive ambassador. “Those lessons have stuck with me over the years, and now as a father of children involved in youth sports, I know the opportunity lies with us as parents to have the conversation and reinforce this important life lesson."
You can learn more about Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Play Positive program find helpful tips and resources for teaching your children lifelong sportsmanship skills and take the Play Positive Pledge by visiting www.PlayPositive.com.
(BPT) - Thinking about returning to school as a way to restart your career, enter a new field or complete the degree you never finished? Now may be the time. Adults are flocking back to school, with nearly 4 million people ages 35 and older enrolled in a degree-granting institution, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In fact, adults have become the fastest-growing demographic in universities across the United States.
Driven by the desire to improve earnings, change one’s life-style or reinvigorate the way one feels about going to work every day, going back to school could be the first step to getting there. The first step of course, is determining your professional goals and what experience is needed to achieve them. Even if you are not set on the exact goal, this process is essential in helping you arrive at the right field for you to explore.
With back-to-school season upon us, many may find themselves thinking about a teaching profession. A December 2013 survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Kaplan University’s School of Graduate Education found that 32 percent of Americans have considered a career in teaching. Additionally, the survey found 60 percent of parents believe they would make good teachers.
If you think the education field might be a good fit for you, there are online tools that can help you make the right decision regarding your future. One of the newest such tools is Kaplan’s new Virtual Advisor. It guides users through a series of questions and scenarios, offering interesting facts and information about many different education careers, from teaching and educational psychology to college and university administration. At the end, Virtual Advisor analyzes your answers and recommends the best education degree for you at Kaplan. While Virtual Advisor is a great resource for guidance in the education career space, there are other tools on the market for those exploring other careers, from government-sponsored websites to online career quizzes and surveys.
A new career in the education field may give you the fulfillment you desire and numerous job opportunities are available. There is a demand for teachers in many cities across the United States, but also consider various education career paths outside the classroom that may align with your aspirations. Many build on skills you may already have.
For example, if you have a background in psychology or would like to pursue the field, a master of science in educational psychology might be a good option. With this degree, you’ll learn how to build, implement, evaluate and improve instructional and training materials and programs for use in K-12 programs, colleges, corporate or military environments.
Those who have a love for technology or a knack for instruction design might consider a master of science in education in instructional technology. In this program, you’ll focus on the design, development and evaluation of instructional programs, materials and media in K-12 programs, higher education, corporate and military environments.
If your interests lie with helping people and being involved in education at the college level, a master of science in higher education will teach you the specialized skills you need to teach online or on campus, work as a college administration leader or pursue a student affairs position. To learn more about these and other education degrees, you can visit www.kaplanuniversity.edu/education.aspx.
No matter what you decide to go back to school for, make sure you follow your passion. This is the best path to self-fulfillment and a rewarding new career.
(BPT) - More evidence has emerged that parents are doing a better job teaching kids about money, and young adults are getting better at managing it.
For instance, the majority of millennials are investing for retirement by the age of 24, according to the Spring 2014 Merrill Edge Report. This is in sharp contrast to older generations who began investing for the future at an average age of 33. It shows that younger Americans are paying attention to money and learning lessons from the recession, but it also indicates that parents are doing more to teach these lessons early.
“Parents should add a money talk to their checklist of everything that needs to be done to set kids up for success this fall,” says Aron Levine, head of Preferred Banking and Merrill Edge for Bank of America. “We see young millennials taking money seriously, so if you’re a parent of younger kids it’s time to make money management a regular part of the parenting conversation.”
Money issues demand frequent conversation and teaching moments, and back-to-school season is the perfect time to explore financial lessons and encourage kids to benefit from the experience of others. There is no age limit for helping kids learn to manage money - teenagers and young children alike can become financially literate. Whether you have youngsters or college-bound kids, there are ways to teach your children how to manage money responsibly.
Here are tips for teenagers:
* Show your teen how to create a budget
Work with your kids on making a plan for spending an allowance or earnings from a job. By age 13 or 14, they may be thinking about buying a car or similar big purchase. That takes effort and smart planning.
* Introduce and explain investing
Investing smaller sums with limited consequences is a great way for kids to learn about managing risk. For 43 percent of Merrill Edge Report respondents, choosing among different investment products is the most complicated part of investing; starting early can help build a base of knowledge.
* Plan for college
Talk about the cost of college. Let your children know how much you can cover and how much they need to contribute. If you have established a savings plan, discuss how it works. Explain the difference between costs at a private and state school. Discuss loans options, and let them research scholarships.
* Create learning opportunities
If your kid is shocked by how much of their first paycheck goes to Uncle Sam, sit down and explain taxes, Medicare and Social Security. If your kid wants a bank account, show them how to balance a checkbook and track the account online. Consider bringing your kid along when you visit your financial advisor to establish a baseline understanding of the financial planning process.
Tips for younger kids:
* Teach budgeting
An allowance can be a great first step in showing your kids how to manage money. Consider giving money every week to young children, at two-week intervals for preteens and monthly for teenagers. Spreading out the timing helps children understand the need to set goals and manage spending.
* Show the value of saving
It’s natural for money to burn a hole in the pockets of young kids, but you can help them discover the benefits of delayed gratification. If there’s a toy they want, suggest they forgo spending on ice cream and instead save to make the bigger purchase.
* Let them earn extra
You probably expect your kids to do daily chores. Consider offering them the chance to make extra money by helping clean the garage, wash windows or taking on another job beyond the routine. Earning for extra work instills good habits and gives children more control over saving and spending.
* Introduce philanthropy
When kids are very young, they can understand charitable gifts. Talk about organizations they might like to support, then earmark part of their allowance for donations.
* Create learning opportunities
If your child spends an entire allowance right away, resist requests for more money before the next allowance is due. Negative consequences can carry powerful lessons. Talk with your child about how to do better next time.
Teaching money lessons early and reinforcing the messages as you go will help your children learn to avoid major money mistakes as adults. For additional resources you can also visit BetterMoneyHabits.com, a web site developed by Bank of America in partnership with education innovator Khan Academy with the goal of providing free, objective information to make it easier for everyone to understand the fundamentals of personal finance. With a little coaching from parents, kids of almost any age can learn how to make wise spending choices and become better prepared to live financially responsible lives later on.
(BPT) - Sending children back to school comes with a long checklist of items to remember. For example, you need to know what school supplies to buy. You will want to visit the school to find the classroom and meet the teacher. You will also plan after-school activities full of fun enrichment opportunities. If you have a child with asthma or allergies going back to school this fall, you need another item on that list. Specifically, your checklist should also include connecting with the teachers, school nurse and other school staff about your child’s symptoms, treatment and prevention strategies.
One out of 13 children in the United States has a food allergy. This means there’s a good chance that two children in your child’s class will need plans in place to prevent exposure to certain foods. Some states have laws to protect children with asthma and allergies in a school setting. You can find out which states by visiting www.statehonorroll.org. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) publishes this report each year. It informs the public about how each state measures up on student health and safety policies.
It is important that you prepare your child, his teacher, school nurse, classmates and others about managing his allergy or asthma condition at school. Discuss ways to prevent exposure to triggers to ensure his classroom environment is a safe zone where he can learn and play. Here are some helpful tips to consider:
* Get an asthma or anaphylaxis action plan – This plan will inform staff at the school about managing your child’s condition, like worsening asthma and allergy reaction symptoms. Plan in advance to get your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner to review and sign the action plan. Make sure you bring it to school on the first day, if not sooner along with a fresh supply of any prescribed emergency medicines.
* Share a copy of the asthma or anaphylaxis action plan with all appropriate staff members – This way staff will be able to help should something happen while your child is in their care.
* Meet the teacher – Your child’s teacher has a lot to do at the beginning of a new school year. There are many new faces and a lot of information to process. In light of this, try to schedule a quieter time with the teacher, school nurse and other necessary school staff to educate them about your child’s allergies or asthma. It is best if this can be done before the first day of class. Many school districts have policies for handling food allergies. Review these policies and make sure that your child’s specific needs will be addressed. One helpful idea is to have the school draft a letter to be passed out to all students in the classroom or sent home to parents explaining what special policies will be in place.
* Encourage your child to share information – It is important for your child to be able to communicate about his condition to his classmates, friends and the teaching staff. Make sure he knows to tell a grown up if he is experiencing symptoms. Communication helps others become more aware of his condition. This leads to compassion and understanding and cooperation. People – even his closest friends – might forget about his allergy or asthma. An open dialogue is important to help others understand the condition.
* Discuss medical emergency policies – Make sure your child’s school has procedures in place for identifying symptoms and for treatment of emergencies. Review these procedures with the school nurse. Make sure your child’s action plan is on file and that his medications are accessible. Your state will have laws governing what the school can and cannot do. For example, all states except one allow for students to self-carry their prescribed asthma inhalers or epinephrine auto-injectors. Epinephrine auto-injectors are used to treat anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. Currently, 38 states allow schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors for use in an emergency, but the numbers keep growing. Check out the 2014 State Honor Roll to see where your state stands regarding policies for children with asthma and allergies in school settings.
As your child prepares to start school again this fall, these actions can help ensure he, his classmates and the school staff are informed about ways to avoid triggering his allergies or asthma, and actions to take if his condition flares up. And then you can delete another item from the back-to-school to-do list.
(BPT) - Packing up the bedroom and leaving for college comes with the promise of a semester of learning, meeting new friends and future peers, and good college fun.
In addition to the clothes and household goods that will be packed into the car, there are some other items every college-bound student will want. These include the technology gadgets that help students process all of their homework and class projects, as well as the snack foods and cleaning equipment they’ll need to survive the semester. Staples recommends every college student has the following must-have supplies in order to succeed this school year.
* Laptops – From taking class notes and writing term papers, to checking emails from friends and family back home, a laptop is essential for college survival. Staples offers a wide selection of laptops from Toshiba, HP and more to ensure every college student has the technology that is right for them.
* Textbooks – Start the semester right with all the textbooks you need before you even arrive on campus. Save up to 90 percent and rent your textbooks from Staples.com, and then have them shipped to your dorm or apartment address so they’re waiting for you when you arrive. Plus, it makes the end of the school year much easier to close down – just ship the rented books back to Staples, pack up your belongings and depart for your next adventure.
* Extra charging stations – College dorms and apartments are plugged in. Students have smartphones, laptops, tablets and plenty of other electrical devices that need charging. Stock up on charging stations and portable chargers so you can have them in the dorm room or in a laptop bag or backpack if you need extra power during class.
* Data storage – With so much of college learning occurring online now, backing up your computer data is essential. Extra storage like flash drives, external drives or cloud storage will help all students feel confident that the hard work they put into taking notes, writing papers and completing projects will never be lost. Extra storage also makes the work mobile, so classmates working on a group project can share the work between members of the group.
* Bluetooth speakers – Music, videos and online video chatting are all ways college students like to kick back and relax in between classes and homework studying sessions. Having a set of Bluetooth-enabled speakers in the dorm room or apartment gives students the quality of audio they want and need for listening to recorded lectures or checking out the latest music videos.
Visit a Staples store or go online to find these must-haves and more so you can have a successful year at college.
(BPT) - With the start of summer comes warm weather, vacation planning and an influx of recent graduates on the job hunt. In fact, during the 2013–14 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award nearly 5.3 million degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. All those recent grads can easily translate to a highly competitive job market.
As students begin planning for their future outside the classroom and preparing for the next chapter of their lives - finding a job, apartment hunting, paying back student loans - many realize that graduation is an opportunity to refresh one’s persona and digital reputation. This can include social media makeovers, refreshing your tech skills and upgrading your outdated email service to something more suitable for the next phase in life.
“Think of your digital footprint – your email address, social media and even the results of a search of your name – as the first impression you make on a company or recruiter. An excellent one will open doors,” says Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence. “Because recruiters and executives receive hundreds of inquiries a day, they need easy ways to weed people out. Many recent grads overlook the importance of their digital footprint and use amusing, old email addresses that undermine the professional image they want to convey, or their social media pages reflect a candidate who is irresponsible, profane or disrespectful, any of which quickly moves someone to the ‘no’ pile. Jobseekers first task: clean up their digital image and make sure it makes a positive impression.”
There are several mail tools and features recent grads should leverage when making the transition from student to newly employed, including:
* Manage your email reputation: Your email says a lot about you. In fact, it can be thought of as your first impression to employers. Whether you need to migrate over from an outdated email address or upgrade to a more professional email username, Outlook.com’s import wizard allows you to import and manage your mail from Yahoo Mail, Gmail and many other email providers. You can even keep your old email addresses, but manage them all from one place.
Additionally 81 percent of all email users are using multiple email services, making it hard to keep up with numerous or old accounts, a recent study by Radius Global revealed. Consider consolidating to one personal email address to keep you connected and manage your contacts in one place.
* Utilize a shared calendar to organize your networking schedule: Having an always up-to-date address book and shared calendar available across your phone, tablet, and other devices makes networking easier because you aren’t tied to any one device where information might be saved. Your Outlook.com calendar is accessible right from your inbox, so it’s easy to stay up-to-date, subscribe to online calendars, import events from your other calendars, or share your agenda with family to keep everyone in sync. You can also send invitations, track RSVPs, and set notifications to stay on schedule.
* Leverage the tools employers care about most: A recent Microsoft survey looked at the job and skill requirements from 14.6 million job postings from the second and third quarters of 2013 and identified the 20 most common skills required for those positions. Proficiency in Microsoft Office was among the top five skills employers look for in a prospective new-hire. Outlook.com allows consumers to create, open, edit and share Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for free using Office Online, accessible from your inbox. It’s a great way to create, access and share your resume and there’s no need for you or those you share with to install Office, and your formatting stays intact.
* Remember that’s it’s all about who you know: As the old saying goes, “it’s all in who you know,” so working off one set of contacts that pulls in information from your social networks allows you to check your contacts’ recent status updates, profile pictures, and Tweets while you email them. Additionally, many recent graduates are looking for jobs outside of their current residence. Don’t let distance be a factor in the job hunt by staying connected with Skype chat and video calls right from your Outlook.com inbox.
Staying organized and being informed can be the difference between landing a job and a missed opportunity. For more tips, visit www.MicrosoftForGrads.com to learn more.
(BPT) - An improving economy has many people entering the job market and looking for new employment opportunities. But if job seekers are not insurance-smart in their search, they may end up in worse financial shape than they were in their previous role.
Earning a higher salary is the primary goal for many job seekers, but research from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) shows that many job seekers ignore the wider benefits package, not realizing that insurance benefits alone can account for nearly 10 percent of total compensation, according to research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This could be costly, as 25 percent of job switchers found out. In fact, new employees reported that insurance-related changes in their new position either slightly or greatly worsened their overall financial situation.
If you are exploring new opportunities in the job market, make sure you ask these questions.
Five tough questions to ask when changing jobs
1. Beyond salary, what are the other financial implications of making a job change?
2. What options do I have to cover medical expenses while I’m between jobs?
3. If something catastrophic happens to me between jobs, is my family protected?
4. Have I thought through all of the financial consequences of a job change that includes a long-distance move?
5. All things considered, could this be a good time to start my own business?
Asking yourself these questions will put you in a better position to research new opportunities in an informed way. Before you decide to accept a new position, make some smart insurance decisions to be sure you and your family are protected during the transition.
Five insurance-smart things to do as you change jobs
1. Find out if your new employer has a mandatory waiting period before health insurance coverage takes effect. If so, consider a short-term plan to cover the gap.
2. Conduct a line-by-line comparison of your current health plan with plans offered by your new employer to determine the right blend of deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance for your needs.
3. If you have children and your health insurance coverage is at risk of lapsing, look into government-sponsored programs, such as Children’s Health Insurance Plans (CHIP). These plans may provide coverage at little or no cost to you.
4. See if your current group life insurance plan has a conversion privilege. You may have 31 days from the day you leave your employer to submit an application.
5. Insurance rates and coverage vary greatly from state to state. Before a move across state lines, contact your state insurance department so you know what to expect.
Accepting a new position can be an exciting time in your professional life. By asking the right questions you can ensure your new job is even more profitable for your family than your last. For more tips, tools, videos, interactive games and downloadable apps to help you get smart about insurance during a job change or other life event such as buying a car, buying a home, getting married, becoming a parent or even turning 50, visit InsureUonline.org.
A fun video by the NAIC illustrates the importance of educating yourself on insurance during these life events.
(BPT) - School-aged kids count down the days to summer vacation when they can play outside and take a break from homework duties. However, being out of the classroom isn’t all fun and games – summer learning loss is a real issue that parents worry about every year.
Research shows students can lose two to three months of learning over the summer break, which means teachers spend more time in the new school year revisiting topics from the year past. Kids deserve time off, but that doesn’t mean learning should fall by the wayside. Parents today have more options than ever to keep kids learning and having fun throughout the summer months.
Make math practice fun
Parents can keep math skills fresh and make learning fun by pairing math and technology this summer. Games and customized learning activities engage kids to fight math learning loss and even get a head start on the upcoming year. For example, the TenMarks Summer Math Program (http://summermath.tenmarks.com) is a customized program for students in grades 1 through Algebra 2 and Geometry. Students work at their own pace – just one hour a week – through a personalized program that features hints and video lessons to refresh topics they’ve learned and introduce new math concepts for the upcoming year. Levels, points and customized rewards provide a motivating and fun environment. TenMarks Summer Math Program is free this summer (previously $39/student). Also new this summer, the TenMarks Summer Math Program is available as a Kindle App; as well as on any browser or iPad.
“Using TenMarks over the summer definitely had a positive impact on my daughter – it helped her move up a grade in school,” said Renee Lennon, mom of 4 kids from Maryland. “By having videos and helpful hints, my children were able to use TenMarks independently all summer long.”
Research reading titles that inspire
Instilling a love for reading is important for all kids, whether infants or teenagers. That’s why the summer months are the perfect time for children to read books of their choice or start a fun new series. Reading programs are plentiful during the summertime, but with so many books to choose from, it can be overwhelming for parents and kids to narrow down options. To ensure kids select books they’ll love, it’s smart for parents to have the inside scoop on which titles are popular. Amazon’s Summer Reading for Kids site (www.amazon.com/summerreadingkids) offers curated lists that will keep young readers turning the pages all summer long, as well as other themed booklists, such as Graduation Gifts for Little Scholars and Nature Nonfiction, to encourage learning enrichment. It’s simple to search for books by age group so parents can find the perfect read for their children.
Find science learning opportunities locally
Inspiring curiosity through hands-on activities helps to strengthen science skills during summer break.Fortunately, there is a multitude of scientific opportunities that allows kids to go outside and explore. For example, planting a vegetable garden helps children learn how photosynthesis works. Investing in a magnifying glass or microscope can also provide endless hours of activity for little explorers. For children of all ages – consider visiting a local zoo or science and technology museum. Students can also explore specialized science summer camps where kids can create their own science experiments and build their understanding for subjects such as physics, biology and engineering.
Combating summer brain drain doesn’t have to be difficult for parents or students. With a few creative ideas and engaging programs, children will be ready to go to the head of the class come fall.