Back-to-School Adjustments and Homework Hassles. How’s it Going?

September 21st, 2011

I can’t be the only parent who feels like once the kids go back to school, I’ve got a new, demanding job.  Demanding jobs are great, but I already have one!

It’s a lot to deal with, whether you’re

  • helping a child adjust to the new teachers’ styles;
  • figuring out which battles to fight and which to let go;
  • coaching a kid through an ever increasing homework load;
  • stumbling upon an MCPS website mention that the school year has been shifted by one day (with no other notice!); and
  • the list goes on…

Tweeting about Homework Battles

I don’t remember things being like this when I was a kid. Then again, my mother was a divorcee, a working Mom who didn’t have time to provide much oversight of my school activities.   I was a latchkey kid before the term was invented.

There are plenty of kids like that here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where 44,000 students qualify for the free lunch program.  But how do they cope?  As early as the second grade, homework assignments become so complex that it’s a frequent topic of conversation in even the most upscale neighborhoods.

The school system does provide a “homework hotline,” accessible via cable TV — which we don’t have! –  or through the computer — which we try to avoid, due to its distractions.

For many in the more affluent parts of the county, the solution to homework hassles is private tutoring. An increasing number of parents shell out $45 for group tutoring and $75 or more for individual tutoring. And it’s encouraged by some of the teachers (although officially they’re not supposed to suggest tutors, I hear).  I know this is going on nationwide. My friends in San Diego tell me about their “homework nanny.”

And my online grumbling about homework hassles did lead me to a wonderful site called School Family, along with some much needed morale support on a rough day.

How’s back to school going for you? Leave a comment and share!

 

Check Out This Month’s Green Moms Carnival: Green Back-to-School!

August 30th, 2011

For the fourth time in as many years, my friends — the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival – have come together to share our tips on how to get ready for the back-to-school rush.

Green Moms Carnival

I hope you’ve read my post about how sometimes even Green Moms forget to Reduce, Reuse, Refuse, Repurpose, and Recycle.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Head on over to Mindful Momma to read a great compilation of more than twenty posts about the green-back-to-school.

Enjoy!

– Lynn

Back to School Shopping: Remembering You Can Still Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose or Recycle!

August 20th, 2011

I chalk it up to a mother’s Prehistoric background as a Gatherer, married with her primal instinct to protect and prepare her offspring. How else to explain the fact that so many of us forget all about the Cardinal Rules of The Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle) when it comes to our own precious darlings’ return to school?  Sure, it’s tempting to fall into green shopping mania, but take a closer look at some of these tips…you may find that you can get away just fine without many new items for back-to-school.

Back to School Essentials?

After all, when was the last time you heard a grade schooler say, “Mom, I really need a  new lunchbox!” OK, granted, maybe girls are different – but I’d wager that boys could care less about the many new “back-to-school” items most Moms feel compelled to buy.    My rising fourth grader has been toting the same Crocodile Creek lunch box since kindergarten. Sure, it’s looking a bit beat up now, but does it really matter?

durable PVC-free lunchboxes

The fact is, if you spring for high quality gear at the outset, you may find, like me, that you’ll get years and years of use out of your back-to-school items.  Here’s what’s worked for me:

1. Lunch Boxes: Crocodile Creek’s PVC-free lunch boxes are incredibly durable. The one pictured here is going into its fifth year of service. For some reason my other son’s Crocodile Creek lunch box didn’t last quite as long – perhaps because of too much spilled yogurt on the inside.  When it got even a bit too funky for my taste, I replaced it with this Hanna Andersson lunch box, which is a bit roomier.

Do I think it’s time for a new lunch box after four years? Well, yes, so I purchased a new one…but Big Boy told me sensibly, “The other one is perfectly fine, Mom. And it’s not so eco-green to buy new every year, is it, Mom?”

2. Backpacks: Resist the temptation to buy the cheap theme backpacks. It’s amazing how soon that cool character they absolutely must have this year become so LAST YEAR or worse yet, BABY-ISH.   Perhaps because of the shortness of the “awesome factor,”  most of them are not built to last, but if you’ve got a younger one in preschool, they do make good cast-offs — even with broken zippers.

After my son’s Spiderman backpack broke after just two weeks of use, I purchased a durable Eddie Bauer backpack, which is going into its third year of use.  Sure it’s a little dirty, but again, we’re talking about a boy. And we could always …wash it!

durable school back packs

Other great sources for durable, long lasting backpacks that last for years? You guessed it…Hanna Andersson and Crocodile Creek.  And if your little one must absolutely have Spiderman, Thomas, or some other character, check the consignment shops. After waiting patiently for a season, I found an adorable Thomas backpack for $5. Of course, it’s broken now.

If you’re tempted to give in to the Back to School shopping mania, just think about all you can do with the $100 or so bucks you might save by not indulging. A nice dinner out. Some money in the savings account. Or a great little something for YOU.

What do you think? Will you be skipping any of the so-called back-to-school “must haves” this season?   Check out what the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival have to say about Back to School shopping at our 4th annual Back to School Carnival, hosted by Micaela of Mindful Momma on Monday.

Disclosures: In case you’re wondering, I don’t do any work for the companies mentioned here. They’re not clients, and I purchased all the items mentioned in this piece…most of them, years ago!  :)

– Lynn

Green Mom Activism: Does It Matter Anymore?

July 22nd, 2011

They  say bad things come in threes. So here are three to ponder.

  1. A non profit leader and fellow “green mom” activist posts on her FaceBook page, “over the past few days I’ve been called a Nazi, told my work is futile, and more…”
  2. Another “green mom” tells me that her grown kids think the battle against climate change is lost. You guessed it: her work focuses on climate change. Is she fighting a losing battle?
  3. My own son sighs in exasperation, “You embarrass me sometimes, Mom. I mean, not everything can be eco-green. You can’t change everything, you know, Mom?”

Let’s start with my newly minted tween’s skeptical words.  I looked at him with a big smile, rushed over to hug him, and said, “Oh, honey, you’re growing up!”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

“It’s the first time you’ve told me that I embarrass you! Honey, get used to it, because I’m going to embarrass you for many, many more years to come.”

:)

While I can poke fun at the “embarrassing Mom” comment, the “green is futile” messages that my friends and I are getting are unnerving.

All around us are signs that people are waking up to the importance of environmental action. Businesses are built around green. Corporations publish sustainability plans, and actively court green consumers.  Kids, the future, are at the vanguard of the movement. And yet….if everyone is so green, why are we still in so much trouble?

When I started the Green Moms Carnival, few people recognized the important role that mothers play in the environmental movement. What a difference three years makes.  Market studies have been written about the phenomenon.  PR firms have cashed in. Environmental NGOs court them.  Everyone wants a piece of  “mom influence.”

And yet, if we’re not influencing our own kids and our own circles, what does it really matter? And where do we go from here?

Give up, or carry on? Pass the baton to a new generation?

– Lynn

 

 

Kids and Veterans on Memorial Day

May 30th, 2011

I think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer beach season. It wasn’t until my dear brother made a comment about “no one remembering veterans anymore” that I realized Memorial Day could be yet another “teachable moment” with my kids.

When I told my eight-year-old son we were going to watch the Veteran’s Day observance in Rehoboth Beach, he grumbled and groaned. I wasn’t surprised. What kid in his right mind wants to go to something called an “observance” when the sun, sand and boardwalk amusements beckon?

Maybe if he had known a veteran would give him one of the shells fired off in the salute, he would have argued less.

Perhaps if he realized that a World War II veteran would tell him, “Yes, I remember FDR! Of course!” it would make his first big oral book report — due this week –  that much more interesting.

Or had he known that a reporter for the local newspaper would interview him, my idea for the outing might have seemed more exciting.

But in the end, what mattered most to me was not the arguing beforehand, but what he said after the ceremony ended.

“Thank you,” he said to the veterans.

And to me, he said, “Thanks, Mom, I’m glad we came.”

What did you do on Memorial Day? If you didn’t observe the day with veterans, do you plan to next year? Please leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Getting Back to Nature With Kids: Bit by Bit, Bug by Bug

May 11th, 2011

As I look at that headline, I purse my lips and shake my head. It’s hard to admit that even “green Moms” find it challenging to get enough time connecting with nature – for ourselves or our families.

Who isn’t busy? It often seems easier and faster to run an errand by hopping in the car or walking along a sidewalk rather than to take a hike on a wooded trail.

I knew I was in trouble today, with this post still unwritten yet due for this month’s Green Moms’ Carnival. I thought about searching through my camera for pictures of my kids communing with nature. But heck, there’s no time like the present, is there?

I needed to get to the CSA for our weekly pick-up, and had about an hour to spare between a 5 p.m. conference call and the time my son came home off the diesel spewing school bus (one huge irritant, why must they be driven to school when walking is so much healthier?).  Time slowed as he asked for a friend to come over for a playdate. Phone calls, coordination with the other parent, and then the litany of the divine right of children: ice cream. (By the way, Alden’s, you’d sell more if you started calling it Cotton Candy Organic Ice Cream instead of Strawberry Organic Ice Cream. It’s what all the kids call it!)

With 45 minutes left, I decided to chance it – and headed out, two eight-year-old boys in tow, for a walk to the CSA. Normally we’d take the main roads, but mindful of our carnival topic, I headed for the trail instead. Before we had even hit the trail, I knew I had made the right decision: the boys were rolling down the hill, laughing all the way.

Luck was with us. We made it in plenty of time. I was back with nearly 10 minutes to spare for my conference call – enough time to rustle up yet another snack for the boys (this time, cantaloupe).

And the adventures we had!

Bugs to behold!

Scary steps to climb!

And why are they closing this trail anyway?

“Save the trail!,” “Save the trail!” they screamed all the way home.

It’s amazing what happens when you get outside. Exercise, fresh air…and the birth of eco-activists!

When was your last hike?

Leave a comment and share.

Thursday’s Green Mom’s Carnival will be hosted over at The Green Phone Booth. Head on over and read some thoughts and tips from the wonderful women of the Green Moms Carnival about getting outside with the kids.

PS: And if you like this trail, head on over to Facebook and “like” their page here. Looks like they could use some more visibility! Only 66 likes on that site!

– Lynn

 

 

“Mom, I Can’t Go to School: I Don’t Have a PLASTIC Water Bottle!”

August 31st, 2010

I swear I’m not making this up. No sooner had I finished my post about the Top Ten Green School Projects to tackle, and fallen into bed when my newly minted third grader hit me with this zinger.

It seems stainless steel water bottles are noisy. Really. When little hands drop stainless steel water bottles from their desks, apparently they make quite a din. So my son’s teacher, on the first day of school, banned anything other than plastic water bottles.

That’s a problem for us.

After much experimentation with everything from re-used Honest Tea glass bottles to Sigg water bottles, I finally switched the family over to stainless steel water bottles. I even shelled out $20 for insulated stainless steel water bottles.

I looked and looked and looked and realized we just have no more plastic water bottles. As an ode to my bloggy friend Beth of Fake Plastic Fish, the nation’s top anti-plastics blogger, I had banned plastic water bottles from the house!

My son was very concerned.

“I can’t go to school! I need a plastic water bottle!”

“We don’t have any! You’ll have to take the stainless steel. I’ll write a note to the teacher,” I responded.

“No,” he insisted. “It HAS to be plastic. The stainless ones make too much noise; they fall from the desks.”

“Well, we got rid of all the plastic water bottles and I’m not buying any more,” I retorted. “Can’t you just get up and use the water fountain?”

“NO!!!,” he shrieked. “We can’t just get up and get a drink of water whenever we feel like it. We only get breaks like only every two hours. And I won’t get to drink until lunch time. And it’s TOO LONG!!!,” he exhaled in a burst of eight-year-old whininess.

Now I thought about just letting this go. I’ve recovered from Green Mom Culture Shock.  I understand that not everything will be a Green Nirvana, not even at a Montgomery County, Maryland Green School.

I hate being THAT MOM. Yes, I’ve been called a “piece of work.”

But as I’ve blogged before, you can either sit behind your laptop and bemoan the state of the world, or you can do something.

So I wrote an email to his teacher.

Dear Ms. X:

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful start to the school year.  I very much look forward to meeting you at Back to School Night.

My son informed me this morning that he needed a plastic water bottle rather than the stainless steel one he brought to class. As part of our family’s commitment to protecting and preserving the environment and our family’s health, we have reduced our use of plastics, including plastic water bottles. We no longer own any plastic water bottles – part of an expensive, time consuming process to switch from plastic to stainless steel, glass, and other more eco-friendly alternatives.

I respectfully ask you to reconsider requiring plastic water bottles for the following reasons:

1) many plastic bottles leach harmful chemicals which can disrupt the endocrine system of young children. Plastic #3 (polyvinyl chloride/PVC can leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into the liquids they are storing and will release synthetic carcinogens into the environment when incinerated. Plastic #6 (polystyrene/PS), leaches styrene, a probable human carcinogen, into food and drinks as well;

2) the plastic nib at the top of most plastic water bottles is easily scratched by young teeth, resulting in ingestion of plastic chemicals (as opposed to most stainless steel bottles, which contain an open spout for drinking);

3) stainless steel bottles, like the one I purchased for my son, can be insulated to keep water cooler longer;

4) the production of plastics accounts for about 8% of our usage of fossil fuels (petroleum, oil, natural gas);

5) it would be expensive, wasteful and time consuming for the class to replace their existing water bottles with plastic. My son told me that all but about two of the students came to school with stainless or other bottles made of materials other than plastic (likely for the reasons cited above).

I understand there is a noise issue that is causing you to request plastic bottles rather than water. Could I help you to brainstorm other solutions? Perhaps the stainless water bottles could be labeled, put in a blanket and left in a wagon near the door. I recall that approach being used for lunch bags in my son’s classroom last year.

I’m so sorry to have our first communication be about this issue. As you can tell, I am very passionate about environmental issues! I am happy to help you as you look at other classroom issues and their impact on the environment – I know from experience that switching from conventional methods to greener, more environmentally friendly practices can be a long process, requiring lots of trade-offs and education.

Thanks so much for your consideration.

Regards,

Lynn

Yikes. Where do you think this will lead? And actually, I spoke too soon. I’m experiencing Green Mom Culture Shock all over again.

How’s back-to-school going in your world? I’m thinking of  updating that post about “Top 10 Green Projects” to make it “Top 20 Green Projects.”

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Earth Day Reverie

April 22nd, 2010

For a green blogger, what one chooses to post on Earth Day carries quite some significance.

I debated.

Lynn_ED_photo

I thought about adding my voice to those expressing disgust at the commercialization of Earth Day.  But I tried that two years ago.

And this year?

The same company that I took to task on Earth Day 2008 had their PR firm approach me about publicizing their tactless displays…

I thought about writing an update about  “A Travesty on Earth Day.” It was two years ago Earth Day when  a Bethesda developer chose to chop down eight beautiful, healthy, four-story high, towering trees in the heart of downtown to make way for a condo building….

photo empty lot

Two years later…and those trees are gone forever, with no luxury building in sight.

I thought about writing an update post on the launch of my client, Green My Parents.

web ad_0041910_outlined

But heck, I spent the better part of the day tweeting about Green My Parents anyway!

Instead, I decided the best thing I could do for Earth Day was to get outside.

Watched as  my eldest boy admired a tree branch.

BB_ED_branchphoto

Let my younger son think that leaves were a type of “toy” from the Earth.

Boo_EDphoto

And me? There’s nothing like lying in the soft, sunlit grass – enjoying Mother Earth. (Even when reminders of the constant pull of our commercial culture are literally right at hand).

And your Earth Day?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Kids and Earth Hour: Finally, We’ve Got It Down!

March 27th, 2010

Ever since Earth Hour debuted in 2008, I’ve struggled with how to incorporate the late evening holiday into my childrens’ bedtime routines. The first year, we celebrated what I called an “Earth Minute.”

earth-hour

Last year, I had it all figured out: I shared all the details on   Five Tips for Observing Earth Hour with Kids:

1. Stick to Your Routines

2. Pick a Substitute Time that Works for You

3. Use this as a Teachable Moment

4. Give Yourself a Break

5. Celebrate with Your Significant Other

But this year?  Well, Big Boy’s in second grade now. So when they celebrated Earth Hour at school, he actually understood the concept.

I spent the day today at a Green Jobs Internship Fair, talking to scores of amazing young people bent on using their talents to help save the Earth. Exhausted, I returned home. Earth Hour? They celebrated at school this year. My son understood. He was falling asleep as the last flickers of light left the sky.

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania