Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Don't be SAD – Beat the Winter Blues

Now that Autumn is upon us, you’ve no doubt noticed that the days are getting shorter and the nights longer.   Have you also noticed that this season regularly brings on symptoms of depression for you?

If so, there could be a connection;  you may be one of the estimated 20,000 U.S. citizens suffering from SAD -- Seasonal Affective Disorder – many of whom have no idea that what they are experiencing isn’t just sadness but SAD.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD?

 

Mayo Clinic defines SAD as a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, which is why this debilitating affective disorder is labeled “seasonal.”  For most sufferers, Seasonal Affective Disorder strikes during the time of year when the daylight hours are shortest: late Fall and winter, and for some, even into early Spring.

depression
SAD affects more women than men
and can last from late Fall to
early Spring.

The distinguishing characteristic of the SAD disorder is its seasonal pattern: the annual recurrence of the troubling symptoms that may result in a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD is a widespread problem. Like other forms of depression, many people who are affected by this seasonal disorder do not even realize they have it. According to studies by the University of Virginia, an estimated six percent of the U.S. population is afflicted by seasonal affective disorder. Some research suggests that more people suffer from symptoms of SAD in regions that are further away from the equator. 

Symptoms of an affective seasonal disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe. All symptoms of SAD should be taken seriously and discussed with your doctor. 
  • Mood changes
  • Changes in sleep and/or eating
  • Finding less enjoyment in activities
  • Socializing less
  • Loss of energy
  • Inability to concentrate
If you notice any of these changes, check with your health care professional to see if you have SAD and to rule out any other conditions. 

Who does seasonal affective disorder target?

 

Seasonal affective disorder can affect people of all types. Your likelihood of getting seasonal affective disorder is greater if you are:
  • More sensitive to variations in light
  • Females are nearly four times more likely to get SAD than males
  • Previously struggled with depression
  • Family history of seasonal affective disorder.

 

How long does seasonal affective disorder last?

 

By definition, SAD is seasonal and cyclical. That is, SAD tends to crop up at the same time each year and fade away at the same time. This is the case for everyone with SAD, but duration of the symptoms varies from person to person:
  • For the most unfortunate sufferers, seasonal affective disorder may begin shortly after the days begin to grow shorter in the Fall and persist until the days begin to grow longer in Spring. 
  • For others, the duration may be much shorter; for some, lasting only a couple of weeks.

 

How can I be sure I have SAD?

 

The symptoms of SAD are very similar to symptoms of depression. Even if you have all of the common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (such as feelings of hopelessness, trouble concentrating, social isolation, lack of energy, changes in sleeping, appetite irregularities),  it does not necessarily mean that you have SAD. This is why it’s best to get professionally diagnosed. 

 

Treating SAD 

 

Seasonal affective disorder is treatable. Your doctor may advise or prescribe any of the following treatments, depending on your individual condition and situation:
affective disorder
Getting more light can help relieve
symptoms of SAD.
  • More light: During the darkest seasons, getting out into the daylight more may be enough to alleviate symptoms.
  • Phototherapy: Also known as Light Therapy, phototherapy exposes you to a regular schedule of “daylight spectrum” lighting: special lights designed to mimic daylight. The light gets absorbed through your retinas. The phototherapy process usually takes several days before symptoms improve. For most people, treatments continue even after the season passes, to be certain symptoms do not return. 
  • Medication: Antidepressant medication is sometimes prescribed.
  • Psychotherapy/counseling: Talking with a trained counselor may provide help to deal with some of the emotional symptoms of SAD.
  • Diet: Some doctors may advise you to reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates in your diet, focusing on complex carbohydrates or lower carbohydrate foods.
If you’ve been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder and your doctor prescribes medication, don’t let financial concerns unnecessarily add to your depression.  The free FamilyWize prescription discount card can help to reduce your pharmacy costs, including medications prescribed to treat SAD.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Don't Let Halloween Costs Scare You

It's that time of the year when your little goblins will be looking for a favorite costume to wear and you are digging in the attic to find the best Halloween decorations to make your house look spooktacular.  I love to decorate this time of the year because my preschoolers are always so excited to see all the pumpkins, ghosts and spider webs.  Halloween has actually started to become an expensive part of the year, mainly because I can't pass up all the yummy Halloween treats, cool decorations and amazing costumes.  Over the years I have learned to become a thrifty shopper to help out with my Halloween spending frenzy. So if you fall in the same category as me and love all the fun happenings of Halloween, here are a few tips that may help you save a little and also give you some creative Halloween ideas.

Costumes Galore

halloween ideas
Be thrifty and add old tights, boots, gloves,
and make-up for a homemade Halloween costume.
If you want some easy Halloween costume ideas first gather old costumes and see if you can create a new homemade Halloween costume. In the past my girls have turned an old bumble bee costume into a fairy costume and a clown into a 70's-era costume.

For all the busy parents like myself, you can find some great deals and even free things online. Halloween costume ideas, decorations and even recipes can be downloaded for free.

Thrift stores are great places to find clothing and accessories that won't put fear into your budget! You can always find odds and ends to make up a great costume. I usually buy the main part of a costume then go to the thrift store to find the accessories since they seem to cost more.

Candy Cravings

Buy bulk when you are buying Halloween candy. The cheapest alternative that I have found instead of candy is Halloween pretzel bags. It is a healthy solution to candy and I've usually been able to get a large quantity for as low as five dollars. Also the longer you wait to buy your candy the cheaper it seems to get. The week of Halloween is when candy is least expensive. They don't want it lingering around after the holiday so they lower prices to move it off the shelves. Plus if you wait you won't be tempted to eat it! A holiday hazard! Whenever I buy it early it seems to disappear quickly and I find wrappers all over the house.

Simple Halloween Decorations

Make your own easy Halloween crafts with your kids.
  • Make ghosts from tissue paper and rubber balls and hang them up with fishing line.
  • Cut bats out of black paper and color them with chalk and hang them all over the house.  
  • Cut pumpkins out of orange paper and different shapes out of black paper and have your kids make their own Jack-O-Lanterns.
  • Buy a cheap bag of webs and put them all over the porch. Once the web is up have your children make paper spiders or pumpkins and place them throughout the web. This is always a favorite project to do with kids. 
  • If you are a Pintrest fan there are always great ideas for homemade Halloween decorations on their website.

Inexpensive Pumpkin Shopping

halloween candy
Pick your own pumpkins for
Halloween decorations.
Pumpkins have become pretty pricey over the years and if you like to carve or decorate around the house with them I would suggest going to a pumpkin patch or local farm rather than a store. If you are buying more than one pumpkin, buying local can save money. Also your child will love going and picking out their own pumpkin and most pumpkin patches/farms will have a corn maze or maybe some animals to check out too.

One last Halloween tip is, keep your kids safe.  When you are trying to think of a costume for your child make sure it has some white material or lighting/reflectors on it.  When they are trick-or-treating it can get hectic and you want to make sure they are seen by everyone. If your child has a dark costume, use glow sticks around their wrists or make a necklace or headband out of them. Flashlights are a good idea, and make sure it can be attached, for instance looped around their wrist, as kids might fidget with their bags or costume.



Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Monday, October 15, 2012

Think Pink Part III: Shop for Pink Products to Benefit a Great Cause


Have you seen people walking around with pink streaks in their hair? It isn’t necessarily because they like to live on the wild side or that they got bored with their normal hair color, at least not during the month of October. Many beauty salons participate in Pink Hair for Hope, where customers can get pink hair extensions in exchange for a ten dollar donation to the breast cancer organization, American Cancer Society's Making Strides against Breast Cancer.

Pink hair extensions are more than just fashionable. Extensions from She by SO.CAP.USA serve as a bold symbol of your allegiance to fight for a cure to end a disease that impacts hundreds of thousands of new families every year. The Pink Hair for Hope campaign proudly received participation from 375 salons and brought together roughly two million dollars to battle breast cancer. Those interested in donning bright pink hair for a great cause can choose between traditional hair extensions and clip-in hair extensions at their favorite participating beauty salons.

Of course, pink hair may not be for everyone. The good news is, no matter where you go, no matter what you need to buy, you can usually find something “pink” on the shelves in stores. You can also find countless pink things to place in your shopping cart while shopping online.

Pink Ribbon Groceries

Look for the pink ribbon packaging at your grocery store. You can often find pink labeling on cereals, snacks, candy, and drinks. The "better-for you" deli and lunch meat brand Healthy Ones® has partnered with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) and the "Think Pink" program, donating five cents for every tub of lunch meat or pound of deli meat sold during October, with a maximum possible donation of $50,000.

Breast cancer survivor Trish May created Athena® bottled water after her battle with cancer, as a way to do everything possible to help find a cure. A portion of every purchase of Athena® water is donated to breast cancer awareness causes. Another bottled water company, Nestle® Pure Life® Purified Water, has partnered with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®, pledging to support breast cancer awareness and research with the “Pink Pack” campaign again this year. Each “Pink Pack” or 0.5L Multi-Pack of Nestle Pure Life Purified Water sold results in 10 cents being donated to the BCRF, with a minimum donation of $500,000 promised this year.

breast cancer
Some Pink products we've collected over the years.
From food products to coffee presses and jewelry, Think Pink
this October and support the CURE.

Pink Ribbon Beauty

If you want to get yourself some new makeup or perhaps a new skincare product, you will find no shortage of pink ribbon products in the beauty category. Murad, a recognized skincare company, is donating ten percent of the Hydrate for Hope set to the City of Hope’s women’s cancer programs. The Palmer’s skincare line is a longtime supporter of breast cancer awareness and this year will be donating fifteen percent of four separate pink product sales.

Cosmetics companies also do their part to find a cure for breast cancer. Dr.'s REMEDY® is proudly donating ten percent of the proceeds from the sales of three pink nail polish shades, Hopeful Hot Pink, Nurture Nude Pink, and Purity Pink, to the charitable group Living Beyond Breast Cancer. This charity also receives a donation of $2 from every Jane Iredale PureGloss Lip Gloss, In The Pink, available at janeiredaledirect.com.

Other Pink Ribbon Purchases

Makeup, skincare, and food items are just the beginning. You will find plenty of gift ideas, like Teleflora’s Pink Hope and Courage Bouquet, that donates fifteen percent of the purchase price to BCRF, or Edible Arrangements’ breast cancer awareness collection, featuring pink chocolate covered pineapple or strawberries, where ten percent of the price goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

A number of athletic wear and shoe companies like New Balance provide special products with donations to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and other breast cancer charities. New Balance’s shoe, the 860v2, is the official shoe of the Race for the Cure®. New Balance’s Lace Up for the Cure® collection features this shoe as well as an impressive selection of sneakers and footwear, accessories, and workout apparel. Five percent of the suggested retail price of these items will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, with a minimum donation of $500,000 guaranteed annually.

There are so many creative ways that you can support breast cancer research and awareness. Even if you don’t want to get in on the shopping craze, you can host your own pink events or activities in an effort to raise money for the cure. Susan G. Komen Passionately Pink for the Cure® offers consumers a wide variety of ways to get personally involved in the fight for a cure, from hosting a pink ping pong tournament with your friends and family to planning a pink potluck at the office.

Susan G. Komen Passionately Pink for the Cure® shares a bit of information on how they spend the donations they receive, too. Passionately Pink for the Cure fundraisers funnel the money raised to Komen’s national work, which funds more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit group. This year alone, more than $300 million will go toward research in more than 500 institutions. Some of the key outlets for donations are free breast cancer screenings, support through treatment and diagnosis, as well as support for nearly 2,000 community programs that help women in need. In many cases, women receive help to get the treatments they need following diagnosis.

Whether you take some time to find your favorite pink products or you host your own breast cancer fundraiser, remember, it’s never too late to do your part in helping those impacted by breast cancer. Every little bit of support, encouragement, and financial assistance really does make a difference.


By Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer


Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Camping - Family Fun for Less


Camping is a Great Experience!
   
What a great time of year to get out and enjoy the outdoors. The weather is gorgeous with the cool evenings and warm days and the beautiful changes in the great outdoors. Sounds like a perfect time of year for a camping trip to me! But before you head out for the hills there are a few things that you should keep in mind to insure that your campout will be filled with positive memories!

Camping Checklist

There are actually websites that have done a lot of the work for you. One that you can check out is Love The Outdoors has a camping checklist you can use. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Shelters –  tents, tent stakes and extra tarps and cabins.
  • Bedding – sleeping bags (temperature appropriate) pillows, extra blankets.
  • Cooking equipment – this can vary by quite a bit depending on what kind of cooking you prefer to do while camping.  Cast iron skillets work great on an open fire.
  • Clothing – this will depend on where you are camping and the temperatures at your campsite but having quick drying clothing helps. Weather appropriate clothing is a must.
  • First Aid Supplies – You can find a fully equipped first aid kit in the drugstore or make your own and save a few bucks.  The American Red Cross has a list of things to include.  Be sure you include antiseptics, sun protector and bug spray!
  • Sporting Goods – take your fishing polls, canoes, backpacks or hiking gear. A solar shower is a great addition too!      

On my own family camping trips, I make sure to take a headlight that fits around your head like a hat. It's very much like a miner's headlamp. It's great for reading at night; one of my favorite things to do. It's also good if you need light for hiking, but don't want another thing to carry in your hands.


free campsites
Fall camping is full of fun family activities.
                                                                  
Where Do You Camp?

I am fortunate to live in an area that offers just about any type of camping experience you can imagine.  But there are hundreds of State and National Parks across the country that offer a full range of camping experiences from complete isolation to feeling like you are in a city with all of the big RV’s with full electrical hookups that let you feel like you are right at home. Enter your state abbreviation and campgrounds into your browser's search box to bring up a list of campgrounds in your state. Campgrounds can also be found at Recreation.gov.

My husband and I prefer camping that lets us feel like we're away from civilization with only nature as company. We have camped in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks and have had a great time. Fall camping in the parks is a wonderful experience; one that you and your family can also enjoy. There are many preplanned family activities to take part in as you learn about each park’s special features.

The US Forest Service offers many free campsites on the thousands of acres of public lands. Free campsites often do not include the amenities of the “fee for camping” sites, and many don't have running water, trash bins or restrooms. But, these are great places to spend a weekend in the wilderness with Mother Nature. This kind of "roughing it" will require some more planning and preparedness. The Centers for Disease Control has great advice for safety, packing and activities while camping.

Fun for Less

Camping gear can be inexpensive if you look for end of season bargains. Local thrift stores, classified ads and even Craig's List are places where many people sell good equipment at the end of the camping season. You might find some great bargains!

Your camping experience can range from full blown amusement park activities to just you and nature.  Having done both, I can say that getting in tune with nature has been the most rewarding. For me, there is nothing more peaceful than sitting around a campfire, looking up at the stars and listening to the crickets chirp. The fresh air is exhilarating and really renews my spirits!

So pack up your hiking shoes and sleeping bag and hit the outdoors for a few days! I guarantee you will not regret it! There is nothing like breathing the fresh air of the great outdoors!

Happy Camping!

Cindy Foley  
Contributing Writer 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't get Squashed! On second thought, DO!

What is squash?


Well for starters, there are many kinds of squash, so knowing what it actually is might be helpful. Squash is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. This includes all squash varieties, summer and winter.  Summer squash tends to have higher water content, but if cooked properly, it can be just as high in nutrients as winter squash. Basically, squash is a gourd vegetable, is highly nutritious, and is often used in some parts of the world for the beautiful flowers it produces.  Different squash types are also used for decorations during Autumn holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. You see, pumpkin is a squash. What would Halloween be without pumpkins? So I guess the answer is; squash is a food, a flower, a decoration, and an incredibly powerful ally for your health.

Types of squash:

Squash recipes
Squash comes in different shapes and sizes!
There are many varieties of squash. Probably one of the most popular in this country is butternut squash. Acorn and spaghetti squash are also popular. Both are incredibly nutritious and taste great.

I used to live on the island of Trinidad. One thing I found interesting was how much they used pumpkin. We made squash soup, chopped pumpkin into chunks and steamed them, and made wraps,called “Roti”, that contained pumpkin along with meat and vegetables. Pumpkin is used there as regularly as we use potatoes in this country. And did you know that squash is actually more nutritious than potatoes? Let’s take a look at squash nutrition, and find out why.

Nutritional Benefits of Eating Squash:

One reason is the low calories in squash. A cup of winter squash contains about 76 calories! Considering how nutrient dense it is, that is a lot of bang for your buck.
  • Full of antioxidants and is a great anti-inflammatory. 
  • Ranks high in vitamins A and C. 
  • Excellent source of fiber, manganese, and Vitamin B-6. 
  • Good source of tryptophan, folate, potassium, vitamin K, copper, B-2, omega 3 fats, and magnesium. 
Those are just some of the great things squash has to offer. It's a nutritious and tasty food choice that adds variety to our diet. So feel free to add more squash to your diet.

How do I know which gourd is good?

Knowing how to pick a good gourd is an essential first step in enjoying it. 
  • Winter squash can decay. Look carefully for areas that are moldy or water-soaked.
  • Squash should be firm and heavy for its size. If it feels like it has soft rinds, the squash could be watery and lacking in flavor.
  • Rinds should be dull, not glossy.
  • Winter squash can be stored for up to 6 months in a dark, cool environment. 
Choosing organic squash is also advisable because squash is known to absorb toxins out of the soil. They are not highly sprayed with pesticides themselves, but they will pull toxins out of the ground if it has been previously treated with pesticides.

How to make a Yummy Squash dish!

cooking squash
Recipes with squash add
variety to your diet.
In case you are wondering how to incorporate more squash into your lifestyle, rest easy because there are many recipes for squash on the internet. Recipes with squash include baking, grilling, mashing, and, yes, you can even find a juice recipe, or two, for squash. Winter squash recipes also offer many squash soup recipes and squash casserole recipes.

One of the healthiest ways for cooking squash is to steam it, because for most varieties it only takes about 7 minutes. Remember, cooking for a shorter period of time, and heating at a lower temperature, means your food retains more of its nutrients

Be sure to wash your squash before you cook it. If you need to remove the skin, using a peeler does the trick. If I am low on energy and looking for something easy, I find baked squash is the way to go. One of my favorite recipes using either acorn, butternut, or spaghetti squash;



Gwen’s Baked Squash:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1 squash (washed, cut in half, seeds removed)
Place both halves cut side down on buttered pan.
Bake until soft to touch (cooking time depends on variety and size of squash)
Remove from oven and scoop out the meat into a bowl.
Add brown sugar or maple syrup to taste.
Mix thoroughly.
Add salt to taste and enjoy!

So, “Get Squashed” as often as possible!

Gwendolyn Adams
Contributing Writer
 


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This Autumn, Don’t Fall Down on Your Fitness!

Okay, just one more pun, then we’ll get down to serious business; don't "leaf" your fitness behind, or your behind will show it!

There.  That’s out of the way.

But seriously, it would be a shame to let the benefits you got from your summer’s fit-living lifestyle go bye-bye, right?

Right.

But, how do you keep on track with health goals when the weather dampens your will to get fit? When your routine is tied to fair weather, like biking, running, walking, tennis, or other great summertime exercises, how do you not lose your mojo and, as a result, lose your muscle tone or aerobic fitness?

The trick is to get into the Autumn spirit and – one more pun, sorry – “Fall” into a new fitness plan, one that keeps your heart healthy, builds bone and muscle strength but doesn’t rely on good weather.

Flab-fighting Fall Fitness Tips

Here are four fun exercise tips to help you keep up an active lifestyle all through the changing weather that Fall brings. 
gym membership
Health goals don't have to suffer.
Maintain an active lifestyle in cool
weather.

 

Tip #1:  Ex-foli-age! 

Sure, being outside when the weather requires you to bundle up is a bit of a hassle.  But make it fun by celebrating the weather change; when the leaves begin to fall, what better time could there be to enjoy scenic local parks, especially those that are known for their Fall foliage. Walking, jogging, tossing a ball around, even raking leaves are ways to get exercise during cooler weather and "shed" those extra inches.


Tip #2:  Take a walk on the mall side!

Let’s say you’ve been going to town with a summer walking routine, but bundling up for cold weather just doesn’t trip your trigger. No worries. Head to the local mall with your walking buddies. Many malls open a couple of hours before the stores open, or stay open an hour or two after stores close. It's a perfect time to take a brisk walk at the mall by yourself or with a friend because the food court isn't open.

A family trip to a museum is a great way to add walking for yourself and your family. Many museums have free or discounted admission days.You’ll not only be burning calories but building memories.


Tip #3:  Gettin’ gymy with it – gym methods that work! 

The gym is the first refuge of the foul weather exerciser.  However, Medical News Today reveals a discouraging bit of news. Even though record numbers of people sign up at fitness clubs for gym memberships, 80 percent of them go unused.

Big fitness center plans often fizzle out because machine training routines become monotonous and there's a lack of camaraderie – someone to share the experience with. So then, the trick is to make your gym club workout enjoyable.  But how?  Here are a few ideas:
  • Join a bud – finding a friend to share your gym routine and, at the same time, an invigorating conversation with can make a tedious workout fly by with ease. 
  • Set workout improvement goals – even if you’re working out alone, the easiest way to get past the hamster-wheel doldrums of a machine workout is to make the machines work for you. Set goals by using the stepper’s or treadmill’s data readouts to map your progress toward a goal.
  •  Join a class – If you’re not sure about certain kinds of gym equipment or sports, sign up for a class.  Most gyms have fitness classes or sports leagues designed to bring people of like interests together.
  • Make it a family affair – Some fitness centers encourage families to work out together with family oriented fitness classes. Fitness clubs with an indoor pool usually have family swim times, letting your kids continue to have fun in the water no matter how bad the weather is outside. 
  •  Go long for big weight loss –  It's true that any workout is better than no workout at all. But if your goal is to lose weight, remember that your body keeps burning calories long after your workout is over. This is especially true with weight-bearing exercises. According to a USA Today article, a 45-minute workout can keep you burning calories for hours after a workout. 

 

Tip #4:  Get “eventual” 

Events are big in the Fall, and they can turn a routine summer workout into a special and memorable Autumn event. Sign up for a cancer run or walk in your area. You'll be helping your body and supporting cancer research.

There are other events that will make you forget the temperature such as the Run For Your Lives 5K Zombie obstacle courses running from October through December. The obstacle includes actors dressed as zombies who try to “tag” you as you try to get to the finish line before being tagged out.  At a time like that, the weather will be the last thing on your mind!

Try a Color Run to liven up your running experience. Beginning in October and "running" through next year, they are coming to a city near you. Experience level doesn't matter. The run is for beginners and novices alike and money is raised for a local charity in each city.

But use good sense…

Exercise is fun but you want to be safe. Make sure you’re up to the challenge of these fun Fall workouts by seeing your doctor for a physical and health assessment.Then, with his or her blessings, fall into fun this Fall as you stay in shape.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ending the Homework War


homework
Do your homework!

Homework, homework, homework, where to start?  For many years homework in my household meant one word, TORTURE.  I use to think that homework was back to school for parents; pure dread.  We have had our share of the ups and downs of getting homework done.  

Our oldest didn't need much help and most of the time I didn't even know if she had homework.  For our youngest, however, homework was a bad word. She was diagnosed with Dyslexia and high anxiety, so homework had us jumping through some hurdles. It took some time to figure out how to conquer homework with her, but after some research and trial and error, we won the battle. We found that being in a calm, organized and stress free environment along with the right tools did the trick. 

The National Center for Learning Disabilities has some great tips for homework and developing organizational skills that can turn homework into a peaceful time of night rather than a time they dread all day. Here are some of my favorites:

Get Involved 
Ask questions about their homework. Many teachers assign all of the homework that is due by Friday, at the beginning of the week.  Help your kids manage the work load out throughout the week so it does not seem overwhelming. Do the amount of work your child is capable of without getting frustrated. Time management for kids is half the battle to be successful with homework. It and teaches them to not procrastinate. 

Quiet Time
Make sure that homework is done in a quiet place. Turning off the television, radio and shutting off any social media on the computer gives them time to concentrate on homework. It's a good idea to set up a "homework nook".  It doesn't matter which room it's in as long as there are no distractions and it's a place where only their homework gets done. I include a few healthy snacks so that they can take a break, if needed.

The Right Tools
What do I mean by right tools? Well, keep plenty of pencils, erasers, rulers, a calculator and scrap paper in the homework nook. I have experienced homework gone bad when we didn't have the right pencil or a calculator.  One time Emily's pencil didn't have a good enough eraser and she went to erase and she ripped her paper. Talk about frustration and anxiety! Her whole paper was ruined and she was afraid she'd be in big trouble with the teacher. Things run a lot more smoothly when you have the right tools available.

Motivate

organizational skills, time management for kids
Homework solutions to end the homework war
When kids are doing homework motivate them to succeed. Looking over their shoulder and pointing out mistakes will discourage them and they might stop trying.  What worked for me was pointing out the things Emily did correctly and then going over mistakes later. Using a sticker chart as motivation can help for kids in elementary school.  Give your child a reward once the chart is complete. Incentives can be easy things like a special dessert, watch some television or getting ice cream as a special treat.

Consistency 
Do homework at the same time everyday.  Kids usually thrive with schedules, so if you are consistent they will be more positive about homework. Doing homework should not be any different than brushing their teeth or eating breakfast every morning. If it is something they know they have to do everyday, they will do it. I made a Chore Chart at my house and included the following things:
  • Brush your teeth
  • Make your bed
  • Eat Breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Do your Homework
  • Take a bath

Homework Resources
There is plenty of help out there if you need it to conquer the homework blues.  If you find that your child is struggling, a trip to the library is a good change of scenery and a great place to find resources that can help. Discovery Education is a website with free resources to help your kids with motivation, different subjects and even free webinars for parents.

Your local library may even have resources for parents as well as elementary and high school age kids. 

Looking for online help? Here are a couple of great resources. 
  • Homework Helper has links for each grade level, quick reference guides and links to more online resources. 
  • Multnomah County library has online help by subject, rather than grade. It's available nationwide, too.

Homework Passes
A homework pass in our house was more valuable than gold. Ask teachers how your child can get a homework pass. Doing some extra chores, extra homework sheets for extra credit or reading some extra pages from one of their books are possible ways to earn passes. Some teachers also give out homework passes for good behavior. If your child comes home with one, praise them and let them know how well they are doing. It will build their self-esteem and provide them a strong platform to succeed in the future.

Being a Good Role Model
Our kids follow what we do. If they see us enjoying a good book, they will want to read. If they see that we set aside quiet time to get work done, they will follow the example.

For me, keeping a positive outlook about homework helped the most. Many parents feel that teachers give too much homework.  Even five year olds get kindergarten homework and parents even get burn out.  I use to feel this way too but now that my children are older I am thankful for all the hard work they have put in.  It has definitely paid off and they are now excelling in high school.

What we need to do is teach our children that homework isn't just a chore but a way to make us smarter.  It reinforces what they have learned at school during the day. Homework is actually a way to practice better skills to make them a better student.  It's no different then playing a sport and having to go to practice to make you better. Practice makes perfect on and off the court.

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer