Common Core and standardized testing – Opt out? A parent’s perspective.

Associated Press photo

Associated Press photo

This year, huge numbers of kids “opted out” – in other words, refused to take the state standardized ELA and/or math test. According to Huffington Post, “Some superintendents in New York are reporting that 60 percent or even 70 percent of their students are refusing to sit for the exams”.

Business Insider reports parents are concerned about puzzling questions, exam accuracy, and children spending too much time taking tests, and as a result are “opting out” their child from taking the exams.

One mom, Bianca Tanis, has even started a public forum called NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) to discuss the issue and promote opting out. A visit to the NYSAPE website shows you how to refuse the NYS Common Core test in 4 easy steps. There’s even a video, that claims: “You’re not opting out – you’re refusing, and in doing so you’re advocating for your child’s best interests and exercising your constitutional rights as a parent to guide your child’s education.”

It all sounds good, but is “opting out” the right thing to do?

What is Common Core?

From the Common Core website:

“The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.”

The Common Core is a state standards initiative developed by the National Governors Association and state education leaders in response to President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program, which holds teachers, schools and districts accountable for their students’ academic progress. According to the Huffington Post, “The Obama administration has encouraged states to adopt Common Core standards through the federal grant program known as Race to the Top, and most have, but each state is free to develop its own tests.”

And it’s true that kids nowadays do take a lot more tests. According to a survey by the Council of the Great City Schools, students take an average of 113 standardized test from pre-K through grade 12, (only 17 are mandated by the federal government).

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Cooking with kids: Chocolate Chip Graham Cookie Bars – Magic!

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookie Bars - Magic!

Here’s a great recipe, for when you need something quick and chocolaty, warm and sweet. Great for when it’s -10 degrees out, with over 2 feet of snow on the ground outside. Like today.

The kids and I made Magic Cookie Bars last week, and were less than thrilled with the results – they were too crumbly (not enough of a base) and too chocolaty (really, it can happen).

So we switched things up a bit, and came up with a new, improved Magic Cookie Bar recipe – “Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookie Bars”. I think you’ll like them – I know we do.

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookie Bars

½ cup butter, melted

2 packs of honey graham cracker crumbs

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts, chopped

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Spread over bottom of pan evenly.
  3. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over entire pan. (Get the edges, too!)
  4. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.
  5. Sprinkle nuts over everything.
  6. Press down – you could use a fork, but I grab a sheet of wax paper, spray with cooking spray, and then use that to press down. (Easy and fast!)
  7. Bake 25 minutes until lightly browned.

This recipe is great to make with kids! It makes hardly any dishes, and even little ones can help out:

  • They can put the butter in a bowl, and melt it in the microwave. (Careful! Will be hot!)
  • They can crush the crackers: Put the 2 graham crackers packs in a gallon Ziplok bag, press the air out, then have them gently jump on it to turn them into crumbs. They can pour the crumbs in the bowl, and stir.
  • They can pour the sweetened condensed milk, and sprinkle the chocolate chips. They can use the chopper to grind the nuts. (Not too fine, please!)
  • They can press down firmly, using the sprayed wax paper.
  • They can set the timer.
  • While the cookies are baking, they can wash the dishes in warm, sudsy water.
  • And, then, after a grownup takes the cookies out of the oven, after the pan cools a bit, they can help eat these fantastically delicious, gooey, warm and chocolaty sweet cookie bars.

So, give it a try! Spend some time cooking together with your kids – it’s fun, and it’ll make your house smell great!

What’s your favorite thing to cook together? Share with us in the comments below!

P.S. The original Magic Cookie Bar recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup flaked coconut, so if you have that, feel free to throw it on, too. But, really, who ever has flaked coconut on hand?

Sunflower apron by: NowDesigns.

Original Magic Cookie Bar recipe by: Eagle Brand.

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FingerTag multiplayer app – Play with your kid!

We released a game!

This was a family effort. We had the idea for FingerTag over 3 years ago, and after talking about it for a long time, we started development. Everyone pitched in.

BabyChao and Mom designed the artwork. Mom created the artwork files on the computer. Dad did the coding. Berreh and Fire did play testing. (A lot of play testing.) Chao did the music, and overall app design.

There are lots of 1 player app games out there, but what if you want to engage with your child? What if you don’t want to just give them a screen to play on, to entertain themselves – what if you want to play WITH your child?

My daughter and I invented this game because we wanted to play together, and we got tired of playing air hockey. There wasn’t really anything else that we could do together on my phone.

Now, with FingerTag, she can play with me on 2 player, or she can play with her three brothers on 4 player. Or she can play with mom and dad on 3 player.

It’s a fast-paced, silly, fun game. And you can play anywhere, anytime, just for a quick smile or a giggle.

Part of the fun is being able to hit the color item that you chose, and part is trying to block the other player from being able to hit their color.

It’s simple, yet silly, and we almost always laugh and smile when we play together.

We play while we’re waiting for big brother’s band concert to begin. We play while waiting for our food to arrive at the restaurant. We play while we’re waiting for our turn at the doctor’s office. We play if they’re bored at grandma’s house and we need a quick pick me up.

Sometimes we play instead of flipping a coin – if you win, I have to do dishes, if I win, you have to do them.

We were torn over how to release it – whether to charge $.99 for it, or make it free. But, I wanted no ads on the app, so if you’re playing with your kids, you don’t have to worry about accidentally launching an ad. (We will also be releasing a free version, with ads, very soon.)

It was a fun and educational experience for us. And as a bonus, if we make a little money, the kids get to go out for pizza. #winwin

So give FingerTag a try! It’s available on both the App Store and Google Play. And let us know what you think!

Just play with your kids.

(Warning – you may want to trim your fingernails, first. It can get a little hairy with 4 people all tapping and poking and stabbing all at the same time.)

What apps do you like to play with your kids? What would you like to play with them? And, let us know if you’ve designed an app with your kid!

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What’s Hot: The Life of Severus Snape (fan made video)

It’s been almost 18 years since the first book in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series came out. Many – if not most – kids have grown up reading the books and watching the movies, eagerly anticipating the release of the next one in the series.

The story of a young wizard, as he grows up, learns about his past, has adventures, and faces his destiny of battling the evil Lord Voldemort. We root for Harry the whole way.

But.

Woven alongside is another story.

A story of love. And anguish. And bravery.

The story of Severus Snape.

You don’t choose who you fall in love with.

Going viral right now is a YouTube video, made by Harry Potter fan kcawesome13, of “Severus Snape’s most important scenes and arcs in the Harry Potter film series in chronological order”.

 Grab your box of Kleenex.

And be prepared to be pulled back into the world of Harry Potter for 15 minutes of feels.

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Got lice?

Head lice

Head lice

 “Lice” is not a word people like to hear. It’s embarrassing. And, exhausting when you think about all the upcoming work you will need to do.

But, lice happens.

And it happens to lots of different people, for lots of different reasons. It’s not because your house or kids are dirty. It’s not a reflection of bad parenting. Lice are just tiny, annoying, itchy, hungry little bugs that get around.

If it happens to you, get informed, and come up with an action plan.

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Our trip to Enchanted Forest Water Safari in Old Forge, NY

watersafari

Summer is rapidly coming to an end, and we asked the kids — where was the #1 place they wanted to go for a Saturday day trip? They all chose Enchanted Forest Water Safari in Old Forge, NY. We’ve been there a couple of times before, and it’s always been fun.

Enchanted Forest of the Adirondacks opened in 1956, with the first amusement ride added in 1984, and the first water slides constructed in 1988. By 1991, the name changed to Enchanted Forest Water Safari.

Map of Enchanted Forest Water Safari

Map of Enchanted Forest Water Safari

It’s a huge water park that has rides for all ages – teens and little ones – along with a wave pool, and carnival-type rides for people who don’t want to get wet. There are lots of places in the park to buy good eats and drinks, and ice cream and cotton candy. And, best of all, they allow you to bring your own cooler, so you can pack a picnic, and eat at the many different picnic areas.

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Our trip to BronyCon 2013

bronyconlogo

 

If there’s one thing Bronies know how to do, it’s how to have FUN!  The biggest MLP convention in the world, BronyCon 2014 is coming up on August 1 – 3 in Baltimore. While we won’t be going this year, I can give you a clue about what it will be like, and tell you about our adventures attending BronyCon 2013.

A 3 day con about everything MLP. BronyCon invites you to:

“Spend a fun-filled weekend with fans of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” from across the world. With panels, concerts, special guests and much more, you’re sure to go home with some new friends!”

Wish we could be there!

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