Some question Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy campaign

Some question Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy campaign

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts recently declared a campaign to "Ban Bossy," complete with Beyonce, Jane Lynch and Condoleezza Rice on video, a website full of tips and thousands of fans who pledged to stamp out that B word for girls.

But the effort is also being questioned on a variety of fronts, including its focus on a word that not everyone considers damaging, and for encouraging a behavior that not everybody believes equals leadership, as Ban Bossy contends.

Harold Koplewicz, who heads a think tank called the Child Mind Institute, went in search of evidence that the word "bossy" discourages girls from becoming leaders. He asked first-graders and sixth-graders at Hunter College Elementary School for gifted children how they feel about it.

Save for a couple of "outliers," he found that most didn't love the term bossy, "but they didn't love the word leader, either." The kids also told him that acting bossy carries a high risk of not being liked. "They thought that being liked was better than being a leader," Koplewicz said.

The Ban Bossy campaign cites a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute in which girls reported being twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles would make them seem bossy. The fear of being seen as bossy is put forth as a primary reason girls resist such roles.

Alicia Clark, a Washington, D.C., psychologist whose specialties include parenting and couples counseling, lauded the campaign's suggested alternatives to bossy and ideas for fostering leadership in girls, but she sees a broader sense of social anxiety at play.

"Girls experience fears and inhibitions about social acceptance more acutely, in the form of stress," she said. In some cases, "Mean, bossy girls, as my 13-year-old daughter describes them, are closer to being bullies than they are leaders. And we know that bullies fundamentally feel insecure, hate themselves for it and assert themselves over other insecure people as a way of garnering a sense of control and dominance. This is not leadership. This is intimidation."

Caroline Price, a 17-year-old high school junior in Andover, Mass., loved Sandberg's book, "Lean In," and admires many of the women who have jumped on Ban Bossy. "But to me bossy isn't the same as leadership. Bossy people aren't people you want to follow. Leaders inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. Bossy means 'my way or the highway.' Leadership is when someone listens and encourages others around them," she said.

Sometimes, Price added, "leaders aren't just the loudest — the bossiest. There are different kinds of leaders — and some lead more quietly, or by consensus or by example and so on."

Like critics of Sandberg's Lean In movement urging working women to strive for leadership positions, the backlash against Ban Bossy is multifaceted.

Some detractors think girls and women of the bossy ilk should "own" the word rather than demand to be free of it, not unlike the way "queer" has been reclaimed as celebratory among many people who are LGBTQ, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning their sexual identities.

Sandberg, Rice and other celebrity supporters of Ban Bossy recall how being called bossy made them feel diminished as kids and dinged their self-esteem, but what about kids who are not bossy, but are bossed around?

"The people who are bossy, sometimes they have an attitude," said Rose Wladis, 11, a Girl Scout and fifth-grader in New York (not at Hunter). "I think being a leader is kind of showing people what to do, but being nice about it and encouraging people and, like, setting an example for them. But bossiness is just telling someone what to do."

Koplewicz said research shows teen girls are more likely than boys to have symptoms of mental health issues, some related to low self-esteem. Yet girls also tend to do better than boys in school, getting better grades and earning degrees in higher numbers. Despite their academic success, women hold only a fraction of top executive positions, a point "Lean In" emphasizes.

But were female executives seen as bossy growing up, and did they suffer under the weight of the word? "At the moment there is no direct research that categorizes the word bossy as dangerous," said Koplewicz, who generally supports Sandberg's campaign to promote female leadership but not so much the focus on the lone word.

The focus wasn't lost on Hillary Rodham Clinton. She spoke to a gathering of book publishers Wednesday about a memoir she's working on covering her years as U.S. secretary of state. Clinton threw out "Bossy Pantsuit" as a possible title, riffing on Tina Fey's best-selling "Bossypants," then she paused and earned laughs for her punch line: "We can no longer say one of those words."

Maura Ciammetti, 26, works for a small technology company in suburban Philadelphia. She said being called bossy at times in college and work situations allowed her to "step back and assess how I am approaching a situation. Was I too forceful? Am I listening to my peers? Am I looking at the big picture? Why is this person challenging me with this label?"

Instead of banning the word, Ciammetti said, what "if we taught girls how to deal with their peers calling them names and other situations of adversity."

Julia Angelen Joy, 42, a Girl Scout troop leader and mother of four in Boise, Idaho, works in public relations and marketing, where lots of women dominate and where she has encountered many a bossy female boss. She calls them "chictators." She can't get behind the Ban Bossy project.

"Bossy can mean two things — a strong leader or a domineering nag. Using the word in a campaign is a double-edge sword," Joy said.

Joy, who is president of "FemCity Boise," part of the national Femfessionals business network for women, said she was a bossy teen and has two bossy girls. When her 16-year-old was 11, mom forced her to write a letter of apology to her school principal and others for participating in a "mean girl situation" of intimidation and control against other girls.

"I told her as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a wife, none of this is acceptable," said Joy, who suggests a tweak to the Ban Bossy rallying cry: "How about Ban Bossy, support kindness."

As Joy sees it, and it's likely Sandberg would agree (she declined an interview with The Associated Press): "There's a middle to all of this. The middle is a little bit of restraint and a little bit of kindness. We want that for all of our children, male or female."

March 23, 2014 8:00 am

Learning at Home: Keeping kids sharp on snow days

Learning at Home: Keeping kids sharp on snow days

On many a chilly morning this winter, parents all over the Region awoke to phone calls from groggy school officials announcing either the closing or delay of school for that day. On some weeks, to the delight of kids everywhere, this became more the rule than the exception.

Indeed, it’s been a record-breaking year when it comes to snow days and two-hour delays at Northwest Indiana schools. While a day off of school here and there, as in typical winters, doesn’t have much of a long-term effect on students’ education, this winter’s mass loss of instruction has left educators reeling.

Stacy Harvey, 4th grade teacher at Kenwood Elementary in Hammond, said that after the six closings and six two-hour delays in her district, it was a challenge to get students back into a routine. “They were tired and a little out of sorts,” she said. “Especially on [days with] two-hour delays when they lost a special like gym.”

Teachers have been working hard to make up for lost time. “Right now we are trying to be well planned so we have little down time [during the school day],” Harvey said. “We also need to be careful not to expect too many new concepts to be mastered to make up for all the lost curriculum before testing.”

Parents must also make a concerted effort to ensure their kids are up to speed. “Parents should make sure homework is a priority,” Harvey said.

When a snow day is called—and there may be more this winter—parents are encouraged to lead their kids in some sort of academic activity during the day. Harvey recommends that students read 20 to 30 minutes each day, plus study math facts and concepts they’ve just learned.

Alisa Carlson of LaPorte is a mother of three and a third grade teacher at Marsh Elementary School in Michigan City. During the snow days, she had “school at home” with her kids, ages 9, 8, and 3.

“I chose Language Arts and Math skills based on what extra practice I knew would be a benefit to my children, such as addition with carrying and subtraction with borrowing,” Carlson said. “I also considered skills from their homework that were more challenging than others, like fractions, and I Googled worksheets on those skills.”

Carlson said she wanted the academic activities to have an aspect of fun, so she used a deck of cards to play Addition and Subtraction War and other games (described in the sidebar).

Harvey recommends keeping it light and fun as well. “Have them write about their day or do a fun experiment at home,” she said. “If your child’s school does things online, get them on those sites at home. I blog with my class and loved reading about their snow days and dialoging with them while we were out.”

Parents needn’t attempt to keep the kids busy for the same amount of time they would normally be in school. Harvey said an hour or two throughout the day is sufficient.

Aside from academic activities, parents should enforce healthy lifestyle habits as well. Harvey said to keep kids on the same sleep schedule and to limit their screen time. “Being home all day allows for some extra creative play!”

March 23, 2014 8:00 am Photos


Ivy Tech Northwest Paralegal Program offers new course

Ivy Tech Northwest Paralegal Program offers new course

For many prospective students the decision of a major area of study can be quite daunting. After all it is difficult to know if a particular program will be a proper fit without knowledge of the industry/ hands on experience.

For the first time, Ivy Tech Community College Northwest will offer PARA 101, a 16 week Introduction to Paralegal Studies this Fall. The new course will discuss the different Paralegal Associations and the potential jobs and necessary skills needed in the industry such as: legal research and interviewing and legal writing. PARA 101 will be offered as follows: on Tuesdays from 11am to 1:45pm at the Michigan City campus, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30pm to 2:45pm or Mondays from 6pm to 8:45pm at the Valparaiso campus.

The Paralegal Program at Ivy Tech prides itself on upholding a high standard for the curriculum. To ensure this standard is not only met but exceeded, the program covers many substantive areas of law and engages the students in an environment where they receive practical skills. The overall goal is to give students the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful as entry level paralegals working under the supervision of lawyers. Students and graduates of the Paralegal Program will be able to: practice as a legal assistant or paralegal in either the private or public sector, apply ethical reasoning, communicate effectively in written and oral forms, perform legal research, and demonstrate critical and creative thinking.

There is also ample support to help ensure a successful transfer to a four year institution for those students who would like to continue their studies upon completing their Ivy Tech program.

Fall 2014 registration began March 15. For more information please contact Nicole Fech, Paralegal Program Chair, at 219-464-8514 Ext. 3041 or visit

Ivy Tech Community College is the state's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system serving nearly 200,000 students annually. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.

1440 East 35th Avenue

Gary, Indiana


March 21, 2014 5:04 pm

Setting up students for success: IU Northwest makes getting a world-class IU education convenient

Setting up students for success: IU Northwest makes getting a world-class IU education convenient

Indiana University Northwest understands the challenges students face in completing a bachelor or master degree. Consider the convenience IU Northwest offers to help students achieve academic success.

IU Northwest offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 70 academic programs, including:

- Arts and Sciences (including Master of Science in Clinical Counseling and Master of Liberal Studies)

- Business and Economics (including AACSB-accredited Evening and Weekend MBA)

- Health and Human Services (including Master of Public Affairs and Master of Social Work)

- Education (including Master of Science in Elementary or Secondary Education, or Educational Leadership)

Accommodating students

With more than 90 online courses in 16 disciplines currently being offered, expansion of online learning is an IU Northwest campus priority, and is steadily becoming more embedded into the framework of the Northwest campus’s curriculum.

Along with online options, continuing attention is paid to course scheduling, to ensure that students have courses available in ways that align with their many commitments.

IU Northwest has developed a number of resources specifically designed to address the unique needs of students in their first year. From workshops to improve study skills and information sessions about specific majors, a number of opportunities are detailed on a “First Year Experience” web page that directs students to the resources they need that will help them easily transition to college-level study.

Another way to help students succeed and graduate is to provide opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school, which also enables them to earn Honors Diplomas. The campus’s Early College and Dual Credit agreements with area high schools have grown significantly, enabling qualified students to earn college credits and prepare for the transition to college-level study.

In July, IU received final funding approval to proceed with construction of a new 106,000-square-foot, $45 million academic building, to be located on the IU Northwest campus.

The new Arts & Sciences building will likely include academic and administration space and facilities for the IU Northwest Departments of Communication; Fine Arts; History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religious Studies; Minority Studies; Performing Arts; and Sociology and Anthropology.

The new building will serve the educational needs of both IU Northwest and Ivy Tech-Northwest students, which will strengthen the partnership between the two institutions and enhance the transfer-student pathway. Shared space for both institutions will include classrooms, conference rooms, and student lounge/study areas.

Construction is expected to begin later in 2014. The building is anticipated to take two years to complete, with a projected opening in fall 2016.

Community service enhances learning

An estimated 2,100 students annually contribute more than 126,000 service-learning hours, demonstrated through course work and projects that are integral to the academic experience and connect students with their communities.

Service-learning opportunities for students often result from community-based engagement partnerships, and in some cases, an opportunity for cross-disciplinary curriculum.

The examples of students putting their education to work in their communities cross all disciplines.

Business students provide low-income families with tax preparation assistance. Public and Environmental Affairs students assist with crime and emergency-response mapping for local police and fire departments. Students in medical fields offer free health checks to Glen Park residents. Education students work in urban classrooms through the Urban Teacher Education Program.

March 21, 2014 4:47 pm

Indiana Tech degrees boost career pptions

Indiana Tech degrees boost career pptions

In tough economic times, a college degree can open doors to new job possibilities. Indiana Tech offers a career-focused practical education to prepare graduates for success in the workplace.

Indiana Tech’s College of Professional Studies focuses on students with some workplace experience who need to complete an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree to achieve career goals.

The College of Professional Studies has multiple campuses around the state, including a location at 9245 Calumet Ave. in Munster, as well as two locations in Kentucky and extensive online degree programs. Students can attend at the location most convenient for them, take all of their courses online, or mix and match classroom and online courses to meet their needs.

Indiana Tech’s accelerated pace is ideal for nontraditional students who need some flexibility in class scheduling.

Each class meets just one evening a week for five or six weeks. Online classes are accessible anytime, anywhere with a broadband Internet connection but follow the same calendar of five- and six-week courses. The combination of an accelerated pace and personal attention makes completion of a degree more achievable for working adults.

“I earned my degree quicker than I would have at other educational institutions,” says Connie Brown, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Indiana Tech. “The class sizes are not so large that you get lost. Professors are able to give you individualized attention if you need it. I appreciated that.”

The career-oriented programs in accounting, business administration, criminal justice, and organizational leadership cater to working adults by focusing on contemporary topics in the corporate world. The newest degree option is an associate degree in health information technology, which was specifically designed to meet the growing and changing needs of the health care industry.

An Indiana Tech advantage that may seem more important as potential students struggle with the cost of college is the inclusion of textbook rental in tuition. Indiana Tech also offers several payment options, including deferred tuition for those who have employer tuition assistance.

Indiana Tech is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

For more information, visit or contact an admissions representative in Munster at 219.836.1910.

March 21, 2014 3:27 pm

Students set out for a brighter future with Indiana State University

Students set out for a brighter future with Indiana State University

Indiana State University gives you more of what you’re looking for in a university from the moment you set foot on campus.

We’re for blue skies and a brighter future. We’re for recycling, wind power, and trees. We were Indiana’s first Tree Campus USA.

We’re for a great education and we’re for affordability—not only in tuition but in all student costs.

We’re for scholarships—big time! Indiana State awards more than $8 million in student financial awards each year. We’re for helping you graduate on time with a Sycamore Graduation Guarantee for new first-time students, in which we work together to ensure you’ll graduate in four years or any remaining classes are free.

Life as a Sycamore is about growing tall and strong—through classes, research, creativity, campus involvement, and making a difference in communities in Indiana and around the world, thanks to international study opportunities.

We’re for preparing leaders in education, business, health and human services, chemistry, physics, math and computer science, technology, biology, criminology, and geology—even oceanography. And that’s just for starters. Indiana State offers an impressive selection of academic programs across five colleges, and many degrees can be completed online. Check out our majors at

We’re true, blue, and loyal. Indiana State students, faculty, and staff contributed more than one million hours of community service last year. Two-thirds of our graduates stay in Indiana, helping to implement a vision for a better tomorrow.

We’re modern. You’ll find newly renovated laboratories, academic, and wellness buildings. Our most ambitious student housing upgrade ever is under way and our Student Recreation Center is the envy of many larger campuses.

Our campus is walkable. The Campus Cupboard and Barnes & Noble College bookstore offer much of what you need—and a city bus can take you when you just have to get to the mall!

There’s more to blue at Indiana State. More diversity, more friendly people, more distinctive programs with the offerings of a major university but the atmosphere of a small, close-knit campus.

We have more of the programs you want and the experience and affordability you need. Your future begins at State.

Sycamore Preview Day

The best way to learn more about Indiana State is to come to our beautiful campus. Sycamore Preview Days are special events designed for high school students, transfer students, and others interested in learning more about Indiana State and college life. Parents and families are welcome (and encouraged) to attend. It’s the best way to experience our energized and engaged campus.

The opportunities for the day include a tour of campus; meeting with academic advisors; and talking to a financial aid counselor to learn more about financial aid, scholarships, and other ways to finance your education.

Participants also get to have lunch in the residence hall dining facilities (no cost) or eat lunch in the food court (small cost).

To register for a Sycamore Preview Day or to schedule a personal visit, or for more information, go to

March 21, 2014 2:40 pm

Big ideas help students succeed at Governors State University

Big ideas help students succeed at Governors State University

Academic excellence and innovation are natural partners. At Governors State University you’ll find an abundance of both. The university is expert at offering a great education at a great value to both our Illinois AND Indiana students. One major innovation at GSU is that Indiana residents now pay the same low in state tuition as Illinois residents. GSU’s tuition and fees are the lowest of all the state universities in Illinois.

No matter what your education goals, GSU has degree and certificate programs that will help you get there. In every program, you’ll find gifted professors and small class sizes to help you reach your goals. You’ll also find more than 70 student clubs and honor societies that encourage you to explore whatever interests you.

GSU offers classes when you need them during the day or evening, online, on television and at locations around the region. The main campus is adjacent to I-57 and near I-80. It is also accessible through Metra Electric and PACE lines.

Whether you are a traditional age freshman beginning your first year of college, an adult returning to school after service in the military or busy with work and family obligations, or a graduate student seeking to hone your professional credentials, GSU has the education option designed to meet your needs.

• Enroll in our first freshman class and complete your first two years of general education courses in an innovative program that stresses student achievement through small classes and themed areas of study.

• If you are interested in transferring to GSU to complete a degree begun at another institution or even years earlier, attend a Transfer Thursday session and learn if you are accepted instantly. Transfer Thursday takes place two Thursdays per month. At Transfer Thursday, you check-in with your official transcripts and complete an application. You then take a tour of the campus, meet with a financial aid advisor and receive your admission decision before you leave.

• If you already have an undergraduate degree, consider the next step and earn a graduate degree or certificate. GSU has 28 master’s degree programs, five doctoral programs and 23 certificate programs – each one designed to qualify you for a brighter future with the skills and tools you need.

All GSU programs are taught by professors who serve as talented educators, researchers and mentors and who ready to help you take the next step in your education and career.

There are many ways to enhance your options at GSU. Learn more. Go to or call 708.534.4490. It is never too late to start on your future.

March 21, 2014 1:54 pm Photos


IBEW: Preparing today's electrical workforce for tomorrow's challenges

IBEW: Preparing today's electrical workforce for tomorrow's challenges

Searching for a career path that offers many options and provides a true sense of accomplishment? If you’re technical-minded, like to work with your hands while thinking on your feet and enjoy a variety of work locations, then a career as an electrical worker may just be the job for you.

As a union apprentice electrician or technician, you can:

• Help build the electrical and telecommunications systems that power Northwest Indiana

• Earn a good living while learning an exciting trade

• Work on a variety of projects that challenge your mind and body everyday

• Belong to a tight-knit community of hard-working professionals from different backgrounds

You must be up to the challenge to perform in the field – making the communities where you work a better place to live - and excel in the classroom – maintaining a strong B average at all times?

The Lake County Indiana Electrical Training Center, under the auspices of Certified Electrician, provides apprenticeship opportunities for individuals seeking a degree and career in either the Electrical (Inside Wireman) or Voice-Data-Video (Installer Technician) industry. Certified Electrician represents the partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 697), the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC).

This nationally supported, cutting-edge curriculum prepares students for construction, service and maintenance work in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Instruction and training are both theoretical and proficiency-based, focusing on all segments of the marketplace.

Apprentices achieve journeyman status after successfully completing a 5-year program for Inside Wiremen or a 3-year program for Installer-Technicians. They typically work 8,000 hours on the job with various electrical contractors and attend school for 800 hours during the 5-year program, with most earning at minimum, an Associates degree.

This is a tuition-free program. Electrical apprentices earn a percentage of full journeymen pay, which increases in increments through graduation to full pay, plus excellent medical and dental coverage as well as savings and pension plan benefits.

“It’s our mission to develop the best-trained, most highly motivated and customer-centered workforce in the country,” IBEW/JATC Local 697 Training Director Ken Jania says. “Our training is a blend of rigorous academics and hands-on proficiencies. Apprentices are exposed to all facets of our marketplace. They typically start with residential construction and move on to commercial, industrial, and specialty jobsites.”

On average, 125 students are in the program at any given time, with approximately 25-30 new students enrolled each year, according to Jania.

“The number of apprentices we bring in each year is based on market demand,” he says. “About 70% of local housing projects are done with our people, and with the housing market taking off recently, we are able to immediately employ our people.”

Advanced specialization courses are also available to qualified journeymen in Fiber Optics, Photovoltaic, High Voltage Splicing/Testing, Industrial Automation, Instrumentation and Safety (OSHA 10/30, NFPA 70E, CPR, First Aid).

“Our journeymen receive free training for life,” Jania explains. “It’s important for them to keep up to date. We have close to 1,000 members, and I would say at least 200 have been back for training in the last two years. It’s amazing really.”

In developing a curriculum with the emphasis on continual improvement, Certified Electrician/JATC Local 697 collaborates with major equipment manufacturers and Ivy Tech Community College. Students always have access to the very latest developments affecting their field and the marketplace.

Along with national certification from the Department of Labor and a JATC diploma, students who attain journeymen status (full 5-year program), also earn an Associates degree in Applied Science from Ivy Tech, which gives them the credits necessary to enter a Bachelor degree program as a junior if they choose.

According to Jania, the new state-of-the-art 42,000 square foot facility and training center located on 18 acres in Merrillville features seven large classrooms, a computer lab and applications lab. With an eye on the future, there is also an outdoor classroom featuring an open-air renewable energy laboratory. This lab showcases green technologies including solar panels a reflective white roof (keeps the building cool and reduces energy use in hotter months), a green roof (palletized native plants that provide shade and remove heat from the air while enhancing storm water management and water quality), and a recently completed 160-foot tall 100kilowatt (kw) wind turbine.

“The wind turbine is a great example of our model of training, which is very hands-on,” Jania says. “The group that worked together on the installation of the turbine included iron workers, carpenters, cement finishers and electrical apprentices. Each of these apprenticeships had both instructors and students participating in the wind turbine lab. Apprentices worked on every facet involved with the installation of the turbine – from the rebar reinforcing rods and wood forms that went into the foundation ahead of the concrete to erecting the tower by lifting and assembling individual pieces in sections and finally installing the high voltage wiring and transformer cables so the generator and transformer can deliver electric energy to the grid.”

For students who prefer the interaction of hands-on learning, the path to becoming a certified electrician offers just that.

“It’s very rewarding to see students become so engaged in the process,” Jania adds. “Learning is exciting for them.”

March 21, 2014 1:32 pm Photos


Financial aid resources help students get ahead on college loans

Financial aid resources help students get ahead on college loans

Financial aid forms and deadlines can stress out students, but with the right resources, they can navigate the system with ease.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education funded 85,475 students with $278 million in awards and scholarships for the 2012 to ’13 academic year, according to its Website

How do students access that money? An important step is filling out the FAFSFA, or free application for federal student aid. This is the umbrella application for need based financial aid including grants, student loans and federal work study and all prospective and current students nationwide are encouraged to fill it out annually.

In Indiana, this year’s state deadline was March 10. In Illinois, there is no specific deadline but new applications were accepted beginning Jan. 1, 2014, and continue until funds are depleted, according to

At Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, 55 percent of all students receive aid whether via scholarships or loans. The campus itself awards $2 million in scholarships annually.

“Juniors in high school should begin planning for the college application process,” says Carmen Panlilio, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs at PUC. They have to think ahead and juniors should note their calendars with what is going to happen next year.

They should learn about Cash for College,, which equips students and families with practical steps needed to save for college and provides information about the financial aid process. They should also plan to attend a College Goal Sunday event,, where they can get free, on site professional assistance to complete the FAFSFA.

Tanika House, assistant director of financial aid and student accounts at PUC, says when students fill out their FAFSFA, it typically goes through central processing system, which verifies the information. It is then dispersed to the schools listed on the student’s application. At that point, the school will notify students if more documentation is needed.

“If they are an Indiana resident and need to update anything, they will be notified and have until May 15,” she says, noting students and parents should be aware of that deadline because the application is null if they don’t make the requested updates.

Panlilio says Indiana students who do not fill out their FAFSFAs on time are still eligible for federal financial aid but lost their rights to be considered for state aid, cutting their chances in half.

“Just have it. It’s free. It takes some time to fill it out but it’s very well worth it,” Panlilio says.

For more information, visit and

John Semple, the director of financial aid at South Suburban College in South Holland, echoes the importance of the FAFSFA.

Semple, who has worked in financial aid for about 25 years, encourages high school seniors to get to know their high school counselors and their potential college’s financial aid offices.

“There is financial aid out there for students. Don't give up,” he says. South Suburban offers a variety of aid including waivers for discounted or free tuition for Indiana high schoolers, students who are 25 and older and senior citizens.

“We've granted some degrees out to people in their 70s,” Semple says.

The Board of Trustees waiver, for high schoolers who live in district or attend in district high school, provides two years free tuition for those in the top 15 percent of their class or with a 3.5 GPA.

“I think a lot of people think that there is something involved in applying for financial aid,” Semple says. “They go in thinking they can't get any so it's silly for them to apply. We try to encourage everyone to apply for financial aid.”

Part-time students are also eligible for financial aid, he says, and there is no age limit.

For more information visit Illinois students can visit to learn more about the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Michelle Wilson, a guidance counselor at Merrillville High School, helps seniors with a lot of the college and financial aid concerns.

She says most students are afraid to get the process started, but that going through it is the only way to see what type of benefits they can receive.

She encourages all high school seniors to fill out the FAFSFA, even if they do not have concerns about paying for college. If finances change in the middle of a student’s college career, such as a drastic decrease in income, having previous FAFSFAs on file is an important tool.

Even if a student doesn’t qualify for grants, he or she may be able to get a loan from the government with much better interest rates than what is offered at a bank.

“If you don’t do it now as a senior, there is a lot more red tape to go though when you get older and go through it in college,” Wilson says.

She also advises parents to have their income taxes done in February because the FAFSFA cannot be completed without those figures.

March 21, 2014 1:19 pm

The classroom in the digital age: Social media and education

The classroom in the digital age: Social media and education

Social media grew on college campuses and continues to thrive there. Students use it for everything from staying connected with friends to discussing homework. In some classes, they are also learning how social media rules and strategies will apply when they enter the workforce.

Local instructors say that most social media interactions in the educational setting are positive, but they still need to be properly managed.

Amy Wenk is a full-time faculty member in the nursing program at University of St. Francis at Franciscan Point in Crown Point, a small, faith-based university with a main campus in Fort Wayne.

She says while social media “can serve as a distraction in the classroom lecture setting, and is strictly prohibited in the clinical setting, it does have some other useful applications.”

It has become a predominant form of communication and information sharing, with most students being Facebook and/or Twitter savvy.

The campus has a Facebook page dedicated to communicating with students and other parties of interest while students use Facebook to set up private groups to share academic and class information with one another. Alumni also set up social media groups to stay connected with peers and faculty.

When it comes to faculty and students being “Facebook friends” that is a personal decision for them, she says.

“Some professors are Facebook friends with students, others only communicate with students in organized groups, focusing on professional or academic objectives,” Wenk says.

Bob Mucci, director of the Master of Liberal Studies Program and associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, says he has invited his students to be his Facebook friends for about a year.

“Before that I was selective and only had anthro majors and some former students as friends. There have been no problems and no concerns on my end, and as a plus many of the student groups and professional groups have Facebook pages that are mixed student and faculty.”

With social media being an integral part of daily lives as well as a new component of the business world, professors have added social media lessons to their curriculum.

“As a professional nursing instructor I have an obligation to prepare students for professional nursing practices. This includes appropriate use of social media,” Wenk says. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has issued guidelines on appropriate use, which includes guidelines for privacy of patient information as well as concerns that may come up regarding employment and disciplinary action for inappropriate or questionable use of social media.

“As I tell my students, we are dealing with new issues every day related to this technology. I discuss responsible, professional use of social media with students at all levels starting from their first nursing course.”

She uses real life examples to illustrate ethical and legal issues that can arise with use of social media. Seniors slated to graduate in May are working on an ethical debate project and one topic being explored is the legal and ethical implications of potential employers checking nurses’ Facebook and Twitter accounts before making hiring decisions. “This is a hot topic. Nothing is truly private within the world of social media,” she says.

Subir Bandyopadhyay, a professor of marketing at Indiana University Northwest, teaches a course devoted to social media marketing and does research on the field.

He says they encourage students to network through Linkedin, a professional networking site where they can connect with potential employers and look for jobs and internships. It provides distancing between social and professional networks.

IU has a learning management system embedded with its own social network, he says and students can use that to network with classmates about homework or other topics.

He does have 15 to 20 students as Facebook friends but they are all MBA students, he says.

“Facebook is very personal. Your friends and family circles are out there. I do not feel that kind of concern but many of my colleagues may feel that way.”

During the fall 2013 semester, Bandyopadhyay began teaching a new course on social media marketing, which was fully online.

The students in the course helped local companies develop or upgrade their social or marketing strategy. Classes like this prepare students to use social media in their jobs, something that is of growing importance, he says. In marketing, two hot careers are social media strategy and analytics, where you use data to drive your decisions.

“From a business point of view, social media has been very hot for last five years or so. Initially everybody wanted to be present there. Now it is much more strategy.” Businesses pick and choose what things will help their business and are looking at the plentitude of data generated when making those decisions.

Local businesses are glad students are being trained in social media, Bandyopadhyay says, and there are new jobs for those with social media business skills.

March 21, 2014 12:58 pm

Great gifts for current and future college students

Great gifts for current and future college students

Whether the students in your life are in high school and dreaming about their future majors, or in the middle of their college careers, you can shower them with gifts that quench their thirst for knowledge and foster their academic interests.

Stumped? Here are a few ideas to brighten the bookshelves and desks of your favorite scholars:

Make Cramming Easier

For dorm dwellers, book lights are crucial. When roomies are snoozing, night owls can use a book light that attaches to the pages of the book, or a task light that sits atop the desk, to keep studying in an unobtrusive manner.

Consider creating a care package full of snacks. But skip the junk food and instead fill up on “brain food.” Nuts, almond butter and popcorn are all great choices containing brain-boosting vitamins and minerals.

Simplify Complex Concepts

A standard text book covering weighty subject matter sometimes can make things even more confusing for a student. Help demystify some of the hard-to-grasp subjects with a new book series from DK Publishing, “Big Ideas, Simply Explained.” The fully-illustrated series uses innovative graphics and creative typography to cut through the haze of misunderstanding, untangles knotty theories and sheds light on abstract concepts.

There are five books currently available: “The Philosophy Book,” “The Psychology Book,” “The Politics Book,” “The Religions Book,” and “The Economics Book,” which covers more than 100 economic concepts from Aristotle to the top economic thinkers of today, and is a 2013 Parents Choice Gold Book Award Winner. More information about these books and forthcoming titles including, “The Business Book” and “The Science Book" is available at

Broaden Horizons

No matter what your scholar plans to study or is currently studying, you can round out his or her education with a great dose of classic cinema. Consider a set that features the collected works of a gifted director such as Ingmar Bergman or Akira Kurosawa. Or opt for a topical box set on a favorite subject, such as World War II or nature.

With the right tools, you can enrich and round out classroom learning in fun and interesting ways.

March 21, 2014 10:47 am

Top tech tips for a successful school year

Top tech tips for a successful school year

During the school year, it can be tough for students to keep their work organized. With dozens of assignments, tests and projects, it’s easy for some things to get lost in the chaos.

It may start with one loose book or crumpled paper thrown into a locker or backpack, but it can quickly balloon into a disaster area without proper maintenance.

Don’t let messes and disorganization stand in the way of success in the classroom. New technologies and old organization tricks can help you stay neat and organized throughout the school year:

Stay on Task

It is always smart for students to maintain a separate section in a notebook or binder for every class. If there are several parts to one class, keep a section in the binder for each part of that class. Avoid using a different binder for each class as often it is unnecessary and will cause clutter.

Get Desks in Shape

At home and at school, desks are a place for learning, concentration and personalization for students. A lot can be learned about a student’s personality by looking at items on top of the desk or inside the desk drawers.

Students can keep their desks organized and show off their personal style by using a variety of web-connected printing solutions, gadgets with touch technology and detachable hybrid PCs, such as those from HP.

For example, with the HP ENVY 4500 e-All-in-One printer, students can save time creating lab-quality photos and laser sharp documents by printing from their smartphones, tablets and Internet-connected PCs.

Technology Can Help

No matter if a student is in grade school, high school or college, having the right technology can help keep everything straight. An all-in-one desktop PC, such as the HP ENVY Rove20 All-in-One, will help streamline everything from research to art projects to book reports and study aids. With a versatile design and built-in battery, students can easily move it from room to room.

For college students, a device like the HP Split x2 is great for getting things done. It transitions effortlessly from a notebook to a tablet so students can take notes in class and then go back to the dorm to web chat with their families. More information on technology that can help students succeed is available at


Consider saving space in your locker, book bag or dorm room by opting for e-textbooks. Looking up unfamiliar words, taking notes, searching for passages and highlighting sections for later review is quick and easy on an e-reader.

The school year doesn’t have to be filled with messes and clutter. There are always new ways to be productive, stay organized, and live connected throughout the school year. With just some focus, determination and the right tech tools, organization can easily be achieved.

March 21, 2014 10:43 am

How to pick the right college

How to pick the right college

Selecting the right college means not only choosing where you'll live for the next four years, but finding the best fit for your personality, interests and your family's financial situation. It's often one of the biggest decisions many teens have ever faced.

If you're considering several colleges, the best way to compare them is to make a list of the things that are most important to you and see how each school stacks up. You might include proximity to home, athletics or arts programs, campus size, etc. When listing pros and cons, consider cost, academics, social life and the impact it will have on your future career.

Consider costs

According to the most recent Annual Survey of Colleges by the College Board, students attending a four-year college in their own state will spend an average of $17,860 on tuition, fees and room and board during the 2012-2013 academic year. The average price tag jumps to $39,518 per year for a private four-year college.

To cover the costs, parents and students may need to consider student loans, financial aid and scholarships. You can get a list of available scholarships from your high school guidance counselor as well as the colleges and universities you want to attend. It's important to start your scholarship search early and look at all possible sources.

For example, Foresters, an international life insurance provider committed to family well-being, offers the Foresters Competitive Scholarship Program, which awards up to 250 tuition scholarships for higher learning worth up to $8,000 each in the US and Canada for eligible members and their spouses, children and grandchildren.

Rank your priorities

Cost may be one of the biggest factors when choosing the right college, but there are many things to consider while researching each prospective school. Though some people judge a school solely on published college rankings, it may be more important to find the rank of specific departments within those schools. A top medical school or culinary program could be part of a school that doesn't have a high overall ranking. Assessing what you value most in an educational program will help put you on the path to success.

Narrow down top choices

Plan a few campus visits to get a feel for campus size, dorm life, the school's resources and how helpful school staff will be. Finally, make sure any scholarship you might be awarded can be used at the schools you have on your short list. For example, Foresters Competitive Scholarship can be used for tuition at any vocational or trade school, college or university offering a full-time academic program of two years or more.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by all of the choices, just make the best decision you can with the information you have. Many students change majors during their college days. What may be the best fit academically now can change as quickly as what you want to be when you graduate.

March 21, 2014 10:34 am

Flexible education with a personal touch at Calumet College of St. Joseph

Flexible education with a personal touch at Calumet College of St. Joseph

Calumet College of St. Joseph is a small, family-oriented, four-year college offering master’s, bachelor’s, and associate’s degrees. We serve a diverse student population that represents the Calumet area. Our small class sizes enhance the learning process and provide personal attention from faculty.

CCSJ’s Degree Completion Programs are designed to meet the educational needs of adults unable to complete their degree in the traditional manner. Adults with two years of transferable college credit can earn their degree in as little as 12 months. We offer classes at the University Center in Portage as well as our Whiting campus that are designed for maximum convenience for the life of a busy adult.

These programs consist of cluster groups of approximately 15 adult learners who meet twice a week for 4 hour classes with a comprehensive curriculum of 14 modules of concentrated studies. In addition, each student must draw on coursework, library resources and prior experience to complete an integrated project.

Our faculty members have real world experience to enhance the learning experience and they also provide a network of contacts for our graduates.

Not sure if this is the right fit for you? How will it affect your family and social life? Our Adult Degree Completion Programs have dedicated counselors who work exclusively with our adult students and can answer any questions you may have. Our main priority is to help you, our students, succeed. All of our faculty and staff are dedicated to helping you every step of the way. For more information or to register, visit our website at or call 219.473.4215. Your future is only a click or phone call away. Make Calumet College of St. Joseph “Your University of Choice”.

March 21, 2014 8:45 am Photos


Learning to love History: Local educators discuss ways to excite students about the subject

Learning to love History: Local educators discuss ways to excite students about the subject

Boring! Boring! Boring!

That’s how Ron Cohen describes the way most students view history. And so Cohen, who began his passionate interest in history while growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s and turned it into a profession, earning a PhD and becoming both an author and history professor at Indiana University Northwest, quickly learned to make the subject interesting.

“I never gave a test, and you didn’t have to memorize anything,” said Cohen, now a professor emeritus at IU Northwest and author of numerous books including "Children of the Mill: Schooling and Society in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1960" and "Woody Guthrie: Writing America’s Songs." “No facts, no bull. History is about people, history is stories.”

Stories indeed. Can anything be more salacious than Henry VIII who “legally” murdered two of his wives and divorced two others so he could marry the woman of the moment (one other wife died in childbirth and the last of the six, hanging tenuously by a thread, lucked out when Henry himself keeled over after a riotous life of hard living)? Oh and did we mention the number of friends Henry had beheaded because they didn’t agree with him and even his penchant for forcing his sisters into loveless marriage so that he could gain lands and allies? That’s hardly boring.

“If you do portraits about the past, remembering facts is easier because students have found the stories interesting and will remember times and dates and why things happened,” said Cohen. “But you do not say name three causes of the Revolutionary War and list the presidents in order from the first one. That’s boring.”

Instead Cohen suggested parents who want to instill an interest in history ask children to write about their family, an idea he said he got from a friend.

“Say if their grandfather was alive in World War II, ask them to write about that era,” he said. “It helps connect someone they know to the past. It’s connecting your personal with local history and national history. If someone in the family worked in the mills, then they can write about how the mills came to be here and how that attracted people to the area. Or if your parents were from Mexico, have them explore why they came here.”

Stephen McShane, who has co-authored "Moonlight in Duneland: The Illustrated Story of the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad" (Quarry Books) with Cohen and "Steel Giants: Historic Images from the Calumet Regional Archives" (Indiana University Press) with Gary Wilk, has taught history at Indiana University Northwest and now is the archivist and curator for the IU Northwest Calumet Regional Archives, which for the past 25 years has collected, preserved and made available thousands of historical records documenting the growth and development of Northwest Indiana, also emphasizes tying the current to the past in order to evoke interest.

“Visuals are also good,” he said, noting that he is hopeful that shows like those on The History Channel will increase interest in history.

McShane noted matching history to a person’s ethnicity, religion or gender can also make those necessary connections. It’s matching kids with the personal. Young girls might be much more interested in learning about females in history rather than just slogging through biographies of famous men.

Don’t just talk about history, recreate it. The more senses involved in learning, the more the lesson takes hold.

For parents trying to help their children develop an interest in connecting to the past, think of a multi-sensory approach to the subject by staging reenactments. A child studying about the Revolutionary War, a mini-reenactment of such events as Washington cross the Delaware or Paul Revere making his daring ride can use their creativity to bring the scene to life with costumes and props like a couple of cushions becoming Washington’s boat or a broom a horse. Clothes, old hats or whatever can be used for costumes. Re-enactments enliven the imagination as do questions like, "What would have happened if Washington had fallen off the boat?", "How cold do you think it was?", "What would have happened if Revere’s horse went lame?" "What could they have done then? What would you do?"

“I am passionately interested in understanding how my country works,” said Ken Burns, director of such powerful historic mini-series as Thomas Jefferson, Jazz and The Civil War, when asked why he explored history in his films. “And if you want to know about this thing called the United States of America you have to know about the Civil War.”

Cohen, mentioning Erik Larsson, author of "The Devil in the White City," said it’s important to read authors who can make history come alive. Libraries have lists of historic fiction for kids including such classics as the Little House on the Prairie series.

For those of us who remember when museums were all about don’t touch and everything was encased in glass, there’s a whole new wonderful world out there. Most museums and historic sites have interactives as well as children’s areas for hands-on activities. And even if you can’t get there, there are online interactive activities to get kids interested. Colonial Williamsburg has a kid’s page with such options as iPad compatible Colonial Days Coloring Book, Mr. Jefferson’s Magical Maze and Treasure Trek—a Colonel era scavenger hunt where you hunt for such items as an anvil (clue: look where the blacksmith works) hand bellows and brass candlesticks. ( The Indianapolis Children’s Museum offers online games for Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade like Build Your Robot, Dinosphere, ABC for non-readers and Make a Movie (

February 06, 2014 11:00 am Photos


Local children consider rising to the White House and impacting the world

Local children consider rising to the White House and impacting the world

When he was younger and not as wise to the ways of the world, Leland Culver thought being president of the United States would be great. But now that he’s 12 and has had time to observe more of life, he’s not so sure.

“Being older, I can see how hard of a job it is,” said Culver. “Have you seen Obama lately? He’s really aged. Poor guy.”

But still there was a time when like many youngsters, Culver, who attends the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, contemplated what being president would mean to him.

“I’d enjoy having a really big house to explore,” he said.

But big houses, even the White House, are no longer a priority.

“I’d focus on world hunger,” said Culver, who lives in Miller Beach, listing what he thinks is most important for a president to do. “Not long ago we had a hunger banquet at our school. We entered the lunchroom and got a card. I was in the middle class so I just got rice and beans for lunch. The high class got spaghetti, bread sticks, salad and brownies while the low class just got rice.”

Though rice and beans seems somewhat limiting for the middle class, Culver points out that they’re a whole meal in themselves because “it’s a complete amino acid.”

Culver said his interest in solving world hunger is motivated by the posters in his school’s cafeteria detailing hunger statistics.

“About half of the world falls into the rice or low class ranking,” said Culver, “another 30 percent in the rice and beans/middle class and 20 percent in the high class.”

In order to eradicate world hunger, Culver said he would appoint a team of allies and work at cooperating with other countries on the issue.

“That’s because world hunger is worldwide,” he said. “So I’d probably conduct a worldwide census and find out every person who can’t support their family, and then we would need to figure out how to give them rations and then how to get the high class to share. A few might do it, but the hardest part of that is it’s kind of against man’s human nature because we’re very protective about what we have.”

World hunger is also the number one objective for Benjamin Shade, a fourth grade student at Discovery Charter School in Portage if or when he’s elected president.

“I’d try to stop world hunger by getting people to donate money or food every year if they could but they don’t have to,” he said. “Sometimes people overbuy stuff that they don’t need, and they could donate that. Every Tuesday I‘d a have machine that could let people know what food to donate and where.”

In his job as president, Shade said if he encounters a problem he can’t solve on his own, he’d ask others to help.

Eleven-year-old Annali Sasak has quite a list of issues that she would tackle if president.

“I don’t like war,” said the fifth grader who also attends Discovery Charter School. “I think I’d try to keep us from having more wars.”

She would also give more money to cancer research. “So people won’t die," she said, "and I’d get rid of really violent video game because they lead to shooting and violence in real life.”

Sasak’s 9-year-old brother Owen is somewhat more measured when it comes to outlawing all violent video games.

“I would make sure that the video games would be like Robot and LEGO violent where there’s no blood or gore but not real violent ones,” he said. “And I also will make sure health insurance is more affordable for everyone.”

When elected, Owen Sasak would solicit donations “for people to have houses and that they have sausages to put in their refrigerators and refrigerators to keep their sausages cold and that they have other food too.”

His sister, who believes girls can be as good at running this country as boys, also would add eliminating violent TV shows to her list.

“And only the police and people who need guns should have them,” she adds in keeping with “I love peace” persona.

While Shade still thinks being president could be cool, Culver’s ambivalence is reflective of what ABC News said is a growing trend among youngsters.

According to their Weekly Reader poll, nearly eight out of 10, a majority of teens, while thinking they could become president, don’t want the job, thank you very much.

Their reasoning? Forty percent cite either a lack of interest in politics or other career plans; 20 percent think the job comes with too much pressure and responsibility; for 15 percent it's too much work while 14 percent don’t think they could do the job well enough. The remaining five percent say there's too much arguing involved.

February 06, 2014 8:30 am

Get to know our local political history: Many famous politicians called the midwest home

Get to know our local political history: Many famous politicians called the midwest home

With politicians from Indiana and Illinois having their quirks and odd trivia and Presidents Day nearly here (Feb. 17) here are fun facts and tidbits about a governor and three presidents. One sold furniture, another won two Grammys, one dreamed about his own death, and one sported a blue polka-dot tie during campaigns.

President Barack Obama

It was President Obama -- whose first name, Barack, means “one who is blessed” in Swahili -- who won two Grammys for Best Spoken Word Album for his two books, "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." Oddly, an important achievement isn’t mentioned in the sources listed here: He is the nation’s first African-American president.

Interesting Facts:

- Appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as himself in 2007.

- His grandmother died the day before he was elected president in 2008

- Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

- The foreclosure rumor about his Hyde Park, Ill., home? False.


President Abraham Lincoln

The connection between Abraham Lincoln to LaPorte County, Ind., seems pretty clear to Fern Eddy Schultz, county historian. She’s on a committee that plans to recreate Lincoln's 1865 funeral procession through the county—part of a plan to trace the entire route from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Ill., in 2015, marking the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s assassination.

The train crossed through LaPorte County on the New Albany Railroad—now the Monon—including a brief stop in Westville. “When it came to Michigan City, there was a big observance. We’re going to try to replicate that,” said Schultz.

Serendipity resulted in the LaPorte County Historical Museum having one of the signs marking the funeral route. “INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation) found the marker in a back yard. They called (the museum) and asked if we wanted it,” recalled Schultz, who seemed mighty pleased.

Springfield, Ill., may boast of Lincoln’s heritage, but Indiana has Lincoln Boyhood National memorial just southeast of Evansville; LaPorte has Lincoln Way (highway) and Lincoln School, and Michigan City has Lincoln Avenue.

Interesting Facts:

- His wife’s wealthy family objected to the marriage.

- He was the first president to be assassinated.

- Through deep depression, he still frequently told stories and jokes to friends and family.

- At 6’4”, the tallest U.S president

- First president to have a beard.

- Had a premonition he would be killed


President William Harrison

Hammond (Ind.) High School alum Bob Chapman, a history buff, can rattle off the details of the president, whose nickname was “Tippecanoe.”

“Harrison led the battle against (the Prophet), at the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers in 1811 (in West Lafayette, Ind.) His victory was not so subtly referred to in his presidential campaign: 'Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.' John Tyler was his running mate."

Interesting Facts:

- He died of pneumonia just one month into his presidency.

- His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, became president in 1889-1893.

Governor Harold Handley

Harold Handley’s career may have started out at a furniture store in his hometown of LaPorte, Ind., but soon he became a politician, eventually winning the Indiana gubernatorial seat. Well-liked, he made friends easily.

Interesting Facts:

- He was a large, gregarious man

- Indiana state senator, 1940-1941

- That term interrupted by army service in World War II.

- Re-elected to the state senate in 1948 and lieutenant governor in 1952.

- Ran for governor and lost in 1952

- Elected governor: (1957-1961) in 1956.

- Political trademark: a blue polka-dot tie.


So on Presidents Day, impress friends and co-workers with your trivia knowledge —but try not to sound too much like Cliff Clavin on “Cheers.”

February 06, 2014 8:00 am Photos


Homework Help: Before feeding it to your dog, read some of these tips to help your kids

Homework Help: Before feeding it to your dog, read some of these tips to help your kids

When it’s time for homework in Rebecca Sasak’s house, she first composes a study area where her two children, ages 11 and 8, will work into a space as serene as possible.

“I might light a candle and adjust the lighting,” said Sasak, a licensed acupuncturist with a master of science in traditional oriental medicine and owner of Thrive Acupuncture with offices in Miller Beach and Valparaiso. “I try to create a cozy and calm environment with as little distractions as possible.”

There was a time when only teenagers seemed to be loaded down with homework, but now even fist and second graders may have a project or worksheets to do. And that perception is a fact according to a study from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan which found that time spent on home study by 6- to 8-year-old children more than doubled between 1981 and 1997. In 1981, students ages 6 to 8 spent about 52 minutes a week doing homework. By 1997, it was 128 minutes. With such competing demands as sports, scouts, dance and whatever else is on a kid’s agenda plus the basic fact that homework isn’t fun—getting homework done without fuss, tears or, in more extreme cases, tantrums often seems an impossible task.

“Timing is important,“ said Sasak whose children attend Discovery Charter School in Chesterton. “It’s got to before they’re too tired. Otherwise, they’re going to be upset, and it’s more difficult.”

Donna Simon, who lives in Miller Beach, often helps her three grandsons—Ben, a fourth grader and second grade twins, Nicholas and Daniel, with their homework. “Kids not only have more homework, they have a lot more going on now too as well as more distractions. They’ve had a long day by the time they sit down to do their homework. They’ve been at school all day and often have had activities afterwards. They need to eat so they’re not hungry, but you don’t want to wait too late in the evening or they’ll be too tired.”

Simon establishes some rules—the television is never on when it’s homework time. She also tries to make a game of the work they have to do.

“I worked on spelling with the twins earlier tonight,” she said during an interview. “I had them each say a letter when they were practicing spelling their words. They had a good time doing it.”

Despite having worked in the Gary Public Schools for 35 years as both an English, speech and drama teacher at schools like Kenney-King and King Academy and also as a school librarian. Simon still sometimes has to figure out what the assignments are all about.

“They had charts with pictographs and were supposed to show different numbers like 35,” she said noting that parents should review the assignments first so they understand it and can better explain it. “A smiley face equaled ten. Once I figured that out, we had fun doing it.”

Other important considerations include letting the child be part of the process within reasonable limits. If they’d rather play first, that’s okay unless they’re too tired after to sit and do their work.

Also, it is good to help them understand why they have to do more work even if they’re not in school. Explain to them why homework is important such as it helps reinforce what was taught in school, it helps us learn more about a subject, it helps us learn to work more on our own which is important as we move up to higher grades. This won’t make them like homework more, but at least it helps kids understand why they’re doing.

Avoid telling your children that homework is just busy work, if a parent denigrates it, the child will too. For older students, rewards and consequences can also be effective.

There’s also a more drastic solution if doing homework becomes too much of an ongoing struggle. Move to France where French President Francois Hollande opines that homework penalizes children with difficult home situations and offered a plan that eliminates homework for elementary and junior high students.

But before packing your bags, consider this—French students typically are in school for eight hours a day. Though there is no nationwide standard in the U.S., the average school day here is about 6.7 hours. Once your child hears that, he or she may decide that homework isn’t so bad after all.

January 02, 2014 7:30 am

Meet our Bloggers

#Food with a Dash of Fun

We've all gotta eat-might as well have some fun in the kitchen! Check here for recipes, cooking with kids, food finds, and more.

#Father Knows Nothing

Rick Kaempfer's business card says author/writer/blogger, but his real job is "stay-at-home-dad."