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Free trips overseas, text to voice, LitPick.com, ETC, self control, Wimpy Kid, pies

Schools Education

Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor

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I spent all of last week compiling a list of dozens of free (or very low cost) summer programs for students ages 12 to 25. These are free programs overseas or cool offerings on college campuses, with accommodations included. Many of the best ones have deadlines coming up in the weeks ahead so it is not too early to start thinking about next summer, educationroundupnational.com.

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One terrific program I included is for students ages 15 to 18 (and for teachers) that provides them with as three weeks in Singapore and Malaysia as well pre-and post trip enrichment and training. The American Youth Leadership Program with Singapore and Malaysia is sponsored by the U.S. State Dept. and is completely free. The deadline to apply is Sunday, Dec. 1 – culturalvistas.org/aylp/info.htm. Why am I so excited about these kinds of programs? I have seen first hand how they have changed the lives of several Sonoma students.

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Did you know that you can adjust your iPhone or iPad settings to read all text to you (including choosing what kind of accent, speed, etc.)? You go to “setting” then “accessibility,” then “speak selection” and make your voice and speed selections. After you change the settings, you open a page of text (on Safari, email, anywhere) and highlight the text and click “speak.” I amused myself tremendously having an Irish voice read me my email this morning. Not only might this be terrific for struggling readers, but also to listen to documents while driving, etc.

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My new favorite website is litpick.com and it is perfect for students in grades 4 to 12 who love to read. The site is an online community that offers free electronic books. LitPick receives courtesy copies of new young-adult books from publishers and authors and makes these review copies available to students. As young reviewers, students are asked to offer their opinions of the books in anonymous book reviews posted on the site. This year, Litpick.com was named the best website for teaching and learning by the U.S. Librarians Society. The site is free for eBooks and $15 a year to get print books as well.

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I serve on the city’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission so I am eager to spread the word about its 2014 Student Creative Arts Award Program, which is now open for entries. Sonoma Valley residents ages 16 to 21 who are studying visual, literary or performing arts are urged to apply for the $2,000 award. Download the application at sonomacity.org.

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Readers’ Books launched its annual Book Stars program on Nov. 1. The community is urged to buy any children’s book and donate it back to the store (it will pack them in boxes and distributes them to charitable organizations in the Valley). La Luz, the Sonoma Valley Teen Parent Program, etc. all have benefited in the past. Organizations wrap the books and distribute them to the families they serve. Stop by the store for more details.

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Theater producer/director Cat Austin’s ETC (Experiential Theatre Company) plans to stage a teen production of the musical “Rent” (school edition) in February. The show will cap off a 16-week winter workshop for performers ages 14 to 17, which will be accepting participants for one more week. Male performers are particularly needed. Call Austin at 479-7856 for more information. (tinyurl.com/klvok5b)

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If your child loves the “Captain Underpants” books, you might want to read the scathing review of the books’ misogyny at tinyurl.com/ovc8nhh. It is pretty compelling.

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A group of St. Francis Solano students placed first in the annual Justin-Siena Math Contest last weekend. Congratulations to eighth-grader Nick Biaggi, seventh-grader Marco Della Santina, seventh-grader Connor Havlek, eighth-grader Cian Martin and seventh-grader Ali Perkins, who competed against 10 area schools in this college-bowl style competition. After nearly four hours of competition, the St. Francis team (led by math teacher Chris Stava) came out on top.

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The Lovin’ Oven at Sonoma Valley Teen Services is having its Thanksgiving pie sale and accepting orders for homemade apple, pumpkin or pecan pies. Email lovinoven.svts@gmail.com or call 939-1452 for details.

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If your child is a huge fan of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, author Jeff Kinney will sign copies and meet visitors Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Charles Schulz Museum. This event is free, but tickets are limited and must be reserved online at tinyurl.com/m376fob.

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The Kenwood School invites the community on Thursday, Nov. 14, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. to learn more about what the change to Common Core Standards will bring to our classrooms and the new testing (Smarter Balanced) that will take place at all schools during the 2014-15 school year. SVUSD is hosting its second CCSS Parent Information session on Nov. 21 at Sonoma Valley High School from 6 to 7:15 p.m. in the gym.

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Our children need it and perhaps we do as well … SelfControl is a free app that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. You set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

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I love the premise of the book “Raising Children that Other People Like to be Around” because when it comes right down to it, that is really the end goal. Author Richard Greenberg organizes the process around five basic behavioral “musts” based on the word SMART:

1. Set an Example – Behave as though everything you do will be mimicked by your child – because it will be! And reflect on the examples set for you by your own parents, and discuss them with your spouse or partner.

2. Make the Rules – Decide what values you think are most important to you and your parenting partner. Remember that “rules are the arms in which your children can embrace themselves.” Explain why you created a rule, and the logic behind it, so that your children understand that we weren’t just making them up for fun.

3. Apply the Rules – Once you’ve decided what’s important, you have to stick to your guns. Little children will test boundaries, which is their job. By saying “no” together with an explanation of your reasons, you show them you care. Remember also that every rule you create is a rule you have to enforce and too many rules make life very complicated.

4. Respect Yourself – This one is a biggie. You need to lead with the confidence that generates admiration and respect. Your children are passengers in your cab. You should be far better informed about the local roads than they are. And even if you’re not, you need to make them think you are, for their comfort and safety.

5. Teach in All Things – If you see your child as an “Adult In Training” and you know it’s your job to be their teacher, then everything you do will be informed by an underlying lesson. Once our kids catch on, they begin to see the lessons themselves.

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A presentation on the Essence of Waldorf Education is open to the public from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at Woodland Star Charter School. RSVP by emailing office@woodlandstarschool.org.

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If you are unclear about the new Common Core State Standards and why our school district is excited about them, there is a very clever three-minute video worth watching at commoncoreworks.org.

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I spent last Saturday at a symposium on “Depth, Complexity and the Common Core” put on by the California Association for the Gifted (cagifted.org). More than 500 educators and parents from 95 school districts attended, including a handful of Sonoma parents and teachers. The workshops offered encouraging and specific insight into how the new standards will ensure that all students are leave high school “with 21st century skills for a globally competitive society.” The event was held at American Canyon High School. If you haven’t seen that new $125 million campus that is part of the Napa school district, you must go take a look.

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Stanford researchers recently found that by as early as age two, there is a gap in language proficiency between high- and lower- income (English speaking) children. While a small study, this is the first one to identify significant achievement gaps at such a young age. (tinyurl.com/m376fob)

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Hanna Boys Center is the primary beneficiary (and volunteer provider) of the Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon race. Eighty boys, staff and friends of Hanna served as volunteers at the event last summer. This year, Destination Races provided Hanna Boys Center with a donation of $16,440. Save the date of Sunday, July 20, for next year’s race.

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The portable classroom that houses El Verano’s Valley Vibes youth orchestra needs sprucing up and the community is invited to volunteer time or supplies to help transform the space on Saturday, Nov. 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (classroom 54). Contact Program Director Anne Case at anne@svgreatschools.org to sign-up or for more details.

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Why are so few girls interested in computer science?  It is so puzzling to me. A new report says although 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees are earned by women, women account for only 14 percent of the computer science degrees at major research universities. And furthermore, this number is falling – it was 37 percent in 1985. Today, only 0.4 percent of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science. (tinyurl.com/nnm628g)

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In an effort to conserve space, I shrink long website addresses down using the Tiny Url website. When you see letters at the end of an item that start with tinyurl.com, these are all hot links to the web address of the resource mentioned. I apologize for any confusion.