Renting LEGOs, autism, student loans, study abroad, SARC, book sales

Schools Education

Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor


Does it make you cry to calculate how much you have spent on LEGOs for your child over the years? A company called Pley is offering Netflix-type subscriptions for LEGOs. Unlimited rolling access to the large LEGO sets is $39 a month, $25 for medium sets and $15 a month for small sets. Why is this such a good idea? Well, LEGO sets are expensive to buy and it is the building, not the owning of the sets that is fun for children. Pley says it will sanitize each set before sending it out and weigh each package to detect missing pieces. Customers can lose up to 15 pieces without incurring any penalty. pley.com.

Is your child more likely to pick up a book than a LEGO? A new service offers children 12 and under a monthly library of more than 2,000 books available on the iPad for $9.95 a month. The company’s mission is to encourage kids to use iPads for something other than games. For adults, there is already Oyster, an e-book service aimed at adults for $9.95 a month. Meanwhile, Amazon has Kindle Free Time Unlimited that gives families unlimited access to e-books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games aimed at the under 8 crowd.

Autism diagnoses are up 30 percent in the last year alone. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 68 children have autism spectrum disorders. The CDC added that the criteria used to diagnose, treat and provide services have not changed. The study focused on “peak age of identification,” which is age 8. You can read more at tinyurl.com/kk8x444.

ArtQuest’s 20th annual spring showcase is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3. This event is free and open to the public and provides an opportunity for students to learn more about this public school art magnet program at Santa Rosa High. Students at ArtQuest choose an area of specialization in digital arts, dance, photography, theatre arts, video arts, visual fine arts or vocal and Instrumental music. Applications are still being accepted for fall 2014 entry in ArtQuest. artquestonline.org

Starting next week, the nonprofit California Parenting Institute will offer “Parenting Advanced Learners” at the Sonoma Community Center. This series provides a comprehensive overview of parenting gifted children, including meeting social/emotional needs, intensity, sensitivity, peer relationships, motivation, depression, twice exceptional children (gifted with accompanying issues), self-regulation, frustration tolerance, procrastination, perfectionism and ways parents can take care of themselves, too. Groups will meet from 10:30 a.m. to noon on six Wednesdays, starting April 2. To register, 585-6108, ext. 1240 or visit calparents.org.

The number of California undergrads taking out student loans has jumped 75 percent over the past decade, according to the Campaign for College Opportunity. The amount each student owes, however, has held steady at a little more than $20,000, when adjusted for inflation. California is considered a “low-debt state” thanks to the Cal Grant program. Almost 74 percent of all undergraduates took out a federal loan in the 2011-12 school year (up from 51 percent in 2003-04). The report points out the big-picture problems with this debt: young adults with student loan debt are less likely to buy a home or start a small business or open a savings account.

There is a new free app for mobile devices that enables people to evaluate their abilities to perceive, understand and control emotions. The MEIT test (Mobile Emotional Intelligence Test) is a skill test to evaluate the ability to perceive emotions, the understanding of these emotions and the ability to manage them. emotional-apps.com.

There is a Chinese saying: “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than read ten thousand books.” Michelle Obama quoted it recently in a speech about the importance of studying abroad. She said, “Studying abroad isn’t just a fun way to spend a semester; it is quickly becoming the key to success in our global economy … Because when it comes to the defining challenges of our time – whether it’s climate change or economic opportunity or the spread of nuclear weapons – these are shared challenges. And no one country can confront them alone.”

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District is working on an updated policy regarding the awarding of credit for courses taken outside of a traditional district classroom. Why is this so important? Right now, out of 20-million students in the U.S., more than a million are taking at least one online class (according to Pew Research Millennial Facts)

Sleep is so important for teens. Youth athletes who sleep eight or more hours each night are 68 percent less likely to get injured, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Hanging out at the Google lounge at the SXSWEdu conference, I fell in love with the new, white 11-inch Google Chromebook. Besides being a great-looking and inexpensive device at $259, I am thinking there may be advantages to having the same device for home use that a student uses at school.


Cardinal Newman High School (now co-ed with the all-girls school Ursuline folded in) recently announced Laura Held as its new head of school. Held has spent the past 35 years in the educational community at the elementary and secondary level in the Bay Area. Most recently, she served as the assistant superintendent for Faith Formation and Religious Education for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. She has a master’s degree from CSU East Bay and a BA from Holy Names University. She starts May 1.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students at for-profit colleges represent about 13 percent of the total higher-ed population, but make up 46 percent of loan defaults. Luckily, over the past several years, only a handful of SVHS graduates have chosen to attend for-profit colleges, with the most popular perhaps being Academy of Art in San Francisco.

Sonoma Valley High’s recent music department fundraiser organized by Anastasia Encarnacion, raised $6,500 to help pay for the trip to compete at the Heritage Festival in Anaheim and for instrument purchase and repair. Encarnacion devoted more than 150 hours since August to organizing the event. She mentioned recently that the department seeks donations of clarinets, flutes, alto and tenor saxophones, a sousaphone, trombones, guitars and drumheads for its drum set.

Mark your calendars for the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance’s upcoming performances of Cinderella with an Appalachian twist. The show is at The Sebastiani Theatre at 1 p.m. on April 12 and 13 and many local students are performing. Tickets are $22-$12 online at brownpapertickets.com/event/566302

The Presentation School offers an after-school enrichment program that is open to students from any area school. The classes meet from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday afternoons and cost between $100 and $150 for a seven-week session. The current slate of classes starts this week and includes CrossFit kids, comic book art, a film club, painting, drama, crochet, gardening and more. presentationschool.com.

The United Methodist Church at 109 Patten St. is having a used book sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday April 4, and Saturday, April 5, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, April 6. Book donations are welcome, but not magazines or encyclopedias. Please drop donations off at the church office. Funds raised will be donated to Imagine No Malaria, a program of the church to end malaria in the world.

The first phase of the new Children’s Museum of Sonoma County (CMOSC) opened to the public in March. The site features an educational and interactive outdoor nature education garden, art studio and party room. An indoor Science and Imagination Gallery and TOTtopia Toddler Gallery will open next winter. Until May 30, CMOSC will be open limited hours. Admission is $7. cmosc.org.