Earn an A+

(Family Features) Back-to-school season means it’s time to get back to the business of learning. This year you can ace your back-to-school shopping excursion with these time- and money-saving steps that can make getting the whole family ready for a new school year a breeze.

Start with a list.
Walking into the store without a list is an open invitation for impulse buys and forgotten items that end up costing you more time and money with a return trip. Create a thorough list by categorizing all the items you’ll shop for, such as supplies, electronics and clothing. If you want to take an extra-organized approach, try color coding items by the section of the store where you would expect to find them.

Set a budget.
Knowing what you can afford to spend ahead of time can save regret and returns after you shop. Calculate how much you’ll need to cover all the items your students truly need, then tack on some room for wants. One must-have is a high-quality backpack, like the High Sierra Access Backpack, which includes a dedicated storage area for your child’s laptop, among other features. If your total budgeted expenses exceed your available funds, consider browsing weekly circulars to keep your budget in check.

Explore your inventory.
It may be buried under a summer’s worth of knick-knacks, but digging out the supplies your child cast aside at the end of the last school year may be worth the effort. Items like scissors, rulers and protractors may not need to be replaced every year if they’re still in working condition. Assess what items you have that can be reused and those that need to be replaced for the new school year.

Cut extra stops.
Dashing all over town to find all the items on your supply list is not only time-consuming, it’s unnecessary. At stores like Office Depot and OfficeMax, you can find all the academic tools and supplies your student needs to head back to the classroom. What’s more, a store that specializes in school supplies will have a broad selection and ample stock of the essentials.

Try online shopping.
When you know exactly what you need, shopping online is a great time-saving solution. Online shopping makes it incredibly simple to keep tabs on your budget before you make purchases and easily keep track of the items in your shopping cart. If you need to hand-select a few items in person, you can always take advantage of a “buy online, pick-up in store” option. This service lets you do your shopping from home with just a quick stop in-store to pick-up your purchases.

Buy in bulk.
It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re trying to trim your spending, but if you can swing it, go ahead and buy extra items that you’ll likely need to replace mid-year. The sale prices during the back-to-school season aren’t likely to repeat during the school year, so in the long run you’ll save money and avoid a last-minute shopping trip on a busy school night in the future. Items like Stellar fashion notebooks, which give note-taking a fashionable twist, are great to have on hand throughout the school year.

Research specials and promotions.
For many stores, the back-to-school shopping season is second only to the holidays. This means you can expect widespread sales, promotions and special deals, such as “deals as low as a penny.” Some states also offer tax-free holidays near the beginning of the school year, which are honored at multiple retailers and generally restricted to school-related purchases like clothing, supplies and some technology.

Weigh quality vs. quantity.
When you have a lengthy list of items to purchase for each child, it can be tempting to cut corners and skimp on spending. In some cases, being cost-efficient is smart, but do your research beforehand to avoid selecting items based solely on price. Value and quality don’t always go hand-in-hand and if you buy an item that falls apart or breaks down quickly, you may end up spending more to replace the items later. While it may be simpler for students to use printers and other machines at school, an all-in-one Epson Expression EcoTank Wireless Printer at home can be a convenient solution when late-night homework is bearing down.

Make dollars do double duty.
While most families expect to spend a sizable amount on back-to-school purchases (nearly $700, according to a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation), making that money go a little further can soften the blow. You can help improve education in your community by shopping at stores that give a percentage of proceeds back to local schools. Programs vary; in some cases, you can even designate proceeds to the school district of your choice.

Take more notes on smart back-to-school shopping ideas and deals at officedepot.com.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Office Depot

5 Time-Savers for Busy Teens

(Family Features) A break from the regular school routine may be a welcome change, but for many teens, summer is just as busy as the school year. Jobs, athletic activities and social events can keep that so-called “break” jam-packed with action.

Time management is essential, but there are some other easy steps teens can take to save time and make sure there’s at least a little room left to kick back and enjoy all that summer has to offer.

  1. Get organized. Precious minutes tick away while searching for lost keys or phones, or finding the perfect shirt for a night out with friends. Taking a little time to get organized will pay off in the long run. Create a specific place, such as a shelf or basket, to hold items that get used every day so you always know where to look. Also take time to put away laundry and hang clothes, and skip the wasteful rummaging that results from an untidy room and closet.
  1. Be prepared. Even when you’re on the go, taking care of yourself is important. Create a portable pack, whether you’re headed out for a day at the beach or an impromptu camping trip, because pimples are unpredictable and can appear at a moment’s notice. Make sure your skin stays clean and clear by including an easy-to-use, mess-free OXY On-The-Go Acne Stick, which is conveniently packaged in a slim, solid form and clinically proven to kill acne-causing bacteria so you can spot-treat acne at any time. Learn more at oxyskincare.com.
  1. Use screen time wisely. It’s easy to get sucked into hours of catching up on social media or pulled into a game where you’re trying to conquer just one more achievement. Avoid getting yourself into a time crunch by simply setting down your phone or controller when you have other obligations. Save the screen time for a break or treat it as a reward for accomplishing a task.
  1. Keep a schedule. Flitting from one spot to the next all summer long can make it tough to keep track of where you’re supposed to be and when. Writing down details like your work schedule and game times can help ensure you never miss a beat. You can also use your schedule to keep track of to-dos like registering for fall classes or chores around the house.
  1. Make time for meals. Skipping meals isn’t only unhealthy, it’s likely to slow you down when you get hungry and have to stop for a snack at an inconvenient time. Look for healthy on-the-go foods that you can eat in transit, or dedicate a little time one day a week to prepare snacks and meals for the week ahead so you can still stay nourished when you’re in a time crunch.

A busy summer may not feel like much of a vacation, but if you work to manage and save time where you can, you’ll be able to carve out some much needed rest and relaxation.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

OXY Skincare

Honor Dads and Cheer Grads

(Family Features) With the end of the school year and summer fast approaching, gifting occasions are plentiful. Some events – graduations and Father’s Day, in particular – can be a challenge when it comes to finding the perfect present.

Resist the temptation to throw some cash or a gift card in an envelope and instead peruse these ideas for inspiration for gifts that your dad or new graduate will actually use and appreciate.

Find more gift ideas for dads and grads at officedepot.com.


Gifts for Dads

Upgrade the Man Cave
Keep dad’s space cool with smart home technology that can control features such as temperature, lighting and music volume. Many devices and apps allow for themed settings, so dad can instantaneously turn up the lights and sound to catch the game on his big screen, or relax while taking a leisurely weekend nap.

Gadgets Galore
If dad still works on a desktop, help him upgrade his outdated tech toys. Go in on a big present with your siblings and splurge on dad with a top-selling 2-in-1 laptop, such as a Dell Inspiron 13, which is available at Office Depot and OfficeMax locations. The stores offer a broad assortment of tablets and laptops to get him going with the latest in portable technology.

Out of This World
If you love playing video games with your dad, take it to the next level this Father’s Day with a virtual reality headset that gives new meaning to getting into the game. These devices allow for 360 degree immersive viewing of more than 400 virtual reality apps available for Android and iOS devices, as well as many popular video content providers.

Tech for Every Day
So much of people’s lives revolve around technology, and dads are no exception. Help him stay up-to-date with simple yet convenient and effective options for his smartphone like rechargeable power banks, cellphone cases, screen protectors and charging accessories. For a less tech-savvy dad, start small with an option like Bluetooth headphones.

Share Memories
A new digital camera is the perfect way to let dad capture every moment together with the family. If he as an ample photo library just waiting to be shared, create a work of art with a personalized canvas print he can proudly display in his office or favorite room in the house.


Goodies for Grads

Show Some Spirit
Graduating doesn’t have to mean leaving everything about college behind. Let your grad proudly represent his or her alma mater with university-branded items for their desk at the office or at home. With an assortment of spirited options, Office Depot offers everything from USB drives and mouse pads to planners and notebooks.

Planning Ahead
Starting a new job means taking on new responsibilities and learning the ropes at a new company. Help your graduate stay ahead of the learning curve and on top of important meetings with a smart, new planner that makes organizing that extra-busy schedule a cinch.

Photos on the Go
If your grad is an avid photographer or even just enjoys the occasional commemorative photo with the family, consider a gift that gives him or her the ability to immediately enjoy personal artwork. While looking at photography on a phone can be fun, a device like the HP Sprocket Wireless Photo Printer, which can fit in a pocket, gives the option to print a 2-by-3-inch photo in as little as 40 seconds so favorite photos don’t get lost in cyberspace.

Sign Up for Success
Today’s students probably spent most of their college years tapping keys to take notes and complete important tasks. While those habits will transition well to the corporate world, there are still plenty of reasons to have some quality pens available. Whether jotting quick notes while on a call or signing important documents, the job is more enjoyable with a high-quality pen in hand.

Take Initiative
When starting a new job, a newbie needs to show just how much he or she is engaged in the work. Give them the opportunity to showcase value by documenting brainstorms, meeting notes and important deadlines in a discbound leather notebook, such as the TUL Note-taking system. Bonus: you can even pick out the paper inserts that best fit his or her personal style.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (father and son on graduation day)

Office Depot

Students Prosper from STEM Education

(Family Features) Education is particularly critical for today’s students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as the number of jobs with an emphasis in STEM is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years, according to the National Science and Math Initiative.

With the right funding, schools across the country are putting an emphasis on STEM education and looking for new ways to make a difference in the lives of their students and their communities. For Rochelle Middle School in Rochelle, Illinois, a $25,000 grant from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, enabled the school to enhance its science curriculum by exposing students to STEM-related career opportunities and preparing students for the workforce. The program included the purchase of a 3D printer to introduce students to the technology and bring their designs and ideas to life.

Shortly after the program began, the students learned about a local farmer who lost his arm in an accident while working in the field and they began working on a program to use the 3D printer to build a fully-functioning prosthesis for him.   

Other Americas Farmers Grow Rural Education grants have helped schools expand their science curriculum by building greenhouses, continuing a remote-operated-vehicle science program, developing a livestock learning laboratory on a high school campus and others.

“STEM education is a vital foundation for the future of students and communities,” said Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president. “With the support of local farmers, we are proud to provide resources to engage and excite students in their STEM educations, and help them understand practical applications of their studies.”

Since starting the program, Rochelle Middle School’s parents and teachers have noticed a change in students, as they seem more engaged and excited to learn. Many even stay after school for an independent study course with their science teacher.

“The grant helped enhance our STEM offering to students and show them what their futures could hold,” said Vic Worthington, Rochelle Middle School science instructor. “In middle school, it’s easy for these students to go to school each day, but not understand the full picture of possibilities of their futures. Through this program, schools are able to put possibilities in front of students they couldn’t have previously dreamed of.”

The Grow Rural Education program is seeking nominations from farmers through April 1, 2017, to help provide rural public schools with funding for STEM projects. Since the program began partnering with farmers in 2011, more than $11 million has been awarded to help rural schools in need. To learn more about the program or how farmers can nominate a school near them, visit GrowRuralEducation.com.

Monsanto Fund

New (School) Year, New You

(Family Features) Forget Jan. 1. Parents know the real new year begins when you can smell the fresh pink erasers and hear the clatter of brand new pencils on still-smooth notebook covers.

Even if you don’t have kids in school, the end of summer and the beginning of fall is a great time to reassess, realign, hit the restart button and make resolutions that will help carry your family smoothly through until next summer – or at least until the holidays.

Here are some tips from parents about resolutions they’ve made for the coming school year:

Learn to love mornings
My Life and Kids blogger Anna Luther said she used to hate mornings.

“It was a disaster,” she said. “There was a lot of yelling, a lot of missing socks, a lot of arguments about eating a good breakfast – it was just not the way to start a productive, happy day.”

Luther decided to turn the first – and worst – hour of her day into one of the best by waking up earlier, exercising and turning on music.

Luther also changed the way she looked at breakfast.

“It doesn’t have to be from scratch,” she said, “but it does have to have protein – and be fast. We love frozen breakfast burritos, for example.”

Empower the kids
Luther said that another thing that made mornings exhausting was that she tried to do everything herself, from finding socks and brushing hair to heating up healthy breakfasts.

But kids are eager to help, she said. Just like adults, they feel empowered when they can do things for themselves.

Luther decided to empower her kids and simplify her life at the same time by creating “Get Ready Buckets,” which hold everything they need to get moving in the morning, from hairbrushes to socks.

That same message of empowerment can simplify and improve other stressful times of day. Do the kids walk in the door hungry and cranky and leave you feeling the same way? Stock the freezer with hearty snacks, such as El Monterey Taquitos, that kids can heat up on their own.

Appreciate others
Blogger Kristyn Merkley of Lil’ Luna, has resolved to show the teachers in her life how much she and her family appreciate them.

“Our teachers put so much time and effort into their jobs,” Merkley said, “and we’re so grateful for that.”

While she usually gives teachers a gift card at the end of the year, she doesn’t wait until then to send notes and emails with a simple, “Thank you.” She also makes sure to say thanks in person – and in front of her kids.

Make fun a priority
There are plenty of must-dos on your list every day, but is fun one of them? Merkley said it should be, and she’s making family fun a resolution this school year. She collects activities on her blog that kids and adults can do together and plans family fun nights around them.

“When we laugh and make things and learn things together,” she said, “we’re making memories. I want my kids to remember their childhoods as more than just getting to school on time and cleaning their rooms.”

Be a team
Kristy Denney, of the Boys Ahoy blog, is raising three wild boys, as she calls them. But even the wildest of kids wants to know that you’re on their team – and they’re on yours. Denney and her husband, Brett, chose a family motto for the school year so that everyone on their family team knows what they’re working toward.

As their motto, the Denneys chose, “Work hard and be nice.” It’s simple, succinct and sums up what they want for their family.

Fuel up with real food
Kids have to eat, and most insist on eating three or more times a day. Denney said she loves to cook from scratch, but she doesn’t want time in the kitchen to keep her away from her family. So, this year, she’s resolving to focus on what’s important: real ingredients.

“Sometimes I’ll buy the ingredients myself to cook from scratch and sometimes I’ll look for foods I recognize on the label,” she said. “When I pick up El Monterey Signature Burritos, I see ingredients like fresh-baked tortillas, real cheddar cheese – foods I would buy anyway for my family, so I feel great about that.”

Make snacks work hard
Jess Kielman, who writes the blog Mom 4 Real, said that snacking can sometimes be a problem in her house. Kids (and adults) sometimes snack because they’re bored – or just out of habit, so she’s reining in snack time and making snacks work just as hard as meals.

“Protein and real food – that’s what I’m going to look for in afternoon snacks,” she said. “Something that fills the kids up and gets them ready to get back out the door and play, or buckle down and do their homework.”

Cheer on #momwins
Kielman said that this year her resolution is to start giving herself a little more credit for her “mom wins,” big or small.

“Checking off every last thing on my spring cleaning checklist is a win, for sure,” she said, “but so is a good, smooth morning with my family. So is a sit-down dinner that didn’t stress me out. So is feeling good about what we’re eating. So is every little hug. Those are all #momwins, and I’m going to give myself a little pat on the back for every one.”

For more breakfast, snack and dinner ideas to help you keep your family resolutions, visit ElMonterey.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (family eating)

El Monterey

Horace Mann honors graduating seniors

High school seniors who started as kindergarteners at Horace Mann were honored by current Horace Mann students.
High school seniors who started as kindergarteners at Horace Mann were honored by current Horace Mann students.

Graduating seniors from North, East, Heights, Northwest and South came back to Horace Mann to encourage students to do well in school and achieve their dreams of graduating. The seniors were kindergarteners when Horace Mann moved into its new building and because a K-8 Dual Language Magnet.

“I’ve been waiting 13 years for this celebration to happen,” said principal Vanessa Martinez.

The seniors shared their plans for after-high school and gave advice to students to inspire them to do well in school.

Former teachers and administrators were also on hand for the celebration. They read Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss and received their own copy of the book.

What to Do?

By Kendall Vogts

What to do? As a teacher, enjoying his or her summer break, that seems to be a question that comes up often and is usually followed by a smile or smirk and glazed over eyes as they wander off into the world of beautiful, student-free possibilities.

From the months of August through May, teachers are busy with everything school, but in June and July, things are different!

Now, as an auntie of young and school-aged children, I understand perfectly, have seen and have experienced summer activities for children. The goal is to keep the kids busy with fun, adventurous, silly, outdoorsy, educational and time-consuming activities. This list might include trips to the pool, the zoo, children’s museums or the park.

Parents or caretakers plan crafts like painting, sidewalk chalk and making your own silly putty. There might even be that carpooling parent, like my oldest sister, who spends time shuttling kids to library time, swimming lessons, dance lessons and gymnastics.

Needless to say, painting a picture of what students do during summer break could be pretty easy.

But what about the educators? What do we do? For some non-educators, I think they picture us sleeping in, shopping, eating out and watching TV. While those things might happen a smidge of the time, there are many other things we enjoy doing or must do in order to prepare for the next school year.

To start out, on our time off, we travel! We plan vacations with our loved ones, and we let loose a bit. My husband and I will be heading to Kansas City to Schlitterbahn with friends and will take an anniversary vacation. We also hop in the car and visit our family members. By the time summer is over, I will have visited my oldest sister and her family in Minnesota. I will have driven south to Oklahoma to visit my middle sister’s family. And I will have made it to my hometown to see all of the family that live there.

Also, we work on our homes. During the school year, there is a lot of time spent away from our houses. I don’t think people realize this, but most days, I spend more time at school than I do my own home! Sometimes, educators are lucky just to make supper for our families and spend a couple hours with them before we head to bed, only to start the routine over again.

So during the summer, we garden, paint walls, re-arrange furniture, finally complete that Pinterest craft we’ve had our eyes on, de-clutter and enjoy being able to live in our own space and not our classrooms.

Next, we prepare for the next school year. While at the beginning of our summer vacation, we want to be as far away from anything school related as possible; however, we eventually have to bite the bullet in order to be fully ready for our next round of kids. We meet with our partner teachers to plan lessons, we set up our classrooms, we copy notes and forms that each student will need, number our books, set up our progress monitoring tools and so much more.

Finally, this year especially and in the state of Kansas, teachers on their summer vacations have worried about their jobs and the future of education. Teaching is my and my husband’s job. We need our jobs to pay off student debt (which will increase because to make gains in this profession, you must continue your education), to pay for our cars, insurance, our new home and the other means by which we live.

I can see how, looking from an outsider’s perspective could be considered selfish. “They are only teaching for the money.” At that I might give a chuckle because of the amount on the paystub I get each month.

But the questions remain: Didn’t I get into education for the kids? To teach them English, as well as how to be contributing, awesome members of society? And the answer to all those question is yes! And that is why as teachers during this summer vacation we are concerned about the future of education in the State of Kansas. We are required to do so much, with students who may or may not even what to be there, with so, so little in the way of support and supplies. Public education is important. School is the safest, most consistent place for a majority of students out there.

Parents and guardians, think about those things while our kids and teachers are on summer vacation.

Regardless of the role — parent, student, or educator — summer vacation is a special time. It gives everyone the opportunity to relax, decompress, make memories and prepare for the upcoming school year.

As you are helping your student get ready for 2016-17 school session, remember their teachers. Their summers are spent doing much more than wondering, “What to do?”.

Kendall Vogts lives and teaches in Central Kansas. She is married to WFM publisher Todd Vogts.

Online enrollment for 2016-17 will begin July 11

Online enrollment for the 2016-17 school year will be available July 11. All parents with a ParentVue account will be able to complete standard enrollment forms, pay for enrollment fees and school meals, and fill out free and reduced price lunch forms from a computer. Parents are encouraged to use this service in order to streamline the enrollment process. Parents new to the Wichita Public Schools are encouraged to set up a ParentVUE account at their child’s school during in-person enrollment.

In-person enrollment is August 8 – 10. The Wichita Public Schools will have consistent enrollment times at all schools to make it more convenient for parents who enroll multiple children at different schools. The enrollment times are: 

  • Monday, August 8: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 9: Noon – 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 10: Noon – 7 p.m.

The first day of school for all students is Wednesday, August 24 with a half-day orientation for 6th and 9th grade students on Tuesday, August 23.

Wilbur Lady Wranglers read to Peterson kindergartners

Members of Wilbur’s Lady Wranglers basketball team read with kindergarteners at Peterson Elementary.
Members of Wilbur’s Lady Wranglers basketball team read with kindergarteners at Peterson Elementary.

The Wilbur Lady Wranglers basketball team spent some time going back to elementary school. The players paired up with students in Jodi Landenberger’s kindergarten classroom to read together, showing the importance of reading, studying, and doing well in school.

David Clark, Wilbur’s girls basketball coach, teaches his team about the importance of giving back to the community and about building character by helping others.

The Wilbur girls basketball team has paired up with elementary students for the past several years.

February from a Teacher’s Perspective

By Kendall Vogts

supportI am one blessed teacher! I had a long Christmas break and was able to spend time with my family and friends, make many wonderful memories, play with my nephews and niece, and get in some much needed relaxation time. I slept in, lounged on the couch, and binge-watched a show on Netflix with my husband. It was fantastic! But, I must admit, the time leading up to Christmas break is sometimes difficult on students and teachers, as is the time refocusing, once our break is over.

Coming back from Christmas break is an adjustment. Rules and expectations must be retaught, lessons start back slowly, and interruptions from students are many, but finally we get rolling again.

All is well through January!

We hit that last week, in stride, and glide into February, but then that itch comes around again. It’s a, “Haven’t we been here for a while?” itch. Yes, by mid-February, the teachers feel it too. We see students squirm in seats. We see a growing lack of enthusiasm, and we see glazed over eyes, as our students search for the light at the end of the tunnel that comes in the form of Spring break.

It’s true… The time between Christmas and Spring Break can seem extremely long and strenuous. But while your kids might seem very “blah” about this point of the school year, remember, there is also the side of your child’s educators to consider. Let me shed some light on it for you!

In February, we are trying our hardest to engage your children! We are preparing for and carrying out parent/teacher conferences where we truly want to see you and your children show up! We are going to our students’ ball games! We are trying our best to help your students solve problems at school (because even when they don’t tell you, they are there). We are entering grades. We are staying after school in order to help our students. We are taking time to work on interventions, in order to help your children become more successful. We are greeting your children in the hall and by the door! We are laughing with, high-fiving, fist-bumping, and hugging our students as they come into or exit our classrooms. All the while, knowing that our students are slowing down; hitting the wall of boredom or anxiousness as the next break away from structure, learning, and friendship that their teachers work very hard to provide.

So why do it? As teachers, why do we constantly put ourselves out there to only sometimes be well received? Why work to help your kids make connections with the material they are learning? Why work to make every single one of our 125 students feel valued and successful?

Well, because we love what we do. We love our students. I can truly say that I love each of my students. I pray for them, and I care about their success and well-being. I have a common response that I tell everyone who asks me, “8th graders, how’s that? Aren’t they difficult?” Here it is: I love my job, and I really do have the best group of students. And even when they are jerks (because let’s face it, teenagers can be jerks sometimes) they are mine. For this school year, they are my students and I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.

So as your students slow down, hit a wall, or become very “blah” in the month of February, help their teachers by encouraging them.

Send them to school with the reminder that you love them, and so do their teachers. Tell them that you are proud of them for all they have accomplished. Send them to school with a note of encouragement, and pack an extra for their teachers!

You see your kids every day, and so do their teachers. There are two sides to the story, when it comes to school and even when it’s hard or monotonous, your child’s educator is working to help your students love and be successful at school!

Kendall Vogts lives and teaches in Central Kansas. She is married to WFM publisher Todd Vogts.

Christa McAuliffe teacher named Presidential Award Finalist

Wichita-Public-Schools-LogoSteve Smith, math teacher at Christa McAuliffe Academy, was named a state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the nation’s highest honor for teaching in those two categories.

They are presented to educators who show a high degree of knowledge, innovation, skill and leadership. Smith will go on to compete for a national finalist title.

David Clark, Wilbur Middle School, was a nominee in the science category.

Both Smith and Clark were recognized during a special ceremony on June 22 at the Kansas Cosmosphere.

Fall Without Summer

By Ian Anderson

Globe_and_BookTeachers have it easy, and I can say so because I am one. Of all the professions, teaching allows for a whole season of escape. I’ve heard rumors of year-round school, and talk of ridding the system of the old agrarian way of doing education. We simply do not need summers off because so few engage in farming anymore. That’s how the talk goes, and there’s more about the benefits of a year-round schedule, how students are more likely to hold on to what they’ve learned if the long summer break doesn’t interrupt the flow of learning.

The advantages of year-round school aside, I have something to say about summer — especially because the school year approaches so quickly, and I want to cling to it a little longer.

There are different kinds of leisure, two that float up before me. One includes swimming, books, and long naps; the other kind isn’t one that we think of quite as quickly — it’s work that doesn’t require much of our brain.

The first is what we all want right when the last school bell rings in May, even those of us who haven’t had a proper summer break since school days. The heat and the water call to us, or maybe it’s the hum of the air conditioner or the sound of a fishing reel. Memories forged from the unforgiving July sky aren’t readily forgotten. This kind of rest gives the mind a fresh starting place for the flurry of the fall.

As a student I didn’t see my summer painting job as a leisure activity, but I see it now. In between lifting weights and running for fall sports, I did the slow work of rolling and brushing paint on thirsty walls. I would wake early and work long hours, sometimes outside in the heat, sometimes inside. I could let my mind wander while my arms and hands did the work. Even now, similar tasks at home allow me the space my mind needs to have ideas and think through problems. Often it’s during these times that I pray, too.

Perhaps our nation has outgrown the original purpose of summer break, but perhaps not. Students and teachers alike not only need time to choose their own reading, or do a bit of sleeping in, but also the opportunity to work at things that allow for reflective thought. As the school year energy begins to flow, I wonder whether it would come without summer break; I don’t want to find out.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

Better bets for back to school

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

As you gear up for a new school year, it’s important to put your kids’ nutrition on the school checklist. Countless studies link school performance and healthy eating habits. Treat this season of “academic beginnings” as a chance for the whole family to take a fresh approach to better-for-you eating.

From on-the-go breakfasts and brag-worthy brown bag lunches to after-school snacks and family-friendly dinners, there are plenty of ways to pack nutrition and flavor into every meal. Often, creating healthier meals can be as easy as simply trading-up or swapping one food ingredient for a more nutritious choice.

Selecting menu options that help your family eat better begins at the grocery store with your shopping decisions. If the A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s of food labels make your head spin, you can rely on tools such as the NuVal(r) Nutritional Scoring System, which provides scores near the price on the shelf tag to identify better-for-you foods. Based on a scale of 1 to 100, the scores rank foods and beverages on their nutritional content with the most nutritious choices scoring highest.

You can take other steps to make shopping easier for healthy eating, says Marisa Paolillo, a nutritionist with NuVal.

First and foremost, she says, don’t go when you’re hungry.

“It really is true. If you shop hungry, you’re more likely to toss foods into your cart that will satisfy the hunger pangs at the moment, rather than what you actually need for the week ahead,” she adds.

12673_bPOAnother smart shopping tip is to plan, plan, plan. Paolillo suggests starting out right by planning a full week’s worth of menus, then creating a shopping list. This not only streamlines meal preparation, it saves household budget, aids nutrition choices and reduces the frustration and extra time associated with return trips to the store.

1. Determine what you will serve for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners.

2. Create a grocery list of food ingredients that are needed.

3. Don’t forget to check specials and coupons in your store’s weekly circular. (Consider swapping listed ingredients for seasonal or on-sale foods.)

“Taking a list to the grocery store will ensure that you stick to your budget and only buy what you need,” says Paolillo.

If you’re pressed for time and on a spur-of-the-moment shopping run, however, keep these better-for-you food basics in mind. Consider these:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs are a quick and easy breakfast – but hardboiled eggs are a great option for an on-the-go snack.

Mid-Day Snack: Get a quick protein and calcium boost during the day with cottage cheese or plain yogurt with fruit or granola.

Lunch and Dinner: Make sure to include vegetables in all meals.

On-the-Go Snack: Fruit like apples, bananas, tangerines and pears are perfectly portable for on-the-go ease.

Dinner: Round out your day with lean protein at dinner, such as poultry or fish seasoned with herbs.

Paolillo offers some final healthy eating, back-to-school shopping tips. Take advantage of in-store nutritional scoring systems or services to help guide food choices, and make the majority of food selections from the outer perimeter of the store.

“Think produce, dairy, fish and meat,” Paolillo says. “This will ensure that most of your food choices are more nutrient-packed and fresh, versus heavily processed foods that tend to be loaded with additional sugar, salt and fat.”

Find nutritious trade-ups and family-friendly meals to kick off the new school year at

Bring Breakfast-to-Go

Even if breakfast finds you crunched for time, prime the kids with morning nutrients to energize their day. Give them a breakfast boost with make-ahead options that can be enjoyed on-the-go in cars and buses. Try portable Scrambled Egg Cups or Oatmeal Cups, which provide plenty of protein to get them through the day.

Unbeatable “Brown Bag” Tips

When it comes to packing school lunches, stick to what your kids like. If they aren’t crazy about something, it may end up in the garbage or get traded for an unhealthy snack.

These simple swaps will make your kids’ brown bag lunch unbeatable:

1. For sandwiches, swap white bread for a higher NuVal-scoring brown bread or pita.

2. Replace deli meats with lean roasted beef or poultry or low fat cheese.

3. For a delicious, nutritious sandwich spread, trade mayonnaise for a mashed avocado. Make fruits and vegetables a go-to snack. Chop up carrots, peppers and celery in advance and stash some in lunch bags with hummus; or sprinkle apple and pear slices with lemon and cinnamon to satisfy a sweet tooth.

4. Choose water to hydrate and calcium- and vitamin D-rich milk to strengthen growing bones.

Smart Swaps for After School

Chips and packaged cookies, move out of the way. Swap them for smart after-school snacks that are homemade, nutritious and fun to make.

Custom-create a smoothie. Have kids choose their favorite fruit and vegetables.

Toss them into the blender with ice and fat free yogurt for a snack that’s easy, fun and filling.

Make banana sushi rolls. Top a whole grain tortilla with nut butter and a whole banana sprinkled with cinnamon.

Roll it up and slice like sushi rolls. (These are great for lunches, too.)

Other after-school smart snacks include:

• Apple slices topped with almond butter.

• Air-popped popcorn (Avoid microwave popcorn, which is often high in trans-fat and sodium.)

• Fresh salsa and tortilla chips.

— Family Features

May brings change, anticipation for future

WFM_May2015PMThe school year is coming to a close, and that means graduation time is at hand.

This might mean Kindergarten graduation, eighth grade graduation, high school graduation or even college graduation.

Regardless of the level of education your loved on is completing, this is a big deal. It is a milestone in life. It is something to be celebrated. Make sure you take the time to praise those who are moving onto the next phase of life.


That’s kind of the theme of this issue of Wichita Family Magazine.

Essayist Ian Anderson shares his thoughts on making time with his children and family, and contributing writer Taryn Gillespie shares a story about a woman who truly understands the value of every day we are all lucky enough to spend on this Earth.

Don’t waste it. Enjoy it, and make the most of it.

This is important to keep in mind because with Spring fully underway and summer right around the corner, it is easy to get sidetracked by the myriad of distractions popping up with the rise in the temperatures outdoors.

I know I always have a laundry list of activities I want to get accomplished when the weather becomes nicer, but it is important to build in time to do what is truly important — enjoy the company of those closest to you.

Maybe that means taking a trip to a fun location, or maybe it means sending your children off to a summer camp so mom and dad can have much needed time together. No matter what it means to you, ensure you make the time to accomplish it.

For me personally, this means getting married to the woman I love. A lot of time is being spent on planning it so everything runs smoothly, but my fiance and I need to remember to enjoy the time together.

There have been instances where we’ve both gotten frustrated with try- ing to get the guest list down to the right number or figuring out meal and tux options, but we shouldn’t allow this to cloud our vision. Even when we are frustrated, we need to take solace in the fact we are frustrated together, starting our lives as husband and wife.

Also, we need to remember to be in the moment on our big day. We can’t let the details bog us down, especially if they don’t all go according to plan because, let’s face it, they probably won’t.

Instead, we just need to enjoy the moment and savor the time together with our family and friends.

After all, that’s what’s truly important.