Samara Tilkens Postuma is raising five kids from infant to teen in the St. Michael area with her husband, Jeff. When not found driving kids to and from activities, helping with homework or at the park or pool, you can find her sharing her life online where she does some freelance writing and social media work and also writes at her own blog, www.simplicityinthesuburbs.com.

Don't overschedule your kids (or yourselves) this summer

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: March 29, 2015 - 10:10 PM

As the end of March nears, I'd estimate that we've received about 157 different brochures, booklets, emails and flyers on all the different opportunities to spend money  I mean "enrich" our children's lives this summer.

From accelerated sports training to remedial academic classes, it's quite possible to have an even busier summer than school year for the small price of a second mortgage.

Gone are the days of summer freedom, the way I grew up, when we'd run amok through the neighborhood, barefoot to a neighbor lady's dismay, eating popsicles and dirt and we knew it was time to go in because it was either getting dark outside or we heard our parents roar from the front step of our house. As we got older, our neighborhood boundaries grew and we'd hop on our bikes to the DQ or the local library or even the old mostly empty Apache mall.

This wasn't just a suburban kid's dream. I lived just a few minutes from downtown and this was summer. 

I laugh because just this last week my newsfeed on Facebook was full of stories and articles about the "good ol' days" where our moms drank Tab soda and we were sent out to play. The comments are all the same as we all reminisce the same innocent childhood filled with bike rides and running through the sprinklers and plain old fun. 

And then just as soon as we click share, comment and x right out of that, we're on another website to sign up our kid for this or that or the other thing. {I can't possibly be the only guilty one here.}

Can we please stop reminiscing the good old days and just do it? Can we just remind ourselves and each other that we're really in charge of what our kids' summer looks like or doesn't look like? It's not bad to sign up for soccer or Bible camp or some academic fun if that's where they're in to and your family schedule allows but don't become a slave to your childs' schedule at age 6. 

I get the pressures of today. There is this panic among us that perhaps if we skip out on an organized sport one summer or a tutoring opportunity or extracurricular class that our kids and we will miss out. But for most of us, that's just not the case. It's up to us to find the balance for our kids. 

A wise friend once told me that for every yes we say when it comes to our time, we are saying no somewhere else. I have applied this to my personal and professional life about 15 times since I first heard it and have decided to apply it to my kids' schedules too. Every yes means no somewhere else whether that's financial- or time-wise. 

So as you start scheduling your summer activities, make sure you're saying yes to the things you want to matter most. Maybe that is twice a week soccer or an intensive hockey clinic or remedial reading, all good things. Or maybe that's a combination of picking and choosing activities and down time so that you can go to the beach or eat ice cream for dinner. Or maybe it's tossing out all the "what you SHOULD do this summers" and doing what you WANT to do this summer. 

Whatever it is, and I'd argue it's likely different for each family, make sure your yes counts and don't be afraid to say no when it doesn't.

How do you schedule summer activities for your family?

Standardized tests: What should stay, what should go

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Education and literacy Updated: March 11, 2015 - 10:15 PM

Today is the day where, according to the state of MN, 40% of my success as a teacher will be determined by 90 moody 5th graders ... Happy MCA Testing- May the odds be ever in my favor!

– written on Facebook by a suburban Minnesota teacher last spring

 

It’s testing season here in Minnesota. Maybe elsewhere too. If it’s not the MCA’s, it’s the NWEA’s or the MAP test or for the little ones, the DIBELS. No one, no not one school-age child in public school here in Minnesota it seems, is exempt from testing around here.

Can we talk about all this testing for a minute?

Just last spring it was reported that there’s been an uprising of families {encouraged by teachers} to opt out of testing at South High School in Minneapolis, joining a nationwide rebellion. A hundred out of 140 students opted out in the fall and over 250 students opted out of the spring MCA’s.

Teachers who encouraged parents and students to opt out say: “In our professional opinions, these tests interfere with real learning and are poor measures of student growth.” 

Minneapolis Public Schools research and assessment director Eric Moore said last year that he is FOR the testing and said that as a parent “I’d like to know how my student is doing compared to other students in the school, to other students in the state, and to other students across the country. Those are data points I use to measure my child’s progress…”

Yet teachers say that effective teachers can assess a student’s mastery of a skill through both formal and informal techniques. 

I applaud Governor Mark Dayton for throwing his two cents into the ring last week on Minnesota students being overtested but I'd like to see him take it a step further. What about these optional tests school districts are choosing to do in addition to the requirements? Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius says these have to go. "I think if you really want to address the issue of over-testing, you have to think about all the tests districts take, particularly some of these optional tests." 

Oh yeah, preach if Ms. Casselius. I'm with you.

Testing has always been a little bit of a hot button for me. Even before my now third grader started kindergarten, I read and watched with rapt attention as testing became more and more present in our classrooms. 

While I think assessment and evaluation in some respect is not only necessary but important I also worry about children. Recent reports say that student anxiety is at an all-time high and rates don't appear to be dropping off.

Neither do the tests.

I begin every day with 4th grade children at war with each other and their world. And today the state will measure their ability to sit for 2 hours and pass a standardized math test.- written on Facebook by a Minneapolis public school teacher last spring

How do you feel about standardized testing? Do you opt your kids out? As a parent, do you see the value in it or do you think of it as a necessary evil and go with it? As a teacher, do you feel the results are an adequate measurement or do you want to do away with it all? Tell me.

Measles in Minnesota: A mom's perspective on vaccines

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society Updated: January 30, 2015 - 9:25 AM

Earlier this week my 6 year old daughter was home sick with some sort of wicked case of strep throat. She had an on again, off again fever topping out at 103, was tired, lethargic and just not herself. My biggest concern was that she might possibly have influenza but after a few doctor's visits, it was confirmed that it was strep. The wicked, worst kind. It was a few days of sickness, some lost work time and missed school but it could have been worse. So much worse.

The next day I read story and story and article upon article about the measles outbreak in California and then later this week learned of the University of MN student with a confirmed case. 

I don't know about you, but this scares me.

While I understand he had travelled internationally, we already know that there are more and more cases of measles here in the states.

We made the decision to vaccinate and this was not a decision taken lightly yet, it was the best decision for us. 

And while that gives me some peace of mind, knowing my kids have been protected against this disease, I also can't help but wonder how this epidemic will continue to spread.

I respect other parenting decisons and values, I try to be open minded in my opinions but this is one that I just struggle to understand. In the year 2015 when we have so many medical resources and so much knowledge and have rid our society of so many terrible diseases, why would one choose NOT to do it?

I get that a vaccine isn't a guarantee of health. I get that there are some risks associated with vaccines.

But. 

The benefits of being vaccinated way outweigh any second guesses I could have. Knowing my child can travel without fear of contracting a once deadly disease, knowing that they are not only keeping themselves healthy but those kids who CAN'T be vaccinated. Because there are families who wish and pray and hope their child can be vaccinated but due to health reasons, CAN'T. Knowing that my child will likely not have measles or mumps or rubella. 

Any hey, new moms, you can't tell me the perks of a sleepy baby post shots isn't a benefit too.

So, let's try to keep it civil, but help me understand. Why is it you choose not to vaccinate? Please don't quote Jenny McCarthy or any other celeb who's got a strong opinion. Tell me what it is you've decided, why you've decided and how do situations like this one affect that decision. If you don't vaccine, when you hear of a measles outbreak, are you concerned or do you question your choice?

When I hear from parents who choose to not vaccinate I seem to hear this recurring message of why do I care, it doesn't affect you, sort of message. But here's the deal, "Measles is so contagious that outbreaks may occur if any more than 5 percent of the community is unvaccinated." via Children's.  

I'm glad we live in a country that allows us to make choices about such things but can't help but hope it doesn't backfire on us either.

The Parenthood Draw

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: January 22, 2015 - 10:24 PM

 

As I write this, there's just one episode of the popular NBC hit, Parenthood left and if my Facebook feed is any indication, we're all sad.

It's been a good run and I'm attached to every character. When I sit and watch the show, I have to confess that after most every scene, I'll say aloud, "I love her," or "oh I love him," or "they are my favorite."

Over and over again I'm drawn in to these characters, the relationships they share, the moments and hardships and even the joys they encounter.

From relating with some of Kristina's overbearing mother moments {I've often said, I'm going to pull a Kristina Braverman, ahem!} to Julia's ambition, to Sarah and the way in which she levels and shows up for her kids, I'm pretty sure I've quoted her as we navigate the waters of teenagehood in our house more than once. We've sobbed through miscellaneous diagnosis', marriage crisis' and plenty of parenting issues but as someone who's lost a parent as we get to the end of the road and know that Zeke is ill, it's nearly impossible not to relate personally.

I often tell my husband that I hope and pray our five share the same sibling relationship the Braverman kids do and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

What's made us all fall in love with the show and the family?

It's not just a woman thing, I've talked to plenty of men and dads who are just as sucked in.

I'd like to think it's the relatable characters, the real life situations encountered and the true comraderie between them.

Sure there's been some nonsense because it's tv. {Kristina running for mayor anyone?} But most every episode has left us wanting more. It's left us with tears spilling out of our eyes.

And I think that the reason we're all drawn in is because it's all real life, it's relatable, it's real and even if we aren't experiencing particular parts of the story, chances are someone in our circle is. We, as a society are obsessed with reality tv, but I'm afraid most reality tv doesn't even compare to what most of us are living as we navigate the world that is life and relationships and parenthood quite the same way this show has.

When people I know talk about how much they loveParenthood, they talk about things that are so intimate — cancer, death, breakups, sad kids, people you don't know how to help, people who don't know how to help themselves — that despite the fact that "the drama of emotions" can seem like the softer of the two, it's the less escapist. Walter White's problems are ones I will never have. Don Draper's problems are ones I will never have. The Bravermans' problems, on the other hand, whistle uncomfortably closely past my ear. The older I get and the more I have on my mind, maybe the more I need the escapism of the drama of action, and the less I can tolerate the bracing idea that's shared and shared with me aboutParenthood, which is, "You're gonna cry!" -excerpt from HuffPo

Do you watch Parenthood? What do you think has drawn you in?

Six Things To Do Over Winter Break

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: December 22, 2014 - 11:09 AM

Winter break has arrived. Yay for kids home and out of those germ infested buildings, it's time to let the sick bugs air out and get over all the winter sickness that's been spreading like wildfire this fall. But what to do? Here's a list of six things to do over winter break:

1. Go see the new Annie Movie. It's a modern day remake of the old classic movie. It's suitable for kids and families of all ages. It's worth seeing in the theatre.

2. Just because we haven't got much snow doesn't mean you can't go out and play in the snow. Elm Creek Park Reserve has snow ready to go for tubing and skiing and even snowboarding for the adventurous ones. You can even sign up for skiing or snowboarding lessons over break.

3. Go check out a museum. Minnesota Children's Museum and Science Museum are both in St. Paul making it easy to spend the morning at one and the afternoon at another. 

4. Go ice skating FOR FREE at Landmark Center in St. Paul. What's more fun that skating outside right downtown in St. Paul? Go in the late afternoon or evening and you'll especially enjoy the lights from Rice Park.

5. Visit the Ice Castles in Eden Prairie. They open January 3 and promise to be a spectacular winter sight. 

6. Sign your kid up for a cooking class at Way Cool Cooking School. From cupcakes to Chopped and Master Chef, kids will have a blast and learn some cooking skills at the same time. 

What do you have planned for break? 

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