Archive for May 2013

2013 Summer reading programs in Hawaii

May 28, 2013

School is out and summer is in! Between heading to the beach, heating up the grill, or jumping into sports, pick up a book and join a free summer reading program!

Hawaii State Public Libraries - Summer Reading

* Win prizes at Hawaii Public Libraries! There are Summer Reading Programs for all ages – children, teens, and adults – organized by the Friends of the Library and corporate and community sponsors. Read at least one book every week, and you could earn incentives (while supplies last). Registration begins on May 28; the programs run from June 2 through July 6, 2013. There will also be special performances by storytellers and artists at select libraries!

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading 2013

* Earn a FREE book at Barnes & Noble! The “Imagination’s Destination” Summer Reading program lets kids can earn a free book (from a selected book list) by reading any eight books and sharing their recommendations. The program runs between May 21 and September 3, 2013. You can also download an activity kit with worksheets about favorite authors, the differences between fiction and non-fiction, playing roles, and using your imagination.

* Earn rewards at US Army Hawaii Libraries! There are Summer Reading Programs for the entire family! Read at least one book every week, and you can earn a prize (while supplies last). Packet pickup starts on June 3; the programs run from June 10 through July 13, 2013. There will also be weekly entertainment at Fort Shafter Library and Sgt Yano Library. For DoD eligible ID card holders and family members only.

* Sharpen your reading skills! The University of Hawaii at West Oahu offers fee-based Summer Reading Programs in Honolulu, Kaneohe, and on-campus. The programs can help children and adults become more fluent and effective readers. Programs start in June or July 2013 and meet once a week for five weeks.

Remember – keep on reading, even when the programs end. Books can take you to more places than you can imagine!

A public education guarantee

May 21, 2013

Hawaii Education - Guaranteed

I recently read “The Price of Paradise: Lucky We Live Hawaii?” (1992), a collection of 38 short essays discussing Hawaii’s underlying problems and challenges, edited by law professor and author Randall W. Roth.

There was only one essay about public education, titled “Public Schools: Why are the test scores of public school children so low?” written by University of Hawaii dean and professor of education John P. Dolly. But for me, it packed a big punch.

Instead of focusing on standardized tests, Dolly declares that we should be asking, “What can students do after they complete a certain level of education?”

“The Department of Education must guarantee that students completing certain grade levels will be certified on the basis of performance rather than meaningless test scores and meaningless grades” (page 213), Dolly proposes.

The idea of “performance-based certification” of education made me think about my own school experience and what I hope that my 6-year old son can learn from me, from our family, and from his school.

Before thinking about the things that schools need to teach children, I think that parents and families need to give children a solid foundation for learning. Here’s a short list of things that I want my child to exemplify:

* Be confident in their strengths and be aware of their weaknesses
* Exercise self-discipline and moderation
* Show courtesy, empathy, and concern for others
* Have a moral compass that shows them right from wrong
* Take responsibility for their actions, words, and choices
* Work with a team, while being able to express and defend their convictions
* Be able to question authority and “experts”
* Can answer the question, “What matters to me?”

Here’s a work-in-progress list of practical, useful things that I think students should be able to do, and that schools should be able to guarantee proficiency, in no particular order:

* Be polite and confident
* Have good conversational skills
* Use good table manners

Reading, Writing, and Speaking
* Read a novel and discuss major plot elements and themes
* Read and understand instruction manuals and guides
* Write a letter, newspaper article, and written testimony
* Follow assembly and repair directions
* Fill out a questionnaire
* Understand legal contracts
* Write and speak persuasively and intelligently
* Speak comfortably on a telephone, cell phone, or video conference
* Answer questions composedly on a job interview
* Debate politely with well thought-out points

Mathematics, Business, and Science
* Add, subtract, multiply, and divide
* Balance a checkbook and reconcile a bank statement
* Make correct change
* Calculate sales taxes, tips, discounts, sales prices, and interest
* Read and understand a financial statement
* Fill out a tax return
* Understand credit cards and credit scores
* Have experience starting and running a small business
* Aspire to be an entrepreneur, not an employee
* Use the scientific method to conduct experiments

History, Politics, and Law
* Have a basic understanding of world history, American history, and Hawaiian history
* Understand the principles of democracy
* Comprehend American civil rights and liberties 

Computers, Technology, and Information
* Use basic word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and graphic design programs
* Find information quickly and accurately at the library and on the Internet

Arts and Music
* Appreciate music
* Sing or play a musical instrument 

Health, Nutrition, and Fitness
* Cook a basic meal
* Understand a nutrition label
* Know how to grow fruits and vegetables
* Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
* Treat minor injuries
* Run a mile
* Swim 50 meters (an Olympic-sized swimming pool)

* Sew a button and mend a rip in clothes
* Drive a car
* Change a flat tire
* Jump-start a car

What practical, real-world things do you wish you had learned in school? What do you want your children to learn?

Keeping May Day celebrations alive

May 14, 2013

Celebrating May Day

Earlier this month, my 6-year old son got ready for his public school’s annual May Day celebration. On the lawn in front of the school, they set up a backdrop with flowers, potted plants, and speakers. The kids sang and danced, wearing kukui nut lei, plumeria flowers, red bandanas, colorful aloha print skirts and malo. It was a beautiful morning. Everyone was smiling.

Meanwhile, my 10-year old niece at another public school told us that they don’t have May Day celebrations anymore. “Why not?” I asked. “Because it interferes with instruction time,” she answered matter-of-factly.

My first response was: wow, her school is really focused on academics! Think of all the classroom time my son has lost! My next thought was: my son has gained a lot of experience outside the classroom!

May Day or Lei Day has been celebrated in Hawaii since the 1920s, when it was proposed by poet and author Don Blanding. “It’s a long-standing tradition in the islands, but annual school May Day celebrations are slowly disappearing,” KHON2 News reported recently.

I remember the excitement of getting ready for a performance. I remember practice sessions, worries that I would forget the words or movements, special costumes, and butterflies in my stomach. I remember the excitement as banners went up and flyers went out. I remember how happy I was to see my parents in the audience. I remember the relief and pride I felt to hear the audience clap as I walked off-stage. I want that whole experience for my son.

Here are 5 reasons to keep May Day alive in Hawaii:

1. May Day instills pride in the Hawaiian culture. It shows everyone that Hawaiian music and dance are just as beautiful and timeless as Western “classics” and contemporary music.

2. May Day teaches children about music and dance. They can express themselves in song and movement, learn about rhythm, and show their creativity. It teaches them to work in groups and help their classmates with words and motions. It shows them that they don’t have to master everything at one time; they can get better with practice.

3. May Day shows children that everything they learn is relevant. On most days, study time is divided into different subjects that may be totally unrelated to each other. May Day is project-based. From artwork, music, songs, costumes, and rehearsals, everything is connected and culminates in a performance.

4. May Day lets children perform in front of an audience. This can build confidence and self-esteem. Confident children have an opportunity to lead, and shy children may feel more comfortable performing in a group. 

5. May Day gives children time out of the classroom. Most of us are not happy stuck at a desk all day, especially when the sun is shining and the beach beckons. Why should we expect our kids to be happy indoors? Recess can be a disorganized jumble, but singing and dancing exercises mind and body, and gives them an outlet for their energy.

I hope that we continue the tradition of May Day in Hawaii. Do you have memories of May Day celebrations? Do you think we should keep this tradition alive in Hawaii?

We love our teachers!

May 7, 2013

National Teacher Day 2013

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery,” said Mark Van Doren.

Today is National Teacher Day, and this week marks National Teacher Appreciation Week. Let’s all take time to honor our teachers and show them that they have made a difference in our lives.

For crafters and older children, I’d like to share some beautiful, fun, creative gifts to give to teachers. Tip Junkie has compiled two awesome lists: “24 Teacher Appreciation Gifts” and “32 Beautiful Teacher Appreciation Thank You Gifts” (some with free printables), on everything from a jar of appreciation and door decorations to candy lei and apple Rice Krispie treats.

For children of all ages and younger children especially, here are 7 simple, inexpensive ways that children can show their teachers how important they are, individually or as a class:

1. Write a heartfelt thank you note. Make it more meaningful by adding something specific the teacher has said or done to inspire your child, advises Karen Bantuveris on

2. Write an acrostic poem. Children can spell out their teacher’s name and write a poem about them.

3. Give a bouquet of flowers. Whether you made tissue paper flowers or pick real flowers from your garden, children can make their bouquet fun by adding a self-portrait. There’s a nice picture of a bouquet and wooden spoon people at

4. Make a box of love notes. Choose a small box and cute notepaper to fit the box. Children can decorate each paper with a short note or message, from every child in the class, suggests the CurlyBirds blog.

5. Create a feel-good flipbook. Give each student a blank card and ask them to decorate it with notes, artwork, or photos, suggests The cards can be bound together with book rings and presented on a stand, so teachers can keep it on their desk year-round.

6. Compile a classroom gratitude book. Buy an inexpensive autograph book, and ask students (and parents too) to write a note to their teacher, along with a picture or photo, suggests

7. Plant a tree. With support from parents and the school principal, plant a tree at the school in honor of the teachers. Students can watch it grow every year, recommends (there are 59 other suggestions in their free PDF “Teacher Appreciation Ideas eBook”).

Even if it’s been years since you’ve been in a classroom, it’s never too late to write a letter to our favorite teacher, telling them how much we admire them and how they changed our life.

What teachers have inspired you? If you’re a teacher, what is the best gift that you have received?

“Better Than Chocolate” by Siimon Reynolds

May 4, 2013

Better Than Chocolate

Sometimes, when I’m stressed or tired or a little sad, chocolate can create a little bit of happiness. That’s why the title of the book really hooked me, and I had to read it, especially when I saw the colorful, cheerful graphics inside.

“Better Than Chocolate: 50 Proven Ways to Feel Happier” (2005) by advertising executive Siimon Reynolds is a guide to 50 ways to feel happier. The techniques are short, simple, and proven to work. Each happiness “bite” is punctuated with vibrant, creative illustrations by Jenny Kostecki. The book has fun colors, easy to read text, and short happiness “bites.”

Here are 7 simple ways that we can all feel a little happier:

1. Make a happiness list. Write a list of everything you love doing, and then do at least one of those things every day.

2. Act happy. Just by pretending that you are happy (such as standing straight, keeping your head up, and smiling), you can improve your mood.

3. Care for others. Instead of focusing on your own life, focus on how others are doing. Whether it’s a gift, a helping hand, or a kind word, it helps you forget your own problems and makes you feel good.

4. Simplify your life. Throw out a third of the clothes and possessions that you do not absolutely need. Reduce your work week by 10%. Schedule three nights a week when you do nothing social. See less of the friends or family who exhaust you.

5. Find satisfying work. Choose a job that you like. If you can’t change your job, change your attitude toward your job by focusing on the good parts or finding ways to make it more enjoyable.

6. Meet new people. Our moods improve when we meet new people. Join a club, take up a hobby, or attend a new social event each week.

7. Dress sexy. When we look good, we feel good – and it gives us a huge confidence boost.

“Happiness is not an accident” (page viii), Reynolds declares. What makes you happy? How do you encourage happiness in others?