Financial College Planning for Parents

We wish planning for college was all about fun trips to IKEA and college campus visits. Applying to college can be a stressful process for a family, especially as those dollar signs start to accumulate. While trying to manage the financial aspects of college planning, keep the following in mind:

Online Education Opportunities

CollegeMoneyAs online accredited colleges and universities become more prevalent, an online education becomes more credible and respected by employers. Students thrive and excel in diverse learning environments, whether it’s in classrooms on a university campus or through the Web and software Blackboard. President of Ivy Tech Community College Tom Snyder believes “that the future of higher education lies with online learning.” And by enrolling in online college courses, students can spend more time committing to working and family obligations. Students can learn at their own pace, and online institutions are also often less expensive. The most noted online colleges for their financial accessibility include Western Governors, Thomas Edison State College and Walden University.

Financial Aid

College doesn’t come cheap—among more than 4,400 U.S. colleges, tuition reaches upwards of $60,000 per year. CNN Money reports that during the 2011-2012 academic year, a full-time student will pay on average $15,000 (including tuition, fees, room and board, books and additional expenses) to attend an in-state public university.

Lessen the monetary stress of college by learning about various forms of student aid and completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form and/or CSS Profile for eligibility. A CSS Profile is for a “college’s own institutional aid dollars,” explains

Financial information from aid forms FAFSA and the CSS Profile are calculated. And the output is the expected family contribution (EFC) toward college and the minimum dollar amount that the student’s expected to pay. In other words, EFC is used to determine a student’s qualification for financial aid. The assessment includes family assets, income, size and number of college-enrolled dependent children.

While researching student loans and college grants, you’ll probably want to learn about all the available types of loans. Forbes spotlights education-funding loans that families can borrow from to pay for college. Subsidized Stafford and Perkins loans are the best. The Unsubsidized Stafford loan follows and then private student loans. Federal Stafford loans are most commonly used to pay for college, and the federal government pays the interest. An Unsubsidized Stafford loan requires that the student pay the loan interest during college. Interest payments can be postponed until after leaving college or graduation. The Perkins loan is designated for students with significant financial need. Lastly, a student can receive a private student loan through a bank or private lender. These loans typically require a cosigner and interest rates vary between three and 12 percent.

Scholarships can also help mitigate the sobering costs of college. The high school counselor, local alumni associations and community organizations are top resources for scholarship opportunities and applications. Also, ask your employer if they offer college scholarships. USA Today recommends the following 2013 scholarships that have late summer deadlines, including Make Me Laugh Scholarship, Vista Health Solutions, Flavor of the Month Scholarship, and “No Essay” Scholarship.

With thorough research and time, you can help your student acquire monetary assistance for college. Every little bit helps.

The 5 Worst States For Teachers

Teachers are vital resource in this country despite the fact that they are notoriously underpaid, overworked, and rarely given the recognition that they deserve. However, the majority of teachers claim that they are responding to a calling rather than a high salary. Future generations are grateful for this commitment decade after decade regardless of how difficult it is to truly express the gratitude of the nation to the men and women making a difference in the classroom day in and day out. We must be especially grateful to the teachers working in the following five states due to the fact that they are the lowest paid educators in the United States.


The Sunshine State is the fifth worst in the nation when ranked by teacher salary averages. The average annual pay for educators working in the public school system is a meager $46,702 a year. On top of this fact, Florida school systems have slashed over 12,000 education jobs over the past two years. This reduction in staff leaves every teacher with roughly 16 students in each classroom. Currently, the system does not show any signs of stabilizing. More jobs are expected to go as time moves forward in the current economic climate. Miami school districts already estimate the need to cut their public school budgets by $150 million in the very near future. There is also talk of a bill that would handcuff all teacher salaries to the test scores achieved by their students. The Education Association of Florida vows that this bill will be fought to the very end.


Utah falls just behind Florida with an average teacher salary of $46, 570 per year. Every teacher is instructing an average of 22 students in a single classroom, making them 50th in the nation when it comes to student-teacher ratios. Many districts across the nation are adopting policies in which seniority in the profession serves to protect one’s job. Under this system, the newest teachers are the first to be fired when budget cuts take effect. Utah legislators are currently considering a bill that would ban such policies in public schools.


Number three in the ranking of worst-paying states, this part of the country compensates teachers with $46,400 each year. Despite the low salary, the teacher to student ratios are 11th in the nation. There is one teacher for every 11 students enrolled. Missouri has done very little to increase or reduce the budget for public education. However, the costs of materials and daily living expenses are rising due to the current economic climate. This constant level of inflation is enough to do measurable damage to the quality of education that is being provided in the classroom. Because of the rising costs in maintaining schools and other social institutions, there will be forced layoffs in the very near future.

North Dakota

Also ranking high in the student to teacher ratio, North Dakota teachers earn an average salary of $44,200. Despite the low pay, NAEP math and reading scores rank very high in the national averages. Student math scores were 4th in the nation in recent years while reading scores were ranked 10th . Regardless of the success, state representatives are currently in the process of overhauling the system to form a new Department of Education. The only danger to North Dakota comes in the form of federal budget cuts that will reduce the budget for some districts by up to $6 million.

South Dakota

Finishing last in the top five is South Dakota, paying teachers only $35,200 on a yearly basis. The math and reading scores for students in this state are also high in the national averages despite the fact that the governor proposes a cut for public education of at least 10 percent of its annual budget. The state Education Association claims that such large cuts will be a crippling blow to the educational foundation that they have fought to establish over time. In reaction to the outcry, Governor Daugaard made a pledge to strengthen the state curriculum for math and the sciences.

While budget cuts and various forms of red tape can hinder the salaries of our teachers, there are places where teaching is a slightly more lucrative career. Moreover, some school districts have incentive programs to help pay student debt for teachers committed to working in their district for a set period of time. It’s also good to keep in mind that teaching can be a greatly rewarding career, regardless of the pay.

Creative Commons image source

Teachers can make more money by earning their master of arts in teaching online.

Preparing for Kindergarten: How to Give Your Child a Boost

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Kandace Heller

Kindergarten is an exciting period in a young child’s life. For many kids, this is the first time they will be spending extended periods away from home. Kindergarten is also an incredible learning environment, equipping children with the tools they will use to excel academically and professionally in the future. Before your child starts kindergarten, there are several simple steps you can take to help ensure he or she starts off on the right foot.

Teaching at Home

microscopeChildren begin learning new things from the moment they come home as babies. While teenagers and young adults often dislike school and classes, studying new concepts and ideas is invigorating for many children. To prepare your child for the rigors of kindergarten, consider introducing academic subjects at home. Simple activities like reading together and counting can help your child gain a thirst for knowledge. If you feel comfortable embracing advanced content, you may even want to invest in a microscope or telescope, which you can use to tackle scientific principles like biology and astronomy.

Encouraging Positive Social Development

Kindergarten is not only a child’s first foray into the academic world, but it also serves as the first exposure to children from different walks of life. Instead of simply crossing your fingers and hoping that all goes well on the playground, it is useful to expose your child to others through play groups. You can also see if there are athletic or art programs in your local community that could allow your child to meet others his age and learn to interact with them.

Preparing for the Classroom

Most kindergarten teachers are ready to deal with young children who do not have any experience expressing themselves in an academic setting. Nevertheless, you can always provide your child with a bit of a confidence boost before sending him or her off to class. Start revising information about your family, your address and other essentials they might need to know in kindergarten. This can help ensure your child is ready to communicate in the classroom.

Starting kindergarten will mark your child’s first adventure in the academic world. In addition to preparing them for the challenges that lie ahead, try to drum up excitement for your little one. This will help them to associate school with positive emotions and give them desire to begin studying. By constantly working to ensure your child lives a healthy and fulfilled life, you can equip them for a bright and enjoyable future.



Kandace Heller is a freelance writer from Orlando, Florida. For those interested in purchasing a  digital microscope for kids, Kandace suggests

Hobbies that Boost your Children’s Chances for Success

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Andries Smit

All parents want to give the best they can provide for their children, from the best of food, clothing and shelter (not necessarily the most expensive) to the best education. When it comes to the lighter side of life, this should be no different. Every child needs a hobby or activity to keep them healthy and happy and should be helped to find one that will be rewarding.

public speakingParents may not look seriously at this, thinking a pastime is just that: something to kill the time when their children are not learning, sleeping, eating or spending time with family. Thus, some parents may think watching television is a suitable pastime. But hobbies can be an indirect way of allowing your children to learn – for themselves – something they are not actively taught at school (beyond the basics) but will need to be experts in for future success in all aspects of life: the art of good communication.

Here are some fun and enjoyable extracurricular activities you can guide your children toward for  developing, to a high degree, the all important life skill of communication.

  • Joining a theatre group/drama club: This will, through fun and challenging ways, teach your children about the physicality of communication, for example things such as body language, spatial awareness and eye contact. Crucially your children will also learn how to communicate with others and understand their tone of voice, body language and even emotional needs.
  • Taking up a team sport: Team sports require constant communication and can teach the importance of mutual cooperation. For example, if your children take up soccer they will need to communicate through voice and body language with team members when on the field. It will also improve their ability to think on their feet-an important skill for competent communication.
  • Writing: Grammar, spelling and the ability to develop a good turn of phrase. These are all things competent communicators need. Whether they become business or political leaders, middle managers or parents themselves, one day your children will be in a position of leadership and all leaders need to write well. Fun ways to get your children into the habit of writing well could be by encouraging them to write a journal or even publish an anonymous blog of their thoughts, feelings and experiences; writing short stories or poems; and writing letters to relatives overseas. (Editor’s note: Kids can also contribute at KidsGetReal!)
  • Public Speaking:  This will allow your children to understand how to address and connect with groups of people confidently, how to write well and how to convince people of their points of view. There are resources available online for teaching your child the basics of speech writing and public speaking at home. Once you have worked on this and wish to progress you can enrol your child in a junior public speaking or debating club.

Andries Smit is the founder of and has 22 years experience in public speaking as a speaker, coach and educator.

Education Never Ends

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Our daughter, Kira,  just graduated from college. We’re very proud of her accomplishments. She won awards, has a plan for the future, and has already moved to the big city to seek adventure.

I’m a little jealous, to be honest.

For the longest time, I was attended school right along with my kids, first finishing my bachelor’s degree, then obtaining my master’s. I graduated from college the same year our oldest son graduated from high school. Dave got his bachelor’s degree the same year Kira and Kyle graduated from high school. I got my master’s the same year Kira got her master’s.

education never endsFor the past few years, we’ve been more focused on building our business and raising our younger kids than our own education.

Seeing Kira move on to big, exciting adventures stirs the part of me that wants to go back and fulfill a few dreams – I have always wanted to obtain my PhD in French; I’ve always wanted to get my law degree. Basically, I love learning.

While the cost of education may deter me from formal schooling (I’m not sure anyone should attend until the universities and student loan people start getting their acts together) I have realized that I never have to stop learning.

These days, knowledge is a click away, whether on an ebook or the Internet.

So, whether or not I ever manage to make it back to a college campus, I am going to keep challenging myself to learn more and allow myself to be inspired by my remarkable and tenacious daughter.


Why You Should Encourage Your Kids to be Musical

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce

From the advent of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to our current sorry state in education, many school districts are unable to meet the requirements of the demands placed on them.  In order to improve reading scores with required remedial reading instructors and other tutors, programs like music education are having their budgets cut significantly or are no longer being offered at all.  However, music is more than just a pretty sound; the importance of music in cognitive development has been the topic of much research in the last few decades.  Research has proven that music education provides many benefits for children beyond simple musical appreciation and musical knowledge.

music and cognitive abilityThe most astounding result of recent research is the relationship between music education and cognitive ability, for people of all ages. Music training actually changes the physical nature of the brain.  While it’s been primarily debunked that exposure to music as a fetus provides any great benefit to  intelligence levels the impact music can have on academics is quite remarkable. What can you do to ensure that your child benefits from music?  When your children are young, make sure music is a part of their daily life.  Encourage them to sing, to play instruments, to listen to music.  As they progress to school age, encourage them to join choir or band as soon as it is offered.  Support music education in your community.

The benefits of music in cognitive development do not seem to diminish as your child ages.

One of the most significant areas of cognitive impact is in the area of mathematics.  Children who are exposed to music and provided with music education may have improved spatial abilities; children provided with keyboard/piano training scored higher than those with other forms of musical education did.  The importance of music education to mathematical ability is significant, and since math is one of the areas in which the United States continues to struggle against other countries.

Kids’ Social Media Can Be Used for Study Groups

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Jessica McGarrity

According to a 2007 report published by the Pew Research Center, more than half of all young people in the United States between the ages of 12 and 17 have used online social media.  In many respects, the rise in social media use by children and teens has had a detrimental effect. In examining the mental health effects of social media on children and teens, it’s easy to become discouraged.

According to research conducted by Larry Rosen, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at California State University at Dominguez Hills, children who interrupted their study sessions to check on social networking profiles recorded lower grades than students who did not. Further, children and teens who used social media heavily demonstrated higher levels of mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder than children who used social media less heavily.

However, the news is not all bad. Parents can mitigate some of the negative effects of social media by actively monitoring their children’s use of social media sites. Social media can also help kids in their schoolwork, by promoting cooperation and collaboration and by providing an interactive learning environment. Online and social media learning also provides children a means of keeping up with their studies when illness or other circumstances prevent them from being in school.

Online and Social Media Advantages

Walking in many classrooms today is more like walking into the headquarters of a Silicon Valley high tech firm than a traditional place of learning. Blackboards and chalk have often been replaced by whiteboards and projection screens. Desks that formerly held only books and papers are often covered with laptops and tablets.

Savvy parents also recognize that their kids are tuned into the Internet through social networking sites. Rather than put up a futile attempt to prevent their children from social networking site, parents as well as teachers take advantage of technology to provide students with an interactive learning experience and facilitate study groups.

Incorporating social media into the learning arena also harnesses the enhanced empathy and spirit of collaboration that is enhanced in teens that use social networking. Virtual study groups, live chat, video conferencing and photo sharing can be incorporated into classroom activities and homework assignments alike. Students have the best of both worlds – enjoying interaction with one another while learning.

Online Learning Resources

Rather than attempting to prevent children and teens from using social media, teachers and parents can use the popularity of social media to benefit children. For example, teachers and parents can adapt social media sites to enhance learning experiences for children. For instance, students can follow Twitter feeds of government officials or establish their own blogs to comment on current events. Teachers can establish Facebook Pages for their classes, to provide a centralized online location for students to post notes, video links and upload documents and photos related to a particular class. Video conferencing and webcasts allow students from one location to interact with students across the country or across an ocean.

Specialized online learning sites also enhance the classroom experience for teachers and students. For instance, Edmodo allows students to collaborate on assignments in class and outside the classroom by posting profiles with photos and other features more commonly found in social networking platforms. A benefit of sites like Edmodo is that more reserved students who adapt well to using tools like Edmodo often gain enough self confidence through using them that they begin speaking up more in class. Parents can create their own Edmodo accounts to extend the learning environment for their children outside the classroom. Teachers can also improve their instruction methods by sharing notes and best practices through Edmodo.

Mobile Apps

Along with social media, kids and teens have incorporated cell phones, including Smartphones, into their everyday lives. While many teachers and parents discourage children and teens from texting and gaming, mobile apps can also enhance individual and collaborative learning. For instance, apps such as Quizlet allow students to utilize flash cards to study languages, history, science or nearly any other subject, created by users located all over the world.

Quizlet also allows users to create their own specialized flash cards and share them with students in their classes – or with students worldwide. Students working on a group assignment can use mobile apps like Quizlet to create materials to share with other members of their classroom teams. The technology of mobile apps allows students to share their work whether they are collaborating in person or working independently in their own homes.

For Further Reading

  • American Psychological Association: Facebook – Friend or Foe?
  • Common Sense Media: Social Networking for Kids
  • The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning: Investigating Instructional Strategies for Using Social Media in Formal and Informal Learning
  • Pew Research Center: Social Networking Websites and Teens
  • Quizlet
  • Social Media  and Learning: Interview With Jane Hart – Instructional Design and eLearning
  • Techlicious: Safe Social Networking Sites for Kids and Tweens
  • Time: The Best Social Networks for Kids Under 13

This MomsGetReal article was written and contributed by Jessica McGarrity for Kazaana, a kids social network. Jessica is an independent researcher and freelance writer. She has extensive experience designing social media applications to be used by kids. Her articles mainly appear on technology blogs.

Social Studies Lesson Plans for Your Toddler

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Image source: MorgueFile

10 Ways to Convince Reluctant Kids to Go to College

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Andrea Wellington

A lot of parents have a difficult time convincing their kids to go to college. Some kids dream of other options, such as working, traveling or simply not doing anything but sitting around the house and freeloading! If your kid is reluctant to go to college, it is important to speak to him or her. It’s simply your responsibility as a parent to inform them of the value of education. That said, this may not be enough, so if this sounds too familiar, here are ten ways to convince a reluctant kid to go to college.Earnings Power
Without college, 95% of people will have a reduced earning power. Let them know that a college degree will increase their earning power exponentially. A lot of positions require, at a minimum, a bachelors degree. Let them know their long and short term earnings will suffer greatly if they do not attend college. Without a degree, their best options out of high school will be in the service industry – at a restaurant, for example.

The Job Market
Right now, the economy is on shaky ground. Entering the labor force is a scary proposition, and again, their prospects likely aren’t very attractive. Let them know that they should stay in school, that way they can gain skills while simultaneously waiting out the poor job market.


College is more than just getting an education; it is about fun. A lot of people forge lifelong friendships from college. College is a way to explore and enjoy life and find oneself. Let them know that the years in school will help them develop their social skills, become a more worldly person, and really, have a blast.

This might not be a seller for everyone, but for a lot of kids, it will go a long way. If your child is one who never really was interested in what they learned in high school, but was still quite capable of succeeding, let them know that college is different. You can truly learn about what you want, and it can be as useful as they want. They can take whatever interests them – foreign language, politics, anthropology, world history, philosophy, music, management, etc. Chances are, your child hasn’t even heard of all of these, and it might be very exciting for them to realize all the options at their finger tips.

In college, people often meet their spouse and form long term friendships. If your child is from a small town or city, he or she will appreciate college even more as they will meet people from all walks of life. Point this out when you watch TV shows or movies about people who met in college.

If there’s something that your child is adamant about that you’ve been holding out on, consider meeting them halfway if they’ll go on a college visit or two. For instance, if they’re intent on going on a trip with friends, agree to let them go if they can fit in a Saturday morning visit at a nearby college. If they go with friends, they might be more excited.


Not only will college ensure that their long term earnings are better, their earnings will be more reliable. College graduates are less likely to be unemployed, and when they are, they are unemployed for a shorter amount of time. Furthermore, they are more likely to have health insurance, a decent 401k, and more. Point these out to your child and do the math for them – point out how much health insurance costs, then add this to a cell phone bill, a car payment, rent, etc, and then compare it to how much money they’ll make working minimum wage at the local deli.

Not only will your kids make friends in college; they will make business connections.  If you know that your child wants to see the world someday or is driven to make lots of money, point out how college can facilitate this. For many kids, college just seems useless or irrelevant to their interests. Many are convinced they can do it all without a degree, and though this is possible, it’s much harder.

The Time’s Right
If your child is waffling about going to college now or waiting until later in life, let them know that life is easy for them now. When they are in their 30’s or 40’s they will have more responsibilities. It is difficult to go to school with children or an already established career. Impress upon them the importance of starting now.

Work is Boring
Sometimes, kids just need to egged on. If your child is lazy enough that they don’t want to work, but talented enough that you know they can succeed at college, remind them that going into the work force is not fun. Anything that can delay work will certainly entice them to go to school. They have their whole lives ahead of them, let them know that they should take the time to enjoy it and not rush to work. Besides, with a degree, they can likely attain a job they actually enjoy.

Are your kids going to college?
Andrea Wellington writes about parenting, education and more. She frequently writes on finding the best Masters in Accounting Degrees.

Teachers Make a Difference

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

When Parker was in first grade in Reno, he had the most extraordinary teacher.  She was caring, compassionate, and intuitive about her students.  She immediately recognized that Parker could benefit from spending part of the day in a second grade classroom (Reno’s schools were utterly backwards when it came to freeing teachers to teach to the student and forced them to follow a strict curriculum within the classroom). She was obviously willing to do what was best for Parker regardless of the adjustment it meant for her and her class.

Yet Parker, this bright, wonderful little boy who loved going to school, was forever negatively impacted by his experience with the second grade teacher to whom he was assigned.  No child should be so worried about getting detention for not getting homework done (in SECOND grade) that they cannot sleep at night!  No child should wake up in the morning afraid to go to school because he didn’t want “Mrs. M to yell at him again.”

Where everyone else in the school was willing to work with Parker and let him be who he was — a five year old little boy who didn’t know everything about the mechanics of school but needed the academic challenge—Mrs. M actually told him he was “too immature for second grade”  and told us she didn’t have the time to work with him. Parker’s failure in the second grade classroom was not his—it was Mrs. M’s.

I witnessed first-hand her demeanor with her students when I attended the school’s Halloween party and costume parade.  All of the children in the school were excited and happy, but as we paraded through the buildings and entered Mrs. M’s class, all of her children were sitting quietly at their desks, working with their heads down.  No costumes, no candy, no sign that they were even part of the same school as every other child.  And when one or two children dared to raise their heads from their work to see the parade come through, Mrs. M yelled at them so sharply and threatened them so quickly with detention if they did not go back to work, that two other mothers and I talked amongst ourselves about who our children would NOT have for second grade the next year.

School is about learning and academics, yes.  But elementary school is also about learning how to make friends, how to socialize, how to make your first Valentine box, and how to be a part of a community.  Mrs. M’s children learned to keep their heads down and stay quiet to avoid her sharp sting.

When parents send children off to elementary school, we expect the teacher to be a sort of surrogate parent to our kids.  Elementary school children are young and sometimes scared – and sometimes not as ready to be there as they should be.  But 99% of the time they succeed because some teacher cared enough to make school a safe and wonderful place for them.   Mrs. M did not do that.

We were disappointed that at such a young age we had to explain to Parker that there are mean people in the world and that even though he sees their actions, he needs to try hard not to become like they are or behave like they do.  All it would have taken for Parker to be successful was the teacher’s compassion and five minutes of her time.

We have been so lucky since then…but it was that experience that helped us realize just how critical good teachers are.

I get frustrated when I think about how much money is wasted on political campaigns, Kelly Osbourne’s finger nails, and war when all of that money should be spent on paying the people who shape the minds of the future.

Thank you to all of the amazing teachers out there who work so hard to make a difference even as the job has become thankless and under-appreciated.