12 Mar

How to Start Making a Family Financial Plan Today

By Sara Bailey
We all go into parenthood expecting to lose some sleep and change lots of diapers. On top of all this, your parent to-do list starts adding up with tasks you never even thought about before. One of those tasks that is easy to overlook, but absolutely essential, is basic financial planning. Your financial responsibilities shift in this stage of life, and if one person is a stay-at-home parent, your income may have changed, too. To make sure your financial plan matches your family’s situation, ask yourself these critical questions to see which areas could use some work.

Have you done a financial checkup recently?

We should all get checkups at the doctor to make sure we’re healthy. It doesn’t require a doctor (although an accountant could certainly help), but your finances need a checkup, too. Can you check off these essentials for your financial health?

  • Does your family have a budget? Are you living within your means?
  • If you have debt, do you have a plan for paying it down? Keep in mind that there is a difference between credit card debt (which you don’t want) and debt that can be positive (like buying a home – as long as your mortgage payment isn’t too high). There may be some types of debt you can’t avoid, such as student loans, but you still need a strategy for paying it off.
  • Do you have emergency savings? How about retirement accounts or college savings?

All of these questions factor into what your overall financial situation looks like, and the answers can help you set some family financial goals.

Have you looked at your insurance policies recently?

Insurance isn’t the most fun topic, but it’s a necessity every family has, regardless of your income and other financial goals. Any family with children should take a look at each of these types of insurance to make sure they’re fully covered:

  • Life insurance: You may not have thought much about life insurance before having children, but once you have little ones to support, life insurance becomes a necessity for most families. If you already have a policy, now is a good time to make sure your coverage matches where you are in life. If you don’t, it’s a good idea to look into options for term life insurance, which will provide a payout to your family if you were to pass away during the policy’s term. Every family’s financial situation is different, so it’s important to get an estimated rate that’s tailored to you. To do this, use an online calculator and input your combined debt, income, current health, age, and location. This tool will ensure that the cost and coverage you get fit your family’s needs.
  • Disability insurance: Another circumstance you may not want to think about is the possibility of one parent becoming injured and unable to work. According to US News, not every family needs disability insurance, but if you have little savings or one partner works in a job that has a higher likelihood of injury, it’s something you may want to consider.
  • Health insurance: Health insurance is complicated and highly dependent on your employment, income, and a number of other factors. The most important thing is to know what your coverage includes and whether different options may be better for your family. For example, Mayo Clinic explains the facts of Healthcare savings accounts (HSA) and situations in which families can benefit from having one.

Along with these major parts of your financial plan, a smaller but important consideration is whether you’re leaving money on the table. Many families don’t even realize how easily they could cut hidden expenses, such as fees, energy costs, and cell phone bills. These smaller ways of saving, combined with the big picture issues, should all be part of a smart family financial plan. We can’t promise parenthood won’t throw you some curveballs, but we do know that getting your finances in order will make you prepared for whatever comes your way.

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06 Mar

Grassroots efforts strengthened dyslexia awareness, education

By Mary Mogan Edwards – The Columbus Dispatch
Posted Feb 29, 2020

In 2010, my literacy journey began with my children. The more I learned about dyslexia, the more determined I became to help change the trajectory of as many lives as possible.

My work started within a grassroots organization in Upper Arlington forced to file a complaint against our school district because it failed to follow federal law and identify children with dyslexia and provide appropriate instruction. UA changed its ways, embraced the science of reading and has transformed into a district nationally renowned for its early literacy instruction.

UA screens each child entering kindergarten for dyslexia, provides phonics 30 minutes a day to every K-3 student, provides certified remediation for children with dyslexia and no longer utilizes Reading Recovery.

Parents formed OH-KID (@OHKID) to benefit Ohio’s children with dyslexia. OH-KID has parent groups from 20-plus school districts representing more than 180,000 Ohio students.

Poverty has many powerful forces, illiteracy being one of the strongest. The personal costs of helping a child with dyslexia can be staggering. Learning to read is a civil-rights issue.

Parent advocacy and equal access to services are part of the solution. Another is bringing science into teacher education. Many universities are decades behind in understanding dyslexia and the science of reading.

Until parents demand their children be taught to read, nothing will change.

We have produced a documentary, “Our Dyslexic Children,” that will premiere in Gateway’s Documentary Film Festival on March 28.

Every child deserves to learn to read.

Brett Tingley, Upper Arlington

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06 Mar

Ohio Legislator Pushing for Dyslexia Screening

An Ohio legislator with a family connection to dyslexia wants to make sure that all public and charter school students are screened for the common learning disorder. Read More

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06 Mar

Parents praise Upper Arlington turnaround to help dyslexic students

By Shannon Gilchrist, The Columbus Dispatch
Originally published Oct 10, 2016

Every child can learn to read, Upper Arlington schools officials now say, and spotting reading trouble early pays huge dividends over time.

That’s a sea change from 2010, say local parents of dyslexic students. They felt ignored as their children languished in remedial reading classes that weren’t helping them, so they filed a complaint with the state. The Ohio Department of Education ruled in 2011 that Upper Arlington was breaking federal law, refusing for years to identify students with reading disabilities and not giving them services that made a difference.

“I can’t imagine being allowed anywhere near a microphone with this crowd six years ago,” Brett Tingley, Upper Arlington mother and president of the advocacy group UA-KID, told an audience at Upper Arlington High School on Tuesday night.

The high school auditorium was the site of a celebration of the district’s progress during the annual meeting of the Central Ohio Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, or COBIDA. Families with children who had learning disabilities once fled the district, Tingley said, but now they are purposely moving into Upper Arlington.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an estimated 8 to 10 percent of school-age children in the United States have some type of learning disability, which includes dyslexia, difficulty processing language.

Six years ago, the group of parents, frustrated with being dismissed and told everything was fine, set out to become experts in federal law and about the latest reading research. They crafted a mission statement and appointed officers, becoming UA-KID. Finally, 19 parents signed onto the complaint to the state on Aug. 30, 2010.

The state education department investigated and reported back on Aug. 29, 2011, finding Upper Arlington guilty of all the allegations: It routinely refused to test children and it made parents believe children were evaluated when they weren’t.

Leadership of the district has turned over since 2011, with a new superintendent and associate superintendent. Several people gave credit to the new director of student services, Kevin Gorman, for the turnaround.

Gorman and other district reading experts took the mic on Tuesday night to explain that Upper Arlington now diagnoses word “decoding” problems in kindergartners in all five elementary schools, using a test called the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing, or CTOPP. Struggling readers get immediate help using a phonics-based method called Orton-Gillingham.

Reach children early enough, the specialists said, and you rewire their brains to the point where they don’t qualify for special education anymore.

Now, the district is turning more attention to the middle-schoolers and high-schoolers with dyslexia who slipped through the cracks, giving them intensive tutoring and technology such as software that reads text aloud to help in other subjects while they catch up in reading.

“Personally, I have to pinch myself when I go into meetings (about my child),” Tingley said. “It was surreal to have the director of student services actually suggest things that would help my child.”

What happened to them, she said, is a warning to other school districts that view dealing with children with reading disabilities in the same way Upper Arlington used to.

Several parents from other districts, some fighting tears, asked panel members for advice about how to seek help for their own children.

“This is extraordinary, what Upper Arlington has done,” said Sara Hallermann of Dublin. “It should be a national model.”

Hallermann told the crowd during the Q&A session that she’s had similar issues finding dyslexia help within Dublin schools but ultimately gave up and sent her daughter to Marburn Academy, a local private school that works with children who learn differently.

Tingley advised parents: “If (school officials) do not listen, you must take action…You cannot get those years or their self-confidence back.

“When taking up the cause of our children, we do not mumble, we do not equivocate and we do not stop.”

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06 Mar

District Changes

How one school successfully did it.
Hear the story of a school district that changed the lives of students & families by teaching all students how to read in the way their brain learns.  The results are fantastic.  School district personnel detail their new identification methods, early literacy strategies and astounding results achieved with all K-3 students. It is a story of collaboration between the school district and the parents who had filed a complaint with ODE for not identifying and serving children with dyslexia.
Click here to learn more and watch a video about the Upper Arlington School District.

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28 Feb

Cold Weather and Crazy Kids

by Carrie Spencer

How to keep your kids from going crazy
when cold weather keeps them indoors.

With the holidays behind us, so many parents and children start looking forward to spring. Still, there are bound to be a few more cold and wintery days ahead. So it’s important for parents to be prepared with fun indoor activities that will keep kids from getting bored on those snowy, rainy, or chilly days. Keeping those activities educational and budget-friendly scores some bonus points, so here are a few ideas for entertaining your kids when it’s too cold to go outside.

Score Points With Secondhand Surprises

If your kids tend to get bummed out when they are stuck inside, you may want to consider lifting their spirits with a few budget-friendly surprises from eBay. eBay offers plenty of gently used video games, toys, portable gaming systems, and even indoor sports gear, plus buying items secondhand will help you save some serious cash. On top of those savings, you can also look for eBay cash back offers, coupons, and promo codes to keep prices for your purchases even lower.

Using coupons to score surprises can be a simple and effective way to cure cabin fever for your children. Now you may also be wondering how you can keep video games educational for your kids? Well you may be surprised to know that many of your kids’ favorite video games can actually provide mental stimulation and education. That’s because age-appropriate video games encourage children to solve problems, work with hand-eye coordination, and use creative solutions. So playing games can be fun and beneficial!

Create Some Cold-Weather Fun With Some Homemade Science Projects

Picking up a few surprises from eBay is a surefire way to beat boredom on those chilly days when your kids are stuck inside. If you find yourself facing a snow day or blustery weekend before you have a chance to shop for those surprises, however, you are going to need some backup plans. With a few low-cost and basic ingredients from your cupboards, though, coming up with educational and fun activities for your kids on a whim doesn’t have to be a hassle. For example, you can combine flour, water, and few other ingredients to help your kids create custom playdough! Watching the chemical reactions that transform these solids and liquids into a pliable dough is a great way for children of all ages to gain experience with science and chemistry, and you can even make a few different recipes to note the differences between reactions and results. Other kitchen science activities you can try include creating your own butter, baking bread, or even allowing toddlers to bang on pots and pans.

Encourage Kids’ Creativity With a Few Indoor Arts and Crafts Activities

Playing video games and whipping up kitchen experiments can help children fine-tune their sense of creativity. When you want to keep your children busy and boost their creative skills, however, you should just plan exciting art activities. Now you may be thinking that stocking up on arts and crafts supplies will cost you a small fortune, but there are so many creative ways for you to save on those basics. For instance, just like with those homemade science experiments, you can also create your own paints to cut costs on art supplies for your children. Puffy paint is just one of the many DIY art materials you can whip up to keep your kids busy for hours when they are stuck indoors, and this homemade paint can be especially pleasing for children who are developing their senses. Edible finger paints are also a sweet and safe DIY paint option that can come in handy for keeping toddlers and smaller children entertained, and you can make these non-toxic paints with cheap ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen cabinets.

Seriously, don’t let yourself get stressed out by surprise snow days or any other inclement weather that keeps your kids indoors! Because with a few creative and educational tricks up your sleeve, you can prevent boredom and any related behavior problems. Plus, you can use DIY tips and coupons to stick to your budget, so it’s a win-win for all.

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24 Jan

6 Smart Money Things You Should do ASAP as a New Parent

Written by Ted James of

Becoming a parent changes your world—and your priorities—in many ways. One significant consideration for new parents is how to best plan for your financial future and that of your child. Here are six things you should do ASAP.

Think Critically About Life Insurance

Life insurance for you, your partner, or both can provide for your child if disaster strikes. For most parents, term life insurance is an ideal solution. It can cover you until your child reaches adulthood, meaning the policy gives you peace of mind without costing you over the long term.

You can also cover unexpected expenses with burial insurance. While it may seem intimidating to contemplate as a new parent, if you were to pass away suddenly, burial insurance helps cover final expenses like funeral costs and medical bills. Investigate average burial expenses in your area and shop for the best rate to ease your family’s potential financial burden.

Update Your Will

Ideally, you already have a will that only requires updating now that you have a baby. The most common change to a parent’s will is a clause on guardianship, which requires an attorney to adjust. You can also draw up guardianship forms without a will, however.

Other legal steps you can take without a lawyer’s involvement include drafting a living will and designating beneficiaries for your assets. For example, to leave a 401(k) fund to your child, you’ll need to file the appropriate forms with the company that oversees the account.

Start Saving for Your Child Right Away

Whether you want your child to attend college or hope to help them buy a car when they turn 16, opening a savings account is a thoughtful step. And the sooner you open a baby savings account, the sooner you can take advantage of compound interest.

U.S. News recommends choosing a bank account with no fees, low minimum balance requirements, and flexible withdrawal limits for later. Alternatively, you can choose a 529 plan, which gives certain tax advantages but also limits spending to qualified tuition expenses.

Whatever account type you choose, the most crucial part is starting ASAP so your child’s savings can grow.

Keep Health Insurance Current

Depending on your health insurance plan—whether employer-sponsored or otherwise—you may have a limited window to add your infant to your policy. While the birth or adoption of a child counts as a qualifier for special enrollment (outside normal enrollment periods), you likely have only 60 days to make policy changes.

The good news is that even if you miss qualification periods, there are other options. For example, a Medicaid-backed Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides coverage for eligible children without other health insurance.

Invest In an Emergency Fund

Even with every type of insurance available, families still encounter unexpected financial burdens. Whether a vehicle breaks down or your child’s health insurance doesn’t cover a specific treatment, having an emergency fund can help ease such stressors.

Budgeting for savings should be part of your plan already, but if not, add it to your parenting toolkit. Experts recommend that an emergency fund should cover three to six months’ worth of expenses, minimum. Conservatively invest for better odds of seeing a gain on your fund—otherwise, you’ll be losing value if the cash sits over the years.

Don’t Forget About Retirement

With a new baby, you’re likely focusing on your child’s future instead of your own. But think ahead: When you’re older, do you want your child or children to be responsible for you? Maintaining your retirement fund is one surefire way to preserve your children’s future and your own.

If you’re not already contributing to your retirement, make it a priority. Before diverting funds to your child’s savings account or educational plan, ensure your financial future is safe, too.

Becoming a new parent can feel all-encompassing. Between sleepless nights and your regular adult responsibilities, considering your finances might not be a priority. Of course, it should be—and taking these steps ASAP can help preserve your family’s financial future.

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23 Jan

Teacher prep, equity top list of ‘hot’ literacy topics

The International Literacy Association’s survey comes as state chiefs gather in Washington, D.C. to discuss what some call a reading crisis.

Clink here to read more about the article.

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26 Aug

CBS Sunday Morning

Cracking the Code of Dyslexia
Yale University Dr. Sally Shaywitz defined dyslexia as “an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to read at a much higher level.”

Click on the link and read the story.

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13 Aug

Tips for Avoiding These Four School-Year Disasters

Another three months of relaxation, great weather, and quality time with friends and family is coming to an end. A new school year is almost in full swing, along with all of the responsibilities and duties that come with it. As a parent, you’ll be involved in almost every aspect of your child’s day. From doctors visits and emergency school runs to homework help and last-minute shopping, you play superhero the entire year to make sure everything runs smoothly. In anticipation of another busy year, here are some strategies for handling common school disasters.

Not getting enough sleep

During the summer, your child’s sleeping schedule gets out of whack. Staying up late to play games and sleeping in until 10 isn’t going to cut it for the school year. Falling asleep in class or showing up late to school are two potential disasters that can arise from a poor sleep schedule. Furthermore, when a child is too exhausted to make it through the school day, their grades and overall behavior may start to slip. To avoid these problems, put your children on a school-like sleeping schedule a week or so before the summer ends. This will give their bodies enough time to adjust to the new rhythm.

Too distracted to do homework

School-related disasters don’t end when the final bell rings. Children still have to stay focused and organized to finish their assignments at home. For many students, this means taking a few hours to complete something that should take half-an-hour. Setting up a designated study area and working station can limit distractions and increase the speed at which your child finishes their homework. After you find a quiet and secluded area in your home, shop around to find the perfect desk that fits in terms of size and function. Your child will feel like a grown-up with a separate area to complete their assignments.

Refusing to go to school

Some children will complain of a tummy ache on the first day just to avoid going to school. These students are known as school refusers. Despite their staunch opposition to attending class, it isn’t coming from a place of defiance or ill-will. Instead, your child may be experiencing anxiety and shyness that makes it difficult to work up the courage to go to school. Once you’ve determined that nothing is amiss at school or with your child, work to make it less appealing to be at home and more exciting to go to school. Encourage your child with kind words and always listen attentively.

If you realize that your child is indeed getting sick too often, consider adding a daily multivitamin. There’s a good chance that your child isn’t getting the daily recommended allotment of essential vitamins and nutrients to help their immune system fight off germs. Although vitamins won’t ensure that your child never gets ill, they will definitely make it easier to fight off things going around school.

A fussy morning routine

It’s no fun to fight a child through a fussy morning routine of waking up, getting dressed, and heading to school. In order to avoid this daily school-year disaster, parents should be a little more tactful. Instead of abruptly waking up a child at the last-minute, open the door to their room and turn on a light to allow them to wake up naturally. When it comes to getting your child dressed, make it a fun occasion rather than another chore. You can ask them to pick out their favorite outfit or to match one with the outfit you’ve chosen for the day.

Heading back to school after summer vacation is never a seamless process. Even when you get back into the swing of things, there will still be some mishaps, accidents, and dilemmas. As a parent, it’s important to keep an eye out for these potential school-year disasters so they can be handled timely or avoided altogether. This foresight will help make the start of the school year go as smooth as possible.

By: Janice Russell |

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