Check out these motivational videos for high stakes standardized tests.

Test vidHow do you calm children down after months of stress and hype over standardized tests? How do you reassure everyone that the scores won’t be used to punish neighborhoods, penalize kids who don’t do well, or cause teachers to lose their jobs?

Make a music video!

That’s right, make a music video!  Change the lyrics of a well-known song to include positive language about how well they’ll do on the tests, give familiar teachers starring roles in the production, show a few real kids using their strategies, and SING, SING, SING!

Do a quick YouTube search, and you’ll see these videos are being created by schools all across the country as a way to motivate kids for their upcoming state standardized tests. While some videos provide a few moments of blissful escape and entertainment (and others are tortuous and downright scary to watch), many parents feel these items and similar test pep rallies are a bit propagandizing.

It may be hard for some adults to comprehend why these parents are not happy with the testing hype their kids face.  Allow me to provide grown-up example that puts these parents’ feelings in context:

Imagine the IRS has been sending you letters about how you should file your 2013 tax return. The first letter came in September 2013, and there’s been a new letter in your mailbox every week that outlines the penalties you will face if you make a mistake on your return.  Beginning in January 2014, an agent began leaving messages on your answering machine about how important this tax return is. He has also forced you to take weekly quizzes on federal tax codes. Feeling a little guilty, he sends Richard Simmons to your house on April 14 to deliver a peppy singing telegram about the importance of your error-free tax return.

Yes, that’s what standardized testing is like for our kids. And these are their singing telegrams:

(Important note: No one is faulting teachers for creating these videos, and they deserve support for doing their best to provide a little encouragement and diversion for kids who are genuinely scared thanks to the high stakes testing culture we’ve allowed our politicians to create.)

My Personal Favorites

New York: Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate teachers put a new spin on Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.” I respect these teachers because they acknowledge the tests’ toll on their kids, and they also provide a great lip sync and hysterical parody of the original music video.


Florida:
Mater Academy Elementary teachers aren’t afraid to dance, rap and wear 80s-inspired costumes in this production number. They also have some major talent on staff. Set to “Starships” by Nicki Minaj.


Definitely Not a Favorite


Texas:
This video completely rubs me the wrong way, and I think it may actually scare kids more about the test.  Why? Because the word “scared” pops up over and over again. It also doesn’t help that the 22-year-old Van Halen song featured in the montage sounds a little foreboding.


A Sampling of Others

 

Georgia: Poker Face meets Test Taker Face. One face involves winning money, and the other face involves winning… I dunno.

 

Illinois: The Village People aren’t immune from testing songs. This school uses “YMCA” to teach kids “it’s fun to take the I-S-A-T.”

 

Minnesota: Would setting a test song to the music of “Let it Go” destroy the Disney magic for kids? I’m not sure, but one of these teachers has pipes that belong in the film studio’s next movie.

 

Oklahoma: This school wins the award for best participation. They did a great job including pretty much every adult on campus.

 

Pennsylvania: These teachers do their best rendition of “SCORE” to the music of Katy Perry’s “Roar.”  As if kids need to hear more songs by Katy Perry.

 

Texas: The song, based on “What Does the Fox Say,” has earworm quality.  I can honestly see kids taking the test and singing the chorus of , “READ-D-D-D, READ-D-D-D, READ-D-D-D, READ.”


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Have you seen any inspirational standardized test videos?
What did you think of them?
Please share the URL and your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

Special thanks to Fish Friend Naomi for pointing me in this direction

Does your 11-year-old need a push-up bra?

Are you looking for a way to mortify both moms and their tween daughters?

Go bra shopping at your local mall. You’ll find the tween underwear sections filled with underwire, heavily padded and push-up bras just like those available at women’s lingerie stores. Apparently retailers think mothers want their little girls to really fill out those One Direction t-shirts.

bra collection

Apparently every sixth grade girl needs a push up bra. The bras above can be found in the girls departments of the following retailers: (L to R) Justice, Target, JCPenney and Kohls

“You shouldn’t have to buy a sequined push-up bra when you’re 13,” said 18-year-old entrepreneur Megan Grassell.  “You shouldn’t have to feel pressured to look a certain way.”

Megan’s shock came last year while she was bra shopping with her tween sister and discovered a selection that was wildly inappropriate and ill-fitting for a developing body. Nonetheless, they had few options and Megan’s sister tried on what was available. An exclamation of “You can’t wear that!” came from big sister.

“I couldn’t believe the bras that she was supposed to buy,” said Megan. “The choices for her, and for all girls her age, were simply appalling to me. They were all padded, push-up and sexual. Not only that, they did not fit her body properly, which automatically made me wonder ‘Where were the young, cute and realistic bras for girls?’ There were none!”

So Megan got to work. She and her mother worked with seamstresses to develop prototypes, and soon Yellowberry, a start-up company that makes age appropriate bras for tweens, was born. Less than a month ago, Megan took her idea to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter in hopes of raising $25,000 for her new company. She received more than $41,000 in donations, much of it coming from the parents of tweens.

YB bras

The bras offered by Yellowberry are designed for young women between the ages of 11 and 15.

Yellowberry currently sells its tween-friendly bras on its website at www.yellowberrycompany.com. There are two styles available now, and three new styles will be available in mid-May. The price point may be a bit high for now (about $40 per bra), but increased production should bring the cost down. Even so, the company completely sold out of its first stock of bras within just a few weeks.

Megan’s idea and company are introducing sanity to a market that is hellbent on sexualizing our girls, and I wish her the best for tremendous success.

Megan, you rock! Thank you for being the big sister EVERY girl needs.

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Adopting from Mexico: One family’s story about the grueling wait and undying hope

Mexico

Waiting in a Mexican orphanage for the American family who is fighting to bring him home. Photo Copyright by Roadkill Goldfish, 2014.

Her sons are 2,000 miles away from her. She’s spent almost three years trying to bring them home, but her boys are trapped in the middle of a nightmarish swamp of red tape.  She takes some comfort knowing they are in good hands at their orphanage, and she is grateful for the many people who are tackling the Herculean task of carrying the family through the Mexican adoption system.  Nonetheless, she misses her sons and wants them in the States so they can be a full-time family.

“They are not orphans,” she emphatically says. “They HAVE a mom and dad who love them and who are trying to bring them home.”

During her fearful moments, she worries about them. She also worries about the children who are not being adopted and spend their entire lives in orphanages because their biological families were abusive, neglectful or didn’t have enough money to care for them. Headlines about the Mexican drug cartels send shivers down her spine because she knows how easy it would be for cartel thugs to recruit these vulnerable kids once they age out of the system.

Stephanie Frank is one of my lifelong friends, and I hear anguish in her voice every time she talks about her sons.  She and her husband, John, met them seven years ago while serving as volunteers in Mexico. They had two biological sons of their own and were not interested in international adoption when they left for the trip; however, all of that changed when they met Enrique and his brothers at a church-supported orphanage. The boys, who are now teens, were left there 12 years ago and have had no contact with their biological parents.

The Franks fell in love with the brothers, and the boys found the Mama and Papi they so desperately wanted.  They started the official adoption process in 2011.  Stephanie and John, along with their U.S. sons, have made dozens of trips to Mexico over the years to spend time with the boys and wade through the red tape.

Like the Franks, many U.S. families trying to adopt children from Mexico face grueling waits due to the country’s weighty bureaucracy, no national policy on adoptions and an often-sluggish custody transfer process. The route becomes infinitely more complicated when prospective parents want to adopt a specific child. The process can be financially and emotionally bruising for some families like 8-year-old Adilene and her adoptive parents. The El Paso Times highlighted their story in 2011 and revealed how the parents had to give up their adoption plans after three years of international bureaucratic hell highlighted by $12,000 in travel expenses, translations and renewing annual home studies and immigration fees authorizing them to adopt Adilene. In the end, they had to say goodbye because the strain was just too much and the process never moved along. Adilene, now a teen, has remained in the Juarez orphanage.

The Franks endure the wait and refuse to give up, even though one of the boys is rapidly approaching adulthood. Despite her sadness, Stephanie is a lioness for her sons. She fights. She hopes. She prays.

Figures from the U.S. Department of State indicate that only 21 children from Mexico were adopted by Americans in 2013. It is my greatest prayer that those figures jump in 2014 to reflect that the Frank boys are now in the U.S.

I’ve talked with other parents like Stephanie and John who are also in the process of adopting children from Mexico. Their stories are sadly similar, but the perseverance of these American families is inspiring. They are not giving up because THEIR children need them. They refuse to let bureaucracy get in the way of family.

I look forward to the celebrations when these kids are finally home where they belong. Until then, I pray. A lot.

Pseudonyms have been used protect the identity of my friends and their sons in Mexico. They have legitimate fears that the children would be at risk if their real identities were known.

Please be in prayer for this family as they go through this difficult time apart.

 

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Do you have a past, present or future adoption story or adoption prayer request you’d like to share? Please drop me a line in the comment section below. 

 

Happy scene: Check out what happens when we let kids script movies

This post is dedicated to every parent who has ever spent two consecutive hours playing “Barbie Goes to the Ball, But the Prince Doesn’t Like Her Dress” or “GI Joe in Cowboy Gear Versus the Bad Guys and Space Aliens” with a 5-year-old child.

I recently discovered Kid Snippets, a YouTube series created by the incredibly funny folks at Bored Shorts TV. Their laugh-out-loud videos feature children’s imaginative stories recreated by adults.

What could possibly go wrong when you mix rambling stories, high-pitched little voices and amazing comic actors? Absolutely nothing.

Here are a few of my family’s favorites:

Police Patrol

Salesman

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did.