Category Archives: Public Service

SAT Tips for Parents

Last month, In our first installment of Why Choose the SAT, we busted some myths about taking the test. Aren’t you glad they did away with the penalty for guessing? This month, through my partnership with The College Board, I’m sharing SAT tips for parents and free resources for SAT prep. Because, helping your child get their best score doesn’t have to cost you an arm or a leg.

Yes, you read that right. There are FREE resources for SAT prep!

SAT tips for parents

Tip 1: Know The Deadlines!

Let’s face it, no amount of prep – free or otherwise – is going to do you any good if you don’t know WHEN your child should be taking the test. This actually happened to us with our oldest daughter. Silly me, I relied on a teen to give me the details. Don’t be me!

Most students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year and again in August or the fall of their senior year. If your child hopes to take the March 2018 SAT, the deadline for registration if February 9th, 2018. I know getting those dates right and not missing deadlines was an issue in our house. Get more info on registration here.  

Tip 2: Sign up for Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy

Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is the best way to prepare for the SAT. It was created by the makers of the test, it’s personalized for each student, and it’s 100% free.

There are thousands of practice questions with instant feedback, video lessons, test taking tips and strategies, and 8 practice tests!

Fun Fact: A recent study shows that students who practice for 20 hours on Khan Academy gained an average of 115 points from the PSAT/NMSQT to SAT compared to those students who did not use Official SAT Practice.  

So, get cracking. There is plenty of material out there for SAT prep.  

Insider Info: Official SAT Practice is and always will be free for all students! For the first time there is equality of access to SAT preparation and I think that’s huge game changer for students nationwide.

SAT tips for parents
Tip 3: Be Sure Your Student is Studying What THEY Need

Teens already feel quite a bit of pressure about the college admission process. You might be able to ease some of that by ensuring that they don’t over-study. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT can really help them focus on the areas they’ll need to improve. It’s a practice test usually offered at their school that will get them ready for the SAT.

Your student will get a personalized SAT study plan with Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. By sharing their PSAT/NMSQT scores or taking the diagnostic quizzes, Khan Academy will pinpoint the skills they need to improve. This means they are spending their time on the areas that matter the most.

Official SAT Practice will guide them through lessons and give them quizzes along the way to test progress. This free SAT prep resource allows your student to move at their own pace, cutting down on stress and helping solidify the knowledge they’ll need to be successful. It will help them turn weaknesses into strengths.

Good tips, right? So why do I feel like your next question is going to be; Don’t you get what you pay for? I leave you with one last fun fact in answer to that question. More than 16,000 students in the class of 2017 who used the free Official SAT Practice saw score gains of 200 points or more from the PSAT/NMSQT to the SAT.

Stay tuned for one more article in this series and be sure to check out #ChooseTheSAT on twitter for more information from parents, experts, and more.

5 Myths About Taking The SAT

I’ll admit it’s been a minute since I took the SAT.  If I recall correctly, taking the SAT was nearly as stressful as figuring out the proper hair-to-aquanet ratio.  Things hadn’t gotten much better by the time my two oldest kids were ready for the test.  The good news for today’s college-bound kids is that things are changing. Changing in big ways.  I’ve partnered with the College Board on a series of sponsored content geared toward helping students and their parents navigate today’s SAT. 

5 Myths About Taking The SAT

questions and answers on taking the SAT

Myth 1: Taking the SAT later in the year means getting harder questions.

Truth: The College Board ensures that every version of the test is equally weighted in difficulty. 

Myth 2: Leave a question blank if you aren’t sure of the answer. 

Truth: Taking your best guess is the best practice. The SAT no longer deducts points for guessing. 

Seems my Dad’s old theory of always choosing “C” if you didn’t know the answer, holds some water now. When in doubt… Charlie out!  

Myth 3: You only take the SAT if you’re hoping to go to an East Coast college. 

Truth: The SAT is accepted by all College entrance exams. In fact, colleges and universities don’t have a preference for other tests over the SAT. 

Myth 4: SAT prep classes are very expensive.

Truth: The College Board has partnered with the Khan Academy to offer Free, personalized Offical SAT Practice. 

Myth 5: Don’t take the SAT twice. 

Truth: 2 out of 3 students actually improve their scores when taking the SAT more than once. 

five myths about taking the sat

How many of those myths did you think were truths? These days it’s not your Mama’s SAT, folks. Have questions? Email me or tweet them using #ChoosetheSAT.  

In the next installment in the series, we’ll explore ways to help students with SAT study and prep. You may be surprised by what is not on the test anymore, I sure was.  

Note to parents: If your child hopes to take the March 2018 SAT, the deadline for registration if February 9th, 2018. I know getting those dates right and not missing deadlines was an issue in our house. Get more info on registration here.  

Even for Tech Savvy Kids…

Ah, the interwebs. What a wonderful world it can be. It can also be down right dangerous, even for tech savvy kids.
Today my youngest son {the 11 year-old} and his team of science guys are taking a video game they developed into competition. Listening to them rehearse their presentation the night before was one of those ‘Proud Parent’ moments that serve as reward for all the late nights, hectic days and endless hours of worry.   Raising a tech kid can be tough though.
The biggest challenge is the fact that nine times out of ten the kid speaks a foreign language.  Foreign to me that is.
Sometimes the look of pity on his face as he slows his speech and uses metaphors to explain to his mother what a particular line of code does, undoes me. Wait, I used to change your diapers child. When did you become smarter than me?!
With this latest project – he started writing simple code at age 8 – he and the team* are turning cyber safety for kids into a game. The team are all into basketball nearly as much as science, so that’s what the game is framed in. Play ball, get pointers on cyber safety. I sort of love it! 
What an amazing tool tech is for reaching kids, getting the message across. When I was growing up we had public service announcements – and that’s about it. Remember, “The More You Know?” The jingle more than the message got stuck in your head.
Even if they are getting the message though sometimes tech is such a big part of their daily life they may miss some things. A perfect example comes from a recent field trip both of my youngest kids went on.
We love the USA Science and Engineering Festival! The whole family went to the last one. How awesome to rock out with The Might Be Giants, listen to Bill Nye THE science guy speak, and remote-drive a rover across the ocean floor from the DC convention center?! Way, cool!
Science is the best idea humans have ever had. The more people who embrace that idea, the better.  ~Bill Nye
Sadly this year we couldn’t go as a family. Thankfully the kids made it there with their STEAM club from school. An epic field trip filled with some serious science. I so wished to be there that I let the boy take along my Droid Turbo 2. After all it’s pretty much unbreakable.
The phone performed like a dream. Check out the super cool shark pic he snapped.
Sadly it’s made from trash found in the ocean. Giant brains, rocket boosters, 3D printed prosthesis, he texted me tons of science awesome. Then he thought I might like to walk through with him.
Even for tech savvy kids
Since we’re Verizon customers, even the kid knew he’d be connected and could do that. What he didn’t do was ask permission. Smart kid that he is he just tapped open mom’s Periscope app and then texted me to watch. It never occurred to him that the settings on the app would allow his video to be viewed by anyone, anywhere, who was also on Periscope. Nor did the danger that could come from that occur to him.
even for tech savvy kids…
He didn’t know that those people watching would know exactly where he was, what he was doing, who was with him. I think it just really didn’t get, until that moment, how very big the world is and how small tech can make it. I quickly deleted the automatic Tweet sent out by the app, had him turn it off and uninstall it from the phone.
Once he was back home {and I could breath again} we had a long talk. I spent some time on the Verizon website’s Tips for Parents page and over at The Online Mom. Obviously this kid wasn’t the only one who was missing a few things about safety on the net. I needed to step up my game too.
How about you? Have you had any scary parent moments online? Better yet, got any tips for us?
* they call themselves the ‘Five Fists of Fury,’ in true nerd fashion. 
Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

Study Abroad Because…?

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Gingerbread House in the State Dinning Room

The White House was decorated for the Holidays, beautifully picturesque and embodying all that is good, familiar and comfortable in our country.  Traditional vignettes were everywhere; the smell of freshly cut pine, the sumptuous float of color on mantels, the brilliant shine of ornaments and the inviting twinkle of lights evoked a yearning for the Rockwellian innocence of American Christmases past.

It would have been easy to become swept away in the grandeur, delighting in my snug little box of national pride.  But, that’s not why I was there. 

I was there to consider the value in sending American children to other countries as part of the White House Travel Bloggers Summit.

America is the land of opportunity, right? So why encourage your precocious progeny to pursue knowledge beyond our borders in a place where those “A’s” they earned in foreign language classes might not be so impressive? Why?

Because it will change  their life, yours and maybe the world.

Study abroad is for everyone and we must prepare our future leaders — American students of all backgrounds — for the global workforce and to be global citizens.” ~ Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs

Studying abroad opens minds and doors for our children, providing better job opportunities, making the connection between what is found in a textbook and how it translates into application on a local and global scale. And frankly, it makes them far more interesting.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s address summed up eloquently, the core reasons why both travel and study abroad should play a key role in the education of all Americans,

“…travel outside our borders can add a new dimension to a person’s social and cultural intelligence – and one’s knowledge of how people abroad interact and do business with one another…In this day and age, more and more employers want to hire people with a true “world view” with the adaptability and openness that comes with having experienced other cultures.”

The Secretary sited a survey by MetLife that found 65% of Fortune 1000 executives identified global awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career.

Study Abroad is a relevant, important, life skill.

Applying this message to myself, I considered my own years abroad. My study abroad experience wasn’t traditional. There was no “convincing my parents” that there was value in it, that I was mature enough, able thrive living a content away in a country where I barely spoke the language. They didn’t have to struggle to find the funds needed to send me. A set of orders from the Secretary of the Navy rendered those points moot.

Yet the years I lived in Spain – explored Europe and North Africa, studied life – imbued me with the same depth of understanding of our oneness, illustrated firsthand the impact of global citizenship, and the power in person-to-person exchange of ideas and values. 

The knowledge I gained in my early adulthood travels is with me to this day. It is the spark that kindled my passion for travel,  my need to continue to build relationships with the people I meet – be that down the street or digging beets out of the ground with a farmer in Jamaica – and to help my children see the value in these experiences. It was the beginning of an unquenchable wanderlust.

Living abroad changed me forever, for the better.  It allowed me to explore and appreciate of our differences while becoming keenly aware of our sameness, of those threads that run through each of our stories that form the binding of a book this the greater anthology of humanity.

The summit was also used to announce the opening of the State Department’s new U.S. study abroad office, which will manage some of their premier study abroad programs. The office will join advocating for the benefits of study abroad, and bringing resources to those interested in participation. To that end, they announced a partnership with the Institute of International Education and College Week Live to launch the first ever Virtual U.S. Study Abroad Fair that will be taking place on February 25th on-line and everywhere. (for updates connect with the State Department Exchange Programs on Facebook )

In the midst of the busy holiday rush, as we shop and shop, furiously checking off the “wants” on Christmas lists and hunting down longed-for toys, I invite you to consider some “needs”. 

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Christmas Tree in the East Wing

The need for shortening the bridge between cultures. 

The need for uniting the threads of our world into a tapestry of more peaceful understanding.

The need for living life fully, for contributing meaningfully to the creation of future history.

As you sip cocoa in the firelight this season and listen to the strains of “Joy to the World”,  I invite you to think of THE WORLD.

I’ll be back in Part Two of this series to share information gleaned in our family’s quest to find a the Study Abroad program that works with our resources and suits Kaytie’s (our teenage daughter) goals. She seems to have an ever-changing list of places she wants to go and things she’d like to focus on… none of which include cleaning her room.

Patent pending, Hyperactivate

Is There a Drug Dealer in Your Medicnine Cabinet?

Parenting teens.  It’s hard, you guys. Way harder than I ever imagined, and I’m quite the overacting type. Really, it’s kind of my thing.

We try to keep them safe, try to educate ourselves on the new dangers that seem to crop up incessantly.  Take drugs, for instance.  Everyone knows to watch out for the drug dealers on the corners, right?  But, what if the drugs they might be getting that aren’t illegal?

What if the new danger  is currently residing in your medicine cabinet at home?  What if it’s something they can get on a seemingly innocent trip to Walgreens or Rite Aid?

October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Thanks to the ongoing work of the organization Stop Med Abuse, whose website and continuing prevention efforts are funded by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, my eyes have been opened to the dangers of the “recreational” abuse of Over the Counter (OTC) medicines by teens.

Cough syrup, y’all.  If taken in large enough doses, it can seriously mess you up.  And teens are doing just that, at an alarming rate.

The hidden culprit is dextromethorphan, aka (DXM).  Now, DMX is a safe and effective ingredient found in many over-the-counter cough syrups.  Trouble is, an overabundance of DMX can also result in hallucinations, mild distortions of color and sound, loss of motor control, vomiting, stomach pain.  For some teens, the “high” appears worth the risk.

It’s estimated that 1 in 20 teens reports using excessive amounts of DMX to get high.  One in 3 knows someone who has used cough medicine to get high. “Not my kid!” you say?  Lord, we hope not.  But those numbers come from somewhere.  Those are SOMEBODY’s kids.

Now, this may not be a new thing…but some of the terminology teens are using for this behavior IS new, and knowing the slang as parents gives us a weapon against it. The infographic lists some of the colorful “code” currently being used in school hallways, on cell phones and via text.  Skittling. Red devils.  Robo-tripping.  Tussin.  Triple C’s and dexing.

Keep your eyes and ears open, folks. Listen to your kids. If you see empty bottles in trash cans and backpacks, notice a change in physical appearance, friend interaction or see declining grades, pay attention.  I know I will…even though I hope I never, ever have to face this.

Most importantly, though?  TALK to them. I asked my teens -under our house, “I ask. you tell. We’ll both be cool about it.” rule- if they knew what some of those terms where, or if they knew of anyone who might have tried OTC meds to get high. They did, on both counts. I made sure to share the dangers, hopefully helping them “get it”.  I certainly let them know that I DO and I’ll be around, keeping an eye out and always here to talk. Teens are funny people. You can’t drag a conversation out of them most of the time, but they still want to know they can talk to you. Whatevs <—had to stick that in there to make them cringe, they love it when I try to talk “cool”.

My advice, talk. Talk even if they don’t. Talk even if you don’t think they are listening. It could mean the difference between a bad cold…and a whole lot worse.


For more information and useful resources for parents, log onto,”like” Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook, and follow @StopMedAbuse on Twitter.  We are using and promoting the hashtag #NotMyTeen all month because we are trying to empower parents to be sure it isn’t their teen.

This post was sponsored in part by I was compensated for my time, but this message would have been shared had no compensation been offered. This is stuff ALL parents need to know.