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Tom's Blog

How-To: Improve Your Child's Education

November 13, 2012 5:34 pm

Most parents want their children’s to have access to the best education possible. In fact, a new study of the American family's "passion points" from Just Kids, Inc. reveals that most families (45 percent) agree schools and education are their top priority. And while many parents are committed to supplementing the education their kids receive in school, parent involvement is currently at an all-time low.

According to studies by the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, students whose parents are involved in their education are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades and test scores.
  • Enroll in higher-level programs.
  • Pass their classes and be promoted.
  • Attend school regularly.
  • Adapt well to school, have better social skills, and even show improved behavior.

Graduate and pursue postsecondary education.
While parental involvement during the elementary school years is fairly strong, it tends to drop off dramatically when those children go on to middle and high school. There are several reasons for this:

Many parents feel that their children should do their homework alone, or that if parents aren't experts in a subject matter, they shouldn't try to help.

Middle and high schools tend to be bigger than elementary schools, and less personal.

The structure of the school day can also be a problem for parents -- instead of one teacher that parents can contact, students have multiple teachers who don't know them that well.

"Of all the choices we as parents will make in our lifetime, decisions about our children's education are among the most important," says Rose Fernandez, parent advocate and founder of the National Parent Network for Online Learning. "Schools need to do more to get parents involved and parents need to raise the bar on what they expect of their schools, the teachers and themselves."

Fernandez says schools that succeed in engaging families from diverse backgrounds share three key practices:

Focus on building trusting, collaborative relationships among teachers, families and community members.

Recognize, respect and address families' needs, as well as class and cultural differences.

Embrace a philosophy of partnership where power and responsibility are shared.

"If a school district doesn't establish parental involvement as a priority, if it doesn't define what it means, then parents need to take action," suggests Fernandez.

The ABCs of Parent Involvement

If you want to be more involved in your child's education, but aren't sure how, try implementing these ABCs.

Ask - Ask children specific questions about the school day. What projects are they excited about? What did they learn in a particular class? How did they feel? What were the highs and lows of the day? Ask, and then really listen to their answers.

Advise - You can't do homework for them, but you can help them establish a study routine, figure out how to use their time wisely and organize their notes, papers and supplies. Show them how to break large tasks into smaller ones so they won't be overwhelmed. And you can help them figure out how to research and get answers for themselves.

Advocate - You know your child better than anyone. If you see that your child is struggling—or isn't challenged enough—you can talk with teachers and counselors to get the help or additional resources they need.


Balance - Schoolwork is important, but it's equally important that students learn how to lead a well-rounded and balanced life. Encourage your child to join a club or sport, or participate in other extra-curricular activities. After-school activities can help their academic and personal development.

Be Proactive - Getting involved early in the school year can help head off some potential problems. But if problems do arise, don't wait to take action. Initiate dialogue with your child and with the teacher or counselor so that together you can find the best solution.

Build Relationships - Get to know the teachers and administrators at your child's school. Build relationships with other parents, and get involved on committees that affect the school. You can be a much stronger advocate for your child if you have relationships with the people involved in their education.

Create Space - Make sure your child has an appropriate place and environment in which to study. There needs to be room to spread out books, good lighting, and necessary tools such as dictionaries or calculators. Some students need a very quiet environment while others do better with some background noise. Suit the study space to your child.

Challenge - Don't let your child settle into "cruise control" and do just enough to get by. Find out what he or she is interested in and challenge them to stretch their minds in that subject. If your school doesn't offer a subject your child would like to study, or if the classes aren't sufficiently challenging, consider other options such as an online course for enrichment or extra credit. For example, K12 has a wide range of individual courses including foreign languages and college-level AP classes.

Communicate - Keep the lines of communication open with your student and your school. Make sure your child knows your expectations -- and when you are proud of his or her efforts and achievements. Stay on top of school communications tools such as newsletters and bulletins. Go to parent-teacher conferences, and make sure you have contact information for teachers and counselors at the school.

Other Options to Help Your Child Succeed
Traditional brick-and-mortar education isn't always the best fit for every student. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that school districts across the country had an estimated 1,816,400 enrollments in online education courses for the 2009-2010 school year.

Whether it's for a single course or full-time enrollment, there are several reasons parents choose online learning for their children:

  • The option to take AP and Honors courses.
  • Filling an academic void with art, music or other vital subjects not offered locally.
  • Resolving scheduling conflicts.
  • Retaking courses to catch up with peers, build self-esteem, and graduate on time.
  • Taking language classes not available at the local school.
Ask the Right Questions

  • Find out about teacher expectations of student performance. What percentage of the grade comes from tests, homework and class participation?
  • Find out about the school's stance on communication with parents. Are there regular check-ins with your child's teacher, either in person or via email? Is parental involvement in the education process welcomed or discouraged?
  • Find out how individual learning needs are met. Are there individualized education plans for students who struggle? How are the needs of gifted students met? Are there paraprofessionals available in class?

Choosing a Bank: 4 Things to Consider

November 13, 2012 5:34 pm

(BPT) - Life is full of everyday choices, from what you wear to where you shop. One of the most important choices you can make is where you choose to bank. Your bank is more than your corner market or mall - it's should provide ample choices to help you to make the best decisions for your lifestyle.

A bank is more than a place to withdraw and deposit money; it should be a financial partner. If you're unsure of whether your bank is truly committed to you as a partner, consider these questions: Are you paying additional fees for making an in-person transaction through a teller? Do you prefer mobile banking or need access to a branch? Look for a bank with expanded conveniences and financial choices, so you get exactly what you need.

If you're in the market for a bank that fits your lifestyle, here is a list of items to consider:

On-the-go choices
Aside from product and service offerings, it is important that your bank is available when and where you need it. Online and mobile banking are convenient ways to manage your financial accounts. Access to information like balances, pending transactions and banking history allows you to conveniently assess your account activities.

Convenient locations
Most banks' checking products include unlimited access to their branches, but consider how often you use another bank's ATM instead of your primary bank's ATM. Your bank should provide convenient locations and easy access to your money, no matter where you are. If you prefer having easy access to a branch, look for a bank with extended store hours, so you are able to visit it in the evenings or on the weekends.

Checking with choices
Of the products offered by a bank, a consumer's checking account is often the cornerstone of their banking relationship and you should get different checking account options. Your checking account can open the door to a larger relationship with your bank as you reach milestones in life, like buying your first home or preparing for retirement.

When deciding on a checking account, consider what you value in a bank. To find the best checking account for your lifestyle, consider the minimum monthly balance you will keep in your checking account. Some banks have minimum balance requirements as low as $100.

Choose change
If you're unhappy with your bank's options, the process of switching is not complicated. Some banks will even offer services to make the process hassle-free and help customers move their banking activity.

No matter the state of your current banking relationship, don't be afraid to talk to your bank and do your research about your choices. Your bank should make you feel valued and committed to help you make the best choice to fit your lifestyle.

Source: TD Bank

From Arizona to Hawaii, How Does Your City’s Air Fare?

November 13, 2012 5:34 pm

Are you breathing clean? On average, people take more than 21,600 breaths a day, yet two-thirds of the American population does not think about the quality of the air they are breathing.

The AirGenius Awards, sponsored by the makers of the new Honeywell AirGenius Air Cleaner, set out to ‘clear the air’ by assessing the nation’s cities based on specific criteria related to air quality.
So where can you find the cleanest air in America? In short, the answer is Florida. The awards, evaluated by scientists at the leading consulting firm Environmental Health & Engineering, highlighted six Florida metropolitan areas in the top 25, with Palm Bay/Melbourne/Titusville in first place.

“Data on pollen counts, particulate matter and ozone concentrations, public smoking laws, and ‘green’ city rankings for the 100 most populated U.S. cities were used in this assessment,” says Dr. Ted Myatt, ScD, a senior scientist at the leading environmental consulting company Environmental Health & Engineering and Biological Safety Officer at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts. “The results are relevant to city dwellers and homeowners, particularly the elderly, young children, and individuals with allergies or asthma.”

Below is a list of the top 10 U.S. areas with the cleanest air:
1. Palm Bay/Melbourne/Titusville, Fla.
2. Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Fla.
3. North Port-Bradenton/Sarasota, Fla.
4. Honolulu, Hawaii
5. Tucson, Ariz.
6. Colorado Springs, Colo.
7. Albuquerque, N.M.
8. Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, Wash.
9. Charleston/North Charleston/Summerville, S.C.
10. Lakeland/Winter Haven, Fla.


Word of the Day

November 13, 2012 5:34 pm

Blockbusting. Illegal practice of creating panic selling in a neighborhood for financial gain. Typically exploits racial and religious bias to get homeowners to sell low so the properties can be resold at a mark up.

Question of the Day

November 13, 2012 5:34 pm

Q: What Are Some Costs Associated with Selling My Home?
A: Besides the costs related to making repairs and improving the overall appearance of the home, as the seller you will also need to pay the following:

  • A real estate commission, if you use an agency to sell.
  • Advertising costs, marketing materials, and other fees if you sell the home yourself.
  • Attorney, closing, or other professional fees.
  • Title insurance
  • Excise tax for the sale.
  • Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, homeowner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.
  • Any other fees normally paid by sellers in your area, including points, survey, and appraisal fees.

To get a better handle on all costs, ask a real estate agent. Agents deal with this information daily and can give you a pretty good estimate of the closing costs you can expect to pay.

Junk in The Trunk (or Closet) Won’t Help You Sell Your House

November 12, 2012 5:30 pm

I recently ran across some great advice from Bob Fales, a real estate professional in Hampstead, Maryland. Fales says if you are selling your house, having a cluttered closet will damage your chances of getting the best price.

He believes that people will view cluttered closets as a sign your house doesn’t have enough storage. So here are some tips Fales offers to better organize your closets:

First, he says, invest in a closet organizer. Imagine how you (and potential buyers) would feel to see your closets tidily organized.

A closet organizer is probably the best way to achieve the look you are going for - and it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Fales says you can buy ready-made units that fit into most closets.

Most use a modular system that allows you to mix and match units and fit them together as you wish. You can choose between units made of solid panels or wire systems.

Alternatively, you can mix and match them both to meet your needs.

Closet organizers should include shelves for bulky items such as sweaters, drawers for smaller items, and rods for clothing that needs to be hung up. Consider also storage for shoes, such as a rack that hangs on the back of a door.

When designing your system, make sure you consider things such as the length of the clothes that are to be hung, and how much space you need to devote to items such as sweaters. Then, consider which items you need to access easily on a daily basis and which can be stored out of reach.

A closet that isn’t packed with useless stuff is easier to keep organized and will keep your clothes from getting crushed.

Hassle-Free Shipping Tips for Holiday Gift Giving

November 12, 2012 5:30 pm

For the millions of Americans traveling over the holidays, the details of planning and pulling off a trip can make the season anything but jolly. Fortunately, you can take some of the hassle out of holiday travel by planning—and shipping—ahead.

Ship Gifts Ahead
Instead of lugging gifts on an airplane or having gifts take up space in the car, consider shipping them to your destination ahead of time. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before sending your gifts on their way:

  • Use the proper materials: a new cardboard box designed for shipping, professional-grade packaging tape, and packaging material such as foam packaging peanuts or bubble cushioning (at least two inches all around).
  • Put a label inside of the package, including both the destination and return addresses.
  • Use a shipping option that provides a package tracking number.
  • Take batteries out of toys, electronics, etc., before shipping, and wrap them separately inside the package.
  • Seal home-made holiday treats in an airtight container or plastic bag before packing them in a shipping box. Use an expedited air service, such as UPS Next Day Air.

If you don't have the time or proper packaging supplies, or just need some help preparing gifts for shipment, you can take them to certified packing experts at The UPS Store and take advantage of their Pack & Ship Guarantee.

You can avoid long lines at the post office -- The UPS Store has extended hours during the holidays and also offers USPS services.

Key Dates for Holiday Shipping

Mondays are typically the busiest shipping days.

  • The busiest week of the 2012 season is expected to be December 17 to 21.
  • Most UPS Ground packages require five days or less to reach their destination, but if you're shipping coast-to-coast, it may take longer.
  • If you are shipping internationally, contact The UPS Store location nearest you to determine the best date to ensure on-time delivery.
  • The U.S. Postal Service says packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan should be mailed by Dec. 1 in order to arrive in time for Christmas; mail going to other military overseas APO/FPO locations needs to be sent by Dec. 16.

Last-Minute Shipping Dates (for delivery on Monday, Dec. 24)

  • Wednesday, Dec. 19 -- Ship UPS 3 Day Select
  • Thursday, Dec. 20 -- Ship UPS 2nd Day Air
  • Friday, Dec. 21 -- Ship UPS Next Day Air

Ship Luggage Ahead
To cut down on baggage fees and time in line at the airport, you may want to think about shipping your luggage. There are several ways you can do this: shipping a suitcase as-is; packing and shipping a suitcase in a box; or purchasing a luggage box instead of using a suitcase.

By putting luggage in a box, you can protect your luggage and provide a good surface for a shipping label.

Here are some helpful tips for packing and shipping your luggage:

  • Be sure to notify the place you will be staying that you are expecting a package. That way, they will sign for the package even if it arrives before you do.
  • Make sure you have the correct destination address. Some hotels and resorts have a separate luggage receiving address.
  • Put an additional address label inside the luggage or box in case the outside label is damaged or lost.
  • Cut down on your hassle by having your shipment professionally packed at a local pack-and-ship retailer, such as The UPS Store. Expert packing is especially recommended for fragile items and odd or oversized items.
  • By using a shipping option such as UPS, you can track your luggage all the way to its destination, even via cell phone or other web-enabled wireless devices.
  • If you are shipping your belongings ahead to your destination, you'll probably need to send items back home as well. One option is to pack a flattened box and a roll of packaging tape for sending home gifts, souvenirs, or even dirty laundry.
  • Because of the duties and taxes associated with international shipments, it is not recommended that luggage is shipped internationally.

The average weight of an empty suitcase is 10 pounds. To reduce weight -- and shipping costs -- skip the suitcase, and pack your clothes and other items directly in a sturdy box. Select The UPS Store locations now offer two sizes of luggage boxes that can replace a suitcase. A large luggage box weighs about 4 pounds and a small box about 3 pounds.

Both boxes meet airline baggage restrictions, so you could take them on your flight instead of suitcases, if you wish. The small box can be carried on, and the large box can be checked in without assessing an additional oversize charge.

With a little forethought and a bit of planning, a few proactive steps can help ensure your holiday travel goes smoothly. To learn more about rates and your best holiday shipping options, use the online cost calculator at

Be Prepared

Minimize travel hassles by doing some prep work before you leave town.

If you're checking baggage, don't pack items you can't do without. If your luggage gets lost or delayed, you'll miss those essential items. Pack them in your carry-on bag.

Whether you're driving or flying, make the time go faster with plenty of entertainment for the whole family. Load up mobile devices with games, songs, ebooks and movies. Give each child their own entertainment backpack with age-appropriate toys and activities.

Make sure your vehicle is road-ready. Have it looked at by your local auto shop to be sure everything is in good working condition. Make sure tires are inflated properly. And pack a winter safety kit, just in case.

Shipping Safely
Due to FAA restrictions, you cannot ship hazardous materials, including colognes and perfumes, aerosol sprays, nail polish and cigarette lighters via air service.

There are two good rules of thumb to follow to avoid shipping hazardous materials:

If it's flammable, take it out of your luggage.

If you're in doubt, remove the item from your luggage, or ask a The UPS Store packing expert.


Celebrating the Holidays with Your Pet

November 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Holiday time means more family time—and that includes time with your four-legged family members. If your pet deserves some special holiday love, here are some "pawfect" ideas to help you celebrate the holidays together.

Stocking Stuffers - Hang a stocking on the mantle for your pet and fill it with holiday toys and treats. A new chew toy, a catnip-filled mouse, special treats to eat -- there are plenty of ways to fill up a pet stocking with fun, budget-friendly items.
Showing Holiday Spirit - Dress up your pet with some seasonal winter outfits. Too cutesy for you? A holiday colored collar can give a more subtle effect.
Safe Treats - Dogs would love to nibble on your holiday table scraps, but that's not always a good thing. Keep your treats out of their reach, and make pets their own holiday bites with the new Sunbeam Gourmet Dog Treat Maker. You can make delicious doggie snacks using ingredients already in your pantry, like peanut butter.
Share the Love with Pet-Themed Gifts - The Top Fin Grinch and Max Sleigh Fishbowl is a fun, decorative piece that will look great in your child's room. Personalized food dishes, mats and pet beds are always a special gift to give. Or, win over the wine lover in your life with pet-themed wine glasses and accessories.
Gifts that Give Back - You can help save homeless pets by purchasing collectible Luv-A-Pet plush toys. This year choose from Chance, the adopted dog; Lucky, the adopted cat; and a special Bret Michaels-inspired version of Chance. Ten percent of the purchase price goes to PetSmart Charities, the largest funder of animal-welfare efforts in North America.


Word of the Day

November 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Blanket mortgage. Single mortgage that covers more than one real property, i.e. – a house plus the vacant lot next door.

Q: How Can I Get a Quick Sale, Particularly in a Slow Market?

November 12, 2012 5:30 pm

A: One of the most important things to consider is price. You may want to reduce the price of your home or, at the very beginning, set it at a low price that will generate more buyer interest.

Cash is often an incentive, both for the buyer as well as the agent. You could offer the buyer a $1,000 to $2,000 decorating rebate upon closing the deal. It is also not uncommon to offer the selling agent a $500 bonus. However, some brokers – who supervise agents and run real estate offices – may prohibit such incentives, as do some Realtor boards. Check to find out.

Other common incentives: paying for the property inspection and warranty policy and getting your home preliminarily approved for FHA and VA loans, thereby making it more attractive to a larger number of buyers. Contact a lender who writes FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed loans.

Learn more about Philadelphia County, Doylestown, Northampton County, Hilltown, Montgomery County, Ottsville, Chester County and Richlandtown and search all the real estate listings in the Perkasie area MLS. We have packed our site with tons of information about Revere, Hilltown, Ottsville, Doylestown, Perkasie Real Estate and Northampton County Real Estate plus what you need to know about buying and selling a home or condo. I offer full a full range of professional real estate services. On this Perkasie real estate site find Perkasie In Town and Suburban Properties, Land, Lots, Perkasie Golf Homes for Sale, Luxury Estates, Town Homes, Perkasie New Homes for Sale, Perkasie Condos, Town Homes, Real Estate, Perkasie Luxury Estates, Equestrian Estates and Perkasie Executive Homes For Sale. Search for Homes for Sale in Perkasie. You can also Search for Homes for Sale in Lehigh County and it's surrounding counties. Lehigh Valley Real estate ad Lehigh Valley homes or properties for sale.

Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440 - PERKASIE

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