What’s Up With My Family? — App Helps Middle Schoolers Navigate Life

Posted on August 20, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Middle School Confidential™ 3: What’s Up with My Family? is a new IOS app, the next installment of the series for tweens and teens. The third edition continues the story of Jack, Jen, Chris, Abby, Mateo, and Michelle—a tight-knit group of friends in middle school—who are realizing that growing up often means changes at home. What’s Up with My Family? follows the gang as they each work through some difficult family situations and learn to appreciate the people they live with… even siblings!

What’s Up with My Family? is based on Book 3 of the award-winning Middle School Confidential series from Annie Fox, illustrated by Harvey Award-winner Matt Kindt. Designed for 8–14-year-olds, the app gives readers a look at how their peers handle family rules, resolve conflicts, and deal with common challenges of wanting more independence and more freedom to make their own choices. What’s Up with My Family? puts decision-making power into the hands of readers, with eight interactive quizzes that let them choose how they would handle different family situations.

What’s Up with My Family? is available for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) through the iTunes App Store for $2.99 USD in the Book Apps category. The app will soon be available for Android tablets and phones, including Kindle and NOOK. For more information about the series, visit www.MiddleSchoolConfidential.com where you can download the app icon and hi-res screenshots.

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Internet, Gaming, Podcasts, and Apps Tweens

Rules for a Middle Schooler’s iPhone

Posted on January 4, 2013 at 8:00 am

I love the rules from a mom to her son about the use of his new iPhone, among them:

6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.

7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).

17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.

And especially this one:

18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

These are great talking points for any parent and “digital native” child about the use of media and the importance of real-life interaction coming first.

 

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Parenting Tweens

Flipped

Posted on November 22, 2010 at 8:00 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for language and some thematic material
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense family confrontations, awkward moments
Diversity Issues: Sympathetic portrayal of disabled family member but other characters make cruel and ignorant remarks
Date Released to Theaters: August 27, 2010
Date Released to DVD: November 23, 2010
Amazon.com ASIN: B002ZG97KG

The director of “When Harry Met Sally….” has given us a middle-school variation, an on and off love story that begins in second grade when Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) and his family move in across the street from Juli Baker (an exquisite performance by Madeline Carroll). In Rob Reiner‘s film, based on a popular book for middle schoolers, Juli immediately falls for Bryce, which of course immediately makes him feel creeped out. Five years later, in middle school, he is still doing everything he can to avoid her. And she is still doing everything she can to be near him. And then, things change. She does not like him any more. And he realizes that she is a very special girl, and that he will do anything to re-earn her affection.

It isn’t just the emotions of the characters that are flipping here; it is also the point of view. We get to see the same situations from both sides, and we get to hear how the two characters’ perspectives do and do not overlap.

Reiner sets the story in the early 1960’s, and the movie has a flawless attention to period detail — the long hair parted in the middle, “Bonanza” on the television. But the essence of the story is eternal, with its impeccable evocation of that moment when we first begin to look at our families’ limits and imperfections and first begin to create the people we will grow up to be.

And not just our families. Juli does not question her love for Bryce for years. And then she becomes older and wiser and realizes that beautiful eyes do not always mean a beautiful spirit and that she really does not know him very well. Bryce may have lovely eyes, but it is not until he sees her through someone else’s eyes that he begins to appreciate her. Bryce’s grandfather (John Mahoney of “Frasier”) realizes Juli’s value first. “Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss,” he tells Bryce. “But every once in a while you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.”

Co-screenwriter/director Reiner lets us share the growing understanding of Juli and Bryce as they begin to see themselves, each other, and their families differently. And with great sensitivity and insight, he evokes the agonizing sweetness of first love and the way that it stays alive in us forever, making possible all of the loves that are to come.

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Great Movie Teachers, Part 3: Grade and Middle School

Posted on August 29, 2010 at 3:59 pm

In honor of the first day of school, I am reposting my list of some of my favorite movie teachers in elementary and middle school. Note that not all movies about kids this age are intended to be viewed by kids this age. (And be sure to check out my lists of great movie high school teachers and great movie college professors.)

10. Kindergarten Cop (PG-13) Now-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the tough cop who has to go undercover as a kindergarten teacher in this romance/comedy/action film. (High school and up for violence)

9. “Bright Road” (Not Rated)

bright road.jpg

Dorothy Dandridge is perhaps best remembered now as the pioneering black actress brilliantly portrayed by Halle Berry in the made-for-cable biopic and her own sizzling performance in “Carmen Jones.” But in this neglected film she shows range, sensitivity, and charisma with a subtle and sincere performance as an idealistic teacher in the pre-Brown v. Board of Education days of “separate but equal,” when no one even considered integrated schools as possible.

8. To Be and to Have (Not rated) This brilliant documentary about a compassionate teacher’s last year in a French one-room schoolhouse documents the persistence, generosity, and gentle wisdom of a man whose influence on a generation of students will last all their days.

7. Mad Hot Ballroom (PG for a few mild references to sex) This documentary about elementary school teachers coaching their students for a ballroom dance competition is touching, inspiring, funny, and fun. It may just have you trying out some steps yourself.

6. The King and I (G but some tense and sad moments) The resolute but kind-hearted British teacher sings “Getting to Know You” to her pupils, the children of the multiply-married king of Siam in this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

5. The Miracle Worker (Not Rated with some tense confrontations and violence) One of the most influential teachers in American history is vision-impaired Annie Sullivan, who taught blind and deaf Helen Keller the power of communication and with her changed notions of the abilities of the disabled forever.

4. The Magic School Bus (Suitable for all ages) The redoubtable Mrs. Frizzle takes her students on adventures everywhere from under water to outer space, even inner space, taking them inside the human body.

3. Matilda (PG for mild language and some bullying and insults) Roald Dahl’s classic story reminds us of the difference a sympathetic and supportive teacher can make in the life of a child who does not get sympathy and support at home.

2. School of Rock (PG for rude humor and drug references) Jack Black plays a reluctant teacher whose young students revitalize his passion for performing in a band in this delightful story. There’s a sequel in the works. And teens and adults will enjoy the documentary about a real-life Dewey: Rock School–but note that it has very strong language.

1. Paper Clips (G but subject matter concerns the Holocaust) This documentary about small-town teachers who teach their students revelatory and meaningful lessons about the Holocaust and its relevance to their lives shows us how the teachers can learn as much from the lesson as the students. Must viewing for all families.

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