The Teen Party Dilemma

How many birthday parties have you planned for your children? If you’re like me, it has added up to quite a few. When the kids are very small, it’s pretty easy: just friends and cake. Later on, you can take your pick of whatever Disney character, popular toy, or favorite activity your child is obsessed with to focus on as a theme.

What about when they’re a little older? Once your child hits the upper elementary grades, middle and then high school, all bets are off. They may deem all your creative ideas as “uncool.” You begin to think that you have to resort to pizza and a movie for the rest of the birthdays you’re responsible for.

I was stuck in the same boat. My daughter Ashley’s sixteenth birthday was rapidly approaching. I wanted to try something different, something to create long-lasting memories for my special girl. I asked Ashley if there was anything she wanted to do.

Cynthia Schrock

Cynthia Schrock is a housewife and homeschool mom who describes herself as a Domestic Engineer in charge of housing, transportation, education and some finances, who loves to celebrate any chance she gets.

She grew up on the mission field in Quito, Ecuador with Wycliffe bible translators before moving to Florida. She and her husband Eric have been married for 24 years. They share a passion for teaching parenting and helping other parents find joy in parenting when there seems to not be any found. They have two children Ashley and Matthew, who give them a reason to celebrate every day.

Cynthia loves life and wants to live it to the fullest. Being a kidney transplant recipient she knows how precious life is. She does not want to miss one moment of celebrating, living life, checking things off of her “bucket list” and bringing others along on her journey to help them celebrate each moment. Come Celebrate!

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A College Prep Secret You’ve Probably Never Heard

Are SAT or ACT scores important for college admission?  Maybe.

Does my kid need to be in the top 10% of his class to get into a good school? Possibly.

What about extra curriculars and volunteer work; are they really important on a college resume?  It depends.

Ready for a juicy college prep secret? This is one that you might have never heard, but it could be the single most important thing you do to your child get accepted to the school of her choice.

First Make a List of Top Schools in Your Student’s Field of Interest

Okay, so before I divulge the secret, we have to back up a bit. You’ve got to start by knowing what your kid is passionate about. If you’re not quite sure, take a look at Monday’s post.

Once you know what they absolutely love and the general direction they’re headed in, do a Google search on potential careers in that field. Sit down with your child and talk about it. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few things, find people in those fields who love their work, and let your kid talk to them.

Then, when you’ve got a handle on a strong potential career path, do a search on “Top Schools for [your child’s potential career].” Look at the schools’ websites with your student and pick out the ones that are most appealing. While you’re on their sites, sign up to receive free information on the school. It’s great to be on their mailing lists.

When Should You Start This? The Answer Might Surprise You!

So what’s a good age to start this search? 11th Grade? 9th? Summer before high school?

Nope. The best time to start this search is right before your student starts middle school!

Why so early, you ask? Because the information you get when you do what I’m about to suggest will help you plan the middle school years to set your kid up for the best opportunities during high school, which will make her the ideal candidate for her school of choice.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading. There’s a testimony below that may surprise you.

The Big Secret Revealed

Once you have your list of top school choices, look up the phone numbers for their admissions departments. Then call them. Don’t email. You’ll only get a stock response if you email. You have to get a human being on the telephone for an actual conversation. I know this flies in the face of our culture’s impersonalized, convenient, texting comfort zone, but a live voice on the other end of a telephone is the key to this secret.

Call in the summer! I’m not sure if it’s because they’re bored in the summer or it’s because they’re just not knee deep in applications at that time of year, but I’ve found that college admissions officers are conveniently chatty in the summer months.

The Script

Here’s the gist of what to say when you call:

“My child is planning to pursue a career in [fill in the blank], and your school is one of her top choices. We’ve still got a lot of time to prepare, and we want to help her become an excellent candidate for your program. Can you tell me more about what kinds of things you look for in the ideal [insert school name] applicant?”

Have a pen and paper handy and write down everything they say.

Stay away from questions about SAT scores and GPA requirements. You can get that information easily with a quick online search. You’re looking for the juicy stuff that will cause your child’s application to bubble to the top.

Over the past few years, Jody and I have spoken with many college admissions officers at many different types of schools, and guess what we found out? Every school is looking for different things!

And you might be surprised to know that colleges are not at all reluctant to share this information. In fact, in our experiences (especially if you call in the summer months) they seem excited to talk about it. And why wouldn’t they be? Colleges are businesses. They have goals and ideals, and most of those hinge upon the kind of students they attract.  So why wouldn’t they want to help a student become the perfect candidate for their program?

What was VERY surprising to us was that even within the same major, different schools seem to be looking for very different things.

Example #1 — The Air Force Academy

I have a son who has dreamed of being in the military most of his life. Even as a toddler, he was always out in the yard fighting off pretend “bad guys.” It wasn’t ever our influence. We didn’t really have any close friends or family who were in the military when he was little, and certainly, as a protective momma hen, sending my kid into battle wasn’t my first choice.

But at the end of the day, we have follow the path that THEY were created for, not the one we create for them. I have a cousin who always wanted to fly jets in the Air Force. My aunt wanted no part of it and encouraged him to go to college and then to law school instead. He did, but that thing kept nagging inside him, and today he’s an FBI agent and is certainly NOT living the safe attorney’s life that his mom wanted for him.

So even though I wouldn’t pick the soldier’s life for my son, it’s the desire of his heart, and I am committed to do everything I can to help him reach his goals.

Just before entering 6th grade, we began looking into the military academies. We settled on Air Force because at the time, it had some of the science programs that interested him.

I called the admissions officer, who basically gave me a step-by-step plan to get Seth accepted. When the guy asked me how old my son was, I sheepishly said, “Oh, he’s still quite young.”

“How young?”

With a little nervous giggle I answered, “Well…he’s going into 6th grade.”

“Oh no mam. He’s not too young. He’s in the Class of 2020, and this is the right time to get him registered on our website.”

Since then, Seth has received packages from the Air Force Academy about twice a year with information to encourage him on his journey. Middle school is an important time of discovery and preparation. For example, the Air Force Academy requires at least pre-calculous, but prefers calculous. In order to achieve that level of math, we HAD to start pre-algebra in 6th grade.

Now, as we followed the Air Force Academy plan, Seth began to realize that his true love is film making. He’s even learned that there are filmmakers in the military, but none of the academies seem to have programs suited for this. So we’ve since switched gears. We did, however, find an excellent film school that also has an ROTC program. So that is where we are headed, but nothing that we’ve done to prepare for the Air Force Academy has gone to waste. It has all been a huge benefit academically and physically (they require a very high level of physical fitness).

The bottom line — preparing for your child’s top choice school is NEVER a waste, even if they switch gears in the process!

Example #2 — Music School

My older daughter wants to be vocal recording artist. She sings at the Sarasota Opera House and has appeared in seven operas and is cast in a lead role in this fall’s production of The Hobbit. She sings on our church worship team and at open mic nights around town. She studies music theory and plays three instruments. Music is clearly her passion.

Her first choice school is The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. When I spoke with them last summer, I found out that their audition process is the single most important admissions factor. But, I also learned that they offer an annual audition workshop to help applicants prepare for the best audition possible, and they encourage applicants to come every year through high school.

Had I waited until later in high school to make that call, or not even called at all, I would have never known about the one thing that could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Next summer, as a rising junior, she’ll also be able to attend a vocal intensive summer program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia (one her top five schools), where she’ll meet faculty, work with successful artists and gain experience that will dramatically boost her admission prospects at almost any school. Again, had I not spoken with an admissions officer there, I wouldn’t have known about this important opportunity.

 

This Saturday at 10:00AM, we’re going to talk a lot more about this, particularly about some of the unusual things we’ve heard that could dramatically boost a college applicant’s chances of being accepted. Don’t miss it!

Sarasota folks, tune in live on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Everyone else, head over to the WSRQ Radio website and listen live streaming or download their mobile app to listen on the go.

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Out-Of-The-Box U

So, you’re starting to figure out what your kids are super interested in, maybe even passionate about. (If you’re not quite there yet, check out yesterday’s post for some inspiration.)

Now what? Where do you go with this information, and how do you help your kids dive deep into their interests without having to remortgage your house?

There are awesome opportunities tucked away in hidden places that you might not think about. You’ll have to be willing to do some research and log some miles on your car, but it’s totally worth it.

Hidden Treasures in Museums and Libraries

When I lived in NJ (Jenni speaking), we were members of the Newark Museum, and a few times a year, the museum offered inexpensive but awesome classes. One daughter, who was about eight at the time, took a jewelry making class.

The instructor would take the kids to a specific location in the museum where the kids would study a particular art form from a different time period and culture. Then they’d return to the classroom and make jewelry inspired by what they’d studied. The stuff they produced was way beyond anything she would have ever made at home. In fact, one of her pieces won second place at the county fair, and it was judged along with adult entries.

One of my sons took a profile picture that trained his eye to look for art in the world around him. I remember one day in particular when the whole class went outside and spent the day photographing only shadows.

Another son, my resident scientist at the time, took a slime class. They spent the whole six week session making all kinds of polymers that they could play with.

Libraries can also have hidden opportunities. Some have teen knitting groups. Some offer master gardener classes or special guest speakers. Kids can learn all about bats or participate in an African music class or join a Lego club. Some libraries offer business help for young entrepreneurs or American Red Cross Babysitting Certification classes. One year, my daughter won a $50 gift certificate just for writing a winning book review through our local library.

Google Is Your Best Friend

You can find all sorts of treasures by simply making Google your best friend. So, let’s say you have a child interested in photography like I do (Jody speaking). Go to Google and search for local clubs, free workshops and photography studios that offer classes.

This summer one of my daughters is taking a few summer workshops at Ringling School of Art. What she has learned in these few weeks is irrefutably key to her future success as a photographer. She is also following bloggers who are experts in the field, mimicking their different styles and techniques and mastering her craft. This is one of the many ways to help your kids become experts in what they’re passionate about.

My other daughter was convinced she wanted to own a bakery. We found out that Michael’s Arts and Crafts Store offers cake decorating classes. So, for her birthday, the entire family bought her everything she needed to bake unique cakes and cupcake accessories and all the tools to create her own little bake shop, and my sister purchased the first round of classes for her.

It was one of the best things we ever did, and we all enjoyed her delectable desserts. Yes, I had to diet once she exhausted her passion for that field. But, what she learned was irreplaceable. She figured out that she loved to bake and make specialty desserts, but only for special occasions. This was NOT something she wanted to do for a living. Good thing we figured that out in middle school and not in business college!

Look for local stores that sell supplies for your child’s interest and see if they offer classes. My daughter (Jenni here) has her own henna tattoo business. She gets her supplies from a store in Orlando, which is about two hours from our house. Next month, we’re heading up there for a full day of henna classes to help her hone her skills. While she’s there, she plans to rub elbows with some other artists and find out new ways to get more business.

Oddly enough, Skyler’s whole henna business was birthed out of a desire to take an art class. She’s an artsy kid by nature, but she wasn’t satisfied with her drawing ability. That one class opened a whole new world for her. Check out her henna designs here

Hidden Treasures in Your City

Do you have any historic societies or science centers in your community? Get on their mailing lists and find out what they’re doing. You might unearth some great treasures.

Does your city offer opera, orchestra, dance, live theater or bazaars? How about art shows? Are there galleries? What about restaurants (sometimes restaurant owners will let your kids tour the kitchen and make their own food).

Mark your calendar for the county fair and any other fairs your town might offer.  Get people’s business cards, and see if they’ll let you visit their farm or work studio.

Experiences fuel passion, and the people who are living and breathing their craft are great resources for helping us give our kids specialized experiences. Which leads us to this…

Sailing on the Right Ships: Mentorships, Internships and Apprenticeships

Contact local zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and other specialized attractions in your area, and see if they offer official internship programs.

Find a professional in your child’s field of interest who will allow him to job shadow for a few days. If it goes well, talk to the person about possibly mentoring your child.

Travel Required

Jenni and I have done some pretty crazy things to get our kids to places so they can have an experience that will fuel their passion . . . but I think we’re called to do that.

When Chase, my oldest son, was in middle school, we knew he wanted to pursue a career in law and politics. Politics was not my specialty, but this boy couldn’t get enough of it. I knew I had to get him to places where he could learn first-hand what it was all about. So, with two little ones in tow, I drove ninety minutes each way for five days in a row to get him to our state capital in Springfield, IL so that he could participate in a week long camp that would teach him about our political system and allow him to network with representatives and senators in our home state.

Well, that laborsome effort definitely paid off. Out of that experience, Chase was given an opportunity to work for our senator during the summer (his office was only twenty minutes from us – whew!), page for him later at the capital and later campaign for a representative in Missouri. Well, that passion at 12 years old catapulted him into law school and has turned into a career placing him with a group of attorneys that bring awareness to the Federal Budget.

But these trips don’t have to be a total wash for mom and dad. When Jenni and I take her daughter Skyler up to Orlando next month for a day of henna boot camp, we’re going to spend the day at a nearby cafe with WiFi working on our keynote talks for a 2015 homeschool convention (and we’ll manage to squeeze in some fun too). But if you want to work at home, just make sure you have this Wi-Fi Router to get the best speeds.

Summer Camps

Specialized summer camps can have a steep price tag, but they can be a great investment in your kid’s future. My daughter Skyler (Jenni speaking) wants to be a vocal recording artist. A number of top music schools offer intensive summer programs that will not only build skills and experience, but it will allow her to make valuable connections with working artists.

One of my sons wants to be a filmmaker in the military. The New York film academy offers middle and high schoolers camps with A-List producers, directors, screenwriters and actors.

There are excellent summer opportunities for nearly every interest.

We’re going to talk more about this and how to help your kids get into their first choice school this Saturday at 10:00AM on Parenting On Purpose With Jenni and Jody. We’ll be talking about how finding our kids’ passion is instrumental in preparing them for their future.

Sarasota locals can catch us on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM, but anyone can listen in on live streaming on WSRQ or get directions to download a mobile app and listen on the go.

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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DGT – Don’t Get Trafficked!

Maybe it’s because we’re connected to the people who started Selah Freedom (who, by the way, are guests on the radio show today — scroll down for info on how to tune in) or maybe it’s because human trafficking has been such a hot topic in our neck of the woods, but whatever the reason, it’s been on the forefront of our minds, and we are constantly talking to our kids about it. So much so that we have a little saying as the kids get out of the car or are heading out the door: “DGT!” which they know means, “Don’t Get Trafficked!”

I guess it’s a little on the morbid side, but we talk about it so often that we’ve had to lighten things up a bit.

In all seriousness, it’s super important for us to make our kids aware of this threat. Approximately 200,000 American kids are in danger of being trafficked every year — mostly to be sold into the commercial sex industry — and it’s not just our girls who are at risk; boys make up 50% of the sex trafficking industry.

Traffickers intentionally target kids who lack assertiveness, confidence and self esteem, so let’s teach our kids what confidence looks like — shoulders back, head up and attentive. Our kids need to become comfortable looking people in the eye and smiling to communicate self-esteem and assertiveness.

We also have to teach our kids how to recognize a red flag — that inner sense that something’s not right — and how to heed those internal warnings.

Let’s also use the obnoxious parade of sexual images in the media as a springboard for regular conversation about healthy relationships and a sober understanding of sexuality.

What does a trafficker look like? Well, I can tell you what they don’t look like — they’re not the creepy guy off in the corner staring at girls in the food court. Traffickers are savvy. They want their targets to trust them. Sometimes traffickers hire middle men to help attract victims, and these middle men can look like a peer — another teen or a young adult. They might be well dressed and super friendly. Traffickers might even be women or a young couple. Our kids have to be extremely careful.

Traffickers might offer to buy their targets expensive gifts. They usually ask for a teen or pre-teen’s phone number, and they often use flattery to build rapport. They may claim to know famous people and may offer to help the teen or pre-teen get into modeling or acting or offer to help them make money. Traffickers may also offer to help kids run away.

When my kids were little and we did the whole stranger-danger thing, I told them that if any adult who they do not know ever asks them for help, they should come get me right away. No sensible adult will ask a small child for help unless they have bad intentions.

Now that my kids are older, I tell them that they need to be very suspicious of anyone offering to help them make money or meet someone famous. Those people have ulterior motives for sure, and of course, anyone who offers to help a kid runaway is nothing short of a criminal. These are big danger signs, and our kids can be trained to spot them.

For more great tips to keep our kids safe, join us this morning at 10:00AM ET. Sarasota listeners can tune into 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Everyone else can go to WSRQ Radio’s website to listen streaming or get instructions on how to download a mobile app and listen on the go. If you missed the broadcast, check back next week. It will be in the podcast section.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Do You Know the Truth About Child Sex Trafficking?

I grew up in the 80s, in the wake of the Adam Walsh abduction, which may have single-handedly kicked off the whole “stranger danger” campaign to keep kids safe from kidnapping. He was born the same year  I was, and his abduction from a Sears department store and subsequent murder hit close to home for my family, and it instilled a chilling fear in the parents of my generation.

Although Adam Walsh’s killer was never charged, it was believed to have been the act of a serial killer. It was one of the first widely publicized cases of its kind, and it freaked our parents right out!

Their fear led to a more conservative kind of parenting, and that was a good thing, but in actuality, those kinds of kidnappings — the kind that involve a stranger who either kills, ransoms or intends to keep the child permanently — are pretty rare. Out of 800,000 missing children under the age of 18, only 115 were that kind.

But there’s a relatively newer danger out there that is not as rare. According to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, there was a 1,000 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of child sex trafficking from 2004 to 2008.

And in the U.S., sex trafficking accounts for the largest percentage of human trafficking cases. Approximately 200,000 U.S. kids per year are at risk of being trafficked for prostitution and/or child pornography. When you want to get rid of your porn addiction resulting to this, go to pornographyaddiction.com now to learn more.

Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex.

Surprising Truths about Child Sex Trafficking in the U.S.

1. Boys make up 50% of the sex trafficked victims in the U.S.

Kids under 18 are sold into sex slavery as young as seven years old, and about half of all those trafficked for sex are boys.

2. Traffickers may go to great lengths to recruit victims

While illegal drugs and fire arms can only be sold once, sex slaves can be sold again and again, and traffickers are often willing to invest time and money in recruiting a victim who can potentially bring in large revenue streams.

Stop by on Friday. We’ll talk more about how some of the traffickers lure their victims, and what we can do to protect our kids.

3. Some children are sold into the sex trade by their parents or guardians

If you’re reading this post, it’s because you love the snot out of your kids, and you are deliberate about protecting them. I know its hard to imagine, but there are some parents who are so caught up in their own addictions or tormented by their own demons that they’re willing to sell their own children.

A few years ago, we heard of a case not too far from where we live in which a woman told her daughter to invite over a friend. This mom offered to take pictures of the girls that they could post on social media (what teen girl doesn’t like a fun photo shoot?), but she then posted the pictures of the friend on a site frequented by traffickers.

Once she made the sale, she arranged for the girl to come over again, and the girl was sold into the sex trade.

It goes without saying that we have to be so careful about who we allow our children to interact with.

4. Trafficked children are often treated as criminals despite a federal law that classifies anyone under the age of 18 involved in commercial sex as a victim

The laws in the country are deeply flawed. A couple of years ago, Jody and I saw a screening of the movie Nefarious: Merchants of Souls, where we learned that in Sweden it’s the sex buyers who are charged with a crime, not the sellers.

Prostitutes in Sweden are treated as victims, not criminals. And while the girls caught in prostitution are rehabilitated, the Johns are prosecuted. Since 1999, when this became law, Sweden has seen a 67% drop in prostitution.

Let’s face it — no little girl dreams of growing up and becoming a prostitute. Even those who are consenting are not really selling their bodies by choice. Typically it’s just the opposite — they feel as if they have no other choice. And that’s especially true when we’re talking about kids.

But in spite of the legal definition of sex trafficking that includes any commercial sex act involving a minor, many of these young people are arrested for prostitution and treated like criminals rather than being rescued by law enforcement and treated like the victims of a heinous crime (which they are). This is especially true for underage boys caught in commercial sex acts. This is my last tip on how to last longer in bed, try this and tell me how it works for you.

5. Women can be both traffickers and buyers

Although most trafficked victims service 25 – 55 year old white males (according to a study done by John Jay College of Criminal Justice), 40 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls studied say they’ve serviced women, and 13 percent of boys serviced women exclusively.

Not only are some women buying sex from kids, but some reports say that 35 – 40 percent of the traffickers are women.

6. Many kids caught in sex trafficking don’t see themselves as victims.

If you don’t think you’re a victim, you won’t try to get help. Many of these kids have been brainwashed to believe that their pimp is their greatest caretaker and they are selling themselves out of “love” for and an emotional obligation to the pimp.

Some of the kids are conditioned to believe that this all they are capable of doing. It’s their only hope.

And others, who have survived so much (witnessing beatings, murders, drug overdoses and more) shun the victim label. They see themselves as survivors who can take care of themselves without the pity of law enforcement.

Tune In To The Experts

We hope today’s post shed some new light on this threat. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts, and don’t forget to tune into Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody this coming Saturday (May 24th). We’ll be talking to experts on this topic. Sarasota/Manatee friends can listen on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Out of towner listeners can go to the WSRQ radio website to listen streaming or to get instructions on how to download a mobile app to listen on the go.

If you miss Saturday’s show, you can always listen to the podcast here at jenniandjody.com or on iTunes.

Stop back on Friday. We’re going to talk about how parents can take purposeful steps to prevent their children from becoming targets of sex traffickers.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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What Do You Know About Modern Day Slavery in America?

Slavery is alive and well here in the U.S. In fact, there could be someone in your own community who is being exploited against his or her will.

We are certainly no experts on this topic, but this coming Saturday, May 24th, on Parenting on Purpose radio show, we will be talking to experts about human trafficking. It’s a growing issue that is affecting Americans, and we need to be wise.

Although there are many forms of human trafficking, sex trafficking is the most prevalent in our country, and this presents a big risk for our kids. Approximately 200,000 American kids are lured into sex trafficking each year. As their parents, we need to be aware of what’s happening so we can protect them.

As we gear up for this Saturday’s show, we’re going to talk about human trafficking this week. Today is a basic overview. Stop by Wednesday — we’ll talk more specifically about sex trafficking, and then on Friday, we’ll offer tips to prevent your child from becoming a victim.

Human trafficking is basically synonymous with modern day slavery.

According the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for labor, services or commercial sex acts by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery or any commercial sex act involving a minor.

Human Trafficking is divided into two basic categories: labor and commercial sex. Let’s look briefly at how those things play out right here on our own soil.

Forced Labor

This is slavery in its purest form — people being forced to work against their will without pay (or adequate pay). It’s more common in the hospitality industries, manufacturing and agriculture, but it can be going on just about anywhere, right under our noses.

For example, some farmers use contracted laborers from companies who traffic the workers. The farmers don’t ask questions because they believe they need the cheap labor to stay in  business.

Chinatown in New York City is becoming a hub for trafficking in the restaurant industry. People are being shipped out to different parts of the country, forced to work long hours in buffet-style and other restaurants with little to no pay and very few days off.

The victims in these situations are often foreign, and their captors have seized their passports and use fear and intimidation to keep them in servitude.

But our kids are not immune to being forced into labor. In October 2013, right here in Florida, two men were arrested for forcing underage kids to travel in a van and sell magazine subscriptions door to door. The kids were made to work long hours without proper food or water.

The sign on the van said Teens Against Drugs and Alcohol. People buying these subscriptions probably thought they were doing good, but in actuality, they were lining the pockets of the bad guys.

Bonded Labor

Here’s how it often goes down. A trafficker lures a victim to travel to the U.S. with promises of great work and an opportunity for a prosperous life. But when they get here, the trafficker tells them they have to pay off their travel expenses (and later on, their living expenses) by working without pay. Usually the trafficker withholds their identification documents and tells them that if they try to run, they’ll be imprisoned and raped or tortured by the U.S. government.

Involuntary Domestic Servitude

This can be either standard forced labor or bonded labor, but it applies specifically to victims who are being enslaved in a household. They are often foreigners who are forced to cook, clean and care for children without pay.

Read the story of Ima Matul — a survivor of involuntary domestic servitude who now helps other survivors at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST).

Sex Trafficking

This is the biggest threat to our kids. So much so that we’re going to devote Wednesday’s post just to this topic. Sex trafficking is multi-billion dollar worldwide industry.

“Dealing girls is like dealing drugs,” says a 29 year-old trafficker. “The difference is the drug you can only sell once, but the girl you can sell a thousand times. Run away girls in America are such easy targets.”

Run aways are certainly at a high risk, but many girls (and boys) who are not runaways are lured into sex trafficking rings. Stop back on Wednesday, and we’ll tell you more about it.

And mark your calendar to tune into Saturday’s human trafficking show from 10:00 – 11:00am Eastern Time. Our guests are from Selah Freedom, here in Sarasota. They’re going to tell us more about this problem, how to recognize signs of a trafficking victim and ways to protect our kids.

Listeners in Sarsota or Manatee can tune in to 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Everyone else can listen live streaming on the WSRQ website. You can also get instructions on how to download a mobile app and listen on the go.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a free Human Trafficking Awareness Training. It’s short and easy to use. Check it out.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Party Thank You Notes

Every party in our house starts and ends with thank you notes. As we’re planning, we decide how we’re going to handle the thank you’s. Then, as the guests arrive, we have someone stationed at the front door to write out name tags, talk to parents about any issues such as food allergies and have the parents fill out an envelope with their child’s name and address. This helps us make sure we don’t overlook thanking anyone, and it makes thank you note writing a breeze!

I like to keep the thank you cards in my bag the week following the party, and have the birthday boy/girl write work on them during short moments of waiting (standing on a long line in the store, waiting for the dentist, on a commercial break, etc.)

When it comes time for presents, we assign one person the job of recording the gifts. Give the person a pen and pad, and after each gift is opened, hand the card to this person so he/she can describe the gift on the back of the card. The pad is handy for any gifts that don’t come with a card. Keep all cards in one gift bag, and after the party, take our your party planning notebook, and write the gifts next to the names of participants.

Not only is important for our kids to get in the habit of sending handwritten thank you notes, but it’s also a good educational tool. I give my kids a small spiral notebook with a photocopy of the guest/gift list clipped to the front. Then I have them write rough drafts of each note in the notebook. When they’re done, either my husband or myself or an older sibling proofreads the drafts, and then the kid copies their notes into the actual thank you cards.

 

Stop by tomorrow — we’re going to wrap up this series on birthday party planning with a look at the photographs!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Kids Party Favors

This past week we’ve been talking about planning kids’ birthday parties. Today we’re focusing on party favors.

As with decorations, invitations and activities, it’s great to tie these into the party theme.

Whenever possible, we like to incorporate favors into the activities. For example, at our Backyard Habitat party, the kids made mosaic designs on a terra cotta pot, built bird houses out of milk cartons, and made seeded bird treats. Those were the favors.

One year we had a car party, and all the kids took trucks and cars dipped in paint and rolled them across white t-shirts. It was a hit, so at a Bug Party, we had kids dip their fingers in paint and use their colorful finger prints to create bug shirts (lady bugs, caterpillars, spiders, etc.). Painting t-shirts is a fun way to make a wearable keepsake.

As you choose favors, look for things that kids actually enjoy having. It’s a sad day when a party ends in tears because the favors break before they even make it out the door. Punching balloons are surprising hit and are really inexpensive, and you can never go wrong with edible treats or fun how-to’s (i.e. a piece of origami paper with instructions from the internet). 

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Thank You Notes. We’ve got some fun tips to make this easier. In the meantime, leave us a comment with your favorite party favors.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Kids Party Decorations

This week we’ve been talking about planning kids parties, and today, we’re turing our attention to decorations.

Decorations really anchor the theme. When you’re planning the decorations, think of the food and present table, centerpieces and hangables.

Start with colors that accentuate the party theme and then use those colors when planning balloons, streamers, table cloths, cups, plates and napkins. Walmart and the Dollar Store are good places to get these things inexpensively.

Think about fun ways to spruce up the tables. For example, at our Spider Party on year, we took silver Scotch-Brite scrubbing pads and wrapped lengths of solder around the middle of the pad to make funky looking spiders on the tables. For the same party, we found directions on Family Fun to make a few giant spiders out of milk jugs and pool noodles. We hung those in the corners around the room.

After years of doing really elaborate parties, we’ve scaled back some. This year, I made a simple but awesome looking balloon arch to hang over our sliding glass door. Get a bag of multicolor latex balloons. Blow them up, and tie each one to a long curling ribbon. If you don’t space them too far apart, they tend to cluster, making it look very full. Then just tack the ribbon up over an entry way or running up the length of a staircase.

Pinterest has more ideas than you could ever use for centerpieces and other decorations, and Family Fun is another great resource.

Stop by tomorrow. We’ll be talking about party activities.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Activities for Kids’ Birthday Parties

Like decorations, activities for a kid’s birthday party can hinge on the theme. When you’re planning these, think of a welcome activity, an icebreaker and some theme-related games and projects.

Welcome Activity

As kids are arriving, we always have a activity that they can jump right into. This keeps everyone occupied while you’re welcoming guests and chatting with parents.

One idea that we’ve used a few times is to have each kid decorate something that you can add to a keepsake for the birthday boy or girl. At our Thomas the Tank Engine party, the birthday boy decorated an engine cut out of poster board, while his friends each decorated a train car with their name on it. At the end of the party, we hung the train like a border around his room as a reminder of his great day.

One year, our son had a Chef’s Party. As each guest arrived, we gave them an apron and let them decorate it with fabric puff paint. We got the aprons for a great price at Oriental Trading — an awesome resource for activities, decorations and favors.

During our son’s puppet party, we had a puppet show going on that kids could watch as they were arriving.

Icebreaker

Once everyone is there, consider playing a game that can help kids get to know each other. Team games are a good idea (three-legged or relay races, hot potato, tug of war or offer a group project). You can also do a memory game that requires everyone to learn and remember each other’s names. Baby shower games are great icebreakers. Do a Google search on these or team builders or ice breakers to get more ideas.

Games and Projects

Activities can tie in with the theme. At our Monster Party one year, the kids all made slime and fill buckets with it. Then they put on big monster feet that we’d made out of old cereal boxes and foam craft paper, and they raced one another to transfer the slime from one row of buckets to another.

At our American Girl party, we used the Hobo Code introduced in the Kit books to do a big scavenger hunt with each clue paying homage to one of the American Girl historical characters. And at the Puppet Party, kids made sock puppets and watched a puppet show.

Whenever we play games, we have a small prize for the winner and a candy bowl for the non winners. As someone gets out, they get to pick a treat from the candy bowl. It allows for friendly competition without creating sore losers.

Pinatas are always a big hit, and you can find (or make) one that coordinates with the theme. Plus, the candy or toys that the kids collect can be a part of the party favors.

As a homeschool family, we are BIG fans of fun (but also educational) activities. For example, our Backyard Habitat taught kids the essential elements of a habitat, and our Community Super Heroes Party introduced party goers to the local firehouse, ambulence corps and rescue squad.

We also like activities that double as party favors. My son recently had a big sleepover, and the kids made t-shirts. They drew pictures on white shirts with colored permanent markers, then they drizzled rubbing alcohol on the drawings to spread the color and make psuedo-tie dyed shirts. The shirt was their party favor.

Scheduling

As you plan activities, think about the timeframe for the overall party. Plan at least 15 minutes for the welcome activity, and then divide the rest of the party into segments, allotting an estimated time block for each activity, including cake and presents. Keep your schedule handy during the party to stay on track.

 

Stop in tomorrow. We’ll be talking about Party Favors!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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