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Tag Archive: summer

The Great American Road-Trip

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road trip

The Great American Road-Trip. An art to which I would humbly submit myself as a master. Perhaps not a Da Vinci or Rembrandt, but at least a Jackson Pollack, or “guy who draws Dilbert.” I grew up in a military family, with the transitory lifestyle that goes along with it. As a result, most of our summers began with a road-trip back to Washington to visit our extended family.

I’ve made the trip from one coast to the other, whether it be in the driver seat, back seat, or trunk (just kidding), at least 10 times; with countless slightly shorter journeys in between. At times, the endless hours trapped in the backseat, overflowing with “are we there yet’s,” seemed a mild form of torture. My family always, “made really good time,” but three days sitting still was three days sitting still no matter how you sliced it.

Looking back however, I find myself rather nostalgic about these grueling ordeals. Many of my fondest memories involve me annoying the crackerjacks out of my two sisters while my parents were focused on the road. Even today I get a twinge of excitement at the prospect of hopping in the car with my family to run off on a miniature adventure. Having the opportunity as mini-nomads to see the Grand Canyon, the Mighty Mississippi, and the World’s Largest Ball of Yarn, is truly a gift. road trip quoteMore importantly, long after my parents ears stopped ringing, the bite-marks on my arm faded, and the horrific smells left in the car were vanquished, these memories have continued to be a tremendous source of joy in my life.

The value of packing the family up and heading off to experience something magical together, while leaving behind all other distractions is enormous. It can be such a powerful bonding experience.

It’s difficult to find time to get out like this but summer break is a beautiful thing. And how fortunate are we to have such natural beauty at our fingertips in Washington, where a weekend getaway can take you from a rainforest, to an ocean, to an awe-inspiring mountain.

Regardless of what free-time has allowed, I hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer so far, building memories, settling toy ownership disputes, and cutting gum out of hair.

Written by Dan Payne

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Back to School Checklist

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It never fails that just as summer gets rolling and we’re finally starting to adjust to erratic new daycare/summer camp/vacation schedules, it’s already time for “Back to School” planning! For your kids, this phrase is like a pin quickly deflating their balloon of summer fun. For parents, all we can think of are the millions of things we need to take care of – “not” waiting until the last minute to diligently work through the school supply list, finding the “right” in-style clothes, meeting with your kid’s new teachers, etc.

As we prepare our children for important educational transitions such as starting pre-school, kindergarten or even high school, we also find ourselves making more involved decisions on issues like before and after school care, technology purchases to support classroom learning, and tutoring and enrichment programs.

Since many of these decisions have significant financial impacts, now is a time when many families are re-evaluating their household budgets and spending habits. This truly lends us as parents a fantastic opportunity to make college savings a part of these financial and educational planning discussions. You’re already in the mode of equipping your kids with what they will need to be successful for another school year, so consider taking a moment look at the big picture.

Here’s a quick checklist of just some of the important considerations for keeping your children’s future college plans on track as they grow:

What? When?
If you haven’t already, start a 529 college savings plan, such as GET. Saving will offset the need for student loans and let your child know that post-high school education is a priority. We recommend starting no later than grade school, but sooner is always better (even when your child is a baby or before birth). Keep adding to your savings as your kids grow.
Talk with your kids about their future aspirations and encourage them to dream big. There’s a much greater chance of them achieving these dreams if they’re motivated and supported.  Anytime! It’s important to continue this dialogue throughout your child’s development.
Make visits to college campuses. Get your kids excited about the idea of being college students. Anytime, but it’s especially important as your kids are entering middle and high school.
Encourage your kids to take on extracurricular activities, volunteer in the community and take advanced/honors courses. This can increase their marketability to college admissions departments and open doors to scholarships. Middle school to early high school is an ideal time to start these activities.
Ensure your children are meeting with advisors/counselors, and taking college prep courses and college entrance exams. No later than junior year of high school.
Make sure your kids start their college applications early! Applicationsconsist of several components that take time to complete: essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores, etc. Applications are typically due by early winter of senior year of high school.
Help your kids find and apply for scholarships. The Washboard is a great resource for locating scholarships in our state. Junior and senior year of high school.
Fill out the FAFSA early. Even if you don’t think your family will qualify for financial aid, it’s an important to fill this out – if you don’t you could miss out on some helpful dollars. Late winter/early spring of senior year of high school. Don’t risk losing out on assistance by missing the priority deadline!

This is a just a brief overview of some of the stepping stones to college – for more details and checkpoints we encourage you to check out There’s a lot to plan for, but don’t get discouraged. The main thing is to be aware of what’s ahead, keep the stress down by staying ahead of deadlines and support your kids in their academic success. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to pick up 50 of those $0.19 boxes of crayons before the coupon expires tomorrow!

Written by Lucas Minor

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School’s Out for Summer! What’s on Your Horizon?

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Summer’s finally here, and today in the northwest, it actually feels like it. As I’m writing, the forecast for the day is a scorching 92 degrees… in Washington State! With more than a handful of beautiful days behind us already, this summer seems to be shaping up nicely.

Opportunity is in the air. You can smell the potential in the fresh bloom of Washington flora and you can taste the anticipation of what’s on the horizon. One of the best aspects of summer is that it marks an end as well as a new beginning. For some, it’s the advancement to the next year of school, ripe with the excitement of new challenges to overcome. For others, it’s diving into college, exploring the world of opportunity at their fingertips. And for others, it’s the first leap into the world after college, and the beginning of the life that they’ve prepared for. For everyone, limitations are dependent on determination and imagination.

Milestones such as these serve as reminders of the necessity to achieve and to move forward to new endeavors. But life is often broken too simply into three chapters; school, work, and retirement, ignoring all of the milestones that don’t adhere to such a predictable schedule. Unfortunately, some successes fly a little lower under the radar. When these achievements slip by, the opportunity to celebrate an end, and revel in a new beginning can be lost.

What are your recent successes? Have you finally made time to finish a book you’ve been meaning to read? Taken the first step towards learning a new language, or picking up an instrument? After all, the first steps are the hardest. Maybe you’ve succeeded in preparing your children for school. Accomplishments, large and small, make way for new opportunities.

summer quote boxTake each summer as a time to look back on the past years efforts. If you find that you and your family have achieved some of your goals, celebrate those successes, and search for new challenges that excite you. Opportunities don’t always come knocking, many require searching, and some have to be made. In the words of Francis Bacon, “a wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” Why let repetitive patterns dictate your future? Life is as big as you make it.

I don’t know about you but I’m going to do everything I can to harness the energy of summer and strive to venture forth to something exciting.

To quote a dirty pirate from a Disney movie, “bring me that horizon.”

Written by Dan Payne

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Six tips for keeping your kids’ brains free of summer cobwebs

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“School’s out for summer!” As a kid, this four-letter phrase was music to my ears and signaled the start of the greatest time of year. It’s probably safe to say the same goes for your kids. I mean, what’s better than three carefree months to kick back, forget homework and just be a kid?

But just because there are no teachers or lesson plans doesn’t mean learning should be put on hold. Studies show that on average, a student loses at least a month of grade level equivalency over summer break.

Fortunately, there are plenty of fun (yes, FUN!) activities that will help keep your children’s brain moving all summer long. Here are some ideas to get you started:

#1 Get Out of the House
Whether it’s your yard, the park or deep in the forest, there are so many things to stimulate their senses and brain. Set up activities that will challenge your kids to explore and analyze the world around them. Try a nature scavenger hunt – create a list of some common and harder to find animals, leaves, plants, etc. When all of the items have been spotted or collected, spend some time talking about and researching each item.

#2 Crack Open a Book or Two
Make regular visits to your local library, and get your children involved in summer reading programs. You may even want to set up your own family reading competition (perhaps with the allure of fabulous prizes).


#3 Turn the Mundane into Food for the Brain
Even routine activities can be a valuable learning opportunity. For instance, a grocery store trip can be a math lesson. If you’re a bargain shopper, let your children help you calculate which item is the better deal. Back at home, ask your kids to help with reading recipes and measuring ingredients. This is a great way to keep analytical abilities sharp.

#4 Plan a Close to Home Adventure
There are so many opportunities to expand your children’s’ minds, right in your own community. Visit your local museum, nature preserve or art exhibit. Talk to the guides, read the informational signs and encourage your kids to ask questions. Keep an eye out for special exhibits and free admission days.

 #5 It Still Can be Fun and Games
If your children are into video games, be sure to incorporate educational games into their collection. There are also plenty of free tablet/smartphone apps out there that will keep the learning and the fun coming. If you want them to break away from the screen, good old-fashioned jigsaw puzzles are especially effective at stimulating many parts of the brain.

 #6 Make Money Count
And of course, one of our favorite activities to talk about is saving money! Teaching kids how to manage finances instills responsibility and helps maintain computational skills. There are many ways to go about this, such as tying allowances to household chores, helping your children set up their very own savings accounts, or using multi-compartment piggy banks to budget the amount they save, spend and share with others.

 Go For It!
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Your kids may complain a little that they can’t sleep in and watch TV all day, but they may just thank you in the future when they’re crossing the stage to pick up their college degrees.

Written by Lucas Minor

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The School Year’s Almost Over, Are You Ready for Summer?

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Summer’s almost here! Birds are chirping, grass is growing (faster than I can mow it), and students are coming down with Summer-itis. As the end of the school year approaches it can be nearly impossible for student’s to stay focused and make the most out of the home stretch. The school year is looooong, they’ve earned a break. Before it’s all said and done, here are a few things to consider to help ensure that they get the most out of all of the hard work they’ve put in.

Have a chat with teachers about your child’s progress – See where their strengths are as well as where they may need a little help. Go over this year’s progress with your child and help them decide where they would like to focus their efforts in the coming weeks. This can be a good exercise to help them stay engaged as summer fever sets in.

Consider what can be done to help with retention – I love summer break. Staying out till the streetlights come on, drinking straight from the hose, climbing trees (trees are getting harder to climb, but I’m allowed to stay out a little past the street lights now). While summer is great for family time and for students to decompress, it can wreak havoc on retention of this school years progress. As hard as kid’s have to work to cram all of that new information into their heads, it would be a shame to see any of it go to waste. Have a brief chat with this year’s teacher, and if possible, next year’s teacher as well. This is a great opportunity to get suggestions for some light summer reading or projects that may help ensure that they retain the knowledge they’ve gained, and are able to hit the ground running in the fall.

Include your children in the planning process – Planning for their educational success is a long term process. Including them in these planning sessions can help reinforce these goals for them and remind them that their education is an investment, and that you believe in their inevitable success. A recent study from the Center of Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis found that children with a college savings account are six times more likely to attend a four year college. As the school year concludes, it’s a great time to consider your college savings options. This year’s enrollment period for the GET Program is open until May 31.

And of course, don’t forget to have fun! – Summer break is a crucial time for students to de-stress and be reminded of what it means to be a kid. Most of my best family memories were formed during summer breaks. It’s a great chance to take advantage of the weather and enjoy some family time. Maybe take a few hiking trips. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are to live in beautiful Washington.

Best of luck in all of your planning, and congratulations to all the soon to be graduates out there! Enjoy the summer!

Written by Dan Payne

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