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Charter News February 9, 2017-18

posted Feb 11, 2018, 6:54 PM by Rhonda Schlosser

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion,

some compassion, some humor, and some style.       ~Maya Angelou

Dear Charter Families,

I hope you are enjoying a lovely three day weekend, thanks to our Presidents Day holiday this Monday. It’s always nice to have an additional day to relax and make special with your family.  We are still seeing bouts of illness affecting students and teachers, so perhaps using this holiday as an additional day of rest and focus on health is in order as well!

Please read on for an interesting article from the blog, Tech Talk Tuesdays.  This one is titled 3 ways to improve Homework Hygiene and it discusses the importance of learning how to manage the distractions that may affect (homework assignments) getting completed without straying down the ‘rabbit holes’ that the internet can so easily lead us down.

Our Charter students have varying amounts of homework depending on their age. Many may need the support of a computer/Chromebook to either complete their work or to learn more about topics they are studying.  I thought the article was worth sharing, as it has some great ideas of how to discuss good study habits with your child....and it begins with having a compassionate perspective. The suggestions that are offered are ones that we could all benefit from!

Speaking of compassion, our counselor Jen Sims has written another great article about the use compassion with yourself and your children.  I think you will appreciate her article.


NOTE: All newsletters will be archived on our website if you would like to confirm any information.  Specific pertinent information can also be found on our website so if you have an opportunity, please give it a review.

From Our Counselor, Jen Sims: Let compassion be the bridge to action.    

As far as I can tell, the children at the SLV charter and Boulder Creek Elementary schools are loaded with compassion.  I see acts of kindness and concern among students of all ages, all the time.  This is a huge perk of my job, to get to see them at their best or struggling to come back to their best.  When we are all doing our best, compassion is usually present.

Ninety-eight percent of the time, compassion is one of my foundational approaches and a way that I build a bridge to students.  They want to be heard, seen and understood within the context of their experiences.  It’s mostly not too difficult, but it also doesn’t mean that I always agree with them, that there won’t be a discussion of expectations, or that the conversation will be comfortable.  However, compassion can be a cushion that allows someone to try out their best self and take emotional risks that ultimately heal a situation.

The other 2% of the time, I am getting it wrong.  I can be firm and compassionate, annoyed and compassionate, even angry and compassionate.  When compassion is out the window, however, the bridge gets thrown out too.  Since this makes it hard to do my job, I have learned to use compassion as a reflexive response.  But there are days when compassion and me just don’t see eye to eye, and I’m sure there are those days for you as parents as well.  I definitely see it among the students – some moments are more hard-hearted than others.  This has all got me wondering, even though we've got plenty of compassion, what is happening when our compassion heads for the hills?

Self-compassion is key.  Lack of self-compassion can be a huge barrier to showing up for others.  Kids can be so hard on themselves.   All of childhood can be an out of control time for many reasons, and the tween to teen years can be an especially difficult limbo.  This is the ideal environment for the inner critic to thrive – the inner critic tells kids that if they can change something about themselves, be stronger, get better, do and say the right thing that it will give them some control over what is happening in their world.  This usually ends up being an exercise in frustration and further fuel for the inner critic’s ire.   The best way to combat this is to stop and get compassionate for yourself.  It doesn’t really seem to make sense according to societal norms, but there’s no way anyone is going to feel like building a bridge to others if they feel depleted within themselves.   Self-compassion is giving yourself what you need to stay grounded.  Work with your child to develop a response to painful situations or emotions that is soothing – exercise, baths, massage or comforting touch, breathing, nature, playing with a pet, cooking – anything that regulates their nervous system.  Come up with some thoughts and ideas that combat what the inner critic might be saying to them.  Keep practicing and this pause for regulation will become an automatic go-to for your child.

Put on your own oxygen mask first.  As adults, we have so much power over children’s lives that we owe it to them to practice what we preach when it comes to self-care and compassion.   They hear and absorb all the times we are self-critical and they are often the undeserving recipients of the results of our own lack of self-compassion.  If you have learned that putting yourself first is selfish, you can reframe this as actually putting the children first:  If they see you being nice yourself, taking time for yourself, caring for yourself, then they will do the same.   When you are full up on self-compassion, giving it seems pretty easy.  You will have a greater capacity to build that bridge.

Fear blocks compassion.  So often fear gets in the way of compassion, and by ‘gets in the way’ I mean chases it down and tackles it like a quarterback.  Whether it is the fear of the unknown, the fear of getting physically or emotionally hurt, the fear of something changing or the fear of something not changing enough, I have seen it time and time again – fear blocks out all other emotions like an eclipse.

If you notice yourself or your child struggling with a compassionate response, look at what fears are arising.  This is a good time to do a reality check.  I really like Byron Katie’s “Four Questions” for this:

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?

3. How do you react – what happens – when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without this thought?

Being cognizant of the fear can be helpful, and sometimes it is even warranted.  We should be limiting our compassion toward those who wish us ill will or pain.  In that case fear is giving us a helpful message.  Other times, however, we make up parts of the story to fill in the blanks and we’re not exactly on the mark.

Compassion is relational.  I’ve learned a lot about others through technology and social media, and even the movies.  This has truly raised my awareness around many different issues.  None of that compares to the power of my face-to-face experiences, however.  I worry about how the way we can isolate ourselves behind screens can impact our capacity for compassion.

Compassion is a participatory exercise.  For this reason, it is important to look for opportunities for your child to have live group interactions outside of school.  Working together toward a cause – winning a game, putting together a theater production, learning a skill or helping something – is a great chance for them to get to know people they might not normally interact with.   Meeting and working with different kinds of people can expand their world and help them be more confident in getting to know people in general.  When we have actually met and interacted with someone, it makes it harder to dismiss our compassion.

As with any emotion, it is our job as adults to help students develop a relationship with compassion that is safe and manageable.   With all that is going on in the world, it feels like we could either sink under a mountain of compassionate feelings or turn them off completely.  Neither of those responses will help us survive – we must be able to use compassion appropriately to our needs. The Dalai Llama said, “It is not enough to be compassionate, you must act.”  Let compassion be the bridge to action.

Parent Advisory Committee: Next meeting is Thursday, March 8th, from 3-4 pm in the Fall Creek Charter office.  All Parents are invited to attend.

Cinder-Idol: What a Fun and wonderful show! Thank you to all the students and parents who spent so many hours and creative energy into making the show such a great success.  And a Huge Thank you and appreciation to Amber Walker, and her terrific team, including:

SLVUSD Charter Information Night: Hybrid Home/School Programs.

SLVUSD Charter School is hosting an Information Night on Tuesday, March 13 at the SLV Middle School Library (second floor) from 5:30-7:00 pm located in Felton.

Questions regarding Charter Information Night? Email Danelle Matteson at or call 831-336-5167 or 831-335-0932

Tech Talk Tuesdays:  3 ways to improve Homework Hygiene A major reason I started filming Screenagers in the first place was that I saw how homework was going to be more and more on computers. I was thinking, "wow, being a kid or teen trying to stay on task for homework when the tech world is so entertaining, how is that going to work?" I compared it to my trying to ignore a plate of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies while doing a writing assignment—and I can tell you how that went 9 out of 10 times.

As much as I feel for kids and teens, I also feel for us parents. It can really suck thinking about how our teens are switching tabs when they should be on task. According to psychologist Larry Rosen’s study, middle school, high school, and university students focus on average for six minutes before they switch off of homework to a technological distraction. For the study, students were in their home and instructed to study something important while a person observed their activities for 15 minutes.

I have some suggestions for improving study habits that I call Homework Hygiene. Sleep hygiene is something we talk a lot about in medicine because sleep problems, particularly insomnia, are so common. We help people set up practices and habits to increase a good night’s sleep such as going to bed at the same time each night, setting an alarm for earlier wake-up times to reset their internal clock, and other techniques. Homework Hygiene is all about helping kids develop effective practices around homework such as writing to-do lists, developing the habit of prioritizing the list and checking things off.

It is a top priority to engage our kids in conversations in which they become aware of the challenges they face in having good homework habits.

Delaney’s super-duper 3-part conversation tactic for helping kids gain insight and ideas for optimal homework hygiene:

1. Empathize: Start by saying you have empathy for all kids about homework—you understand that after a full school day how difficult it is to do repetitive or hard work. Validate that having to do homework can feel tortuous at times, and now with distractions at our fingertips, there is a new, unprecedented level of challenge.

2. Get curious: Have one good conversation about homework that is calm and curious, not personal and judgemental. Here are two good ones to consider:

Talk about the science of homework. For example, mention the study I described above and ask for their guess about the average time it took before people went off task.

Discuss the difference between external distractions vs. internal distractions. How often do they experience an external distraction, i.e. they have their phone near them and see that someone has pinged them and they feel the need to check the message? Internal distraction is a psychological pull towards doing something other than homework—like a sense of a need to check into social media or to switch to a favorite website.

3. Explore effective strategies: After the non-personal conversations, get your kid to talk about their current homework strategies and habits. Ask questions like, “Do you start by writing a list of what needs to get done?" Now is a good time to throw out ideas.

Examples of good Homework Hygiene:

  1. Do homework after physical activity because the body is physiologically primed to learn more efficiently in this state.

  2. Start with the task that they least want to do and set the alarm for 10 minutes. That helps get over the hurdle of doing it. Then, after the 10 minutes, coming back to it will be much easier.

  3. Have a rule that all tech is off by a certain time so homework cannot be done late at night.

  4. Put phones out of sight and decide when it is reasonable for a tech or phone break. My 10th grader takes a short phone break about every 30 minutes.

  5. Put in place other breaks, not just checking phone, such as playing with a pet, or doing part of a crossword puzzle with them.  

  6. Get a system that monitors what the student does on the computer, i.e. how often they check other sites. If they know this is on the computer, it can help keep them stay on task until they get a break. Check out our website for computer monitoring systems. Another way to do this is to tell your child that the two of you will check their browsing history from time to time. It is vital to be upfront about this because kids can easily erase their history.  

There are many other strategies that I will be sharing in upcoming TTTs. I hope you will tell your friends about TTTs so together we increase the number of calm conversations happening in our communities. Meanwhile, I always love hearing from you!

For this week’s TTT try the 3-part conversation tactic I described above:

  1. Express your empathy around why doing homework can suck

  2. Talk about the science and internal vs. external distractions

  3. Ask kids about their current homework strategies and brainstorm new ones

For more discussion ideas, you can peruse past Tech Talk Tuesdays.

Opportunities in our Community: NAMI Presentation on Adolescent Mental Health

The SLVHS Cougar Club is sponsoring a presentation by the National Alliance on Mental Health "Parents and Teachers as Allies," Thursday, Feb 15, 7 PM, Multipurpose Room, SLV HS. This 1-hour presentation focuses on helping families and teachers better understand the early warning signs of mental illnesses in adolescents and how best to intervene. It also covers the lived experience of mental illnesses and how schools can best communicate with families."

For more information on the program, see:

All are welcome. FREE, no registration necessary.

Screenagers coming to the PAC:  We have partnered with the SLVHS Cougar Club to bring Screenagers to the SLVUSD Performing Arts Center March 7.  If you did not get an opportunity to see it last year when we offered it, please consider coming to see it this time. You can see a trailer and order tickets through the link below.  Tickets are limited so it may be best to order them online.

Santa Cruz County Fashion Show FashionTEENS will once again take place at the Civic Auditorium on April 20, 2018. This year, they are partnering with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education to help support the program. Last year they gave away over $1000 in cash prizes to students. The 120 participating students came from 16 Middle and High Schools in Santa Cruz County. We hope your students will join them!  Please contact your teacher or Danelle Matteson if you would like to participate!


  • Open to all current middle and high school students in Santa Cruz County

  • The garment must have been created after June 1, 2017

  • All applications must be received by February 16, 2018

  • Applications are online and hard copies will be available in the MS, HS and Charter school offices

  • Students will be notified by February 26, 2018 if they will be participating in the show

  • The Fashion Show will be held on April 20, 2018

What’s Going on in Our Charter School?  ..little snippets of some of our programs.

K-8 Homeschool Science Fair: Thank you to Katie Parmenter, our charter teacher next door, for organizing another wonderful science fair.  There were many great experiments or research science boards and one student will move on to the Santa Cruz Science Fair.  A highlight for me was listening and watching a young 1st grader talking to a middle school student about her study on the bobcat visiting her backyard.

All Charter Programs: Students will be gathering at the PAC to watch the documentary “Straws”. STRAWS is a 32 minute documentary by filmmaker Linda Booker released Spring 2017. Half a billion non-recyclable plastic straws get used every day in the U.S., ending up in landfills and on streets and beaches. Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins narrates and turtle researchers, community activists and business owners discuss a sea of change happening, one straw at a time. More information at

Coast Redwood HS: PARENT SUNSHINE COMMITTEE - Needs HELP in the fall Cayenne's daughter will be graduating in June and she is looking for a few volunteers for next year to take over for her. An important aspect of our Sunshine Committee, coordinated by the staff, sets-up "food trains" for charter families who are surprised by life's unexpected challenges. When we rally together we can do great things! If you are interested in participating in the Sunshine Committee starting in the fall please email Cayenne at  CRHS will host information nights from 5:30-7:30 pm on the following dates on Tuesdays: Feb 20, April 24 and May 22. All prospective students and their families are invited to attend to learn about our campus community, visit our classrooms, and our outdoor horticulture classroom. Families will receive information about the many individualized opportunities high school students have to earn their diplomas, participate in athletics, theater productions, adventure field trips, clubs as well as courses at community colleges and courses through CTEP (formally ROP/regional occupation programs) Questions? Email Kay Mendoza at Contact: 831-336-5167 or 831-335-0932 for enrollment forms.

Coast Redwood MS: The annual yearbook is underway. Students brainstormed questions to ask each other, including both closed and open-ended, internal and external questions. They interviewed each other, took notes to write a paragraph describing their partners.  We worked in the garden, beginning the process of dismantling some of the garden beds.  The kids all chose several plants they would like to grow and researched information about the needs of those plants. In PE we ran stair laps, ran a relay race, practiced frisbee-throwing skills, and played a beginner's-level version of Ultimate Frisbee. Our upcoming Field trips: March 7th, San Francisco Zoo, April 25th, Rosicrucian Museum.

Nature Academy:  7th and 8th graders received feedback for their Elder Interview Report. They are still working on their Westward Expansion map and are busy reading and discussing the Whirligig.  Their next field trip will be to the DeYoung Museum.  6th graders are busy working on their history section of their country report and are learning volleyball during PE.  their next  field trip will be to Main Beach for beach volleyball.

Quail Hollow Integrated Arts (QHIA): We continued our discovery of Medieval China, as well as the 3 Perfections: poetry, painting, and calligraphy. Students are completing their Research Papers. Congratulations to our Science Fair participants on a diligent job well done!  We began our practice of “The 3 Perfections”; students took some time to write nature poetry outside using personification in spaces they chose to sit alone. We shared these with each other, and also practiced some pastel and watercolor painting in the medieval Chinese style. Most of our students performed brilliantly in the Charter Play: Cinder-Idol: What the World Needs Now, and those that weren’t in the cast saw the play Thursday morning. Congratulations to all of the performers and Tech Crew. Here are some links to photos of our Charter Play!

Quail Hollow Homeschool: Our K-2 group built a repeating pattern for the month of January-they are making them quite complex these days!  We counted and skip counted to 100 in various ways:  by 1s, 10s, 5s, and 2s. With each number chanted, there was a coordinated hop or jump that went along with it. We are working on our original story,There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Cup.  Our 3-6 group caught up on news from over the break during Welcome Circle.  We moved into a stair-building problem for Morning Math.  We had a mini civics lesson in how to make a democratic choice between options.  Students spoke persuasively on their preferred option.  We then voted between three options, narrowly avoiding a run-off vote with a majority. Our chosen activity, which we did until lunch, was to finish our pages of If You Give a Horse a Hug, while listening to Gary Paulsen's Hatchet read aloud. Jen Sims visited our class and discussed "Curiosity".  This is such an important life skill as we want children to want to learn, ask questions, and hunger for more.  We played a quick game of curiosity, wanting to know about someone and then asking questions to find out the real information.  We will introduce our QH Homeschool play this coming Tuesday. Practices will begin on Thursday, the last hour of class - we only have 7 weeks of class rehearsals before we perform!

Fall Creek Homeschool: We welcomed three new classmates to Fall Creek. We used an impression method to trace and cut out sets of tangrams. We solved tangram puzzles and then made tangram puzzles to try and stump our partners. We listened to the true story of Humphrey the Humpback Whale who was rescued by scientists and many concerned citizens. We painted with watercolors using the wet-on-wet method. We discovered that in the 6 weeks we were gone from the play yard thousands of acorns began sprouting. These are now worth 10 times the amount of a regular acorn in a few play yard businesses. We played some math games involving grouping ourselves into pods of various numbers and expressing it with addition and multiplication. We began weaving a fence in the play yard to protect the flowers that are beginning to come up. We discussed the water cycle and sang the Water Cycle Boogie along with a video of the Banana Slug String Band preforming the song. We drew the water cycle in our rainbow books and included key words evaporation, condensation and precipitation. Our upcoming Field Trips: February 14, 2018: Seymour Marine Center, March 14: River walk with Jane Mio of San Lorenzo Stories

Mountain IS: We are dedicating this month's music to a solid grasp of all the songs from our class play. We read through our lines with partners as well as with the whole class. The students our improving so rapidly. it is very exciting. We used oil pastels to add color to our African masks which we will be using during our play. In PE we went hiking to the creek and it was the perfect way to enjoy the sunshine and get a quick cardio workout after lunch.


Dates to remember: (Please refer to your program’s newsletter for greater detail regarding dates and details specific to your program’s Field Trips and class events.)

  • February 12th:  No School-- President’s Holiday

  • February 19th:  No School-- President’s Holiday

  • March 12th:  No School--  Professional Development Day for Teachers

  • March 13th: Charter Information night: all Hybrid Home/School Programs

  • April 2nd-6th:  Spring Break!