From the Wall: Roundup of 10 Status Updates

From the Wall: A Weekly Roundup of Hilltown Families Status Updates on Facebook

If you haven’t already, join Hilltown Families on Facebook too, and be sure to add us to your interest list to receive our status updates in your Facebook newsfeed.

As part of our a communication network, every day we post status updates to the Hilltown Families Facebook page, including announcements, volunteer opportunities, conversation starters, promotions, links to archived posts, videos, podcast… To receive these daily status updates, check the wall on our Facebook page, or better yet, “Like” our page then add Hilltown Families to your interest list to receive status updates in your Facebook newsfeed.

Here’s a round up of what we shared and are talking about this past week.  Click on the links to follow through to our page and join in on discussions and find links to access more info:

CISA needs volunteers on two Saturdays, January 26 (in Springfield & Northampton) and February 2 (in Greenfield & Amherst), to help out at the farmers’ markets holding this year’s Winter Fare events. Tasks may include greeting attendees, handing out maps and taking surveys. Markets will run from about 10am-2pm. Please email if you would like to get involved.The nomination period for the 2013 Colin Higgins Youth Courage Awards is now open! Know of a LGBTQ youth who has demonstrated courage in the face of adversity and discrimination based on gender and/or sexual orientation? Nominate them today!

Wondering how to stave off colds and flu this winter? Check out these Western MA folk remedies, compiled by Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Tony Lemos:

Mark your calendars for the 91st Annual Greenfield Winter Carnival happening February 1st-3rd… 3 days of winter play!!!

Athol Public Library writes, “Bring your gently used jeans to the Athol Public Library for our “Teens for Jeans” campaign. Jeans will be taken to Aeropostale and donated to teens in area homeless shelters. Donations will be accepted now through January 31st. A great opportunity to help out! For info please call: 978-249-9515

There will be a teacher workshop at Smith College Museum of Art on Asian Art on Wed., Feb. 6th from 10am-3pm for K-12 teachers. Explore interdisciplinary connections between Asian and “Western” art objects through exercises and presentations led by SCMA Education staff. Curator Fan Zhang will provide teachers with an overview of the Collecting Art of Asia exhibition and Anne Prescott, Director of the Five Colleges Center for East Asian Studies will outline valuable K-12 resources for teaching about Asia across the curriculum.

If you missed the broadcast of the Hilltown Family Variety Show’s South Africa Episode last May with guest DJ, Debbie Lan of Grenadilla, no worries! You can listen the podcast anytime. Gather the kids around and follow the link. Debbie features music by Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mafikozolo, Amompondo, and many others, including a few cuts off of their newest CD, “Can’t Wait,” one of our top 11 picks for 2012!

Have your kids asked yet how babies are made, or where babies come from? What did you say? If they haven’t asked yet, how might you reply when they do?

Last year we asked our readers to share their love for their pediatricians, recommending a pediatrician to families in Western Massachusetts who might be looking for a doctor for their children…

Thinking about venturing out to the Norman Rockwell Museum with the kids this winter? Check out their family guide! Designed specifically for families interested in extending art studies past a museum trip, the Norman Rockwell Family Guide is full of Rockwell’s work and includes information and questions to keep in mind while examining the images. Follow the link to check it out our write-up from last year with links and resources:

There have been lots of opportunities lately to volunteer with your families as a Citizen Scientist, assisting with bird population counts! Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count and Bald Eagle Count both took place recently, but there’s another bird count that you can do any time of year! Mass Audubon offers a checklist of birds that visitors to Canoe Meadows in central Berkshire Cty. can print and take along on their excursion.

Hilltown Families on Pinterest!

Join Us on Pinterest!

Follow Me on PinterestDo you ever feel overwhelmed trying to organize and keep track of the many pages, ideas, and articles found online that you’d like to read, learn from, or share with your kids? Pinterest, a content sharing website, can help! Pinterest works like a virtual bulletin board – you can create as many boards as you want, organized in whichever way suits you – and the possibilities are limitless! This is a great way to keep track of vacation ideas, craft projects, recipes, beautiful pictures, kids activities, and many more – and the best part is that people are constantly sharing pictures and information about topics such as education, learning, parenting, children’s literature, and healthy living. You can choose to follow others who share your interests, and gain inspiration from their posts and ideas!

Pinterest can be a great resource for information on endless topics, and is especially useful for families! The format is even kid-friendly – each post is highlighted by a large photo, so even kids who can’t read can help parents find fun things to do or great books to read together.

Hilltown Families is on Pinterest ( to provide Western MA families with information to browse in a comprehensible way. Some of our boards include Local Events, History, Community Based Education, Reading Lists, and Health & Wellness – among many others. If you’re looking for a project to do with your kids, check out our Arts & Crafts board. If you’re trying to find ways to help out the local community, browse our Family Volunteering board. If you’re interested in discovering nature in Western MA, peruse our Ecology board. Never has a content sharing website been so easy to use and understand!

The Pinterest community is growing fast, and it’s easy to get connected and share your own ideas or just follow other boards! Check out the Hilltown Families Pinterest site today for information about what’s going on in Western MA!

Our Daughters: 5 Ways To Talk With Your Daughter About Technology

The New Odd Girl Out: 5 Ways To Talk With Your Daughter About Technology

As part of my series celebrating the newly revised and updated Odd Girl Out,

I’m leading parents and girls through some of the twists and turns of girls’ social lives online.

With stories of cyberbullying everywhere, parents’ anxiety increases with every headline. But parenting can’t only be about saying no and laying down the law, or operating from a place of fear. Rules are important, to be sure – and I’ll write more about that soon – but so is conversation. When parents take the time to ask why their girls love and struggle with social media, they exercise empathy and gain crucial insight into their children.

Asking questions about your daughter’s life online also cuts down on the “us vs them” mentality that exists between many girls and their parents. Perceiving a parent only as a digital policeman makes a girl far less likely to confide when she’s in trouble, or to listen to why a rule might be in place.

Here are five conversations starters. My advice is to have discussions that come from a place of sincere inquiry. You are taking the time to learn about your daughter’s experience and empathize. This is not the moment to discipline or yell “A-ha! I knew it!”

1. What is your favorite thing about [name a form of social media, like texting or Facebook, that you know she loves]? Or: What’s your favorite thing to do online or on your phone?

Discussion Tips: Make a genuine effort to see social media through her eyes. Ask her how fast she can text or if she can do it without looking. Invite her to show you her favorite videos. Ask her to take you on a tour of her digital life. The point here is for both of you to connect over the positive aspects of social media, and for her to see that you respect – or at least tolerate and understand – her relationship to this very important aspect of her life. If she’s not engaging, try this one: If you had to give up your phone or your computer, which one would you pick? Why?

2. Would your friendships be better or worse without technology? Easier or harder?

Discussion Tips: Be careful here. If she’s honest and says, yes, my friendships are harder, don’t do the I-told-you-dance. Technology isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much it taxes her relationships. This is a great opportunity for you to share your own feelings about how social media has changed your own relationships. The answer is never black and white here. Wrestle together with both sides of the question.

3. Do you think people act online the same way they act in real life? Why are people more inclined to be rude or mean online?

Discussion Tips: These are exciting questions because they can open a window into personal stories. If you promise me that you won’t come down hard on her for the answer, try asking if she’s ever said anything online that she’s sorry about. Extra points if you can share your own confession. The point is not to freak out, but to talk frankly about the challenge of learning what belongs online and offline. We can’t learn unless we know what we want to change. It won’t help any if she feels like she can’t talk about her learning process.

4. Technology can bring friends closer together. Can it also make you more insecure in your friendships?

Discussion Tips: This is not a question about bullying or even aggression. It’s about what happens when friendships become public and tangible, as they do online, and how we compare ourselves to others by using our social media lives as a barometer for social status and self-worth.

Trying asking if she’s ever felt left out of something online. Some ways this could happen include texting someone and not getting a reply; watching someone get lots of texts while you don’t; seeing pictures of parties or hang-outs that you were not invited to; or getting fewer Facebook wall posts or birthday messages than someone else.

5. Are there ever misunderstandings caused by technology?

Discussion Tips: This is harder for younger girls, so you may need to prompt a bit. Have you ever thought someone meant to say one thing in a message they wrote, but they really meant something totally different? Or: have you ever thought you were being left out of a situation because of something you saw online, and then realized you weren’t? You will feel the symptoms of I-told-you-so-dance coming on. Hold back and put your most empathic foot forward.

Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Our Daughters: CyberDRAMA

Why Girls Need to Learn About CyberDRAMA, Not Just CyberBULLYING

If it bleeds, it leads: it’s a popular saying in journalism that refers to our attraction to sensational, often violent headlines. As an anti-bullying educator, I have seen something similar: we tend to focus on the most extreme levels of bullying as a way to teach and build awareness.

The problem is that most kids are not bullied in such dramatic ways. Yet almost every child experiences day-to-day aggression. If we only teach intervention strategies for the worst crimes, we don’t teach kids to cope with the daily injustices. We imply that only the most extreme aggression is problematic, while other behaviors – like saying “just kidding” after you do something mean, or giving someone the silent treatment – are unavoidable rites of passage. Lacking the tools to deal with these smaller infractions, kids are more vulnerable to the “flare-ups” of extreme behavior.

This same emphasis on extremes is evident in the anti-cyberbullying world. Most of what’s out there for parents and girls focuses on what to do when the building is already on fire. But what about preventing the fire in the first place?

I’ve spent several years traveling around the country talking with students about how to avoid drama – by which I mean conflict – online. It’s worth mentioning that I rarely use the word “cyberbullying” in my assemblies. That’s because of what I call “cyberbullying fatigue:” many kids have been lectured already about what to do if they are bullied online. While fatigue is a happy sign of the success of anti-cyberbullying initiatives, it also points to the need for more textured education about digital citizenship.

As the girls in your life prepare to begin their school year, consider sharing some of these tips on avoiding drama online. You can find several more girl-friendly video tips in my BFF 2.0 series.

If you wouldn’t say it, don’t send it.

When they are upset, girls type things they would never say to someone’s face. Surges of panic and anger lead to impulsive messages that leave smoldering holes in relationships.

I give girls two tips to avoid making this mistake:
Read the rest of this entry »

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