Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

What’s Up With My Family?

August 14, 2014

Your Mom sees one dirty spoon on the sink counter and starts yelling. You politely ask Dad for movie money and he walks past you muttering something about “…growing on trees.” You excitedly tell your daughter, “Keep Saturday open, sweetie, we’re going…” but before you finish, she bursts into tears. Your son is nothing but rude to his little brother and when you try to reason with him he loudly accuses you of not loving him.

What's up with my family? There's an app for that!

What’s up with my family? There’s an app for that!

Later you sit at the dinner table. No one talks or even looks at each other. Yet you’re all connected by a silent question: “What’s up with my family?!”

What’s that you say? Never wondered about that? Bolderdash! For centuries parents and kids have asked themselves “What’s up with my family?” Now, finally, here in the glorious Digital Age, there comes an app with some answers!! I know it’s good, because I wrote it. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime has to say:

Fox covers issues that range from over-protective parents to abandonment and loss deftly in this graphic novel for readers 10 and up. What’s Up with My Family? is a book app with brilliant storytelling, movie-quality sound effects and seamlessly integrated features. Electric Eggplant has set the gold standard for presenting graphic novels in the digital realm. My highest recommendation!

Bolderdash aside, when it comes right down to it, we love our family. We really do! And sometimes they drive us nuts. Without doubt, we sometimes do our part to drive them nuts too. Even though all families are different, they all have ups and downs.

This is an app for every kid (and parent) who’s ever wondered, “What’s Up With My Family?” It may help you understand the people in your family better. It may also help you use your power to improve things at home. Sometimes you can do that by talking about how you feel. Sometimes, change happens when you shift your attitude and decide to be more cooperative.

Get it now, for your family and you might start talking and laughing at dinner again.

(Press release can be viewed here.)

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Guest blogger: Let’s do a school visit via Skype!

February 20, 2012

By Jayne Clare

Jayne Clare, Special Education teacher, and Anne Rachel, artist and Early Childhood educator, co-founded Teachers With Apps. These two lifelong educators are committed to “… helping parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and anyone else, wade through the vast number of  educational apps being introduced on a daily basis. Remember, not all educational apps are created equal.” A few weeks ago, at Jayne’s invitation,  I visited with her 5th graders via Skype. First time I’d done it that way and it was a total blast. Here’s Jayne’s report from her side of the giant screen.

Wow! That's really her!

Wow! That's really her!

Electric Eggplant just recently released Middle School Confidential Book 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind to the app store. I’m a new teacher to this age group; twenty plus years in an elementary school simply can not prepare you for the hormones raging in the intermediate school setting! So glad that I came across this awesome resource when I did, February with 5th graders is an eye-opener! I’d been sharing MSC with small groups of tween students and using the Smart Board with larger groups by hooking the iPad up with a cable. This was part of the field-testing involved prior to writing a review for Teachers With Apps (TWA). Although I had worked with several grade levels, it quickly became obvious that our 5th grade students were really benefiting from spending time with this app. The experience helped the students with their growing pains by opening up dialogue that may not have taken place otherwise.

It started out innocently enough, I emailed Annie with some positive feedback after field-testing the app and we exchanged a few emails. David Fox, her other half, asked, “What do you think of the idea of doing a Skype call with Annie during class time? The students can interact with her, ask questions, etc…” Of course my answer was an emphatic YES, but being a public school teacher meant that I would need permission from administration. That was easy to obtain, so back to Annie to set a Skype session for Friday at 1:00pm EST.

As the week progressed, my students continued to become more familiar with MSC characters and had even picked their favorites. Friday arrived! For morning work, the kids all wrote out questions and/or comments to share later in the day. I scrambled to get the technology in place for our Q & A with Annie. Nervously, as one always is when using technology for a lesson, I practiced a Skype call with my TWA partner and got the lay of the land set up for the students. They were going to be tighter than a can of sardines, if they were all going to be seen. I wondered how they would sit so closely without some kind of problem erupting.

One o’clock arrived and somehow all the kids managed to squeeze into the allotted space as they waited anxiously to meet the author. The computer rang and there she was, Annie Fox, bigger than life on the Smart Board! The first question was asked and in the time that it took to respond, the room became silent. You could have heard a pin drop. One by one the students took turns asking questions and Annie answered with clear, concise, commonsense answers. She shared some of her own insecurities as a child and you could still hear a pin drop. More questions were asked and answered.

The woman on the screen, who so gently and so naturally took in all their woes and comforted them with sound, soothing advice, mesmerized the group. Out of all the responses given, one resonated with me; she told our most mature student that she should take a vacation from that friend, which was such simple yet profound advice. As our session came to a close it was evident it had gone extraordinarily well. The kids sat through the first bell of 9th period as they said their goodbyes, only to find out that Annie had grown up and gone to school not far from where we are in the “Hamptons”! There were hoots of “Go, Long Island – Go New York!” as the students filed out of the classroom.

“Awesome. That was awesome,” my co-teacher Maggie exclaimed and yes, I agreed, it certainly was!

Thank you Annie, what day works for you next month?

UPDATE: Through the end of March, I’ll do a free Skype classroom visit, to any school that purchases Middle School Confidential books and/or apps.

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App Friday: Be Confident sale – $.99 May 6th only

May 6, 2011

"Be Confident" on sale for $.99 (May 6, 2011 only)

Fridays are inherently cool. App Fridays are especially welcome because that’s when Moms With Apps* features their weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. And guess who’s featured today? That would be me and David (aka Electric Eggplant). Which is why,  for today, Friday, May 6th 2011, our Middle School Confidential app (aka Be Confident) is on sale for 99 cents. Got a 4th-8th grader? Got access to an iPad. For $.99 you can give that kid you love something (s)he wants more than anything… the gift of confidence to be who they really are.

MWA: seeking to promote quality apps for kids and families

*Never heard of Moms With Apps!? Let me tell you, for newbie app developers like me and David, this wonderfully supportive consortium that’s committed to quality kid and family content, has been the difference between stumbling and bumbling on all-fours vs. having a lighted path to walk on. We’re grateful for their friendship and ongoing support, so here’s a plug for them. They’ve launched their own app the Moms With Apps App Catalogue (of apps, of course!) Check ’em out.

Update (May 7th, 2011): Our app has now returned to its normal price of $3.99. Download our Be Confident iPad app.

 

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It was all about defying gravity

April 10, 2011

Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential™ Graphic Novel

Our iPad app for 8- 14-year-olds, "Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential™ Graphic Novel"

April 1st was a pretty exciting day around here. Our first kids’ story app for iPad went live in the iTune App Store. Note: If my parents were alive they’d have no idea what that last sentence meant but they’d be enormously proud anyway which is what we all need from Mom and Dad, right?

The app’s based on Book 1 of my Middle School Confidential series. It’s called Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential™ Graphic Novel. If you’ve got a 4th-8th grader in your life buy it for him/her. They’ll really like. The art is stellar. The story’s totally engaging. And most important, this app is actually about something — like figuring out how to fit in with other kids and still feel good about yourself. It’s also about dealing with bullies, self-doubt, friendship issues and choices that reflect who you really are vs. who you pretend to be. In other words, this awesome, full-color comic book app (with wall-to-wall sound effects and music) is about life as our 21st century kids are living it right now.

I haven’t been a tween for a century and I’m not even the parent of one any more. And yet I know what our kids struggle with every day because over the past 14 years thousands of them have emailed me asking for help.

I often wonder how people get their big creative ideas. Maybe you’re wondering where my idea for Middle School Confidential came from. Maybe you’re not. I’ll tell you anyway.  It came to me in June 2002 as I sat in a San Francisco theater watching a performance of Wicked.  In case you don’t know this Tony award-winning musical by the brilliant Stephen Schwartz, it’s about friendship and popularity, hanging on to personal integrity in the face of ugly rumors and smear tactics. Sounds like politics or…middle school!  During the 1st act finale Elphaba (aka The Wicked Witch of the West) sings “Defying Gravity.” The lyrics are worth reading carefully:

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m tired of playing by the rules of someone else’s game
Too late for second guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes… and leap
I’d sooner try defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down.
I’m through accepting limits
Cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try I’ll never know
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love – I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost…
So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately –
Everyone deserves the chance to fly
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me…
Tell them how I
Am defying gravity!
I’m flying high’
Defying gravity!
And soon I’ll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!

Defying Gravity

At that moment this incredibly radiant, powerful, totally misunderstood young woman literally rises above her tormentors… and flies away. I sit there, thunderstruck… weeping, awed by this display of courage and self-respect. A bolt of insight explodes within my head and heart and I know something I didn’t know when I walked in the theater – I need to encourage middle school kids to fly. I know that they, more than any other age group, hold themselves back by “accepting limits cause someone says they’re so.” As the lights come up signaling intermission I stay seated, fully aware that I will write a book encouraging kids to defy gravity because without some serious help it can be too painful and difficult for them to grow up healthy and loving.

Of course many tweens stumble through 6th, 7th and 8th grade without special help. They survive then promptly try to forget the pain of those years. But so many others need an anti-gravity boost now.  My books can provide that. So can this spanking new app. It can help a kid become her own best friend. Teach him about self-respect so he can learn to respect others. Give them more confidence to grow up to be thoughtful, compassionate young adults. If you don’t have an iPad, don’t worry! The iPhone/iPod version of “Be Confident” is coming soon.

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