Tips and tricks for planning the perfect Halloween

  • Written by BPT

Planning the perfect Halloween can be pretty spooky, and it’s not just because of the ghosts and ghouls that run from door to door. Coordinating Halloween activities, planning a festive party and pulling off the perfect costume for each family member can be frightening. But with a few technology tricks, you’ll be rewarded with a lot of treats and plenty of fun to make this holiday one to remember.

Eerie e-vites set the tone for parties

Planning a Halloween party? Email invites are perfectly acceptable for a casual soiree. Send out e-vites a few weeks ahead of time to give friends and family plenty of notice. Be sure to mention that costumes are encouraged, and list any other important details, like if the party is potluck style. The best part of email invites is you’ll receive RSVPs electronically, so you can track responses and get the perfect amount of party supplies for all attendees. And if you have an email account, you can flag RSVPs to the top of your inbox for easy reference, and instantly chat with friends on Facebook, Skype or Gmail to firm up last minute details, right from your inbox.

Scary inbox? Organize email easily

If your inbox is a scary sight, it’s time to tap your magic wand for an organization transformation. With, it’s easy to sort through hundreds of messages in a few clicks. You can use the "sweep" feature to get rid of outdated emails you don’t need, like all those costume coupon deals that have expired.

Frightful or friendly, find the perfect costume

Whether young or old, Halloween is a time to let imaginations run wild and play pretend for the day. Finding the perfect costume for each member of the family can be a difficult and costly process. Track sales from your favorite Halloween supply stores and subscribe to email newsletters to get the latest alerts on costume trends and discounts. After Halloween is over, you can use’s one-click unsubscribe to get off all those email lists with little effort.

Access the perfect trick-or-treat schedule

Hit the candy motherload and have fun with all the neighborhood kids and parents by plotting your trick-or-treat schedule ahead of time. Upload it to SkyDrive and everyone can access it while en route on any device. Then, all you have to do is get your flashlights, candy bags and giggles ready.

Share boo-tiful photos from the day’s festivities

Whether you love your smartphone or are a diehard digital camera guru, there are bound to be plenty of fun photos the group needs to exchange. Use and SkyDrive together to share all your Halloween snaps in one mail – the file size doesn’t matter – and they will arrive in slideshow format! There’s no limit to the number of photos you can share and, since they’re all stored on SkyDrive, you can access them on any device anywhere, anytime. Share with Grandma and Grandpa, or gather the kids and relive the Halloween fun over and over again.

From supplies to volunteering, parents can find ways to support teachers

  • Written by BPT

Parents know educating their children is a collaborative effort between families and teachers. Each new school year, parents look for ways to make that effort as fruitful and positive for their children as possible. By supporting their child’s teacher, parents can help ensure kids get the best education possible every year.

If you’re looking for ways to show your child’s teacher your support – and facilitate his or her efforts to educate your child – keep these points in mind:

Supplies show support

Teachers often spend their own money to ensure their students and classrooms have the supplies they need throughout the year. In fact, a study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that teachers spend an average of $356 from their own pockets on supplies and instructional materials – a total of $1.3 billion for all U.S. public school teachers. The same study revealed that parents – not governments, corporations or even charities – were the major source of supplemental funds for classroom needs, averaging $19 per student on classroom supplies.

This year, parents can do even more to ensure students and teachers have the supplies they need to succeed. Teachers participating in the Staples Teacher Rewards and Reward-A-Classroom programs can now generate custom supply lists that parents can access on Searching by the teacher’s name and city, parents can locate and print out a custom list, and bring it to a Staples store – or order directly from Additionally, through the Reward-A-Classroom program, parents can earn extra rewards for a participating teacher of their choice. By linking their Staples Rewards account to a participating teacher’s Rewards Account, parents will earn an additional 2 percent back in Rewards on everything (5 percent back on any Copy & Print order) when they shop in store and online that will go directly to the teacher. Parents will still receive their usual five percent back in Staples Rewards on everything.

"Sometimes, helping obtain needed supplies can be the most supportive thing a parent can do for their child’s teacher," says Alison Corcoran, senior vice president of stores and online marketing for Staples. "When parents can help supply teachers simply by spending money on things they would purchase regardless, it’s a win-win situation for everyone."

To learn more about the rewards programs, log on to

Stay in touch - in every way

Schools often offer orientation nights to introduce parents to teachers and demonstrate the curriculum students will learn throughout the year.

Attending these events is a simple, powerful way to show teachers you support their efforts – and appreciate them taking personal time after hours to benefit your children.

If your teacher maintains a website or page for your child’s class, be sure to check in regularly for homework assignments, news and any updates to your teacher’s supplies list or wish list. Keeping in touch helps teachers know you’re aware of their work and of students’ achievements.

Hands on wherever you are

Whether it’s at home checking your child’s homework or as a volunteer in the classroom, taking a hands-on approach to helping shows teachers you are as committed to your child’s education as they are.

Schools need volunteers for a range of activities, from assisting on testing days and in school libraries to helping out with parties, performances, sporting events and other fun occasions.

Even if you can only spare an hour a month, you’ll be helping out the teacher – and demonstrating to him or her that you consider yourself a part of the educational team.

If volunteering isn’t practical, consistently reinforcing classroom messages and lessons at home can be just as helpful and supportive.

Look for ways to incorporate lessons learned in the classroom with day-to-day home life. For example, when your child studies weights and measures, involve him in food prep and use cooking as a way to practice measuring techniques. When your child learns about government and voting, take her with you to the polls so she can see the voting process.

"It’s important for all of us to show teachers how much we value their commitment and contribution to our communities," Corcoran says. "Keeping teachers well-supplied and reinforcing classroom lessons are great ways for parents to help teachers make a difference – and ensure their kids get the education they need."

Back to School Blues - How to transition from one year to the next

  • Written by Elizabeth McAninch, Language Arts Teacher, Dartmoor School

As backyard barbeques, family vacations and the long days of summer begin to wind down, families everywhere are preparing for the inevitable excitement and anxiety of returning to school.

For some, this means new supplies, new clothing and new possibilities for the year. For others, however, this means what has come to be known as "the back to school blues."

Parents scramble to get last minute items on their child’s school supply list, children begin to stress over new classes and new teachers, and everyone laments the finale of days of freedom and sleeping in.

While we often disregard this phenomenon, we should not take these feelings of anxiety lightly. According to APA psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD, "The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. While trying to manage work and the household, parents can sometimes overlook their children’s feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins."

Change is always a difficult thing, but there are some ways we can deal with this anxiety we may feel. Making the transition together can help. Setting up a routine that works smoothly can make busy mornings easier and put our body clocks back on a normal schedule. A routine can also help us to avoid exhaustion and disorganization. 

Organization can also help us transition with ease. Having a place for all of our anticipated materials from classes can enhance our focus as well as our productivity. An organized workplace at home can carry over into how we handle our school work and we can prepare by setting this workplace up prior to the beginning of school. If children have an organized place to work at home they will feel more confident about the work that is being given to them at school.  

If children are hesitant to return to school, discuss the positive aspects of school a child will appreciate, such as meeting new people and learning new things.

Lastly, reach out to your teacher before school and begin forming a positive relationship. Creating this comfortable environment will make returning to school fun and an event that we begin to anticipate.

The end of a fun, event-filled summer can create a sense of dread for the return of homework, difficult classes and new teachers but battling the back to school blues is simple if parents and children work together. Keeping communication open and organization essential will help to develop a routine to help us adjust with as much ease as possible.  

Art Can Give You And Your Child An Edge To Success

  • Written by Nicole Stremlow Monahan, Monahan Studio

The light-filled room is comfortable with soft music, quiet conversation and the scratch of pencils on paper. Students are observing colour, shapes, and the way the light actually hits trunks of the trees across the bubbling creek. Describing and analyzing it, then creating their interpretations on paper.

Occasionally someone may change their mind about how it is drawn, and tweak a few things to improve it. A bird may enter the view and add more inspiration and the student will then problem-solve how to get the new element in. This might spark conversation and collaboration on how it could be done.

For some, frustration sets in, but persistence takes over to find a way to make the creation of personal expression work in the end. It turns out beautiful and the student is so happy and proud they completed their work of art.

Art gives both children and adults an edge in this technology driven world because it helps to grow skills such as confidence, problem- solving skills, observation, persistence and creativity of personal expression, just to name a few of the necessary skills to succeed beyond typical learning in school.

Another important factor to consider is that the act of creating something actively engages the hands and mind, so that your body can relax and the stress of a busy life can melt away and refresh you, ready to take on more.

Here are some easy ways to bring art into your home and make it a part of your family’s path to success:

1. Designate an area that is just for creating your favorite form of art. Have it set up and tidy so that it is easy to jump in even for just a few moments. Even a small table and shelves in the kitchen area can work very well. Just have it ready to go and not in the way of other activities.

2. Celebrate your own work or your child’s work by hanging it up or showing to others.

3. Take pictures of the work and make a photo book of the art, this is particularly good for children’s work that may be odd sizes and hard to store. A book is easy to leave out to enjoy.

4. Visit an art gallery, go to the theatre, concert or museum. Even just walking around town looking at public art can be fun. Make a scavenger hunt of it.

5. Enroll in art classes: dance, painting, drawing, drama, pottery, the options are endless.

6. Keep a sketchbook handy to pass the time when waiting in line or when inspiration hits. Daily practice helps to keep the mind active, learning and calm.

So in your pursuit for happiness and success in life, don’t forget to balance your mind, expand your mind, and take your skills and talents to the next level with a little exercise in the arts.

Road trip tips to spice up summer

  • Written by BPT

18100836It’s the great American summer travel tradition: the road trip. Whether you stay close to home or take off for a coast-to-coast jaunt, there’s no better way to enjoy the experience of travel as much as the destinations you visit. But a truly great road trip doesn’t just happen - it takes careful planning and the right gear.

When you pull out the map to plot your route, start thinking of ways to make your road trip easier and more fun than any you’ve done before. Ensure everyone is involved in the planning stage, from mom and dad to the youngest kids, so that each family member feels that they’re contributing and putting their own spin on the trip.

Before the big departure day arrives, create some great playlists, buy on-the-go snacks and be sure to give the car a thorough inspection. That way, when you’re ready to hit the road, you’ll be doing it in style (and safely).

While planning will set the right tone for the trip, your on-the-road travel style can make your trip even more memorable. Keep these tips in mind to make your trip the ultimate road experience.

• Save smart: One of your biggest expenditures on a road trip will be gas, so keeping your budget in check means looking for the best deals at the pump. Luckily, you don’t have to drive to every gas station in town, or wait to see if the price is better at the next exit. Using the YP - Local Search & Gas Prices app, you can easily find the best gas prices nearby, along with directions for how to get there. Even if it’s a savings of a few cents per gallon, it can really add up - and leave more money for fun.

• Get local: One of the greatest things about visiting new places is getting a taste of the local culture. Whether that means digging into a slice of the famous pie at the best diner in town or picking up your morning java at the mom-and-pop coffee shop, you’ll enjoy the city like a local by trying out one-of-a-kind favorites. Use your smartphone and the YP app to discover all the favorite neighborhood spots.

• Find extra fun: You can’t plan for everything - and in fact, you shouldn’t. Leave some room for improvisation, adding some unexpected adventures to the itinerary along the way. In fact, flexibility in schedule and the ability to sightsee are the two most appealing benefits of driving over flying, according to a recent survey by YP. When you’re in uncharted territory, make the most of a smartphone by searching to discover local boutiques, gift shops, museums and more. The places you hadn’t planned on visiting might just end up being the most memorable part of your trip.

There’s nothing that captures the carefree spirit of summer quite like a road trip. Make plans in advance and travel smart and you’ll embark on a road trip journey that everyone will remember for years to come. For more great road trip inspiration, visit