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SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

What If My Child Refuses To Do Homework?

More than once parents have asked me what to do when their child refuses to do her homework, with a refrain that goes something like this: “This math is stupid. When will I ever use it? I’m not going to do it.”

I believe that students naturally want to learn. Therefore, when I hear a child say this, I automatically think he is having difficulty doing the work. It is likely he is trying very hard (or has been trying), but does not know how to do it. It is much easier to say, “I don’t care,” or “This is stupid,” than, “I am trying very hard, but I can’t do this.”

Children in this situation feel like they are stupid and a failure.

I believe the first step for helping your child who is refusing to try is to help her understand that it is okay for some things to be very hard to do. I have been working with a student who was saying very often, “I am stupid. I can’t do math.” First, I told her that she is not allowed to say that any more—and gave her a list of alternatives she can say.

 

It's okay to say:

  • “Math is hard for me.”
  • “I am not good at math.”
  • “I hate math.”
  • “I have to work harder at math than anyone else in the world.”

It is not okay to say:

  • “I cannot do math.”
  • “I am stupid.”
  • “I am a failure.”

 

The second step, after doing the above to help the child change her mindset, is to get help. The student I am working with is now getting tutoring in math. She talks out loud when she works through math problems. And, she has the opportunity to redo assignments that she fails. With these accommodations, she is learning and feeling a little bit more confident. She still hates math and probably always will. But, she is making some progress and will probably pass for the year.

For more suggestions about what to do when your child is having homework difficulties, read “What If My Child Can’t Do the Homework?”

To learn more about changing the mindset of failure, read “Change How You Praise Your Children to Assure They Reach Their Potential.”

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Here’s What Makes a First Grader Thankful

In preparation for Thanksgiving, my 1st grade class had a discussion about what we’re thankful for this holiday. I wanted to share my student’s thoughts because their 6- and 7-year-old perspectives are sweet and innocent, yet surprisingly profound. 

  • Many children said:  “I’m thankful for my family.  They are so nice to me.”  “They care about me.”  “They love me, and I love them.”

 

  • “I’m thankful for trees because they are good to climb, and they give us oxygen, too!”

 

  • “I’m thankful for my little sister, because she’ll walk soon.”

 

  • “I’m thankful for the sun because it makes my face warm.”

 

  • “I like the sun, too.  It helps plants to grow.”

 

  • “I’m thankful for my kitty, because when I pat her soft fur it makes me happy.”

 

  • “I’m thankful for all the good food…except the carrots!”

 

  • “I’m thankful for my brother Corey. He’s a Marine, and he’ll be home for Thanksgiving…and I can’t wait to see him!”

 

One student’s thought really got to the heart of the holiday. He said, “I’m thankful for blessings…even though I don’t see them every day.”

So, here’s to hidden blessings!  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

 

 

 

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Test and Improve Your Child's Working Memory

Having a good working memory is important for school success. When we are engaged in problem solving or learning something new, we have to manipulate ideas in our brains. We might be trying out new things and figuring out how they fit in with what we already know. We might be thinking about a new vocabulary word and relating it to similar words that are already a part of our vocabulary. Each of us has a limited amount of memory space for doing these activities. If we have a poor working memory it can cause problems.

On average, a school-aged child can hold and work with between five and nine things at a time.  Younger children can manipulate fewer things than older children. It doesn’t really matter how many it is, it only matters if it is causing difficulty for some reason. 

A child who has poor working memory loses track of what she is doing. I watched a student read a math problem carefully, decide how to work it out, line up the numbers on grid paper, begin adding the numbers, and then switch to subtracting in the middle of the problem. He lost track of what he was doing because his working memory capacity was limited.

There are several simple tests you can do to find out how many items your child can control in his working memory. First, however, be aware that some children do better when working with letters or words than they do when working with numbers. And some children remember what they see, but not what they hear. Therefore, your child may have a better working memory in some situations than in others. 

Try these tests, but be careful not to go so far that your child becomes stressed. Try to make this like a game to them:

  • Say a series of three numbers rather slowly (about one per second). Then ask your child to say them back to you. Do the same with four, five, six and on until she cannot say them back (remember, stop before it becomes too difficult.)
  • Try a similar test with short sentences (three words), and work up to longer sentences until you find the number he can do successfully.
  • Say three numbers and ask her to say them back in reverse order. This is obviously a more complex task, but it is probably more like what she will be doing when working a math problem. Try this with more numbers until you find the limit.
  • Repeat the tests using letters (forward and reverse).

What can you do to improve working memory? If you feel your child has a poor working memory, you might want to do some practice activities to see if it helps. You can do so by using one of the activities you used as a test. For example, if your child was able to repeat three numbers, practice until he can do it consistently. Then, give him four, and keep practicing until he can do four consistently. This takes time, but it might gradually improve his working memory capacity.

I would love to know if any of you have tried similar activities that work. Please post a comment and let me know! 

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Kids Learn Skills Through Art

“Art is thought expressed through the hands.”

— Unknown author

Most young children are natural artists. Some of an infant’s earliest responses are to color, light and shapes. These responses help an infant recognize differences while exploring and learning about their world. This “learning through the senses” at a very early age helps a young child develop higher level cognitive skills, such as, reasoning, identifying symbols, and developing language.

 

Learning colors, recognizing shapes, and starting to “make pictures” in their minds are important pre-reading skills. Often, a beginning reader looks to the picture for clues about the words. 

 

Connecting art to learning is a great educational tool and something I use in my classroom every day. It’s easy to do at home as well.

 

Here are three simple artistic ways to help your young child become a better reader and writer.

 

Create an “Art Box” in your home.  Fill a cardboard box with crayons, old wallpaper scraps, ribbon, glitter glue, construction paper, markers, stickers, scissors, etc. Bring it out on stormy days and let your child have creative fun. Working with different textures, shapes, and substances helps improve her fine motor skills.

 

Children love working with rebus sentences. A “rebus” sentence is a combination of pictures and words. On a piece of paper draw an “eye,” a “heart,” write the word “my,” then draw a “dog.” Have your child read the sentence to you.  I love my dog.” Then have him draw a rebus sentence of his own for you to read.

 

Save your old catalogs and magazines. Let your child go through them to find, cut and glue pictures that start with specific letters. Begin with an easy letter. For example, on the top of an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of construction paper write the letters “Bb” Then let your child look through the catalog or magazine for pictures that begin with "Bb" (upper case and lower case). Periodically do this activity for all letters. When the alphabet is complete staple the papers, in alphabetical order, and your child his or her own creative book.

 

Art is a universal “language” that often makes a dramatic difference in developing reading and writing comprehension.

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Consequences of a Zero: How One Missing Grade Makes a Huge Difference

Many students do not understand how important it is to complete (and turn in) every single assignment. They think that missing a paper or two does not make much difference in their overall grade. I have tutored students before who were failing in a course who really weren’t doing that badly on the work they did. They seemed to understand the concepts as we worked through them. But, because they did not do all the work, their grade was terrible.

 

Help your child understand this concept. Show them how to calculate an average (add all their grades together and divide by the number of grades). Then do some pretend calculations to show them the difference between getting an 85, 79, 90, 88, and 100 (average is 88.4), versus getting an 85, 79, 90, 0, and 100 (70.8 average!). At my school the 88.4 is a “B” and the 70.8 is an “F.” 

 

One missing grade makes a huge difference.

 

Sometimes, the issue is not that they did not do the work. It might be that they forgot to print it out, lost it between home and school, or put it in the wrong notebook. Parents can help with this, too. If these are issues for your child, they might need an organization system to help them keep up with their work.  Check out A Notebook System That Aids With Organization for an idea that might help them keep up with their homework.

 

Or, they might need a checklist to use before leaving home in the morning. Organization Tips to Eliminate the Forgotten Homework, Lunch, Sneakers… provides you with one method that has worked for many students.

 

 

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Can Early Education Benefit from "Occupy Wall Street?"

Is there a connection between the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and our schools?

As an early educator I read with interest an October 19 Op-Ed piece in the New York Times that a friend and fellow educator sent me.  The article, by Nicholas D. Kristof, is titled “Occupy the Classroom.” It states the case for diminishing the inequalities between “have” and “have-not” Americans by closing the early childhood education gap.

For me, it clearly voiced what I have always felt about the value of early education.

Why do we wait for formal education to start at age five, when so much of a young child’s developing mind is ready to learn in those first five years of life?  Why not invest in readiness for school success?

The leaders of our country have always talked a good game about “our children being our future,” but have these words been supported with real economic commitment?

I, for one, would much rather see my tax dollars spent on programs to help all young children develop essential skills.

Children don’t vote.  They have no economic power.  It’s up to us to make the right decisions for them and their future.

So yes, I definitely see a connection between what’s happening on Wall Street and in our country’s educational system. 

Wouldn’t you agree that investing in our children’s early education would yield a high return?

Click here to read Kristof’s entire column. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

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A Cool (Free) Tool for Doing a Presentation

Many teachers assign presentations to help their students develop their speaking and presenting skills. I recently learned to use some presentation software that is available free on the web. It’s called Prezi and is particularly good for those who do not like to write lots of words and who tend to be more creative. It also allows you to show off how much you know about a topic without tempting you to turn around and read from the screen.

 With Prezi, you create a single document that is sort of like a poster that presents your topic.  I recommend keeping it simple with lots of pictures and few words.  You can decide what order you would like for things to play, embed YouTube videos, import images, group information, and format colors and themes.  You can also download your presentation and present it without being online. 

 The best way to learn how to use Prezi is to watch the tutorials on the Prezi website. As usual, parents should supervise children while online—Prezi allows anyone to post samples of their work.

Give it a try! See whether this is a tool that will help the next time your child is asked to do a presentation in school.  It is a way to do an impressive, creative presentation.  And it’s free.

 

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Use Estimating Fun to Educate

Take advantage of your young child’s natural curiosity by using estimation! It is a great way to help your child improve her overall math skills.

Estimating gives a child the opportunity to “guess” a math answer, using his prior knowledge of numbers.  It’s a useful tool to get your child thinking about a math problem before actually solving it. 

For a young child it’s best to start with a visual.  Here are some simple ways to incorporate estimation into your child’s thinking.

•  Fill a small, clear container with pennies, M & M’s, Legos, or any other small objects.  Keep it on the kitchen counter, or some other place where it’s easily visible.  Let her hold it, shake it, try to count through the container wall, etc. Have her guess how many objects are in the container. Delay opening the container and counting the objects right away.  It’s okay if she changes her guess a number of times.  After a day or two, open the container and count the objects together to see how close she came to the correct number. Refill the jar with different objects and keep practicing until her guesses are very close to the actual number.

Take an estimation “walk.” For example, let your child guess how many heel-to-toe steps he will have to take to walk from the kitchen to the computer.  Then have him walk and count the actual steps. For fun, have him guess how many steps it will take you to do the same walk! Talk about why you, as an adult, would use fewer steps.

Have your child grab a handful of pennies, raisins, Goldfish crackers, or other small objects. Let her estimate if the number of objects she has in her hands is “odd or even.” Help her arrange them in pairs to find out. “Even” numbers will always be in a pair. “Odd” numbers will always have one left over.

Simple games like these give you the opportunity to create an environment that puts the “fun” in math fundamentals!

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How to Help Your Child Improve His or Her Vocabulary

For children to be successful in school, they need a strong vocabulary.  This especially helps them to understand what they are reading.  Experts tell us that children need to read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books and to have specific words directly taught to them.  They also need to understand how to learn words on their own, and they should spend time playing with language in a variety of ways. 

 In Narrowing the Language Gap: The Case for Explicit Vocabulary Instruction, authors Kate Kinsella and Kevin Feldman provide a model for vocabulary instruction.

 They tell us to:

  • Make sure children have the opportunity to pronounce the words they are learning. One idea includes posting the word on the refrigerator, and having parents ask their child to say the word they are “playing with” on the fridge, making sure they pronounce the word correctly.  It is best if this is done informally—in conversation rather than making it seem like schoolwork.
  • The next step is to make sure the child understands the meaning of the new word.  The language used to explain the word should be familiar and easy to understand.  If the word of the day is “melancholy” the parent might say, “Marcus seems somewhat _____ today,” allowing the child to fill in the blank.  Then the child can come up with a sentence that uses the term appropriately.  The parent could also ask, “Do you feel melancholy today, or do you feel cheerful?”
  • Next, provide examples of how the word might be used in other contexts.  For example, a parent might say, “I got a letter today with some melancholy news.”  Then the parent could ask the child what that means and ask him to try to elaborate by making more sentences that use the word.

These strategies can become a game in your household.  Vocabulary words can be written on index cards once they are learned.  Then the child can choose a card and see if they can use the word correctly in a sentence.  Or, children can earn stars when they correctly use a new vocabulary term in ordinary conversation that they think of on their own.  Ten stars might earn a special treat such as ice cream or a trip to the local park.

Remember that it takes multiple encounters with a word before it truly becomes a part of a person’s vocabulary.  So, continue to use the new words in everyday conversation when appropriate.

There are many websites that will give you a word of the day; you can find them by searching on the web. Or, check out this free "Word of the Day" app for the iPod from VocabDaily.

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"Chore Charts" Help Curb the Nagging

Do your children do chores in your household?

Do they do them willingly and without being asked and reminded repeatedly?

Take heart; mine don't either.

To that end, I wish I'd had "chore charts" to use with my son and daughter when they were younger. At SchoolFamily.com, we've created some terrific chore charts that can be printed out and used with children as young as 3 and as old as 17. Each of our six charts is tailored to a specific age group: 3-4 year olds; those ages 5-6; 7-9; 10-12; 13-14; and 15-17. Best of all, they're customizable with your own chores in addition to the ones we've listed.

 

Over the years, I tried using "job" charts with my kids, but they were never as clear and specific as these charts. Mine were rudimentary. I taped them to a wall or pinned them to a bulletin board, amid great fanfare with my kids, and they were quickly forgotten after a week or so (sometimes less).

 

I've heard child development experts—and my husband—insist that having kids be responsible for chores makes them more responsible in general. It also shows them that taking care of a household and having it run smoothly (well, as smoothly as it can) only works if everyone does their part.

 

Without the use of chore charts, the routine in my household occasionally runs like a well-staged, highly emotional melodrama, with performances several night a week:

 

SCENE I

It's late afternoon on a weekday:

ME [To my high school daughter, age 16]: "Sweetie, would you please unload the dishwasher and clean the kitty litter after you finish your homework?"

HER: [Initial silence]

ME: [Voice rising slightly] "Did you hear me?"

HER: [Voice rising significantly] "I know. I HEARD you and I said I WOULD."

ME: "Well, okay. I didn't hear you respond."

HER: "I'll do it in a MINUTE."

 

SCENE II

Three to four hours pass and it's now mid-evening:

ME: [Spoken in a sing-songy voice, trying to avoid a meltdown] "Sweetie, the dishwasher and kitty litter still need your attention." 

HER: "Man, why do I have to do EVERYTHING around here?"

ME: [Restraining my urge to suddenly have her become homeless] "We all do our part, and if you'd just done it when I'd asked, you'd ..."

HER: [Interrupting me] "I WAS BUSY." 

ME: [Heavy sigh. Awash with feelings of ineffectiveness as a parent; fury at this child; realization that if I'd just done the chores myself, they'd have been done hours ago; and annoyance at myself for even considering doing them myself. Repeat.]

 

SCENE III

ME: [Note to self: "PRINT OUT chore charts.]

 

Want to end this well-rehearsed melodrama at your own house? Check out our chore charts.

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The Kids Are Back To School and Mom is Back To The Gym!

It’s 8 a.m., and the kids are all backpacked and out the door. I enjoy the quiet of that moment every single weekday.

Don’t get me wrong—massive crazy happens between 6:30 and 8 a.m.! But … we are slowly taking control of our morning routine (we are, I swear!). However, the after school rat race with one freshman and two active elementary kids apparently isn’t going to be tamed anytime soon because the beast changes every week!

 

I’m staging “Operation: Take Back my Mornings!”

 

I could hang around enjoying a hot cocoa, schedule a pedicure with a friend, or even get busy and make those East Coast phone calls I’m behind on. Nope. Not me.

 

Now that the kids are back to school, MOM is Back to the Gym!

 

I saw this bumper sticker the other day: “A Fit Mom is a Powerful Mom.” And I totally agree. Only I haven’t been fit or powerful or even able to walk up my stairs without huffing and puffing for months! I’m ready to get my powers back. I’m not about losing a bunch of pounds; I’m about defeating those dang STAIRS. Plus it helps tremendously that I have a good friend who is even more motivated to fire up her mom-fierce. I highly suggest finding a walking buddy, a gym treadmill friend or even an online group that will give you motivation or competition or whatever gets your blood pumping.

 

When I don’t have a chatty friend to make the minutes less boring, my new favorite Pandora station is “I Will Survive” … and I dare you to listen to that song and NOT crank the dial up to a fast walk or (ack!) even a jog! The other songs that magically appear are so fabulously disco that you can’t help but smile and keep walking (yes, I’m the one on the corner elliptical doing the hand signals to YMCA; don’t judge me).

 

Another favorite treadmill pastime is to download library books on my phone or MP3 player. Lately the best ones I’ve listened to are:

 

“The Help” — Kathryn Stockett (Oh.My.Wonderful.Book. Worth the movie—but DON’T miss the book!)

 

“Cutting For Stone”— Abraham Verghese (If you haven’t read this I feel very sad for you. My mostest favorite book in 2010)

 

“Hell Gate”— Linda Fairstein (This was a brain candy type of whodoneit, but I loved the voices of the narrator.)

 

Audio books and your favorite tunes are also great for getting your groove on while cleaning the house. I’ve been known to work up a sweat while dancing with my vacuum cleaner!

 

Come on, Moms, while those kids are at school get your powerful back! Pedicures can wait; I say a fit mom is a happy mom, and happy moms will raise happy children.

 

 

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For all who've been bullied ...

SchoolFamily.com's Guest Blogger this week is Rebecca Mooney, M.Ed., the Executive Director of the Center for Education in Violence Prevention based in Melrose, MA. The Center offers comprehensive bullying prevention training for staff, students, and parents.

Several weeks ago my agency sponsored a bullying prevention seminar featuring young adult novelist Megan Kelley Hall.

 

Megan has become a champion in the campaign against bullying, and has co-edited a new anthology titled, “Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories.” If you haven’t thought about middle school (or junior high, as the case may be) in some time, trust me —this book will bring it all back.  The essays are intensely personal and compelling, written from the perspective of victims, bullies and bystanders.

 

One of my favorites is by Lara Zeises, a self-described “fatty” growing up.  She tells the story of being teased relentlessly about her size by two boys throughout middle and high school, her cheeks burning with shame as they laughed and called her cruel names.  She actually changed schools and didn’t see them again, but still carried the pain, humiliation, and anger into her adult life. Recently, she decided to search for her former tormentors. After finding one of them through Facebook, she summoned all her courage and told him off. She explained how damaging the harassment had been—and what a jerk he was—but that despite it all, she was now a successful author. So there! He wrote back that if he did, in fact, do those awful things to her he was truly sorry, but said he actually didn’t remember her. 


To me this story is such a vivid and poignant illustration of one of the points we teach in our programs for students, staff and parents: Bullying really is about the bully’s need for empowerment, and the victim can be anyone. The bully picks the easiest target, and uses the victim to gain status, power, and popularity. Based on this knowledge, we honestly tell bullying victims, “It’s about them, not you.”

 

Like many victims, however, Lara did not receive this message when she most needed it. Consequently, she was profoundly affected over a significant period of her life. It’s sad that no one realized what was happening and intervened so that she didn’t have to carry the burden alone.  If they had, it might have alleviated a lot of pain, and helped her move on much sooner.

 

SchoolFamily.com's Guest Blogger this week is Rebecca Mooney, M.Ed., the Executive Director of the Center for Education in Violence Prevention based in Melrose, MA. The Center offers comprehensive bullying prevention training for staff, students, and parents. Over the last 14 years, Rebecca has spearheaded and implemented a range of violence prevention programs in schools and the community, including bullying prevention, domestic and teen dating violence prevention, mentoring, peer mediation and peer leadership programs. She has served as a trainer, panelist, and guest speaker on bullying prevention and teen dating violence for conferences sponsored by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Child Advocacy Center of Boston, Riverside Counseling Center, and Children’s Hospital Boston, among others. In 2004 Rebecca was honored with the Unsung Heroine Award by the Massachusetts Commission on Women for her contributions to the field of violence prevention. She lives in Melrose with her husband and has two young adult daughters.

 

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New iPhone Apps Help Parents Receive School Notices, Deal With Head Lice, and Find the Nearest Restroom

"There's an app for that." Are you familiar with this phrase? Perhaps it's one uttered by your kids on occasion (or on a daily basis). It's a phrase my daughter says frequently right before she sighs and gently gives me one of those "Mom, you're such a dinosaur" looks. Apps are application software programs that address  almost every subject imaginable. First created for the the Apple iPhone, more and more apps are becoming available for the BlackBerry, the Droid, and many other smartphones.

There are a couple of new iPhone apps that caught my eye recently. One is called ParentLink Mobile Parent. It's an app that allows you to receive automated calls from your child's school sent directly to your iPhone. These calls are being made by most schools today, and inform parents of everything from the opening day of school to emergency school closings. This free app is available from ParentLink.net, also allows parents to update their contact information with their school's automated call system directly from their cell phones. 

An app I hope I never have to use is The Facts of Lice by Fairy Tales Hair Care. Yes, this app helps parents whose children have been infected with head lice. Not only are head lice pesky to treat, their presence means kids can't be in school as long as they have "nits" in their hair, these being the eggs laid by active lice (note: You may want to check to see if your child's school has a "No Nits" and/or a "No Lice" policy). Be aware that the company is plugging its own line of lice treatment and prevention products, and includes a salon locator where the products may be purchased locally. That said, the app also includes helpful, general information about lice, as well as a way to track an outbreak and be notified of outbreaks in your area. 

Finally, an iPhone app that no pregnant woman or mother of small children should be without: Where to Wee. My daughter told me about this site (since she complains that I use the ladies room "all the time"), and I'll admit it's come in handy more than once when we've been traveling. The app allows you to find the nearest restrooms - especially critical if you're potty training little ones - and rate bathrooms on cleanliness, and the availability of soap and paper towels. In addition, for some hilarious reading, check out the Where to Wee blog.

 

 

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Reading Log as Homework? Win a Reading Pup

Yesterday was the first day of school in my town. I met up with a bunch of moms after bus stop time to swap stories. Fortunately everyone in our bunch went off to school happily.

The back-to-school mood of the group was divided. Some moms were practically singing "It’s the most wonderful time of the year." Others were sad their kids would be gone all day and that summer was over. But there was one topic that everyone agreed on: they were dreading the onslaught of homework, especially the younger kids' reading logs. Nobody likes to play the homework police, and these moms had particular disdain for reading logs! One mom said she felt it caused undue stress on her kindergartener last year. Another mom said that she felt like it was turning reading into a chore. 

I would love to hear what you think about teacher assigned reading logs … Do you think they work?  How do your kids feel about them? Do you think there is a good alternative to reading charts? Leave a comment below for a chance to win a Smarty Ants Phonics Reading Pup*. The first 15 comments will receive a pup of their very own. Best part is you don’t have to walk it or clean up after it.

*Full disclosure: The Reading Pup is subscription-based product. You will receive a free 30-day membership to Smartyants.com with your Reading Pup. After the 30 days, SmartyAnts starts at $24.99 for 3 months, or $49.99 for a full year.

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Why is Mom the Family's Social Calendar-Carrier?

School for my rising high school junior starts in seven days, which means that in seven days, I'll be hit with an avalanche of paperwork and important dates to record. I'm already in the doghouse, however, for forgetting something important today. 

About 20 minutes go, my 16-year-old flew out the door to meet her driver's ed instructor who was waiting in a car in front of our house. Seems I'd forgotten to tell my daughter that the instructor had called me the day before, and scheduled several lessons for her over the coming weeks - including one today. Shame on me for forgetting and for neglecting to advise my daughter. But, wait a minute: How come mothers are expected to be the all-knowing, continually-updated, walking "calendar" for everyone else in the family?

Ever since my kids were toddlers, I've kept some version of a write-on, wipe-off, dry erase calendar taped to a wall in our kitchen(or on the front of our refrigerator). I've always told my husband and kids that "If it isn't on the calendar, it doesn't exist," which means I expect them to fill in any events or dates that they schedule, and to check the calendar frequently to see what's on for any given day.

That's where things tend to fall down in my house. Like most women, I'm the Scheduler of Appointments for the kids, occasionally my husband, our pets, and home repair or service calls we require. And while it might sound like an exalted position, it's one I'd gladly pass on ... if only someone was interested.

My routine is to schedule things for said household, add the information to my smartphone calendar, and then write it on the dry erase calendar in the kitchen. As I see it, the responsibility for the appointments from there rests with each person who lives in my house -- well, except the dog and cat whom I'll excuse for not knowing their upcoming appointments at the vet.

Tell me, fellow mothers: Is that so unreasonable?

I didn't think so.

However, I admit that on rare occasions I forget to record an appointment on the dry erase calendar, and a member of my family -- today, the teenage daughter -- is caught unaware. Geesh ... I'm only human.

Job, anyone?

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Preschooler Parties that are Over the Top

Have you heard about this? It's the latest garish, new, reality television show, wherein parents (mothers mostly), spend absurd amounts of money on parties for their young children. Called  "Outrageous Kid Parties," the show runs on the TLC channel.

One family spent $31,000 on their son's preschool graduation party. Another spent almost $33,000 to celebrate their daughter's sixth-birthday, hosting a "Country Carnival," which featured a $4,000 rotating cake, a guest list of 250, and a $600 limousine ride.

What's wrong with these people? When I first read about these absurd expenditures (and the reality show that delivers them to our television sets and computer screens), I thought about the difference that could have been made in real people's lives by donating this money to local charities. And what a lesson these young children would have learned about giving back and helping others less fortunate.

These kids and their parents still could have enjoyed a fun celebratory party, but toned down for the preschoolers. For that age, a party with games and then some quiet activities, such as coloring, can help to settle the kids before it's time for cake and presents.

 

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Simple Ways to Increase Your Child's Reading Comprehension

Ready, Set, Read!

When my son, Michael, was four years old someone gave him a video of his favorite movie “Star Wars.”   The problem was he could not yet read.  So, each time the movie started, as the words began to crawl, he would drag his older sister (who was six and could read) over to the screen, yelling “Read it Megan, read it, read it!”

She would read the opening words again and again to him, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”  She patiently read it to him until he could read it himself.

Reading together often is an important way to help your young child learn to read.  Yet, it is how and what you read together that can increase your child’s comprehension.

Here are six simple ways to enrich your child’s reading experiences:

  • Read from a variety of children’s books, including fiction, non-fiction, fairy tales, poems, etc.
  • When reading a story together try using different voices for different characters. Doing this really holds your child’s interest, while helping him understand different characters in the story.
  • While reading to your child don’t forget to pay attention to the punctuation marks.  Slightly raise your voice when there is a question mark, or sound excited when there is an exclamation mark.
  • Re-read a favorite story again and again.  Once your child knows it by heart, make a little “mistake.”  Read a word incorrectly, or leave out a word and let your child correct you!
  • When reading to your child point word by word as you read.  This promotes a natural “left-to-right” progression.
  • Most importantly, while reading together make as many “self-to-text” connections as you can.  A “self-to-text” connection simply means that your child makes a personal connection from something in the story to their own life.  The best way to do this is to stop and ask questions while reading.  For example, “Do you remember the time we made that chocolate cake together?” or “Did you ever feel like that?”


These simple strategies can have a powerful impact in creating strong readers!

Next Week:   Ready, Set, Math

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Creative Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Read More This Summer!

 

Reading programs at your local library are an awesome way to get your kids to read over the summer. But not all kids are inspired to read by these programs. Some just need that extra nudge. Turning reading into an adventure works wonders for these reluctant readers. When fall rolls around, you'll be glad you put the extra thought and effort into finding creative ways to encourage reading. Here are some fun ideas to try: 

 

  • Host a neighborhood or friend book swap. I had a friend who did this and gave the kids sticky notes and ask them to write a brief note about why they liked the book they were swapping. This way the book recommendation comes from a peer, not a parent… and we all know that carries much more clout! 
  • Give your child a flashlight and designate it the "reading flashlight!" Reading in bed just seems more fun when you do it by flashlight. Better yet, set up a tent in your yard and let your kids read in there with the flashlight. 
  • I am a huge advocate for frequent trips to the library but I am also a sucker when my kids ask me to buy a book. When anyone asks for suggestions for gifts for my kids, I suggest bookstore gift cards. We have a summer tradition of an outing to the bookstore to use these gift cards. Speaking of gift cards, be sure to enter our Summer Reading List Sweepstakes on our Facebook page for a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card. Through the sweepstakes we are building a summer reading list for kids. We hope you will add your favorite children's book for a chance to win! 
  • For younger kids, instead of keeping a book log, have them keep a log of all the interesting places that they read a book.  Creating a interesting reading spot quest like this is a great way to inspire kids to read more. The places can range from inside the dog’s crate to the top of the Empire State building! This approach not only encourages reading, but also creativity, a sense of adventure, and writing. 
  • Have your kids bring their favorite books or magazines on hikes and bike rides. When it’s time to take a rest, break out the books. We started doing this with our kids when they were toddlers and I happy to say that it has become a habit (and they are now teens). 
For even more ways to keep your kids reading over the summer check out our Ideas to Encourage Summer Reading article. As always, we'd love to hear your creative ideas! 

 

 

 

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Enter our Summer Reading List Sweeps for a Chance at a $200 Amazon Gift Card

Is it me, or does it feel like it’s tough for kids to find time to read for pleasure during the school year? Sure, there’s the book before bed, but I am talking about having a stack of books and no schedule. No soccer practice or dance lesson to run off to. Just books. 

Reason  # 834 why I love summer so much. Summer is such a fabulous time for your kids (and you!) to get lost in books! To get this lazy, hazy season off to a great start we are kicking off a Children’s Summer Reading List Sweepstakes.  Our goal: build a sensational summer reading list that will be your go-to spot for must-read kids’ books.  To make this list building even more fun, we are giving away two $200 Amazon gift cards. Everyone has a favorite children’s book, right?  Is your fav a picture book or a chapter book? 

It's easy peasy to enter -- just head over to our Facebook page and tell us your (or your child’s) favorite book for a chance to win one of 2 gift cards. Now here’s the hard part: you have to choose one book – you can only enter once*!  Be sure to tell your friends to add their favorite book too. It will be fun to see the list grow. We'll be publishing your book suggestions here on our site and highlighting the books that are the most suggested, so stay tuned. Can’t wait to read your children’s book suggestions! 

Keep your eye out for an upcoming blog post about fun ways to get your kids to read more this summer. Read a book, feed your brain. If you have any tips you’d like us to include, add them in the comment section below. 

 

*One sweepstakes entry per person and only those entries that complete all the fields in the entry form are eligible to win. See sweepstakes rules here

NOTE: If you run into any difficulties sharing the sweepstakes on Facebook, try using Firefox or Chrome as your browser.

 

 

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My Case for All Day Kindergarten

GirlWhy don’t all school districts, across the country, have full day kindergartens?

Spring is the time of year when parents usually register their children for the upcoming kindergarten year. For many parents, whose school districts still have half-day kindergartens, planning for the upcoming year is a logistical nightmare—especially when their children clearly shows signs of kindergarten readiness. They struggle with the complexities of work schedules and getting young children enrolled, and safely transported to and from appropriate half-day care.

Academically, most educators agree that it does not make sense to have half-day kindergarten. The kindergarten curriculum has become much more intense, yet all half day "K" academics must be jam-packed into a two and one half hour time-slot! There is little time for play; little time for exploratory learning... the pressure is on, for both the children and the teacher.

The whole concept of kindergarten was based on smoothing the transition from home to school. Over the years it focused on children playing, getting along socially, and beginning formal education. However, in 2011 most children come to kindergarten already having experienced a full day of pre-school or day care.

As a first grade teacher, I highly endorse all-day kindergarten. It makes perfect sense for academic and social reasons.

Even though school budgets are being cut to the bone, all-day kindergarten should be a priority for its positive effect on young children as they start their academic career. What do you think?

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016