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SchoolFamily Voices

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Staying Healthy at Back-to-School Time

When kids go back to school, it often isn’t long before the first sniffles and colds arrive. Parents can’t stop their kids from getting sick, but there’s plenty they can do to help them stay healthy, and, if they do catch a cold, ease the symptoms as much as possible.

One company that understands this well is one of our sponsors, Hyland’s Inc., which has been making cold remedies for more than 100 years. Just one example: Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ‘n Cough is made with natural ingredients that ease sneezing, coughing and sore throats. It’s an option for parents looking for a safe and effective product with no stimulants, sugar, dyes, or artificial flavors.

Medicine like Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ʹn Cough can fit into an overall plan to keep kids healthy so they thrive during back-to-school time. Other steps parent can take include:

  • Stress basic hygiene rules to your children so they can avoid the common cold or passing it along. Simple steps like not sharing utensils or drinks will go a long way.
  • Remind kids of the importance of hand washing. Often, they are just too busy to remember. We have many printables and mini-posters that you can download to help remind your kids of the importance of this task.
  • If you aren’t sure if your child should stay home, check this article that provides general guidelines for a sick day. If your child has minor cold symptoms without a fever, chances are, he’s good to go.
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Unscheduled Time—Does Your Child Get Enough?

Giving Kids Enough Unscheduled TimeOne of my favorite things in life is watching my grandson play. He doesn’t need toys, although he does like them. He sometimes picks up a stick and one moment it’s an airplane. Then it becomes a car, then a train, then a monster from the lagoon. What amazes me about this is his creativity and delight as he plays. 

I have thought a lot about the way he plays. In order for a child to be able to play like this and be inventive, he needs unscheduled time. But many parents do not give their children time to just do nothing. Every minute is filled with things to do and places to go. Most families overschedule children to the point that they have no time to be creative and entertain themselves.

If you have children in middle or upper school, consider some of the ramifications of overscheduling your child’s day. Families can become so busy, they do not even have time to sit down together at dinner. This is important bonding time and allows kids time to tell parents how things are going for them at school. Students need an hour or two each night to complete their homework. If their schedule is too crowded, their schoolwork will suffer.

They also need time to relax—to wind down from their stressful day at school. High-stakes testing and raised expectations add a huge level of stress into students’ lives. And it is important to exercise some every day, especially during adolescence when children are establishing healthy habits for a lifetime. Lastly, adolescents need to get plenty of sleep to be healthy and do well in school.

As the new school year begins, take a few minutes to think through your child’s weekly schedule. Does she have enough time for all of these important things—time with family, homework, relaxation, exercise, and sleep—every day? If not, it’s time to sit down with her to discuss what is important to hold on to and what can be let go. “Finding Balance for Busy Families” offers helpful suggestions for how to prevent having an overscheduled child and family.

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Map Out a Plan for Breakfast

We all know how hectic school mornings can be. With rushing to get dressed, packing up homework and special projects, making lunches, and getting everyone out the door, we can run out of time to serve a nutritious breakfast. 

Who hasn’t tossed their child a quick breakfast treat just to stay on schedule? 

So, here’s a great tip: Add a breakfast plan to your calendar each week. Think of a selection of nutritious breakfast options and pick them up during your regular grocery run. Bake or cook some options on a Sunday afternoon or evening and freeze them for the week ahead. Then, add a five-day breakfast menu on the calendar. Now, instead of stressing in the middle of morning mayhem about what to serve, you can just glance at your calendar and you’ll be ready to go! 

This is important not just for organizational purposes but also because we all know how essential a wholesome breakfast is for our kids. 

So, try a weekly breakfast plan. Here’s a template to work with: 

Monday: Cereal. Look for cereals with fiber and whole grains. The fiber and whole grains help kids feel full and focused when they get to school. One example of a whole-grain cereal that’s high in fiber is Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats®..

Tuesday: Fruits. Chop or slice your child’s favorite fruits ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Serve up with toast or yogurt on the side. Need ideas for fresh-fruit breakfasts? Pinterest is a wonderful source. Just search on “fresh fruit’’ and you will have more ideas that you can use. 

Wednesday: Homemade granola bars or muffins. There are many online resources that provide nutritious versions of traditional breakfast fare. For example, you can make a batch of granola bars with oatmeal and fruit on a Sunday night. Then, freeze or refrigerate them, and serve them during the week. For other make-ahead options, check our Power Breakfasts section on the School Family Recipe Share.

Also, there are many make-ahead breakfast choices using Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats®, like this recipe for banana muffins with strawberries  or this blueberry bars recipe. 

Thursday: Eggs. Make egg sandwiches on whole-wheat bread or mini quiches and freeze or refrigerate. Thaw the night before and serve. This Pinterest board has many fun make-ahead egg dishes.

Friday: Kid’s choice. Take your child grocery shopping and help them select a healthy breakfast item. This will help them feel part of the process and they’ll be more likely to eat what they’ve picked out.

*Kelloggs’s disclaimer: USDA recommends consuming a minimum of 48g of whole grains a day. Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats® cereals contain at least 42g whole grains per serving.

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Now’s the Time To Get Involved!

Get Involved!The start of the school year is the perfect time to think about volunteering at your child’s school. Any time you can spare would be beneficial. As a more involved parent, you increase your child’s opportunities to be successful in school. Being involved, to whatever degree possible, not only helps your own child but also improves the overall quality of your school. It also keeps you “in the loop” about what’s happening at school. Even if your volunteer time is limited, you can still have a presence in various ways.

Here are seven simple ways parents can participate at their child’s school:

  • Meet your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Ask how he or she likes to be contacted, e.g., email, phone, written note, etc. Ask how you can help at home.
  • Join the school’s PTO or PTA, and plan to attend as many meetings/events as you can.
  • See if the school has a handbook or school policies pamphlet and get copies. These usually address year-round issues such as discipline, dress code, tardiness and absenteeism, etc.
  • Check backpacks every night for homework or project assignments, important school calendars, announcements, etc. Keep all important school notices in one particular place for easy access and referral.
  • Volunteer to help in the classroom if your schedule allows, or with fundraisers, events, or other after-school activities.
  • Set up a special homework place and limit distractions. Have a distinctive homework folder and make sure completed homework is put in the folder and then into the backpack each night.
  • Limit electronic entertainments during the school week and encourage reading. Visit your local library, or swap books with friends and neighbors to read with your child.

Simple, proactive “getting involved” actions like these can make a big difference in your child’s early school experience.

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Strategies To Help Your Child Get to School On Time

Every school year, we have certain students who are chronically late to school. Just a few minutes might not seem like a big problem, but it actually has a bigger effect than you realize. Those who arrive a little late miss out on the organizational time of the day. This is when teachers take roll, take up homework, hand back homework, and set the tone for the day’s lessons. When students arrive in the middle of this, they might forget to turn in their work. Or they are confused about what is happening in class.

If this is true for your child, together you might resolve to improve. You might say to him, “This year you need to get to school on time.” But in order to be successful with this resolution, you and your child need to identify the reason he is late to school so much and make a plan to improve.

Does your child have trouble waking up in the morning? Adolescents need from eight to nine hours of sleep each night. It is important to limit the number of activities that take place on school nights to make sure your child gets to bed early enough. She should not take her phone or other electronics to bed with her. Many students text one another all through the night, which affects their sleep cycle. There is considerable research that suggests this sleep is necessary for learning to become permanent. Getting enough sleep will make it easier to get up and get ready for school.

Perhaps your child gets up on time, but when it’s time to leave he still isn’t ready to go. Getting organized the night before can help if this is the issue. He should pack his backpack and lunch before going to bed. Additionally, he can decide what he will wear and lay those clothes out for morning. It is important to include eating a healthy breakfast and brushing his teeth in the morning routine. This organization may help move him along faster in the morning and get to school on time.

If nothing seems to help, try setting the clock a little ahead. I used to do this and was always amazed that I looked at the clock and believed what it said! I would move along faster and wind up getting there on time. Having an extra few minutes after arriving at school can help students relax, enjoy their morning, and be ready to learn.

I hope you enjoy the remaining days before school starts. It will help make the transition to school easier if you wake your children up early a few days before they have to get up so they can get used to the morning routine.

 

> A Stress-Free Morning Routine

> Get Ready for School Checklist

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Help Teach Your 1st Grader To Listen and Speak Well

Listening and speaking well are two of the most important skills that any person can have. These are also key components of the Common Core State Standards for 1st grade. Learning these skills, early in life, can give your child distinct academic and social advantages…and they are easy to instill!

If your child is getting ready to start 1st grade, or has already started, there are several things you can do to practice exchanging ideas through discussion and conversations and promote active listening and speaking.

  • Have a “no-electronics” night. Use this time to read a story together or play a board game, and then discuss it. Be sure to ask some questions about key details in the story or about the game. This will demonstrate how well he listened or paid attention. Have him go back and check the text or game board for details, if necessary.
  • Have a mealtime discussion about a recent family event that you all attended, a movie that you watched together, or something that happened that day at school or work. Sharing this kind of information reinforces that your child’s opinion is important.
  • Start a parent-child book club. Two or three families should read an appropriate 1st grade book (for example, any of the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne), and take turns hosting a book club discussion for children and parents.

For these activities, follow simple and clear rules for all participants, such as:

 

  • Take turns…one speaker at a time
  • No interrupting
  • Respectful ways to agree or disagree
  • Respectful ways to ask questions for clarity

 

Teaching your child to make a conscious effort to listen and speak well embeds good habits. These good habits will continue to enhance their school experience and should continue through their adult professional and personal life.

 

> 1st Grade Academics: What To Expect

> 1st Grade Social Changes: What To Expect

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Getting Organized: Back-to-School Shopping Tips

Many parents are shopping for school supplies, and most are using the list of supplies provided by their child’s school. Some students have problems keeping up with their school “stuff.” These kids lose pencils, pens, markers, papers, notebooks, and homework assignments. There are a few things to consider that might help keep them better organized.

First, everything a student needs should fit in one book bag. Binders for each class probably should not be larger than one inch. If they are too large, they won’t all fit in the bag.

Second, there needs to be a place to put pens, pencils, markers, and other small items. Most book bags have spaces that work well, and things should be placed in the same place every time. For some students, a zipper pouch inside each binder is helpful. This allows for customization. Each pouch can hold a pen and pencil, of course. But it can also hold special supplies for individual classes. If the social studies teacher asks for colored pencils, for example, the pouch inside that binder is a good place to store them. Likewise, a compass and protractor can be stored in the math pouch.

Finally, the book bag and binders may need to be reorganized frequently. Depending on the level of disorganization, this may need to be done daily. Excess papers and old homework can be removed from the binders, but keep them filed at home until you are sure they won’t be needed again. It is important to teach your child how to stay organized. This takes a lot of time and practice. Show her what to do, but she should do it herself in order to learn the skills needed to stay organized.

For more information, you may want to read my earlier blog about a specific notebook system that aids with organization.

 

> 12 Back-to-School Organization Tips

> Printable Checklists, Calendars, Charts, and Labels

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5 Ways To Help Young Children With Back-to-School Anxieties

As August approaches, most young students are excited about starting a new school year. They are ready to go. However, some children experience anxiety about going to school. This can affect the entire family. Morning routines can be interrupted and getting him on the bus or dropped off at school can become an ordeal.

Why does this happen? There could be various reasons:

  • Fear of separating from a parent or caregiver
  • Concern that the work will be too hard
  • Fear of missing what’s happening in the family, when they are away at school
  • Worry about responsibilities outside the classroom—for example, getting lunch in the cafeteria
  • Fear that other children might tease or bully them


Here are five easy ways to help your young child ease school anxiety:

  • If the problem is separation from a loved one, try a technique that worked extremely well in my 1st grade classroom. Have the student bring a photo of a family member,  sibling, grandparent, or even a special pet. By keeping the photo on the desk or table, the student was able to have family close by for comfort. Ask your child’s teacher if this is allowed.
  • If possible, bring him to his new class before school starts. Let him see the space and, if the teacher is there, meet his new teacher. Check out the lunchroom and recess areas as well.
  • If you know of another child or children who is going to the same class, see if you could set up a playdate so your child will know at least one familiar face.
  • Have him practice letter recognition and letter sounds, number recognition to 50, writing his name, and other basic skills for academic confidence.
  • Label jackets, lunch boxes, backpacks, etc., so that your child can easily identify her own belongings. This eliminates worry about finding her own things at the end of the school day. (Safety note: Be sure to label items on the inside, as you do not want a stranger to be able to call your child by name.)

 

Recognizing and acknowledging your child’s fears will help you both look for easy and workable solutions…and keep your morning school routine running smoothly!
 

> A Stress-Free Morning Routine

> 10 Ways To Help Your Child Successfully Return to School

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Why Dress Codes Matter for Teenagers

Adolescents go to school for a number of reasons beyond the fact that they are required to. If you ask them why, it is likely they will tell you they go to see their friends. (They have a different agenda than their parents and teachers.) This leads to why I am writing about school dress codes once again. Dress codes exist to ensure an environment in school where students can learn and not be distracted by what everyone is wearing. In my many years teaching middle and upper school, dress code issues are the most frequent complaints I hear—from teachers because of what some students are wearing, from parents because their child does not want to comply, and from students because they feel it infringes on personal freedom. Why do dress codes matter?

Dress codes are important for a number of reasons.

  • How we dress sets a tone for behavior. When we dress in flip-flops, shorts, and a tank top, we behave like we do at the park. When we dress in business casual attire, we behave like we do at work. This is the same in schools. I have personally witnessed this time and again with my students. On days when we ask students to dress up for a special occasion, they generally behave in more respectful ways.
  • Adolescents want to both fit in and to be different. Often, they individualize by what they wear to school. If their choice is too revealing or distracting, other students pay more attention to them than what is going on in class. Some students wear clothing that meets the dress code when standing and everything is adjusted perfectly, but when sitting down it does not meet code (skin or underwear shows). It is helpful for parents to help their children check for these issues before they come to school.
  • Dress codes are a part of our society. Many workplaces establish them, and employees are expected to comply. Employees who push the limits can receive lower performance reviews or even lose their jobs. If students complain about their school’s code, it might help to discuss real-life situations that require similar attire.


You can help set the appropriate tone for learning in your child’s school by encouraging good choices while shopping for the new school year. And, as I have said before, you should know your school’s dress code when shopping for back-to-school.

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More Tips for Kindergarten Readiness

Last week I shared four strategies to help you prepare your young child for kindergarten. Here are four more quick and easy ways to make the transition from summer to kindergarten both smooth and productive.

  • Help him practice and master basic social skills. Basic social skills can be something as simple as looking at someone when being spoken to, or when speaking. Practice taking turns and sharing materials, tools, and toys. Work on self-control and cooperating. Try easily transitioning from one activity to another. Be sure he always says “please” and “thank you.” These social skills will give your child a solid foundation at school for successfully interacting with adults and peers.
  • Help her recognize and write her full name. Take a standard-size piece of white paper. Turn it horizontally. Make three straight lines, left to right, across the paper with a ruler. Make the first line about three inches from the top, then make one in the middle, and the last one about three inches from the bottom. On the top and middle lines, using a pink, green or blue highlighter, print her name, using one capital letter and the rest lowercase; for example, Charlotte Kelly. (A yellow highlighter won’t work, as it’s too light.) Then have her trace her name, with a pencil, inside the highlighted letters. This gives a solid boundary in which to practice the letter formations. On the last line have her practice writing it all by herself. Keep working with the highlighter base until she can easily write her name without it
  • Look and listen for visual and auditory patterns together. Recognizing and understanding patterns is an important skill for young children. It is needed to promote critical thinking in both reading and math.
  • Recognize basic color words. The ability to recognize basic color words (red, green, yellow, purple, blue, black, and brown) is helpful for a child to complete independent work. An easy way to practice this is make a “Color Word Pizza Wheel.”


These simple activities will ensure that your child is well prepared to start the wonderful adventures of kindergarten.

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Tips for Choosing the Best Websites and Apps for Kids

Parents often ask me what they should look for when deciding whether a website or app will be helpful to their children. If the purpose of the site or app is for kids to learn something, there are several important key elements. Evaluate each of the following:

  • How "busy” is the site? Is there so much activity on the screen that it is hard to decide what is important? Free websites and apps have to put advertisements on the screen in order to pay their expenses. As long as the advertisements are not inappropriate for children to see, this might not be a problem. But, if there are more ads than content, it is hard for kids to find what they are supposed to be watching and doing. In that case, not much learning happens.
  • Is the content accurate? I have seen apps that confuse kids more than teach them. I suggest that parents do the activities and play the games to make sure what the apps are teaching is correct.
  • Are the activities actually teaching the content, or are they hindering real learning? For example, if the purpose of the app is to teach cursive handwriting, playing a game that encourages you to write too quickly might mess up what was taught. Or, if the site penalizes you for answering too slowly, a child with slow processing will be frustrated playing it and will not learn from it.
  • Does your child like to use the app or website? It should be easy to figure out how to use and be fun to do. If not, look for another. There are millions of websites and apps available for little or no cost. I like to look at educator websites to get ideas for good places to go.
  • Does the app or website provide appropriate feedback for right and wrong answers? The app should provide help for wrong answers so children can figure out what the right answer is.


It takes a little effort to find the best websites or apps that promote learning, but the time is well spent when you find a great learning tool for your child.

 

> For Students, Parents, and Families, There Are 26 Tops Apps for That

> Necessary Skills for Students in the Digital Age

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Help Get Your Child Ready for Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten does not have to be a stressful time for a child—or for parents. However, it will probably involve some big changes like going to a new facility, riding the bus for the first time, eating lunch in a big cafeteria, etc. How do you know if your child is prepared for the challenges that kindergarten may present?

Here are four easy ways to answer that question, and some simple activities to promote kindergarten readiness.

  • Make sure your child is well rested. Two weeks before your child starts school, put her to bed 5 minutes earlier each night, and get her up 5 minutes earlier each morning. By the time school starts, she’ll be on a good sleep schedule and rested for school.
  • Keep school supplies simple. All that is needed is an eight- or 16-count box of crayons, three sharpened pencils, one pair of scissors with blunt-ended blades, one eraser, and a small case or pouch to hold everything.
  • Help him easily separate from a parent or caregiver. A good guide to practice this is by reading The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, or Grover Goes to School, by Dan Elliott. Both should be available at your library.
  • Practice following directions. Play a two- or three-step “following directions” game. Start the game simply with only two directions. For example, say, “Please get an apple from the bowl, and then put it on the counter.” Once two directions are mastered, increase the game to three. “Please get an apple from the bowl, put it on the counter, then come back and give me a high-five.” Play often, and vary directions. The sillier the directions, the better. Games like this help your child stay focused and learn how to follow sequential instructions.

 

Next week I’ll share four more simple, yet very important tips to help your kindergarten child start her school year on just the right note.

 

> Kindergarten Social Changes: What To Expect

> Kindergarten Academics: What To Expect

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Help Kids Build Resilience, Part 3

My last two blogs have been about building resilience in kids. Resilient kids can deal with things when they do not go their way, and they recover quickly when things do not go well for them. Part 1 on resilience explains that children need an adult in their life whom they feel they can go to for help when needed. Part 2 discusses the importance of helping children take responsibility for their own actions. Today’s blog shows how important it is for children to contribute to the world in which they live.

When children are able to offer their help to others, whether at home or elsewhere, they learn that they are important. Whatever they contribute needs to be genuinely helpful to others, and they need to be reminded that they are helping. Depending on how old your child is, he may be able to contribute in multiple ways.

Here are a few ideas to try.

  • Allow her to help with the shopping. Kids enjoy helping to find things in the store or online. This really saves you time, and most kids enjoy it a lot.
  • Require him to help with the laundry. Kids are quite capable of doing laundry well. I used to think every item had to be washed and folded perfectly. At some point along the way, I realized that it really doesn’t matter for most things! And, with a few instructions on how to load and run the machines, fairly young kids can be extremely helpful. (My own children started doing laundry at 8 years old.)
  • Go with her to help out at the local food bank or soup kitchen. Many kids do not understand that there are many people who are living in poverty and who barely have enough to eat. It is a great opportunity to talk to her about respect, as well. (Just because a person is needy does not mean they are less intelligent or less important to society. And everyone deserves to be treated with respect.)

 

There are myriad ways your child can be helpful to the family or society. When they contribute in important ways, they feel necessary. Caring for others creates a sense of pride and builds self-esteem, both of which are necessary in resilient children. As well, offering genuine praise will build your relationship with your child, which is also an important factor in resilience. If you would like to read more about this topic, you might enjoy Building Resilience in Children, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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A Letter "Puzzle" Game for New Kindergartners

There are simple things that parents can do to easily prepare their child for kindergarten success. Summer is a wonderful time to help young children get ready for September, by doing a fun academic activity each week.

In the next few weeks I’ll share with you kindergarten Language Arts or math activities that align with Common Core State Standards.

A reading/foundational skill for kindergarten is to recognize and name all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet.

Here is a simple activity to help your child learn this skill.

You will need:

  • 26 index cards
  • A black or brown crayon (I use a crayon, rather than a marker, so the ink does not bleed through the other side)
  • A pair of scissors

 

Directions:

  • On the left side of the card print one capital letter. On the right side of the card print the same letter in lowecase, leaving a 1- to 2-inch open space in the middle.
  • When the printing is complete, you will need the scissors. Working with one card at a time, make a different and distinctive zigzagged, curved, or shaped cut in the middle of each card, between the uppercase and lowercase letters. You are essentially creating an individual puzzle piece for each partner letter.

 

To play the game:

  • Help your child match the upper and lowercase letter puzzle pieces together. When together, line them up from A-a to Z-z and practice saying the letters. To increase the difficulty, randomly pick letter pairs out of sequence to identify. Let him play often until he can easily match and recognize both upper and lowercase letters.

 

These cards can be stored in a ziplock bag to be used again and again. They can also be taken to the beach, park, or pool for a quiet activity after swimming or playing.

 

> Get Ready for Kindergarten

> Kindergarten Academics: What To Expect

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Help Kids Build Resilience, Part 2

Last week I wrote about resilient children. Children who are resilient can bounce back after they experience a setback. When Gino failed a test, he was disappointed. But he didn’t stay depressed about it and quickly realized he needed to do something to prevent it from happening again. The most important step to resiliency is having a trusted adult who cares. Gino went to his nonno (grandfather) about the test. He talked to Gino and helped him to make a plan.

There are other things parents can do to help their children recover from difficult times. Another key is to teach them to take responsibility for their own actions. If Maria backs her mother’s car into the trash can, she has two options. She can blame herself for not being careful enough. Or, she can blame whoever put the trash can in her way. If she is allowed to blame someone else, she is learning that responsibility is out of her control. Other people are shaping her life experiences—not her. Everything that happens to her is not her fault. If everything that happens to Maria is because of someone else or just luck (good or bad), then she does not learn how to take charge of her behavior and change things for the better.

There are situations when she has no control over what happens to her. But Maria needs to understand that many times she could have made a difference. This is what gives Maria the confidence she needs to move forward, to bounce back after a defeat. She is a competent individual.

I will write more about how to help your children become resilient in my next blog. Please comment to let me know what you are doing to help your children when they are feeling down. Have you seen a difference in how they respond to the rough times?

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Turn the Night Sky Into Memorable Summer Learning

Summer is a wonderful time to teach children about the night sky. It’s great fun to identify and observe the various constellations of stars. Incorporating a child’s natural curiosity with a clear and dark evening can lead to memorable summertime learning.

This is a lesson that is much better conducted in a backyard, apartment rooftop, or city park than in any classroom! You can start with a very helpful book about astronomy for children, Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey. It can be found on Amazon.com, or at your local library. My own children used this for years and loved it!

A good way to start is to help your child locate the Big Dipper in the northern sky. On a clear, dark night it’s easy to identify. Note that the second star on the Dipper’s handle is very bright. This is because it’s really two stars, very close to each other. Ask if your child can see the two stars.

In the Dipper’s “pan,” the two outer stars always point toward Polaris, the Pole Star, also known as the North Star. Our earth’s rotation makes it appear that the other stars are moving around at night. However, Polaris always remains in the same place, and has been used as a navigational mainstay for centuries.

When your child can comfortably find the Big Dipper, draw an outline of it in a notebook and have her add small colored stick-on stars to the outline to form the Big Dipper constellation. Add a star above for Polaris.

Try to help her identify a new constellation each week, all summer long. As she learns new ones, add them to the notebook.

 

> Summer Fun and Learning

> 13 Summer Learning Activities

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Help Kids Build Resilience, Part 1

All of us go through tough times. Some students have more than their share. Divorce, death in the family, events in the news, high-stakes testing and many other factors add to the normal stresses all kids experience. Children need to learn to bounce back when they are feeling these stresses. Those who are able to bounce back easily are said to be “resilient.” There are things parents can do to help build resilience in their children. I plan to write more on this topic in the next few weeks.

First and foremost is that every child needs to know there is at least one adult in their life who cares about them, who takes care of them, and who will help them when they are feeling low. This adult is often one (or both) of their parents or guardians, but sometimes it can be another adult in their life. It might be a neighbor, teacher, minister, grandparent, or coach. This provides a sense of security—a sense of belonging.

Maria might think, “My best friend is moving away and I won’t ever see her again. But at least I can still talk to Nana Rose.” Because of Nana Rose, Maria has a sense of hope for the future and will realize that there are ways to keep in touch with her best friend. All is not lost, after all. She is able to bounce back and start figuring out ways to make sure she does not lose her best friend just because she is moving away.

I wrote in an earlier blog about failure being a normal part of life and how to help children through it. Experiencing failure and overcoming it help to build resilience. Come back next week to learn more about other ways to help.

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My Year Mentoring New Teachers

This past school year, I was offered a special opportunity. Instead of returning to my 1st grade classroom, I was selected by the Rhode Island Department of Education to be an “induction coach” for first-year teachers. An induction coach is a mentor who helps and supports new teachers in every aspect of their work. I was assigned 15 first-year teachers, in four separate communities, to help throughout this school year.

Mentoring new teachers makes perfect sense, and precedents for mentoring new professionals have long been set. Doctors just out of medical school are guided for years by senior doctors. Police departments would never send a rookie officer out alone. A mentoring system should be in place for virtually all professional occupations, so why not teachers?

I found that the time I spent with my first-year teachers was challenging, exhilarating, and rewarding for both the teachers and for me. Problem-solving, sharing successful tips, teaching shortcuts, and offering encouragement during weekly meetings with my new teachers helped accelerate their teaching skills. In turn, this helped their students move forward. For example, I was able to help new teachers take better control of classroom management by sharing some very simple strategies.

Now that this current school year is ending, I would like to report that the induction coach concept for new teachers is a wonderful idea! In my opinion, it should be incorporated into all the school systems across our country. I’m proud that Rhode Island was able to implement this concept through federal Race to the Top funding awarded to our state.

I’m humbled and excited that I’ve been asked to return for a second year as an induction coach. This experience has greatly helped my perspective as an educator. Working with teachers in urban and suburban communities across kindergarten through 8th grade has increased the depth of my teaching experience. Besides, as my husband jokes, for the first time in my career, I’m helping people taller than three feet!

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3 Strategies To Help Kids Follow Spoken Directions

Marcus frequently misunderstands oral directions. There are many children who have this issue. The underlying cause can be difficult to figure out. Consider what has to happen in his brain when he hears, “Marcus, would you please get the plates and silverware out, and put them on the table?” He has to first hear the words that are spoken, process the words in his brain, understand the meaning of the words, and then finally determine whether he needs to take an action.

Assume that Marcus is paying attention and hears the words correctly (meaning his ears work fine and he does not have an ear infection preventing him from hearing). Does he know what you mean by “plates and silverware”? Does that mean the good china normally reserved for company? Could it mean paper plates left over from the picnic? Or maybe it’s the everyday dishes. Some children process this information within seconds, while others take much longer. He might never even get to the silverware options! If Marcus looks at you like he doesn’t understand your request, he may be processing all the options and trying to decide which makes the most sense. Often, we as parents see that he is not taking an action and immediately start giving him more directions which adds to his confusion.

If this scenario is familiar to you, here are some things you might try.

  • Give fewer instructions at one time. “Marcus, would you get the plates down?” Then wait long enough for him to figure out which plates you are talking about before making the next request.
  • Speak more slowly so that Marcus does not have to process quite so quickly.
  • Teach Marcus how to ask for help when he doesn’t understand you. Have him practice saying, “Mom, I am not sure what you are asking me to do. Can you help me?”

 

If children have a history of never understanding what others are telling them, they often give up. They quit trying. With these simple suggestions, they begin to regain confidence in their ability to understand what they are being asked to do.

For more information on a related topic, read "Is It An Auditory Processing Disorder?"

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Improve Subtraction Skills With a Fun Pennies Game

An interesting yet easy game to enrich “mental math” subtraction skills is “Penny Hide and Seek.” It uses visual and hands-on practice to help young children quickly and easily remember simple subtraction facts. This aligns with Common Core State Standards, and can be played just about anywhere!

You will need:

  • Five pennies
  • A paper plate

To play:

  • Have your child count the five pennies, and put them in a row.
  • Cover the five pennies with the paper plate.
  • Ask, “How many pennies are under the plate?” Your child will answer “5.”
  • Say, “That’s right.” Then ask him to close his eyes and turn away.
  • Remove two pennies from under the plate, and put them on top. Leave the rest under the plate.
  • Ask him to open his eyes and look at the plate. “How many pennies do you see on top?” He’ll say “2.” Then say, “I moved two on top. We started with five, so how many are still hiding under the plate?”
  • When he says “3,” say the subtraction sentence—5 - 2 = 3—and have him repeat it.

 

Repeat often with different combinations of 5. For example, put four pennies on top and leave one under the plate for 5 - 4 = 1.

Don’t forget to practice the zero fact also. Have your child hide her eyes and put all five pennies on top, so there are zero pennies under the plate for 5 - 5 = 0. Turn the facts around. Put none on top for 5 - 0 = 5.

Once she has easily mastered all the “5” subtraction facts, start the game with six pennies. Keep increasing pennies, by one, until she can easily do all the combinations to 10, and eventually to 20.

This kind of math practice gets your child thinking about numbers in a concrete and versatile way, and puts the “fun” in math fundamentals!

 

> Math Games To Keep Skills Sharp in Summer

> An Easy Way To Improve Math Fluency: Count Backward

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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