anchored: finding hope in the unexpected: a book for all parents (giveaway! #AnchoredHope)

anchored: teachmama.com

anchored: teachmama.com

 

Confession: There are days I don’t appreciate my life the way I should.

I stress over a sink full of dishes, crumb-covered counters, and unmade beds.

Some days, when I hear my kids bickering, I want to poke my eyes out.  When I watch four people walk by a pile of clothes on the stairs, I want to weep. (I mean, can’t someone take them upstairs?)

But reading Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected, by Kayla Aimee, has brought me down. It’s grounded me during these long summer days when trying to work with three kids home all day makes me feel like I’m getting nothing right and doing everything wrong.

Anchored has reminded me to really, truly appreciate all that I have because really?  This is a good life.anchored | teachmama.com

anchored: finding hope in the unexpected: a book for all parents

Actually, it’s a great life.

And I have so much to be thankful for.

I know this–believe me. I am grateful, but we all need reminders sometimes, don’t we?

I’m thrilled to be able to share this gift of a book with my you, my friends, many of whom are parents yourselves.

And I even have a fun giveaway for you.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected:

Really, Anchored is a book for everyone, whether you’re a parent or not. This is a story that reminds us to look for hope in unexpected places.

It’s a story for anyone who has wondered, ‘Where is God in this?’

My friend Kayla Aimee tells the story about her journey to motherhood after struggling with infertility for years.  She tells her story about being a mom to a micro-preemie.

A micro-preemie, friends.

Do you even know what a micro-preemie is? I didn’t until I met Kayla.

A micro-preemie is a baby born under three pounds and before 26 weeks.  Can you even imagine?

anchored | teachmama.com

anchored | teachmama.com

Kayla gave birth to Scarlette Vonne at 25 weeks. Scarlette was one pound, eight ounces.

Twenty-five weeks. One pound, eight ounces.

I had known much of Kayla’s story before reading this book, but I had not a clue about the details. The challenges. The victories. The stress that the experience placed on her family, relationships, and her faith.

Kayla is not only one of the coolest women I know; she’s smart, savvy, beautiful inside and out, and to boot, she’s hilarious. And she’s a rockstar writer.

anchored | teachmama.com

So this book gracefully weaves together her story, a story that may seem foreign to many but to which so many of us can relate.  Everyone should have this book on his or her bookshelf.

We may not be parents of a micro-preemie, but each one of us has undoubtedly experienced some sort of challenge in our life that has pushed us, stretched us, or leveled us, forcing us to reach high for strength and to hang tightly to our anchors.

 

I am thrilled to be able to share with you an opportunity for your own copy of this book, along with a cool little extra to top it off.

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GIVEAWAY: A signed copy of Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected, by Kayla Aimee and an 8×10 art print painted by Ruth of Gracelaced.com!

Anchored_D

Do you want to win a signed copy of Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected, by Kayla Aimee and an 8×10 art print painted by Ruth of Gracelaced.com??!  Yes, yes you do.
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Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 07/15/15.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

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But wait. There’s more! There’s something for everyone here!

AnchoredPrintable2a

Even if you order this book on your own, you’ll be able to download the attached printable art from Gracelaced as your free gift. Awesome, right?

Pair the book with the artwork and some of the goodies below, and you have a really awesome gift for a mom, sister, friend, neighbor:

 

fyi: This post was inspired by Kayla Aimee’s new book, Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected. Order your copy of #AnchoredHope today to receive a free e­book and art print by clicking here

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy.

summer swim team: an absolute MUST for families

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Summer swim has been a staple for our family for the last six years.

Ever since Maddy joined the pre-team the summer before Kindergarten, we’ve spent the first seven weeks of summer camped out at the pool in the mornings and have spent our Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings at swim meets and Sunday afternoons at dive meets.

We are grateful that our neighborhood pool is within walking distance from our home, and we definitely take advantage of it. But even if your family is not within walking distance to a pool, I cannot highly enough recommend that kids join a summer swim team.

It’s an absolute must for families for so many reasons. If you’re on the fence about it, I’m here to do what I can to push you in the ‘yes!’ direction.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Summer Swim Team–An Absolute Must For Families:

Our kids, 11, 9, and 8 years old, know that they’re on the swim team through middle school at the very least. But they really want to be. In fact, they’ve chosen to swim and dive, and the dive piece especially is their choice. They want to do it. They want to be there.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

They are counting down the days until they can be the pre-team coaches, until they can be the ‘big kids’ and until they get recognized at the banquet for being swim and dive seniors.

I, on the other hand, am just doing what I can to savor each season as it comes, knowing that the summer days may be long but the years are short.

Thinking about summer swim for your kids?

We love it for many reasons, but here are our top ones:

Kids learn to swim.

Really, they do. Yes, kids on our team must be comfortable in the water, but they don’t necessarily need to know the strokes. That’s where the pre-team coaches come in.

Our littlest swimmers learn water safety and basic strokes, and they become more confident in the water.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Kids try new things and are challenged.

It’s not easy to walk into a pool on a cold June morning not knowing many people, but kids do it. And over time, those people on the team become good friends and playmates.

We all know how important it is for us to step out of our comfort zones every so often; joining a swim team–no matter the age–is a great way to do that.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Kids will learn:

  • the proper swim strokes
  • how far they can push their little bodies
  • how to play safely in the water
  • how to jump and dive into the pool
  • how swim meets work
  • sportsmanship
  • teamwork
  • listening skills
  • confidence
  • and more.

Older children and younger are brought together and support each other.

Swim teams consist of young swimmers, 8 years old and under, and older swimmers, up to age 18.  Swimmers are broken up into different age groups: 8 & under; 9 & 10; 11 & 12; 13 & 14; 15 & older.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

All children are on the same team, but they rarely swim together. Except for the medleys and the graduated relays, where one swimmer from each age group takes a section of the race.

One thing I have loved is that our kids interact with other children from different age groups, and everyone supports each other through practices, social events, and meets. It’s awesome.

Families come together.

Our swim and dive teams pretty much create our social calendar for the summer.

Families gather to make the meets work, and they put in their time to make the swim season fun.

We eat meals together, play bingo, enjoy raft nights, support each other through losses, and celebrate our wins. We host book sales and evening events, party it up at an end-of-season banquet, and decorate homes for divisional and all-star meets.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Communities come together.

We drive all around the area for swim and dive meets, making connections all around our community.

Friends from other neighborhood pools cheer for their school buddies across lanes, and pals who only see each other during basketball season or dance class compete against each other in the water.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins often join in the fun. Meets become a really great way to see tons of familiar faces and connect with new ones.

It’s. Just. Plain. Fun.

It’s fun. It really, truly is.

Though it gets to feel long by week six or seven–I won’t lie–swim and dive season really is one of the most fun times of the year.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Early mornings, long afternoons, and hot and muggy evenings are overshadowed by the laughs and memories created each season. I know for a fact that when my kids look back on the highlights of their childhood, summertime swim and dive will come to mind immediately.

Every child can have a strong foundation in water safety.

Really. Even if you don’t have a pool nearby, I’m sure that somewhere near you is a YMCA with a water safety or water survival program for kids.

Thanks to people like Justina Pratt who is a Safe Start Swimming Instructor at a Florida YMCA, these programs–and the people who teach our littlest swimmers–can change lives.  Actually, they can save lives.

Check it out:

I have totally loved the workforce appreciation series over at 1in100million.org. Share them with your kids. Share them with your friends. 

Subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. They’re really cool clips, and they remind us to appreciate those people all around us every day who make our world a better place.

Check out:

teach kids workforce appreciation  teachmama.com

 

teach kids to thank everyday heroes teachmama.com

 

kronos: workforce appreciationfyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Find Your Influence, and as always, ideas and opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. Find out more at 1 in one hundred million. Subscribe so you don’t miss any of their videos and follow #WorkforceStories and #1in100MM!

 

cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow

cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow | teachmama.com

cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow | teachmama.com

Oh, friends.

How I’ve fought the hard Instagram battle with my tween this year, and finally I let in.

Under many, many conditions:

  • We signed an updated Family Media Agreement.
  • We still use Screen Time Cards.
  • Phone use is restricted to our main floor of our house (not used upstairs).
  • We approve only followers we know personally or that I approve.
  • Her account is private–not public.
  • The phone is ours–not hers–but it’s being used by her, so any time we want to check on things, we can and do.
  • I follow her friends.
  • And more, like constant conversation and an open door for questions any time.

But what I realized is that as a tween, teen, or new user, it’s hard to find cool accounts to follow, so it’s difficult to really know how to properly use Instagram.

Sure, you want your kids to be able to follow their friends, but do you know what most of their friends are doing? A whole lot of duck-faced selfies, that’s what. A whole lot of selfies. Lots. Of. Selfies.  Don’t get me wrong–selfies are fine. But all of the time? Gets a little old.

How about changing things up a bit? Showing our new, younger users cool ways to use Instagram?

Really, there are so many creative and thoughtful ways to use this platform; it’s designed to be visually appealing, creative, and memorable. The problem is that kids need models. They need good examples.

Just like when I was teaching kids how to write a strong paragraph, thesis essay, or research paper–they need models. Examples. So they know what good looks like.

So Maddy and I have been searching and searching and searching this year to find cool Instagram accounts to follow.

We’ve found a ton.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Instagram Accounts for Tweens and New Users to Follow: 

Remember, friends, this is not a perfect list. And it’s only a start.

If you and your spouse make the decision to allow your child to use Instagram, you must be aware of the Terms of Service. You must first take into consideration how the platform is used and why you need to be an active part of the use.

Our family decided that we’d allow Maddy to give it a try with a whole lot of support.

And with support comes a whole lot of great people to follow so our new user learned how to use the platform by viewing firsthand how some people were really rocking it.

Here are a few cool users to follow if you–or your child–are just starting out on Instagram:

 

IamKidPresident:

It’s Robby the Kid President. On instagram. He’s inspiring and awesome. Everyone should follow him.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com kid pres

 

 

WhiteHouse:

Yep. THE White House is on Instagram. Did you even know that? My thought is this: if our kids are on Instagram and the White House is on Instagram, then our kids should definitely follow the White House. At the very least they’ll know what their president is up to.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com white house

ThisIsTeen:

Online community of book lovers –a division of Scholastic.  Everything teen. Great spot to find new titles!

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

 

HumansofNY:

If you’re not following Humans of New York, you better be. It’s simply the most incredible photo journal I’ve ever encountered. Brandon Stanton is the photographer, and he basically photographs New Yorkers. And the coolest part? He shares their stories.

Buy the book. We’re obsessed. And though Maddy has asked me questions sometimes–because some of the stories are a little thought-provoking or sad–it’s a conversation worth having with your tween or teen.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com humans of ny

 

iloveplaymo:

As in ‘playmobil’ and little photo scenes.  Just fun.  How cool is this? And what fun our kids could have with doing something like this themselves!

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

 

 

Food 52:

I like this account because the focus is to help people be smarter, happier cooks. And the photos of food are beautiful.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

 

GoPro:

All photos taken with a GoPro–and if you don’t know what a GoPro is, it’s a teeny camera that mounts to just about anything, allowing for people to video very cool things. This account, as you can imagine, shares some really awesome photographs.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com gopro

LiveLokai:

I love the idea behind these bracelets–they contain water from Mt. Everest, the highest point on earth, and mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. By wearing the bracelet, you are reminded to strive for balance in your life. The bracelets are photographed all over the world–it’s so cool to sea where they are and how people photograph them.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com gopro

 

AnimalPlanet:

Animal photos. Surprisingly human animal photos.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com animal planet

 

2sisters_angie:

Not even joking when I say that the awesome of this profile is that Angie is mom to ‘Mayhem’–a 5 year old who literally creates runway dresses and costumes out of paper.  The outfits either come to her or she tries to replicate what the stars are wearing. Your kids–and you–will fall in love with this feed.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com mayhem

 

DiscoveryChannel:

Gorgeous, breathtaking photos. We’re huge fans of the Discovery Channel over here, so this is a favorite.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com gopro

 

littleBits:

Love our littleBits sets, so this platform shares photos and videos of the littleBits at work–moving, blinking, beeping, and making magic happen, one circuit at a time.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com littlebits

 

Yoobi:

Bright and beautiful school supplies. Everyone loves school supplies. Right? We sure do.  Have you ever seen them look so pretty?

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com yobi

 

NatGeoTravel:

The official account for National Geographic Travel means Awesome. Photos. The. End.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

 

Maya_On_the_Move:

Maya is a bulldog in NYC.  This profile chronicles her adventures.  I love it.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com maya

 

JuliesKitchen:

Pretty food. Pretty, pretty, absolutely gorgeous food.  Like food art in such a fun way.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

 

 

NatGeo:

Photos from National Geographic photographers. And stories to go with them.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com natgeo

 

IdaFrosk:

You guys. Food art. More of it. But different in that these photos sometimes make you forget that you’re looking at food. It’s just awesome.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

 

BabiekinsMag:

My girls love this magazine, and the Instagram profile is just as beautiful.  Sure, kids posing as models all glammed up isn’t my thing, but these kids look cool. And they’re low on makeup.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

YoungAdultBookAddict:

Tracey shares everything Young Adult and New Adult books. She’s cool. And maybe she’ll inspire our kiddos to do some more reading.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

OneCampaign:

The ONE campaign is just plain fantastic. What they do rocks. And so do all their photos. Hoping that this gets users psyched to do something, to make a change. To get involved.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com one

 

 

AmyPoehlerSmartGirls:

Amy Poehler and her bff Meredith Walker created Smart Girls to celebrate awesome girls–every girl. The photos are fun. And the message is stellar.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com amy

 

MacKidsBooks:

From Macmillan Children’s Publishing–books and more books.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com

 

MommasGoneCity:

My sweet friend Jessica shares her photos of her gorgeous little familia and their furry boy. First it was #TheoandBeau and then it became #TheoandEvvie. The photos are incredible, and the awesome thing is that Jessica and her family are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com jessica

 

TheGoodQuote:

BEFORE you follow this account, check it out for yourself. Most are positive quotes. Many are happy and really what we all need. Every day.

But some? A little edgy and questionable. Just check it out.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com quote

 

 

Dictionary.com:

That’s right. A word a day. And why not celebrate words on Instagram?

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com dictionary

 

 

Friends. Are we following each other? Let’s.

Check it out–

teachmama1:

Follow me for fun, quick learning ideas and activities.  In the summer, every single day I’ll post our #tabletopsurprises. And on Friday I’ll share a round-up here.

instagram accounts for tweens | teachmama.com teach mama

On Instagram, I tend to keep things pretty simple withphotos of some of the cool things we’re up to that don’t always make it to the blog.

But this year, I’m adding a little quickie video as well. Should be fun.

And if nothing else, I do hope it inspires you to get a little crafty and creative with your crew during the long summer months.

 

 

What are your other favorite, must-follow Instagram accounts?

I’ll let you in on a little secret–this is the first of a series of posts. I have a ton of great profiles to follow that wouldn’t fit in this one post, so do let me know who yours are, and I’ll do my best to add them!

And remember–these are not all G-rated; you must use this platform, as in all social media platforms, with your discretion.

Check out our initial Instagram post for more information:

how to talk to your kids about instagram | teachmama.com #digitalliteracy #digitalkids

 

digital kids | teachmama.com

 

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. This small percentage of money helps offset the costs of hosting this blog, which helps me keep this content free for you. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

help kids stay in touch with friends when school’s out: autograph sheet

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet teachmama.com

I can’t even believe it, but school’s almost out for my kids.

Though I’m totally psyched to begin our tabletop surprises this year, I’m also always a little sad when the school year ends.

It means my kids are getting older and that time continues to move . . . quickly.

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet teachmama.com

This year, especially I feel like I’m having a difficult time as Maddy moves into the wilds of middle school leaving Owen and Cora behind in elementary school. It has been a true joy for me to have all three kids in one school for the last three years.

And I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the fact that I began this blog even before Maddy started Kindergarten. Insanity.

But also awesome, I know. I have so much to be thankful for–that is a fact.

So I’ll spare you the waterworks–that will surely come on Friday at her Fifth Grade Recognition Ceremony (sob!)–and instead I’ll share something that I created for all three of my little loves so that they can stay in touch with their buddies through the long summer months.

It’s pretty cool. And it’s something they’ll just shove in their binder for the last few days, pull out before and after school and maybe at lunchtime.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Help Kids Stay in Touch With Friends When School’s Out–Autograph Sheet: 

This is a super-easy and fun sheet, and the emphasis here is that kids will write their phone number or address so that they can communicate over the summer.

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet teachmama.com

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet teachmama.com

If kids are old enough and their parents permit it, then hopefully kids can write down their email address or instagram name.

Any way they want to stay in touch, they share.

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet

Download the printable and help kids stay in touch with friends when school’s out: help kids stay in touch with friends when school’s out: autograph sheet

If you choose to share this printable–and we hope you do!–please link to this page instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

It’s simple and easy.

And when I showed the kids today, they were pretty happy. And I’ll be pretty happy mid-summer when they ask for a playdate with a pal and I tell them to reach out and plan it themselves!

 

How do you keep kids connected with their pals over the summer? It’s not easy–so I’m open for ideas and suggestions!

Need a few ideas for summertime fun? Join us!

summer fun for kids | teachmama.com

 

 

Are your kids still in school?

Do you want them to do a little ‘thank you’ writing to their teachers? Definitely check out this post over on Scholastic Parents:

end of year thank you  teachmama  pinterest  scholastic

cool activities for kids all summer long: NEW tabletop surprises

cool activities for kids all summer long: NEW tabletop surprises

cool activities for kids all summer long: NEW tabletop surprises

 

It’s here! It’s here! It’s heeerrreeeee!

I’m so happy. I’m so excited.

And more than ever, I’m over the moon thrilled and elated that summer is right around the corner!

Though I work from home, and it’s always an adjustment to have all the kids home all day long, and we have a busy swim and dive schedule, and ohmygosh I have to feed three kids three meals every single day for like a million days, I have found the most awesome plan for summer fun for my kids–tabletop surprises.

This will be the third summer we’re rocking tabletop surprises, and the kids–and I–couldn’t be more ready to rock and roll!

Here’s the skinny. . .

Cool Activities for Kids All Summer Long–NEW Tabletop Surprises: 

Tabletop Surprises are what works for us because I have three different kids–11, 9, and 8 years old–each with their own personality and plans.

And Tabletop Surprises work for us all.

What are Tabletop Surprises? Tabletop Surprises are invitations to learn, play, create, invent, and think–on their own time. 

Little fun activities just waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

tabletop surprises   teachmama.com 2

This year, everyone helped make the calendars. 

I brought out last year’s Tabletop Surprises calendars, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora wrote, scratched, added, and edited.

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

I want this summer to be fun for them. And I want them to have some say in what we do each day.

And though they had their own ideas about what they wanted their summer to look like (see below!), I added, adapted, and think they’ll be pretty happy with what we have planned.

Despite what it may look like, Tabletop Surprises allow for so much flexibility in our schedules. They’re short activities that can be done independently (for the most part), so if something fun comes up in our schedule, we drop and go.

That simple.

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

How to I get the kids to actually sit down and do the activities? 

A few ways:

1. The activities are fun and the kids want to do them;

2. At any given time, on any given day, I have been known to toss a few gems into the gem jars of people who have been spotted doing the activity. Not every day, but some days.

3.  I’ll join them. Really.

Kids–I truly believe–like to hang out with their parents. Especially if their parents are kinda cool or funny or at least act like they’re cool or funny. I like to hang out with my kids, so when they sit, if I can, I’ll join them.

tabletop surprises   teachmama.com 2

What are the ideas and what makes them so fun?

The activities are hands-on. They’re cool. They’re creative and crafty. They’re unusual. They’re familiar. They’re old and they’re new. They’re digital and battery-free. They’re indoors and outdoors.

It’s a mix, and that keeps them going. And it’s only ten weeks. That gives us one week for vacation and one week to totally pound out math packets and summer school assignments.

And really? I have a whole bunch of back-up this year–4 extra weeks planned out roughly. Just a whole bunch of extra cool, fun things that kids might want to do if and when we find time.

tabletop surprises calendar 2015 | teachmama.com

What do you think? Ready to give Tabletop Surprises a look? 

Awesome.

  1. Print out the calendar: tabletop surprises calendar 2015 teachmama.com
  2. Subscribe to teachmama.com via email.
  3. Download the Tabletop Surprises Resource Guide (you’ll get it when you confirm your subscription, yo!).
  4. Give your kids the skinny on Tabletop Surprises.  Tell them: This summer is totally going to rock. Each day, you’ll have a fun activity waiting right here on the table for you. All summer long. Not even kidding. You’re that lucky.
  5. Start learning, playing, creating, inventing, and thinking alongside your kiddos!
  6. And? Share your #tabletopsurprises via instagram or twitter  just for fun.  We will have a few goodies along the way for families who jump in on the fun. So start sharing and start learning.
  7. Now. Go ahead and create the summer of your dreams. Well. . .

tabletop surprises   teachmama.com 2

Wait. What’s holding you back?

My kids. They’re totally not game for anything anymore now that they’re tweens and teens.

Um. I understand. I get it. My kids have days when they just want to hole up and ignore me. And that’s fine. But there are many days when they want fun things to do.

They want an excuse to play with their old faves, to get their hands dirty, to explore and have fun.

And Tabletop Surprises let them do just that.

tabletop surprises calendar 2015 | teachmama.com

Me. I’m busy. I don’t have time for this. 

Yes. You. Do.  I’ve got every single thing you need right here. Ten weeks.  Links to resources and everything.  Just print out a few things, gather supplies the night before and set it out on your table or a small shelf or somewhere so it’s all there when the kids wake up.  They’ll do it when they’re able.

In fact, I’ve so got this covered, that if you subscribe to teachmama.com via email (only a few emails a week–full of awesome for you and your kids!) you’ll have access to every single thing you need for the entire ten weeks. Every link. Every printable. Bam.

 

Okay, well. . . I may just be convinced.

Give me a look at this stuff. 

Sure. Check out last year’s Tabletop Surprises to get an idea about what we’re doing.

tabletop surprise 2015 sign up teachmam

Or check out 2013:

Or check out our

live focused: may is the month for YOU — get started with these ideas

live focused in 2015 self teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

live focused in 2015 self teachmama.com

 

Friends, it’s taken me a bit to get to this important post this month, but here it is.

All year long we’ve been focusing on living with intention, making our time on this earth really count.

We’ve covered organization, friendship, clarity, and growth, and now, mid-year, we’re looking at ourselves.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Live Focused–May is the Month for YOU:

live focused in 2015 self teachmama.com

(Here I am, enjoying my very first butterbeer. . . a dream.)

We’re all busy, this I know for sure.

But when was the last time you really took time for you? When have you recently carved out time in your schedule for doing something that you truly love to do?

If you’re not sure or you can’t remember, then it’s time to make a change.

And if you’re rolling your eyes and feeling defeated before you even begin, then you really, really need to make a change. Because you know what? It’s okay to take care of ourselves. In fact, it’s a necessity.

It’s just that often it seems like we’re moving at such superhuman speeds that we can’t find the time.

Here’s this month’s printable to add to the others. Use it.

live focused: may self teachmama.com

Here’s the May printable to add to your other #livefocused printables: live focused printable may 2015

(If you choose to share this printable–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!).

Identify your anchors.

What’s holding you back from doing what you really love? These are the ‘anchors’ that are keeping you stuck in place–and anchors come in all shapes and sizes.

live focused in 2015 self teachmama.com

Is your anchor time? You can’t find enough of it to do what you want?

Is your anchor money? You feel like there’s no extra money in the budget for you to ‘splurge’ on things for you.

Is your anchor fear? Exhaustion? Confusion? Frustration? Embarrassment? 

Really, there are a million anchors–a million reasons–for you to not do what you’d like.

But there are double that many reasons for you to do more of what you like.

The number one reason to do more of what you like is that you will feel better and do better when you take time out for you. Okay, so that’s two reasons. But whatever. You get what I’m saying.

It’s true.

My good friend Jessica Turner’s Fringe Hours is an incredibly helpful resource for women who are trying desperately to reclaim time. To find something for themselves in that time. To carve out even minutes during the day to do what they love, even when there’s a pile of laundry to be folded and bathrooms to clean.

Jessica created a Fringe Hours Manifesto that you should consider printing and keeping close:

live focused: focus on SELF teachmama.com

You can print the Fringe Hours Manifesto here: Manifesto-Printable

(If you choose to share this information–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Or go ahead and visit the Fringe Hours page directly. Thank you!).

If you haven’t found a copy of The Fringe Hours, you can grab one from Amazon or from DaySpring.  And definitely check out Jessica’s Fringe Hours site for the awesome Time Tracker, wallpapers for your phone, and more.

Good news– DaySpring is having a rockstar Memorial Day sale– 25% off entire purchase with code 25MEMORIAL.  (Treat yourself to the book and some of the other awesome products like notepads and journals!)

 

Remember what you love to do.

It’s hard, especially when you’re in the throes of life, to sometimes even know what you love to do. I get it.

I remember, when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were young, feeling like the only thing I ever wanted to do with my free time was sleep. Like close my eyes and rest. I was that tired.

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But once I started running, doing yoga, writing this blog (really!), things turned around. I had more energy. I felt a renewed zest for life. I rediscovered the spring in my step.  I was a better mom, a better wife, a better friend and daughter.

This month, take time to figure out–or remember–what you love to do. We’ll give you some good ideas as a starting point.

How about:

Do something for you.  Really. It’s okay.

I’m no expert–believe me, I didn’t write the book on this–but I can tell you what I’ve done for me that’s made me really happy in the recent past:

1. I’ve just recently tried Stitch Fix. And I love it.

My second ‘fix‘ came today, and Maddy turned to me and said, Mom, I love how happy you are when your Stitch Fix.

She’s right. I am happy.


Stitch Fix makes me happy, and I don’t care if that makes me sound like a brat.

What is it? Stitch Fix is like having a personal shopper–really–where five items are sent to you, and you can keep or send the items back. It’s AWE-some. You pay $20 a month, and you fill out a detailed description of your style. Then your items land on your doorstep.


Whatever you want, you keep, and that $20 goes toward the cost; if you buy all five items, you get 25% off the total cost and your $20 stylist fee goes toward your purchase.

Jewelry, handbags, tops, skirts, dresses, tanks–it’s awesome.

 

——————————————-

2. I started doing Beachbody–the 21 Day Fix and PiYo. And I love it.

I tried the PiYo DVDs last year because I’ve been a longtime fan of pilates and  yoga.  And I even tried Beachbody Shakeology and after a bit of trial and error, I really came to like it.

No Weights. No Jumps. Just Hardcore Results. DEFINE YOURSELF with PiYo!
21 Day Fix. Simple Eating. Simple Fitness. Fast Results.
So now I’ve been rocking out to the 21 Day Fix each morning (okay, or about 4-5 mornings each week), and some mornings I’ll mix it up with a little PiYo or a run.  And I try to have a shake every other day. It was an investment in me, and I feel so much better for it.

More importantly, though, I feel so much stronger for it.

And the cool thing is that several of my friends are working hard as Beachbody coaches–guiding people to better health and fitness and getting paid for it. Awesome.

Smart women working hard–changing lives and earning some extra money.

——————————————-

3. I started using döTERRA essential oils. For real. (Don’t laugh.) And I love it.

I’m sure you have friends or family members who are into the essential oil thing. And if you don’t, well then, we should talk. . . (cough).

I’m kidding. Kind of.

OilSingles

But essential oils are simply ‘natural aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants.’

Take a minute to check out my little ole essential oil page; know that the videos are super helpful. Though I’m not a full-fledged oil expert, I have been using them with my family for about six months. We’ve seen some really great changes.

I’ll write more about them later, but I really just like having options when someone in our family isn’t feeling 100%. I like the excitement of looking up the ailment in our essential oil guide, trying the oil, and experiencing results.

I like that there is an oil for just about everything–anxiety, stress, indigestion, pain, and insomnia. I like that the oils can be ingested, infused, or used topically. I like that there are boatloads of supports out there for newbies to this world, and I like that so many women are making a killing selling them.

I like that you can buy them at really reasonable prices, so even if you aren’t sure about them, you can give a few a try and not break the bank.

——————————————-

Oh friends. Let’s get this started.

Finally.

Here’s to hoping that you do end up carving some time for YOU this month. Please tell me where, when and how you’re doing it and remember that each person who shares his or her successes is an inspiration for everyone else!!

 

 live focused in 2015 self teachmama.com sq

Are you in? Let me know, friends. I need to know I’m not walking alone on this journey!

  • share any of the photos here on your facebook page
  • share any of the photos here on your twitter or instagram page
  • share any of the photos here on your google + page or blog!

Tweet this:

  • tweet this: I am ready for some ME TIME this month! Join @teachmama and me: #livefocused
  • tweet this: I am psyched to join @teachmama in her #livefocused 2015 adventure! Join me: http://ctt.ec/warK2+
  • tweet this: Do YOU want to live a more focused, intentional life this year? Join the #livefocused crew: http://ctt.ec/ad7NC+ @teachmama
  • tweet this: Make this year COUNT. Get focused. Live intentionally. http://ctt.ec/aq9Vy+ #livefocused @teachmama

Check it all out video-style:

 And? If you don’t already subscribe to teachmama.com’s YouTube channel, you totally want to!

live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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click below for #livefocused archives:

ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

live focused in 2015 friendship teachmama.com sq

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live focused in 2015 growth teachmama.com sq 2

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

preparing kids for Kindergarten: the summer before school starts — Home Study

kindergarten prep summer before teachmama.com

Friends!

Do you have a little one heading off to the wilds of Kindergarten this year? 

Then this Home Study is for YOU.

 

kindergarten prep  summer before  teachmama.com

 

This is just one of the many teach mama Home Studies that are short, information-packed, interactive courses designed to change your life.

Perhaps you think ‘changing your life’ is a little lofty–but it’s true.  It really can change your life–and your child’s. 

In the last 10 years, I have spoken at dozens of local and national events, sharing information about teaching, learning, and community building.  One workshop I’ve done dozens of times is about how parents can prepare their children for Kindergarten. 

Time and time again, the feedback is the same: parents have said to me that what they learned in my workshop changed the way they spent time with their children. 

So exciting, right? I know.

I love it, and because it’s something I totally love doing, I’m opening the Home Study up to a larger group for a early summer workshop.  It’ll be awesome. And I know everyone will learn a ton.

And? We’re offering the whole workshop for $20 off through May. Check it out and share this page with your friends.

They’ll thank you for it!

home study kinder prep SUMMER

Check it out to learn more, but know that spots are filling quickly: teach mama Home Study: Kindergarten Prep SUMMER

 

kindergarten prep home study  teachmama.com 300

teachmama long logo home study

 

preparing for kindergarten summer before

parent teacher connect: parents and teachers working TOGETHER is the key to children’s success in school

parent teacher connect  teachmama.com

parent teacher connect  teachmama.com

 

We’ve got something cool brewing, my friends, and we want you to come along for the ride!

Join us over at teachmama.com: parent teacher connect— a platform where parents and teachers can ask questions, get answers, support each other, and learn how to best reach all of our children.  

Parents and teachers working TOGETHER is the key to children’s success in school. Parent Teacher Connect is a spot for parents and teachers to CONNECT. 

Everyone is welcome here–parents, teachers, administrators, classroom volunteers, you name it.

Here we can have a working, continual dialogue between parents AND teachers. I am SO excited to bring to life a platform where parents and teachers can ask questions, get answers, support each other, and learn how to best reach all of our children.

Teachers:

  • What do you wish parents knew about their children’s success in school?
  • What resources do you have that really help to reach students?
  • How best do you communicate with parents?
  • What works in your classroom?
    teachmama parent teacher connect header 3

 

Parents:

  • What do you wish teachers knew about how your child can meet with success in school?
  • What resources do you have that really help support your child?
  • How best do you communicate with teachers?
  • How do you manage homework?

We’re here for ANY and ALL questions you have, but our goal is to cover the following topics each day:

Math Monday: math will be our focus here

Techy Tuesday: tips, tricks, ideas for integrating technology at home and in the classroom

Wildcard Wednesday: anything goes!

Read to Me Thursday: books, books, books!

Foundation Friday: help for building foundations for learning at home and in the classroom

STEM Saturday: science, technology, engineering, and math

Social Sunday: share links, resources, posts, anything that you want others to read or see

Join us: teachmama.com: parent teacher connect.

Tell me, friends–what topics do you want to see covered? How can we make this group work for you?

We really want to know!

bleached out disney t-shirts for the not-so-crafty crafter

bleached out disney tshirts teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

bleached out disney tshirts  teachmama.com black shirt

We’re all busy.

And most of us really like to get a bit crafty but don’t have the time.

This little crafty craft is for you. And it’s for me.

Because it is so easy.

It’s so quick.

And the results are really, truly awesome.

We wanted to do something to let our kids know that we’re heading to Disney World in the next few days, but I didn’t want to do a full-fledged scavenger hunt like we did before.

We didn’t want to do a Disney countdown.

We wanted to pull the ‘YAY WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD TODAY!!!!’ surprise.

Kind of. We had to keep in mind that our kids do much, much better with a little bit of prep time. Even a teensy bit of prep time helps.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Bleached Out Disney T-Shirts for the Not-So Crafty Crafter

Making these was super easy.

Because my husband and I are surprising Maddy, Owen, and Cora with the trip, I needed to be able to make these t-shirts quickly and in the time that they were in school. So start to finish had to be within six hours. These took a fraction of that time.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

What you need:

What you need to do:

1. Print out the template you want to use.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

 

We used super-simple Mickey ears ones: you can download them here–mouse templates | teachmama.com

Please, if you choose to share this post–and we hope you do!–consider linking to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

 

2. Trace the template onto freezer paper.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

You can do this easily by placing the freezer paper on top of the printout and tracing it with a pencil.

 

3. Cut out the image from freezer paper.

I think if you have a detailed design, you could use a razor, but my design was easy, so I did it with scissors.

 

4. Iron the freezer paper stencil to the t-shirt.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Not kidding. I didn’t know this would work, either, but one side of the freezer paper gets just a wee bit sticky when heated. Find the shiny side of the freezer paper and make sure that side touches the t-shirt.  Find the place you want the image, and place it there.

Remember that the freezer paper blocks the bleach, so wherever that stencil is will be untouched.

6. Mix your bleach solution.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Because my t-shirts were dark colored, I knew that we wouldn’t need a lot of bleach to pull out color, so we went with a 60: 40 mix of bleach and water. I filled about 60% of the spray bottle with bleach and then added water to the remaining 40%.

If you’re doing a light grey shirt or light yellow or pink shirt, maybe you want to use all bleach, but since ours were black, bright blue, and dark grey, I was pretty confident that even if our bleach was diluted a bit, it would yield the results I wanted.

7. Place cardboard inside the shirt. 

Make sure that the cardboard covers all edges unless you want the bleach to carry over to the side a bit. We want to make sure that only the front of the shirt is bleached and that it doesn’t seep through to the back of the shirt.

 

8. Spray, baby, spray.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Make sure that the spray nozzle is on the mist setting — test it in the sink if you need to. Then give the spray bottle a shake, and spray the shirt.

Keep the bottle about 6-12  inches from the shirt, depending on the look you want to achieve.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

You can either make sure the area around the stencil is saturated, or just spray lightly.  You can use a hairdryer to speed up the drying and bleaching process, or you can let the bleach air dry.  Again, it depends on what you want your shirt to look like.

9.  Carefully remove the stencil.  

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

After the bleach settles a bit and before the freezer paper stencil gets super soggy, take the stencil off of the t-shirt

All three of mine removed super easy, with just a gentle pull of a corner.  If you need a start to lift up the stencil, use the edge of a dull knife or scissors. The last thing you want to have happen is to make a hole because you tried lifting the stencil too quickly with a sharp knife.

10.  Let your shirt dry just a bit and then rinse and wash the shirt. 

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

 

First rinse the shirt in cold water to remove all of the bleach (See those little white dots in the top photo? That’s the bleach–it must be rinsed away. . . ).

And the finished shirt? Check it out:

bleached out disney tshirts teachmama.com

Then wring it out and wash it (or them, if you did several) in a gentle cycle wash. I dried my shirts on low, and they were fine. I needed them finished by the end of the school day, remember!

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Some tips: 

  • Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area.  I mean it. Bleach can really smell strong.
  • Put your shirt on a hanger to let your shirt dry for a bit before you rinse out the bleach.
  • Experiment a little–use a Q-tip to try some bleachy dots on the shirt, use a paint brush, or use the freezer paper in fun, new ways.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Have. Fun.

Really, this trip is going to be fun, so make sure that your crafty craftiness before the trip is fun, too.

Check out a quickie video with the how-to: 

Do you subscribe to teachmama.com on YouTube? You should!! 
And really–let me know–have you tried this? What works and what doesn’t?

Looking for more Disney craft ideas?

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

You will not believe what some of my crafty friends are doing. They totally rock.

And they, too, will be at Disney Social Media Moms Celebration next week. So do follow along with the fun at #DisneySMMC or on Instagram.

disney crafts round up numbered

Definitely check out what they’ve done:

  1. Little Mermaid Ears, by Vanessa of See Vanessa Craft
  2. DIY Disney Jewelry with Free Printable, by Jen of 100 Directions
  3. DIY BB-8 Shirt, by Karen of Desert Chica
  4. DIY Disney Autograph and Activity Book, by Sara of Clever Pink Pirate
  5. Disney Trip Countdown – DIY Washi Tape Chalkboard, by Sara of Mom Endeavors
  6. Disney Drawstring Backpack, by Laura of Pink Cake Plate
  7. bleached out disney t-shirts for the not-so-crafty crafter, by Amy of teach mama
  8. Disney Sticker Story Starters, by Marie of Make and Takes
  9. Disney Princess Duct Tape Hand Mirror, by Heather of Dollar Store Crafts
  10. Custom Toy Story Shorts and Shirts, by Kelly of Eclectic Momsense

 

 

Here are a few other ways to countdown or celebrate your own Disney vacation: 

common core 101: everything parents need to know to prep their kids and to stay sane

common core 101 teachmama.com

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common core 101  teachmama.com

Having kids in elementary school is overwhelming.

I mean really overwhelming.

Even with the best organizational strategies in place–for homework, papers, and family time–it’s hard to remember it all.

Add one or two extra kids in the mix, and that means that you can multiply the amount of fliers, homework, projects, permission slips, forms, and extra-curricular activities exponentially.

So when the Common Core State Standards arrived hand in hand with PARCC assessments and a whole lot of other changes, I can only assume that the large majority of the parents out there did what I chose to do: skim papers, follow along a little, and hold on for the ride.

That was fine for the moment, but now that we all have had a bit more time to breathe, it’s time to get out of the fog.

We, as parents, need to know what the Common Core State Standards mean, why they matter, and how we can help our kids meet with success on these assessments.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Common Core 101–Everything Parents Need to Know to Prepare Their Kids and to Stay Sane:

common core 101  teachmama.com link
If you’d rather skip my quick and dirty info and find out everything–and I mean everything!–you need to head over to BeALearningHero.org stat.

But here’s the super short version:

What are the Common Core State Standards?

Common Core State Standards set clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level in math and English language arts.

Often you’ll see it written as CCSS–Common Core State Standards.

common core 101  teachmama.com link

What is PARCC and Smarter Balanced?

Get ready for this. Lots of letters.

Two groups – the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) – worked closely with educators to develop new, computer-based assessments aligned to the Common Core.

Many states have chosen to administer either PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments in the 2014-15 school year, and others are using assessments specific to their state.

 

When will my child take these tests? 

The new assessments will replace existing end-of-year state assessments in math and English language arts.

And? They will provide a more accurate picture of what your child really knows instead of those old tests where kids were asked to pick the right answer from a multiple-choice question.

Why do I, as a parent, need to know this? 

You guys. C’mon.

Parental support is critical to a child’s school success.  You need to know this so that you can walk alongside your child for this journey. You got this! Really.

common core 101  teachmama.com link
 

Who or what is Be A Learning Hero and why is Amy all over it today?

Ha. I love you guys. Really, I do.

Be A Learning Hero is a website for parents. It’s designed to provide straight answers and helpful resources on the Common Core State Standards.  And it provides information on Common Core-aligned assessments like PARCC and Smarter Balanced. Everything on Be A Learning Hero help parents understand the new standards and assessments and support their children’s education at home.

And you know that I’m all about parents supporting their children’s education at home. Right? Right.

Who is behind Be A Learning Hero and how is it funded? 

I wanted to know the same thing. For real.

Be A Learning Hero is a group of parents, educators, community leaders and members of the media who are dedicated to providing parents with the information and resources they need to support their children’s learning. The partner organizations supporting Be A Learning Hero include: Common Sense Media; Council of Great City Schools; Great Schools; National PTA; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

Be A Learning Hero is a project of the New Venture Fund and is funded by a group of philanthropies who are investing in education, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schusterman Foundation. The project also receives in-kind donations and support from other organizations working on a range of education issues, including: The Collaborative for Student Success; The College Board; The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); Nickelodeon; Scholastic; The Teaching Channel; and The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

common core 101 for parents teachmama.com.png

Now, take a minute–or two–and visit BeALearningHero.org where things are explained much more clearly: 

BeALearningHero.org website |  BeALearningHero.org facebook  |  BeALearningHero.org pinterest  |  follow the hashtag #LearningHero

 

Friends. . . tell me:

  • What questions do you have?
  • What experiences have you had?
  • What resources (videos, articles, etc.) have you seen that helped you better understand your state’s new test?

I’d love to know!

 

fyi: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Be a Learning Hero. As always, the opinions and ideas are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Be a Learning Hero. The opinions and text are all mine.

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

 

Oh, boy the last few weeks have been funny for us.

And by ‘funny’ I mean not really laughing funny but funny in a tricky kind of way.

Pretty much everyone’s been on and off sick.

My husband and Maddy have been suffering from allergies like whut.

Maddy had it for a good week, then I was out for an entire weekend, and now Cora has it.  I’m crossing my fingers that the rest of us steer clear of it.  Because friends, it’s not pretty.

However, in the midst of it all, we were able to do a bunch of fun things and spend time together.

We’ve been doing something for the last few months that has been a whole lot of fun for us all: we’ve been writing power notes to Nana.

Power notes are nothing that crazy–it’s simply fun, authentic writing for kids.  Tons of notes written in one sitting. Power writing power notes. Get it?

Fun. And Authentic.

And really, fun and authentic are the keys when it comes to getting kids to write.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Fun, Authentic Writing for Kids–Power Notes to Nana: 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

These ‘power notes’ are simply written all in one bunch–all in one sitting.

Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I find a time when we can sit down for an hour or two, and then we each write 4-6 notes to Nana.

Nana is 92, and she’s had a long, rough winter. Getting old is tough, and it’s made even more difficult when you add ice and snow to the mix–because then visitors are less frequent, and outings are more difficult.

And because we live three and a half hours away from her, there’s very little we can do to entertain our amazing 92-year old Nana.

So we write notes.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

And we write more notes.

And we write even more notes.

And we:

  • decorate,
  • embellish,
  • add photos,
  • tell stories,
  • include games,
  • draw pictures,
  • add stickers,
  • make puzzles,
  • print crosswords,
  • add newspaper articles,
  • ask questions,
  • decorate envelopes,
  • and do just about anything and everything we can to make the letters fun for Nana.

We usually begin by going through recent photos. 

 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

 

I flag about 8-10 of them, and I print them out. And then Maddy, Owen, or Cora will use the photo as a starting point for a letter.

He or she will simply write a few sentence about the photo: what’s going on? who’s in it? what did we do that day? why is it important/silly/funny/ etc.?

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

It’s very easy to have letters to elderly family members all be the same ole, same ole:

Hi, Nana!

I hope you are doing well. School is fine, and soccer is fun! I am ready for summer. Hope to see you very soon.

Love, Owen

But using photos as starters helps break up that mold. It helps liven things up a bit. And Nana loves seeing her great-grandchildren!

Other times, we’ll use puzzles as a starting point. 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

Puzzles are a super activity for Nana. We print out mazes or sudoku, or word searches.  We even make puzzles for her.

Puzzles can be a short, quick inspiration for a letter, and they give her something fun to do for a few hours the day she receives her letter.

But really, the important thing is that these power notes are a chance for my kids and me to just write

We write about anything that comes to mind because Nana wants to hear it all.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

If Owen wants to write about soccer, he writes all he wants about soccer.

If Cora wants to write about her cheer competition or the book she’s reading, then she writes about her cheer competition or the book she’s reading.

If Maddy wants to write about her 5th grade graduation or her latest school project, she writes about graduation or her school project.

The key is that everyone’s writing about things that interest them.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

And they’re writing for a real, live audience.

And their notes are meaningful, and they’re going somewhere.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

 

And when we’re done, we get them ready for the mail.

 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

We address them all, seal them and stamp them, and we put sticky notes on them indicating the day we want them to go out in the mail. So in the end, we have a pile of notes in a basket on the counter, ready to grab and put in the mailbox every 2-3 days.

It works.

And because we cannot stop by for a visit like we wish we could–because nothing replaces that in-person hangout time!–these letters help. Even if just a teeny, tiny bit.

This kind of writing really counts, friends. 

The cool thing is that research shows that the most successful writing activities are for real audiences and authentic purposes:

The teachers in one study reported ‘that students came alive when they realized they were writing to real people for real reasons or reading real-life texts for their own purposes. . . . more authentic literacy activities are related to greater growth in the ability to read and write new genres.

Duke, N.K., Purcell-Gates, V., Hall, L.A., & Tower, C. (2006). The Reading Teacher, 60, (4), 344-355.

It makes sense, right? When people are doing something for a purpose–a real, true purpose–for someone else, they’re likely to want to do it and want to do it well. So they push themselves a bit, maybe learn a little something, and they grow as writers. Bam. Super exciting!

 

Need a few more ideas to get your kids writing for fun and meaningful purposes?

Check out: