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

common core 101

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common core 101

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 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 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 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 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

Now, take a minute–or two–and visit where things are explained much more clearly: website | facebook  | 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:

authentic writing for kids:

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:

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:


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:

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:

authentic writing for kids:

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:

authentic writing for kids:

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:

authentic writing for kids:

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

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

authentic writing for kids:


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


authentic writing for kids:

authentic writing for kids:

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:

kings dominion: family-friendly amusement park in the dc metro area

family friendly kings dominion |

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family friendly kings dominion |

We did it.

We took the leap.

We visited Kings Dominion with our kids this weekend.

And? It was awesome.

My husband and I hadn’t been there in years, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  But we were pleasantly surprised.

Not only was Kings Dominion clean and totally beautiful, it was seriously more family-friendly than we expected. There was something for everyone, and my kids (11, 9, and 8 years old) are raring for a return visit–already.

Need a few reasons to take the trip to Doswell, Virgina–20 miles north of Richmond and 75 miles south of DC–to experience it for yourself?

Here’s the skinny. . .

Kings Dominion– Family-Friendly Amusement Park in the DC Metro Area

Here are my top 5 reasons families should take a trip to Kings Dominion this season:


1. It’s beautiful and clean.  

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

Really. Gorgeous flowers. Green grass everywhere. Fountains, shops, restaurants– and restrooms!– all super clean.

It was something that my husband and I noted multiple times–we’d look at each other and comment about how beautiful the park was.

And I don’t even think it was that we were so grateful to be outdoors on a perfect spring day; the park really, truly is beautiful.

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |


2. The color band bracelets make ride decisions easier.

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

The minute we arrived, we walked into a Height Guide station almost immediately, and this sweet gal was handing out bracelets to kids based on their height.

I loved it–it made deciding which rides Maddy, Owen, and Cora were permitted to ride much, much easier.

family friendly kings dominion |

Turns out that our kids were able to ride just about everything they wanted, which made the whole day totally stress-free.

The height guide is available on the website, so you can even measure your kids at home and plan accordingly.


3. Super-fun concert and event series. 

We were thrilled that the day we went to the park, Debby Ryan (think: Jessie, from Disney channel) and her band, The Never Ending, was playing.

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

Our friends at Kings Dominion arranged for us to even meet her, which was an absolute treat for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

They met Debby Ryan! And Debby Ryan was delightful. So sweet. So kind. So great with the kids.

family friendly kings dominion |


family friendly kings dominion |


We had a blast watching the show, and it was a huge highlight of our family’s spring break.

And honestly, the concert was free with park admission. So it was cool–everyone kind of moseyed on over around 5:30 for the 6pm concert. Great outdoor venue. So fun.

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |


But this concert is just the beginning of the fun during the Spring Bloom Festival at the park; there’s a ton of other things planned this season:

  • Choo Choo Soul – For the younger ones, Choo Choo Soul is a children’s entertainment act featuring a hip-hop train conductor and her partner, a dancer and beatboxer dressed as a railroad engineer. The concert is free with park admission. Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Choo Choo Soul will perform at the Peanut’s Showplace Theater on Sunday, April 19 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Spring Bloom: An International Culinary Celebration – Take a culinary trip around the world with Kings Dominion’s Executive Chef! New food stations and restaurants will feature international food items from Switzerland, Italy, Jamaica, and many more! These delicious delicacies will be created using fresh spring ingredients from local Virginia farms.
  • Live Entertainment – Strap on your dancing shoes and enjoy toe-tapping entertainment from local Country and Bluegrass bands every weekend!
  • Happy Birthday KD! – Kings Dominion opened over the course of two years, with the official grand opening on May 3, 1975. Time to cut the cake and blow out the candles as the park officially turns 40 on May 3, 2015. The day will be filled with surprises, entertainment and more!

I love that there are things other than just rides to explore here.

4. Activities for all ages. 

It’s no secret that Cora is not a fan of big roller coasters. She, like her mama, prefers the lazy river type of rides. So when we discovered Planet Snoopy, we were both in friendly kings dominion |


family friendly kings dominion |


family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |


Planet Snoopy is a PEANUTS™ happy area filled with 18 rides designed for entire families to enjoy together. These aren’t all ‘baby rides’ mind you; a few were rated ‘moderate thrill’ level 3, and I thought they were a little crazy.  The whole area was well-organized, and I liked that after a while we started seeing the same faces of kids and parents. It gave this big park a ‘small park’ feel.

Maddy, Owen, and their dad enjoyed some crazy fast and furious rides while Cora and I were rolling more slowly, and they loved every second of it.

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

They rode just about every big coaster they could, and after a while all the names started to sound the same to me. All I know is that they proudly survived the Intimidator 305, the ‘tallest, fastest, and most thrilling roller coaster on the East Coast’.  All I can say is thank goodness I wasn’t standing there watching them.

5. Great food choices. 

Food is huge for our family. We love food.

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

family friendly kings dominion |

And especially when we’re out and about, we like to have great food choices to keep us going.

Huge surprise to us was that Chick-fil-A® was there. Panda Express® and Rita’s® was there. Starbucks® and Subway® was there. There were a ton of really great options, and this is just the start–there were some super spots for sweet treats and sit-down meals as well.

Check out all of our photos from the day:

Do you want to get in on the fun, even if you’re far away?

Overall, we were impressed. It was an awesome, awesome day at Kings Dominion.

Have you been there? Have you tried it? Anything in particular that you loved or didn’t love? I’d love to hear it!


fyi: Huge and happy thanks to the team at Kings Dominion for extending an invitation to the park and the Debby Ryan Meet & Greet to our family and then asking me to write about the experience. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.

teach kids workforce appreciation: celebrating those who make our day brighter

teach kids workforce appreciation |

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teach kids workforce appreciation |

We have always taught our kids to be thankful for each and every person who makes our day a little brighter.

And those people include family and friends, neighbors and teachers, but it also includes our newspaper deliverer, and the grocery cashier. Our dry cleaner and mail carrier and the folks who take away our recyclables and trash.

We could be pretty cranky if we had to cut the grass at our favorite playground, so we are thankful for the people who manage the grounds.

We’d be miserable if we had to cut Brady’s fur, but thanks to our groomer, we don’t have to.

When our garage door breaks? Thankfully, we have someone to call. If we need help adding a new light fixture?  The electrician can come lend a hand.

All of these people help to make our day brighter.

All of these people are part of our workforce and deserve to be celebrated.

And it’s really something that needs to be explicitly taught–or modeled–to our children.  Three easy ways, friends.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Teach Kids Workforce Appreciation–Celebrating Those Who Make Our Day Brighter: 

Here are three easy ways that parents can help instill an appreciation for all those in the workforce:

1. Model gratitude and thanks for those in the workforce.

teach kids workforce appreciation 1

This is super simple: say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to those people who help you at checkout lines, who support you on the phone, who greet you as you walk into stores, and who perform service-related tasks.

So often I see people forgetting this simple act of kindness, acting as if the work that these folks do is not as important as it is.

Hopefully, we can change that by modeling gratitude.


2.  Teach children about all jobs so that they know how hard others work.

teach kids workforce appreciation 1

When we know better, we do better, right? Take time to really teach kids about all different types of jobs so that they learn how valued each and every job really is.

This, too, is easier than you think.

Check out the “1 in one hundred million” site–it’s a site devoted to sharing the personal stories of people who do the many important and too-often unrecognized jobs upon which we all rely.  Here, ordinary people in the workforce share their story.

I love it.

Created by Kronos, each month “1 in one hundred million” site releases a new video profiling a person’s story. They’ve covered a firefighter, a trauma nurse, a produce manager at grocery store, a union electrician, a hotel front desk agent, a restaurant server, a teacher, and a baseball bat maker, who was a former MLB pitcher.

celebrating all jobs in the workforce 3

celebrating all jobs in the workforce 3

I love that this series profiles just one of the one hundred million, often under-appreciated, people in the workforce. Hopefully this series will help everyone to better appreciate those people who often make our day brighter.

Find out more about this cool campaign here:  |  #1in100MM |  #WorkforceStories

3.  Take some local, behind-the-scenes field trips.

teach kids workforce appreciation 1

I know this option isn’t always an option depending on where you live, but this is one of my kids’ fondest memories of growing up: take local field trips.

For years I wrote about how we took ‘behind the scenes’ tours of our local pizza place, fire station, flower shop, and recycling center. We visited so many places with our moms’ group that I truly believe it helped show my kids how important our community members really were.

Often, all you need to do is give the business a quick call beforehand, and the people there are more than excited to show a family around. Try it.


How do you help to show your kids that everyone in the workforce deserves to be appreciated? I’d love to hear it!




2547-201503241952345821fyi: 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!


april fools’ tricks for last-minute prankster parents

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents teachmama

post contains affiliate links



april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama


Oh, friends.

How I love April Fools’ Day.

And how I love to drag my kids into the April foolery.

This year, I have been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and plan like I have in the past–but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

No way, Jose.

So I’ve got a few good April Fools’ tricks for the last-minute prankster parents in the group. Those people who like to trick their family but may not have remembered that April Fools’ Day was tomorrow until . . . well, just now.

Here’s the skinny. . .

April Fools’ Tricks for Last-Minute Prankster Parents:

I’ve got seven for you–seven pretty easy pranks that will be great for most families with kids who are a little bit older.

1. Brownies for Lunch

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

Last year I made a huge tray of these and brought them out to our neighbors–and they weren’t too happy.

This year, I thought I’d scale it down a bit–make small brown Es so that the kids could have them in their lunches at school. And break all of the cafeteria rules by sharing them at lunch.

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

I simply printed out two pages of our ‘brownies’, cut them apart, and wrapped them in foil. At lunch on April Fools’ Day, Maddy, Owen, and Cora will open up their ‘treat’ and have a big surprise!

Hopefully they’ll find it funny and will share them with their friends.

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

And because I’ll feel secretly guilty all day long, I’ll have real brownies as an after school snack. No fooling!

You can download our sheet of ‘brownies’ here: april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents | teachmama

april fools brownies

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

2. Basketball Hoop Plug

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

Every single day, Owen and our neighbors are outside shooting hoops.

So I thought I’d put a little wrench in their game today. We’ll see how it goes. . .

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

All I did was lower the hoop, stand on a chair, and use packing tape to secure plastic wrap to the rim.

Then I raised the hoop back to 10 feet.

Bam. Swoosh! Or not. . .

3. Banded Hairbrushes

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

Maddy and Cora always stand the same way when they’re brushing their hair: they stare at themselves in the mirror, grab their brush without looking, and tear through their knotty hair.

So this little trick will stop them in their tracks a little. Maybe.

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

I added rubber bands to their brushes. In and around the bristles of their brush. That’s it.


4. Hidden Chargers

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

I’m not sure how your house is, but every day that the kids are permitted to use electronics, it’s a mad scramble for chargers. So I fixed that.

I took them all away.

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

Gathered as many as I could find, and I shoved them in a fancy, little bag.

And the really funny thing is that I’m going to keep the bag right on the table, just as it is, to see who actually notices and who then saves the day.

It’ll be a lesson in noticing what’s around. Kind of.

5. Removed Batteries

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

Even though Wednesdays are ‘unplugged’ days for us, another techy-trick I played is the ole battery removal trick.

Nothing fancy, friends.

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

Just a simple removal of the battery.

And no, my kids don’t all have phones. These are my husband and my older devices that the kids use as their ‘mobile game playing station’ of sorts.

I wonder who will be the first to catch on–on Thursday when they try to plug back in, that is!

6. Water Sports Drinks

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

We rarely have sports drinks around the house, but when we do, we often find ‘floaters’ around the house.

Gross. And. Frustrating.

Because they’re not cheap.

Half-finished drinks from who knows when just sitting around here and there like we’re a snack bar or something.

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

So as a trick, I refilled the bottles. Three of them.

With water and a drop of our bright neon food coloring.  Just a few drops in each, and then I shook them up really good.

And before school, I’ll say, Hey! I found these three last Gatorades in the fridge. Whose day is it? Pick a flavor–purple, blue, or red!

(Because when it comes down to it, aren’t sports drinks’ flavors colors and not real flavors? I mean really.

And they’ll probably pick on and think they will have a super awesome drink for lunch.


7.  Switched Cereal

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama


Ahhhhh, a simple one but a good one.

Switched the ole cereal bags inside the boxes. So when the kids try to pour the cereal, they’ll think they’re getting one thing but they’ll really get another.

So tricky am I. So tricky.

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama

april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama


It’s worth noting that I do all of this trickery because my kids can take it. If they became upset or angry or inconsolable when I tricked them like this, of course I wouldn’t do it.

They’re used to my April Fools’ googly eyes. They know I usually do what I can to trick them or their father this time of the year.

So they’ll be ready.

I think. . .


Want some more ideas? Our many hilarious ideas include: 

More April Fools’ Day ideas: 


april fools' tricks for last-minute prankster parents  teachmama




Follow our board on Pinterest for more April Fools’ day ideas: 


Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board april fools’ & simple, silly tricks on Pinterest.

fyi: affilliate links used in this post

must-have conversation after taking kids to see cinderella

must-have conversation after taking your kids to see cinderella

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must-have conversation after taking your kids to see cinderella

Last Friday, we saw Cinderella.

The new and improved Cinderella from Disney.

And it was gorgeous. It was beautiful.

From start to finish, the characters were beautiful, the setting was beautiful. The dress. The dress was beautiful. The glass slippers? Beautiful.

And the end? It’s picture-perfect.

It’s a fairy tale ending, just like we all wanted.

Every little girl I know will want to see it. Over and over and over and over and over again.

Which is why I truly believe that there’s a must-have conversation every family must have after taking kids to see Cinderella.

Here’s the skinny. . .

The Must-Have Conversation Every Family Must Have After Taking Kids to See Cinderella: 

First, let me be clear: I get Cinderella.

I know the story.

I saw the animated movie.

I have shared them both with my kids well before we saw the new movie. I know it’s a fairy tale, and I know how it ends.

And I’m not expecting miracles.

But perhaps Elsa is fresh on my mind since we’re all still defrosting from Frozen fever.  Elsa was a rockstar in the way she works out her personal struggles without the help of anyone other than her sister.  And in the end, she learns to control her powers and run a country.

Maybe I just over-loved Tiana who saves pennies in a cofollows her lifelong dream to open a restaurant.  As an entrepreneur, I want my girls to know that they can do anything they set their mind to.

Brave’s Merida was so full of adventure and drive, and I loved her refusal to fit into her family’s preconceived molds.  She set out to follow her own destiny, learning some serious life lessons along the way.

Are these three Disney princess perfect? Not at all. But they’re fresh on my mind, being that they are the more recent additions to the Disney princess club.

As we were walking out of the theater last week, after hearing all of the oooooohs and ahhhhhhhs and wishful conversations among movie-goers, I wanted to remind all of the parents to talk to their daughters about a few things.  Really.

Please parents, after watching Cinderella, tell your daughters:

You are beautiful.

You. Are. Beautiful.

Your healthy body is beautiful. You have strong legs that take you everywhere, that allow you to run, jump, flip, bike, ice-skate, rollerskate, and play.  You have strong arms that you use to build structures, make forts, string bracelets, paint pictures, and design your dreams; your arms and hands allow you to write notes, type stories, do handstands and cartwheels.

God gave you one body, and you take care of it well.  You. Are. Beautiful.

must-have conversation after taking kids to see cinderella | 1

You are smart.

You. Are. Smart.

You read, you listen, and you think. You are questioning and curious. You work hard on your homework until you understand it, and you take your school work seriously. You are a coveted classmate for projects and assignments; your friends know you are a hard worker and that your creative, innovative ideas will get your project done well.

You figure things out. You follow directions. You can do things on your own, and if you can’t, you ask for help. You. Are. Smart.

You are strong.

You. Are. Strong.

You are strong whether I am with you or not, whether your dad is with you or not.

You are strong by yourself, wherever you are, whomever you are with. You are strong in or out of our house, in the summer or winter, in the spring or fall. You are strong whether you have hair or no hair, phone or no phone, toys or no toys.

You are strong no matter what you are wearing and no matter what you think. You. Are. Strong.

must-have conversation after taking kids to see cinderella | 1

You are kind.

You. Are. Kind.

You have more kindness in your pinky finger than more people have in their whole body.

You always think about other people.  You write sweet notes to friends. You wrap beautiful, homemade gifts. You take care of our pets, and you help around our house. You are giving, and you care about how people feel.  You. Are. Kind.

Now, think about the movie. Sure, Cinderella was beautiful and ‘courageous and kind’ like her mom said, but really, there are some things you need to know. 

Cinderella was wearing a corset to make her waist look super tiny.

Cinderella–along with all of the women in the movie–was wearing costumes that made her body look different.

The were wearing corsets. Or girdles. Or something like that.

A corset is something that women wore long ago to hold in their stomachs, to make them look more like an hourglass. Corsets are kind of like the top part of an ice-skate but around your waist. The laces are pulled super-super tight in the middle and a little more loose at the top and bottom so the hips and breasts look bigger. In olden days, people actually had fainting couches and fainting rooms because women were barely able to breathe wearing these corsets–often they fainted.

Can you even imagine? Think about how hard that must have been. Think about how tough it would have been for those ladies to walk down the street in a corset, let alone dance, run, jump, or play.

cinderella post |

Cinderella did not need to take that awful treatment from her stepmother or stepsisters.

I mean it. Nobody deserves to be treated that way.

It’s one thing to be courageous and kind, but it’s another to be a total pushover.

Cinderella could have said something like,

Hey, I don’t appreciate the way you’re making fun of me right in front of my face. It’s not nice, and I won’t stand for it. Or. . .

I’m sorry, but I am definitely not going up into the attic for a bedroom. If the sisters want to share my bigger bedroom, that’s fine. I’ll take the smaller one. But the attic? No way.  Or. . .

Really? Do you honestly feel good about sending me to eat alone in the kitchen? No, sorry. I’m eating at this table with you guys. So. How’s the weather?   Or. . .

Um, nope. I’m not cool with tying your shoes. I can help you loosen your corset and then you can tie your own shoes. Thankyouverymuch.  Or. . .

I don’t care what you think about this dress. It was my mom’s, and even if it is a little out-dated or not quite as poofy as yours, it means a lot to me. You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m still going to the ball with you. Now, move over, bacon. . . 

cinderella post |

Cinderella could have left the house.

We saw her talking to a girlfriend in the market one day, right? That pal could have helped her get out. But Cinderella had some funny belief that she needed to stay in the house to ‘honor her mother and father’? I don’t believe it. No way. Her parents loved her. Bottom line.

So that means that more than anything, they’d want her happy.

Usually there’s someone who can help you–no matter what situation you’re in, no matter how bad things seem. There’s someone who can help you.  Whether it’s a parent, brother or sister, classmate, neighbor, friend, teacher, or coach–someone can be your lifeline.

Cinderella did not use her lifeline. Clearly.

Cinderella could have done something.

After an amazing, magical, awesome time at the ball, Cinderella just sat in her attic room waiting for . . . what?

What was she waiting for? What was she doing up there after the ball? Was she locked in her room? I can’t even remember.

All I know is this: at that point, Cinderella could have done a dozen other things to change her situation other than just sit there and sing. Right?


So though she was pretty lucky that the Prince’s guy was there and demanded that they check out the beautiful singing heard from above, life doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes–most of the time, actually–you have to take the reigns in your own hands.

And though it’s a whole lot sweeter if you’re courageous and kind, often, you have to do a little more, give a little more, risk a little more.

You’ve got to use your strength and your smarts to steer your own ship.

To plot your own course.

To find your own map.

To paint your own masterpiece.

To buy your own flowers.

To sing your own song.

But I know you can do it, and I love you.

* * * * *



fyi: I am proud to be a part of the Fandango Family Digital Network and will share a movie-related post quarterly. Parents, check out the deets on Cinderella, including information about the cast and crew, from our friends at Fandango.   Share your #fandangofamily moments for others to see, or check out the Fandango Family Facebook page for fun posts and contests.

I am proud to work with Disney as well. All of the Cinderella images are courtesy of Disney.  Thank you!

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions |

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions |


Oh friends. .  .February and March are always so glum for me.

What about you? Do you find that you fall into the winter doldrums this time of the year? If so, let’s power through it together.


This year, we’ve already done a whole lot of organizing.  YAY!

We’ve rekindled friendships and make relationships a priority. Woo-hooo!

Now is a great time to do some serious thinking and reflecting.

We’re going to figure some stuff out.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Live Focused–Finding Clarity in Thoughts and Actions: 

So often, our thoughts and actions are not aligned–we think one thing but say another.

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions

We say one thing but do another.

And I truly believe that this is not always intentional. Rather, we’re so busy that we don’t give ourselves enough time to really think things through.

This month, let’s figure it out.

Let’s think about how we really feel and move forward from there, okay?

First, download the March #livefocused printable.


find clarity in thoughts and actions | #livefocused


You can find it here: live focused printable march –

(Please, if you choose to share it–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

Then find a quiet place to think. 

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.  And fill out the sheet.

Essentially, think about: 

What part of your household systems are working?

What needs to change?

How can you improve? 

clarity  livefocused  teachmama.comConsider the following areas: 

  • behavior — the kids’ behavior; your behavior; your spouse’s behavior; what is tolerated and not tolerated; behavior management systems
  • screen time — how much each day; monitoring; safety; sharing; care of devices
  • chores — what chores are done and by whom; rotation of chores; jobs around the house; family responsibilities
  • homework — where homework is completed; who helps with homework; rules and expectations about homework
  • activities — children activities; family activities; costs of activities; practices; child and adult responsibilities
  • communication — communication among family members, friends, and school; what is acceptable and not
  • other — think: religion, relationships; finances; health; jobs; etc.

Fill out the sheet.  And then get ready to make some changes.

This month I’ll share the resources I know of that may help in these areas; if you have others that work, I’d love for you to share them with us!


live focused in 2015 friendship 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 CLARITY this month! Join @teachmama and me: #livefocused
  • tweet this: I am psyched to join @teachmama in her #livefocused 2015 adventure! Join me:
  • tweet this: Do YOU want to live a more focused, intentional life this year? Join the #livefocused crew: @teachmama
  • tweet this: Make this year COUNT. Get focused. Live intentionally. #livefocused @teachmama

Check it all out video-style:

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

live focused 2015 b w collage



click below for #livefocused archives:

ive focused in 2015 organization sq

live focused in 2015 friendship sq

finding time for what you love: The Fringe Hours

finding time for what you love: the fringe hours |

post contains affiliate links



finding time for what you love: The Fringe Hours

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

When I first started this blog seven years ago, I was creating, photographing, writing, and coding in the ‘fringe hours’ of my days.

All day long I was grateful to be with Maddy, Owen, and Cora, hanging out, playing, learning, and doing our thing, but when naptime came, I blogged.

When the kids went to bed, I blogged.

When I had a spare moment to myself, I blogged.

I was proud of the resource I was creating (I still am!), I was in love with the friends I was making (totally still am!), and I was in awe of the community I was building (you better believe I still am!).

the fringe hours

the fringe hours

But as my babies went off to school and my blog became my full-time job, things started to shift.

It was a natural shift, but a shift nonetheless.

Thank goodness for my dear friend Jessica Turner and a book she just published: The Fringe Hours– Making Time for You.

I love it, and I know you will, too.

I love it because it has helped me to rediscover–to reclaim–my fringe hours and to give myself a little more care.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Finding Time for What You Love–‘The Fringe Hours':

The shift for me happened when writing and blogging stopped being a hobby and started being work.

Once I had to sit down and write, to meet deadlines, to organize finances, and to plan activities, I felt less ‘free’ blogging and instead felt more tied down, cranky, and frustrated.

I was always busy! Always.

Still, my fringe hours were spent blogging, but like anyone whose hobbies are put on the backburner for work, I felt. . . blue.

I needed to find time to do the things I loved: running, cooking, yoga, reading.

Over time, I have figured out a bit of a solution, but I always need reminders. I always need new ideas and new solutions to the age old problem: making time for me.

Why you need The Fringe Hours

I have waited for this book to be released ever since I learned that Jessica was writing it.

Having known Jessica for years, I always wanted to learn her ‘secret’ for being able to do it all.  She works full-time. She has three kids (one is a newborn!). She runs a rockstar blog.  She scrapbooks. She reads. She hangs out with her friends.

finding time for what you love: The Fringe Hours

finding time for what you love: The Fringe HoursHow did she do it all?

I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You.

And? This book has not let me down.

Divided into four parts– Explore, Discover, Maximize, & Live Well–each section is filled with actual tangible ideas for living a fuller life and making more time for me. But it’s not about reaching toward a goal of living a self-serving life; rather, the idea is that by making time for ME, I am able to be a better wife, mother, sister, and friend.

the fringe hours

It’s true.

It’s a liberating and exciting book that, with each turn of the page, hit me with bits of information that I really needed to hear. I realized that I am a tried and true ‘wasteful multi-tasker’, often engaging in two tasks at once that both require mental energy.  For real.  It’s not good, friends.

As soon as I read it, I realized that though I thought I was helping myself by fitting more into my day, I was actually creating more stress to an already packed and sometimes stressful life.


I’m all about being fully present.

I’m more inclined now to make time for what is important for me because doing so leads to ‘greater joy and peace’.

I have learned to be more efficient with my time.

I have learned to let go of a lot and to shift my perspective.

I have printed out The Fringe Hours Manifesto and have it taped to my bathroom mirror–it’s that full of truth for me.


This whole book is aligned with what we’re doing in our #livefocused in 2015 push, and I’m thrilled.

I’m thrilled because no matter how you look at it or why you begin, shouldn’t it be our goal to live each day more deliberately, with more focus and intention?

This book is a quick and easy read, and I’m sure that by the time you finish, you’ll find at least a dozen small ways that you can purposefully incorporate a little more ‘me time’ into your day.

And the great thing, my friends, is that you will do so without an ounce of guilt, thanks to Jessica.

The Fringe Hours - Postcards, Set of 6
Check out the book.

Check out some of the cool products that DaySpring is selling which in combination with The Fringe Hours, make a really beautiful and thoughtful gift for a friend, a sister, a mother–anyone.

I particularly love the The Fringe Hours  Postcards and The Fringe Hours Notebooks.  Both are super sweet.

Many thanks, Jessica, for your hard work on this project, and thank you, friends, for making some time for YOU this year!



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

be a photo superstar: organize your photos now, for the year

organize your photos

post contains affiliate links




organize  your photos |


For so many of us, photo organizing is an absolute nightmare.

Hundreds and hundreds of family photos are sitting, stuck, on cameras, phones, zip drives, and old hard drives.

They rarely–if ever–get download from camera to computer or phone to computer.

Many of us have dozens of photos loose in boxes.  Here there, and everywhere.  Photo mess.

And we’re not alone. I think it’s more the norm than not to have photos mixed up.  When we’re dealing with all that’s on our plate as busy parents, photo organizing often falls by the wayside.

This year is going to be different.

We are all going to be photo superstars, organizing photos now for the year. And beyond.

See? We’re serious about living focused in 2015, yo. Serious.

Here’s the skinny. .  .

Be a Photo Superstar–Organize Your Photos Now for the Year:

organize  your photos |

1. First things first:  Start fresh now.

Now. As in today. As in this month. Wherever you are right now.

Don’t go nutty trying to catch everything up from previous months or years. You’ll go nuts. If it happens that here and there you begin to clean up the past in the next few days or weeks, great. If not, then just celebrate the fact that now you are taking charge of your photos from here on out.


2. Create folders. Folders are key.

And? Stay simple.

Go into your computer and find your photo program. I have a Mac, so I use iPhoto. If you have a Windows computer, you may have Photo Gallery installed. If you can’t find it or figure it out, just start fresh and create a folder called photos.

organize photos file system |

Your photos need not be organized into specific events or children or anything crazy like that. Stay simple.


3. Do a little moving.

For real. Just a little.

You know you’re going to create a Family Snapshot photo album for the holidays? Start dragging photos into a ‘Family Snapshot 2015′ album.

From here on out, drag the few photos that might work for that project into that album. Bam.

organize photos file system |


You always make super-cute mugs with your kids’ faces on them for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day? Start a ‘Family Gift’ folder.  Today.

Shimmy some photos into that folder. Bam.


organize photos file system |


You have wanted to start that baby book for your child for the last few years but never have? (Yeah, me neither.)  Create a folder for each kid, so that when they come running to you for pictures of themselves that they need THAT VERY DAY, you can just head over to your ‘Maddy album’ or ‘Owen album’ or ‘Cora album’ and let the kid choose.

organize photos

Delete photos that don’t matter.

Honestly, I totally screwed up my old computer by letting — get this– 35,000+ photos accumulate on the hard drive. That is way, way too many. The folks at Apple suggested I keep photos more in the 5-3,000 range, if that.

When you know better, you do better. So now I’m at 5,0001. Gulp.

4. Start backing up.

You really don’t want to lose your photos, friends. You really don’t.

Try these options:

  • Have your photos automatically upload and backup to Google;
    • for Android: photos app -> settings ->auto backup
    • for computer: download the Autobackup app;
    • for iOS (iPhone, iPad, etc.): google app -> menu -> gear -> camera/photos -> auto backup on (remember to allow Google to access your photos by going to settings -> privacy -> photos -> allow Google
  • Use Backblaze to back up your whole computer, photos and all
    • I love Backblaze because it’s affordable and automatic and all of my stuff is safe, somewhere in the clouds.
  • Grab a hard drive or a few zip drives to keep your desktop clean.
    • I’m pretty crazy and use both a hard drive to automatically backup my stuff each night and zip drives to hold my blog photos.

organize photos |

  • Use Instaport to save all of your Instagram photos
    • Really. Free and easy.  Save them all or just tag some of them a certain way (maybe use #family or #keep) and the photos with that hashtag will automatically be saved to your harddrive. Cool, right?
    • Just remember to then move those photos right to your Family Snapshot (or whatever) folder every few weeks.

Shutterfly Photo Books 468x60
That’s it. Not only should this help you get back on track with photos, but when it comes time to make your photo books or photo gifts, you’ll have photos ready. The gifts won’t take you a million years to create.

You’ll grab a coupon. Upload the folder to the photo site (we like Photobooks, stationery, cards, and more from Shutterfly.), and bam. Ready to roll!

Check out a little more about photo books (when I say we love them over here, I mean it!):

busy mom trick for making yearly photo books |


photo books for kids and family: 15 best, coolest, most clever and creative

What works for you? How do you stay on top of your family’s photos? I’d love to hear it!


ive focused in 2015 organization sq

#livefocused posts:

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

our easy, homemade art book: keep artwork organized!

our easy, homemade art book: keep artwork organized!

This blog post was originally published on April 11, 2010, but we’re republishing it because it’s a great addition to our #livefocused January organization theme! 

easy homemade art book

My kids have been crazy about drawing and coloring and writing and doodling for as long as I can remember.

Maybe it’s because we keep our house stocked with paper and markers whenever the kids want to use them, maybe it’s because the kids each have traveling writing centers in their rooms, or maybe it’s because are constantly writing notes ourselves. . . and are often doodling on any ole paper we can find.

Whatever the case, I’m happy that my kiddos are inspired. But I am not happy with the mess of papers, marker caps, and finished–and unfinished–artwork here, there, and everywhere.

easy homemade art book This was our dining room table on a good day–a good day.
easy homemade art book

So yesterday, while our family decompressed from Maddy and Owen’s first-ever tee-ball practice, I went organizing nutty, and I came up with (hopefully, hopefully, hopefully!) a solution to our artwork chaos.

Let’s hope this Quick Trick does the trick:

  • Our Easy, Homemade Art Book:

    Thanks to my high-school English teaching days, I have dozens and dozens of 3-ring binders filled to the brim with all of my papers, resources, and units for everything I ever taught. From Romeo and Juliet to A Raisin in the Sun, from Lord of the Flies to Frankenstein, from poetry to thesis papers and speeches to grammar, you name it, I have it. Filed neatly in many binders.

But finally yesterday, I tucked a few lessons and units away and found a new home for the basic 3-ring binder–our Art Book.

easy homemade art book

easy homemade art book


All the Art Book is is a big (ugly) 3-ring binder with Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s artwork clipped inside. It’s not artwork from school or projects we do around here. It’s just the many loose sheets that have occupied our dining room table for way too long.

I hole-punched all of the sheets and shoved them in. And honestly, as ugly as the book may be from the outside, on the inside, it’s really cool.

Just like Maddy’s Drawing A Cat book or Drawing a Happy Face book, our Art Book is a snapshot of where my kids are now, at the present, as far as abilities, interests, and challenges are concerned.

easy homemade art book Maddy’s drawing of Cora, next to Cora’s drawing of something.
easy homemade art book
Owen’s 12th picture of race cars racing.

I considered–for a second–adding dividers to the Art Book, one for Maddy’s work, Owen’s work, and Cora’s work. I think it’d be a great way of keeping work separated, and it may be more fun for the kids when they go back to look through their book. But my kiddos are young yet, so I’m taking baby steps.

Maybe after Art Book 1 is filled, Art Book 2 will have dividers for each person’s work. But for now, I’ll just be really glad if all the dining room table masterpieces find their way into Mr. Art Book. Period.

easy homemade art book

To help in the process, I added an organizer to our dining room (and it totally fits with our decor, right?) that has a spot for paper, the Art Book, and markers and crayons.

The paper in the drawer is already punched, so upon completion, the artwork needs only to be signed, and then it’s ready for landing in its permanent Art Book home–unless it’s scheduled to be sent to a doting grandparent, aunt, or uncle, of course!

So that’s it–just a quick little Quick Trick for organizing our art work. We’ll see how it goes!

live focused 2015 b w collage



ive focused in 2015 organization sq

#livefocused posts:

how to schedule power kid time into your every day

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | a weekly organizer designed to make kid time a focus

post contains affiliate links




I am not kidding with this.

You guys, the days may seem slow, but once your kids hit elementary school, life totally moves into fifth gear.

Completely. Like seriously life starts to flash by.

schedule power kid time

I’ll never forget what a gal from my Moms Club said to me, when I ran into her at the grocery store one day, (she was kid-free, and I was juggling three kids under five). She said, Amy, you won’t believe this now, but it’s true: the days are slow but the years are fast. 

At the time, I remember thinking, Suuuuuure, lady. You enjoy your peace and quiet and coupon-shopping while I try to keep these kids occupied long enough for me to grab what I need for this week’s meals on top of two monster boxes of diapers and a human-sized bag o’ dog food. Awesome. Sure long days and short years. Mmmmmkay.

You know what, though? She was right. So right.

And though she didn’t pen that infamous parenting quote, it has stuck with me like glue.

I so know how so many of you feel right now–you’re so tired. You’re barely hanging on some days. You love your kids more than you ever thought possible, but you’re really filling your days with things to keep you all busy, hoping that the activities stretch you from nap time to playgroup to mealtime or tv time. Then your spouse comes home, you slap five, and you go do your work–tutoring, teaching, selling, cleaning, whatever–and he takes over.

how to schedule power kid time into your every day |

how to schedule power kid time into your every day |


Or something like that.

I get it. I was there. And I still am there in so many ways.

Though my babies are all in school now, I struggle to find carve out power time with them each day.  Time that counts, whether it’s because it’s quality snuggle time, time to just listen, or time to help them develop a solid foundation for learning.

This month, because we’re kicking off our #livefocused year, I thought I’d share something that could help during those crazy times–something that can actually help you no matter where you are with child raising to schedule power kid time into your every day.

No, it’s not a nanny, and it’s not a babysitter, housecleaner, or cook. So sorry.

It’s something that really may give your days, your weeks, and your months more focus.

It’s a super-simple sheet that really does nothing more than give you the place to schedule a little power time with your kids into your every day.

Power time with each of your children.  Whatever ‘power time’ may look like to you.


how to schedule power kid time into your every day

Sure, we’re with our kids a million hours each week. We’re with them every single day, for hours. And it’s awesome.

But are we really with them–listening to them, learning from them, supporting them in the best way we are able?

Because if we don’t spend power time with them now, before we know it, our kids may not want to even entertain the idea of spending time with us at all.

Here’s the skinny. . .

How to Schedule Power Kid Time into Your Every Day:

Believe me when I tell you that I never used anything like this when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were little.

But I truly believe that had I used it, it would have helped keep me a little more sane, allowed me to let a little bit go if I could have had it on paper each week.

Instead, I kept all of my power time plans in my head: Okay, Maddy needs some help with her d’s and b’s, so let me do a little of that with her this week; Owen’s grip is totally crazy, so I’m going to do some fine motor activities with him; and Cora is still calling every color ‘pink’ so we need to do a little work so the gal learns those colors


And along the way, let me do the grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning.  Dog walking, clothes shopping, and meal preparing. And I’ll schedule a few playdates, make sure the kids are getting to doctor appointments, clean the guinea pig cage, and do what I can to make sure we’re all happy and having fun. Oh, and let me help them learn their letters and numbers and colors and all that good stuff.

It’s a lot.

I feel grateful that my head was always filled with fun ways that my kids could learn those foundational skills, so it wasn’t hard for me to come up with ideas. The activities were usually based on research, on the stuff I was reading for my grad classes, the activities I had done when teaching, and the methods I was using for my tutoring students.  Or they came from parenting magazines, friends, or blogs I was reading.

I just grabbed a few things I had around the house that supported what we needed that day, and I used them during that quiet time before nap or rotated rooms during their rest time.

But I truly think that these little weekly plan sheets can help every parent get a little more organized this year–help parents deliberately plan power time for their kids each day or week.  

Power time does not need to be elaborate, crazy lesson plans. Just ideas, friends.


schedule kid time each each |

 weekly planner _

If you’d like to download our weekly power time planner, here it is: weekly planner _

(Remember, if you’re interested in sharing, great! Please consider linking to this post rather than the attachment page, please!)

And punch holes in each page, add them all to a 3-ring binder.  Include some dividers with folders, and you have a sweet, simple little planner.

Or, if you don’t want to go that route and you don’t want to punch holes, get a skinny report cover clip, and that can be your calendar planner.  Either way, remember we have the 2015 calendar because we love you that much.


I have the planner. I downloaded and printed. Now what?

Jot down ideas. Just so you remember to grab the puzzles from the basement when you go down or so that you remember to print out a few mazes or alphabet cards or find a few pennies for cleaning or pick up cheerios or pretzel sticks from the grocery store.

Sit back with a cuppa at the beginning of the week, look roughly ahead at your weekly schedule, and figure out a few things you want to do with your kids. What kind of power time you want to spend with them.

Visit our FAQ page to find out where you should start or to find ideas that work for your kids. Or check out the navigation bar to find other topics. I’ll have another post coming soon filled with places to go from here if you’re stuck.

On top of doing all that other parenting stuff.

Use the ‘to do’ lines to jot down some general things you must accomplish each day.


schedule kid time each each |

schedule kid time each each |

  • Use the boxes to schedule three things you want to do during kid time. Remember with little ones, you may have full days at home. Full morning. Full afternoon. Fill ’em up, friends.  And think: movement, mind, and me time. Each and every day.

movement: Kids need to move each day, both fine motor and gross motor.

mind: Kids need to stretch their mind each day, in some way, shape, or form.

me: Kids need to have alone time each day, playing by themselves, doing something independently.

schedule kid time each each |

schedule kid time each each |


  • If you have more than one child, use the ‘to do’ lines the same as above, but use one box for each child. Most likely, you’ll be doing a bunch of things together, which is totally cool. Just try to fit in at least one focused activity with each kiddo each day.

You want to shoot for one activity that packs some kind of punch.


schedule power kid time |

schedule power kid time |

  • If you have older, school-aged kids, just using the sheets to make sure that you are adding time for each child each day–no matter what. Maybe you’re not sitting down together each and every day to craft or play like you could when they were younger, but any time together, even if it’s having a child help you with dinner or helping him organize his Pokemon cards (gah!) counts.
  • Make these sheets work for you and your family. There’s no wrong way.

And that’s it.

Just a little somethin’ to keep in your back pocket, my friends.

What do you think? Yay? Nay?

How else can I help?

live focused 2015 b w collage



ive focused in 2015 organization sq

#livefocused posts:

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