something has to change and it must start here–with you and with me

if we want change to happen it must start here | teachmama.com

 

I rarely write posts like this.  And this one took me much longer than I’d like to admit.

But yesterday I realized something. Something big.

It’s this: if I want change to happen, it has to start here.

I’m a mother of three kids, 10, 9, and 7 years old, and if I want change to happen, it must. Start. Here.

With me.

With my family.

Because I know that though I am only one person, my voice makes a difference.

And so does yours.

Yes, you.  No matter whether you are sitting there reading this your running car in the driveway while your baby sleeps in the back, or whether you are reading this at the counter when you should be cleaning up after dinner, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this at your desk during your lunch break or standing at the copy machine after your students leave the building. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this in line at the grocery store or in line at your kids’ pick-up.

It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this on the treadmill or at the park or at work or at a lunch with your girlfriends. It doesn’t matter if you work outside the home or you work inside the home.

It doesn’t matter if you work or don’t work. It doesn’t matter if you have kids or if you don’t have kids, whether you’re married or not married.

It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or skinny, tall or short, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian or atheist or Jewish.

It doesn’t matter if you breastfed or bottle fed your kids, whether you stick with organics or couldn’t care less.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you are reading this.

And if you are reading this, then know this: you have a voice. And it’s time to use it.

Because if we don’t start using our voices to let others know that prejudice is not okay, that it’s not acceptable, and that it’s not to be tolerated, unacceptable things like this will continue to happen:

Seven white girls are accompanied by seven black men at a formal school dance.

And a school administrator retweeted this tweet:  @OrNahhTweets: Every white girls’ father’s worst nightmare Or Nah?

A school administrator. Retweeted. That. Tweet.

this must end

 

And this?

Check out these photos on Politicus Sports, in an articled titled White Students at St. Louis High School Wear Blackface During Football Game, by Justin Baragona:

blackface-sullivan-480x319-1

blackface-sullivan-2-480x319

 photos courtesy of http://sports.politicususa.com/ . . . please read the entire article at Sports.PoliticusUsa.com

 A powderpuff football team. Wearing blackface. At a school event. November of 2014.

 

Do these things make you feel ill? They should.

I’m not here to debate either story or situation; I’m not here to discuss details of any of the photos.  Because if it’s not these photos, it’s something else. You know it as well as I do.

What I’m here to say is that I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of what I’m seeing. I’m tired of what I’m hearing. I’m tired of what is happening, here, in our country and around the world, in 2014.

And you should be, too.

If we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And though it’s easy to tsk, shake your head, and ‘like’ someone’s angry comment when they share this kind of thing on facebook, that’s not enough anymore. Because you know what? It’s not working.

We need to do more.

Clearly we need to do more if acts of prejudice like this are still occurring in and around schools in 2014. Someone, somewhere is not getting a pretty important message.

So I’m presenting a challenge to you, and I’m taking it on myself. And I’m hoping–actually, I’m praying–that it begins to make a difference.

It’ll take all of us. And goodness knows we’ll need a little luck.

change to happen | teachmama.com

But this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Here’s what we need to do and here’s how we can use our voice:

1. Speak up.  In any way you are able. It doesn’t matter how. Just speak up.

Speaking up may look different to all of us, depending on where we are and where we’re coming from.

And I know it’s not easy. But it’s time we start to use our voice, even if it begins with a whisper.

  • Comment on a friend’s facebook status if he or she shares an article or a link about something that feels unjust.
  • Share your own findings–articles or facts or statements that express racial prejudice or injustice–via twitter or facebook or pinterest.
  • Shake your head ‘no’ and walk away when a friend or colleague starts to share his or her prejudiced ideas. Make it clear that you do not share his or her opinions.
  • Excuse yourself from conversations where prejudiced ideas or topics are being discussed. Explain that you do not share the same feelings and that you are not comfortable with the direction the conversation is going.
  • Don’t allow racial jokes in or around your home. If neighbors, extended family, or colleagues joke this way, politely ask them to stop.

This is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And so we will also. . .

2.Talk about tough topics. With your friends, with your kids, with your spouse.

There’s plenty of material out there, my friends.

Start with our history books.  Watch today’s news.

Talk about slavery.  But talk about how far we all have come to abolish it and to bring our country to a better place. Talk about the awful and the ugly, but talk about the bravery. Talk about power in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. Talk about the beauty of people taking risks to support their brothers and sisters, no matter the color of their skin.

Talk about why things like the powderpuff team wearing blackface is not okay and how hurtful and careless and demeaning it is.

Talk about what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri, and talk about the verdict once it’s shared.

Need a starting point? Black History Month Resources for Families last year. If it’s too overwhelming, just pick up Unspoken, by Henry Cole. It’s a wordless picture book about a little farm girl and a little boy, a runaway slave.  And though it doesn’t answer all questions, it can begin the dialogue for you and your children about this period in our nation’s history and how things are different today.

Talk about race with your friends. Openly and honestly. Talk about what’s happening in the news and how they feel about it. We must have the dialogue, my friends. We must open up the conversation.

And if you’re not completely comfortable with it, it’s okay.  Just be honest. Explain how you’re feeling, and as long as you’re honest and you’re coming from a peaceful place, you will be fine.

Remember that this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

We will also come together and . . .

3. Celebrate differences.  Celebrate the fact that your children go to school with tons of different people, from all walks of life, with unique hair, skin, and eye colors.   Talk about how cool it is that some kids are preparing for their First Communions while others go to Hebrew school.  Talk about why some of them don’t celebrate their birthdays, while others get to go to Disney World each year for theirs.

Talk about how glasses help Bella see better in the same way that extra reading lessons help Alex read better.

Talk about why some kids buy lunch every day or eat breakfast at school while others bring lunch each day.

Talk about the fact that even though Carly zips through her Mad Minutes in no time flat, Mark can whistle like nobody’s business, and Maddy can do a back handspring on her own.  Lauren can recite an entire poem by heart, and Vincent can write with both hands. Everyone has different strengths; one is not better than another. They’re just different.

Talk about the fact that yes, Nina has a hard time sitting still in class, but she still deserves to learn at your school with your talented teachers.

Talk about the fact that Cole might need the teacher’s help more than the other students, but maybe that’s because his mom was busy working two jobs to put food on the table so she wasn’t able to help him with his ABCs before he got to Kindergarten.

Discuss the fact that some kids’ parents are divorced, some have two moms (or dads), some have one parent, and some are being raised by grandparents. Talk about why some kids live in a one-room apartment while others could land a small plane in their back yards, why some kids’ parents are able to help out in the classroom while others cannot.

Talk about how hard it must be for some families to attend Math Night–because English is not their first language–but how awesome it is that they came anyway. Talk about why your school must have an International Night every single year, even if it’s a homogeneous mix of students.  Make your kids read every single display there and walk around with them, talking about what you see and conversing with each family.

Fill your house with books that celebrate diversity. Read them. Share them. Read them again. Share them again.

Do all of this because really, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Step back a bit, my friends, and . . .

4. Listen to what you say.  I mean really, truly listen to what you say.

  • Are you using derogatory racial terms but don’t even realize it? Think.  Really think hard.
  • Do you use the terms ‘gay’, ‘retarded’ or ‘ghetto’ to describe negative situations or events?
  • Are you singing songs that convey racial–or gender or any type–of stereotypes?
  • Do the programs or games in your home support stereotypes?
  • Do you express prejudice in what you say or do? In the way you interact with those around you?
  • Are you perpetuating the cycle of gossip and toxicity by contributing to negative conversations with friends and colleagues?
  • Do you welcome new people or groups to your clubs and organizations?
  • How do you respond to new ideas, to change, to revisiting old systems and processes?
  • Do you openly proclaim your faith but act in ways that are contrary to those beliefs?
  • Do your expectations for your children vary? Do you demand more from one and less from another?  Are those expectations just?
  • Do you treat your students, colleagues, or friends differently based on their race or gender? 

Just think about it. Be aware, and be brave.

Remember, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Because we all have a voice and it’s time we used it.

Even if it starts as a whisper.

 

Thanks for hanging in with me. I know this is long, and I know it might be a lot. But you know what? I took a risk and used my voice.

Because really, something has to change, my friends. Something has to change.

 

 

fyi: One link in the post above is an “affiliate link.” 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

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

post contains affiliate links

 

 

busy mom trick for making yearly photo books | teachmama.com

Growing up, I loved more than anything looking at our family’s photo albums, listening to stories and recalling vacations, events, and milestones.

I vowed at a very young age that I was going to do the same for my own kids.

But man.

Maaaaaan.

Between school, work, activities, and events, I’ve found it’s really, really difficult to do anything in terms of chronicling my kids’ lives much beyond uploading photos to Facebook now and again.  

It’s awful.

And embarrassing.

But it’s probably more the norm than I think, right?

And poor Cora?  Typical third child blank baby book. At least Owen has a few pictures and that one lock of baby hair taped to the inside cover.

So here it is. I have a way that makes keeping track of things easier for me and awesome for my family. One busy mom trick that will make you wanna dance.

Kind of.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Family Photo Books–Easy, Quick, and Affordable for Super-Busy Moms:

For me, it’s all about maintaining.

So my one superstar trick is this: start NOW for next year. And use the folders in your photo program. busy mom trick for making yearly photo books | teachmama.com

Here’s what I mean:

Create a folder called ‘family snapshot 2014′ and then month by month as you upload photos, drag one or two photos from each event into the folder. 

And then, around holiday time, when awesome photo services start rolling out awesome deals, all you have to do is upload the entire folder to the site, let the photos auto-populate in a photo book, and order it.

You’re finished.family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

Remember, even if you’re super far behind, be kind to yourself.  Unless we take an entire weekend to catch up on something like this, you’ll never get totally caught up. Be good with it.

  • So create a folder for this year–no matter what year you’re in–and then go back to the beginning of that year and start dragging photos over to the folder. Set a timer. Give yourself 30 minutes.
  • And upload that folder to the site.
  • Let the photos auto propagate. That means, let the photos auto-arrange into a book.  It’ll be fine. Let. It. Go. Let it gooooooo.
  • Make a few changes–like the covers–and then add maybe one or two captions.  Repeat after me: all you need are the photos. It’s fine.
  • Then order it.
  • Order one for each set of grandparents. They’d appreciate it.
  • And bam. You’re a star.

(Or you will be one when they open it and love you for it.)

 

Tiny Prints Black Friday
 

I try to have one book for the kids to open at Christmas full of the previous year’s events. So each year kind of starts around holiday time from the last year and goes through about early fall or Thanksgiving, depending on when I get my act together.

It’s all good. They don’t have to be totally perfect and flawless. Nothing really is, anyway.

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms
family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms
 

It honestly takes all of one hour–max–and I mean maximum if you keep it up.

Sure, you may want to run through the folder first and delete any photos that you don’t want included, but that’s easy. Super easy.

And do the same for all of your other events, too.  Family goes to Disney? Create a folder. Drag all of the awesome photos into the folder, and then it’s ready for a photo book come holiday season.

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

Do the same for the beach, a house renovation, a special event, fundraiser, or school event.

I’ve created photo books for just about everything I can over the past few years, and not only do they make rockstar fabulous gifts, they help to chronicle our family’s little life. They love it, and I love it.

We keep all of the photo books under our coffee table in the living room, and we actually look at them. They’re pulled out, opened, and enjoyed more often than not. I love it. And the great thing is that if something happens to them, they’re all stored in one happy cloud on the site that I purchased them from, ready for a re-order if need be.

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

Here are some super awesome deals that I’m taking advantage of and you can, too:

 

Tiny Prints - Holiday Offer
 

Shutterfly Photo Books 300x600

 

Shop Personalized Holiday Cards
Though I’m not totally, 100% caught up with chronicling my kids’ lives, I have figured out that this trick helps me to kind of maintain memories for my family.

One super-simple way that, thanks to modern technology and some great websites and coupons, has made it easy, quick, and affordable for me to create family photo books.

And you can do it, too.

What works for you? I’d love to know how you keep track of photos for your family! 

 

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

must-have gifts for kids (and families!): 2014

must-have gifts for kids (and families!): teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

 

Friends! It’s only the second week of November but already I’ve received two dozen emails from you asking for my gift picks for this holiday season.

What should you get for your preschool nephew?

What does your second grader absolutely need this year?

What will your tween totally love you forever if she receives?

How about your babysitter, your mother-in-law, or your sisters?

Right! I love this time of the year, and I love gift-giving.

And I’m so flattered you care about what I think.  I am so excited to share!

I’m trying and have finally assembled it all: the must-have gifts for kids and families 2014.

And though I usually can shove all of our faves into one happy post, this year? Not so much.

So yes–here are the must-have gifts for kids and families. Our holiday picks.

But we’ve also got our Must-Have Gifts that Give Back and Must-Have Books as Gifts posts, too.

So hold onto your seats.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Must-Have Gifts for Kids (and Families!)–2014:

must-have gifts for kids and families BABIES 2014

For our teeniest teenies:  (babies – first year)

  • Match & Build Soft Blocks by Melissa & Doug K’s Kids: Soft blocks with patterns, numbers, letters, and more.  Perfect for any new baby’s first holiday.

best gifts for kids family 2 to 4 | teachmama.com

For the little guys:  (ages 2-4)

  • Deluxe Pounding Bench by Melissa & Doug:  My sisters have been eyeing this set for their boys for a while now. I know that my nephews will love this.
  • Cool Rain gear: I loved having super cute rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas for Maddy, Owen, and Cora when they were tiny.  Kidorable has sweet patterns for little ones, like the lady bugs, frogs, and fire trucks. [Use coupon code UMBFR and add a FREE umbrella to your $20.00 purchase. You need over $20 without umbrella cost. YAY!]
  • Personalized Cozy Chair: Every kiddo in my family gets his or her own personalized reading chair when they turn two. Really. And honestly, the kids love ‘their’ chair so much that often they become their ‘go-to’ cozy spot for reading, relaxing, and playing.  You don’t have to go crazy here, but you can if you’d like. Check out these chairs that I adore from The Land of Nod; they start at $99, and they’re the perfect holiday gift!
  • Personalized Story Books: We have had personalized story books for our kids for as long as I can remember. Every kiddo needs to feel like he or she is the star, and seeing a first name in print will do the trick! Love these from Frecklebox.
  • Spot-It: Super little game for kiddos with super-sharp eyes, we have had Spot-It for years and still pull it out often to play. Love. This. Game.
  • Play-Doh Fun Factory Deluxe: All kids need Play-Doh, and all kids need a play center where they can make Play-Doh spaghetti and snakes.
  • Role Play Sets: I’ve gone on and on about the benefits of pretend play, even as recently as this fall. Cora loved the Magician Role Play set, and she had a blast entertaining her pals on the soccer sidelines. I highly recommend any of the Melissa & Doug role play sets for little ones; they’re perfect for getting those imaginations going strong!

 

 

best gifts for kids and families 5 to 7 | teachmama.com

For the bigger guys:  (ages 5-7)

  • Order’s Up! Diner Play Set or School Time! Play Set: We had a chance to try both of these sets this year, and they are totally and completely adore them both. Both sets are like little treasure boxes of fun. Everything that kids need to play a full game of diner–from cooking to serving and eating the goodies–and everything kids need to play school–from lesson planning to learning to grade reporting–is included.
  • National Geographic 24 in 1 Space:  There’s a Dinosaur set with this collection, too, and both are awesome. Kids build things that actually light up, and each set has a ton of different objects to build, so kids aren’t limited to a once-and-done thing.
  • Personalized Bean Bag Chair: Though my kids’ aren’t personalized (poor kids!) they do have beanbag chairs and love them. Owen plops down on his while playing video games, and everyone uses the bean bag chair in our book nook.
  • PlusPlus Building Blocks: These? So cool. Picture tiny little plus signs made out of plastic. They come in a zillion colors, and kids simply use them to build 2D or 3D objects. Very cool. Popular in Denmark, I think, but may be tricky for little ones who aren’t super savvy with their fine motor skills.
  • Deluxe Roominate: I actually met the gals behind this product at both Toy Fair and at a Radio Shack event this summer, and honestly? They’re awesome–the inventors and the products. Created by two women, an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer, who wanted better toys for girls, this whole line is geared toward bringing girls into engineering. The Roominate products are a blend of hands-on building and circuits. So totally awesome.

best gifts for kids and family 8 to 11 | teachmama.com

For the biggest guys and gals: (ages 8-11)

  • GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit: We’ve written about our love of GoldieBlox, but I seriously continue to share the GoldieBlox love to anyone who will listen. We love this set, and it’s a super gift for our tween girls.
  • littleBits Electronics Kits: I was introduced to these kits at a Radio Shack event our family attended this summer, and my kids absolutely were in awe of them, as were my husband and I. There are several options here, but each one of the kits involves kids actually playing with light, sound, sensors, and energy–without the hazard of soldering.  Young ‘makers’ could do a ton with the Base Kit, but I’d probably think about getting the littleBits Electronics Deluxe Kit for all three kids to share.
  • Zing Bow and Arrow Set: Owen received two of these sets for his August birthday and loves them. He and the neighborhood kids play with them for hours. The only problem is that they come only with three arrows.  For Christmas, we’re getting Owen the target and extra arrows.
  • Gravity Maze: My kids have totally loved playing with this new game from ThinkFun that is literally a marble run and logic puzzle all in one. So cool.
  • Skallops: From E & M Labs, these are crazy little wood clips that actually hold playing cards together so that you can build structures with playing cards. Remember Marcia and Greg’s card tower from way back when? Our lucky kids have it so easy. No dangling bracelet will knock this tower down!
  • Crayola Virtual Design Pro-Fashion Set: This would be a huge hit for Maddy and Cora, I know. I saw it at Toy Fair this year, and I was in awe of how absolutely awesome it was. Combines traditional coloring with graphic design, and then it all comes to life in an app. Sounds involved, but it’s not. Simple and so cool.

 

best gifts for kids and family  stockings  teachmama.com

For stockings:

  • Fandango Gift Cards: Going to the movies is such fun for kids, but it does get expensive after you add it all up. We’re huge Fandango fans over here, so gift cards will definitely be stocking stuffers for my three, okay, Santa?
  • Amazon Gift Cards: My kids are becoming savvy shoppers, so Amazon gift cards are a big win for them, since they can find just about anything their little hearts desire over there.  Even Aero for Maddy, Game Stop for Owen, and Charming Charlie for Cora would be a huge win.
  • Tenzie: It’s a fast frenzie. . . it’s TENZIE! One of our most favorite summertime games, Tenzie is a dice game. With a million, trillion options for play.   Pair it with the 77 Ways to Play Tenzie book, and it’s a perfectly awesome game for kids of all ages.
  • Word-A-Round: Love this game from ThinkFun. Word-A-Round is a little tricky, but basically it’s words in a circle and you have to figure out what the word is. Fun for everyone. It’s my personal fave because (cough) it’s the only game I’m able to beat Owen in at this point.
  • Create super-cute custom bracelets, necklaces, and rings for your kids at My Bling Place: LOVE these and they’re surprisingly affordable!
  • Tooth brushes: Not sure why, but we always had tooth brushes in our stockings. And so do my kids.

For families:

  • Trampoline: I can barely believe I’m sharing this, but our kids have begged and pleaded for a trampoline in our back yard for so many years, that I finally think we might cave. I think we might cave. I know they’d love it. But I’m not sure I will be able to handle it.   The Skywalker 15 ft round trampoline comes with very high reviews, as does the much smaller Skywalker 8 ft round trampoline. I secretly with my kids were small enough to fit the Little Tykes 3 ft trampoline, but that one would be a better match for our tiny nephews.
  • Tumble Trak: My kids have wanted a mat like this–one they can practice their flips on–for months and months. It is a super gift for kids in gym, cheer, or tumble classes!
  • Subscription Services:
    • Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids. Packages include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8 years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years). Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because kids are thinking, moving, and creating. They love these.
  • Little Passports is another fun subscription service, and this one focuses more on teaching kids about the world around them. Early Explorers (ages 3-5 years), World Edition, (5-10 years), and USA Edition, (7-12 years) has something for just about every kid on your list!
  • Playstation 4 Destiny Bundle or XBox OneOur kids have played our Wii long and hard for the past five years. Five years. So we’re thinking it’s time to move on since at this point there are no new games being made for the Wii. I’m keeping my eyes open for a good deal on the Playstation 4 or an Xbox One.  Any advice? I’d love to hear it!

That’s not even it.  I’m on such a roll and I know there are like a million awesome things that I’m forgetting.

 

Want a few rockstar deals on some of these products and more?

subscriber thank you long newsletter | teachmama.com

 Subscribe to teachmama.com and have access to our super-special holiday deals page. So fun.

 

Also check out: 

gifts that give back  teachmama.com

 

must have book gifts for the whole family  teachmama.com

 

Need a bit more inspiration?

Check out our gift guides of years past. Though the dates have changed, the suggestions are still some of our faves.

Click on the picture for the link:

teach mama gift guide 2013

 

gift guide teach mama

Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 

 

 

 

fyi: We did receive some of these products from companies to try, but the large majority were purchased (or will be purchased!) by our family on our own dime.  I do work with some of the companies above, but I also work with a ton more that I didn’t mention.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experiences as a parent and educator. I’m sharing the best of the best here–our faves.

 

must have gifts for kids and family teachmama.com 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’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

a must-read for raising confident kids: ‘God Made Light’

a must read for raising confident kids | God Made Light | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

As parents, one of the things that we want most for our kids is that they grow to be happy, healthy, and confident adults.

And one simple way that we can do that is to spend quality time with our kids, reminding them daily that they are special and that they are loved.

Reminding them, too, that God loves them and that through them, His light shines is another super-important piece to remember.

Recently one of my friends published a book that focuses on just this fact. The book is called, ‘God Made Light‘, and it’s beautiful and important and moving.

It’s something that every child should have on his or her bookshelf and a perfect addition to bedtime–or any time–reading.

You’ll love it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

I’ve known that my pal Jessica and her husband were working on this book for quite some time, so when it finally arrived at my door, I was over the moon.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

And it was even more amazing than I imagined it to be.

The message of God Made Light is simple: that God made light and that light shines within all people. And that it’s our job to share the light with others.

I love it.

So even when times are tough for our kids, when they are having a tough day or are afraid of the shadows or when the sun sets, that need to remember that they are important and special and loved. a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

One of my favorite passages from the book is:

‘Cause you’re just like the sun

and the moon in the sky. . .

You’re as lustrous as twinkles that dazzle the eye.

You’re as splendid as lightening,

when it flashes so bright.

’cause on the day you were born,

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ 

Written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by Matthew Paul Mewhorter, this book is the perfect combination of engaging, rhythmic language, a meaningful message, and engaging illustrations.

 

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

My kids love it. Cora has asked for it every night for the past few weeks. And without question, I’ll read it.

And to carry on the message of love and light and confidence, I’ve also been sending the kids to school with the God Made Light Encouragement Notes for Kids: 32 reminders that God’s light shines in you.

Love, love, love them.

Along with our Positive affirmation notes for kids, it’s a rockstar combination. And the fact that the notes carry on the same messaging as this special book? Rockstar.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

 

My feeling is this: the more that we talk about the fact that each one of us–including our children–carry God’s love with us everywhere, all day long and all through the night, the better.

I’m hoping that knowing they are not alone as they walk into these crazy tween years will make it that much easier for them.

 

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

 

I’ll give this book to my nieces and nephews for Christmas, and I’ll give it as gifts for Baptisms and First Communions.  I love it.

And I do believe it’s the perfect thing for all families to find under the tree this season.

 

 

There are a few ways to buy God Made Light and the related products.  I’m doing what I can to grab the best deals possible for you:

Tons of great resources on the God Made Light website. Definitely check them out: http://godmadelight.com/

god made light freebies

 

It’s heartbreaking for us as parents to watch our little loves go through the inevitably difficult pre-tween, tween, and teen years. Let’s do what we can to make them as seamless and enjoyable and meaningful as we are able.

 

fyi: Though I did receive my copy of God Made Light from my friends Jessica and Matthew Paul Turner, my opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.  Affiliate links are used in this post

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, and FREE

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, free | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

Post originally published on 11/24/09 but republishing because I think it’s worth it.  

 

 

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.comIt’s so easy for our little ones (and even adults sometimes!) to lose sight of what the holiday season is all about.

So last year, when I saw this idea on a late-night, dvr’d Oprah, I knew I wanted to use it. With a little prompting, my family tried out Holiday Notes with both sides of the family.

Even though some interpreted the exchange a little differently, it was a success overall. Most have said they want to do it again, and with a little tweaking, hopefully it will become a worthwhile and cherished holiday tradition.

This Quick Trick is far from quick, but it’s something that seemed to work well for us, so I thought I’d share.

  • Holiday Notes: The idea behind Holiday Notes is that everyone takes a small amount of time to complete one of three different note cards for each member of the family. Over the holiday season–or at a holiday gathering–the notes are then delivered to each person’s special box, envelope, or bag and is read at another time.

Since our immediate family presented both sides of our extended family with the idea, we made special Holiday Note Card boxes for each person–as our small gift.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.com

I picked up the small wooden favor bags at the craft store, and each maybe cost a dollar. Then over the course of two or three weeks, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I worked on the bags.

First we painted all of them. Then we glitzed, beautified, and decorated. We added bows, glitter (glitter glue is easiest!), sparkles, ribbon, sequins, feathers, and anything we wanted, trying to make each one special for every person in our family.

After everything was dried, we added appropriate name tags.

 

Then we sat down together and wrote short messages. And I mean short. The three Holiday Note Cards each begin a sentence, and the note cards are tiny.

All our personal messages do is complete the sentence. One note begins, What I love about you. . . The other is My holiday wish for you. . . , and the last one is Thank you for. . .

The Holiday Note Cards can be downloaded here if you’d like: holiday note cards

(Please, if you choose to share them, link to this post instead of the attachment page! Thank you!)

Sure, some notes were longer than others. Some messages turned out to be completely hysterical, and others were more sentimental. Some were really long, and others were just one sentence.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.commore note bags

Maddy and Owen (as a 4 and 3-year-old) were very excited about what we were doing. As we worked on the bags, I’d ask them what they wanted to thank their Nanny for or what they wished for their sweet cousin.

I was often surprised at what they remembered (Maddy wanted to thank her Great Grandma for letting her “ice” her own bagels with cream cheese, and Owen loved his Great Grandma’s great big loud laugh and wished that his Nana’s cats weren’t always hiding around her house).

We wrote Cora’s for her because she was so young, but no one was too young to appreciate reading the notes that were written to them. We read them over and over and over. My husband and I both read and re-read our own notes from family members.

Sometimes even a short note–one or two sentences–can mean so much.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.com

 

We’ll do these notes every year as an immediate family, and maybe the tradition will continue for a few years with our extended family–or maybe this will be the last year. It can become a lot to do when there are many people involved.

But for us, the act of sitting down together, really thinking about what we are thankful for, what we wish for for our loved ones, and what we love about them is what the holidays are all about.

Toys will come and go, but these notes–and the bonds they will help to create–we hope will last for years and years and years and years. Happy Holidays!

Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 

 

 


fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

 

 

what to do when your kid just doesn’t ‘get it’

what to do when your kid just doesn't 'get it' | question from reader and answered by @teachmama

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

I admit that I am the absolute worst with emails. The worst.when your kid just doesn't get it | teachmama.com

But I’m trying to be better.

I’ve got thousands of emails just sitting there in my inbox, and I rarely respond because I’m always busy.

And I’m so far behind that I don’t even want to go there because there’s no end in sight.

But lately I have been tackling a handful of emails each week. And it makes me feel so much better to be able to connect in this way to the readers who have become my good friends over time.

Today, one email stuck out.

And I spent a good bit of time answering, and then I felt like I had answered it before, so I looked back and not one, not two, but three other people have written to me in the past few weeks about their kids struggling with reading for unknown reasons.

So I thought I’d share my response. (And the gal who emailed said it was totally cool to do so.)

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • What to Do When Your Kid Just Doesn’t Get It:

note from reader

Subject : Struggling readers

Message : So…..what do you do when your kid just doesn’t get it? My [son] is in 3rd grade and he’s super depressed because he’s in the lowest reading group (haven’t confirmed that with the teacher, but kids know, don’t they? And given who else he says is in his group, I know, too.) and he doesn’t get to do the pull-out GT activities that his friends do.

His reading is okay, but when it comes to spelling, it’s terrible–large letters, sloppy, no punctuation or capitalization, many misspelled words, can’t get the letters on the page.

We’ve had him tested and the doc says it’s phonological processing. He doesn’t qualify for an IEP or 504 and the teachers last year dismissed the doc’s findings all together. He’s been doing a reading tutoring program for the past year. But feeling really frustrated with the school and teachers. Any advice?

**************

my response

Oh, [friend]. I’m sorry he’s struggling. It’s so hard–for you and for him. Believe me, I get it. Thank you for reaching out.

My advice is this:
1. meet with the teacher. talk to him/her about your concerns, and ask what you can do at home. Maybe she’ll give you some insight into strategies that have worked for other students or hand you some resources that could be helpful.

when kids don't get it school  teachmama.com

2. read with him every night. Seriously. You read out loud to him. No pressure for him to read to you. Just get him back into being excited about reading, even if that means you have to pry open your tired eyes at 8pm to read to him with energy and excitement (said from the mom who FELL ASLEEP last night while Cora was reading her book out loud to me before bed and still feels guilty about it today). Try Harry Potter. IT ROCKS. OR try silly Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Or try Magic Treehouse to start with. . . Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is SO GOOD and great for read alouds.

3. play on his interests. He likes (gag!) Pokemon? Find Pokemon books and READ them! He loves Minecraft? There are great Minecraft books on the market now (finally!), and there are books on everything from Skylanders to Star Wars to LEGOS to chess. Do some research. Surround him w/ reading material about stuff he totally digs. Magazines totally count. Get him a subscription to a magazine for the holidays–get everyone a subscription to their favorite magazine. Be excited when it comes in the mail even if you have to fake it. Dance up to the door w/ it and then make it a treat to read it. He’ll catch on. I promise.

when kids don't get it interests  teachmama.com

4. talk about reading. Not directly, in a super boring way, but do it casually. Talk about the books you’re reading for pleasure (start doing it if you’re not already!); talk about what you read in the newspaper; talk about books he’s reading in Guided Reading and what the media teacher read to him on media day. Just a simple, ‘Hey listen to this!’ . . . or ‘Can you believe that. .. . ‘ is great. The Washington Post Kids Post is super for finding daily bits of fun stuff for kids to read. Or find the National Geographic Kids app– strange and amazing facts? something like that–my kids LOVE it.

5. make reading a family affair. Instead of plopping on a movie on Sunday afternoon or instead of letting the kids zone out in front of electronics, have a family reading date. Pop popcorn, make hot chocolate, and make a fire. Everyone grabs a book and reads in the living room–even if it’s only an hour. Then kind of talk about what you were reading. Or if that’s too hard, you and your partner (or your mom/ dad if they’re close) or sister or friend take turns reading children’s books to the kids. Each kid picks two, and you read them aloud like a silly little old-school read aloud during preschool circle time. Do it. They’ll love it.

when kids don't get it consistent  teachmama.com

Hope this helps. I would love to hear how it goes, and just know this: you are not alone. I should probably even just post this whole answer as a blog post, because I’m asked it more often than you know. . . Hmmmm. Maybe?

Oh, and don’t forget this: hang in there and KEEP UP THE ROUTINE. I’m not yelling at you, I’m just keeping it all caps because it’s that important. It won’t make a bleep of a difference if you do this for one week or one day. Set small goals: reading aloud at night for two weeks. Then four weeks. It will make a difference–but the secret is in the consistency.

You got this. And so does he.

*hugs!* and thank you for reading.

**************

What do you think? How would you have answered her question?
Do let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Do you have a question that’s literacy related? I’m happy to give it a stab if you want to hit me with an email: amy@teachmama.com
If I can’t answer it, I’ll find someone who can!

 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post

holiday baking with kids: eBook

holiday baking ebook for kids teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

holiday baking ebook for kids teachmama.com

 

This time last year I was scrambling around doing what I could to finish our holiday baking with kids eBook in time for the actual holidays. 

This year? Done and done.

And ready for you to use at Thanksgiving! Woo-hooooo.

And though it’s called ‘Holiday Baking with Kids’ I can’t tell you how many times through the year Maddy, Owen, Cora, or I reached for the book so that we could make our favorite muffins, cookies, and sweet treats.

A lot.

So grab it while it’s hot.

What better way of kicking off this exciting and joyous, sweet-filled season than by bringing our kids into the kitchen for some serious holiday baking?

The Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is here to save the day.

holiday baking with kids

 

Here’s the skinny. . .

Really. It’s pretty cool.

  • 15 kid-friendly recipes.  Fifteen.  Many never before shared on teachmama.com.

holiday baking with kids eBook teachmama.com

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

  • Favorites.  Like Kiss Cookies and Chocolate Chip and Sugar Cookies.  And Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies and Death by Chocolate and Lemon Squares.  And? Our Christmas Morning Ugly Breakfast recipe.

holiday baking with kids ebook from teachmama

  • Made kid-friendly with large, clear font.  Created with attention to what early readers need as they learn and expand their reading skills, the font is large so kids can read it even the recipe book is on the counter and they are standing on a stool.

holiday baking with kids ebook ingredients

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

  • Layout that works.  Kid-tested for the last five years, this layout really works.

Recipe step-by-step instructions are large and are accompanied by a relevant photo to clarify instructions.  Kids can check off ingredients as they gather them, and if the paper is in a plastic sheet protector, a crayon or dry erase marker will easily wipe clean when finished.  Photos for every ingredient and recipe step.

holiday baking with kids ebook ingredients

  • Consistent format. Actions are in bold. Ingredients are underlined. Photos for almost everything.  The format is consistent. Kids especially thrive on consistency.

See? I’m looking out for you. We’re in this together. I got your back. Always.

holiday baking with kids eBook teachmama.com

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

Sure, it’s hard when kids are involved sometimes because the mess may be bigger, or we may be crunched for time, or we may just want to enjoy some peace while kids are watching tv and we can prepare dinner, but as parents, we must jump on these prime opportunities for learning and fun with our kids.

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 1

 

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 2

 

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 3

 

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 4

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

Ready? Let’s do it.

My friends, the Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is a sweet $4.25 through November 2014.  Then it’s all the way back up to $8.50.

You can print it as many times as you need, so really, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Mostly because my readers are rockstar and always read their email from me first thing. So I wanted to offer you guys a little gift.

The Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is quite the holiday deal.  Buy it now for only $7.97.

HUGE and happy thanks to my awesome mama for always inviting us into the kitchen with her when we were little. I would never be so welcoming into my own kitchen if I hadn’t learned from her as an excellent example.  Big *hugs!* to you, Mom!  Love you!

What about you?  How do you feel about kids in the kitchen?  Is there a favorite recipe I need to add to the next one? Let me know!

holiday baking with kids eBook on teachmama.com
http://holidaybakingwithkids

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post.

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

aya summit teachmama.com

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should careI had the great opportunity two weeks ago to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world—women who are doers, thinkers, change-makers—at the AYA Summit.

But between Halloween (yay!) and class parties (woot!) and Blogalicious Weekend (ya-hooo!) and parent-teacher conferences (woah!), it has been really hard to find the time to process all I’ve learned.

I’ve tried to wrap my head around how all that I’ve learned can impact my family and you, my awesome readers.

I’m pretty certain that we’re all in the same boat: we’re busy in the day-to-day grind of kid-wrangling, working, managing a household, and trying to keep our sanity.

And everything else above and beyond is kind of squished in where we can fit it.

But what I’m realizing more and more as I get older is that everything we do–from how we spend our free time, to the way we carry ourselves in conversations, to the work we do each day–should be something that we can be proud of.

Not always easy. But it’s about living consciously. Living carefully. And always looking out for the greater good.

I’m thrilled to share one way that we can all do this: ONE Girls & Women.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • ONE Girls & Women—What You Should Know and Why You Should Care:

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

What is the AYA Summit? What is ONE? What is ONE Girls & Women? Why am I even writing about this? 

Let me back up a bit.  The AYA is a West African fern known for its great resiliency.  The AYA Summit was named so because from start to finish we heard from and learned about some really resilient women:

  • women who have beat the odds
  • women who have pressed buttons.
  • women who worked hard.
  • women who made change.

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

 

20141023_103040

 

ONE is an organization co-founded by Bono with the sole goal of empowering people to use their voices.

It stresses the power of one–meaning you.

ONE is an international campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

pictured here: (top) Patricia Amira, Clemantine Wamariya; (middle) Holly Gordon, Marquesha Babers; (bottom) Danai Gurira, Clemantine Wamariya

ONE a non-partisan organization.  And they don’t want your money.

They want your voice.

And recently ONE formed ONE Girls & Women.  And I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

From here on out, as part of the ONE Girls & Women team, I will share simple but meaningful ways that you—the busy mom, sister, and friend that you are–can make a difference. You.  And me.

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

pictured here: Paul Zeitz (US Dept of State), Rye Barcott (Carolina for Kibera), Emily McKhann (The Motherhood)

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

pictured here: Patricia Amira, Cindy McCain, Kristen Howerton

Because we all can make a difference, no matter if we have minutes, five hours, five days, five years, or five decades to dedicate to the cause.

As women, we have a responsibility to celebrate, support, and lift our sisters, no matter where they may be. And that’s what I plan to do.

I didn’t even really know that girls and women are disproportionately affected by extreme poverty. But that if we invest–seriously invest–in girls and women that it’s one way to combat poverty and help them work toward a better life.

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

the floor of Google DC Headquarters: a map

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

here I am with my sweet friend, the amazing Amy Graff

Just a head’s up.

Here we go.

One thing you can do?

Join me.

Join ONE Girls & Women simply by filling out the form here: ONE Girls & Women

ONE girls & women: what you should know and why you should care

And when you do, you’ll have the chance to join their Mobile Action Team. Check that box.

I actually love this piece because every so often–not too often mind you–but you’ll get a text sharing how you can make a difference. Just by texting. Or tweeting. Or calling the President of the United States’ office.

Seriously.

Since I’ve joined, I’ve called the President’s office twice asking him to support funding for GAVI and the work they are doing to provide vaccines to 300 million children by 2015.

I called the President twice. Twice. Once while I was assembling things for Halloween class parties and another time while I was standing in line at the grocery store. It literally takes two minutes.

But I used my voice.

one girls & women And so can you.

Here.  We.  Go.

 

Are you familiar with ONE Girls & Women? ONE?

Start by following them: 

What is your favorite organization to support and how do you do it? Checks? Volunteering? Donations? I’d love to know!

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every dayEvery year around this time, when the holiday catalogs start rolling in and fancy white lights and gold ribbons start popping up on our streetlights, my kids get a little starry-eyed.

I think we all do.

But like many kids their age, mine are thinking about what they want and what color they must have and how many they hope to find under the Christmas tree.

So it’s important for us to always do a little bit of reflecting and thinking about what we already have and how grateful we should be for it all.  Really. We all need reminders.

It’s easy.

And though it’s not perfect, our thankful door helps.

At least a little.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Thankful Door–Reminding Our Kids to be Thankful Every Day:

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

 

The way you do this can, and should, vary according to the size constraints of your home and what will work for your kids.  But the goal is to find some central location and run with it.

Use a door. Use a wall. Use placemats or leaves or your refrigerator.

This year, we kept it simple.

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

We used some simple red letter cut-outs for the words ‘thank you for. . . .’ and a poster board and some orange construction paper as a background.  

Cute turkey notepads and pumpkin notepads were perfect for writing down the things that we were thankful for.

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

 

It’s a work in progress, and we’re hoping that by the end of the month, our door will be filled with all of the things that our family is thankful for.

To begin, this weekend, Cora and I started with a few basics: God, our family, our pets, clothes and food, and our home.  We added items, we chatted, and we laughed when we wrote ‘Brady’ and he walked over to the door and stared at his name. He really did.

He is so smart.

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

thankful door: reminding our kids to be grateful every day | teachmama.com

 

I always appreciate seeing how the things that we are thankful for change year to year and even day to day.

After bouts of rainy weather, we’re happy for sun; after cold and windy days, we’re happy for warm coats.

I will do this as long as I can and as long as the kids are in the house with us. It’s a great reminder for every one of us as we walk out of our door to check our moods and to say a quick prayer of thanks for all we have.

It doesn’t matter if you read this today or two weeks from now–what matters is that somewhere, sometime during this busy month you take time to rally with your kids and give thanks for all you have.

Here are two quickie ideas of ways we’ve done this in the past:

our thankful tree | teachmama.com

 

give thanks graffiti door | teachmama.com

 

What works for your family? I’d love to hear how you guys remember to give and be grateful during the fall!

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

raising strong students: study habits for smart kids

raising strong students: study habits for smart kids | teachmama.com

raising strong students: study habits for smart kids | teachmama.comOnce your kids hit elementary school, things get a little bit crazy.

All of a sudden, your kids actually need to be at school on time.

All of a sudden, you’re buried under a mountain of papers, fliers, and notices.

All of a sudden, your kids have real homework.

All of a sudden, your kids get to buy lunch and play instruments.

All of a sudden, you feel overwhelmed and inundated with kid projects and activities.

In the blink of an eye, your little, innocent preschoolers are replaced by these big kids who have tests and assignments.  And it’s nuts.

So what we do now–as parents of elementary schoolers–really, truly makes a big difference in our kids’ long-term success in school.

It’s about setting up habits and routines that matter. If we want to raise strong students, we must start now.

And believe me, I know it’s not always easy.  Believe me. We are late nearly every single day, and we live a stone’s throw from the school.

But we’re working on it, and we’re trying.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Raising Strong Students–Study Habits for Smart Kids:

I’ve talked long and hard about how important it is for parents to do what they can to help build a solid foundation for learning for our kids–playing games with ABCs, talking about numbers, teaching the basics–so that they start their formal education on solid ground.

And I still stand by that for sure.

But it’s only half the battle.

The other half of the battle is all about establishing routines.  In order to raise strong students, we have to establish study habits for our smart kids. Early.

If you have no study habits to speak of at this point, don’t worry. Do. Not. Worry. Start tomorrow. Or start this Monday.

Here’s what has to happen: Kids do their jobs. Then you do your job. Pause. Then you both do your job again.

Bam. In more detail:

raising strong students study habits for smart kids 1

1.  Kids do their jobs. It’s their job to put their backpacks, coats, and shoes in the same place every single day.

And they should put their folders or assignment books and lunch boxes in the same place every single day.

 

raising strong students study habits for smart kids 2

2. Parents do their jobs. Your job is to look at their school folders and go through their papers.

Sign or fill out important forms and file everything that your kids do not need in a special folder for each child. Empty the folder every month, keeping things you want to save and recycling everything else.

raising strong students: study habits for smart kids

Pause. Kids relax for 15 or 20 minutes.  They have a snack.

They wash hands, put on their play clothes or soccer uniform or dance outfit–whatever they’ll need for an after school activity later.

They chill out while you get your work finished.

raising strong students study habits for smart kids  3

 

3.  Jobs again. Kids’ biggie job is homework.  Your job–especially when kids are younger–is to make sure it’s completed in a satisfactory manner.

Sometime in the first hour that kids get home–after they’ve had a snack and have chatted with you about their day, played with the dog or did their quick chore–kids must finish homework in a quiet, distraction-free spot in the house. That way, it’s over. They don’t have to worry about it and can instead relax for the rest of the evening.

That’s it.  But parents must play an active role in establishing this routine. Really, they must.

 

raising strong students study habits for smart kids 1

Some helpful hints to make it work? 

  • Keep homework in the same place every day. Make it as distraction-free as possible.
  • Keep necessary supplies close at hand: paper, pencils, stapler, tape, crayons.
  • Keep kids responsible. Ask them to write down tests on a family calendar and post it so everyone can see. Kids put their work in folders when finished and pack backpacks for the next day.
  • Keep reminding kids that right now, school is their job and they want to do it well.
  • Keep reminding kids how much everyone appreciates their teacher’s hard work.
  • Keep it positive.
  • Keep it upbeat.
  • Keep consistent with the routine.
  • Keep it real. Some days, you need to stray from the routine. But get right back on it asap.

raising strong students study habits for smart kids 1

 

This is not easy, and I’ll be the first to admit that even though we run a pretty tight routine over here, I choose my battles. 

My kids’ socks never match. We’re the family running to school as the bell is ringing. I don’t always put sunscreen on their little faces for recess, and I often pack double desserts in their lunches but forget to include a drink.

They do forget library books and homework and sometimes wear flip-flops on days they have P.E.

And some days, even if I see that forgotten homework or book on the table, I physically cannot bring it to school because I have work and meetings and calls myself.  So it’s all a learning process. Believe me.

Bottom line is this: what we do now really counts. Because though we think we’re in the big game now, once our kids get to high school and college, then they’re in the big leagues. And if they have long-established study habits–study skills that work for them–then they’re more likely to be successful in the major leagues and later on in life.

We got this.  But parents, wee have to be in the game–every day.

 

What works for you? For your kids? For your family? How do you raise strong students with solid study habits?

I’d love to know! 

Want a little more info? NEA, National Education Association, has it covered. Visit nea.org/parents for more info on raising strong students.

 

fyi: This post reflects a collaboration with the National Education Association’s Raise Your Hand for Student Success campaign. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read | kindle ebooks for reluctant readers teachmama.com

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get kids to read | kindle for reluctant readers teachmama.com

These days, with school in full swing and cool ‘big guy’ neighbors across the street and a travel soccer team to keep him busy, my boy isn’t that big a fan of reading.

He’s into Pokemon (ugh). He’s wicked smart on Words With Friends.  And he spends a good amount of his free time thinking about how he can eke time out of his Screen Time Cards for Minecraft and AnimalJam.

Honestly, he’s one of the coolest kids I know. And lately, he just hasn’t been digging reading.

I get it. Often changes of schedules and shifts in season mean that my kids’ interests will ebb and flow, but Owen hasn’t deliberately reached for books for quite a few weeks.

It makes me a bit nervous, though, knowing that reading habits often change when kids hit middle school. A few short years, and he’s there.

One thing that’s helped a bit with Owen’s  little reading ‘dry spell’ is giving him a chance to read books digitally. eBooks.

It’s one way we get our kids to read–and really enjoy reading. Kindle eBooks.

And I truly think that in this day and age, a healthy mix of digital and traditional books is quite the norm–or it really should be–if we want our kids to grow as readers in the digital age.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Get Kids to Read–Kindle eBooks for Reluctant Readers:

Owen’s not the only one who is game for reading books on our Kindle.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers | teachmama.com

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

Maddy and Cora love it, too, so we often have to resort to figuring out whose day it is so that there’s no major battle.

I think there’s something about the simple holding of the Kindle device that I think my kids love. They love how light it is, how sleek it is, and how easy it is to navigate.

For reluctant readers, especially, Kindle eBooks are great for:

  • ease of use. Kids can find books in seconds.
  • organization.  My kids each have their own little collections.
  • convenience.  They can pick up where they last left off without worrying about finding a lost bookmark.  They can touch the corner of a page, and the bookmark is there–even able to sync to Kindle apps on all of their devices.
  • focus. Especially with chapter books, there’s not a whole lot of distracting fluff or add-ons in Kindle eBooks.
  • quality. Kids can long touch a word, and its definition appears along with the Wikipedia definition and translation option. I like this feature.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

Kindle eBooks are also great for:

  • skill-building.  Long touch a word, and kids can highlight or make notes about a word or passage. Upon finishing a book or chapter, they can look back at all of the notes they made and share them via email.
  • increased comprehension.  Many books have the option of adding professional narration to the text which helps emerging and struggling readers better understand what fluent reading should sound like.
  • online safety.  The Parental Controls on Kindles are super, and the Kindle FreeTime piece is a huge bonus.  With Kindle FreeTime, I can assign a separate user for each of my kids, put books on their shelf, and make sure that when they’re in bed reading at night, that’s really what they’re doing.
  • variety. I’m a huge fan of the Kindle Unlimited which gives you a ton of free books each month. For a small fee (cheaper if you’re a member of Amazon Prime), you can score a boatload of books for every member of the family. We’ve had it for a month now, and we’ve really been happy with it.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

The bottom line is that kids need a balance. They need a healthy combination of print and digital books to keep them interested and keep them savvy with both mediums.  But if a kid’s balking when it comes to reading and needs a kick-start, Kindle eBooks can do it.

As Junko Yokota and William H. Teale state, in their May 2014 article in The Reading Teacher:

Let us be clear from the start that we believe that both print and digital picture books should play central roles in early childhood literacy education.   The issue
in this instance is not one versus the other, but what works well for achieving which ends in particular situations or for particular lessons.

Junko, Yokota & William H., Teale (2014). Picture Books and the Digital WorldEducators Making Informed Choices. The Reading Teeacher, 67(8), 577–585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262

The article goes on to explain how important it is to choose quality eBooks but how often the ‘extras’ –music, supplementary features, add-ons, etc.–upset the integrity of the story.  It was an interesting read. Though my kids are now more reading chapter books on the Kindle and are past picture books on the devices, I did like what the authors had to say.

What’s your experience with Kindle eBooks? Have they been helpful in getting your kids reading and, more importantly, wanting to read?

Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

 

 

fyi: Staples sent our family a Kindle to help in the writing of this post, but as always, opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent.  Visit Staples.com for more on the Kindle. 

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