teach kids to be stain fighters: laundry from start to finish

teach kids to be stain fighters: laundry from start to finish

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teach kids to be stain fighters: learn laundry from start to finish | teachmama.com

I’ve been working with my friends from Whirlpool, sharing what we’re doing over here to teach our kids to do the laundry.

In just a few short weeks, my kids have become serious Wash Warriors.

Laundry is one of their expected chores, from start to finish. And really? It’s become one of their favorite chores.

This week, we took it a step further and taught Maddy, Owen, and Cora to be Stain Fighters.

Especially with rainy, fussy spring here before we know it, knees will be muddy and grass stains will color pants and skirts alike.

I’ve never been too crazy about making sure my kids’ clothes were stain-free and perfect, and unfortunately I’ve never made a big deal about ‘play clothes’ vs ‘school clothes’. But as the kids get older and clothes become more expensive, it really is a skill that kids should learn.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Teach Kids to Be Stain Fighters– Learn Laundry From Start to Finish:

Expense aside, our kids’ growth starts to level out a bit once they hit elementary school, so taking better care of clothes makes sense.

They need to wear the clothes longer. Plus taking care of their belongings a lifelong skill and responsibility.

Not to mention, stain fighting can be an exciting, at-home, anytime science experiment of sorts.

Through it all, I honestly learned more during our stain fighting than I ever expected.  I (gulp) did not know that you could remove stains without a stain stick. Or stain spray. Not joking.

Check out the how-to of teaching your kids to be Stain Fighters:

The teachmama.com youtube channel is all about sharing quick teaching tips, reading strategies, and parenting tricks with parents and caregivers. It’s about empowering parents to be the best teachers they can be for their children. Subscribe here so you don’t miss a thing!
 

Preparing our stained cloth was probably the most fun.  Deliberately spilling fruit juice, pasta sauce, and mustard on clothes?

Rubbing mud and grass onto clothes? Writing on clothes with a ballpoint pen?

stain fighter kids before | teachmama.com

So fun.

We had a ton of bandanas from Brady’s trips to the groomer, so we used his bandanas for our experiment.

stain fighter kids before after .

stain fighter kids before after .

We followed the How-To’s word for word. Thank goodness that Whirlpool has all of this information online–for anyone and everyone.

I simply grabbed the information from the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science page.  There you can actually search for individual types of stains and material or print out the whole Stain Removal Guide as a pdf, which is what we did.

stain fighter kids before after

Maddy puts in a load of stain-filled into our our Whirlpool Duet.  Mind you, the material is all properly stain-treated! We’ll see how it turns out!

Can you see the folded laundry behind her? My Wash Warriors were hard at work this week!

And of course, our Dr. Seuss hat is close by. It was, remember, Read Across America Day earlier this month!

stain fighter kids before after .png.png

Believe it.

Our stain-fighting helped. Gone is the pasta sauce. Gone are the mud and grass. Gone is the ballpoint ink. Gone is the fruit juice and mustard.

So crazy.

stain fighter kids before after .

stain fighter kids before after .png.png

Are their Stain Fighters in your family? Who takes care of the hard-to-erase stains on your kids’ clothes? 

Would you ever consider letting your kids at ‘em?

I’d love to hear it!

And that’s it–just a wee bit o’ at-home science mixed with some serious life-learning for my kids this week.  I’m thrilled that they’re getting so into doing laundry, and I look forward to lots of clean clothes ahead!

One thing we’ll keep close at hand? The Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science Stain Removal Guide. Printed out and hung right next to our Wash Warrior How to do Laundry sheet. 

Bam.

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also part of this Wash Warrior series:

(click on the image to visit the post!)

teach kids how to do laundry wash warriors teachmama.com.png

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kids and laundry | 3 secrets to success | teachmama.com

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post, written as part of the Whirlpool Ambassador program. As always, opinions and ideas are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and my three little wash warriors.

3 ways to kick-start your family’s health

3 ways to kick-start your family's health teachmama.com.png

I am blogging on behalf of Walmart.com, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Shop online and save money to live better at Walmart.com

 

3 ways to kick-start your family's health | teachmama.com

Spring is around the corner, so it’s an ideal time to kick-start your family’s health.

And, after the brutal winter we’ve had, I know we’re all ready for it. We’re ready for a change.

We’re ready for sun. We’re ready for grass. We’re ready to see leaves on the trees.

We’re ready to start eating healthier and to start feeling better about ourselves again.

So as we close out the last few weeks of wintertime, we must start thinking about how we can prepare our family for a spring and summer filled with fitness and well-being.

I’ve got three ways to kick-start your family’s health.

Three ways that have worked for our family after the long and lazy days of winter, after we’ve eaten one too many cookies, and after one too many hot chocolates.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 Ways to Kick-Start Your Family’s Health: Three simple ways, because, as busy parents, that’s about all we can handle.

1. Find outdoor activities you can do as a family.  Being outside is key because in the springtime, the weather is nice and people want to be outdoors.

And, if you’re outdoors together, you’re more likely to help each other get moving.

3 ways to kickstart family health activities  teachmama.com.png

What activities should you do as a family?

  • If you want to meet people in  your area, join a family recreational kickball or softball league.
  • If your family loves exploring, grab a compass or a personal GPS and try geocaching.
  • If you are a competitive family, you could train for a local 5K. Many neighborhoods offer ‘couch to 5K’ training programs, and spring is a great time to try it!
  • If you are a rockin’ and rollin’ family, try rollerskating or roller blading!
  • If it all seems too much for you, then challenge each other by seeing who can log the most steps in one day. Chart your progress on a poster in a common area of your home, and track steps with one of those cool Fitbitsicon for each family member!

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2.  Eat healthy and cook as a family.  If one person’s eating healthy, the whole family can eat healthy. With food, it’s so much easier to do as a group, and you can start by swapping junk food and sweets for healthier fruits and veggies.

3 ways to kickstart family health food  teachmama.com.pngHow do you get started, making sure that all family members are on board? 

  • Take turns cooking each night. Assign ‘Dinner Duos’ or ‘Chef Partners’ and have each team plan two meals a week.
  • Visit local Farmers’ Markets or join a CSA.
  • Peruse the Produce Sections of grocery stores as a family for items that look good, smell good, and taste fresh!
  • Eat seasonally. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, and explore recipes that celebrate those items.

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3.  Wear weather-appropriate clothes and shoes that fit comfortably.   Since spring weather fluctuates so greatly, it’s important to have clothes that work with weather conditions that come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.

3 ways to kickstart your family's health  clothes  teachmama.com.pngHow can you make sure your family is outfitted with clothes that allow them to get movin’ and groovin’ indoors or out? 

  • Start fresh. Go through drawers, removing clothes that no longer fit and making room for new items.
  • Have a clothing swap! Reach out to friends and family with the sizes of your kids’ clothes that no longer fit, and submit a gentle request for items and sizes that your family needs.
  • Dress in layers.  Layers are key for springtime; wearing a t-shirt under a sweatshirt and cute, fun raincoat allows you to remove layers as the weather warms and still stay comfortable.
  • Get fitted. Make sure everyone is wearing the correct size sneaker from the start. Having shoes and socks that fit are necessary for starting an exercise regime off on the right foot!

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What are some ways your family moves back into a healthier lifestyle after a long winter?  I’d love to hear them!

 

fyi: I am blogging on behalf of Walmart.com, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Affiliate links are used in this post. 

 

 

 

lent ideas for kids and families

lent for kids and family teachmama.com

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lent for kids and family  teachmama.com.png

Lent is here.

And this year, rather than have Lent be a time when my kids complain and moan because they can’t have dessert every night, I wanted it to be a more meaningful time of the year.

But Lent ideas for kids and family? Sometimes hard to come by.

Lent is super-important for many of us, as we prepare for Easter. It’s a time for sacrifice and reflection.

But it’s also a time for giving and kindness, which I think is especially important for our kids to learn.

So I’ve searched the ‘net and reached out to many friends this year, asking for ideas about how best to use these 40 days, the seven weeks of Lent.

Here’s what I found. . .

  • Lent Ideas for Kids & Family:

I have long brought books to mass with us, even when my kids head back to Children’s Liturgy of the Word.

Books like The Mass for Children or the Children’s Book of Saints or my kids could flip through dozens of times.

But this year, I wanted the season of Lent to mean more for them–for us.

I found these great resources for us to use:

  • 40 Acts: Love this. I printed the kids’ calendar and the 7-Week prayer book, and I just 100% love the focus of family time and giving.
  • Good Deed Beads: I ordered a few sets of these beads, because I like that kids are keeping track of good things they’re doing. And they’re tiny enough to keep in their pockets each day.   The cool thing is that you don’t need to order them–the site has instructions for making them at home!

how to teach the easter story to kids: resurrection rolls

  • Lent for Children–A Thought A Day: I printed this and bound it with ribbon, and it was great to take to Ash Wednesday Mass. Cora declared herself in charge of reading our daily prayer.
  • Crown of Thorns: a girlfriend gave this to me, and the Salt Dough Crown of Thorns is a very hands-on, visual representation of how your family can make sacrifices during Lent. I think we’ll do this next year.  Or maybe this weekend.

And of course, we’ll make Resurrection Rolls like we did last year. The kids really loved that!

Have a blessed and peaceful season!

Do you have any other Lent or Easter resources that work for you? Do share! 

fyi: affiliate links are used below

mcgraw-hill education and NCFL: spread the word campaign

spread the word and increase family literacy

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spread the word and increase family literacy

March is a super-exciting month as far as reading and literacy are concerned.

There’s a lot of happy going on–a lot of happy.

We’ve got Read Across America Day, National Grammar Day, World Read Aloud Day, and World Poetry Day. And that’s just a start.

The whole month is ‘National March into Literacy Month’ which makes the Reading Specialist in me want to dance.

Tons of ways to celebrate reading–but one thing that I think is totally worth celebrating is a campaign that my friends from McGraw-Hill have started, called Spread the Word.

McGraw-Hill Education has joined forces with the amazing folks from NCFL–National Center for Families Learning–to develop a celebration of sorts that I think everyone should know about because the payoffs are big. For everyone.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Pretty simple but really awesome.

McGraw-Hill Education is the publisher we all know and love, and NCFL is an organization that is new to me but one that I was introduced to when I attended the NCFL Summit last month.

Essentially, NCFL is dedicated to increasing family engagement. They empower families to do more to support literacy and learning, and they have helped more than 1 million families make educational and economic progress through family literacy programs.

The Spread the Word Campaign? Simple.

For each new Twitter follower @MHEducation gains throughout the month of March, McGraw-Hill Education will donate $1.00 to the NCFL (@NCFL). Use the hashtag #MHEmarchlit to spread the word!

spread the word campaign info.jpg

Really! That means that money is going toward an organization that supports family literacy and learning and all you had to do was follow someone on Twitter.

I love it.

Tweet it.  Use the hashtag #MHEmarchlit so we can find you and retweet!

Favorite it. Share and re-share.

Here are a few tweets to get you going:

 

 

Following @MHEducation will be fun for you, too, because all through March, they’ll be tweeting interesting statistics, relevant articles and even highlighting some of their cool  reading programs like Reading Wonders –programs that ensure our students are strong readers, critical thinkers and ready for the increasingly competitive global economy.

I love it. Have I said that?

what is the NCFL: national center for families learning | parenting | teachmama.com

 

 

Also?

McGraw-Hill Education is giving away two of its awesome grammar apps throughout the entire month of March.

Grammar Wonderland for elementary schoolers and Grammar Wonderland for primary aged kids are both rockstar apps.

 

what is the NCFL: national center for families learning | parenting | teachmama.com

what is the NCFL: national center for families learning | parenting | teachmama.com

Maddy, Owen, and Cora have been rocking these apps, which are normally about $2.99 in the iTunes store. 

I would strongly recommend a download during March. Games with nouns, verbs, adjectives? Games that get kids moving (believe it!), and thinking? Totally worth it.

mcgraw hill education free grammar apps

And it’s awesome that McGraw-Hill Education is offering these apps for free during this literacy-focused month. Let the fun begin!

Want to learn a little more about NCFL? Check out my quick chat with NCFL vice president, Emily Kirkpatrick at the NCFL Summit last month:

Are you on twitter? Leave your twitter name below, and we’ll follow you, share ideas, and celebrate literacy this month!

 

fyi:  This is a sponsored post; I was asked by my friends at McGraw-Hill Education to share information about this exciting Spread the Word campaign. As always, my opinions and ideas are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator, always looking for ways to celebrate literacy!

stand up for yourself: at work, home, and school

stand up for yourself at work, home, school teachmama.com

stand up for yourself at work, home, school | teachmama.comThe following guest post is written by Carmen Blyth, of The Teacher Whisperer blog, a place for teachers with a story to tell.

Though I know that not every person who reads this blog is a teacher, I think this post is relevant even for all adults.  Sometimes even as adults, we need a little reminder to stand up for ourselves, no matter the situation–in the classroom, in the workplace, in volunteer organizations, in families, or in groups of friends.

We need to stand up for ourselves so that we can be good role models for our kids.

Are you being treated the way you deserve to be treated?  Are you treating others the way they deserve to be treated?

As parents, our interactions with other adults is a crazy-important model for how our kids view the world and what is expected, what is right, and what is the norm.

Let’s make sure we’re doing the best we can as a decent model for our kids at work, at home, and at school. Right?   Right.

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  • Standing Up For Yourself–Being Bullied by Other Teachers, by Carmen Blyth

Yes, it happens! And no, ignoring it won’t make it go away. It’ll just make things worse–for you!

What does being bullied mean?

Being bullied by other teachers, means being treated in a disrespectful manner, repeatedly and intentionally.  It can mean being ignored by colleagues, gossiped about, shouted at at meetings or told your input is not valued.  If intentional and sustained, these types of disrespectful actions constitute bullying. And these examples are just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Being reasonable, logical, and having goodwill and a team approach will not work with a bully.  Being ‘nice’ or ‘fair’ is also not an option.

So what can you do? Seemingly very little, but you can do something to stop the bullying and maybe even get the bully permanently out of your work space!

Here’s what you do:

1. Make a detailed record of the incident(s). Include the date, day, time, place who was involved, names of any witnesses and what actually happened (write what was actually said or done if you can remember).

2. Make a written complaint to your line manager (your supervisor/team leader for example). You must detail the event and who was involved. Keep the wording as calm and collected as possible so there is no chance of being called ‘emotional’ or ‘over the top.’ Make sure to ask what the school policy on bullying is and the time line for action to be taken. Require at the very least a formal apology.

3. Send a cc to the principal (or supervisor, if you are not a teacher). This is super important, as it will ensure that the complaint isn’t simply brushed aside.

4.  Follow up. Follow up with the principal if you do not hear from your line manager within 24 hours.

Click here to see a sample written complaint. All names and the situations described are fictitious.

 

Birdcage & Puppet

Thank you, Carmen, for sharing a post on an important–and not always easy–topic.

The TEACHER WHISPERER is a blog dedicated to teachers telling their stories, stories that will make us better teachers. Tweet me @teacherwhispers

 

Looking for more information about bullying?

Check out these blog posts: 

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards: 

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

black history month: resources for kids and families

black history month: resources for kids and families | printables, videos, books, & more from teachmama.com #weteach

post contains affiliate links

 

 

black history month resources for famillies

We often talk about race in our home, but lately my kids have become more and more curious about the struggles that many so many groups have faced–African-Americans in particular–throughout our history.

Yes, we have great books here, rich with information and ideas and stories, but I wanted a little more. We need a little more.

So rather than fumble through their questions about race, history, and segregation, I wanted to give Maddy, Owen, and Cora some clarity–as much of the whole story as I could.  

I want to be able to continue the conversation not only this month, Black History Month, but any time throughout the year.  So with the help of many great friends, I’ve assembled this list of Black History Month Resources for Families.

Above all, I wanted to recognize and respect the miles these Americans have walked, but I also wanted to celebrate their many successes.  The resources below seem to do just that.

I consider it a work in progress!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Black History Month– Resources for Families:

It’s amazing the resources I managed to find–but it took some serious work–which is a problem in itself.

talking and reading about civil rights

books:

picture books for kids mlk

articles, sites:

must read books mlk

videos:

 


activities

 

What are your favorite resources? Do share them with us! 

 

huge and happy thanks to the amazing women who helped me assemble this list: Eva of SocaMom.com,  Monica Waugh-Benton, Erica of What We Do All Day, Deb of Living Montessori Now, Carly of Africa to America, Leanna of All Done Monkey, and more.  

fyi: affiliate links are used below:

 

today I am thankful

today I am thankful teachmama.com

Today I am thankful.today I am thankful  teachmama.com

The skies have been grey and temperatures frigid for the last three weeks.

Dirty socks and sweatshirts cover my kids’ floors.

There was too much yelling and not enough hugging today before the kids left for school.

Our bathrooms are embarrassing, and the laundry smells stale in the washer.

We’ve totally dropped the ball on Owen’s Moon Project homework.  We still have to find a biography for his reading assignment.

I can barely squeeze past the junk in our overflowing garage.  Calling the Purple Heart for pick-up has been on my to-do list for days.

The back yard is an ugly mix of melting snow, mud, and never-raked leaves, which means muddy dog paws every time he goes out.

I need to send my Nana more cards and letters.

I haven’t called my parents enough.

I haven’t Facetimed my sisters like I said I would.

I’m anxious about taxes–already–because I am embarrassed to hand over my pile of unorganized receipts, invoices, and papers to my accountant. And I promised myself I’d be better this year.

I’m nervous that our chick eggs won’t make it. We spent hours yesterday chasing down our friends with power so we could the incubator at 99.5°.  Out of seven eggs, how many will hatch?

Our favorite neighbors are moving this spring.  Two homes on our street are in foreclosure.

today I am thankful yesterday  teachmama

I barely recognize my body anymore. I need to exercise more and eat fewer Cheetos.

I’m tired. Really tired.

My husband is carrying so much new stress this year. I worry for his heart every day.

I need to do more to show my nieces and nephews how much I love them.

I need to be a better friend. Why don’t I call, email, text–check in–with those people who have been staples in my life for so long?

Maddy wants to read The Hunger Games and watch Pretty Little Liars–and I’m just not ready.

I never make my kids floss or help them brush their teeth anymore.  I have to go to the dentist.

We don’t have much in our savings account.  We should have more in our kids’ college accounts.

I worry that I am not doing enough to prepare our kids for this digital world.

Every, single plant I’ve ever had dies within a month.  I have two sitting here now that need to be trashed.

I wonder if I should keep blogging and writing or head back to the classroom.

I don’t know anymore how to handle our youngest, and I worry I’m screwing her up–and our family up–for the long run.

I need to refocus. Write down goals.

Make missed deadlines.

Answer emails.

Take photos, follow my editorial calendar, write blog posts, edit photos, schedule tweets, updates, pins, and likes.

Answer emails.

This. Is. Hard.

today I am thankful teachmama

But really? I am thankful.

I am thankful because I am here.

I am thankful because I will move through the angry winter and will greet my three little loves with smiles and hugs when I pick them up after school.

I am thankful because one day the bathrooms will be cleaned and eventually the laundry will be done.

I am thankful because tonight we’ll catch up with Owen’s Moon Project, and this weekend we’ll hunt down a biography. Somewhere.

I am thankful because I have a garage and the space for extra stuff and a phone to call Purple Heart and the internet connection to find the phone number. 

I am thankful for a soupy, swampy back yard where I’ve watched my kids learn to walk, swing, and slide, and where I will continue to watch them grow and play. I am thankful for a sweet and fuzzy dog whose muddy paws I will clean until I have to carry him indoors myself.

I am thankful that my Nana will forgive me for unsent letters and not enough calls and that she’ll welcome me any time–any time–to come over, sit with her, and listen to her stories. Even if she doesn’t realize she’s repeating them more times than I wish.

I am thankful that I will see my parents and sisters soon–whenever that may be–and that we will eat lots, drink more, hug hard, and laugh loudly.

I am thankful for my job that has allowed me to have all of these wandering receipts and contracts and forms from travel and opportunity. And I’m thankful that I have this year, today even, to try to be better at this part of my business.

I am thankful for my job that has allowed me to create something out of nothing.

I am thankful for friends and readers and subscribers and followers.  People who I have come to know and love from near and far who actually like what I write and appreciate what I share.

I am thankful for our neighbors who keep an eye on us from across the street, who surprise us with home-cooked meals and goodies from El Salvador and who call me when I forget to put my garage door down.

today I am thankful tomorrow teachmama

I am thankful to own a home in a neighborhood where we can walk to school, walk to the pool, and walk to the park.

I am thankful for my stubborn, strong body that has carried me across continents, through chapters, and into parenthood.  I am thankful for every single mile I’ve walked and for the miles I have yet to go.

I am thankful for sweatpants, glasses, cozy slippers, and at-home movie nights.

I am thankful for my patient, smart, and gentle husband who holds my hand, laughs at my jokes, and reminds me to turn up the music and dance more.

I am thankful for each one of my nieces and nephews–their smiles, hugs, runny noses, laughs, and tiny voices.

I am thankful for my elementary school friends who have known me so long they are a part of my heart.  I am thankful for my college friends who shared a part of my life that was crazy, confusing, and unforgettable. I am thankful for my mom friends who are walking with me through a part of my life now that is harder than I ever imagined but that is more fun than I ever thought it could be.

I am thankful that today I could call any one of them. I am thankful that in a heartbeat we can hear each other’s voices and pick up where we left off.

I am thankful that I have a gorgeous daughter who is determined and strong and wise and kind.

I am thankful that I have an amazing son who is sensitive and sweet, aware, and always thinking.

I am thankful that I have another incredible daughter who is smart, creative, cautious, and loving.

I am thankful for our perfectly imperfect life.

I am thankful that my dentist will still schedule our appointments, even though I openly admit to not making my kids floss.

I am thankful for our jobs and my husband’s steady income. I am thankful that we can put food on the table and clothes on our backs, buy new shoes for the kids and replace lost mittens.

I am thankful for student loans.

I am thankful that I know where to go to get information about keeping my kids safe online, and I’m am thankful that I still have time to help them.

I am thankful that my mom has a green thumb and that the plants at her house are beautiful. And even though I can’t keep my own, at least I can see them when I am at her house.

I am thankful that I have the choice to keep blogging or to go back to the classroom.

I am thankful that our family has help with the issues we’re facing and that the road looks brighter ahead.

I am thankful that I have deadlines to miss and emails to answer.

I am thankful that I have a great equipment to use for my work and that I know how to use it.

I am thankful.

I am thankful for yesterday. I am thankful for today.

And I am thankful for tomorrow.

 

for susan

———————

Let’s be thankful.

Let’s continue to celebrate our friend.

Let’s do what we can, no matter what that may be.

 

 

thank you to the talented Marty Long for this song

what to do when your kids find their “passion”

20 project teachmama.com

The following guest post is written by A.J. Juliani, an author, teacher, and ‘learning addict’.   A.J. is a K-12 Technology Educator who believes in #20time and #geniushour. He’s a father and blogger, and you need to check him out.what to do when kids find their passion

He’s even thrown in a rockstar freebie for you. (He seriously rocks.)

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  • What to do when your kids find their “passion”, by A.J. Juliani

My daughter had been singing for almost two hours with no break. The song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” from the Frozen soundtrack was on repeat, and my wife and I looked at each other.

“She’s pretty good,” we both said as she added a new piece of choreography to her accompanying dance.

In fact, my mind started running about how good she really was, and how great she could become. We all want the best for our own kids and our students. In my daughter’s case we made sure she had a variety of experiences trying new things. From tee-ball and soccer, to swimming and gymnastics, my wife and I watched and supported her along the way.

But this was different. We always knew she liked singing and dancing, but now it had taken on a whole different level. I wondered if my daughter had found her first “passion”.

Chances are you’ve been in this same spot as a parent or teacher. We give our kids a lot of opportunities and when they finally find one they enjoy, we are excited by the possibilities. Sometimes parents and teachers may try to guide a child down a certain path of sports, or music, or learning based on their interests…but usually we wait for that spark of passion to come, and when it does the big question is: What next?

As a high school English teacher I was able to answer this question of “What Next?” when I ran a “20% Project” with my students three years ago. The project was simple. It is based on the “20 percent time” Google employees have to work on something other than their job description. It has been well documented, and Google has exponentially grown as a company while giving this 20 percent time.

After we came back from winter break I gave them this handout:

The 20% Project*

1. For the rest of the year, 20% of your time in my class will be spent working on something you want to work on.

2. It has to be some type of learning, and you have to document it (journal etc).

3. You’ll present your accomplishments to the class twice (and will not be graded on it).

4. That’s it. Have fun. Find your passion. Explore it. Enjoy learning what you want.

X___________________________________________

 

Mass confusion set in. Most of my students were trying to figure out what the catch was, asking questions like: “So what are we getting credit for?”, “What kinds of things can we do?”, “Why aren’t we being graded?”, and “I don’t get it Mr. J, what are we supposed to be doing?”

After a few minutes more of explanation my students began to come around. I was not going to grade them on this project, but I was going to keep them accountable. Many times in education we believe the only way to hold students accountable is by giving some form of assessment. But for this project the assessment was in the process. It was how they learned with passion, and learned because it was their choice.

20 project teachmama.com

As I watched my daughter sing I thought about the ways my students dealt with finding and acting on their passions. Some students had a difficult time figuring out what they were really passionate about. Others jumped right in to learn something new. While many of my students struggled with figuring out what to actually do with their time. For each student I had to figure out how to best guide and help them through this process, there wasn’t one fix that would help all of them.

However, there are three important steps that I had each of my students do during our project that helped both them and me answer the question of “What’s next?”

First, my student had to make sure they were truly passionate about what they wanted to learn. In order to differentiate between hobbies, interests, and passions I had them create a “March Madness” bracket and go through a process of elimination. When they pitted their interests against each other, it became clear to them which was really a passion that they could do all day if they were allowed to.

For younger students, I might have them use this PinterestPowerPointTemplate I made to put their interests together and go through a smaller process of elimination. This visual is also a big help regardless of the age.

Second, we had to create clear steps of what they were going to do to learn more and get better at their passion. If they wanted to play the guitar they’d first learn how to string it and play a chord before jumping into learning a song. This process showed them what growth would look like each time they came back to the project.

Third, they would have to find a mentor or guide to help them get to the next level. Often this could come in the form of a book, a YouTube video tutorial, or even a real person. But they would need guidance to continue the growth steps.

The final piece of this was putting it all together and presenting to their peers. While this can be scary, it is also needed. You can’t hide your passion from the world, we need to see it!

I knew with my daughter that three things were true:

1. She thoroughly enjoys singing, and could do it all day if she was allowed to!

2. She wants to get better. Always trying to learn a new song and perfect her rendition.

3. She was going to need help and guidance to get to the next level.

My wife and I enjoy singing but we aren’t going to be able to help her get to the next level. In this case we’ve started looking at lessons and new opportunities to let her grow. I know that I want this always to be my daughter’s choice, because as soon as we begin making decisions to force her down a path, that’s when our kids pull away and begin to lose the initial spark and passion we always want for them.

When your kids find their passion, or begin exploring new interests, make sure you give them choice before giving them guidance. Their instrinsic motivation is what is truly important, and if we can help them do what they love, then learning won’t be a chore. It will be fun and exciting…like it is supposed to be.

Looking for more 20% Time and Passion Learner information?

aj juliani guest post teachmama.comVisit AJ’s blog at AJJULIANI.COM. AJ is a K-12 Technology Staff Developer, and author of two books: “Teach Above The Test” and the upcoming “Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom”. He is also the founder of Education Is My Life and the new digital magazine for educators, “The Best and Next in Education”.

Connect with AJ: Twitter/ Blog/ Google+

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This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

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other posts in the series:

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

how every family should celebrate martin luther king, jr day

building compassion with children through community service

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fun ways to celebrate martin luther king jr day

I love the idea of doing some sort of service project for the community to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.  Imagine how great the world would be if every family did something small for others to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

It would be amazing.

And the awesome thing is that there are dozens and dozens of fun ways that families can work together to give back and all year, but especially in January, when we mark , Dr. King’s birthday.

In 1957, Dr. King said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’

This year, my family will very easily be able to answer that question.

Will yours?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How Every Family Should Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Choose something. Anything. Just make sure it’s some way of serving others.

Some things that your family can do to give back:

 

building compassion with children through community service

building compassion with children through community service: Pink and Green Mama

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Parenting Children with Grateful Hearts and Generous Spirits; Gratitude Garage Sale

parenting with grateful hearts– gratitude garage sale: Educators’ Spin on It

surprise happy day notes

Some cool crafts you can do together that will spark discussion:

 

Read about MLK & learn about service:

 

What will you and your family do? How will you mark this day and carry on MLK’s legacy of service?

 

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advanced learners: 8 ways to support them at home

Ways to Support Advanced Learners at Home_thumb[4]

Ways to Support Advanced Learners at Home

The following guest post is written by Natalie, of Afterschool for Smarty Pants.   Natalie shares ways she enriches her daughter’s learning at home, after school.  Check it out.

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As you can guess from my blog title, Smarty is a gifted learner who loves books and enjoys math and science, so these subjects are the main themes of my blog. She is now in the second grade and attends our local public school.

I will not go into details in this post as to why we are not considering “skipping” her at this point. You are welcome to visit my blog where this year I will write more about advocating for and supporting gifted learners in school setting.

In this post I want to share some ideas about what you can do at home to support your academically advanced children.

  • 8 Ways to Support Advanced Learners at Home: n this post I want to share some ideas about what you can do at home to support your academically advanced children.

I am honored to be here at Teach Mama today.

As you can guess from my blog title, Smarty is a gifted learner who loves books and enjoys math and science, so these subjects are the main themes of my blog. She is now in the second grade and attends our local public school.

I will not go into details in this post as to why we are not considering “skipping” her at this point. You are welcome to visit my blog where this year I will write more about advocating for and supporting gifted learners in school setting.

 

Time to Build, Read, and Create

1. Give Them Time


Our gifted learners already spend too many hours a day trapped in the classrooms doing what others want them to do. They need time to unwind, to think, to read, and to tinker. It is good for them to be bored and to be able to find creative outlets for their brain power. If you want them to do something extra, consider sports or arts classes. Our daughter goes to gymnastics once a week and attends one after school class (it was stop motion animation last term) that is given during the time that she would normally spend in her Y after school.

Leave Things Behind to Be Found

2. Strew Things

What is strewing? Basically, it’s leaving interesting things for your children to discover. It can be books, maps, building materials, toys brought back into circulation, or art supplies. I caution, however, from doing it every day, or you will turn back into the source of their entertainment. Our gifted learners, just like everyone else, need to learn to find happiness on their own.

Snap Circuit - Hands On Introduction to Electronics

3. Limit Screen Time

With abundant options in educational software and video products, it’s so tempting to let electronic devices teach our children something that they didn’t get in school. I believe that school age children should have access to technology, but this access should be limited and supervised for younger children. Our daughter has 30 minutes a day of screen time that she can accumulate up to 3 hours to use all at once on the weekend if she wishes to do so (she mostly prefers to use a little every day). If you want to know what sites Smarty frequents, jump here.

4. Play Games

Board Games for Brainy Kids

 Put away that worksheet already! There are so many wonderful ways to spend time together and teach your children bysimply playing games. You can check out our favorite games for brainy kids, and I also want to recommend this terrific list of Math Games for different ages. Playing against parents or older siblings might also give our children a very valuable lesson in losing gracefully or accepting the fact that they might not be the best at everything.

5. Challenge Them

Challenging advanced learners at homeIt’s true that our advanced children are usually not challenged in the classrooms in the areas of their strength, and this is why it’s important to challenge them at home – not necessary with complex math problems even though we do that as well, but also with challenges that require using more than one skill and, ideally, cooperation with a buddy or a sibling. You can check our mystery substance challenge and an engineering challenge, and we plan to have these challenges regularly this year.

6. Teach Them Life Skills

Teaching Kids LifeskillsIt might not be easy to get advanced learners to focus on practical skills. My daughter is would much prefer read in her room than load a dishwasher. I believe it’s really important to teach our advanced learners cooking, taking care of their clothes and cleaning their rooms. They will appreciate it when they are young adults and need to spend more time on their studies than they do now.

7. Spend Time in Nature

Get OutsideOur advanced learner is a “thinker”. Sometimes it’s hard to get her out of the house, but time spent in nature or even simply playing outside is very important to children like her. She gets to engage her other senses and her whole body while interacting with the world outside her safe routine of home and school. It’s even better when friends or siblings can join this time of exploring and discovering nature around us.

 

 

Find Teachable Moments by Being Available

8. Find “Teachable Moments”

You don’t need to be available to your children at all hours to support them. I work full time in technology sector, and my time with my family is limited. Nevertheless, even 30 minutes a day can go a long way if you really tune in to your child. Time in a car, time before bed or dinner time all could be great opportunities to connect to your children, learn what they are interested in and lead them to new discoveries.

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Natalie Photo

Natalie blogs at Afterschool for Smarty Pants. She is working full time in high tech industry and raising one daughter.Follow her on Facebook, on Pinterest and on Google+.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Natalie, my longtime bloggy pal,  for sharing!

Looking for more activities for keeping the wheels turnin’ for your littles?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field. These posts? Seriously awesome.

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how to keep your family sane during a kitchen renovation

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno

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5 ways to keep family sane during home reno

It’s been pretty quiet on the blog for the last few weeks, but it’s been insanely busy on the home front.

We’re undergoing a major kitchen renovation.

Combining the dining room, craft room (sob!), and kitchen.  Breaking down some walls.  Opening up the place.

Letting some light in, and trying something new.

I’ll be the first to admit that it hasn’t been all that pretty. But there are a few things we’ve been doing to try to keep our family sane. We’re still not finished, but we’re getting there. We can see the light.

For our family, it’s been absolutely insane.  But fun. Kind of.

Three weeks without appliances. All of our worldly possessions from three rooms shoved into our living room. It’s dusty. It’s a mess. It brings cray-cray to a whole new level.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Keep Your Family Sane During a Kitchen Renovation:  I think any time the kitchen is involved with a renovation, it’s time to pull out all the stops.

The kitchen is the command center of the home. It’s where all the action begins and where it usually ends.

And when the kitchen’s all torn up, life can get a little nutty to say the least.  Though I have not handled this experience as gracefully as I wish I have, I’m doing what I can to maintain my sanity.

Here are my feeble suggestions for others who may soon experience the joy of having their kitchen gutted. . .

 

how to keep family sane during home renovation

1.  Go with it.  Accept the chaos.

Really. My pal who is always on top of things–the one who cleans up after the cleaners, who is always on time for everything, and in whose home we follow the ‘no shoes’ rule–gave me this advice: Go with it. Accept the chaos.

Go with it.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | go with it | teachmama.com

See me? Don’t I look totally happy just ‘going with it’?

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | go with it | teachmama.com

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

But that advice, coming from my friend, really stuck.

Amy, you have to just go with it. Don’t fight it. Accept the chaos and you’ll be fine. You can’t clean. There’s dust everywhere. Just go with it.

I have repeated that phrase over in my head more times than I care to admit: Just go with it. Go with it. Go with it. 

It’s been my mantra.  When my kids see me, the Joe-Cool Mom, just ‘going with it’ and embracing the chaos and ignoring the dust and mess, they are more likely going to be able to ‘go with it’ too.

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5 ways to keep family sane during home reno let it go  teachmama.com

2. Let a lot go.  Let a lot go.

The first few days, I tried to remind the kids to eat over their paper plates and to grab a napkin before they sat in front of the tv to eat their dinner (gasp!), but after a day or two, I let. It. Go. I. Let it go.

You want to walk around the ripped-up kitchen floor, eating potato chips out of the bag? Sure. Go for it.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | go with it | teachmama.com

There’s Brady. Letting it go.

Cereal for an after school snack? Absolutely. And you want to walk around, bowl in one hand and spoon in the other? Awesome.

No appliances for another weekend, thanks to bad weather? No problem.  ¿Como se dice ‘take-out’?

Maddy, Owen, and Cora, who are allowed to buy lunch one day each week, bought lunch every day for three weeks. While I convinced myself that it was fine, they acted like they won the lottery.  See? It really was fun.

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ways to keep family sane during home reno stick to routine  teachmama.com

3.  Try to stick to the routine.

Because our renovation started a few weeks before winter break and stretched to few weeks after, our routine was pretty much crazy from the start. December is nutty. Always.

But while the kids were in school, I homework in one spot–even if it was the coffee table in the basement.

Through the entire renovation, I kept out a sweet pot of pretty white cyclamen given to me for the holidays from a neighbor. We usually have flowers of some sort out in containers or tiny bud vases, so I really wanted to keep something beautiful around through the ugly parts of the reno.

It helped.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | stick to routine | teachmama.com

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | stick to routine | teachmama.com

We ate dinner as a family, even if it was Chinese take-out.  And it was take-out quite a bit because we don’t have a laundry sink so doing dishes was difficult in the tiny bathroom sink.

Though we totally lost track of whose day it was, I kept our daily schedule up and rolling every day.

And when everything was packed away and I couldn’t find the dry erase markers, I printed out our schedule from our family google calendar on a one-pager and taped it to the tile.

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5 ways to keep family sane during home reno- chronicle the adventure - teachmama

4. Chronicle the adventure.

And in the vein of ‘going with it’, we’ve been chronicling the whole renovation adventure.

Taking pictures every single day and talking about the progress each night.

keep your family sane during a home reno | chronicle adventure | teachmama.com

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

keep your family sane during a home reno | chronicle adventure | teachmama.com
When we’re finished, I’ll put it all together in a photo book–the good, bad, and the ugly.

And for a few weeks, a whole lot of it was ugly.

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5 ways to keep family sane during home reno keep kids involved  teachmama.com

 5.  Keep the kids involved.

We have tried to keep the kids involved in every aspect of the process, from beginning to end.

Since this is their house, we wanted them involved in the adventure.  This has meant that we asked for their opinions in all choices we had to make: from cabinet color to countertop, from drawer organization to paint colors.

This isn’t always easy, and some decisions were made even before we asked for opinions (we knew we wanted white cabinets and dark countertops), even inviting the kids to the conversation is important.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

 

Figuring out where to put each item and what drawers made the most sense for us was a hugely fun part for the kids.

I wrote all of the drawers and cabinets we needed on small sticky notes. And we all worked together to figure out where we should put each item.

And then? We all worked together to put the items in the proper places.

Some kids wiped out drawers while others loaded. It made the process move much more quickly, and everyone was a part of it.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

keep your family sane during a home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

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These five tips should be prefaced by a biggie: Say YES! to offers of meals and help.

We are hugely thankful to my husband’s parents for generously providing us with invites to dinner, with warm, cooked meals, and for support through this.

Huge thanks to many of our friends who invited us over for lunch or dinner or threw a gift card our way to offset the growing cost of eating out each night.

Though it has not been easy and Owen cried hard at the thought of the renovation (But I loooove the kitchen the way it is. I don’t want it to change. We don’t need it to chaaaange.), now that we’re close to the end, everyone is loving the new kitchen and big, open new room.

Have you done this before? What were your secrets to success–and sanity-savers?  Do tell! 

 

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