put an end to hunger in america: get the whole family involved

put an end to hunger in america get the whole family involved

put an end to hunger in america get the whole family involved

I’ve thought long and hard about how to get my family involved in helping to end hunger in America, knowing that all around us–in DC Metro suburban community–people are hungry.

Our kids go to school with children who are hungry.

My husband is an administrator in a school where children are hungry.

All around our community, families are struggling to make ends meet. They–and their children–are hungry.

So what can you do to help?  How can you get your family involved in putting an end to hunger in America?   I don’t have all the answers. (Big shocker.)  But I have some.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Put an End to Hunger in America–Get the Whole Family Involved:  A few weeks back, Maddy’s girlfriends met like we meet each month, and our focus was to give back.

We worked all evening making sandwiches for McKenna’s Wagon, a mobile soup kitchen in our area.

end hunger in america making sandwiches

making sandwiches for homeless -

The really special touch? My sweet and smart friend Erin suggested we have our girls and their siblings write tiny notes that we put in each sandwich bag.   She wanted each person who got one of our sandwiches to know that we were thinking about them. I love it.

Before we even opened our first bag of bread, we cut construction paper into strips.  And then we handed each child a few pieces along with a pen, and we wrote, wrote, wrote.

We stressed that even a ‘love, Maddy’ was fine! The kids worked so hard on notes like:

  • Have a good day!
  • We care about you!
  • Made with love!
  • Enjoy!

Their hand-written notes were so special, and I think it was a super-smart touch.


making sandwiches for homeless -

end hunger in america making sandwiches 2

Then we made our sandwiches.

Each family brought what they could–a few bags of bread, some meat and some cheese.

And we assembled sandwiches with a force that I swear could move mountains.  The kids worked so hard.  They laid out bread, added meat and cheese and another piece of bread to close it. Put it in a bag. Added a note.

making sandwiches for homeless -

making sandwiches for homeless -

We used the bread bags to hold sandwiches, and in the end made over 300 sandwiches!

The kids felt so good about their hard work.  We have plans to do more work like this in the upcoming months.

Want more about where your family–or small group of friends and neighbors–can donate sandwiches, just like we did?

As a starting point, check out:

hunger in america target feed

the brown cord bracelet, the pillows, and the scarf are part of the Target FEED line

Other ideas:

  • Target FEED: Target has recently partnered with Lauren Bush Lauren and FEED Foundation to create a special product line that supports feeding the hungry in America.  You’ve probably noticed the line at Target this summer, and it will run through October.

Each item has a number on it.  And that number represents the number of meals that will be given as a result of your purchase.  I love the simplicity of this partnership, and I think it’s a thoughtful and wise way of giving back, even with the smallest effort on the consumer’s part.

nyc #FEEDusa event target -

Lauren Bush Lauren and me. . .

nyc #FEEDusa event target -

at the Target FEED USA launch.

nyc #FEEDusa event target -

me and my sweet and smart friend Patrice, of Afrobella

Visit Target FEED to learn about the program, to find out how you can get involved, or to browse the lookbook.

Or visit the FEED site. Buy a bag.  Give a meal.

Take a look at all of my photos from the Target FEED USA launch last June:

SUCH an incredible time!

Encourage your kids–or your neighborhood–to host a bake sale.

Or just totally check out the site. So worth your time, and you can come up with a way to help–together.

dine out go orange campaign


A ton of great programs exist out there. The important thing? Just do something. And show your kids that you take childhood hunger seriously.


As the oldest of four girls, I recall vividly a time when when I was very young and my hard-working, union laborer father was laid off of work. And our cupboards were close to bare.

I don’t have memories of being hungry; I was too young to even remember the faces of stress on my parents.  But the stress was there. Food and money for it were not.

And I remember one Sunday afternoon after church, a stranger coming to our door with bags and bags and bags of groceries. He had strict instructions, from a woman who insisted on remaining nameless, to deliver the food to our home. She gave him $20, and he did it.

I can still see that young man’s look of confusion and excitement.  Look what he brought us! But why? How bad off were we?


making sandwiches for homeless - 21


Our family looks back at this time when our ‘angel’ brought groceries to our home as a sort of miracle, a mystery to us and a reminder that people were good and that things would be okay.  That someone was watching out for us.

But our story is unusual, and unfortunately, it is the exception.

More often than not, families don’t have angels like we had deliver food to their doors.  They rely on churches, schools, government programs, and anti-hunger campaigns to get them through the difficult times.

Let’s do something about it.  Together

And show our kids that it’s important to us.

Not sure what to do? Share this post as a start.

Then think about it, come back, and think some more. Ask your kids what they want to do. And run with it.

Any other ideas? Suggestions? Links to great ideas for ways families can help put an end to childhood hunger? Let me know!


fyi: Though I am proud to be a part of the Target Inner Circle program, this is an unsponsored post, written solely because I want to share our own experiences and a few programs that may help other families take action against hunger in our world.

Thank you to Target for sending me to New York City in June to attend the launch of Target FEED USA line.

the new rules of boy world: rosalind wiseman speaks at PEP (ticket giveaway)

the new rules of boy world: rosalind wiseman speaks at PEP (ticket giveaway)

post contains affiliate links

the new ruiles of boy world cover

I have loved what Rosalind Wiseman has to say ever since I read Queen Bees and Wannabes and then Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads several years back.

Both are incredible books that I found remarkably insightful.  Ms. Wiseman understood what was happening in today’s world for parents and kids. She got it.

And she gave me real-world strategies for moving through the tough parts.

This summer, I had the opportunity to sit in on a Skype chat with this amazing woman, thanks to the great people of Montgomery County’s PEP Program. It was awesome.

Ms. Wiseman spoke candidly about the time, effort, research, and energy that she has put into all of her books but most recently in the research and writing of The New Rules of Boy World–her latest book which is due to be released on September 10, 2013.

Actually, this new book is called Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, and Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World. And I even think it’s awesome now that I know how much thought and consideration was put into the title itself–and how the inner circle of boys who helped Wiseman shape this book–also forged the title together.

pep | parent encouragement program


Jealous? Don’t be.

No reason to be jealous because now anyone and everyone has a chance to hear her speak about this book and all of the awesome, helpful, mind-blowing research that went into writing it.  Wiseman is coming to the Maret School in DC on September 12th from 7:30 – 9pm.  To talk about the book. And share advice.

And you’re invited.

And you can actually win a pair of tickets to go.  Seriously. And at $25 a pop, that’s a $50 win for you.   Woot.

rosalind wiseman new rules of boy world


So grab your spouse, your pal, your bff, and enter this little teachmama.com contest, and cross those fingers. Or if you can’t stand the stress of a giveaway, go ahead and purchase your own tickets and you’re good to go.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • The New Rules of Boy World–Rosalind Wiseman Speaks at PEP (& ticket giveaway):  If you are local to the DC Metro area, I’m hoping you’ll check out this Noted Author Parenting Series speaker, and maybe even decide to check out PEP itself.

PEP is the Parent Encouragement program here in Montgomery County. Just like their motto, they are educating parents and enriching families every single day.  Goodness knows we could all use a little parental encouragement and enrichment some days!

rosalind wiseman

rosalind wiseman


Please note: The PEP Author Talk with Rosalind Wiseman will not be organized like the above photo; this was a private Skype chat with the author.  

For more specific information on the event, please visit:


GIVEAWAY: TWO tickets (valued at $25 each) to see Rosalind Wiseman speak, thanks to PEP–The Parent Encouragement Program!

Do you want to win tickets to Rosalind Wiseman?! Ummm. . . of COURSE you do!

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

By entering this super-fab giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Monday, September 9, 2013 at midnight ET and is open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 9/9/13.  Winner must respond within three (1) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.


fyi: This is an unsponsored post, sharing a message I feel strongly about from an organization I can firmly stand behind.  I did receive the offer of two complementary tickets to this event; however, I had already purchased two of my own.  But *alas!* September 12th is two of my kids’ Back-to-School Nights, so I cannot make the event, and I am truly disappointed. I’m hoping what whomever goes does share all of his or her notes with me, though!

As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little loves. Affiliate links are used in this post.

teaching kindness: labor day is neighbor day!

teaching kindness

Kindness is contagious. teaching kindness

Really, it is.

And any time we (and I’m talking you, me–anyone!)  can teach our kids to be kind–just for the sake of being kind–is a win in my book.

Being nice lifts spirits. It lightens moods. It feels good.

The earlier we can teach our kids about kindness, the better.

PBS Kids’ Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is celebrating Labor Day as Neighbor Day this year, and I love it.  Neighbor Day is a day to encourage acts of kindness towards neighbors.  The goal? Show kids that one act of kindness leads to many and that kindness feels good.

It’s a super-important message, and I love it.

And thanks to our friends at PBS Kids, one lucky teachmama reader will receive a rockstar Daniel Tiger gift pack full of super-fun Daniel Tiger goodies just for sharing what his or her family has done to celebrate Neighbor Day.  And let’s face it: if you can’t celebrate Neighbor Day on the actual Neighbor Day (Labor Day) no biggie!

In my book, any day is Neighbor Day!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Teaching Kindness– Labor Day is Neighbor Day!

We’ve tried to do what we can to teach kindness in our house by:

surprise happy day notes

teach kids to show love

no bullies

But there’s always more we can do.

Which is why I love the idea of Neighbor Day thanks to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

  • Neighbor Day: On Monday, September 2, Daniel Tiger’s Neighbor Day premiers on PBS Kids. Daniel learns what it is like to do something kind and neighborly and that one act of kindness can lead to many.  YAY! What a happy message!

Check out the PBS Kids site for more activities and ideas: PBS Kids Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

And if your kids are too big for Daniel Tiger?  It doesn’t matter. Just encourage them to do something extra, special and kind on Neighbor Day. You don’t even have to tell them it’s Neighbor Day. Just tell them you’re spreading kindness. It’s contagious.

Want to get in on the Neighbor Day fun like Daniel Tiger? Sure you do!


GIVEAWAY: your very own brand-new-to-stores Daniel Tiger gift pack (plush toy, tote bag, DVD & more!) thanks to PBS Kids!

Do you want to win your Daniel Tiger gift pack thanks to PBS Kids?! Ummm. . . of COURSE you do!

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:


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

This giveaway ends Friday, September 13, 2013 at midnight ET and is open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 9/13/13.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.pbs kids vip

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, sharing a message I feel strongly about from a company I can firmly stand behind.  I am a PBS Kids VIP, and I did receive a Daniel Tiger plush toy in exchange for sharing this message. 

As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little loves.

VolunteerSpot: parents AND teachers can win BIG for back-to-school (sponsored)

volunteerspot get spotted volunteering

sponsored post




volunteerspot get spotted volunteeringI’ve been a longtime fan of VolunteerSpot for the ease with which I can participate in and organize events at my kids’ school.

I’ve loved them for really changing the way people can manage events–big and small–and I’ve loved them because their service is free.  No joke. F to the R-E-E. Free.

But this back-to-school season, I love them even more because they’re offering not one but three $1500 grants to people who ‘get caught’ volunteering at their child’s school.

Parents and schools aren’t the only ones who win here, though.

Teachers, if they just try VolunteerSpot, can win two iPad mini’s –one for them and one for a friend. Or two for their class. Awesome, right?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • VolunteerSpot–Parents AND Teachers Can Win BIG for Back-to-School:

Let’s get it straight: two cool things thanks to VolunteerSpot

1.  three grants of $1500 for people who volunteer and

2. one giveaway of two iPad mini’s to a teacher who uses VolunteerSpot.

Makes me want to dance.


For volunteers:

How to Enter to Win (You can do one of these, or all.)

1. Use VolunteerSpot during August to Take the Pledge to volunteer for your school. Don’t worry if you don’t have a specific activity to sign up for yet; just make the commitment to help out with one thing this school year.

Just be sure to include your school’s name when prompted during the easy registration process. Boom! You’ve got 1 entry already.


2. Use VolunteerSpot’s FREE online sign up sheets during August* to organize the parent volunteers for any school activity: back-to-school events, classroom helpers, carnivals, book fairs, hospitality teams & potlucks, concessions – any activity that involves multiple volunteers will be easier to manage with online sign ups and scheduling.

How to Get More Chances for Your School to Win

Invite (okay, bug) your neighborhood friends and fellow parents to use VolunteeerSpot this August too. Every new Pledge and new activity organized in VolunteerSpot.com counts as an entry for your school, so the more people you can get to sign up, the more entries to win $1,500 your school will get.

Post it on Facebook, or even better, email your whole class and ask them to take the pledge too. You might even remind people to take the pledge when you see them on the first day of school. Isn’t it worth it for the chance to win $1,500 bucks for your school?

VolunteerSpot Logo

One Last Brilliant Idea

Maybe you’re not the person who gets super involved in organizing activities for your school, but you probably know who is. Send the link to this page (http://vols.pt/GSVOL) to the person you know who is most involved with your school’s parent/school organization. That way, even if you don’t need to organize an activity with VolunteerSpot right now, you can still help someone else out AND help your school win.

The Rules

If you have really bad insomnia, you can read the official rules here. Zzzzzz.

If not, here’s an easy-to-read summary:

  • 3 schools will be chosen at random to win. Each will receive a $1,500 grant from VolunteerSpot for their designated school’s parent-teacher organization.
  • You must be at least 18 years old to enter for your school.
  • You must reside in the United States. (We know, we know, but international sweepstakes laws are just too complex for us to handle. We are sorry!)
  • The following uses of VolunteerSpot count as entries: registering and school organizer or teacher/educator VolunteerSpot account (it’s free!), setting up an activity, signing up for an activity someone else has set up, and pledging to volunteer.
  • The sweeps will run from Aug 1- Aug 31st, so enter now! Winners will be drawn at random and notified in September.

If you still have questions, please click HELP at the top of VolunteerSpot.com and contact us.


teachers ipad mini volunteerspot
For teachers:
How to Enter to Win TWO iPad minis1. Use VolunteerSpot’s online sign-up sheets during August to simplify scheduling:

  • parent-teacher conferences
  • guest readers & volunteers
  • class snacks
  • potlucks or parties
  • trips & tournaments
  • any activity with multiple sign ups

(If you use email for any of these tasks right now, you know what a pain it is to contact and re-contact everyone involved, not to mention organizing everyone’s replies. No more!)

2. When you register your account, just confirm that you are a teacher/educator and enter the name of your school when prompted, you’ll be automatically entered to win!

3. BONUS! When you enter the name of your school, your school’s parent-teacher organization will also be automatically entered to win $1,500 in our back-to-school  Get Spotted Volunteering in August sweeps.

Volunteerspot logo option


Once you’ve tried VolunteerSpot for yourself, be sure to tell a fellow teacher to enter too. That way of she (or he) wins, she might just share that second iPad mini with you. Sweet!

Of course winning two iPad minis would be totally cool, but also we hope that once you try VolunteerSpot you’ll tell other teachers about it because it makes sign-ups so much easier. Please let us know what you think!

The Rules

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can read the official rules here. Zzzzz.

Alternatively, here is a summary:

  • The winner will be chosen at random from among all eligible entries.
  • You must be at least 18 years old to win.
  • You must be a teacher or educator employed by a public, parochial or independent school.
  • You must reside in the United States. (Sorry, we dislike this rule too, but international sweepstakes laws are just too complex for us to handle. We are sorry!)
  • You must use VolunteerSpot to organize an activity between Aug 1- Aug 30. The activity may occur at a later date, but you must create the sign up sheet during August.
  • The winner will be notified in September.

If you still have questions, please contact us by clicking Help at the top of VolunteerSpot.com.

Really. That’s it. Hope that you or your school is super-lucky this year, and if you are. . . please let me know!
Off to share this post with my school, PTA, and teacher buddies!
Here’s to a rockstar 2013-2014 school year, and huge and happy thanks to VolunteerSpot for making it easier to support our schools and teachers!
fyi: Though I am a longtime fan of VolunteerSpot, I was compensated for my time in sharing news of this rockstar campaign. My opinions, as always, are my very own, influenced only by my experience as a parent, teacher, and volunteer.

3 for real things you should do with your kids this summer

3 for real things you can do with your kids this summer cover

3 for real things you can do with your kids this summer

Emails and magazines and pinterest and facebook and twitter and the newspaper are all chock full o’ great and crazy ideas for parents right now, and I’ll be honest–I’m overwhelmed.

So rather than try to do it all–and rather than ignore it all–I’ve whittled it down to 3 for real things you can (and should) do with your kids this summer.

I say ‘for real’ because how many of us have pinned 8 million things on our pinterest boards with the intention of ‘really, really doing it this summer’ with our kids?

How many magazine pages have you ripped out and shoved in a folder (or your purse) with the goal of ‘really, really making that recipe for the July 4th picnic–or whatever)?

Why are these ‘for real’? Because you’ll make habits out of them. That’s why.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 For Real Things You Can Do With Your Kids This Summer:

1.  Word-A-Day Cards: Really. Check it out. Printables for your family that feature a word a day.

Talk words at breakfast. Use ’em throughout the day.  Do it. After the initial pain of printing and cutting, you’ll have them, and  you’ll be surprised at how much your kids will look forward to them.

They’ll even get into adding their own. Soon the whole family will be involved.


2.  Everyday Journals or Everyday Name Books:  It’s just about getting into the habit of doing something at the same time every day.

Whether it’s the name books for little guys or the journal for the bigger guys, do something. Do it after the pool or as a wind-down from camp; do it before breakfast or after lunch.

It’s something. And it totally counts.


3.  Read: C’mon. Reading is easy.  You can read anywhere, any time, and it all counts.

Get yourself psyched for summer reading–because I get it–we sometimes have to psyche ourselves up for these kinds of things.

Need a few books to get your kids back into the reading game? Here are five books that will get them excited about reading this summer, and 10 ways to make reading a priority for your family.


3 things. You totally have this. And if you can’t do all three? You know what? It’s fine.

Pick one and run with it.

Your kids will thank you for it.

we teach ebooks cover

And? When you’re really running hard and need some more inspiration head to we teach for these totally free rockstar eBooks.

Member-created and packed full of awesome ways to sneak some learning into your every day.

top 10 ways to talk to kids about books

talk to kids about books

op 10 ways to talk to kids about booksSometimes it’s all we can do to just read with our kids.

And honestly? That counts.  Big time.  So we should be happy if we’re reading with our kids. Woot!

But it’s also the talking with kids about the books that really packs a punch.  The payoffs are huge for kids in terms of reading comprehension skills, listening skills, speaking skills, and more.

Not to mention by talking to our kiddos about books, we’re helping them to develop a longtime love and appreciation for reading.  And we all want that, right? Right.

So here are the top 10 ways to talk to kids about books so you have them in one happy place for your summer reading pleasure.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Top 10 Ways to Talk to Kids About Books: Get ready. It’s life changing.

1.  Make connections.  Make connections between kids and characters in the book.  Make connections between what happens in the book and what has happened in your life. Make connections between what happens in the book and what happens in the world around you.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books connecting

2.  Make predictions.  Get kids thinking about what will happen in the book before they read.

3.  Activate schema. Use what kids already know to talk about topics in the book. Get their brains moving before the reading begins.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books predicting

4.  Ask questionsModel strong questioning by thinking aloud as you read.  Talk about your questions and show your child how asking good questions helps them to better understand what they read.

5.  Go on a book walkSometimes, reading doesn’t have to be reading every word on every page. Book walks are a great way to talk about the book–without reading it.

6.  Make inferences. Bring together big concepts by using what you know, what you read, and what you think will happen in the book.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books illustrat

7.  Think deeply. Kids can really surprise you if you aim high.  Show them how to think deeply about what they read by asking hard questions and modeling critical thinking.

8.  Look at the book’s printTalk about the print in the book, the layout, the words on the page.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books visual

9.  Talk about the picturesUse the illustrations to pull together ideas, discuss the illustrator’s craft, and to strengthen comprehension.

10.  Visualize. Make mind movies, images in the mind.  Visualizing is one of the key components of comprehension; if kids can visualize, they’re most likely understanding what they read!




schools out top 10 series by kbn

This post is part of the School’s Out: A Top 10 Series by KBN,  where over 25 Kid Bloggers from the Kid Blogger Network are sharing Top 10 Ideas to do with your children over your School Break!  Many thanks to Becky from This Reading Mama for organizing the series and to Kim from The Educators’ Spin On It for setting up the collaborative Pinterest board. Here’s the Schedule of what’s coming this week:

Sunday ~ This Reading Mama | The Educators’ Spin on It | Kitchen Counter Chronicle | Rainbows within Reach | Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers | Monday ~ Train Up a Child Learn as We Go | Housing a Forest | Royal Baloo | Living Montessori Now | Tuesday ~ Toddler Approved | Play Trains! | 3 Dinosaurs | Wednesday ~ The Outlaw Mom | Teach Beside Me | Hands On as We Grow | Thursday ~ JDaniel 4’s Mom | All Done Monkey | Fantastic Fun & Learning | KC Edventures | Playing with Words 365 | Friday ~ Teach Mama | The Usual Mayhem | Nature and Play | True Aim Education | Saturday ~ Creative World of Varya | Craftoart | My Buddies and I

give words as a gift: word conscious kids use wordle

give words as a gift

playing with words

It’s that time of year again, when the fliers start coming around collecting money for teacher gifts.  And collecting for teachers’ gifts–on top of other household expenses–can really put a strain on your budget.

Why not get a little digital with your kids this year and give words as a gift?

Words are celebrated with Wordle, and I love it.  Words are art with Wordle.

In the attempt to create word conscious, word-loving kiddos, celebrating words this way is a fun and cool way of sharing messages of thanks with people you care about.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Give Words as a Gift–Word Conscious Kids Use Wordle: I discovered Wordle about a year or two ago, and I’ve been  in love ever since.

Wordle is simply a free site that creates collages out of words.   “Word Clouds” is what they call what they create.

And you can enter single words manually or you can cut and paste a paragraph, or you can paste in a url.

I entered http://teachmama.com and I came up with the following wordle designs:

teachmama wordle 3

And I clicked ‘randomize’ and came up with the following design for the same url:

teachmama post wordle 2

The more times a word is entered, the larger it becomes.

I totally love it.

So for Mother’s Day this year, along with our Butterfly Pens and Limericks for Grandma and Nanny, the kids played with words.  And with the words, we created Wordle designs for their grandmas.

Really, the whole process is so simple. I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora to brainstorm a list of ten words that came to mind when they thought of Nanny and then again for Grandma.

give words as gifts

Cora works on her list of words that come to mind when she thinks of her Nanny. . .

give words as gifts

. . . and though Nanny is not tall by any means, I guess she’s tall to Cora.

Though I think this is a great exercise when talking about parts of speech, my focus for this gift of words was not to creat a Wordle of just adjectives.

I really wanted it to be more like a word splash–any and every word that the kids thought of when they thought about their grandmas.

More like a burst of happiness coming from the kids.

give words as gifts

Maddy and Owen’s lists for their Nanny

The cool thing about this words as gifts exercise is that the kids came up with repeated words for their Nanny and Grandma, so those words appear larger on the final product.

Together, we decided on the layout we liked best, and then I clicked ‘print’.  Instead of printing, I saved the design as a pdf.

That way, I had more control over the size.  I wanted to add designs to 5 x 7 frames for the final gift; I think they turned out so cool.

give words as gifts

Design number one. . .

give words as gifts

. .  . and design number two. Both grandmas LOVED them!

Though we gave them as Mother’s Day gifts, I think Wordles are super-awesome for other things as well.


  • end-of-the-year teacher gifts–use student names or memories or adjectives to describe the teacher
  • gifts for camp counselors
  • gifts for campers–each person shares a favorite camp memory
  • party favors or shower gifts
  • bookmarks
  • positive message reminders
  • summer fun Wordles instead of summer fun cards
  • end-of-summer book lists of books read
  • family re-caps of reunions, vacations, or events

Love them.

family meeting highlights

We hadour digital kids a family meeting a few nights ago, and I made a Wordle with our highlights:

Printed it out as a pretty reminder of what we covered. . .

And that’s it.  Simple, pretty, personalized gifts for loved ones and another way to help our digital kids play with words.

Have any other ideas for Wordles? Share ’em! Dying to know!

summer learning eBook: 30+ free, fun learning ideas for summer

we teach summer ebook

We’re thrilled to share that our third annual summertime learning eBook has hit the presses today! we teach summer ebook

The fab parents and teachers of the we teach forum have submitted tons of rockstar ideas for keeping summer filled with creative, unique, and crazy-cool fun from start to finish.

We’re sharing these ideas in an eBook, free to all members of the forum–and anyone can join! The goal of the forum is really to share the tools and resources we all need so that we can learn, share, and grow as parents–and teachers–for our children.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Summer Learning eBook–30+ Free, Fun Learning Ideas for Summer:  That’s right. Free. Fun. Ideas for all summer long.

The eBook features:

  • Over 30 ideas for summer learning from talented we teach members
  • Craft ideas
  • Cooking ideas
  • Literacy ideas
  • Math ideas
  • Science ideas
  • Focused play ideas
  • Indoor and outdoor options
  • Considerations for taking learning a step further

we teach summer ebook chapters

From easy, cool crafts for rainy days, to dried flower stamping or hunting through local parks and playgrounds, from creating an A to Z summer to playing sudoku on your driveway, the ideas in this book are fabulous.  Pretzel-making, learning letters and numbers, practicing computation, and developing fine motor and gross motor skills, the book has you covered all summer long.

Your kids–and you–will have a blast.  We guarantee it.

we teach summer ebook


The great news? The eBook is totally and completely free for all members of we teach, and anyone can join the forum.

Though it is a public forum, membership is approved and some resources–like our rockstar eBooks–are reserved for members only.



we teach summer ebook dividers

Many thanks to the following we teach members who are contributors of this year’s eBook:

We will be pinning ideas and recognizing our awesome eBook sponsors on our we teach pinterest boards, so stay tuned.

Not only will the eBook contributors’ ideas be pinned, but we’ll also pin every single other submission–so it’ll be sure to be packed with cool ideas.


Join us for a twitter event on June 11, 2013 to kick off the publication of the eBook and to chat about summer learning. Here are the details: summer learning twitter event.

This will be sure to be an unforgettable summer, filled with fun learning for families!

how to get your kids started with texting: texting 101

how to get your kids started with texting: texting 101

post contains affiliate links


How to get your kids started with texting cover


Texting is big.

For tweens, it’s really big.  It’s like the coolest thing ever.

And everyone is doing it (or so they think), and so Maddy has asked for months and months and months to have her very own phone so she can text her friends.  Share photos.  Do all the things she thinks every other 9 year old in the world can do except her.

Quite frankly, my husband and I aren’t ready to get her a phone because we don’t think she needs one–and at 9 years old, she really doesn’t.  We also don’t want to buy her an iTouch just because the other kids have one; we have two iPads in the house, so we don’t feel like we need another device.

It’s tough—a fine line for parents between creating rules and boundaries with technology and supporting them gently by guiding kids into a safe spot.

So this weekend, we took a big step (for us) into the big time: we got our kids started with texting.

We set the kids up with texting on an older phone, and now they are flying high, feeling good, happy little birds.  Like they’re riding the technology cruise ship.

And it’s a start.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Get Your Kids Started with Texting:  We’ve got our kids set up texting on a freebie platform on our old MyTouch phone.

We created a collaborative account for Maddy, Owen, and Cora under TextPlus Free account.  It’s free, and there are ads, so be forewarned.

get kids started with texting

 The kids’ phone which functions only as an android device and not a phone, phone.

However, our kids are pretty good about not touching ads in freebie games, and at 9, 7, and 6, they have a pretty firm understanding that if they touch these ads on purpose, their time online is over.

You need to be careful with TextPlus Free, though, as the ads run in a bar right under the texting box.  With this program, users get a number to text from, so we shared that number with aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Then I added each person to the contact list under names the kids would recognize: Grandma cell, Nanny cell, Aunt Mary, Mom cell, etc.

get kids started with texting - 04

Yes, the phone needs a little cleaning. . .

get kids started with texting -

. . . but the kids don’t care.

Our goal with this was simple:

  • to give the kids a bit of controlled freedom as they communicate with family members and friends that we agree upon;
  • to let them have the feeling they have their own technological ‘space’ to have games that we decide upon and to take photos;
  • to give them a chance to show us that they can handle this bit of technological freedom and room to breathe.


get kids started with texting - 04


As protective, first-time parents, we (okay, I) was totally freaking out about this step, so we :

  • set the settings to the loudest spots so we could hear them texting and knew when new texts came in;
  • have a rule that the phone stays in the house and on our main living area, not downstairs or in bedrooms;
  • require that the kids turn off the phone each night and are careful with charging it;
  • removed all programs we could that were not relevant for the kids;

It’s understood that we’re reading along with them, and our first and foremost message was that texting is the same as talking–you interact with respect, kindness, and manners.


get kids started with texting -


get kids started with texting - 04

We’re learning as we go.

Serious parental learning going on over here, but we feel pretty good about this first baby step as we support our kids with this big step: it’s texting 101, parent-style.  Though I use technology every day–many of us do–it is just so important that we walk our kids through these steps instead of throwing them in headfirst or just assuming they know how to handle it.

our digital kids

Are our kids young for this? Probably. But it’s a different day and age, folks, and we’re doing the best we can.


What am I missing? Please let me know if you’ve been here before and if you have advice to share.  Leave ideas in the comments, please!

This post is part of my series: Digital Kids– Teaching, Supporting, and Parenting 21st Century Learners


fyi: this post contains affiliate links

3 all-time best games to play with sight words

3 all-time best games to play with sight words

how to play games with sight wordsWhat games do you play with sight words?

Sight words are words that we all need to be able to read quickly and automatically in order to be strong readers, and the more we allow emerging readers to interact with these words, the better!

There are tons of hands-on ways to play with sight words, but these three games are total winners in our family’s book.  We’ve played them year in and year out with sight words so that Maddy, Owen, and Cora learn these little–but important!–words.

And the great thing? Play them with spelling words, vocabulary words, any words your kids need to learn and know.  Mix it up and play it with numbers and numerals. Bam.

But wait. How do you know which list of sight words to use?

Where do you get the cards that you need in order to play these three games?

Glad you asked.  It’s all right here.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 All-Time Best Games to Play with Sight Words:  Here are three fun and easy games that get your kids playing with–and learning—these important little words.

3 of the All-Time Best Games to Play with Sight Words



So there are just three of my kids’ all-time favorite ways to play with sight words.

But where are the words themselves?

In order to pick up some freebie word cards for playing sight word games, click on the photo of the post to grab some word cards:


go fish--sight words

Go Fish! A fish out of water–games for playing sight words

sight word memory

Sight Word Memory  –All of the word cards are here, including ABC cards

wordo sight words

WORDO! A game for word-learning

Wait. Sight words. High frequency words. Early emergent words, fluency words. Word wall words.

What in the world is the difference?

Essentially, they’re all focusing on words that all readers must know, and commit to memory, in order to be the best readers they can be. That’s it. Many school districts and counties offer their own specific list, or maybe they go with the Dolche or Fry list. The Dolche list is older, the Fry list is more updated.

Word Walls? What? Word Walls are walls in a classroom used as a tool to help teach young readers new words.  Word Walls are just that—words filled with words! Words are placed in alphabetical order and are introduced to children throughout the year, and after introduction, the child needs to lean and know the word.  These words include word family words (-at, fat, cat, mat, etc) and high-frequency words, many of which are sight words.

Need or want more on word wall words?

Need or want more on sight words?

The main thing?  Don’t sweat it. Your kids will learn these words eventually–and the best way to ensure that is to read early–and often!

And okay. . . play some games with sight words as well.  Questions? Let me have ’em!  I’m happy to help!

reading tips and more: scholastic raise a reader blog

scholastic raise a reader blog cover

scholastic raise a reader blog

It’s been an incredibly exciting 2013 so far, with all of the awesome going on over at we teach and the sweet redesign over here at teach mama.

But another something totally fabulous that makes me want to sing and dance is the new role I have taken on with one of my favorite brands of all time: Scholastic.

Along with my longtime pal and good buddy, Allie McDonald, of No Time for Flashcards, I am anchoring the Scholastic Parents Raise a Reader blog along with the amazing Vice President of eScholastic, Maggie McGuire

Woot. Yes. For real. So awesome, right?

It’s a blog chock-full of reading tips and more, with the focus being on doing just what you think: raising readers.

Right up my alley. Totally my ballgame.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Reading Tips and More–Scholastic Raise a Reader Blog: It’s been months and months–well over a year–that we’ve had this in the works, so the fact that we’re finally up and live is so exciting for us all.

On Scholastic Parents site, the Raise a Reader blog provides:

. . . the latest advice, tips, and resources on helping your child read at every age and every stage. Each week, find kids’ book reviews, ways to extend the reading experience, and tips on how to spark a reader’s interests from our expert contributors and editors.

scholastic raise a reader collage 2

photos from Scholastic Raise a Reader blog

We’ve covered topics such as:

scholastic raise a reader blog collage 1

photos from Scholastic Raise a Reader blog

We’ve also written about:

Allie and I are open to any topic, question, concern, or focus that readers need, so anything you’d like to hear specifically, please let us know.

We’re really excited that on May 6th from 9-10pm ET Allie and I will be hosting a Facebook chat on Scholastic Parents’ Facebook page.  It’s a Summer Reading Kick-Off par-tay of sorts, and we’ll be talking all things Scholastic’s Summer Reading Challenge.

Please join us to find out more about available resources and ways to make summer reading more fun for your crew.  And ask questions! You can submit questions, either below in the comments section or on the Scholastic Parents thread.

Seriously, I love that we’re even close enough to summer to talk summer reading!  Yeee-haw! I can’t wait.


Haven’t had enough of Scholastic yet?

Check out some recent photos from a meeting at the Scholastic building in NYC with some of the Scholastic superstars:


We look forward to chatting with you on May 6th, and thanks for checking us out over at the Raise a Reader blog!