Monday, August 29, 2011

Easier Mornings

I have had the opportunity to be both a working mother and a stay at home mom.  No matter which role I was in one of the most stressful times of day were always in the mornings getting my son off to school.  Finding outfits, clean underwear, socks, and loose papers needed for school.  So many times he missed the bus, forgot homework or lunch money or lunch and I had to run to the school so he could eat.  The times when everything was actually together were only because I was yelling which is not the kind of mother I want to be.  I finally decided I could no longer send my child off to school stressed and have my day start off with guilt.  I made a list of the things that caused the most stress and panic and worked on ways to eliminate them from our lives.  The basic premise is to do whatever can possibly be done the night before and have your children do whatever they possibly can for themselves.  At first it may be difficult to change old habits but using even a couple of these strategies can turn a crazy morning into an enjoyable one.
1.       Layout your clothes and your child’s clothes for the week.  Include every article of clothing needed even socks and underwear.  I keep my son’s in a weekly organizing closet hanger.  Every night before bed I take out the next day’s clothes and he gets dressed as soon as he gets up in the morning before even coming downstairs.  This eliminates any clothing battles or realizations that there is no clean underwear when the bus is ten minutes from arriving.

2.       Put dinner in a separate container for lunch the next day.  I try to make dinners that can be reheated the next day.  I use a container for my son that keeps his lunch hot all day.  I have to take a minute to heat in up before packing it but it’s nice to know my son is having a nice lunch instead of the gross school lunches or the same sandwich day after day.

3.       Have your child’s homework done and backpack packed the night before.  This is a no brainer but is sometimes hard to put into practice when your child is tired and whiny at night but so worth it.  I make my son a list that includes pictures so he knows exactly what he has to do after school.  Once they get used to doing this it’s so much easier.

4.       Get all of your things together for the next day.  This is where you practice what you preach.  When your child is preparing for the next day you can also set aside everything next to the door or even into your car for the next day.  Hang your keys right next to the door.  There’s nothing worse than searching for keys when you’re running late.

5.       Prepare breakfast for the next day or even the week.  If I know I have limited time for the week and won’t be able to make breakfast I’ll pack cereal into five baggies and then cut up fruit and put milk in a creamer cup so my son can prepare his own cereal breakfast.  You can also make easy items such as hard boiled eggs or egg salad.  Even pancakes made the night before can be reheated.  Setting the coffee pot the night before also cuts down on a few minutes.  Every few minutes you save is a few extra you can spend enjoying your breakfast, coffee, and kids.
Hopefully these ideas will help you!  What are some of your favorite tricks for making the mornings run more smoothly?  Leave your comments below.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Get Involved in Your Child's School

We all want our child to get the best education possible.  We all want or child to get good grades and have a positive school experience.  We all want out children to value learning and to be exited about all the possible things they can discover in school.  One way to encourage this is to make sure you show your child education is important by being involved in their school.  Here are a few ways:
1.      Get to know you child’s teacher.  This is the most important thing you can do so you can be partners, both working for what’s best for your child.  Having open communication will make a teacher feel they can come to you with even the smallest concern and visa versa.  One way is to write a friendly email.  Use this opportunity to introduce yourself in the beginning of the year and welcome any praise or concerns regarding your child.  Offer to help out anyway you can.  Don’t wait until your child is struggling or you have a complaint to contact them.
2.      Support the teacher.  This means respect the teacher’s rules and goals.  If you don’t understand them or disagree respectfully write an email and ask for an explanation.  Many times the rules are there for a reason and there’s a very good reason for it.  If the rule isn’t hurting your child then they should be following them even if they differ from your rules at home.   
3.      Join the PTA.  This is a great resource to find out what needs to be done in your child’s school.  There are usually so many opportunities that you can pick and choose which volunteer opportunity you’d like.  Not just that but you can meet other like-minded parents as well as get to know the teachers that administrators that attend these meetings.
4.      Make a calendar and write all of your child’s homework down to help the keep track.  Homework is so important because it lets your child find out which parts of their learning they understand well enough to complete independently at home.  It also shows your child’s teacher that you are willing to keep your end of the education process by helping your child get it done.
5.      On a similar note make a chart that tracks whether or not your child does their homework.  I didn’t reward for doing homework because I feel that is my son’s job but I did give him a lot of praise each week when he completed every assignment.   Now that he’s 11 he’s so trained he just does it on his own as soon as he gets home. 
6.      Attend all open houses, conferences, and school events.  This shows your child and the school that you care.  Make it a point to at least say hello to the teachers and try to make friendly conversation.  I feel that teachers treat me and my son better when they see me around the school a lot.
7.      Pick your child up from school every now and then.  I aim for once a week.  This is a special treat for your child but making sure your seen around school is important.  While you’re waiting for your child you can chat with other parents who are picking up.  Many times it’s a great way to hear how other families feel about the school and the teachers.
8.      Provide resources at home to encourage learning.  Most schools send home a list of supplies needed for the school year but even if they don’t you should have some basic supplies such as lined paper, blank paper, sharpened pencils, a ruler, colored pencils, erasers, and a dictionary. 
9.      If you have a complaint about your child’s school think of how you can help to fix it.  For example, if there is bullying outside at recess organize a volunteer list so parents can come in and volunteer at recess.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: The Masterpiece by Elise Broach

The book starts out by introducing a family of beetles who live in the house of a human family named the Pomadays.  The plot begins when James Pompaday receives a pen and ink set from his artist father for his eleventh birthday.  Marvin, a young beetle, wants to give him a present so he uses the pen and ink to draw him a picture.  The picture is so fantastic that it makes everyone think James is a gifted artist and leads to him being commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum to draw a forgery of a masterpiece in order to prevent an art heist.  This leads Marvin on an adventure to catch an art thief.
This was a great book and one of my favorite reviews so far.  The book is a great mix of art history, understanding family relationships, friendship, plus a little mystery and adventure.  The best part for me was the discussion about lying.  I think many kids this age experiment with dishonesty and this book doesn’t judge lying but explains that once you start being deceitful it becomes an endless snowball of insincerity.  More and more lies will always be needed to cover up the original lie.  It comments on how, even if the liar doesn’t get caught, he is punished for his untruths by being forced to live with his guilt and deceit.
This is great book for grades 4-8.  It’s an easy read and moves along very quickly.  I like that kids are exposed to some names of famous artist and their works.  The subject of family and friends is always great subject matter because this is the center of this age groups life and many are trying to figure it all out.  Finally, I always love a discreet lesson in a book, one that’s tucked so neatly away that a child probably won’t even notice they’re being taught a moral.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to Hold a Pencil Correctly

Learning to correctly hold a pencil is the beginning step of being able to properly form letters.  This is a great article that goes into more depth on proper letter formation and how to practice with your child.  It states, “If your child has to think about how to form individual letters, at school, when writing in his journal and in completing other written exercises, he won’t be able to keep up with peers who have automatic recall and efficient fine-motor skills. Speed of printing will slow down because of it.”  Children who can hold a pencil properly and practice proper letter formation are ahead of peers who don’t have this skill.  Once this becomes habit the child no longer has to think about it which allows them to focus on what they are writing instead of concentrating on how to form each letter.  
When I was a preschool teacher we would have annual meetings with local kindergarten teachers and one of the things they stressed was that they wanted to see kids entering kindergarten who are able to hold a pencil correctly.  They told us we would not believe how many kids can’t do that basic skill.  I still tutor kids who are in older grades who don’t hold a pencil correctly, don’t form their letters correctly, and are struggling in class.  I notice these kids are still concentrating on holding the pencil and retraining themselves to make their letters correctly.  It is such a distraction from the learning process because I’m trying to teach them addition and not only do they have to focus on the math but the other basic skills as well.
I’m hoping by putting this post out there it will help parents realize the importance of holding the pencil correctly and will inspire them to make sure their children learn this valuable skill.  Most parents will make sure their child has the skills they need BUT they have to be aware of what they need to be teaching.  So feel free to send this link to all the parents you know who have preschool children!

Proper pencil holding:
Grip the pencil between your thumb and forefinger. 
Let the rest of the fingers curl under to balance the pencil.

Labels: , , ,