Category Archives: Family

“Does it Help?”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.36.28 PMMy new mantra for social media is, “Does it help.” Before I post, comment, or email, I ask myself this question. I am one of those opinionated, enthusiastic, and sometimes cranky person who has (a time or two) added my two cents when it wasn’t welcome or necessary. I have also been guilty of sharing posts or articles that reflect my personal opinion even though I know many others care passionately about the issue (and often in a different direction).

Social media isn’t the place for political discussions, personal advice, or snarky comments because it comes in a vacuum. You aren’t interacting with the person and seeing where they are coming from. Perhaps they are depressed, personally affected by the issue, or maybe they are even right (and you are wrong). Without the interplay of sight, sound, and emotional connection, we can’t really tell what is going on when we are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or email. So, we need to be quiet. We need to not comment. We need to as ourselves, “Does this help?”

When does a comment help? If someone is asking for sympathy, understanding, or validation, give it to them. Better yet, just say, “I’m thinking of you.” If someone needs help, offer concrete suggestions. For instance, if they are overwhelmed by clutter and are asking for ideas, by all means post a link to that anti-clutter book. But, first, make sure it helps.

As a mother, I am trying to temper myself and be more mindful about the qualities I am modeling for my children. I have pasted the list below by my computer so my kids will see it, read it, and hopefully apply it to their own interactions.What are some “helping” comments? This is my list:

  1. I understand.
  2. I’m thinking (praying) for you.
  3. How can I help?
  4. You are beautiful/wonderful/awesome/fantastic.
  5. You are a great mother/father/aunt/friend.
  6. This book helped me a lot with this issue.
  7. This website was helpful to me when I had the same issue.
  8. Can I bring a casserole/cookies/gift card.
  9. Can I pick up your kids/walk your dog/help you out.
  10. Thank you for sharing.

Awesome Games and Toys for Fourth Grade

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  • Leonardo da Vinci Catapult Kit, Pathfinders – Assemble your own catapult and learn about basic scientific principals.
  • World Record Paper Airplane Book, Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers – Combine the principals of origami, the science of flight, and personal creativity in making a variety of paper airplanes.
  • Rush hour, Thinkfun – Think strategically and logically to get your car out of traffic.
  • Easy Origami, John Montroll – This book on origami mind-teasers will challenge all children.
  • Super Deluxe Solar Education Kit, Sundance Solar – Learn how solar power works and build a small solar system.
  • Disgusting Science Kit, Scientific explorer – Collect bacteria and make it grow at home.
  • Magnet Levitation Kit, Dowling Magnet – How do magnets work? Try your own experiments.
  • Pop Bottle Science, Lynn Brunelle – Make a volcano, quicksand, compass, or tornado with this kit.

 

Me Box and Dream Box

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 9.27.39 PMSometimes it is good to take a little time out for reflections and dreams. We have created a “Me Box” to help your child review who they are, what they see, what they learn, and what they feel. You can have your child fill in the box with words, pictures cut from a magazine, or sketches. Then, fill out your “Dream Box” and talk about what your child would like to be like in 5, 10, or even 25 years. This is a great way to connect with where you are and how that fits in with where you want to go. It is a great way to understand what has meaning for your child now and what they hope for in the future. I also suggest that parents fill out the boxes and share their thoughts with their children.

We did this activity over two days. The first day, we filled out the “Me Box” and talked about how we have control over who we are. We made long lists of descriptive words, many of which we would never use! It was helpful to talk about the words that would not go in the box, as well as the words that would. I loved talking about the “feelings” box. It is easy to be surprised about what children say they feel on a regular bScreen Shot 2015-05-03 at 9.28.11 PMasis, and very helpful to know these feelings as parents.

On the second day we filled out the “Dream Box.” We added five pictures cut from magazines and five descriptive words. I had several different types of travel magazines, a news and information magazine, a sports magazine, and a literary review magazine. We also drew some of our own pictures and found a few to print online. It was great to talk about possibilities, goals, and dreams.

You can also complete the boxes as a family, describing who you are now and who you hope to be, as a family, in the future.

In the daily grind of meals, school, homework, and activities, it is easy to forget to talk about who we are and who we hope to become. This activity will give your family a few minutes to slow down and dream together. Let me know how it goes!

Kids on the Move (Exercise)

IMG_4174Many people are concerned about how high stakes testing is pushing out the arts, music, and physical education in schools. Another loss is recess. Kids need time to run, jump, play, negotiate, and engage in creative and self-directed play. We recently read an article about this (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/07/the-right-and-surprisingly-wrong-ways-to-get-kids-to-sit-still-in-class/) and it struck a cord. As a teacher several years ago, exercise quickly became a way of deflecting discipline. If a kid (or kids) started to act up, we would all stand up, go outside, and run a couple of races or do a silly dance. Taking just a few minutes to jump, run, or act silly would usually ensure that we could get through the rest of the class without a disciplinary disruption. Kids so often get in trouble because they just can’t sit still for one more minute. They aren’t bad kids, they aren’t trying to ruin the lesson, and they aren’t out to get the teacher. They are just tired of sitting still and paying attention. Many teachers dealt with this by incorporating lessons into games of baseball or studying for a test by doing jumping jacks after every correct answer. So many creative teachers and so many creative ideas. Yet, many are increasingly hampered by the push to get so much done in so few hours. I think (and I know many others do as well) that focusing on the whole child while pushing for high standards is the only future we have in education. Exercise is one important tool we have to keep in our toolbox.

Ideas for movement at home:

  1. Make cleaning up time a physical activity. If you have very hyper kids, have them put a toy away and then run up and down the stairs before putting the next toy away. Time them and keep track of progress.
  2. Create a homework scavenger hunt. If your child has three or four items to complete, hide them in four different places. After finishing the work, kids can ask for the clue about where their next activity is hidden!
  3. Build a morning obstacle course. For example: first, brush teeth, then crawl under the bed, come out and get dressed, fun up and down the stairs three times, put on your shoes, run and touch a chair in every room in the house, put your backpack by the door and do ten push-ups, jump up and try to touch the ceiling and then run to the table for breakfast.
  4. Punishment exercise. Let your child choose his or her punishment for fighting with siblings or talking back! Twenty pushups for fighting with a sibling, 20 jumping jacks for talking back, ten sit-ups for a bad attitude. Better yet, do sit-ups until you have a GOOD attitude!
  5. Make laundry into a special game. Set up a basket and a foul line and kids must throw their dirty items into the basket (if they miss they have to try again).

Do you have any other ideas about how to get kids moving in your house? Post them below!

5 Definitions of Home for Families on the Move

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  1. Home is an accumulation of our memories, experiences, and dreams. We settle them down where we eat, sleep, and connect with the people we love.
  2. Home is where we are rooted, a place of history for our family, our country, and our culture. It is a place to visit and connect with, a place to land and rest, so that we can fly and explore and learn about places that we don’t call home.
  3. Home is people who remind you of who you are, where you have been, where you are going, and of all the possibilities inherent in life and living.
  4. Home is a feeling of peace, quiet, and connection. It is that place inside yourself, that place of beginning and strength.
  5. Home is you. It is where you begin and where you can always return.

12 Things to Memorize with your Child

Leahs_LogoEducation has, rightly, moved away from rote memorization to critical thinking. Children are expected to use mental math, explain how they get their answers, analyze history, and write with intention. Long gone are the days when the child with the most memorized facts got the best grade on the test. Now, that child would have to explain the why, the how, and make connections in order to succeed. But, there can still be value in memorization.

Memorization trains the brain, improves elasticity, and teaches children to focus. Many people find that poems they learn when young stick with them for the rest of their life, and teach rhyme, rhythm, and meaning. Knowing math facts can speed along many processes in daily life, and historical memorization encourages connection and a sense of place. Memorizing facts can enrich conversations as participants have concrete information to share in fluid discussions. Finally, memorization presents a challenge and a feeling of victory and accomplishment when it is done successfully.

Present memorization as a fun challenge for your child, for yourself, or for your family. Work together to memorize and practice a little bit each day (or, better yet, every morning and night). Make flashcards, draw pictures, make connections, do whatever helps you learn the material. Then, give yourself a reward. Did your child memorize their favorite Shel Silverstein poem? Buy them another book of poetry! Did they learn their multiplication tables? Have a pizza party and talk about fractions!

Here are 12 things we suggest you memorize with your children:

  1. The Multiplication Tables
  2. The metric system
  3. A long poem of your choice
  4. The Presidents of the U.S. in order
  5. The 50 states
  6. The Preamble to the Constitution
  7. The Gettysburg Address
  8. The Pledge of Allegiance
  9. The Scientific Method
  10. 10 of the most basic elements
  11. The planets, in order
  12. The colors of the rainbow, in order

Finally, some tips to help you memorize. First, become familiar with it and try to understand the vocabulary and concepts behind it. Second, break it into smaller parts. Third, write it down, read it to a friend, record yourself or videotape yourself reciting it. Finally, practice cumulatively. With each part memorized start again at the beginning to practice it as a whole. Then, teach it to a friend or share it frequently.

Good luck! And, let us know if you can think of anything else to add to our list of things to memorize with your children. Thanks for reading!

American History Resources for Families

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As an American History teacher, I love to share some of my favorite materials to share at home as a family. We love to visit historical sites when we are in the U.S., we try to watch movies about our country, and we love books about the people, events, and stories that tell us about our country and how it came to be.

Do you have any favorite books, movies, or games that you use with your family? We would love to hear about them! Drop us an email at afterschoolplans@gmail.com or comment below. Thanks for reading!

General American History Texts

  • Children’s Encyclopedia of American History, David C. King
  • The American Story, 100 True Tales from American History, Jennifer Armstrong and Roger Roth
  • 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet, Dennis Denenberg

American History Movies

  • America: The Story of Us. While meant for adults, this is a sweeping look at American History. Get the movie to go with the book for the full experience!
  • Liberty’s Kids. This cartoon style movie explores the American Revolution.
  • Duke Ellington…and More Stories to Celebrate Great Figure in American History. Find four stories about famous American people in this video.
  •  Schoolhouse Rock: America. These songs and stories have delighted children for generations.

American History Games and Toys

  • American Trivia Family Edition Board Game, ToysNGamesEtc.
  • U.S. History Puzzles, the BT Group
  • Presidents of the United States Card Game, ToysNGamesEtc.
  • American History Go Fish Game, Zoe’s Toys