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5 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy your Kids

You are busy, busy, busy, getting lunches ready, making sure everything your child needs for school is ready to go, grabbing a cup of coffee as you fly by the counter, shooing everyone out the door to the bus stop, running back into the house and it is only 7:30 AM. You shower, get dressed and you are off to work only to realize you forgot your computer! Does this sound familiar? Well...I do remember those days and as retired teacher, mother of 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren, I can still relate...life never seems to slow down.... I can hear you saying under your breath, 

SLOW DOWN...I have got to STOP this merry-go-round and enjoy my kids let alone myself! NO way that is impossible! 

But guess what...YES...it is possible and here are 5 tips to help you slow down and enjoy your kids. 

One day when I was eating lunch an old friend saw my daughter and granddaughter sitting at a table. During our cordial conversation, she asked, “How did you get such a great, positive relationship with your kids?” 

I thought a minute and answered, “We had fun together, and I made time for the kids and prioritized activities and always stayed connected.” 

I can tell you from my experience that one important benefit from slowing down is that you will have a stronger, more positive relationship with your kids and as they grow older, they will come to you when they are in situations that require a bit of advice.  It is never too late to slow down and become more connected. 

Have Fun Together: 

Put down all the social media contraptions and be present for your kids. 

It is easy to have your phone in hand waiting for the next text to come through while sitting outside watching your children play...but...what message does this send to your child? It says the phone is more important than they are, but if you are present and in the moment having some fun together, the message changes...it says YOU ARE important to me. 

So, with that being said, have some fun with your kids! 

The benefit: You and your kids have fun, they know you care; you create positive relationships and memories that will last a lifetime!! 

Prioritize Your Kid’s Schedule: 

Select which activities are the most important 

I know we all want our kids to be involved in after school activities, dance, gymnastics, soccer, football, basketball, painting classes, yoga and whatever else you can think of to add to this list, but select which activities are the most important and which ones can be left by the wayside. 

You cannot do everything! Sit down and Let your children be a part of the decision-making process. These decisions can slow down the entire family and you might even be able to sit down and eat a meal together! 

The benefit: You are connected and there is less anxiety for everyone. 

According to Kid's Health, “Overscheduling can also take a toll on kids' friendships and social lives. Family life also can suffer — when one parent is driving to basketball practice and the other is carpooling to dance class, meals are missed. As a result, some families rarely eat dinner together, and may not take the extra time to stay connected.” 

Parents Must also Prioritize their Schedule: 

Don’t let your job control you! 

I know that is easier said than done, but we have to remember to rank what parts of our job are most important. What can be done tomorrow, what needs to be completed immediately and what is something to which you can say no? 

Even in everyday life, making a list can also force you to slow down. Look at each day and make a list of the “Must Dos” or things that MUST be done and only do them. 

Then add to the list what can wait to be completed. 

Do you really need to run out to the store this second or can it wait until tomorrow? 

The benefit: You feel calm, less stressed and a sense of accomplished about what you did get done. 

Make Time for Your Kids:    

Making time for your kids doesn’t necessarily mean stop what you are doing and devote undivided attention to each child one at a time.

I am thinking about what you and your children can do together.  

Can everyone pitch in and help get dinner on the table or even prepare dinner? 

Give the kids jobs that are easy to handle like setting the table or cleaning up the house...it is their house too!  Even exercising together or practicing yoga. Anything that you can do together with your children works.

The Benefit: These activities will encourage connectedness and built positive self–esteem as well as positive
                                                                           family relationships. 

Family Meetings: 

You know you need to slow down. In fact you realize how important it is, but how can we do this? 

Well...I remember when our family had some situations that weren’t working out, we sat down and chatted about the issue and what we could all do about it. 

These family meetings encouraged everyone to be a part of the solution and everyone felt included. All you have to do is jot down all the ideas and see what needs to be done to make it happen. 

The Benefit: The children feel their opinion is important, the family feels connected and there is an understanding that all problems can be discussed and solved. 
The meetings will take care of situations as they arrive so, maybe, the problems never escalate into big deals and everyone has come up with ideas.

In fact, why not try a meeting to discuss ways for your family to slow down.

When I think about slowing down, I often think about this analogy by Bryan Dyson

"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - work, family (kids), health, friends and spirit - and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life." 

So as you ponder this quote, remember just how important it is to slow down and enjoy your kids (family). 

(I am not a psychologist by any means, but these are some ideas that have worked for me to encourage stronger family connections and I wanted to share them with you!)  My kids still talk about the family meetings we had when they were younger. Now, they are all grown up and dealing with their own children!

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3 Back to School Tips to have a Great Year!

It is almost August...did I really just say that? it seems like summer just started... and, if you teach on the east coast, you are probably beginning to think about how you would like to set up your classroom for your new students who will walk through your classroom doors in a few weeks.

Perhaps you are thinking about some new ideas to try! Now, this year I am really not thinking about my classroom since I am now, as they say, "a woman of leisure," but I need to face the facts I will NEVER be that!!!  My mind is always churning and coming up with ideas!  So, when my daughter said,"Mom, I am so excited that you are retired! Now, you can help me set up MY classroom!" I said,"Yes!" So, as i write this I am thinking day and night of all those pinteresty ideas that I can use to help my daughter set up her classroom!

Although I can't come and help you... (I really wish I could because I always loved the create side of teaching)  I can and will share a few tips that I have used over the years to build relationships with students and parents.

So here you go:  A few tips for you as you begin your journey back into the classroom: 

Remember to allow your students to take ownership of their classroom by saving some activities, decorations and ideas that they will create with your support to be used in the classroom.  This will make them feel like it IS their classroom.  

🍎Children can create their own name tags to use on lockers or cubbies. 

🍎They may also like to make "people" ( I have done this for years) where they decorate a blank child template to look like them. 

After the templates are run off on card stock and decorated, they can be laminated.  

Hot glue a clothespin on the center with the child's initial or a themed foam sticker and you can use these to display work all year long!

🍎Another Important Tip That can Start the First Day of School and Continued Throughout the Year: 

Greet each child at your classroom door everyday.  I used different greetings; such as, hello songs, high fives, elbow shakes, fist bumps, smile, dance moves or any quick signal from me to each student.

🍎As they walk into the classroom, think of something positive to say to each child.  YOU will see positive behavior changes if you try to do this every day!  

A smile and compliment can go a long way!  Saying  "good-bye" to each child with an "elbow shake" or high five is also an important part of teaching!  This makes each child feel special!

🍎The Last Tip for Today 

Try to make a positive phone call home
within the first 2 weeks of school. I know that this can be a difficult task with all that needs to be done, but this WILL make a difference! 
Think of yourself as a parent: you are nervous about your child going to first grade and just think how "little Jimmy or Doris" feels. 

Receiving a positive phone call and I emphasize phone call NOT e-mail can set the tone for the rest of the year and it will make it much easier when you have to call for other reasons. 

I also call to EACH child the night before the first day of school to say "hi" and welcome them to my classroom. I tell each child how excited I am to have him or her in my classroom and to make sure they bring their smile to school tomorrow!

So I hope you are excited to start the year and to get your mind in gear...afterall it is almost that time of year!!!

I would LOVE to hear your ideas!  Please share them in the comments!

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How Can I be Sure my Child is Ready for Kindergarten?

Ready or not…here I come!

With more work and less play in kindergarten, it is more important than ever to make sure your child is ready to learn before entering school.

To many, kindergarten is the “new first grade” and what was learned in first grade is now taught in kindergarten.

 So, just what does your pre-kindergartener need to know before the big day arrives?

Here are some important readiness skills that your child should have in place to be certain he or she is ready for school.

 1. Have an Interest in Learning: 

Is your child interested in learning?

If your child is interested in counting objects or toys, listening to books and engaging in conversations about books and his or her world, then you are ahead of the game.

Interest in learning is key when starting kindergarten. 

 2. Communicate Personal Needs: 

Can your child communicate his/her needs effectively?

Does your little one ask to go to the bathroom and handle it independently, tell someone if he or she is not feeling well and have short conversations with adults as well as peers?

YES?  Then he or she is ready to roll.   

3. Positive Social and Emotional Skills: 

Does your child interact positively with peers? It is so important for children to be able to take turns or wait patiently for a turn and to share with peers.

Although many of these skills will eventually fall into place and by no means should your child be perfect with this, but kindergarten-aged children should have a beginning understanding of how to get along with others, be aware of personal feelings and the feelings of others. 

If you notice positive interactions with others, then that is another plus! 

4. Attention to Task: 

Can your child sit still long enough to follow directions or listen to a story without interrupting? Now I am not talking about sitting through a 3-hour ballet performance, but rather sit still or sit in one spot long enough to follow 2-step directions or listen to a 15-minute teacher read aloud without disrupting. Learning involves following directions and listening throughout the school day. If you child can do this, then he or she is ready to learn! 

5. Independence: 

Can your child work or play independently for 15-20 minutes?

Kindergarten requires children to work with puzzles, matching games, play with blocks, complete an easy activity without adult support and to feel confident when tending to easy tasks independently.

With these skills in place, your child is kindergarten ready. 

6. Academics: 

Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills: Does your child have important academic, fine motor and gross motor skills in place?

Your child does not have to be reading or be an artist or even an Olympian to enter kindergarten, but it is important that some or most of these skills are in place before the start of kindergarten. 

 Your child should be able to: 

• Recognize some letters and be able to recite the alphabet.
• Count to at least 10 and identify numbers 1-5 
• Hold a pencil somewhat correctly to write or draw 
• Write first name with an uppercase or capital for the first letter 
• Color, not necessarily in the lines, but a close proximity. 
• Hold a pair of scissors to cut. 

                                             • Run, jump and throw a ball.     

It is also important to remember, some districts have specific readiness skills expectations and age requirements that need to be in place before entering their kindergarten. 

You might want to observe your child with this list to see exactly where he or she is developing. BUT remember this is just a guide to support your decisions about Kindergarten 

 If you have concerns about kindergarten readiness, talk to your child’s pre-school teacher or pediatrician.

Most importantly, please remember and recognize that every child develops at his or her own pace and has varied strengths as well as learning styles!

Here are 2 BUNDLE you may be interested in:  Kindergarten Readiness BUNDLE

Numbers Everywhere Numbers 1-50

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5 + Fun Ways to Make St. Patrick's Day Fun for Kids at Home or at School

For some reason...and I am not really sure why...I always LOVED to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with my kiddos at home and my kiddos at school. Whether it was making Irish Potatoes or leaving notes from a Leprechaun, the magic of this day added a well deserved break to the everyday ho-hum that sometimes sets in around this time of year.

I mean winters can be long and we are waiting for SPRING to SPRING!!
So to spice up your life a bit and bring a little MAGIC right through your door...

Here are 5 + Ways to Make St. Patrick's Day Fun for Kids at Home or at School...

 Let the Leprechauns Make Some Mischief:

Turn your classroom or one of your rooms in your house upside down.

1. Grab some shamrock confetti and sprinkle it everywhere.
2.  Add a few pieces of curled green ribbon on top of shelves or even around lamps.
3.  Turn a few chairs upside down.
4.  Add some footprints around the room, which you can purchase online or make yourself.

5. Don't forget to hide a letter from your mischievous leprechaun so your kiddos see it or find it in the morning!!!

Here is a Letter I used a few Years back: 

Top of the Mornin” to ya boys and girls- 
Me thinks it is Fun Friday and yer celebratin’ St. Patrick’s Day taday! Me peeked through the window yesterday n’ I saw ya in Cougar Crossing and stations. I peeked in 4 or 5 times durin’ the day. I decided that most of ya deserved to have an extra treat today even tho’ some of ya did not get all yer stations finished. So, I called Mrs. Simpson and told her to buy ya something special. Now, I noticed that ya were all always listen’, I figured we’re celebratin’ St. Patrick’s Day taday and you ALL are deservin’ of gettin’ a special treat! Happy Day! Oh did ya notice anything different in ya room today!! I visited last night!

 Add a Few Fun Crafts to Get Those Minds Churning:

Here are a few crafts and writing ideas that I have created and used over the years.  that I am sure your kids would LOVE to create. It would make a great Bulletin Board or even look awesome hanging on your refrigerator!!! 


You can find direction for these Right HERE: It even has letters for a Bulletin Board!!!

Now here is my absolute fave to celebrate this Magical Holiday:

Are you read?  Drum Roll Please....tat, tat, tat, boom, boom, boom...I know you can hear it!!! TAH DAH!!!!!!!

So You Want to be a Leprechaun will bring out the inner leprechaun in everyone...teachers, parents, student, kids, aunts, uncles...EVERYONE!  You can find the craft and application for the job right here:

 Adding a St. Patrick's Day Theme to Any Kind of Worksheet Always Adds a Bit of Fun to Learning!

For some reason when you simply add a theme to a worksheet, it is a game changer and your kiddos think there is something magical and different from just a plain 'ole worksheet. So...Ramp up your celebrations with this St. Patrick's Day subtraction worksheet.                                                     
For more engaging Math activities Click HERE:
You will absolutely LOVE all the resources you can find on Education.com

 Add Some Cooking to the Day:

I remember a few years back when I was braver and younger, I actually had cooperative groups make Irish Potatoes!  Yes you read that correctly....can you imagine a bunch or first graders making these? MESSY? YOU BET!  FUN? ABSOLUTELY!!

I am thinking you might need to add this idea and bring a little Irish Treat into your classroom or kitchen! This exactly the recipe i used. NO COOK and EASY PEASY! I typed up the recipe on paper and then glued to shamrocks, had a few adult volunteers in to help and there you have it!!!

 I am Thinking you NEED to Add Some Science into your Day:

Okay...we have some mischievous fun, some leprechaun writing and application along with magical crafts and some great math ideas from education.com . Now we need some science or STEM activities to complete our day!

These ideas will keep your kiddos looking for leprechauns for at least 10 years if not more!! I mean I have been trying to find them for years and years and years! Oh and don't forget to make a pair of rainbow binoculars to stake out the trap!!

Well there you have it 5 + Ways to Make St. Patrick's Day Fun at Home or at School

How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day? be sure to let me know in the Comments! Thank for stopping by and I hope this brings a little sunshine to your day!!

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5 MORE Fun Ways to Encourage Reading in School or at Home


I thought it might be time to share a few more ways to encourage reading in school or at home.

When you have taught as long as I have, you always have a few tricks up your sleeve to motivate kids to read!

So, without further ado, here are 5  MORE tried and true ideas for encouraging your child or students to read and to make reading more fun and engaging!

1.  Magnifying Glass Reading:

Have you ever given your kiddos magnifying glasses to read books?
This can be done with partner reading or independent reading. Big sister reading to little brother or kids reading to their pets. 

It really doesn't matter who they are reading to as long as they are reading and the detective approach using a magnifying glass just adds to the fun of reading!

The more you read, the better you read!

2.  Reading Buddies: 

When I taught first grade, we had "Reading Buddies" hanging out in our reading area and also one very large pet dog who has since gone to my daughter's kindergarten class for a permanent home. The first graders loved cuddling up with a reading buddy and loved when we had bring your "Reading Buddy to School" days.       
 The kiddos always loved when their classroom job was "Station Janitor" because they loved straightening up our reading area and LOVED to line up all our "Reading Buddies' on the bench.  Five Below for the score on these cute "pet pillows" AKA "Reading Buddies".

AND..."BOOMER" our "class pet" always sat patiently waiting for a "Reading Buddy". In my classroom, he sat by the door, which led to the "bump out" reading area.  In my daughter's classroom, he sits right in the reading area.

3.  Volunteer Reading or, in my room...Miss Mary Reading: 

Miss Mary was almost like having a classroom grandmother!  

She was a retired librarian from a local university and she came every Tuesday and sometimes Tuesday and Thursday to read with my kiddos.  She even shared some history with the class when we learned about school long ago. She was a dream come true.  She did not have any children and was never married so these little cherubs were hers for a few hours every week! 

I would give her a list of students to with whom to work and she would even take notes on sticky notes jotting down little things she noticed about each student's reading.  The kids LOVED reading with her so I would rotate the students to make sure she read with every student within a certain timeframe.  SHE WAS THE BEST! She stayed with us for about 10+ years reading with children. 

The takeaway is...if you can find a retired teacher, librarian, or any retired person to volunteer with reading to your students...EVERYONE benefits!  If you are at home bring in the neighbors and relatives for a reading party!! 

In my Teaching career, we had Miss Mary, Mrs. Mauze ( a retired Comedian, who was on Vaudeville and wrote jokes for Joan Rivers) and  Dr.  Winters, a retired Superintendent, who was so understanding and fabulous with the kids and they all took notes that were so helpful!

Yes...this was a fun way to support reading with my students, but they also learned many life lessons that only this experience encourages.  When Miss Mary had knee surgery, she came in with a walker and it filled my heart to see these little children ask if she needed help and telling her to just sit and they would come to her!!!

4.  Read the Pictures, Then the Words:  BUDDY READING with a TWIST! 

Have you ever used this chart in your classroom: 3 Ways to Read a Book:  Read the Pictures, Read the Words and Retell the story?  I had a poster like this set up in my reading area. (This is introduced in Daily 5™, by Gail Boushley) 

So my idea is to have partners read or buddy read with a friend and JUST look at the pictures and "read the pictures" using words that the student can determine from the the pictures as if the book were wordless.( they can cover the words with a piece of paper if necessary) The partners can take turns reading each picture on a page or simply each take a turn "reading" with a different book.  

There are some really fabulous books out there that are only pictures that would work as well.  Here is my favorite one:

After they read the pictures, they can then read the words and compare and contrast their ideas about the book.  This works best with picture books that have less words per page.

They can determine if the book tells the whole story through the pictures or if the words are important to gain meaning from the text. Were their ideas on target or not?  
If you ask your kiddos to read a wordless book, they can add words on sticky notes.
Actually a great idea would be to have multiple wordless books available and have partners write words to go along with the pictures and then have partner groups share their ideas.  What was the same or different and why do you think that happen or why did you write different words to explain the pictures?(meaning different individuals can read or look at the same book and come up with different ideas...Schema!)
I am willing to bet that you can come up with so many creative ways to make this work during your reading block.  Oh...don't forget that you can have them retell the story to each other after they read together or after an independent read and then partner to retell (Beginning, Middle and the End of the story) and chat about it!

5.  Student Guest Readers: 

This idea evolved one day when 4 children wanted to read a book for our "Student Guest Reader" time. So, as was always our practice, we had a class meeting or discussion about this dilemma.  The outcome was that each week, up to 4 students could read a book to the class..."now that would take a really long time" they all decided so what we did was divide the class into to small groups around the room and each reader read to a small group of students. They all decided that they could choose a helper to sit with them that would not tell them the words but rather give them strategies to figure out the "tricky" words.  This worked beautifully.

So each week different children would sign up to read through the week and on Friday afternoon toward the end of the day, we would use our "picking sticks" to choose groups for each reader.  After the reader completed the book, if there was more time, they could ask the students questions or simply discuss the story.
On a beautiful warm, sunny day, you might even want to take them outside to read!

The benefits of these reading groups were priceless. It built confidence, supported decoding not to mention fluency and also built classroom community in that everyone worked together to support each other. Even my early readers would volunteer to read to a small group. Sometimes i recommended a Guided reading book that was more on their level. The class recognized each individual for who they were...it was truly a family of learners.  As a side note, one of my most difficult students was a great reader. When he took a turn reading to a group of peers, they were amazed and began to go to him for help during stations or simply to help read a word. Talk about building confidence...well that was evident!!!

FYI: before our Student Guest Readers came to fruition, we had parent guest readers, who would sign up to read on Friday afternoons before the end of the day.  So...that's another idea to tuck away.

I would love to here some ideas that you have used at home or in school to encourage reading in a fun way!  

Please leave your ideas in the comments below! AND....Happy Reading!

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