Fun Family Learning Events Happening This Weekend

This post is brought to you by Remake Learning Days and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

Today I’m excited to share about Remake Learning Days Across America and the special events happening around the country, including here in Chicago, this weekend. From Remake Learning (which began in 2007), the festival Remake Learning Days was developed to provide opportunities for parents and caregivers to experience learning with their children. The festival, now in it’s fourth year, lets families with children from pre-k through high school have hands-on, relevant, engaging educational experiencesThe mission is to inspire youth to find their passion and learn important skills like creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration that will help them navigate the rapid social and technological changes that are happening. I believe that offering opportunities like this is vital in preparing our children for the future and the fact that the majority of these events are free and accessible to all families helps close the equity gap in education.

This festival is supported by the lead sponsor, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and presenting sponsors, The Grable Foundation and Schmidt Futures but features several hundred innovative learning events that are hosted by a variety of organizations and schools. The events are designed to be hands-on and relevant educational experiences that let kids and their families learn alongside one another and encourage youth to develop their sense of creativity, perseverance and curiosity. The events are organized by different learning themes such as Arts, Maker, Outdoor Learning, Science, Technology and Youth Voice. In addition, there are Professional Development sessions for school, out-of-school, childcare and non-traditional educators. 

    • Arts features hands-on learning and expression through all kids of art including: theatre, dance, visual art, music, photography, and more!
    • “Making” is about taking things apart and putting it back together. Tinker, build, and create with all kinds of materials. Try a 3D printer, take apart a toy to see what’s inside and then rebuild it, or create a marshmallow tower!
    • Outdoor Learning is about experiencing and learning about the natural world. How can we think about the environment, sustainability, and more by exploring our very own back yards?
    • Science is all about experimentation! Kids and adults can explore chemistry, biology, geography and more. How does our world work? What can we test and explore in the world around us?
    • Technology gives kids the chance to explore their digital world. Want to try coding? Build robots? Learn circuitry? Look for technology events that help you discover new things.
    • Youth Voice is about youth leadership and amplifying youth voice. Youth have the ability to express themselves in so many ways such as: through audio, video, art, music, and more. Youth voice-related events highlight how youth express themselves in their own ways.

Remake Learning began in 2007 and this year is providing opportunities for parents/caregivers to experience learning with their children through festivals in nine regions thanks to national partnerships with PBS and Digital Promise (an organization that aims to close the digital learning gap). Eastern Kentucky and Knoxville, TN already had their events in April but here are the ones happening this weekend still:

  • Southwestern Pennsylvania, May 9-19
  • Southeastern Pennsylvania, May 15-24
  • West Virginia, May 9-19
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee, May 11-18
  • Chicago, IL, May 16-19
  • Triangle Region (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill), North Carolina, May 17-18
  • Northeast Ohio, May 15-19

Want to find events near you? Check out the map of events here. What I love most is the variety of opportunities there are. Looking at events around Chicago I see workshops where kids can learn about electricity, a puzzle club, a chemistry class where kids can make bath bombs, and a career development opportunity to learn from a scientist about their job. There really is something for everyone! I’d encourage families to check out all the events and then choose some that interest your child and some that might introduce them to new concepts or careers. You never know what will spark an interest!

RLDAA events not nearby you? New regions are welcome to join Remake Learning Days Across America and host their own version of Remake Learning Days! Learn more here on how you can share your event as a RLD Pop-Up event.

 

 

 

 

Math Made Fun With Online Classes From Revolution Math

Thanks to Revolution Math for sponsoring this post and offering this amazing offer to my readers.

Math was never my strong subject in school so when it comes to homework time I’m not much help. Luckily, thanks to amazing teachers, my two boys have found math much easier than I did but they still struggle with some of the more difficult concepts sometimes, especially Lucas. I was excited to learn about Revolution Math, interactive learning classes that combine live tutoring with an immersive, story-based curriculum.

Revolution Math is an innovative program designed to help 2nd-5th graders develop their math skills and an overall love of learning. The live, online interface integrates an interactive learning experience with a story-based curriculum and Common Core aligned math games. Students enjoy a small class size of up to 4 students, allowing them to build confidence under the instruction of a dedicated teacher.

Jacob’s Revolution Math teacher starts the class by reminding kids of her two rules: “it’s okay to make mistakes” and “have fun”. I love that Revolution Math makes math fun. I believe that kids are more likely to pick up concepts this way! They read a fun story together and then complete math tasks to help the story characters. Hearing kids laugh while learning math is an amazing sound.

Also, with the small class sizes (Jake is the solo student in his class and Luke has one other student in his), children really get personalized help. Both boys have teachers that are patient when the kids make mistakes and help them through things they are having difficulties with. Children can spend time walking through concepts with the teacher to make sure they don’t just come up with the right answer but they understand and can share how they came to the answer they did. I loved hearing Lucas explain how he figured something out and it really showed me that he understood the concept because he could explain it to the teacher and the other student.

I also like that Revolution Math typically introduces concepts to kids before they will learn it in school so that when it’s introduced in school they are familiar with the concepts already. With as limited as math time is each school day, children will benefit from having this extra weekly time with the concepts so when the homework comes home it’s much easier for them to work through because they’ve already learned the lesson and had review time!

Want this year to be the best yet for your child in regards to math?! I’m excited to be able to offer a great deal to my readers so that you all can try out Revolution Math in your own homes as school is starting this back-to-school season. Revolution Math is offering Making Time For Mommy readers a one month trial for only $1!

This $1 trial includes 4 weeks of Revolution Math’s live online classes and a complimentary learning kit sent directly to your home (a $199 package value!). Use the code MAKINGTIME1 to get the $1 trial. It’s a great way to try the program out, with no obligation to continue if it’s not a good fit (though I think you’ll discover it’s amazing and want to keep going after the month is up)!

Have questions about Revolution Math? You can learn more (and sign up for the $1 trial) here. Also, feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to hear more about our experience so far!

 

Teaching Teens To Make Smart Money Choices

This article was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001. www.MassMutual.com. All opinions are those of the author.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending Chicago’s FutureSmart event. This event, part of a series of events in cities across the country, was hosted by MassMutual in partnership with local NBA teams and actor/author Hill Harper to help bring financial education to middle school and high school students. Chicago’s event was held at the iconic United Center and, as I stood in the middle of the court waiting for students to fill the seats, I thought about my own money journey.

I had been raised in an upper middle class family in the Chicago suburbs and, for the most part, had a great childhood. But, while I had a good childhood, there was one thing that wasn’t really discussed as I was growing up and that was money.Yes, I was taught basic concepts like saving money, but it didn’t go beyond that. We could afford to attend sporting events, take vacations, and had all our needs and most of our wants taken care of. I saw my dad making the money and my mom spending it and it often seemed like money was unlimited. There was never a time when I heard “we can’t afford that” and, though as a kid that seemed great, I’d learn years later that things weren’t always as financially easy on my parents as it looked.

But before that giant money secret was learned I continued the patterns of spending I had seen modeled growing up and ruined my credit before I even turned 25. I was left with an empty bank account and nothing to show for it but a wardrobe filled with the latest fashions that would soon be out of date. My mindset about money had to change and I had to learn how to handle the little I had in a more mature way. It has taken almost a decade to shift my mindset and become a better steward of the money I make and I feel like talking about money growing up may have saved me from making some of these mistakes and given me the skills to handle money as a young adult. (Not to say my parents were to blame because they aren’t- I was an adult. However I think having more knowledge about financial issues may have been beneficial.)

Because of my history with money, I am an advocate of financial education for kids so when MassMutual asked me to partner with them it was an enthusiastic “yes!”. Though I believe financial education has to start in the home, just 43 percent of parents describe themselves as ‘well prepared’ for money conversations (and some might be struggling to make smart money choices themselves). That is why it is vital that schools and the community take a role in this teaching as well. By the time adolescents reach middle school, they have already developed the capacity to understand complex economic concepts, make financial judgments, and assign value to purchases and brands. Yet the majority of today’s schoolchildren are not receiving the personal finance education they need to navigate the modern financial world. According to MassMutual, only 1 in 4 millennials in the US can correctly answer basic financial wellness questions. This is a problem.

I love the FutureSmart program because it gets kids excited to learn financial concepts. Hill Harper (most well-known for his roles in CSI: NY and The Good Doctor) spent about an hour talking with students from Chicago Public Schools. I could immediately tell that he was passionate about teaching financial literacy to these kids. Along with sharing his story, teens were also given five money smart challenges which were: to learn about financial concepts, create a blueprint and plan their life, talk with their family about money, think before they spend, and to open a student savings account.

In addition to Harper, kids heard from Bill Wennington, a retired Bulls basketball player. The two talked about saving money and the importance of education. They also spoke about the many dreams of teens wanting to be ball players when they grow up and the realities of professional sports. To encourage continued education, they pointed out that most basketball players are bankrupt within five years of retiring and that the top CEOs in our country make a lot more than basketball players do.

Teens also enjoyed the antics of Benny the Bull, a DJ playing the hottest tracks, and performances from the IncrediBulls and the Bulls Flippers Trampoline Team. Learning about money was never this fun when I was younger!

What I love most of all about this FutureSmart program though, is that this wasn’t just a one time thing for these students. The FutureSmart program is continued in the classrooms for the rest of the year so the teens that attended the event can continue to learn money smart skills.

The program is bigger than just these live events, too. MassMutual has a goal to reach 2 million students and their families by 2020. Along with these live events they host, they offer FutureSmart classroom and digital curriculums along with the FutureSmart app for today’s busy student.The digital course is available for FREE to teachers and school staff and makes learning about money fun for youth.

You can learn more about the FutureSmart program here. If you have a middle school student I encourage you to talk to your child’s school about this program. Financial literacy is so important and this program makes it easy to teach kids money smart concepts!

Do you discuss money topics in your home?

 

The Zap Zap Math App Makes Learning Fun

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

When I was growing up, practicing math was done using flashcards and worksheets. It was boring and something I dreaded doing which led to math becoming my least favorite subject in school. Nowadays, math is more interactive which makes it fun for kids who are learning and practicing math concepts. They also get to play cool apps like Zap Zap Math which turns math into a game. This app is perfect to keep kids learning at home and on-the-go and will help keep your child from experiencing the dreaded “summer slide” we all hear so much about.

Zap Zap Math is a game-based learning ecosystem that makes learning math fun and engaging, with a series of games covering math topics from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Inhabited by Mathlings, the Zap Zap Math ecosystem brings fun into the equation with a whole universe of math games that are designed based on Bloom’s Taxonomy to encourage children’s critical thinking skills.

Zap Zap Math has over 150 Mathematical topics, with a fully developed comprehensive curriculum that has been designed to mirror common core standards. I like that the app is split up by grade level and it’s easy to switch between the grades so it’s a great app that both my boys can use without having to log out and back in to switch between their two grades. While the kids enjoy playing, I love the web dashboard that lets parents and teachers check each child’s progress by topic and see which areas they might need help in.

Zap Zap Math is available for download on both iOS and Android devices. The app is free to download but you can upgrade to the premium version for only $9.99 a year (that’s less than a dollar a month!)

What’s your favorite way to keep your kids from experiencing the “summer slide”?

Over A Million Dollars In Donations To Schools

This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

I love companies that give back so it’s been great partnering with Staples this year to help share about their Staples for Students program. Staples, with their partner Katy Perry, teamed up to help hundreds of teachers and schools by fulfilling $1 million in classroom projects through the non-profit organization DonorsChoose.org. Their donation was driven by a statistic from the Education Market Association that an estimated 99.5 percent of all public school teachers use their own money to equip their classrooms, frequently at a cost of more than $400 per year.

This year Staples was able to fulfill 1,072 classroom projects across the country, providing 787 teachers in 402 schools with their classroom needs, and impacting 98,609 students. Additionally, Staples customers nationwide donated more than $330,000 to DonorsChoose.org at Staples stores and www.StaplesForStudents.com.

Superstar singer Katy Perry said that teaming up with Staples taught her “firsthand how important it is to support our nation’s teachers, and how often they are forced to dig into their own pockets to provide even the most basic school supplies for their students”. Perry also says that she is “delighted” that their efforts have “helped pave the way for students to realize their dreams”.

In addition to donations, Katy Perry and Staples were giving away a $50,000 scholarship. That grand prize winner was just announced yesterday, October 13th when Katy Perry presented Patricia O’Keefe and her son Matthew from Deep River, Conn. with a $50,000 scholarship at a Winners VIP Celebration in Los Angeles. Matthew is a senior in high school and is currently applying to colleges for enrollment in fall 2017. Four lucky first prize winners and one guest each also joined the celebration and met Katy Perry.

This program has really done amazing things in the community. Thank you to all who have helped make this campaign a success by making donations online or in store. The donations made this year will have lasting impacts on the classrooms that they helped!

 

A Parent’s Fight For Special Education Services

There are many things in life that I take for granted and, before becoming a mom, I assumed that public education for my children would be one of them. I was wrong. My children go to public school but I no longer take their education for granted and that’s because I’ve had to go through numerous fights with the school districts to get it. This is a fight that many parents of children with special needs know too well.

Lucas is on the Autism Spectrum so he is protected by a Special Education law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which says it is his right to receive free appropriate education (FAPE) from the school district. Appropriate education should be uniquely designed to meet his needs. The problem develops when the parent and school differ on what “appropriate” means and sadly, as I’ve learned, this doesn’t mean they need to provide the best education for him, just an adequate one that’s enough to get him from one grade to the next.

My fight for my youngest son began before his first day of school even started. Having been in the state’s early intervention program, his first day of public school was the day he turned three years old which happened to be during the district’s extended school year (also known as ESY or summer school). The school insisted he be put in their general education preschool room even though I was adamantly against it for a number of reasons. They told me they’d see how it went then we’d meet once the new school year started and if he needed to be moved to their special education classroom they’d do that (after the school year had started). I repeatedly told them I didn’t agree with that decision but in the end had no choice but to let the school put him where they wanted to put him for ESY.

His first day of school went horrible, as I had expected. The environment in that classroom became unsafe for both him and the other children. He had numerous meltdowns and had escaped the room a couple times. The staff in there was not trained to handle children with special needs. And I’ll never forget the homework he came home with that first day. My child, who had just turned 3 that day and had a speech delay, was being asked to “describe a baseball game using your five senses”. This child who spoke only a handful of words, didn’t know what baseball was and didn’t know any of his five senses, was definitely in the wrong classroom.

The teachers in the room, and finally the Principal, also ended up realizing that the general education setting was not appropriate for him but I still had to fight for weeks to have the meeting scheduled for before the school year started. They kept insisting we’d just have another meeting once the school year started and then he was would be switched to the other program. To me, it didn’t make sense to start the school year in one program and move him a week in and I believed that would be detrimental to him, causing unneeded stress and problems. They finally agreed to have the meeting before the school year started and changed his placement to a Special Education classroom.

He was put into an appropriate classroom for the school year that was specifically designed for children who had Autism. It was a small class size with numerous aides and therapists in the room at a time and ran a couple hours longer than the typical preschool day. There were picture schedules, repetition, built in therapy and everything my son needed- including a room staffed with people that understood and had experience working with children on the Autism Spectrum.

Lucas had two great years of preschool. The last year he even started taking a daily trip to the general education classroom (accompanied by an aide) to spend 15-30 minutes at a time in there, testing a new environment. Having found success in those short periods of time in the general education class, Luke’s team decided to give him a split day when he went to Kindergarten. Since our neighborhood school didn’t have an Autism specific classroom they bussed him across town, to the school that did. Though our district only had half day kindergarten, Luke would spend the whole day at school because they felt that academically and socially just a couple hours was not enough for him. He would go to AM Kindergarten in their Autism classroom, eat lunch, and then spend the second half of his day (accompanied by an aide) in the PM general education Kindergarten classroom. It was the best situation that I could have dreamed of and it was designed to give him everything he needed to learn. He’d have one on one assistance and a smaller group for some of the day but still get some time to interact with children who were higher functioning and could model language and social skills which is what he had been missing in the Autism only classroom.

A few months into the Kindergarten school year we ended up moving to a new district and I found myself fighting for his educational needs again. This was a smaller district with a smaller Special Education staff and budget. The district didn’t offer full day kindergarten and wouldn’t allow him to go to both the AM and PM sessions. They also did not offer a special education classroom or would bus him somewhere that did like the other school was doing. So they cut his school day in half, took away his time in a special education classroom, took his bus services away and reduced the amount of time he worked with therapists. They still gave him an aide to help him as he navigated the school day but I felt completely defeated. Almost everything I had fought for was gone. To make matters worse, my son went from being in the middle of his class academically, to being in the bottom one percent by the end of his Kindergarten year.

So he started off first grade extremely behind and, though I think he made huge advances during his first grade year, he is still behind. Now he’s headed into second grade next year and I’m back to fighting the school district again. This time I’m trying to get him in our district’s extended school year program (or ESY) for academics. This program helps children who have shown academic regression in the past so that they don’t fall even farther behind than they already are. Though my son has in fact shown regression previously, and was in summer school last year, I was told that this year the Special Education director of the district said he doesn’t qualify because of his test scores. My son, who is going into second grade and can’t put letter sounds together to read words, does not qualify for academic summer school because his reading test score, at the bottom 27% of his class, is not “low” enough? That reading test score of 27% was with assistance, since my son requires help taking all tests, which only makes me wonder what his test scores really would be if he had taken it himself and not had help. In my eyes he is qualified because he has previously shown regression and is behind academically so I have to call the Special Education Director and try to get her to reverse her decision by asking her to actually look at his file, his IEP, his teacher’s notes and perhaps even talk to his teachers and therapists (who all felt he would benefit).

I just wish that parents of children with special needs didn’t have to fight for Special Education services that our children need. Our children are entitled to an education that is tailored to their special needs and a placement that will allow them to make educational progress. I’m not satisfied with my child just barely making it to the next grade. Scoring in the bottom 27% on a reading test (that he had help with) and being told the school district views that as “acceptable”, when reading is the basis of almost everything else he will do in school, is not okay. I want him to have a shot at success, like every other child does, and I’m going to fight until he has an even playing field.

Have you been through a similar struggle? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

Fun Activity To Help Kids Learn The Alphabet

Children spend years developing the skills they need to start reading, from learning to identify the letters of the alphabet and learning what sounds the letters make to memorizing sight words and being able to string letters together to make words. One thing that will help children on their journey to reading is memorizing the shapes of letters so they can learn to identify the alphabet. In this activity, from the book 100 FUN & EASY LEARNING GAMES FOR KIDS that I was sent for review, kids will create fun, hands-on letters using glue and string. Once ready, they make the perfect material to hang in alphabetical order for even more letter practice.

Materials

  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Glue
  • Container
  • Sturdy rope
  • 26 clothespins

Directions

1. Cut yarn into pieces of various lengths.

2. Lay out wax paper on a smooth surface for letters to dry on.

3. Have children dip yarn pieces into glue container and then shape wet yarn into letter formations on the wax paper.

4. Allow yarn to dry before playing the game

5. String a long and sturdy rope up in the room and attach clothespins onto it.

Directions to Play the Game

1. Players work together to place letters in alphabetic order by attaching them to the rope with the clothespins.

2. As they place the letters, encourage them to name the letters they are attaching to the rope.

Game Variations for Children that Know the Alphabet

  • Use letters to create a child’s name on the rope.
  • Use letters to create sight words.
  • Create a timed challenge to see how fast they can put letters up in alphabetical order.
You’ll find this activity (that was reprinted with permission from the publisher), along with 99 more, in the book 100 FUN & EASY LEARNING GAMES FOR KIDS by Amanda Boyarshinov and Kim Vij. This book is full of activities that help parents and teachers teach children ages 3-7 years old reading, writing, math and more. They’ll have so much fun they won’t even realize that they are learning!
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18 Summer STEM Activities Suggested By K-12 Teachers

My boys have only been out of school since Thursday and I already feel like it’s going to be a long summer. I’m so excited to share 15 STEM activities that were suggested by a handful of K-12 teachers. These fun activities will keep kids busy this summer and keep kids learning at the same time.

1. Take a field trip to your local wastewater plant and/or water treatment facility. Tours are usually free but need to be scheduled beforehand. This is a great way for kids (and parents) to learn about water management processes and what we can do to help conserve water and properly care for our water resources. Water management systems involve many fields, including, but not limited to, biology, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and environmental engineering.

2. With so many products now being manufactured, many students do not get much experience with hand tools. One great summer project is to design and build a small structure with your kids, such as a dog house or a tree house. There are many design plans online that you can study before creating and building your own design!

3. Want a fun and educational adventure for the whole family? Visit a glass blowing studio to see demonstrations and/or take classes. This is a great way to experience the beauty of combining STEM with art through a creative manufacturing process!

4. Girls: Watch the TED Talk about Debbie Sterling (inventor and CEO of GoldieBLOX) about her journey as a female engineer and her quest to inspire young girls to pursue engineering.

5. Do science experiments with pill bugs! Here’s a great blog with wonderful science experiments to do over the summer using the Pill Bug.

6. Create with cardboard boxes. There are so many fun things you can create with cardboard boxes to inspire the inner engineer in your child! Here are some ideas:

  • Design and build a car out of cardboard. Families could park their cars in the living room and enjoy a family night watching a movie in their own drive-in!
  • Design an arcade game! Get some inspiration from a 9-year-old boy named Caine who created his very own cardboard arcade. http://cainesarcade.com
  • Create a miniature golf course. Q-Tips and paper towel and toilet paper rolls work great!
7. Put together an inventors box! By having a “Tinker” Box at a child’s disposal it will encourage them to use their imagination and natural curiosity to design and build, not to mention it can also store all their items for building. I have a couple of rules for my kiddos at home: if it’s in the box, they can use it how they see fit in their designs. However, if there is something they want to use that is not in the box, they must ask for permission.

Items to include in the box: small boxes, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, yarn, egg cartons, empty butter tubs, broken toys, old toy parts, tape of all kinds, empty cereal boxes, white glue, glue sticks, paper clips, string, left over craft materials, construction paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, cotton balls, and any recycled materials around the house. The list could really go on and on. Make sure all materials are safe for children to use.

One fun idea for your child’s tinker box is to design a boat that can hold 10 to 20 pennies and then try to float it in the sink, bathtub, or small pool.

8. Read a book that introduces students to STEM and their inner inventor. Here are some ones to check out (affiliate links):

9. The Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest is an Internet-based competition that provides middle school and high school students with a realistic, engaging introduction to engineering. While the contest for 2016 has ended, you can still download the free software and try your hand at bridge design to get a leg up on next year’s competition!

10. Robot Virtual Worlds – Expedition Atlantis! Download this fun activity to learn how to code, incorporate math skills, and expand on your proportional reasoning skills!

11. Many colleges and universities offer STEM summer programs. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), offers a “RoboCamp” that is great for students. They actually have a week long robotics camp, as well as weekend programs. Look up a university or college program like it close to you. What kid wouldn’t like to go away for the weekend or the week and delve into the world of robotics?

12. Attend a local “Rocket Launch”! See rockets large and small take to the skies on a monthly basis at a local rocket club’s launch site. The Syracuse rocket club hosts a monthly launch and invites the public to come and watch, and even build one and launch it with them! Do a google search to see if there are any rocket clubs or launches near you.

13. Visit a local science museum or STEM-based museum to keep students’ interest piqued all summer long. Most have daily activities and lots of hands-on displays as well as an I-MAX theater.

14. Try your hand at the various tutorials on the MIT App Inventor website. Basic tutorials are great to start, and once you have a basic understanding, try the QuizMe tutorial to help students understand the concept of List and how to use indexes to iterate through them.

15.  STRETCH your body. Use stretching techniques to become more flexible. Then research the changes in your ligaments and muscles that have to happen for you to become more flexible. Record your observations.

16. Design your own toothbrush. What do you wish could be better about your current toothbrush? What issues do you see with it? Design a better version and test it. Record the steps you took to identify the problem, design a new toothbrush, and your final observations in a notebook.

18.  Collect water samples from different areas in your house and backyard. Look at small drops with a high magnification magnifying glass. Do you see anything moving? Then research the various things contained in water.

Thanks to Project Lead the Way (PLTW) for sharing these ideas! PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S., in more than 8,000 schools nationwide. Special thanks to the following teachers for providing the ideas:
  • April Moon (@aprilsunshine77), Robert and Patricia Kern National Teacher of the Year – Waxahachie, TX, PLTW Engineering Master Teacher (Ideas 1-4)
  • Kelly Wheeler (@kwheeler_kelly), PLTW Launch Teacher of the Year – Menifee, CA (Ideas 5-8)
  • Beth Fox (@bfox01), PLTW Gateway Teacher of the Year – Lenoir, NC (Ideas 9-10)
  • Chris Hurd (@CazHSTechLabs), PLTW Engineering Teacher of the Year – Cazenovia, NY (Ideas 11-13)
  • Darwin Shorters (@MrShorters), PLTW Computer Science Teacher of the Year – Charleston, SC (Idea 14)
  • Dr. Julye Adams (@DrJulyeAdams), PLTW Biomedical Science Teacher of the Year – Georgetown, KY (Ideas 15-18)

 

Encourage Your Child’s Creativity This Summer

I’m proud to share that I have a little budding inventor! Jacob had announced a while ago that he wanted to create video games when he grows up (along with playing professional football) but recently he has also shown an interest in becoming an inventor. Last week we were sitting in the drop off line outside of his school and he was telling me all these things that he wanted to create. Though many of them contained partially trademarked brands and copyrighted ideas I loved his spirit and creativity.

To help encourage him  to walk through creating things I have learned to use the Galileo Innovation Approach® and their 5 Key Mindset. First, we talk about what his goals are, whether he is trying to solve a problem or just create something fun. Next we brainstorm and generate ideas. Third, we talk about the importance of being Visionary as he begins the design and to be courageous as he starts to create. Fourth, I remind him to stay determined while he tests things. The last step is to evaluate. I ask him what worked and what didn’t and what he can do different next time.

If you have a child like mine, who is interested in creating things, I encourage you to develop your child’s sense of wonder this summer by enrolling them in Camp Galileo. Galileo is a summer camp that’s focused on STEAM education that teaches kids to explore, make mistakes and create without fear, all while inspiring creativity.

Camp Galileo, for kids pre-K through 5th grade, gives campers opportunities to take on art, science, and outdoor activities tailored to their level. They learn lasting innovation skills like collaboration and reflection and take home tangible creations like a rocket, photos inspired by Ansel Adams, or even an archery bow!

For kids entering 5th grade through 8th grade there’s Galileo Summer Quest. Campers can choose from 13 immersive majors, each confidence-building, collaboration-packed session gives them an opportunity to realize their personal vision in a new inspiring subject. Campers make short films, engineer catapults, whip up inventive dishes, design custom video games, and much much more.

By signing up now, you can lock into major Galileo savings this summer! For $40 off a week of Galileo Camp use code BEBOLD. This promotion can be combined with the Refer-a-Friend savings where you can save up to an additional $100.

 

Fun Reading Activities For Summer {Giveaway}

Thank you to Reading Is Fundamental for sponsoring this post!

We’ve been working hard on the reading skills this summer. Every day, after playing at day camp, I have the boys pick out a few books and sit and read (if they need incentives check out this list of summer reading programs). Jacob reads out loud to himself and Lucas, who isn’t yet reading words, looks at the pictures and tells the story he thinks the words are saying. This quiet time looking at books is so important in making sure that they don’t lose reading skills while school is out for the summer.

Reading Is Fundamental has a whole website with ideas to keep kids reading. Here are 6 activities to get kids working on their reading skills over the summer:

  • Have a “book-nic.” Grab a blanket, snacks and books to celebrate a beautiful summer day.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to make a mural with your family. Don’t forget to title your masterpiece.
  • Play easy work or rhyming games with your child.
  • Visit the library and check out books for the entire week – pick one about birds or insects and go on an adventure walk to see if any live in your neighborhood.
  • Reading is contagious – let your kids see you reading books, magazines and even cereal boxes!
  • Play the alphabet game by finding letters starting from A to Z while in the car or on a walk.

Summer is an important time when students can either get ahead or fall behind academically, depending in large part on their resources and opportunities. All students have the potential to lose some of the learning from the previous school year – this is especially true however, for students from economically disadvantaged communities who don’t have access to books and enrichment experiences. Students who lose reading ability over the summer rarely catch up – existing research shows that 75% of students who read poorly in 3rd grade, a benchmark year for literacy skill building, remain poor readers in high school.

The key to helping children maintain or improve their literacy skills over the summer is providing access to quality books they can choose based on personal interests. When children have lots of interesting books readily available to them, they are motivated, empowered and inspired to read. Reading Is Fundamental is really such a great cause.

RIF has many supporters and through July 12th, Macy’s is raising money for this non-profit. Give $3 at any Macy’s register in-store to help provide a book for a child in need. As a thank you, Macy’s customers get $10 off a purchase of $30 or more, PLUS 20% to 15% storewide. 100% of the proceeds go directly to RIF to provide books and learning resources to children who need them most. Customers not only give children the opportunity to build their literacy skills, but also the opportunity to experience the magic and power of books.

I hope you will join me in supporting Reading Is Fundamental. They are offering some great prizes for giveaway with a total of FIVE winners! 4 people will each win a $25 Macy’s gift card and one person will win a $25 Macy’s gift card and a mini-book collection.

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite book (for kids or adults) and then share this post on the social media channel of your choice. Giveaway ends 7/15 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident and 21 or older to enter. Good luck! :)

 

 

25 Fun Summer Writing Activities For Kids

In planning our summer, one thing that I’m making sure to do is building in time for math, reading and writing exercises for my kids amongst our travel, summer camp and family activities. Since summer is all about having fun I wanted to find things my kids could do that wouldn’t seem like schoolwork but would fit into their days and they’d enjoy doing

I’ve shared our summer bucket list and a list of free summer reading programs already so today I wanted to share a list of 25 activities that get kids to practice writing throughout the summer. There are no worksheets here, just fun!

1) Create a summer journal.

Buy a spiral notebook and have the kids write about their day every evening. You can add in pictures or glue in other flat items to create a special memory book. My boys got summer memory journals from day camp the past few years and they love looking back on the summer memories. Now that they are writing and at a different camp where the counselors aren’t going to do this for them, it’s up to them to make there own.

2) Write a pen-pal.

I remember having a pen-pal when I was little. I wasn’t sure who my kids could do this with so I put a call for pen-pals on my personal Facebook page and had a number of responses in just a few hours from people I felt comfortable giving our home address to. I paired Jacob up with other kids who can write and Lucas with a few younger children who don’t write as much and might rely on drawn pictures to communicate. My boys are going to be sending letters a few times a week to other kids. This is a great way for them to make new friends, learn how to communicate better (especially for my youngest with Autism who has a hard time realizing that his interests aren’t always what other people want to talk about), and learn about new places.

3) Write a letter to a family member who doesn’t live nearby.

This is a great way for kids to connect to family they might not see very often.

4) Create a summer bucket list.

To be sure to squeeze every second they can out of summer, kids can make their own summer bucket list of all the fun things they want to do over the summer. See how many your family can cross off the list!

5) Write out a script for a play or puppet show.

This may be the perfect way for older kids to keep busy. Have them create their own play! They pick the theme and create a story around characters they create. Younger children may have an easier time writing a short script for a puppet show. Invite family and friends over for the show and make sure to pop some popcorn to enjoy while you watch their creativity unfold before your eyes!

6) Plan a family fun day.

Have children write out the itinerary for a family fun day. They can include what your family will be eating and where you will go. My kids would probably include a trip to the library, an afternoon playing at the playground and end the day with ice cream sundaes!

7) Write invitations for a party or playdate.

If kids want to have a party or playdate this summer they can make their own invitations to pass out.

8) Make a packing list.

Make your (older) children responsible for packing their own suitcases for vacation or a short family trip to the beach or zoo. Have them create a list of items they need so they don’t forget anything important. Younger kids can help create packing lists as well but will probably need more help with them.

9) Create a shopping list and party plan for a bbq in the backyard.

Have children help plan a bbq and make the shopping list for all the groceries, decor and items you will need to host a fabulous barbecue for family and friends. Don’t forget to make a quick list of things that need to be done as well- kids are more likely to pitch in with cleaning or other chores if they are helping plan the party ;)

10) Write a book.

This is something I loved doing in school and I used to do with my pre-k classroom so it can be modified for kids as young as 4 who are just starting to learn to write. Blank books can be found at craft stores, teaching stores and occasionally I have seen them in Target’s dollar section. Here are my tips for this activity (which will span a few weeks): have children plan out the book first. They should think about the theme of their story and the characters that will be in it and then write it out on paper. A parent or adult can help edit or you may choose to let the child do it on their own and let the spelling/grammar be (I prefer to do it the second way). The next step is to figure out how to break the story up into pages so they might need an adult to help them do that. This is not such an issue for shorter stories but if they have a longer story this is important so they don’t run out of pages before the story is over. Make sure to leave space for pictures as well! The last step is creating the final book. Do the cover in pencil and then go over it with cover, make the title page and then the children can transfer the story from paper to the book. This is a long process but the final product is something the kids will want to hang on to for years to come!

11) Make a card for a loved one or friend.

Instead of buying a card for an upcoming birthday or holiday, like Father’s Day, have your child create their own. It’s always nice to receive handmade things and they are a lot cheaper, too.

12) Make a list of movies to see or books to read.

My kids always tell me what movies they want to see or books they want to read next. Have them create a list so next time you are going to the movies or library you pick one they have been wanting to see or read.

13) Create a recipe.

Have a little one who loves to help you in the kitchen? Have them create a recipe of their own! They can make one for their favorite summer treat or create a brand new dish. Make sure they write the ingredients and directions and then you can make it together for the family to enjoy.

14) Make a treasure map.

Have your child hide something in your home or backyard and have them draw a treasure map for family members to find it. Instead of just pictures, they can label the items on their treasure map.

15) Write to get published.

There is nothing more exciting for a young writer than seeing their name in print. Here’s a list of places for kids (as young as Kindergarten) to submit stories and poems to.

16) Create your own board game.

Board games are perfect for rainy days so what would be more fun than creating a game of their own? Children can label things on the game board and also write out instructions so others can play their game.

17) Do a Mad Libs book or create a Mad Libs story.

Remember Mad Libs? If not, here is a reminder- http://www.madlibs.com/. These books were so fun! Someone asked you for random words and they read the story back to you with the words you chose in the spaces. They have lots of themed books nowadays but if you have an older child they may want to create one of their own mad libs stories.

18) Make a daily schedule.

I’ve found that things normally run smoother when we have a schedule. Develop a daily schedule with your children and have them write it down. Things to include: snack, outdoor time, reading time, pool time, quiet time, meals, story time and other bedtime routines.

19) Write thank you notes.

Kids can write thank you notes for gifts they have received, a thank you to a friend for helping with something or to a community worker.

20) Play a name game.

Have children write their full names on paper and then see how many words they can make out of it. They can do this for everyone’s name in their family, the titles of their favorite books, or really any set of words they want. To make it more fun they can play against someone to see who can create the most words.

21) Write a letter to save the lions.

Have a little environmentalist? Your child can write a letter about how important lions are. This writing prompt is from National Geographic Kids and some letters will be published and featured by them. More details can be found here.

22) Build a town for barbies or cars.

Children can use boxes, paper or chalk outside to build a town for their cars or barbies and then can have their toys “visit” the places. They can practice writing when making the road signs and labeling the places. This led to hours of fun when I was a little girl playing with barbies and my boys had fun doing this with their cars a few weeks ago. Their “town” included a car wash, bank, movie theater and jail.

23) Enter a writing contest.

Kids can write stories to enter into writing contests for a chance to win prizes or have their work featured. Here’s one for funny stories that ends at the end of June 2015 (though seems like this site updates with new contests regularly).

24) Make signs for a lemonade stand or garage sale.

If your family is having a garage sale this summer have your child make the signs to advertise it and help price items. Another option is that kid’s can host a lemonade stand and make signs for that.

25) Write a goodbye letter to friends.

The end of summer camp is a hard time for my kids. They miss all the friends they’ve made over the summer so what better way to keep those friendships going than to have kids write letters to their camp friends saying they’d love to keep in touch. They can include a phone number so their friends can contact them for a playdate. If your kids aren’t in camp they could do this for VBS, summer school or a sport that’s ending.

What other ideas do you have? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

 

Literacy Events Around The Nation Today

Join the record-breaking literacy celebration today, October 3, with Jumpstart! People all across the country will read the children’s book Otis by Loren Long in support of Jumpstart’s mission to work towards the day that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Joined by Tiffani Thiessen, actress and star of USA’s White Collar, Jumpstart hopes to break last year’s record of 2.3 million participants reading the same book at the same time.

Jumpstart will host several large scale events on October 3 in cities and towns across the country with marquee events in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. In addition, many of Jumpstart’s campaign Reading Partners and sponsors will be hosting events. Gymboree will host events in every Gymboree, Janie & Jack, Crazy 8, and Gymboree Play & Music locations across the country. Additionally, official Reading Partner, We Give Books will have Otis available to read online for free in both English and Spanish at www.wegivebooks.org.

”Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is a meaningful way for Americans to support the critical need for high-quality early education in our country,” said Jumpstart’s president and CEO, Naila Bolus. “We know that for children living in low-income communities, this need is significant. By the time these children enter kindergarten, they are already 60% behind their more affluent peers. Jumpstart’s Read for the Record brings light to this national issue and gives citizens a platform to voice their support for this cause.”

Learn more at http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/read-record.

Chicago Area Events

Chicago will hold two events today in honor of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.

Lincoln Park Zoo:

The Lincoln Park Zoo will host three readings of “Otis” by Loren Long on Thursday morning. The readings are open to the public, and U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley will attend. Readings are at 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Chicago Children’s Museum:

The Chicago Children’s Museum will also hold an event. Kraft Family Free Night will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is open to the public. There will be readings of “Otis“ throughout the night.

 

 

Fun Pasta Fundraising {Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received a box of products to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Let’s face it…there are only so many rolls of wrapping paper a family can use. Both my boys had wrapping paper/magazine/candy fundraisers and, even though they were at different schools, sold pretty much the same thing. I’m happy to be able to share about a fun fundraising alternative that people will actually want to buy because it’s unique!

Fun Pasta Fundraising is a fundraiser where students can sell pasta from a colorful booklet or online and the school keeps 40%-50% of the profits. There are lots of  themed pasta shapes for holidays, special occasions, and even sports teams.

Lunchtime will be fun with animal shaped pasta! Kids can practice their letters while eating ABC pasta. A birthday celebration can be made even more happy with Happy Birthday pasta!

Know any sports fans? Choose from over 50 Collegiate teams! Wouldn’t this be perfect for game day?! I really want to get the OSU pasta. Go Buckeyes!

Winter will be here before we know it and a bowl of hot soup with Snowman Pasta will taste delicious after an afternoon of playing in the snow. There are pastas for every season and holiday. We will be having some spooky soup for lunch on October 31st here at my home with their Halloween pasta.

Pasta soup mixes and noodle nests are also available. Like sweets? You can buy some delicious treats as well! I truly think that everyone will enjoy something from this fundraiser catalog.

You can request more information on hosting a fundraiser here. Want to order pasta? You can do so here.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a box filled with $30 of this fun pasta!

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me which themed pasta is your favorite

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends October 23, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to win.

8 Tips For Teaching Your Child To Read

Teaching your Child to Read

Image courtesy of Rusty & Rosy Reading.

Stand With The Children Of Syria‏ {One Tweet = One Dollar Donated}

As Malala Yousafzai recently said, “We must not forget that 57 million children are out of school. We must speak up for peace and development in Nigeria, Syria and Somalia… let us help them through our voice, action and charity.  Let us help them to read books and go to school.”

2 million people are now displaced refugees of Syria. 1 million of them are children.

These children have lost the home they’ve known, often, their families, and the opportunity to grow and prosper as they struggle to grasp what has just happened to them.

Many organizations in neighboring countries such as UNHCR, UNICEF, Save the Children, the World Food Programme and others are working to provide them with essential shelter, food, and the chance to continue their education.  But the resources needed for this work are severely lacking.

A World At School has developed a plan to provide Education without Borders so that the Syrian refugee children in Lebanon can go to school within a few weeks.  But they need your help to make this a reality.

Here are a few ways you can help do this:

1) Sign the petition we will deliver to world leaders on September 23rd asking them to fund education for Syrian refugees.

2) Tweet for good – every time this tweet is shared, $1 will be donated to humanitarian aid – at no cost to you:

Click to Tweet your support for Syria's child refugees
3) Donate to efforts on the ground to establish schools, provide books, and other humanitarian aid.  Just $34 USD can provide a ‘back to school kit’ so a child can continue their education and $72 can provide food for a family for an entire month.  Check out ways to donate here

If you can’t donate at this time I hope you will still lend your voice to this important cause with a signature and a tweet.

(Content courtesy of A World At School.)

Letter “A” Crafts & Activities

I love alphabet crafts. I’m going to be working through the alphabet and sharing my favorite crafts and activities that I’ve found for each letter. If you have a young one learning their letters this is a fun way for them to learn! Click below to be taken to my letter “A” Pinterest board!

 

 

Send A Child To School For Only A $1 A Day

It’s back to school season and I’ve been busy getting supplies and new clothes, filling out paperwork, and celebrating the first day of school in special ways. Most of the other moms in my area and in my online networks are doing the same thing. Not all families are so lucky.

Did you know that a staggering 130 million children around the world are not in school? 70% are girls. It’s been shown that a girl with just one extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult.

Opportunity International knows that education is a pathway out of poverty and has seen the accelerator effect it has on improving lives and strengthening communities. They have started the Invest in One Child – Back to School Campaign because education is not free in Sub-Saharan Africa. Schools have big costs and the families are forced to cover up to 30% of primary education expenses. Studies have shown that the number one reason that African families do not send their children to school is lack of financial resources. 

Through the Invest in One Child campaign people can help send a child to school for $1 a day. A $240 donation is a representative amount families borrow from Opportunity International to pay for a year of school for one child. As an extra incentive, through the contributions of two generous donors, all donations to Invest in One Child will be matched dollar for dollar up to $35,000. 

Education is a pathway out of poverty and Opportunity International believes in the power of investing in children since they are our future!

(Disclosure: This is not a compensated post. I am a member of the Global Team of 200 which is a highly specialized group of members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good that concentrates on issues involving women and girls, children, world hunger and maternal health.)

My Son’s School Is Going To Break The Law Everyday Unless I Stop Them

Jacob starts Kindergarten tomorrow. Yesterday I stopped by the school because I still didn’t know if my son was in AM or PM Kindergarten even after calling the school last week (they claimed they didn’t know) and emailing the Principal over a week ago (she later claimed my email went to spam). So the secretary looked it up and told me his classroom and teacher and I said, “okay so that’s a Special Education classroom?”. She told me it was not so when I told her my son was supposed to be in a Special Ed class she went in to consult with the Principal.

So the Principal comes out with her and says that that classroom is his homeroom and he also is in the Special Education classroom. I told her he wasn’t supposed to be in anything but a Special Ed contained classroom and she told me that his classroom was “unable to take attendance” (which makes no sense but whatever) so he would arrive at school, go into the General Education classroom (during the most unstructured time of day), stay for a few minutes and then go to his Special Ed classroom.

To some of you, being in a different room for a few minutes may seem like not that big of a deal. I know I would have thought the same years ago but here’s my problem…. My son has difficulty transitioning and difficulty in unstructured environments with little teacher direction. Putting him in a classroom with no teacher directed activity and kids coming in and wandering around is bound to cause issues. This is the worst time of the day he could be put into this classroom. His day would start off on the wrong foot for him because he has to transition off the bus, transition into the chaotic classroom, transition out of that classroom, and transition into his Special Ed classroom which is a lot of transitions in a 5-10 minute period of time for any kid, but especially one who has difficulties transitioning.

Then there is the fact that they are totally ignoring his IEP which is the biggest problem here. I checked it over again (it was written in the Spring) and like I remembered it says he is only supposed to be in the General Ed setting for PE (with an Aide) and Speech (with his therapist). The IEP is a legally binding agreement so what they are telling me they are going to do every single day is against the law. (Which makes me wonder what else they would do during the course of the day that would violate his IEP…)

So at this point I’m frustrated and ready for a fight today. I plan to reach out to the School District but that is not something I should have to do. The school should put my children’s needs first but they don’t. What is sad is that for every parent fighting the schools, I imagine there are so many others that don’t stand up and say anything because they don’t realize the school is trying to pull a fast one on them.

Have you ever had difficulties with your child’s school following the IEP? How did you handle it?

 

Learn, Motivate & Reward With ArtSkills Products From Dollar General

Back in my preschool teaching years I loved shopping for bulletin board items, incentives, stickers, and all the fun goodies I could find for my classroom. Now, as a mom, I get to continue using them with my young children. ArtSkills sent me their whole line of products that they sell in Dollar General and I was impressed with the quality and variety of what they have. Check out all the items below!

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The Little Artist Work Frames will be great for all the pieces of art Lucas creates on a daily basis. I think both my boys will love playing with the “I Spy” Spinner and it’s color coded so they can use it by themselves even though they can’t read. We will use the Incentive Charts with the stickers to reward good behavior, helping out around the house, and sharing. The puzzles and lace & learn cards are small enough to be portable so we will be taking them on vacation with us to keep the children busy in the hotel room.

What is your favorite item above?

(Disclosure: As stated, I received the line of items to review but all thoughts are my own.)

10 Back to School Resolutions for Parents

Each new school year is a chance for children to start fresh and establish new routines. The same is true for parents, who play a huge role in a child’s education. As you send your children back to school this year, consider making a few resolutions of your own to make this a successful academic year. Most importantly, share the list with your child to help set expectations for both of you.

Education expert Renee Thompson, Kiddie Academy, offers the following thought starters for resolutions parents may wish to make, along with the reason why each is important.

Parents’ Back to School Resolutions:

1. I will give you a break after school if you need it before asking you to start homework.

Why: Some children can jump right into homework and others are more focused after having some time to unwind. See what works best for your child.

2. I will stay in touch with your teachers throughout the year.

Why: Communication is the key to early detection of potential problems. If your child is struggling, an open line of communication with the teacher will help in resolving the issue.

3. I will ask for positive feedback from your teachers.

Why: We’re all busy, including teachers, meaning that sometimes parents only hear when there is a problem. That’s not really fair to your kids or to you – if you’re going to endure the bad stuff, you both deserve to hear the good stuff, too.

4. I will offer guidance and assistance, but not a full solution, when you encounter a challenge.

Why: Children need to develop problem-solving skills. If their parents are constantly “fixing” things, the child will never learn to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road.

5. I will enforce a consistent bed time, even if you fight me on it.

Why: Getting a good night’s sleep will allow your child to start the school day refreshed and ready to learn.

6. I will provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast.

Why: Just like sleep, your body and your brain need fuel to function at their highest level.

7. I will stock up on school supplies so you’ll have what you need.

Why: Nobody wants to run out of paper or glue when finishing a project. Stock up in the fall, when prices are low, and keep the supplies in an easy-to-access location. Consider making a Homework Bin – you can find directions here.

8. I will listen to your opinions on Back To School fashion choices, and do my best to accommodate your requests — within reason.

Why: It’s important to show your child that you respect and value their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. You can still have the final say; however, listening is key.

9. I will document your FIRST day of school with a photo every year. I will be discreet and take the photo at home. I will not follow you to school or ride the bus to get candid shots.

Why: One day, your child will want to look back and remember how they looked as they grew up. You can save the memories for them until they’re old enough to appreciate them.

10. I will take a picture of you on your LAST day of school each year.

Why: It’s amazing how much kids grow over the course of a school year. Take a photo and compare it to the first day of school picture. Sharing the photos with your child is the perfect opportunity to review the year’s accomplishments.

 

Dear Social Worker At My Son’s Preschool

Dear Social Worker at my son’s school,

Jacob is my first-born child. I loved and cherished him as a little one in my womb while mourning the loss of his twin. I walked around for months with cankles and spent half my pregnancy with my head in a toilet. I gave birth and attempted breastfeeding. I joined mommy and me groups so I could make friends with other moms and he’d have playmates. I listened to everything I could about how to be a “good mom” and tried to do it all. I read book after book at my child’s request, cleaned up mess after mess, and changed diaper after diaper.

A few years into his young life, after I swallowed my pride, I took him to the Doctor and shared some concerns I had. When my son’s Doctor dismissed me, I pushed because I knew, I knew, something was not right. I had him tested and, with delays found in multiple areas, he was put in Early Intervention. After learning he had some difficulty processing his senses I researched everything I could on Sensory Processing Disorder. I sat through endless hours of therapies to help him catch up to his peers and then he was tested for preschool and he qualified for services in the public school district. Fast forward to the end of his second year of Preschool and today’s IEP meeting where I sat, outnumbered, in a room  listening to how worried the school staff was about my son.

This wasn’t the first meeting that I’ve endured but somehow this seemed to be the most important that I’d ever have since this was the meeting where we’d start discussing placement for Kindergarten. This is a heavy decision for any parent, including myself, because it’s the one that would probably determine the rest of his school career. I knew once he was in a track at school, be it special education or children labeled with “behavior problems” or regular education, he would most likely be in that category for years to come and I’d have to fight to change it if I ever felt like the placement needed to change. I’ve heard horror stories of parents trying to change services or add things in and I knew my journey would be a long one. I wanted to make the right choices now and it was a lot of stress knowing that I was making such a big decision in the coming months.

All the school personnel on Jacob’s team shared about their experiences with Jacob, both what he was doing well and what their concerns were. Then it was your turn. Seeing that a mother was hurting, worried, and anxious it would have been best to assure me that we would figure this out as a team and that, in the end, everything would be okay. Instead you decided to use many of your words to bring me down and attack my child.

You told me how your team couldn’t be expected to change my child’s behavior that he’d spent the past four and a half years learning {assuming, I guess, that I had not spent the past four years trying to raise him correctly}. You told me how the school personnel was ultimately the one who’d decide placement for my child and basically told me that in the end it wasn’t up to me and I could make suggestions but they wouldn’t really make much of a difference. Then, and this really, really hurt, you implied that I would do anything other than what was in my child’s best interest when all I was doing was trying to understand the different options that were available.

What hurt most of all though, and what made me meltdown once I was safely in the hallway away from you, was that you spent the majority of your time criticizing my child. You used the results of a survey his current teacher and his old teacher had taken and pointed out everything that was “wrong” with my son. Not once did you point out one of the great things about him. Not once.

But that’s probably because you don’t know him. You’ve spent, what? 15 minutes with him?

He isn’t perfect by any means and when you brought up attention problems and ADHD I believe you probably aren’t too far off. All those other things you listed? Yep, those are issues I’m aware of and we are working on.

You seemed to have missed a few things though. His smile. His belief in right vs. wrong. His willingness to help. His laugh. His ability to remember the smallest detail. His inquisitive nature. His joy for life. His love for others. His excitement. His concern for friends who aren’t on the bus or at school.

Any of these qualities you could have pointed out among the other things but you didn’t. Instead, you chose to look at a chart full of dots that represented all his “problems” and completely missed the child behind the chart.

I’m begging you, next time you are in an IEP meeting, think about the parent sitting on the other side of the table and at least one positive thing you can say about their child. Of course, to do that you may actually have to get to know the child you are talking about. They are more than just a list of behaviors, dots on a chart or a diagnosis. They are special regardless of what problems brought their parents into that meeting with you.

Signed,

Jacob’s mom

Box Tops for Education® Pantry Stock Up {Giveaway}

Box Tops for Education®, the nation’s largest school fundraising program, announced that it has earned more than half-a-billion dollars for schools across the country since it started in 1996. The General Mills program includes more than 240 participating brands providing needed cash for 90,000 enrolled K-8 schools. At the heart of the program is more than 75,000 volunteer Box Tops for Education coordinators who motivate local school communities to collect the 10-cent coupons which are redeemed for cash schools use for whatever they need most.

To celebrate the milestone, this winter, the program is offering a variety of bonus Box Tops on more than 50 million packages at grocery stores and at btfe.com, allowing shoppers to double their earnings with select products.

School budget cuts have made the program more and more important over the years as it provides unrestricted cash to help schools with their basic operating needs and programs that would not be possible otherwise, such as field trips, textbooks, musical instruments, playground equipment, classroom technology and arts and cultural programming. On average, schools in the U.S. earn around $900 annually through the program, but many schools earn more than $20,000 by clipping Box Tops, participating in bonus programs and shopping 300 online eBoxTops® retailers at the Box Tops Marketplace®.

In celebration of reaching more than $500 million to schools, Box Tops for Education® and its popular brand partners are offering one lucky reader a chance to stock their shelves with some of the most trusted household brands. Filled with delicious and nutritious snacks and meal solutions, home organizing and cleaning products and cost- cutting coupons, the Pantry Stock Up gift pack includes:

  • New Peanut Butter Toast Crunch® cereal
  • Nature Valley® Chewy Trail Mix Dark Chocolate Cherry and Protein Salted Caramel
  • Fiber One® Protein Bars
  •  Progresso® Recipe Starters
  • Food Should Taste Good® Chips
  • Green Giant Fresh® Box Tops for Education pencil pouch
  • Hamburger Helper® Sweet & Sour Chicken and Parmesan Crusted Chicken
  • Betty Crocker® Mac & Cheese and Au Gratin potatoes
  • Kleenex® wallet pack and 184 count box
  • Scott® toilet paper (4 roll) and paper towel roll
  • Avery® dry erase weekly calendar
  • Ziploc® bowls and bags
  • Yoplait® Frozen Yogurt free product coupon

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me why you want to win this Pantry Stock Up giveaway

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

4) Like Box Tops For Education on Facebook

5) Comment on another blog post

 Giveaway ends March 5, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. US residents 18 and older only.

(Disclosure: Information, products and promotional items have been provided by General Mills and Box Tops for Education and its program partners. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

What are you doing? – A Film About Autism {Trailer}

Here is more information on this film from Autism Awareness {Australia}:

“What are you doing?” is a short film, created by Autism Awareness, which aims to teach school aged children about acceptance and understanding of their peers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The film addresses some of the fears children may have about ASD, answers their questions and helps show them how they can be a great friend to a classmate on the autism spectrum. The film includes enlightening interviews with the brothers, sisters, cousins and friends of children on the spectrum. These friends and family members share their thoughts and experiences on what it is like to share their life with someone on the spectrum.

Through beautiful imagery, engaging narrative and quirky animation, the film sends a message that children with autism should be accepted, supported and encouraged by their peers to be a part of their community.

“What are you doing?” will be screened at schools across Australia later this year and we hope, in the future, throughout the world!

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Here’s my question:

How do we get this film shown in schools here in the States?

This is a film that desperately needs to be seen by children in our schools.

Plum District Deal {And A Fundraiser For Chicago Schools}

The busiest people in the community — moms — are often the most plugged-in.  And for them, the Internet is often the best tool to (re)discover what’s in their own backyard.  Plum District was created just for moms.

Plum District connects moms with daily deals and inspirations from businesses in their community, and helps them get the most out of their day—for their families and for themselves.

Plum District deal and giveaway that ends TODAY, Sunday, September 18th:

  • Use the code fall2fab at checkout for an extra 15% off all Plum District Deals!
  • Plum District is also giving away a virtual gift basket of deals to one lucky winner.  (How do you win? Just purchase a deal TODAY and you are eligible! Virtual gift baskets are worth $230. Winner will be notified the following day by email. You are eligible by purchasing any local or national deal.)


EASY FUNDRAISER FOR CHICAGO AND NORTH SHORE SCHOOLS:

About Plum District’s School Fundraisers for Chicago (city only) and North Shore Schools

Plum District offers Chicago and North Shore schools the EASIEST SCHOOL FUNDRAISER EVER!

Every time a parent from your school (or their friends and family) subscribes to Plum District, Plum District will donate $3 to your child’s school.

And the best part – this fundraiser does not require ANY BUYING OR SELLING!

Here’s How It Works…

  1. Fill out this online form for your school.
  2. Plum District Chicago will send the appointed person your school’s unique referral link and an email template to send to parents.
  3. Publicize your school’s unique link to your school families and friends (email newsletter, fliers in the students’ backpacks, etc).
  4. For every parent that signs up as a new subscriber to Plum District using your school’s referral link, your school will receive $3!

Some of the Logistics

  • There is no cap on the number of people that can sign up (and no limit to the amount of money your school can raise).
  • Plum District will send a check to your school within 4 weeks from the fundraiser end date.
  • No buying or selling is required.

School Fundraiser Contests

  • If you fill out the online fundraising form before September 30, your school will be entered into a drawing to win an additional $250.
  • The Chicago school that raises the most money for their school through Plum District’s fundraiser by October 31 will get an additional $300 for their school!

(Disclosure: This is a compensated post and the information is provided by Plum District.)

Online Learning Options For Grades 6-12

I recently had the chance to explore more about online learning at the online school solutions website and also was able to view a demo about Aventa learning.  The curriculum is for teens in grades 6-12.

Here are some of the things I love about this online learning curriculum:

  • Students can begin and complete courses at any time so they can go at their own pace. Some topics and lessons may be easier than others and students can spend more time in areas that they need to.
  • There are discussion forums where students can interact with both teachers and other students.
  • The learning methods vary from hands-on-labs to writing papers to interactive demonstrations online.
  • Students have the option to set up video conferencing with their teachers if they need extra help or have questions.
  • Teachers have access to a white board so they can demonstrate more complex mathematical and science equations to students.
  • Quizzes and exams include a variety of assessment tools.

Before viewing this demo on the learning system I thought that all online learning was like the online courses I took in college where I was given a piece of paper with instructions, a book, and a “study guide” and was expected to use those tools to help me do well in the class. If I had questions about the material I had nobody to go to. If I needed to review something and needed longer than one week for each unit that was just too bad because a week was all I was given. I remember after my first semester of online learning I swore I would never make that mistake again. I think that if my online learning classes had this many options I would have done great in them and may have actually ENJOYED them!

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Here’s a little bit more about why online learning is becoming so popular:

Today’s students, known as the “iGeneration”, are the first to crave and benefit from education “on demand” – or the option to choose where, when and how they want to learn.

To put it in context, the “iGeneration” has never known life without the Internet, being mobile, using avatars, IMing or choosing and watching content whether they are at home, in the car, at a football game or shopping at the mall. To reach them in their high-tech, high-touch world, many parents and educators are looking at how to rewire schools to match how the iGeneration learns.

Taking classes online is one way to give middle and high school students (and their school districts) new options to learn using preferred tools in a familiar environment, and even experience enhanced, one-on-one relationships with educators.  Whether they’re in need of more assistance, looking for wider range of classes or simply prefer to learn in a medium that they have grown up with, online learning can be a great way to fit your child’s needs.

Students are increasingly able to take online classes in partnership with their local school districts.  Schools facing budget cuts and a reduction in teachers are turning to online classes to supplement their curriculum, from offering classes for which they have no teachers, Advanced Placement® classes for students who excel, and credit recovery options for students who struggle.  In fact, today there are 1 million children learning online, either part time, full time or between school terms. Additionally, more than 20 percent of schools and educational institutions around the country offer online classes today, and that number should grow by another 30 percent within a couple of years, according to industry research. (Simba Information).

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(Disclosure: I am really happy that I can share this site with others who are considering online courses but in full disclosure would like to note that I am being compensated for sharing about this website with you. Online learning may or may not be right for your family so please prayerfully consider what is best for your children before choosing any method of learning.)