time to start anew

Every January 1st, many adults make New Years resolutions to begin the year anew. But setting goals is something we can all do. At any age and at any time of year! By helping your child to create an age-appropriate resolution, you will help them learn the importance of reflecting on the past, setting goals, and working towards success (despite the pitfalls) for the future.

Some ideas for resolutions which can include your entire family:

power down: turn off technology more often. Carve out family “sacred time” where technology is not allowed. Spend time being together as a family and reconnect with one another. Whether it’s daily dinner time, weekly game night, an activity in which you and child work together to learn something new, or take the dog for a walk on the beach– this quality time with your family (and not your mobile or tablet) will be invaluable.

say NO to sweets: whether you’re trying to exercise more or eat healthier this new year, your child’s healthy eating habits begin at home. Make sweets a “special time treat” instead of a regular part your day. Substitute a bowl of ice cream for apples or yogurt. Make sweets a weekend-only or “party” food and never make dessert an incentive to clean their plate. Don’t bargain with your child. Set the tone because you’re the boss.

have more fun: sometimes our daily routines are SO stressful that we forget to take time out and enjoy the people we love the most in this world. Make a decision to stop this vicious cycle. Take time to get silly with your child. Have a dance party or pillow fight. Draw together or tell goofy stories at bedtime. Let your children see you smile, laugh, and bring out your own inner child!

If these ideas aren’t quite inspiring you…PBS has some great family-focused ideas for some other family resolutions. Happy 2018!

Angela

costume creativity

With just days before the Halloween festivities commence, many parents are frantically searching for the perfect costume for their child.

In a Fortune.com article, with Harris/CIT data, Americans will spend over $15 billion dollars this holiday while the Christian Science Monitor puts that number at around $7 billion ($350 million of which is spent on pet costumes!). So how can you avoid being part of the buying super-hype?

It’s not that hard!

Look around your house for creative ways to use what you already own. An apron and a wooden spoon can make a chef costume, while a tie and a briefcase create a convincing business man. Spike your child’s hair and raid the toy chest for an instrument to invent a rock ’n roll superstar or wear shorts and a vest with a stuffed animal on your shoulder and be a zoo keeper ! Be creative to avoid overpriced (and generic) store-bought costumes.

For more ideas, here’s a parenting website that has helped me in the past…and present!

This year, my children used their creative thinking skills to make their own costumes (with help from mom, dad, and Bomma!) My son used a cardboard box and turned himself into a working vending machine (with proceeds going to his LaunchX MIT entrepreneurship club) while my daughter went to the 2nd hand shop and turned a €1 sweatshirt and a men’s polo shirt in to the Undertale (role-play video game) character, Chara.

Angela

learning for the future

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With all the professional development I’ve done in the last few years, I feel as if my practice as an educator has focused more on 21st century teaching and learning. But sometimes, after parent conferences, I feel a bit confounded by the ethos of the learning environment our school’s create and the expectations parent’s have for their children’s learning.

Here are some of the things I’ve caught myself saying:

No. I will not teach your 3-year old their ABCs.
No. I will not force your 5-year old to write and rewrite a sentence with proper syntax.
No. I will not jump up and down when your 7-year old knows their multiplication facts to 12.

In 1970, Fortune 500 companies were asked to name the most valued skills in their employees. The top 3 results were:
1. Writing
2. Computation Skills (math)
3. Reading Skills

And if your educational experience was anything like mine, you know that teachers spent a great deal focusing on those specific skills. Read. Write. Memorize. Regurgitate the answers. Repeat.

But today, when Fortune 500 companies were asked again, the top 3 look skills and characteristics of their dream employees are drastically different. Employers look for workers who have skills in:
1. Teamwork
2. Problem solving
3. Interpersonal skills

Enter the inquiry model and a 21st century classroom. In modern-day inquiry-based classrooms, the crux of the program centers around students collaborating together through play, solving problems (both academically and socially), and taking risks in the process of learning.

Here is why inquiry-based learning for an ever-changing world is the way to go.

Traditional vs 21st century

Inspired by Like to Write

So parents… how can you support your child continue their inquiry at home so they can be a 21st century learner ready to be an employee of the future?

Angela

a change is gonna come

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Like the song says, “A Change is Gonna Come.” And though the change that comes may not be as pronounced as the change that inspired Sam Cooke’s 1964… “it’s gonna come, oh yes it will!”

To adults, change can cause a bit of a bump in the road, but it can be it can be weathered rather seamlessly.  To your wee one, it can be a whole new world. Moving houses, a new sibling, new teacher, a parent out of town, moving to a “big kids bed”, family visitors, or getting over a really bad illness can drastically alter your child’s behavior, temper, or cause some anxiety. Change for children at home requires some adjustment time. 

Keep your child’s teacher in the loop if you and your family are going to change your routine at home. Even if Grandma and Grandpa are visiting from out of town or you are caring for a friend’s pet–a really fun and exciting change can wreak havoc in routines and can cause some unease at school. It’s totally normal and something your child’s teacher would appreciate knowing.

Remember that time is a concept your toddler and early elementary child are unlikely to understand fully. Words like, “next week” or “on the weekend” mean very little to a child who lives in the moment. For a little one everything in the future will happen “tomorrow” and everything in the past happened “yesterday.” It is helpful to create a physical reminder of the upcoming changes. In this blog post, one parent has consolidated some great visuals that may help you as you create some tangible reminders to ramp up the excitement for a change in your life.

Angela

use your words!

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This image, mouth of amanda by Bradley Gordon is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from flickr.

Words are important. But as adults, we sometimes assume a child’s needs instead of waiting for them to articulate themselves. It’s faster. It’s easier. And it often alleviates a lot of stress on both of our parts.

For me, I did it all wrong! (…And after last week’s discussion with my pubescent teen, I still haven’t perfected the art.) When my son was a wee one I gave in to his tantrums and screams by learning his language or anticipating his needs instead of challenging him to use words to communicate his desires. In the long run… I didn’t do him (or my family) any favors.

For the Wee Ones:

It’s crucial that we encourage children to use their words rather than grunting, pointing, or resorting to tantrums and outbursts. You can help your young child meet these goals by saying, “I don’t understand you when…”, “Mommy can’t hear you when you yell…” or [when pointing] “Do you want the milk or juice?” to prompt word usage. If tantrums persist, model the words you’d like your child to use. Approximating or attempting to use words is the beginning of communication. As long as you’re not pedantic about your expectations, your child will continue to practice and improve.

For more information read this article from the Hanen Centre for language development.

For the Puberty Stricken:

For our tween and teen children, choices don’t work as well. It can often give kids a way out. The best solution is to first empathize with them, “I know you’re sad about missing the birthday party…” or “I imagine you are hurt when you learned that people gossiped about you…” Empathy often promotes trust which will give your child the confidence to open up and share their real feelings. If not, some open-ended questions may help, “What other ideas do you suggest?” or “What alternatives would you make to your friends?” You an also utilize your own village to help you engage with your child. Having a dear friend or family member to dinner and having them gently probe your tween or teen for information can open up a world of conversation. For some parents, meeting their kids where they are with tech tools is a good solution. Creating a WhatsApp or chat group for the family can maintain open communication without face-to-face communication. Whatever solution works this week might not work the next, but keep at it. Your kid (and you) need it!

For more information on communicating with your teen, here’s a source my husband and I have turned to.

Angela

break it down

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This image by Insights Unspoken is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from Flikr.

As adults we take for granted all the tasks we can do with ease. For you little ones, the simplest task requires a lot of thought, many (in order) steps, and a lot of patience.

Take, for instance, a simple school task like gluing two pieces of paper together. You and I can do it in mere seconds, but a young child can take up to 5 minutes to complete the job because of the sheer number of steps required. Break it down and look at all that you’re asking a child to do:

  1. get the glue stick
  2. take off the top
  3. put the top on the table flat so it doesn’t roll away
    • if it does roll away, you need to find it
  4. twist the bottom of the glue stick to release some of the glue
    • but if you unscrew it too much, you have to twist the other way to put the extra glue away
  5. hold down the paper with one hand
  6. position the glue stick in your hand so it touches the paper flat
  7. roll the glue across your paper
    • don’t push too hard or too light… you have to rub it just right
  8. now you can finally stick something to your paper
  9. tidy up after yourself

 

9 steps! Ridiculous, right? So why do we adults not just take the silly glue out of their hands and do it for them?

By doing menial tasks for our children, we’re telling them they are not big enough, not capable enough, or not good enough to do it themselves. And that’s not the message we’re trying to send.

So here’s today’s teacher pro-tip: slow down and let your child do the job themselves. You will need to show, teach, model, and reteach again and again and again, but once they get it, they’ll feel accomplished. And you will save yourself time as well.

Here are some of the things you can teach (and then expect) your 3-4 year old to do:

  • “make” the bed (not well, but they can pull up the blankets and make it “look” tidy–you can come back later and do it properly)
  • put on their clothes (with some support)
  • brush their teeth
  • go to the toilet (including taking off/on clothes, sitting/standing, flushing, and washing hands)
  • tidy up their toys
  • take their plate to the sink
  • put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  • help set the table

My tweens are able to do all of the above and:

  • do laundry (wash, dry, fold, and put away)
  • make a balanced dinner for the family
  • make a healthy lunch for school
  • write a blog post or vlog to YouTube to teach the world something new
  • take out the trash
  • help take care of a pet
  • babysit a neighbors toddlers

So now the question is, what are you going to task your children with today? Start slowly by introducing one task at a time. If you want to know more about what you can expect your child to do at each developmental stage (from toddler to teenager), read about what the experts say.

You can thank me later.

Angela

 

homework hell

homework

This image by lourdesnique is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay.

You woke up early, made a wholesome breakfast, organized the Pinterest-inspired first day of school photos, and loaded your kids up with their dream back pack, and freshly sharpened pencils. You don’t know how you did it, but you got your crew in the car and to school on time. Once you kiss them all and send them off you realize there was one thing you have forgotten in this otherwise perfect day:

Tonight. Begins. The. Homework. Saga.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

For so many parents, memories about our educational experience include homework: writing or diagraming sentences, math problems, spelling lists, and reading comprehension questions. And even though we despise the practice of having our kids do homework, one of the first things teachers are asked during Back to School Night is, “Can you explain your homework policy?”

Ugh.

Most teachers hate to give homework. Even more teacher hate to receive homework. And many teachers are happy to do away with the practice all together.

So why are our kids still doing homework?

The simplest answer is–many schools maintain a homework policy to keep the parents happy. Despite the deep-hidden angst about homework, some parents push their feelings aside in lieu of homework’s “rewards: naturally setting boundaries, helping students practice learned skills, building study habits, and (let’s be honest… these are our favorite excuses nowadays) homework keeps kids off devices or away from bickering with siblings.

But the truth is our children can still achieve all of those goals without homework. Jessica Smock wrote about the 31 Things Your Kids Should Do Instead of Homework and I think today’s teachers should send that home as a weekly to-do list rather than a spelling list.

Though the homework debate is sure to continue well in to my retirement, I urge you to advocate for your child’s body and mind. Just like this teacher urged, spend your children’s “homework time” doing something more meaningful like: playing outside, cooking together, or learning about something you’re passionate about… their minds, their body, and your sanity will thank me later.

Angela