Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Kids Summer Reading and Writing Program – Win Cash Prizes! May 29, 2014

Filed under: Fun Family Weekend Ideas,motherhood,school — rjlacko @ 7:30 am

School is almost out for summer holidays, and our kids are looking forward to time away from the classroom. Whether your children will be attending camp, enjoying a family vacation, or jumping through a sprinkler in the yard, every child will benefit from building (and maintaining!) reading and writing skills all summer long.

Wigu Publishing, the people bringing the popular When I Grow Up books to classrooms and libraries across the US is launching a national literacy campaign, offering over $3,000 in cash and prizes to kids willing to read or write just 20 minutes a day this summer.

As parents, we have a special opportunity to make reading and writing fun for our kids! We can make our own commitment to read, or take an interest in the books or kids choose, and discuss the stories and characters with them. Need ideas for daily writing? Brainstorm alternative scenes, create a new ending, or even a new character for a favorite book! These discussions can encourage fun short-story writing sessions, spin-off tales from the child’s imagination, or a venture into playwriting or dreaming of what kind of career our kids might choose to pursue one day.

Summer Superstars: Reading AND Writing Makes Kids Shine.

It’s easy to sign up and get started!

Did you know, due to “summer brain drain,” teachers spend an average of 4-6 weeks every fall re-teaching curriculum from the prior school year?  In an effort to combat this and keep kids moving forward all summer long, Wigu Publishing’s Summer Superstars program has committed over $3,000 in cash prizes to incentivize youngsters this summer.

Each week throughout the summer, young readers and writers will win cash prizes and books from the When I Grow Up I Want To Be… children’s book series.

There’s more: The Grand Prize winner will receive a $1,000 donation to the school or library of the child’s choice, and the winner will receive a $250 Amazon gift card.

“As parents, educators, and business leaders, we felt it was critical to create a campaign which inspires children to not only keep reading, but also to write, all summer long,” explains Wigu Publishing Co-Founder Kim Ressler.

With Wigu’s partners across the United States, including the Youth Learning Center in St. Louis, MO, Summer Superstars will reach into communities nationwide to engage youth in reading and writing activities throughout the summer months.

Need more information? Visit www.WhenIGrowUpBooks.com/SummerSuperstars

Wigu Publishing’s When I Grow Up I Want To Be… book series provides informative and fun titles that help children visualize the abundant range of career opportunities that exist for them to be successful and make a positive difference.

Sign up today and win!

Summer Superstars: Reading AND Writing Makes Kids Shine

 

Wigu Summer Superstars info page 300dpi

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Easy Fundraising for Schools – Deep Discounts on Brand Name Children’s Clothes February 27, 2014

Filed under: school — rjlacko @ 10:27 am
Tags: , , ,

bagThousands of parents across the US are turning kids clothes into cash for their children’s schools.  As schools continue to be hit hard by sharp budget cuts (often eliminating music, art, PE and other programs), parents are taking matters into their own hands with a modern fundraising solution that requires no selling wrapping paper to friends!

Schoola is a national platform that is revolutionizing school fundraising. It sends pre-paid bags to parents so they can donate gently used kids clothing. Schoola then collects, tags, prices and features the clothing online at www.schoolastitch.com, where parents can purchase for great deals (think 90% off retail.) The best part? 40% of every purchase goes right back to the school! No cost, no fuss.

Schoola is the creation of Stacey Boyd—parent, former teacher and school principal. In 1997, she built an inner city charter school from the ground up. A year later it was one of the highest performing middle schools in Boston. Stacey recognized how children who struggled in math could come alive in music class. How art, physical education and foreign language could have a profound effect on students. She also saw how hard it was to get funds to support these programs. And how easy it was for the programs to get cut.

Dedicated to putting paintbrushes, books, baseballs and violins back into the hands of children, Stacey launched Schoola in the 2012/2013 school year. A few innovative schools took the call to run a clothing drive during the last (and busiest) week of school. Parents sent in their gently used children’s clothing, which were then listed on the website at amazing prices. Participating schools received proceeds from every item sold—a win for all.

Today, Schoola is 3,000 schools strong, bringing new paints to art classes, new instruments to the orchestra, new books for the libraries. Quality clothes get a second life. Parents help parents. Schools help schools. Schoola makes all this happen by giving children the tools they need to succeed. Using Schoola is easy:

1. A Clean Closet

Step right over here to have a Schoola Bag sent to you. Fill it with outgrown clothes and drop it in the mail. Schoola covers all postage.

2. Amazing Savings

Find adorable pre-loved clothes from around the country on Schoola’s site at dramatically-discounted prices. Have a look!

3. Your Child Wins

40% of proceeds from each sale are donated to your child’s school, helping to keep and expand important programs for your child.

Interested? Request a bag here and clean out your closets!

 

3 Fresh Approaches to Educating Boys in School December 13, 2013

Filed under: health,school — rjlacko @ 2:59 pm
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Dixon bookBoys have fundamentally different learning patterns, says pioneering expert

The problem of boys in education is not a new one. I printed pages of studies for my sons’ preschool and kindergarten teachers, begging them not to compare my boys’ abilities to sit criss-cross-apple-sauce or write the alphabet as prettily and patiently as their female counterparts.

A recent study from researchers at the University of Georgia, which followed 10,000 students as they moved from kindergarten to eighth grade, indicates that though boys scored well on tests, indicating mastery of material, girls got better grades. Researchers account for higher scores in girls because they comported themselves better than boys while in the classroom.

“Boys and girls have fundamentally different learning needs; girls are better at  sitting still and listening, whereas boys learn better via kinesthetic learning,  which involves more physical activity,” says Edmond J. Dixon, Ph.D., who has more than three decades experience as a teacher and is a parent of boys, and is the author of “Helping Boys Learn: Six Secrets for Your Son’s Success in School,” (HelpingBoysLearn.com). He also has a teacher’s edition titled “Helping Boys Learn: Six Secrets for Teaching Boys in  the Classroom.”

“There are many other studies, however, showing boys underperforming in school; now, it’s a matter of what we’re going to do about  it.”

Dixon, a cognitive-kinesthetics specialist, discusses why his first three “secrets” are so important in helping boys with active minds and bodies.

• Movement matters: The student most likely to disrupts the class because they cannot sit still is a boy. Research reveals that young boys’ brains develop a tremendous amount of neural wiring to facilitate movement and sensitivity for how things “fit” together.
When a boy is a toddler, we would never think that a sedentary child is a good indicator of health, so what makes us think that he should change while in grade school?
TIP: Allow a boy to use his “movement wiring” by allowing him to use his body as he learns to represent the topic.

• Games work: Testosterone makes males naturally competitive. If you want them to become suddenly engaged in something, make a game out of the lesson—it’s just like flipping a  switch on. Just look at sports talk shows with analysis such as “Pardon the   Interruption;” each expert has a clock clicking down to make his point. Little gaming tricks like this works on the male brain.
TIP: Create clear rules to help boys understand victory, and add legitimacy to the lesson. Games also serve as an excellent method for male bonding, too.

• Make them laugh: Observe a group of males; whether young or old, they bust each other’s chops. Not only is it okay, they enjoy it! Everyone has a positive chemical reaction with laughter; boys, however, often use humor as a form of communication, an asset with which most girls do not have a problem. Research has demonstrated that boys’ emotions are processed initially in the more primitive parts of the brain and come more indirectly to the speech centers. That’s why making a crude joke is easier for males to communicate sensitive feelings.
TIP: Before starting homework or an assignment, ask a boy to consider what might be funny, weird or strange about it; his mind will be more focused on the topic afterwards.  

About the author: A pioneer in the field of cognitive-kinesthetics for learning, Edmond J. Dixon, Ph.D., is the founder of the KEEN Differentiated Learning Group, an organization dedicated to helping struggling learners, and the creator of  KEEN 5X, a series of strategies for classroom engagement and learning that have been used with more than 50,000 students and teachers. His previous books, “KEEN For Learning” and “Literacy Through Drama,” have been used by educators to improve classroom learning.

Dr. Edmond J. Dixon’s book Helping Boys Learn: 6 Secrets for Your Son’s Success in School

This easy-to-read book gives parents what they need to help  their songs become successful learners at home, in school, and beyond. Discover how to use these six secrets to help boys:

 Sit still and stay focused
 Avoid distractions and stay on task
 Complete homework without nagging
 Put forth their best effort in schoolwork
 Become passionate, successful learners in school

I’ve had too many encounters with teachers which have ended in heartache for all parties. Most boys want to do well in school, and that means they want to move. When the teacher expects a class to sit still, and perform as well as the top (female) performer, everyone, the teacher included, is left frustrated, and disappointed. What experiences have you had in your son’s classroom?

 

Parents Guide to Helping Kids Study, Get Better Grades September 6, 2012

Filed under: motherhood,school — rjlacko @ 12:24 pm
Tags: , , , ,

After completing a full day at school, commitment to after-school activities and sitting down to dinner, the inevitable must be procured from the backpack… homework.

Can we all agree on a few things here? Homework should not only complement the classroom work, but it should fulfill a specific function, from Day One/Grade One; homework should instill the classroom lessons in the memory of the child, effectively and efficiently as possible.

At home at the kitchen table or established study area, your child has the rare opportunity to review the presented materials using his or her own learning style–auditory, kinesthetic or reverse osmosis, however your unique little person operates. It’s up to us “post-scholars” to give our children something not every classroom has the luxury of providing–lessons on HOW to learn, HOW to study, HOW to get the information of the day to stay between the ears, at least until test time. But how?

Teacher and school administrator Gary Howard has been helping children get better grades for over 35 years.  What he’s proven to parents, students, and teachers, year after year, is that very little improvement is possible unless you can teach the children HOW TO LEARN in the first place.

His new book, Help Your Kids Get Better Grades is designed so that parents can simply, quickly and effectively mentor children and guide them to do the right things at home and at school, so that they learn how to study better, listen and take notes, and take tests with less stress.

“Parents can have a tremendous impact on how a child handles school and test-taking,” he says. “But it is the child who is taking the test.”

Howard’s book identifies what is needed for children to discover and grow the talents they are born with.  Education success however, is in the hands of the student who has to practice by studying.  Howard focuses on how to make studying fun.

Here are just some of Howard’s suggestions on how parents can help children improve their study habits and effectiveness:

Shop and let the student select the perfect pen. The right pen makes all the difference when taking notes or writing long essay answers on an exam.  Parents may be surprised, but printing is easier for many students than writing script cursive.

Schedule Study Time and Stick with It. Set up a weekly schedule for study time with two forty-minute study times each day with a 20 minute break between. Pick the times and stick to the times.

Buy Study Guides for Your Student.  For high school and college, these 5 to $9 guides of key subjects are the easiest and fastest way to get the bottom line necessary building blocks of information on a topic. In no way are they to be considered cheating. They are a wonderful way to get the outline and vital subjects identified.

Encourage Participation in Study Groups.  After school, join a group, discuss ideas, ask each other questions and research the answers together. But focus on work, this is not a social gathering.

Get a Tutor.  In sports you have a coach, at the health club there’s a trainer, so in classes, don’t hesitate, get a tutor.  Use the Internet and search. It’s not as expensive as you may imagine. The help over the tough spots can be invaluable – the difference between getting it, and losing it. (Note from Rebecca: I’ve had several parents tell me how hiring a tutor for a semester to help with a difficult subject significantly improved the student’s abilities and attitude for the remainder of high school. Awesome investment? I think so!)

Get a Good Backpack. The essential items include: notebooks, two favorite pens, two pencils, text books (for the day only), Kleenex, energy bars, medications, two dollars in change, and clothes for the weather. Parents – inspect weekly or anytime.  Write your name address and phone number in indelible ink on the pack in case it gets lost.

Have Reading Skills Tested. Make sure your child is at the appropriate level for his or her age and does not have eye problems.  See an eye doctor if you have any doubts or concerns.

Home Study Location, Chair and Lighting.  Sufficient lighting, comfortable desk and chair, with little or no distractions!  No TV, radio, music, or games during study time.

Getting Proper Note-Taking Down. Taking good notes is a learned skill. Use clean paper and favorite pens, three-ring binder with paper and separators, outline with notes and major points.  Re-reading good notes is where learning really takes place.  (Note from R: I wrote down everything my teachers said in college. Really! I would simply read my (albeit) cryptic shorthand every evening to solidify my memory of the lecture, then again at test time. Straight A’s, anyone? Yes, please!)

Develop Your Memory with Mnemonics. Using rhymes, telling stories or jokes, and memorizing four to five letter acronyms is a great way to remember lists of details or essential rules.  Writing these 20 times engraves them on your brain.

What are your tips for helping children to learn better study skills?

 

WIN a free Rock ‘N Learn Phonics DVD set! October 4, 2010

Attention moms and dads (and TEACHERS!) of children aged 6 and older! I’m giving away a FREE set of Rock ‘N Learn Phonics DVDs, volumes One and Two.

Rock ‘N Learn, Inc. began as an idea that would help children learn by putting educational material to music with a current sound-the kind of music that kids enjoy and find motivating.

Busy parents and teachers love the way Rock ‘N Learn Phonics captures kids’ attention. Cool songs and humorous characters take the struggle out of learning to read. Students control the pace, advancing as they master each new skill, so they can practice on their own and feel proud of their accomplishments; it’s fun with this highly-entertaining phonics DVD.

Children learn phonics rules through fun songs and word families. Next, they practice their skills by reading simple phrases using words that rhyme. When ready, they apply the skills they have learned to read complete sentences and stories. The read-along stories on this DVD are presented at a slow pace for beginning readers. As children practice, they also work on fluency by singing along with songs about the stories. A bonus section presents the stories at a normal pace to help kids learn to read fluently.

Rock ‘N Learn Phonics Volume 2 DVD is a perfect follow-up once  they’ve mastered the material on Volume 1. With Phonics Volume 2, young children discover other ways besides “silent e” to make long vowels, such as: ai, ay, ee, and ie. They practice long vowel patterns and apply phonics rules by reading sentences with words that feature long vowel sounds.

Viewers also practice reading words and sentences with r-controlled vowels, diphthongs, the schwa sound, syllables, ending sounds, and more. Eventually, students read stories that proceed from simple to complex. By also singing along with songs about the stories, children build reading fluency and have lots of fun.

Rock ‘N Learn Phonics is perfect for learning at home, regular education, special education, remedial classes, ESL, and even adult basic education. By covering a variety of skills at different levels, these phonics DVDs provide an effective tool for differentiated instruction in the classroom and at home. 

Rock ‘N Learn DVDs work great with any DVD player, computers with DVD players, projection screens, and interactive white boards.

Rock ‘N Learn has won numerous prestigious awards including such as Dr. Toy, Parents’ Choice, iParenting, National Parenting Publications, Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice, Early Childhood News, National Parenting Center, and Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media.

Win this free set!

Simply tell us about you in the comment box! Are you a parent? A caregiver?A teacher? Are you hoping to help your little one get a headstart on reading, or do your children  or students have special needs or need help with speaking and reading English? I’d love to learn more about you! One random winner will be selected on Monday, November 1, 2010. (approx. value $39.99)

Learn more about Rock ‘N Learn here.

 

Toy Story 3, the end of preschool and holding on and letting go June 24, 2010

Laden with teachers’ gifts and a sense of anticipation for what the summer might offer, my little boys joyfully ran to their preschool classrooms for their final day before summer break.

Much like the first day I left them at preschool, I cried the whole drive home. I’ve planned a rather complex web of summer activities for us, so they have much to look forward to. My sadness comes from how quickly it is all passing by.

In September, my oldest will enter kindergarten. I can’t help but recall the countless hours I spent researching and visiting preschools, understanding what a significant impact his first five years will have on the rest of his life, his approach to education, his ability to socialize, his future success…

I know it seems cliche, but it really does seem like such a short time ago that I gave birth to my oldest son Joseph, and now his younger brother is three and leaving little bits of his baby life behind him every day as he leaps toward little boyhood. In fact, I’m beginning to cry again as I write this. My babies are growing up!

Last night, we went to see Toy Story 3, and if you are going through anything similar with your children, it might be tough to watch. I remember the first time I saw the original Toy Story movie. It was 1995, and I was 24 years old. I was babysitting the niece and nephew of my boyfriend at the time, and we watched it on VHS. I sat there for the length of show with my jaw hanging. I couldn’t believe how much children’s movies had changed since I was a kid! I loved it.

At the beginning of my career, I was old enough (more or less) to be Andy’s mother, but at the same time, I could perceive the story with warm memories of being a child. Seeing Andy last night as a 17-year-old boy preparing to leave for college was an emotional blow I had not in any way expected. Enough time had elapsed for that character to grow up, and I had gotten older along with him. Yes, I’m aware it’s just a movie with a fictional character, thank you.

However, with my youngest perched in my lap, and my oldest at my side I was suddenly aware that my first experience of Toy Story hadn’t seemed so far in the distance, yet when the exact amount of time elapses again, my children will be 17 and 20 years old!

TS3 is about change: the agony of watching the toys long for the carefree joy of children’s imaginative play (with the understanding that their playmate would and should continue to his next milestone) and the support of Andy’s mother who is proud of her son’s succession toward college, while also wishing she “could be with him all the time.”

Don’t we all want that? To hold our children in our arms forever, while at the same time teaching them independence, encouraging them to make  and achieve personal goals, to be courageous, forgiving, and to grow in maturity?

As the poet Kahlil Gibran said about raising children, “For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

With the summer ahead, I intend to savor each precious day. Before long I’ll be helping them pack for college.

On a side note, I do agree with Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald; this movie was more for adults than children. My husband and I were in disbelief about how it could ever have received a G rating. There is a prolonged near-death scene with the threat of violent, hopeless demise, the toys are imprisoned and in some cases tortured. Yes, I remember Sid Philips tortured and imprisoned toys in TS2, but among the toys themselves (who have always been peers) there was a cruelty and meanness we haven’t seen before in the TS trilogy. Lotso’s turn toward the dark side as a result of a singular incident was so complete and utterly terrifying when you consider that he is a child’s plaything. In the other movies, tough times happened and the toys always found a way to learn from it and grow from the experience.  From our perspective, Toys Story 3 should be rated PG.

 

Katie Couric talks about the best way to praise kids April 28, 2010

“You’re so smart!” I tell my boys when they solve a problem or resolve frustration. But am I encouraging them with those words, or merely labeling a successful action? The right words can motivate your child to try harder, to work through a complicated problem, and in doing so, build confidence and self esteem.

This week, Katie Couric interviewed Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families in Work Institute and author of “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.”  During the interview they discussed the right way to encourage children especially in dealing with education, and the problems in over-praising kids to build self-esteem without demanding accomplishments.

Click here to see the interview with Katie and Ellen.

Want more easy and inspirational life skills ideas? See my post 10 Loving tips for real TLC – Do these now, and be happy.