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Four Academic Lessons to Teach at Home

Learning Is Fun photo Four Academic Lessons to Teach at Home Every parent wants their child to have a successful school year. Here are four lessons we can teach our kids at home, so they are better prepared for the lessons they learn at school. Teach Your Children to be Organized When children feel organized, are confident that they know what to do, and have all their needed materials, their confidence go up, and so does the quality of their work. Prepare a checklist of things your child needs to bring to and from school every day. Put a copy by the door at home and one in his backpack. Check often to see if your child is remembering the items on the list. Create a system with your child for recording their homework assignments. Even young children can use a planner or calendar. Pack backpacks at night. Gym clothes, notes for the teacher, school books, and homework can be packed in the evening, leaving just a lunchbox to be added in the morning. Design a plan for how kids will remember to turn in their completed assignments. Many kids do their homework, but fail to turn it in. A separate "Homework Binder" might help. Teach Your Children to Manage Their Time Wisely Some homework assignments are due in one week, two weeks, or longer. Teach your kids how to complete those assignments without waiting until the last minute. Record all assignments on a calendar by breaking it down into small pieces. For a book report, the steps might be: choose the book, read the book, write the outline, create the cover page, type and print the report, put all the parts together. Add "Work on book report" to the list of nightly assignments. Plan how much time is needed for homework each night. Completing the toughest assignment first might work for some kids, while others will wait until after dinner for a parent to help with that one. Use the "First this, and then that" method. "First you complete your homework and get your backpack ready for tomorrow, and then you can watch TV." Teach Your Children How to Focus While many teens do their homework in a sea of distractions, we need to limit the distractions that our younger kids experience. Give your child a snack when they get home from school. It is hard to focus when hungry. Keep the computer in a public place, and restrict the use of email or games while doing their work. You do not need to keep a constant vigil; you do need to check often. If they do make the choice to break the rule, then they will lose the use of the computer for fun that night. Find a quiet place with few distractions for a homework station. Playful siblings and the TV can be huge distractions, and so the homework station should be fairly quiet. Teach Your Children How to Enjoy School Our children have many years of school ahead of them, and many get burned out at a young age. The goal of school is to learn to love learning, not to get straight A’s. It is our job to promote a healthy, fun, and encouraging attitude towards school. Praise the effort, not the result. Hang some of their work on the fridge, and sometimes hang a paper with mistakes. Ask your child to tell you one thing about school each day; they don’t have to share every detail. Remember that it is your child’s assignment, not yours. Allow your kids to do their own work, supplying help when they ask for it. It’s okay if they make mistakes. Volunteer at the school when possible, go to Back-to-School night, get to know the teachers and students, and support the school’s policies and rules.

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Out With The Old, In With The New

Back to School Summer is almost halfway over, and the kids are getting a little bored (maybe you are too?). So here is a fun activity for this week: Start sorting through all the art work, paperwork, binders, and school supplies that has accumulated over the past school year. You know, the stuff that is sitting on desktops, kitchen counters, and bedroom floors that you have been looking at and not knowing what to do with. Start by sorting all the items into separate piles of books, school supplies, and papers. Put the books your younger children will use later onto one bookshelf. Throw out the nubby pencils with broken erasers, the dried-out markers, and the dull scissors. Put the good supplies in a bag to be sorted and distributed into next year’s supply boxes. And now for the mountain of papers… Find a box or a large envelope and label it with your child’s name, grade, and year. (Trust me, you will have a hard time remembering the year your child was in each grade!) Now, start looking at each piece of paper, and keep your very favorite ones. No, they can’t all be your favorite ones. The printout where your kindergartner circled all the words that start with the letter T? You can let that one go. The paper where your child listed everything they love about their family? Yeah, that’s a keeper. The math sheet where your third grader got every answer right? You can probably let that one go. The spelling test where your child spelled most words incorrectly, but the misspellings are really funny? Another keeper! If you create one box for each child for each grade, including the preschool years, by the time they graduate elementary and middle school you will have…a lot of boxes! And all the boxes will be put into your attic, or your garage, or your closet, where they will stay until you finally notice them again. Like I did last summer, when I moved from my home of 28 years, and where I had stored my children’s school papers for two decades. I happily opened my daughter’s Kindergarten box, sorted through it, and kept a total of 3 papers. I then asked her if she wanted to see the rest. Her response was a hearty laugh. So into the recycle bin it went. Then I opened her box of 7th grade papers, and quickly realized that 7th papers are not nearly as cute as Kindergarten papers. (No offense to any seventh grade parents reading this!) With my daughter’s permission, the entire box went into the bin without a single one being kept. One treasure I found was a thin box with over 2 dozen large drawings made by my children. I had not seen some of them in over 20 years. Pulling out my cell phone, I took a photo of each one. And then yes, into the recycle bin it went. It felt a little funny to do that, but I have now looked at those photos more times than I ever looked at the actual drawings. I realized that, like you, I kept the school work and art projects with the expectation that I would want to see them again, and that my children would want to see them again. The lesson I learned was that while it WAS fun to see some of them again, I had kept way too many and really did not need to see ALL of them again. And I also learned that my adult children had zero interest in seeing them. You and your future adult children may be different, but my advice is that “less is more”.

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Are You Looking for Balance?

scale Look at the scale. See the middle part, the fulcrum? The scale cannot work if the fulcrum is broken. Now recognize that parents are the fulcrum, and that your family will not work, nothing will be balanced, if the parent is not strong and healthy. On airplanes, we are told to put on our oxygen mask first, and then our children's. This is true in our homes too: we need to take care of ourselves first, to make ourselves strong, and then we can have a strong, happy family. Being a parent is very hard work, and can lead to us feeling unsettled and stressed. But that only contributes to our kids feeling the same way, which then increases our stress! Our level of balance we experience changes from day to day, but following some of the tips below can help us to feel more balanced. Have a calmer morning: Follow the same routine every day (when possible!) Before your kids wake up, exercise or shower or have a cup of coffee. Pack your lunches and backpacks, and lay out clothes the night before. Expect your children to do as much as they can to help. Keep breakfast simple, and use the time to talk. Have a more relaxed evening: Give everyone in your family time to relax and unwind. Make easy, fast dinners during the work week. Stick to a consistent schedule of homework, stories, and bedtime. Put the kids to bed early, so you have time alone with your partner. Remember to have fun: Being able to laugh often is a great skill. Be willing to play like a child, and to be silly. Plan "Fun Time" into your family's busy schedule. Your child is this age only once; enjoy it while you can.. Let go of guilt: Recognize that guilt does not accomplish anything. Do things to help you feel good about yourself. Recognize and appreciate that your kids are healthy and happy. Give yourself a pat on the back for all you do.

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Your Favorite Traditions…With Joy

Holiday Newsletter Photo As we head into our final week of holiday preparation, I want you to identify your five most favorite holiday traditions. Opening one present on Christmas Eve? Lighting the candles on Hanukkah? Having a family dinner on Christmas Day? (Going to a movie on Christmas morning with my kids is my favorite tradition.) We all have our favorite things from our childhood that we want to continue with our kids, and some we feel obligated to continue. But now you are the parent and you get to decide what your holiday traditions will be. The truth is that we can't do everything and we can't have everything that we want (or think we want). I see families being stressed and anxious and bothered by the holidays, and unable to fully enjoy this time of year. I would like to see families enjoying the holiday season with anticipation, excitement, and joy; not with dread, exhaustion, and high expectations. Look at the difference between “need to” vs. “want to”. When you hear yourself saying “I need to do mail holiday cards”, stop and ask yourself if you need to or if you want to. If you truly need to, then either do it yourself or get others to help. But if you don’t NEED to, if you really WANT to, then do it with joy. Let’s teach our children that the holidays are a time to be together, to connect, to enjoy each other. If we demonstrate that the holidays are stressful and filled with pressure trying to fit everything in, that is the lesson they will take with them into their adulthood. Let’s teach our kids the true meaning of the holidays: peace and love and fun and excitement. So go ahead and write a letter to Santa, light the candles together, pull a tag from the Giving Tree, or go to a movie. Enjoy your five most favorite traditions. But do them all with joy and love, and let go of the rest. My family joins me in wishing you and yours a memorable (and fun) holiday season and a happy, healthy 2017.

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My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving Photo I love Thanksgiving. I call it the "F" holiday: family, friends, food, fun, football. I love that there are no gifts, only those of being together and connecting. I love fall, another "F". I love the smell of roasting turkey. I love having 3 football games on the same day. As a child, I loved getting together with my extended family and as an adult, I love gathering friends at my home who are missing their families. Come on, it's a great holiday! This year, the upcoming holiday feels a little off. Many of us are still recovering from last week's election. Whether your candidate won or lost, it was a stressful and never-ending campaign season. And it has been a long week filled with disheartening news of attacks, protests, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I have received many calls from many parents wondering how to calm their worried and confused children. As I said in a Facebook post last week, " I hope we can all join together and do what is needed to keep our kids, all our kids, safe and secure, now and in the future." Let's reassure our kids that they are safe, that we are strong, and that we will do whatever is needed to take care of them, to protect them, and to love them. Listen to their concerns, answer their questions, and keep your own political conversations to a minimum while in front of your little kids. You know they are listening to everything you say. Every year I recommend that parents use the Thanksgiving holiday to begin teaching their children about charity, about sharing with those less fortunate, about thinking of others before themselves. So please, especially this year, go grocery shopping with your kids. Let them fill the cart with canned goods and a turkey, and then drive directly to a homeless shelter or food bank. Have your children experience the joy of giving. What a valuable lesson to teach your kids - one that they can carry into adulthood. My family joins me in wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving. As Ellen says, "be kind to each other".

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The Value of Consequences

newsletter201405 I'm driving on the freeway and I see the same rule posted every few feet: 65 MPH. It is posted often so every driver sees and knows the rule. Every driver also understands the consequence for breaking the rule: a speeding ticket complete with loss of time and money. I know that it is my choice to follow the rule or break the rule. If I choose to follow the rule, I do not get a speeding ticket. If I choose to break the rule, I do get a speeding ticket. So while I’ll probably feel angry and disappointed with the ticket, I have only myself to blame. I knew the rule and the consequence, but I made my choice. And hopefully, the next time I drive on the freeway, I will make a better choice. The most valuable life lessons we can teach our children is that everything they do is a choice, and every choice they make has a consequence. I want children to grow up understanding that when they make a bad choice they get a bad consequence, and when they make a good choice then make a good consequence. Despite the fact that the ability to stop, think, and make good choices is not fully developed until about age 25, it is our job as parents to begin teaching this concept to our young children. And I do this through teaching children that their choices have consequences. When our children break a rule or do something that is not ok, and we send them to their room or take away a toy or ground them without letting them know in advance that that might happen, we are not giving them the chance to make the right choice. We are simply punishing them without their understanding of what might occur. My pre-schooler throws his ball in the house. I say “If you throw the ball in the house again, I will take it away until tomorrow.” My child then throws the ball, and so I take it away. He might cry and he might whine and he might complain. But I simply say “I told you what would happen if you threw the ball. You chose to throw the ball, and so you lost it until tomorrow.” My teenager asks, “Can I go to a movie Friday night?” I say “Yes, but you need to be home by 10 o'clock. If you are not home by 10 o'clock, then you will not be able to go out Saturday night.” My daughter then comes home at 10:30, and so I tell her she is grounded for Saturday night. She might yell and she might whine and she might complain. But I simply say, “I told you what would happen if you were late. You chose to come home late, and so I hope next time you make a better choice.” Having the ability to make good choices is what separates successful adults from unsuccessful ones. So let’s all start teaching our kids today, no matter their age, to make the right choice. Remember that people, including children, learn by making mistakes. They learn by making the wrong choice, by facing the negative consequences of their choice, and then having the chance to make a better choice the next time. So set a rule, state the consequence, and follow through. This really does work!

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