Ways to start teaching kids about managing finances

Doing chores to earn an allowance, babysitting, or getting a part-time job are all ways to help children appreciate working hard to earn their own money.  However, this may not teach them how to manage the money that they earn. Teaching children how to manage their finances is one of the most important and practical ways parents can help prepare their children for the future. The following are just a few ways parents can help their children learn about how to manage their own finances. 1.    Start early Children as young as five can begin learning how to effectively manage their money. Once they are ready to start earning an allowance, give them the freedom to spend it how they choose; while kids will often spend it all at once at first, this opens the opportunity to begin discussions on short-term and long-term savings. Opening a savings account at a local bank or credit union is another way to incentivize savings.  “There are many things at actually quite a young age that children will understand,” said Ted Beck, the president of the National Endowment for Financial Education. 2.    Encourage smart credit card spending  Signing up for a credit card can be tempting for many teens; unfortunately, this can lead many into debt in just a few short months. Instead of starting with a credit or debit card, give teens a prepaid gift card that can be reloaded each month. This teaches them how to manage and monitor their spending each month in a low-stakes environment. 3.    Discuss your own financial mistakes  Don’t be afraid to share your own financial mistakes with your kids. Whether it was taking out too many student loans, signing up for a high interest credit card, or getting underwater on a mortgage or car loan, talking to your children about your own financial mistakes can help prevent them from repeating them. 4.    Teach them budgeting basics Whether it’s saving their allowance for several weeks to buy a new toy, or creating a spreadsheet to track how they spend their paychecks, kids of all ages can learn how to budget. For young children, a visual reminder such as multiple piggy banks or jars can help divide their money into different “accounts”; jars for money they can spend now, save for later, and donate to charity are the beginnings of budgeting. Older children and teens can benefit from creating a paper budget including expenses such as car payments or insurance, savings for college, and more.    

Doing chores to earn an allowance, babysitting, or getting a part-time job are all ways to help children appreciate working hard to earn their own money.  However, this may not teach them how to manage the money that they earn.

Teaching children how to manage their finances is one of the most important and practical ways parents can help prepare their children for the future. The following are just a few ways parents can help their children learn about how to manage their own finances.

1.    Start early

Children as young as five can begin learning how to effectively manage their money. Once they are ready to start earning an allowance, give them the freedom to spend it how they choose; while kids will often spend it all at once at first, this opens the opportunity to begin discussions on short-term and long-term savings. Opening a savings account at a local bank or credit union is another way to incentivize savings.

 “There are many things at actually quite a young age that children will understand,” said Ted Beck, the president of the National Endowment for Financial Education.

2.    Encourage smart credit card spending

 Signing up for a credit card can be tempting for many teens; unfortunately, this can lead many into debt in just a few short months. Instead of starting with a credit or debit card, give teens a prepaid gift card that can be reloaded each month. This teaches them how to manage and monitor their spending each month in a low-stakes environment.

3.    Discuss your own financial mistakes

 Don’t be afraid to share your own financial mistakes with your kids. Whether it was taking out too many student loans, signing up for a high interest credit card, or getting underwater on a mortgage or car loan, talking to your children about your own financial mistakes can help prevent them from repeating them.

4.    Teach them budgeting basics

Whether it’s saving their allowance for several weeks to buy a new toy, or creating a spreadsheet to track how they spend their paychecks, kids of all ages can learn how to budget. For young children, a visual reminder such as multiple piggy banks or jars can help divide their money into different “accounts”; jars for money they can spend now, save for later, and donate to charity are the beginnings of budgeting. Older children and teens can benefit from creating a paper budget including expenses such as car payments or insurance, savings for college, and more.
 

 

Ways to start prepping for college in high school

No matter what year in school your student is in, there are a number of ways high school students can begin preparing for college. The following guide can help parents and students starting prepping for college all four years of high school. Freshman Year Meet with a college counselor. Meeting with a college counselor can help them map out a course schedule for the next four years that will leave them prepared to go to college after graduation. Focus on completing general education requirements rather than classes for a specific career; this gives teens flexibility in exploring their areas of interest for different majors or careers during high school. Get involved. Encourage teens to try out different clubs, volunteer opportunities, or sports teams. Even if they have a wide range of interests, try to narrow down their involvement to a few favorite activities; this keeps teens from being over-stressed and over-scheduled, as well as lets them get more deeply involved in their chosen groups. Write it down. Make sure to write down activities, awards, and accomplishments for their future resumes! Sophomore Year Begin attending college events. While graduation is still three years away, now is a good time to begin investigating different colleges and universities. Would your teen prefer a large or small school? In state or out of state? Starting now can help students avoid feeling overwhelmed by hundreds of choices during the actual application process. Take practice tests. Sign up for practice PSAT, ACT, or SAT exams if possible. Taking the test now can help demystify the testing process and help them feel more comfortable with what to expect when they take these extremely structured exams. Junior Year Seek out jobs and internships. Encourage your teen’s burgeoning independence by helping them find a part-time job, internship, or job shadowing experience. In addition to being great resume builders, these opportunities can also help students explore potential career fields. Explore scholarship opportunities. Begin researching local and national scholarship opportunities; some scholarships allow juniors to apply or have deadlines for summer and early fall for seniors. Creating a master calendar or spreadsheet noting application deadlines and requirements is a great way to help teens stay organized without micromanaging them. Senior Year Take standardized tests for the final time. If you aren’t happy with your scores, there is still time to take the ACT or SAT one last time. Make sure to register for an early Fall testing date so scores are ready in time for application deadlines. Narrow down your college list. In general, students should apply to 6-8 schools: 2 safety schools, 2-3 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools. If your child has their heart set on one specific college, encourage them to apply for early admission. Enjoy the last few months of high school. Senior year is equal parts stressful and nostalgic. Make sure to take time to enjoy the last few months together as a family before your child goes off to college!

No matter what year in school your student is in, there are a number of ways high school students can begin preparing for college. The following guide can help parents and students starting prepping for college all four years of high school.

Freshman Year

Meet with a college counselor. Meeting with a college counselor can help them map out a course schedule for the next four years that will leave them prepared to go to college after graduation. Focus on completing general education requirements rather than classes for a specific career; this gives teens flexibility in exploring their areas of interest for different majors or careers during high school.


Get involved. Encourage teens to try out different clubs, volunteer opportunities, or sports teams. Even if they have a wide range of interests, try to narrow down their involvement to a few favorite activities; this keeps teens from being over-stressed and over-scheduled, as well as lets them get more deeply involved in their chosen groups.
Write it down. Make sure to write down activities, awards, and accomplishments for their future resumes!

Sophomore Year

Begin attending college events. While graduation is still three years away, now is a good time to begin investigating different colleges and universities. Would your teen prefer a large or small school? In state or out of state? Starting now can help students avoid feeling overwhelmed by hundreds of choices during the actual application process.


Take practice tests. Sign up for practice PSAT, ACT, or SAT exams if possible. Taking the test now can help demystify the testing process and help them feel more comfortable with what to expect when they take these extremely structured exams.

Junior Year

Seek out jobs and internships. Encourage your teen’s burgeoning independence by helping them find a part-time job, internship, or job shadowing experience. In addition to being great resume builders, these opportunities can also help students explore potential career fields.


Explore scholarship opportunities. Begin researching local and national scholarship opportunities; some scholarships allow juniors to apply or have deadlines for summer and early fall for seniors. Creating a master calendar or spreadsheet noting application deadlines and requirements is a great way to help teens stay organized without micromanaging them.

Senior Year

Take standardized tests for the final time. If you aren’t happy with your scores, there is still time to take the ACT or SAT one last time. Make sure to register for an early Fall testing date so scores are ready in time for application deadlines.


Narrow down your college list. In general, students should apply to 6-8 schools: 2 safety schools, 2-3 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools. If your child has their heart set on one specific college, encourage them to apply for early admission.


Enjoy the last few months of high school. Senior year is equal parts stressful and nostalgic. Make sure to take time to enjoy the last few months together as a family before your child goes off to college!

Tips to improve your child's critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills are one of the most important traits parents and teachers can help children develop for the future. The ability to compare, contrast, analyze, and make inferences will help children learn and develop more in the long run than simply being able to recite a list of facts from memory. Developing critical thinking skills can begin with preschool aged children and continue through high school. The following tips can help you improve your child’s critical thinking skills. Provide opportunities for play. While play is often emphasized in early childhood education, play sometimes falls by the wayside after children enter school. Provide ample opportunities for play; play allows children to try something, see the reaction, and then try again. Even young babies are beginning to develop critical thinking skills when they drop a spoon over the side of their high chair over and over! Develop hypothesis. A simple “What do you think will happen next?” can help children pause and reflect on the information they already have and use this to predict what will happen next. An especially important skill in reading comprehension, making a hypothesis can be used in everyday life when cooking, playing a game, or even when watching a television show or movie. Avoid immediately intervening. When our children are in trouble, our first instinct as parents is often to step in and fix things for them. However, it is important to give our children the opportunity to attempt to solve the problems on their own. For younger children, patience is key; for older children, provide enough guidance or information for them to avoid frustration without directly solving the problem for them. Create and solve riddles. Riddles may seem like play, but they are actually a fun way to practice critical thinking skills. By analyzing the information, children learn to look deeper into what is written and think about what they have read. Writing their own riddles can be a fun and silly way to further practice these skills. Ask open-ended questions. Instead of directly answering a question, help develop critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions in return. “What do you think is happening?” or “What ideas do you have?” can open a discussion and help your child express their own ideas. Likewise, instead of immediately telling them they are right or wrong, encourage them to explain their own thinking by asking questions such as “Why do you think that?”

Critical thinking skills are one of the most important traits parents and teachers can help children develop for the future. The ability to compare, contrast, analyze, and make inferences will help children learn and develop more in the long run than simply being able to recite a list of facts from memory.


Developing critical thinking skills can begin with preschool aged children and continue through high school. The following tips can help you improve your child’s critical thinking skills.

Provide opportunities for play. While play is often emphasized in early childhood education, play sometimes falls by the wayside after children enter school. Provide ample opportunities for play; play allows children to try something, see the reaction, and then try again. Even young babies are beginning to develop critical thinking skills when they drop a spoon over the side of their high chair over and over!


Develop hypothesis. A simple “What do you think will happen next?” can help children pause and reflect on the information they already have and use this to predict what will happen next. An especially important skill in reading comprehension, making a hypothesis can be used in everyday life when cooking, playing a game, or even when watching a television show or movie.


Avoid immediately intervening. When our children are in trouble, our first instinct as parents is often to step in and fix things for them. However, it is important to give our children the opportunity to attempt to solve the problems on their own. For younger children, patience is key; for older children, provide enough guidance or information for them to avoid frustration without directly solving the problem for them.


Create and solve riddles. Riddles may seem like play, but they are actually a fun way to practice critical thinking skills. By analyzing the information, children learn to look deeper into what is written and think about what they have read. Writing their own riddles can be a fun and silly way to further practice these skills.


Ask open-ended questions. Instead of directly answering a question, help develop critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions in return. “What do you think is happening?” or “What ideas do you have?” can open a discussion and help your child express their own ideas. Likewise, instead of immediately telling them they are right or wrong, encourage them to explain their own thinking by asking questions such as “Why do you think that?”

Educational podcasts to help your student keep learning (For high schoolers)

Few high schoolers are interested in continuing to learn when the school day ends. However, podcasts can be a great way to both entertain and inform; if they find the subject interesting, students will be too busy enjoying themselves to realize they are learning. The following are just a few of the many educational podcasts to keep your high schooler learning outside of the classroom! Revisionist History Revisionist History, a podcast by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, examines and reinterprets past events, people, ideas, and even songs. In addition to helping them learn more about history, this podcast encourage students to think critically about what they hear or read. High schoolers will particularly enjoy the three-part series on college in season 1. Math Mutation This podcast is short, easy to listen to, and fun, making it a great fit for math lovers and those who struggle with the subject alike. Covering topics in mathematics that are rarely covered in school textbooks, Math Mutation can help expand the minds of teens beyond what is taught in their math classes at school. Killer Innovations Based on the blog by author Phil McKinney, Killer Innovations focuses on creative thinking, innovation, and leadership. McKinney also regularly interviews leading innovators about their own personal paths to success. With more than 12 seasons, this podcast can help encourage students to follow their dreams and bring their ideas to fruition. How Stuff Works Whether your high schooler is a true techie or naturally curious, How Stuff Works helps answer questions about how some of most commonly used items run. Rather than just offering rote, scientific explanations, co-host Charles Bryant keeps things lively, entertaining, and interesting. Good Job, Brain! What started as a simple Kickstarter campaign in 2011 has morphed into a worldwide phenomenon. Good Job, Brain! has nearly 200 episodes that are part quiz show and part offbeat news broadcast. This podcast shows there is plenty to learn outside of the classroom, and parents will appreciate that it is free from explicit language. Stuff You Missed In History Class Created by the staff of How Stuff Works, Stuff You Missed In History Class covers people and events that rarely make it into history textbooks. From Hawaii’s pineapple industry to the history of veterinary medicine, Stuffed You Missed In History Class has a wide range of topics that will keep even reluctant listeners tuning in weekly.

Few high schoolers are interested in continuing to learn when the school day ends. However, podcasts can be a great way to both entertain and inform; if they find the subject interesting, students will be too busy enjoying themselves to realize they are learning. The following are just a few of the many educational podcasts to keep your high schooler learning outside of the classroom!

Revisionist History

Revisionist History, a podcast by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, examines and reinterprets past events, people, ideas, and even songs. In addition to helping them learn more about history, this podcast encourage students to think critically about what they hear or read. High schoolers will particularly enjoy the three-part series on college in season 1.

Math Mutation

This podcast is short, easy to listen to, and fun, making it a great fit for math lovers and those who struggle with the subject alike. Covering topics in mathematics that are rarely covered in school textbooks, Math Mutation can help expand the minds of teens beyond what is taught in their math classes at school.

Killer Innovations

Based on the blog by author Phil McKinney, Killer Innovations focuses on creative thinking, innovation, and leadership. McKinney also regularly interviews leading innovators about their own personal paths to success. With more than 12 seasons, this podcast can help encourage students to follow their dreams and bring their ideas to fruition.

How Stuff Works

Whether your high schooler is a true techie or naturally curious, How Stuff Works helps answer questions about how some of most commonly used items run. Rather than just offering rote, scientific explanations, co-host Charles Bryant keeps things lively, entertaining, and interesting.

Good Job, Brain!

What started as a simple Kickstarter campaign in 2011 has morphed into a worldwide phenomenon. Good Job, Brain! has nearly 200 episodes that are part quiz show and part offbeat news broadcast. This podcast shows there is plenty to learn outside of the classroom, and parents will appreciate that it is free from explicit language.

Stuff You Missed In History Class

Created by the staff of How Stuff Works, Stuff You Missed In History Class covers people and events that rarely make it into history textbooks. From Hawaii’s pineapple industry to the history of veterinary medicine, Stuffed You Missed In History Class has a wide range of topics that will keep even reluctant listeners tuning in weekly.

Tips to help your children retain what they read

TIpsToHelpYourChildrenRetainWhatTheyRead-2.jpg

For many children, remembering what they read even just from a few minutes before can be difficult. Both struggling readers and those who read at or above grade level can struggle with reading comprehension, or the ability to recall what they had been reading before.

While many reading comprehension strategies focus on answering questions about short, nonfiction passages in workbooks, the best way to promote better reading retention is through regular books and materials. Whether it is a comic book, an article for a school assignment, or a piece from a magazine, the following strategies can help children better retain what they read.

1.    Read, cover, remember, and retell. After reading a paragraph, have children cover the passage with their hand. Then, encourage them to remember what they read and retell it in their own words. Doing this helps them process what they read, as well as gives the opportunity to immediately go back and reread if necessary.

2.    Use sticky notes to mark the text. While writing in school or library books should be discouraged, sticky notes are a way to interact with the text without damaging it. After every page or two, have children “check in” with the text by marking the page with a sticky note. For example, green sticky notes can represent “I understand everything I just read,” and pink sticky notes could represent “I have a question about what I just read.” These visual cues can make it easier for children and parents to understand the reading comprehension process.

3.    Reflect and predict. When reading a book in more than one sitting, start by discussing what happened previously in the book before reading anything new. Likewise, after finishing a chapter or passage ask, “What do you think will happen next?” Using the information in the story to make reasonable predictions can help them apply what they have read.

4.    Relate to the story. Children relate better to information that feels relevant to their own lives. When reading, stop and discuss what parts of the text relate to their own lives or other things they have read.

5.    “Do I understand?” The most important tool parents and teachers can give children is the ability to recognize when they do and do not understand what they’ve read. If a child is having trouble recalling what they read even after using these strategies, try choosing reading materials at an easier level – or even seeking help from an educator or other professional.

 

Tips on raising an independent learner

Parents and teachers want to help children develop a lifelong love of learning. However, over-involvement can have an opposite effect; a recent large-scale study has found that after middle school, parent involvement such as excessive homework help, meetings with teachers, or negative consequences for poor performance can do more harm than good. It could bring down test scores and increase anxiety in the student about school. To help your child be successful without being overly involved, it’s important to encourage them to be an independent learner. Independent learners are children that can take initiative in their own learning. The following strategies can help parents encourage their children to be independent learners without going about it the wrong way! 1.    Believe in your child 2.    Children want to know that their parents have faith in their skills and abilities; this helps increase their confidence and gives them the strength and perseverance to work through their own challenges. Instead of leading your child through their academics, act like a cheerleader on the sidelines. This level of involvement helps your child know you are interested and encouraging – without leaving them feeling dependent on your assistance. 3.    Ask how you can help 4.    Involve your child in conversations about their education! Instead of creating a study plan for them, ask how you can help them prepare for an upcoming test. Doing this allows parents to act as sounding board rather than as another teacher. 6.    Encourage effort 7.    Many parents are guilty of praising their children’s results, such as offering cash for straight A’s. However, it’s important to also praise effort, progress, and improvement. This is especially important for children struggling academically; encouraging the action they take towards success rather than the result itself increases the likelihood of the action being repeated. 8.    Give kids opportunities for independence 9.    Even small children can be given opportunities to take initiative and be independent. Picking out their own clothes, watering household plants, setting the table, or feeding a pet are all activities that young children can learn to do on their own. As they grow, give children more responsibilities around the house; these low-stakes tasks help build confidence and foster a sense of independence and self-reliance that may extend until adulthood.  

Parents and teachers want to help children develop a lifelong love of learning. However, over-involvement can have an opposite effect; a recent large-scale study has found that after middle school, parent involvement such as excessive homework help, meetings with teachers, or negative consequences for poor performance can do more harm than good. It could bring down test scores and increase anxiety in the student about school.

To help your child be successful without being overly involved, it’s important to encourage them to be an independent learner. Independent learners are children that can take initiative in their own learning. The following strategies can help parents encourage their children to be independent learners without going about it the wrong way!

1.    Believe in your child

2.    Children want to know that their parents have faith in their skills and abilities; this helps increase their confidence and gives them the strength and perseverance to work through their own challenges. Instead of leading your child through their academics, act like a cheerleader on the sidelines. This level of involvement helps your child know you are interested and encouraging – without leaving them feeling dependent on your assistance.

3.    Ask how you can help

4.    Involve your child in conversations about their education! Instead of creating a study plan for them, ask how you can help them prepare for an upcoming test. Doing this allows parents to act as sounding board rather than as another teacher.

6.    Encourage effort

7.    Many parents are guilty of praising their children’s results, such as offering cash for straight A’s. However, it’s important to also praise effort, progress, and improvement. This is especially important for children struggling academically; encouraging the action they take towards success rather than the result itself increases the likelihood of the action being repeated.

8.    Give kids opportunities for independence

9.    Even small children can be given opportunities to take initiative and be independent. Picking out their own clothes, watering household plants, setting the table, or feeding a pet are all activities that young children can learn to do on their own. As they grow, give children more responsibilities around the house; these low-stakes tasks help build confidence and foster a sense of independence and self-reliance that may extend until adulthood.

 

How to help your high school student create a career road map

High school can be filled with seemingly endless opportunities for teenagers. However, the choices they make during these important four years can have a major impact on their future paths and careers. Career exploration can help teens find a future career that matches their skills, interests, and personality. The following tips can help parents and students work together to create a career road map to guide them through high school, college, and beyond! 1.    Use dreams as a starting point. The age-old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” might seem innocuous, but it can be overwhelming to some teens. Instead, start a career discussion by using their dreams as a starting point. 2.    Ask guiding questions. Help facilitate a discussion about career choices by asking guiding questions. “Do you want to work for yourself or for a company?” or “How much money do you see yourself making?” or “Would you rather work at a desk, with people, or outside?” are all questions that can spark ideas for potential careers. 3.    Identify strengths and interests. Your teen’s strengths, such as the classes, sports, or hobbies they enjoy, can help guide their career choices. By finding a career field that aligns with their strengths and interests, your teen is more likely to find it satisfying and rewarding. 4.    Shadow professionals. Once your high school students have narrowed down their potential career choices, help them find opportunities to shadow professionals working in that field. Doing this can help them understand the day-to-day reality of a job with first hand experience. 5.    Connect education and careers. High school students don’t need to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. However, having an idea of their general career path can help them make choices when it comes to future education. Help teens choose classes that will set them up for future success, as well as look at colleges that have degrees related to their desired career.  

High school can be filled with seemingly endless opportunities for teenagers. However, the choices they make during these important four years can have a major impact on their future paths and careers.

Career exploration can help teens find a future career that matches their skills, interests, and personality. The following tips can help parents and students work together to create a career road map to guide them through high school, college, and beyond!

1.    Use dreams as a starting point. The age-old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” might seem innocuous, but it can be overwhelming to some teens. Instead, start a career discussion by using their dreams as a starting point.


2.    Ask guiding questions. Help facilitate a discussion about career choices by asking guiding questions. “Do you want to work for yourself or for a company?” or “How much money do you see yourself making?” or “Would you rather work at a desk, with people, or outside?” are all questions that can spark ideas for potential careers.


3.    Identify strengths and interests. Your teen’s strengths, such as the classes, sports, or hobbies they enjoy, can help guide their career choices. By finding a career field that aligns with their strengths and interests, your teen is more likely to find it satisfying and rewarding.


4.    Shadow professionals. Once your high school students have narrowed down their potential career choices, help them find opportunities to shadow professionals working in that field. Doing this can help them understand the day-to-day reality of a job with first hand experience.


5.    Connect education and careers. High school students don’t need to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. However, having an idea of their general career path can help them make choices when it comes to future education. Help teens choose classes that will set them up for future success, as well as look at colleges that have degrees related to their desired career.

 

Books on the spirit of giving

The holiday season is an exciting time for children – and adults! – of all ages. However, this time of year can also be used as a time to encourage sharing and generosity. The following books can help families learn about and discuss the spirit of giving. The Mine-O-Saur – Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen A group of dinosaur friends are enjoying their morning at school – until the Mine-O-Saur arrives! With his roaring cries of “Mine! Mine! Mine!” the Mine-O-Saur believes taking things from others will make him happy. Ultimately, the little dino realizes that what he truly wants is friends. Will the other dinosaurs forgive him? Great for Preschool – 1st Grade. The Giving Book – Ellen Sabin The Giving Book is a journal, activity guide, and keepsake to help children develop a lifelong tradition of charity and giving. Preschool – 2nd Grade.  Beatrice’s Goat – Page McBrier Based on a true story, Beatrice’s Goat tells the story of Beatrice, a girl in an African village who cannot afford to go to school. One day, the family is given the gift of a goat and their lives begin to transform for the better. Printed by Heifer International, it encourages children to think about how a small gift can have a big impact on others. Beatrice’s Goat can also serve as the beginning of a class or family fundraising project to purchase an animal for a family in need. Kindergarten – 2nd Grade. A Chair For My Mother – Vera B. Williams After a fire destroys their home, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins for a chair that they all can enjoy. With more than a million copies sold, A Chair For My Mother is "A superbly conceived picture book expressing the joyful spirit of a loving family."—The Horn Book. Kindergarten – 3rd Grade. An Orange For Frankie – Patricia Polacco On Christmas Eve, the Stowell is eagerly awaiting Pa’s arrival – and with it, the nine Christmas oranges that decorate the mantel. However, a snowstorm threatens to delay both Pa and the oranges. When youngest child Frankie sees a hobo walking by in the cold, he gives the man his favorite sweater to help him stay warm. This unexpected act of kindness has a surprising – and heartwarming – ripple effect through the Stowell family. 1st – 5th Grade.  

The holiday season is an exciting time for children – and adults! – of all ages. However, this time of year can also be used as a time to encourage sharing and generosity. The following books can help families learn about and discuss the spirit of giving.

The Mine-O-Saur – Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

A group of dinosaur friends are enjoying their morning at school – until the Mine-O-Saur arrives! With his roaring cries of “Mine! Mine! Mine!” the Mine-O-Saur believes taking things from others will make him happy. Ultimately, the little dino realizes that what he truly wants is friends. Will the other dinosaurs forgive him? Great for Preschool – 1st Grade.

The Giving Book – Ellen Sabin

The Giving Book is a journal, activity guide, and keepsake to help children develop a lifelong tradition of charity and giving. Preschool – 2nd Grade.

 Beatrice’s Goat – Page McBrier

Based on a true story, Beatrice’s Goat tells the story of Beatrice, a girl in an African village who cannot afford to go to school. One day, the family is given the gift of a goat and their lives begin to transform for the better. Printed by Heifer International, it encourages children to think about how a small gift can have a big impact on others. Beatrice’s Goat can also serve as the beginning of a class or family fundraising project to purchase an animal for a family in need. Kindergarten – 2nd Grade.

A Chair For My Mother – Vera B. Williams

After a fire destroys their home, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins for a chair that they all can enjoy. With more than a million copies sold, A Chair For My Mother is "A superbly conceived picture book expressing the joyful spirit of a loving family."—The Horn Book. Kindergarten – 3rd Grade.

An Orange For Frankie – Patricia Polacco

On Christmas Eve, the Stowell is eagerly awaiting Pa’s arrival – and with it, the nine Christmas oranges that decorate the mantel. However, a snowstorm threatens to delay both Pa and the oranges. When youngest child Frankie sees a hobo walking by in the cold, he gives the man his favorite sweater to help him stay warm. This unexpected act of kindness has a surprising – and heartwarming – ripple effect through the Stowell family. 1st – 5th Grade.

 

Useful apps for high school students

While your teen might seem more interested in using their phone for social media and staying connected with friends, smart phones and tablets can be extremely effective study tools. The following apps can help high school students stay organized, meet deadlines, and study in a fun and convenient way! •      myHomework •                  myHomework helps students stay on top of deadlines by managing due dates for assignments, projects, and tests. Students can view homework in a calendar format, as well as sorting by specific date. The app can also be synced across other devices such as tablets and laptops to ensure their calendar is never out of reach. •       Evernote •                  One of the most popular note-taking apps, Evernote, allows students to take notes, photos, and even record videos. Features such as collaboration and note sharing make it easy to share information with classmates, while tagging makes the notes easily searchable. The multi-media recording format makes it helpful for students with differing learning styles. •       Dropbox •                  Avoid the panic of a lost flash drive or a crashing computer by using Dropbox. It allows students to store a seemingly endless number of documents, photos, and videos in one easy to access location. This also allows the documents to be accessed from anywhere, allowing teens to work from multiple devices. •       RefMe •                  RefMe is a must-have for any student working on research papers or projects. Supporting popular programs like Evernote, RefMe helps students create instant bibliographies by copying and pasting URLs, as well as scanning book barcodes for storage in the cloud. •        StudyBlue •                  StudyBlue allows students to create their own custom flashcards. This allows teens to tailor study guides for each individual class and subject. No time to create your own set? Students can search the StudyBlue database of more than 250+ million student-made flashcardsE for similar content. •      Essentials by AccelaStudy •                  With so many foreign language learning apps on the market, picking just one was difficult. Essentials, however, is a free app perfectly tailed to beginning language students. With premade vocabulary flashcards and audio quizzes, Essentials gives children the tools they need for languages such as Chinese, French, Italian, or Spanish. •      Free Graphing Calculator •                  Graphing calculators can be too big of an investment for many families. Get the same effect for by downloading Free Graphing Calculator. The app plots and traces different equations on the same graph, is a unit converter, provides constants for scientific calculations, and much more!

While your teen might seem more interested in using their phone for social media and staying connected with friends, smart phones and tablets can be extremely effective study tools. The following apps can help high school students stay organized, meet deadlines, and study in a fun and convenient way!

•      myHomework

•                  myHomework helps students stay on top of deadlines by managing due dates for assignments, projects, and tests. Students can view homework in a calendar format, as well as sorting by specific date. The app can also be synced across other devices such as tablets and laptops to ensure their calendar is never out of reach.

•       Evernote

•                  One of the most popular note-taking apps, Evernote, allows students to take notes, photos, and even record videos. Features such as collaboration and note sharing make it easy to share information with classmates, while tagging makes the notes easily searchable. The multi-media recording format makes it helpful for students with differing learning styles.

•       Dropbox

•                  Avoid the panic of a lost flash drive or a crashing computer by using Dropbox. It allows students to store a seemingly endless number of documents, photos, and videos in one easy to access location. This also allows the documents to be accessed from anywhere, allowing teens to work from multiple devices.

•       RefMe

•                  RefMe is a must-have for any student working on research papers or projects. Supporting popular programs like Evernote, RefMe helps students create instant bibliographies by copying and pasting URLs, as well as scanning book barcodes for storage in the cloud.

•        StudyBlue

•                  StudyBlue allows students to create their own custom flashcards. This allows teens to tailor study guides for each individual class and subject. No time to create your own set? Students can search the StudyBlue database of more than 250+ million student-made flashcardsE for similar content.

•      Essentials by AccelaStudy

•                  With so many foreign language learning apps on the market, picking just one was difficult. Essentials, however, is a free app perfectly tailed to beginning language students. With premade vocabulary flashcards and audio quizzes, Essentials gives children the tools they need for languages such as Chinese, French, Italian, or Spanish.

•      Free Graphing Calculator

•                  Graphing calculators can be too big of an investment for many families. Get the same effect for by downloading Free Graphing Calculator. The app plots and traces different equations on the same graph, is a unit converter, provides constants for scientific calculations, and much more!

Life skills that prepare kids for their future

Lifeskillsthatpreparekidsfortheirfuture-2.jpg

Parents and teachers share a common goal – making sure children can become successful adults. While the specific skills they need may vary from occupation to occupation, there are a number of life skills that should be universally taught, such as problem solving and effective communication.

Helping children learn the following traits can prepare them for a successful future!

1.      Problem solving

Problem solving is an integral part of critical thinking. From a young age, children can learn how to observe and analyze a problem and create smart solutions. Answering the “why’s” and “what if’s” help kids think through all sides of an issue, using thought and exploration to solve problems. Engage in thoughtful discussion by encouraging children to think creatively, use their imagination, and explore the world around them.

2.      Love of learning

A love of learning can turn even the most difficult subject into an interesting, fun, and rewarding challenge. Encourage children to follow their passion and pursue their interests. Signing up for clubs and activities that reflect their favorite subjects or enrolling in engaging electives can make school a place they look forward to going to each day – and create a lifelong love of learning.

3.      Communication

The ability to effectively communicate is a life skill that helps children succeed both personally and professionally. Encourage kids to practice verbal, non-verbal, and even written communication outside of the school environment. Asking for assistance in a store, making eye contact when speaking, or practicing a firm handshake are all ways to improve communication skills.

4.      Goal setting

Learning how to set achievable short-term and long-term goals more can help make your child’s day more productive – and successful. Begin by working as a family to create goals for the school year; write down goals using the “I Will + What + When” format. If a child’s long-term goal is to get straight A’s, an achievable daily goal would be “I will finish all my homework first when I get home from school.”

5.      Don’t forget practical life skills!

Practical life skills, such as learning to cook a meal or getting up and out of bed on time, are an important part of success as well. Foster your child’s independence by giving them age-appropriate tasks and duties. Kids in Kindergarten can begin helping pack their school lunches or put away their laundry, while older children can be responsible for their own laundry or school materials.

How to help your teen set good boundaries with technology

Technology is an integral part of our day-to-day lives; while it can be a helpful tool for learning, it’s important to set appropriate boundaries for technology use. This is especially important for teens, who often seem more attached to their smartphones than any other member of the family. The following tips can help families set smart boundaries for teens and technology use. 1.      Restrict televisions, computers, and tablets to common areas. Keeping technology in the common areas of the home allows parents to directly monitor what their teens are viewing, streaming, and sharing – as well as how much screen time they’re actually getting. Restricting technology to the common area also helps prevent sleep disruption by ensuring no unauthorized late night screen time is taking place. 2.      Parents are allowed passwords. While many teens view sharing their passwords with their parents as a violation of their privacy, it’s an extremely important way to ensure they are being safe online. Periodically checking their devices or accounts ensures they are not engaging in negative online behaviors such as sexting or cyberbullying. Likewise, it allows you to monitor the apps and content they stream directly to their phones. 3.      Confiscate the phone. Establish a time when the cell phone is handed over for the night. Doing this keeps teens sleep patterns from being disrupted by all night texting, gaming, or scanning social media. Likewise, it helps prevent inappropriate late-night messages. Teens are far less likely to call or text at 2 am if they know a parent might intercept it. 4.      Model boundaries with technology. Parents are often just as attached to their smartphones and tablets as their kids. When it comes to tech use, many kids learn behavior based on what their parents do – not what they say. Turn off and put away devices during meal, homework, or family time; this includes turning off the television, even when it’s just on in the background. Likewise, limit phone use when in the car and never text and drive. Showing teens you can relax and have fun while unplugged will allow them to more likely to follow the same behavior. 

Technology is an integral part of our day-to-day lives; while it can be a helpful tool for learning, it’s important to set appropriate boundaries for technology use. This is especially important for teens, who often seem more attached to their smartphones than any other member of the family. The following tips can help families set smart boundaries for teens and technology use.

1.      Restrict televisions, computers, and tablets to common areas. Keeping technology in the common areas of the home allows parents to directly monitor what their teens are viewing, streaming, and sharing – as well as how much screen time they’re actually getting. Restricting technology to the common area also helps prevent sleep disruption by ensuring no unauthorized late night screen time is taking place.

2.      Parents are allowed passwords. While many teens view sharing their passwords with their parents as a violation of their privacy, it’s an extremely important way to ensure they are being safe online. Periodically checking their devices or accounts ensures they are not engaging in negative online behaviors such as sexting or cyberbullying. Likewise, it allows you to monitor the apps and content they stream directly to their phones.

3.      Confiscate the phone. Establish a time when the cell phone is handed over for the night. Doing this keeps teens sleep patterns from being disrupted by all night texting, gaming, or scanning social media. Likewise, it helps prevent inappropriate late-night messages. Teens are far less likely to call or text at 2 am if they know a parent might intercept it.

4.      Model boundaries with technology. Parents are often just as attached to their smartphones and tablets as their kids. When it comes to tech use, many kids learn behavior based on what their parents do – not what they say. Turn off and put away devices during meal, homework, or family time; this includes turning off the television, even when it’s just on in the background. Likewise, limit phone use when in the car and never text and drive. Showing teens you can relax and have fun while unplugged will allow them to more likely to follow the same behavior. 

Books that teach children about compassion

Compassion, caring, empathy, and kindness are some of the most valuable skills parents can teach their children. However, these intangible traits can be difficult to successfully convey, in part because they can be demonstrated in so many ways. The following books provide smart starting points for conversation and family discussion to help children learn about compassion in a meaningful and impactful way. -        Those Shoes – Maribeth Boelts. Grades K-2 All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes – but his grandmother cannot afford to buy them. When he finds a too-small pair at a thrift store, sore feet seem worth it to fit in. However, Jeremy soon realizes there are people who need those shoes more than he does. It is a complex tale of changing trends, poverty, kindness, and doing the right thing even when you may not want to. Those Shoes is  a relatable story with a valuable lesson for young kids! -        The Invisible Boy. Grades K-2 Brian is an invisible boy; his classmates seem not to notice him, or include him in any of their games or groups. When a new student arrives in class, Brian finally finds a way to shine. The Invisible Boy sensitively addresses how small acts of kindness can allow even quiet children to flourish. -        The Kindness Quilt – Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. Grades K-2 Minna and her classmates are challenged to work on a Kindness project, drawing and sharing their acts of kindness. Deciding to create a paper quilt, Minna’s enthusiasm for the project begins to spread. With an inspiring story and engaging mixed-media artwork, students will enjoy deciphering the many squares of the kindness quilt – while being inspired to commit acts of kindness themselves. -        El Deafo – Cece Bell. Grades 3-6 Cece wants to fit in; while the Sonic Ear strapped to her chest allows her to hear, it also isolates her from her peers and makes making new friends difficult. In the end, Cece realizes “Our differences are our superpowers.” This full color graphic novel is an honest and sweet tale of a girl coming to terms with her disability and will strike a cord with students who have ever felt different. -        Same Sun Here – Silas House and Neela Vaswani. Grades 4-7 Meena, an Indian immigrant living in New York City, and River, the son of a coal miner in Kentucky, think they could not be more different when they become pen pals. However, they soon discover they have more in common than they ever could’ve imagined. Told in letters with two unique voices, Same Sun Here inspires children to look beyond our differences and enjoy the people in our lives who live under the same sun.

Compassion, caring, empathy, and kindness are some of the most valuable skills parents can teach their children. However, these intangible traits can be difficult to successfully convey, in part because they can be demonstrated in so many ways. The following books provide smart starting points for conversation and family discussion to help children learn about compassion in a meaningful and impactful way.

-        Those Shoes – Maribeth Boelts. Grades K-2

All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes – but his grandmother cannot afford to buy them. When he finds a too-small pair at a thrift store, sore feet seem worth it to fit in. However, Jeremy soon realizes there are people who need those shoes more than he does. It is a complex tale of changing trends, poverty, kindness, and doing the right thing even when you may not want to. Those Shoes is  a relatable story with a valuable lesson for young kids!

-        The Invisible Boy. Grades K-2

Brian is an invisible boy; his classmates seem not to notice him, or include him in any of their games or groups. When a new student arrives in class, Brian finally finds a way to shine. The Invisible Boy sensitively addresses how small acts of kindness can allow even quiet children to flourish.

-        The Kindness Quilt – Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. Grades K-2

Minna and her classmates are challenged to work on a Kindness project, drawing and sharing their acts of kindness. Deciding to create a paper quilt, Minna’s enthusiasm for the project begins to spread. With an inspiring story and engaging mixed-media artwork, students will enjoy deciphering the many squares of the kindness quilt – while being inspired to commit acts of kindness themselves.

-        El Deafo – Cece Bell. Grades 3-6

Cece wants to fit in; while the Sonic Ear strapped to her chest allows her to hear, it also isolates her from her peers and makes making new friends difficult. In the end, Cece realizes “Our differences are our superpowers.” This full color graphic novel is an honest and sweet tale of a girl coming to terms with her disability and will strike a cord with students who have ever felt different.

-        Same Sun Here – Silas House and Neela Vaswani. Grades 4-7

Meena, an Indian immigrant living in New York City, and River, the son of a coal miner in Kentucky, think they could not be more different when they become pen pals. However, they soon discover they have more in common than they ever could’ve imagined. Told in letters with two unique voices, Same Sun Here inspires children to look beyond our differences and enjoy the people in our lives who live under the same sun.

Tools to help motivate an underachiever

“I think he could do better if he applied himself a little more.” “She doesn’t seem to be putting any effort into her schoolwork.” “I know they are capable of better grades than this.” If you have heard these or similar phrases from your child’s teachers, you are one of the many parents dealing with an underachieving student. Children who consistently perform below their abilities are often known as underachievers. In the case of most underachievers, both parents and teachers know it is possible for the student to do better than their grades, tests, or classwork reflects. Dealing with underachieving children can be extremely frustrating as parents; many struggle to find ways to motivate their children without becoming locked in an endless power struggle. While there is no quick fix or easy solution to motivating an underachiever, the following tools can help parents get through to their children and change their habits for the better. Rule out other issues Whether your child has always struggled in school or their academic performance has taken a recent turn for the worse, it’s important to rule out any other issues. Major life transitions such as the addition of a new sibling or changing schools can negatively impact both grades and behavior. Likewise, ongoing academic issues can be based on learning disabilities such as ADD or dyslexia. Having your child evaluatedfor learning disabilities or hearing and vision problems can ensure there are no other issues impacting their academic performance and motivation. Reflect on past successes – and failures Even young children can be surprisingly introspective when evaluating their past academic performance. Discuss a time when your child was successful, such as getting an A on a test or getting a major project completed on time; what did they do to get it done? How could they replicate it again? Likewise, having your child discuss what they struggle with allows you to work together to create a plan that maximizes the chance of being successful in school. Earn everything every day No matter how often your child responds with “I don’t care,” there is something that motivates them; cell phones, video games, television, sports practice, or time with friends.  All be powerful motivators for children. Allow your unmotivated child to earn privileges or rewards every day by completing homework or chores. This gives them numerous opportunities to be successful – as well as numerous opportunities to try again tomorrow. Stop arguing, shouting, or complaining Parenting underachieving or unmotivated children can be extremely frustrating; unfortunately, venting these frustrations often has the opposite of the desired effect. Arguing, shouting, complaining, and begging are harmful in two ways: first, it shows the child that they have all the power, and second, it can damage a child’s low self-esteem.  Instead, try implementing some of those tips above to motivate your underachieving student!

“I think he could do better if he applied himself a little more.”

“She doesn’t seem to be putting any effort into her schoolwork.”

“I know they are capable of better grades than this.”

If you have heard these or similar phrases from your child’s teachers, you are one of the many parents dealing with an underachieving student. Children who consistently perform below their abilities are often known as underachievers. In the case of most underachievers, both parents and teachers know it is possible for the student to do better than their grades, tests, or classwork reflects.

Dealing with underachieving children can be extremely frustrating as parents; many struggle to find ways to motivate their children without becoming locked in an endless power struggle. While there is no quick fix or easy solution to motivating an underachiever, the following tools can help parents get through to their children and change their habits for the better.

Rule out other issues

Whether your child has always struggled in school or their academic performance has taken a recent turn for the worse, it’s important to rule out any other issues. Major life transitions such as the addition of a new sibling or changing schools can negatively impact both grades and behavior. Likewise, ongoing academic issues can be based on learning disabilities such as ADD or dyslexia. Having your child evaluatedfor learning disabilities or hearing and vision problems can ensure there are no other issues impacting their academic performance and motivation.

Reflect on past successes – and failures

Even young children can be surprisingly introspective when evaluating their past academic performance. Discuss a time when your child was successful, such as getting an A on a test or getting a major project completed on time; what did they do to get it done? How could they replicate it again? Likewise, having your child discuss what they struggle with allows you to work together to create a plan that maximizes the chance of being successful in school.

Earn everything every day

No matter how often your child responds with “I don’t care,” there is something that motivates them; cell phones, video games, television, sports practice, or time with friends.  All be powerful motivators for children. Allow your unmotivated child to earn privileges or rewards every day by completing homework or chores. This gives them numerous opportunities to be successful – as well as numerous opportunities to try again tomorrow.

Stop arguing, shouting, or complaining

Parenting underachieving or unmotivated children can be extremely frustrating; unfortunately, venting these frustrations often has the opposite of the desired effect. Arguing, shouting, complaining, and begging are harmful in two ways: first, it shows the child that they have all the power, and second, it can damage a child’s low self-esteem.  Instead, try implementing some of those tips above to motivate your underachieving student!

Tips on how to support your high schooler through college apps

The college application process can be stressful for high school students – and leave their parents pulling their hair out. Instead of attempting to step in or take over the process entirely, there a number of ways parents can help their children through the research, application, and admission process.   DO: Help them find their dream school DON’T: Push them towards your dream school   Searching for the right college can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Parents should have open and honest conversations with their child about issues such as geographical preferences and financial limitations. It is also important not to force your child to consider schools they otherwise wouldn’t; while it may be your dream to see them at your alma mater, a big state school would be a wrong fit for a student looking at small liberal arts colleges.   Parents can also help narrow down the large field of potential colleges to the few schools to which they will actually apply. Taking teens on college visits and campus tours is the best way to help a child see themselves at a school – or quickly realize it is not the right fit.   DO: Keep students on track with paperwork deadlines DON’T: Over-edit or complete applications for them   While it is important and beneficial for parents to be involved in the college admissions process, the majority of the legwork should fall to the students. Parents and teens can work together to create calendars for deadlines and other important dates. Likewise, while parents can be a sounding board for essay ideas or editors for application questions, students should always write their responses themselves so their voice and personality truly shine through.   For most students the “magic number” of applications is between six and eight: 2 reach schools, 3-4 match schools, and 2 safety schools. This prevents students from being overwhelmed by deadlines, paperwork, essays, and admissions costs but still gives them a wide pool of colleges to choose from.   DO: Keep things in perspective DON’T: Add additional pressure and stress   After the applications and transcripts have been sent in, there is little families can do but sit and wait. This can be an extremely stressful time for teens – especially as the acceptance packets or rejection letters start rolling in. Parents can help their teens keep things in perspective; even if they did not get in to their dream school, they can and will have just as much fun at another university. It is also important to not add additional pressure or stress to your child; avoid comparing their acceptances to their peers and never punish a child for getting rejected from a school.

The college application process can be stressful for high school students – and leave their parents pulling their hair out. Instead of attempting to step in or take over the process entirely, there a number of ways parents can help their children through the research, application, and admission process.

 

DO: Help them find their dream school

DON’T: Push them towards your dream school

 

Searching for the right college can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Parents should have open and honest conversations with their child about issues such as geographical preferences and financial limitations. It is also important not to force your child to consider schools they otherwise wouldn’t; while it may be your dream to see them at your alma mater, a big state school would be a wrong fit for a student looking at small liberal arts colleges.

 

Parents can also help narrow down the large field of potential colleges to the few schools to which they will actually apply. Taking teens on college visits and campus tours is the best way to help a child see themselves at a school – or quickly realize it is not the right fit.

 

DO: Keep students on track with paperwork deadlines

DON’T: Over-edit or complete applications for them

 

While it is important and beneficial for parents to be involved in the college admissions process, the majority of the legwork should fall to the students. Parents and teens can work together to create calendars for deadlines and other important dates. Likewise, while parents can be a sounding board for essay ideas or editors for application questions, students should always write their responses themselves so their voice and personality truly shine through.

 

For most students the “magic number” of applications is between six and eight: 2 reach schools, 3-4 match schools, and 2 safety schools. This prevents students from being overwhelmed by deadlines, paperwork, essays, and admissions costs but still gives them a wide pool of colleges to choose from.

 

DO: Keep things in perspective

DON’T: Add additional pressure and stress

 

After the applications and transcripts have been sent in, there is little families can do but sit and wait. This can be an extremely stressful time for teens – especially as the acceptance packets or rejection letters start rolling in. Parents can help their teens keep things in perspective; even if they did not get in to their dream school, they can and will have just as much fun at another university. It is also important to not add additional pressure or stress to your child; avoid comparing their acceptances to their peers and never punish a child for getting rejected from a school.

Fun and safe science project ideas for middle school students

Middle school is a great time to help students get interested in STEM career fields! These five safe and fun science experiments are perfect for middle schoolers. Whether done independently or with a little help from an adult, these experiments are sure to awaken the inner scientist in every student. •        -           Fruit battery experiment •                  With nothing more than a lemon, some wire, and a couple of nails, students can generate enough electricity to power a light bulb! In this experiment, middle schoolers can learn about making electrical circuits, how metals react to form electrons, and what can be used as electrical conductors. Expand the experiment by testing the electrical currents created by various fruits and vegetables. •        -           Drinkable density experiment •                  Students will enjoy this science experiment they actually get to eat! With a narrow glass, an eyedropper, and as many different fruit juices as they can find, kids can test and compare the density of their favorite beverages. Encourage students to study the ingredients, water content, and sugar content of the juices before making their hypothesis as these factors all affect density. •        -           S’mores solar oven •                  Combine learning about recycling and renewable energy sources in this delicious experiment. Materials from around the house such as old pizza boxes, construction paper, and aluminum foil are all that are needed for students to built their own solar oven. Add an element of competition by allowing kids to design and build their own solar ovens; whoever cooks the best s’more wins! •        -           Egg parachute experiment •                  Can you design a parachute to cushion an egg’s fall? Using various household materials, plastic baggies, and a carton – or more – of eggs, students can design and build their own parachutes in an attempt to slow the fall of an egg from the second story of a building. Record the trial-and-error results, focusing on the time it takes for each egg to fall. •        -           Grow your own crystals •                  Growing crystals can be fun at any age! Middle schoolers will enjoy crafting comparative experiments using different solutions in order to create the best crystals. Epsom salts, alum, borax, and even sugar can be used to create brilliant crystals in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Middle school is a great time to help students get interested in STEM career fields! These five safe and fun science experiments are perfect for middle schoolers. Whether done independently or with a little help from an adult, these experiments are sure to awaken the inner scientist in every student.

•        -           Fruit battery experiment

•                  With nothing more than a lemon, some wire, and a couple of nails, students can generate enough electricity to power a light bulb! In this experiment, middle schoolers can learn about making electrical circuits, how metals react to form electrons, and what can be used as electrical conductors. Expand the experiment by testing the electrical currents created by various fruits and vegetables.

•        -           Drinkable density experiment

•                  Students will enjoy this science experiment they actually get to eat! With a narrow glass, an eyedropper, and as many different fruit juices as they can find, kids can test and compare the density of their favorite beverages. Encourage students to study the ingredients, water content, and sugar content of the juices before making their hypothesis as these factors all affect density.

•        -           S’mores solar oven

•                  Combine learning about recycling and renewable energy sources in this delicious experiment. Materials from around the house such as old pizza boxes, construction paper, and aluminum foil are all that are needed for students to built their own solar oven. Add an element of competition by allowing kids to design and build their own solar ovens; whoever cooks the best s’more wins!

•        -           Egg parachute experiment

•                  Can you design a parachute to cushion an egg’s fall? Using various household materials, plastic baggies, and a carton – or more – of eggs, students can design and build their own parachutes in an attempt to slow the fall of an egg from the second story of a building. Record the trial-and-error results, focusing on the time it takes for each egg to fall.

•        -           Grow your own crystals

•                  Growing crystals can be fun at any age! Middle schoolers will enjoy crafting comparative experiments using different solutions in order to create the best crystals. Epsom salts, alum, borax, and even sugar can be used to create brilliant crystals in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Art project ideas with recycled materials

Kids of all ages love to create their own unique art projects, but the cost of specialty supplies can add up quickly. Keep children entertained without breaking the bank with these art project ideas made using recycled materials. Happy crafting! •        -           Cardboard tube marble run •                  This fun project is equal parts sculpture and science! Collect empty cardboard tubes from paper towels, toilet paper, wrapping paper, and more. Color, paint, cut, tape, and assemble the tubes into an infinite number of patterns and configurations with the goal of getting a marble safely from the top to the bottom. Using painters tape instead of glue or other adhesives allows the marble run to be taken apart and rebuilt as much as your imagination allows.     •        -           Soup can bowling •                  Repurpose tin cans into a DIY bowling set! Simply strip cans of their labels before painting with a variety of colorful patterns. Toilet paper tubes or plastic bottles can also be used in place of tin cans. When the pins are dry, set them up and have a ball bowling them over again and again!             •        -           Rolled paper beads •                  Old catalogs, newspapers, and even school book order forms can be used to create beautiful and unique beads for necklaces, bracelets, and more. Cut the paper into long, thin triangles; roll the triangles starting with the thick base around a dowel rod, knitting needle, or chopstick, making sure to secure the end at the point of the triangle with glue. After drying, string your beads together to create a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry!                •        -           Egg carton treasure box •                  Repurpose old egg cartons into treasure boxes that young children are sure to love. Paint, markers, colorful scrapbook paper, washi tape, and more can all be used to create a unique treasure box of your child. Whether they are storing hair accessories, jewelry, rock collections, or pirate treasure, there is no limit to how creative your child can be.                  •        -           Pool noodle stamps •                  After a long summer of use, don’t trash your pool noodles! Instead, cut them up to create a set of unique stamps. Pool noodle stamps can be easily washed and stored after each use; repurpose them a second time by using the stamps to create a memory or spelling stacking game.

Kids of all ages love to create their own unique art projects, but the cost of specialty supplies can add up quickly. Keep children entertained without breaking the bank with these art project ideas made using recycled materials. Happy crafting!

•        -           Cardboard tube marble run

•                  This fun project is equal parts sculpture and science! Collect empty cardboard tubes from paper towels, toilet paper, wrapping paper, and more. Color, paint, cut, tape, and assemble the tubes into an infinite number of patterns and configurations with the goal of getting a marble safely from the top to the bottom. Using painters tape instead of glue or other adhesives allows the marble run to be taken apart and rebuilt as much as your imagination allows.    

•        -           Soup can bowling

•                  Repurpose tin cans into a DIY bowling set! Simply strip cans of their labels before painting with a variety of colorful patterns. Toilet paper tubes or plastic bottles can also be used in place of tin cans. When the pins are dry, set them up and have a ball bowling them over again and again!            

•        -           Rolled paper beads

•                  Old catalogs, newspapers, and even school book order forms can be used to create beautiful and unique beads for necklaces, bracelets, and more. Cut the paper into long, thin triangles; roll the triangles starting with the thick base around a dowel rod, knitting needle, or chopstick, making sure to secure the end at the point of the triangle with glue. After drying, string your beads together to create a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry!               

•        -           Egg carton treasure box

•                  Repurpose old egg cartons into treasure boxes that young children are sure to love. Paint, markers, colorful scrapbook paper, washi tape, and more can all be used to create a unique treasure box of your child. Whether they are storing hair accessories, jewelry, rock collections, or pirate treasure, there is no limit to how creative your child can be.                 

•        -           Pool noodle stamps

•                  After a long summer of use, don’t trash your pool noodles! Instead, cut them up to create a set of unique stamps. Pool noodle stamps can be easily washed and stored after each use; repurpose them a second time by using the stamps to create a memory or spelling stacking game.

Ways to help your student set good boundaries in the new school year

As parents, we want what’s best for our children and want to give them every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, this can sometimes take the form of over-parenting and over-functioning for them, blurring the lines between boundaries and responsibilities. While the idea of leaving your child to their own devices can seem scary, it benefits the entire family in the long run. The following are four ways to help your student set boundaries for the new school year!   1.      Set clear expectations Spend time before the school year starts setting clear expectations – as well as establishing the consequences. This gives your child the ability to take more responsibility and accountability for their actions without forcing parents to micromanage every homework assignment and project. An expectation of “Homework will be completed and turned in on time” could have a natural consequence of “If it isn’t, you have to work with your teacher on how to resubmit the work and earn back their trust.” 2.      Help develop goals Goals encourage students to work hard as they grow and progress. Work with your child to set measurable, achievable goals that they can actively work towards each week. Avoid setting goals that are too large or vague such as, “I want to get an A in Language Arts.” Instead, set goals like “I will complete my weekly reading log.” Parents can check in on their progress weekly and help them adjust as necessary. 3.      Lead by example The best way to help your child set boundaries is to set them yourself. If the rule is “no electronics at the table,” make sure parents are following the same rules. Another way to lead by example is by discussing goals for the week at the dinner table; not only does this establish accountability for the whole family, but it keeps students from feeling singled out. 4.      Resist stepping in When our children stumble, it is our natural reaction as parents to want to solve the problem for them. However, it’s important that they learn from their own mistakes, especially in low-stakes environments such as elementary and middle school. While your child may be uncomfortable or upset in the short term, not stepping in teaches them the tools to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

As parents, we want what’s best for our children and want to give them every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, this can sometimes take the form of over-parenting and over-functioning for them, blurring the lines between boundaries and responsibilities.

While the idea of leaving your child to their own devices can seem scary, it benefits the entire family in the long run. The following are four ways to help your student set boundaries for the new school year!

 

1.      Set clear expectations

Spend time before the school year starts setting clear expectations – as well as establishing the consequences. This gives your child the ability to take more responsibility and accountability for their actions without forcing parents to micromanage every homework assignment and project. An expectation of “Homework will be completed and turned in on time” could have a natural consequence of “If it isn’t, you have to work with your teacher on how to resubmit the work and earn back their trust.”

2.      Help develop goals

Goals encourage students to work hard as they grow and progress. Work with your child to set measurable, achievable goals that they can actively work towards each week. Avoid setting goals that are too large or vague such as, “I want to get an A in Language Arts.” Instead, set goals like “I will complete my weekly reading log.” Parents can check in on their progress weekly and help them adjust as necessary.

3.      Lead by example

The best way to help your child set boundaries is to set them yourself. If the rule is “no electronics at the table,” make sure parents are following the same rules. Another way to lead by example is by discussing goals for the week at the dinner table; not only does this establish accountability for the whole family, but it keeps students from feeling singled out.

4.      Resist stepping in

When our children stumble, it is our natural reaction as parents to want to solve the problem for them. However, it’s important that they learn from their own mistakes, especially in low-stakes environments such as elementary and middle school. While your child may be uncomfortable or upset in the short term, not stepping in teaches them the tools to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

Types of music to listen to while studying

While many parents fear it mayl be too distracting, studies have shown that listening to music while studying can help boost concentration and stimulate learning. The following genres of music are recommended for listening while studying; try out different types until you find the one that works best for you! •        -           Classical •                  Classical is the most recommended type of music to study to, and it is known for creating a calm study environment. Listeners to classical music also report increased productivity and better moods! •                  Recommendation: Brandenburg Concerto #3 – Bach •        -           Beats per minute •                  A recent study found that students who listened to classical music with a tempo of 60-70 beats per minute scored an average of 12% higher on math exams. •                  Recommendation: Concertos for Recorder – Telemann & Vivaldi •        -           Instrumental hits •                  Combine the benefits of listening to classical music with today’s hits by listening to instrumental covers of your favorite songs. The instruments provide a relaxing background while the recognizable beats keep you engaged. •                  Recommendation: VSQ Performs the Hits of 2013, Volume 2 – Vitamin String Quartet •        -           Nature sounds •                  If you find even classical music too distracting, try studying with nature sounds in the background. Known for increasing concentration and keeping the subconscious engaged, nature sounds can also be used for meditation or for help falling asleep. •                  Recommendation: Calmsound.com •        -           Modern electronic •                  Modern electronic music is found in many public spaces and places, from grocery stores and malls to doctors offices and elevators. Known for relaxing the mind and allowing it to wander, modern electronic is ideal when working on a project that requires creative problem solving. •                  Recommendation: Music for Airports – Eno •        -           The bottom line •                  When it comes to studying with music, what you listen to is less important than how it helps. Good studying music should help you feel focused, relaxed, and ready to take on the task at hand – without being a distraction.

While many parents fear it mayl be too distracting, studies have shown that listening to music while studying can help boost concentration and stimulate learning. The following genres of music are recommended for listening while studying; try out different types until you find the one that works best for you!

•        -           Classical

•                  Classical is the most recommended type of music to study to, and it is known for creating a calm study environment. Listeners to classical music also report increased productivity and better moods!

•                  Recommendation: Brandenburg Concerto #3 – Bach

•        -           Beats per minute

•                  A recent study found that students who listened to classical music with a tempo of 60-70 beats per minute scored an average of 12% higher on math exams.

•                  Recommendation: Concertos for Recorder – Telemann & Vivaldi

•        -           Instrumental hits

•                  Combine the benefits of listening to classical music with today’s hits by listening to instrumental covers of your favorite songs. The instruments provide a relaxing background while the recognizable beats keep you engaged.

•                  Recommendation: VSQ Performs the Hits of 2013, Volume 2 – Vitamin String Quartet

•        -           Nature sounds

•                  If you find even classical music too distracting, try studying with nature sounds in the background. Known for increasing concentration and keeping the subconscious engaged, nature sounds can also be used for meditation or for help falling asleep.

•                  Recommendation: Calmsound.com

•        -           Modern electronic

•                  Modern electronic music is found in many public spaces and places, from grocery stores and malls to doctors offices and elevators. Known for relaxing the mind and allowing it to wander, modern electronic is ideal when working on a project that requires creative problem solving.

•                  Recommendation: Music for Airports – Eno

•        -           The bottom line

•                  When it comes to studying with music, what you listen to is less important than how it helps. Good studying music should help you feel focused, relaxed, and ready to take on the task at hand – without being a distraction.

Test prep tips for your middle schooler

Whether it’s a weekly math quiz or a yearly standardized test, preparing for a test can be stressful for middle school students. Help them alleviate some of the pressure and feel more comfortable the day of by following these test prep tips!   -        Get ready at home before the test. There are a number of ways families can help their middle schoolers prepare for taking a test at home – that don’t involve studying. First, ensure students are in bed by 10 pm so they can get a good night’s sleep. Likewise, plan on eating a nutritious breakfast. Avoid rushing in the morning by setting out clothes, backpacks, and other school materials the night before. -        Create a study schedule. Help your middle schooler create a study schedule in the days or weeks leading up to a test. Doing this gives them the confidence that they can review all of the material and avoid cramming. It may also help them prevent feeling overwhelmed or overstressed by studying. -        Practice following directions. Many tests, especially state or nation-wide standardized tests, have very specific directions that must be followed. Encourage them to read all directions first when completing homework as practice. For reading practice and following directions outside of classwork, help your child pick and make a recipe with instructions that must be followed exactly. -        Ask questions. A new school year brings new classes, new teachers, and and new test formats. Have your child ask questions to find out as much information as possible about the test beforehand. This includes everything from the specific material that will be covered, to how long the test will be and what kind of format the questions will have. Asking questions about test format can help alleviate student’s anxiety in advance of the big day. -        Review test taking strategies. By middle school, most students learned a number of different test taking strategies. Help your student by reviewing test taking strategies such as educated guessing, looking for clues, eliminating wrong answers, or estimating. Doing this can give students more confidence on test day, especially after a summer away from the classroom.

Whether it’s a weekly math quiz or a yearly standardized test, preparing for a test can be stressful for middle school students. Help them alleviate some of the pressure and feel more comfortable the day of by following these test prep tips!

 

-        Get ready at home before the test. There are a number of ways families can help their middle schoolers prepare for taking a test at home – that don’t involve studying. First, ensure students are in bed by 10 pm so they can get a good night’s sleep. Likewise, plan on eating a nutritious breakfast. Avoid rushing in the morning by setting out clothes, backpacks, and other school materials the night before.

-        Create a study schedule. Help your middle schooler create a study schedule in the days or weeks leading up to a test. Doing this gives them the confidence that they can review all of the material and avoid cramming. It may also help them prevent feeling overwhelmed or overstressed by studying.

-        Practice following directions. Many tests, especially state or nation-wide standardized tests, have very specific directions that must be followed. Encourage them to read all directions first when completing homework as practice. For reading practice and following directions outside of classwork, help your child pick and make a recipe with instructions that must be followed exactly.

-        Ask questions. A new school year brings new classes, new teachers, and and new test formats. Have your child ask questions to find out as much information as possible about the test beforehand. This includes everything from the specific material that will be covered, to how long the test will be and what kind of format the questions will have. Asking questions about test format can help alleviate student’s anxiety in advance of the big day.

-        Review test taking strategies. By middle school, most students learned a number of different test taking strategies. Help your student by reviewing test taking strategies such as educated guessing, looking for clues, eliminating wrong answers, or estimating. Doing this can give students more confidence on test day, especially after a summer away from the classroom.

Books on friendship for young readers

Friendship is one of the most common themes in children’s literature. Through engaging stories and colorful illustrations, young readers can learn how to make new friends, empathize with others, and be kind. The following are just a few of the wonderful books on friendship that your young reader may enjoy! •        -           Should I Share My Ice Cream? – Mo Willems •                  Gerald is excited to eat his ice cream on a hot sunny day, but is unsure if he should share it with his friend or not. Children will delight in following both the story and the illustrations, making this ideal for reading aloud. Grades PreK-1.             •        -           Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate – Jacky Davis •                  Lulu is looking forward to her playdate with her friend Finny – and playing with Finny’s “most amazing toy in the world”. When the girls break it, however, they have to repair both the toy and hurt feelings. This addition to the Ladybug Girl series of books proves true friendship is better than any toy. Grades PreK-1.               •        -           Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners – Laurie Keller •                  Mr. Rabbit’s new neighbors are otters – and he isn’t sure how to act around them. Luckily wise Mr. Owl gives him some sage advice: “Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you”. Bright illustrations highlight concepts such as politeness, honesty, and cooperation. Grades K-2.                 •        -           Enemy Pie – Derek Munson •                  When Jeremy Ross moves in down the street, it seems as if summer is ruined. Luckily, Dad has a recipe for enemy pie – but it includes spending a whole day together. The clever story and humorous illustrations add to the theme about conflict and friendship. Grades K-3.         •        -           Days With Frog And Toad – Arnold Lobel •                  In the five simple chapters of this Frog and Toad anthology, the two friends work together to fly a kite, celebrate a birthday, navigate what happens when one friend wants to spend time alone, and more. Emerging readers will enjoy the easy-to-follow story, illustrations, and the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a chapter book. Grades 1-3.             •        -           Nikki and Deja – Karen English •                  Nikki and Deja are best friends who do everything together. When a new girl comes to their class, they make plans to exclude her – with unexpected results. A warm and easy-to -read chapter book, Nikki and Deja covers the ups and downs of elementary school friendships and cliques with humor and finesse. Grades 1-3.

Friendship is one of the most common themes in children’s literature. Through engaging stories and colorful illustrations, young readers can learn how to make new friends, empathize with others, and be kind. The following are just a few of the wonderful books on friendship that your young reader may enjoy!

•        -           Should I Share My Ice Cream? – Mo Willems

•                  Gerald is excited to eat his ice cream on a hot sunny day, but is unsure if he should share it with his friend or not. Children will delight in following both the story and the illustrations, making this ideal for reading aloud. Grades PreK-1.            

•        -           Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate – Jacky Davis

•                  Lulu is looking forward to her playdate with her friend Finny – and playing with Finny’s “most amazing toy in the world”. When the girls break it, however, they have to repair both the toy and hurt feelings. This addition to the Ladybug Girl series of books proves true friendship is better than any toy. Grades PreK-1.              

•        -           Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners – Laurie Keller

•                  Mr. Rabbit’s new neighbors are otters – and he isn’t sure how to act around them. Luckily wise Mr. Owl gives him some sage advice: “Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you”. Bright illustrations highlight concepts such as politeness, honesty, and cooperation. Grades K-2.                

•        -           Enemy PieDerek Munson

•                  When Jeremy Ross moves in down the street, it seems as if summer is ruined. Luckily, Dad has a recipe for enemy pie – but it includes spending a whole day together. The clever story and humorous illustrations add to the theme about conflict and friendship. Grades K-3.        

•        -           Days With Frog And Toad – Arnold Lobel

•                  In the five simple chapters of this Frog and Toad anthology, the two friends work together to fly a kite, celebrate a birthday, navigate what happens when one friend wants to spend time alone, and more. Emerging readers will enjoy the easy-to-follow story, illustrations, and the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a chapter book. Grades 1-3.            

•        -           Nikki and Deja – Karen English

•                  Nikki and Deja are best friends who do everything together. When a new girl comes to their class, they make plans to exclude her – with unexpected results. A warm and easy-to -read chapter book, Nikki and Deja covers the ups and downs of elementary school friendships and cliques with humor and finesse. Grades 1-3.