Blogging A to Z April Challenge: P 04/18/2020

Parent of teacher? Which should you be?

Kids are home. Teachers are virtual. Parents are home. What should parents be doing to reinforce learning and support teachers?

Parents will always be a major teacher in their children’s lives. Teachers right now are working hard to provide appropriate education so students don’t fall behind. Parents should be encouraging students to complete all of the work assigned. Parents should also be talking to their children about what they are learning. Keep it positive though! Don’t add more onto the plates of students at this time, above and beyond what they are capable of. Even children are stressed right now because life is so different. Keep that in mind when helping kids learn.

Why is this a big deal? For one, you don’t need to be the bad guy. There doesn’t need to be a bad guy! Learning should be fun and a positive part of life. Secondly, your children should know they can turn to you at any moment for help or advice. If there is a lot of strife in the home over learning, children will shy away from asking questions. Finally, every child needs their parents and guardians. They have unfortunately lost their normal schooling, keep the relationships at home positive with some consistency. Kids need it.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: O 04/17/2020

Overkill – How much is too much?

Times are changing and with COVID-19 things are completely new to almost everyone when it comes to education! Schools have switched to virtual learning and parents are concerned about all of the schooling their children are missing. This is a concern for parents, educators, administrators, politicians, everyone. The one thing you don’t want to do is cause unnecessary stress.

What is overkill? According to Webster overkill is “excessive use, treatment, or action; too much of something.” So what does this have to do with your kids? Don’t make missing education at school feel like a terrible punishment. None of these kids asked for this and most kids want to go to school, especially to see the other kids and adults they are used to seeing. When kids are home, if they are doing the work that has been assigned, yes encourage other types of learning, but don’t force tons of extra learning because you will overdo it and have learners shut down.

Kids brains are sponges. These sponges love knowledge. If the sponge is full, the sponge can’t hold anymore at that time, until it “dries out” a little. Learning and education should be a positive experience. Is it always positive or fun? No. But as the parent or guardian, you don’t need the stress nor do you need to impart that stress on the learner in your home. Learning will happen. Encourage it. Make it fun. Reinforce learning. Reward positive behavior.

Check out other blogs like M: Math in the home, for ideas to use with children at home.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: N 04/16/2020

Nonsense words

What is a nonsense word and how could that help my child in any way?

A nonsense word is a made up word. Have you ever read Dr. Seuss and wondered where he got some of his characters? Yes, he made them up! A nonsense word can be made by taking a well known word and changing one or two letters, or many of the letters. Nonsense words can be made by rhyming.

Reading and hearing nonsense words helps to reinforce phonetic learning and phonemic awareness.
According the Harvard.edu “Phonetics is the study of speech sounds”.
According to University of Oregon Phonemic awareness is “the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds”.
Why does this matter? Think about the last time you read a book. If it was an easier read, it was as such probably because many of the words followed familiar phonemic combinations. Have you ever tried to read a technical or reference book? Some of those words are not familiar and you may have had to look closely to know what it said. That is using phonics and your phonemic awareness to read.

What are some ideas?

  1. What words rhyme with….
    Box? fox, lox, sox. jox, mox, nox…. Are they all real words? No, but they follow the rule of rhyming.
  2. Change all the a’s to i’s….
    cat is cit, bat is bit, rag is rig…Not all real words but they follow rules of vowel sounds.
  3. Add a “y” to the end of every word…
    table — tably, car —- cary, sit — sitty. Do it the other way?
    baby —- babe, lazy —- laze.
    What is a real word and what isn’t?

Many of these activities are more common with the smaller kids. It can be super fun with any age! Have you read any of the “Amelia Bedelia” books? Amelia Bedelia makes up words all the time, making each of her adventures a hysterical escapade. What about the old “Pig Latin”. According to Webster: Pig Latin is “a made-up language formed from English by transferring the initial consonant or consonant cluster of each word to the end of the word and adding a vocalic syllable (usually ˈpiɡ ˌlatn: so chicken soup would be translated to ickenchay oupsay . Pig Latin is typically spoken playfully, as if to convey secrecy.”

Have fun with words. It makes everyone laugh and surprising makes everyone a better reader.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: M 04/15/2020

Math all around the home

Have you ever wondered how you can help your child excel in math? The best way is practice and exposure.

There will always be books on learning at home and one of the most common practices is to tell parents to do things like cook with their children to teach math. That is a good strategy but not the only and not necessarily the best for your child.

Strategies for learning math at home:

  1. Cooking; Cooking is a great way to teach kids to count. It is also a good way to teach that a teaspoon is smaller than a tablespoon or a cup is smaller than a pint. I don’t disagree with any of this but one point that many parents don’t think of, as I admit I never did when my kids are little, is to show how three of those little scoops equals one of the bigger scoops (1/3 times 3 = 1). This can emphasize measurement, multiplication, fractions, and other areas that use any of these facts.
  2. Go through your cabinets! Did you ever notice that some cans are 12 ounces while others are 14.5? As adults who shop for the foods their families like, a lot of times we look for the package and don’t pay attention to the exact measurement in the packaging. Show your children this! Have them take cans out of the pantry. Sort them by units in each can. Sort them by size of the actual can. Turn the cans around and read the labels! There are percentages, measurements, and a lot of other information on the backs of cans.
  3. Have children keep track of what they drink. Do they know how many ounces are in a cup? Do they know how many ounces there are in their favorite cup? If they drink 5 cups of water in their favorite cup, how many ounces is that? This emphasizes addition, multiplication, measurement, statistics, and graphing.
  4. How many steps is it from the bedroom to the bathroom? What about the bedroom to the kitchen? How many steps in your staircase? How tall is the door to the bathroom? Is it the same as the front door of the house? What about the door on the cabinets? Obviously, the cabinet doors are smaller but by how much? These are all activities that reinforce math skills.
  5. Measure family members. Who is tallest? Who is smallest? This is comparing values! This also emphasizes ways to measure. No yardstick or anything else to measure? Well, what else can you use? A shoelace? Thinking about unconventional ways of measurement is a great critical thinking skill.

I hope I have given you some good ideas for math in the home. No need to buy anything special, no special equipment required. Be creative! With a pencil and paper, students can learn to log information, compare statistics, and make predictions! Math can be a lot of fun!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: L 04/14/2020

Levels: What do they mean?

When many adults were in school years ago there were groups; children have always been placed in groups by levels. Whether it is level of reading, social maturation, or even size, there seems to always be some groups. Nowadays, grouping is much more strategic and occurs less. Have you wondered why? 

Many groupings have gone away, especially in public schools. Not only it is against HIPAA rules, it can also be demoralizing and detrimental to a young person’s emotional development. Here is a scenario to explain it: 

Johnny came home from school to tell his mom and dad that they started reading a new chapter book in class. He goes on to say that the teacher has them in small groups so they can read together.  
I. “Well, Johnny, which group are you in?” 
“I’m in the red group” 
“What’s the red mean?” 
“I don’t know.” 

II. “Well, Johnny, which group are you in?” 
“I’m in Peter and Marcy’s group, and also Jessie” 
“Isn’t Jessie a slower reader than you?” 
“I don’t know” 

III. “Well, Johnny, which group are you in?” 
“I’m in group B” 
“What is group B? Shouldn’t you be in group A with the highest readers?” 
“I don’t know” 

So, you can see there is a lot of ambiguity and a lot of questions that come up. To be honest, the teacher doesn’t have to tell you how the groupings occurred. If she were to tell you, it may go against privacy laws. Maybe Peter is super low, and Johnny was put there to be a role model. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe Johnny is put in that group because he is the best behaved…or the worst…? 

Here is another scenario: 

Debbie comes home from school to tell her mom and dad that they started a new math concept and they were put into groups in class. She goes on to say that the teacher put them in groups based on how good they are in math. *Understand that Debbie thinks this is why they are in groups… 
I. “Debbie, who else is in your group?” 
“Billy and Paul and Emma” 
“Isn’t Paul that little boy who is always in trouble?” 
“Yes” 
“Then why are you in his group?” 
“Because we know the same math.” 
“How can you know the same math if he is always in the Principal’s office?” 
“I don’t know” 

II. “Debbie, who else is in your group?” 
“Mark and Faith and Raheed” 
“Raheed? Where is Raheed from?” 
“My school” 
“No, what country is he from?” 
“Mine, I think. Why?” 
“Never mind” 

III. “Debbie, who else is in your group?” 
“Vince and Paula and Samson” 
“I don’t know if I like that little girl Paula. Her mother is not very nice” 
“She’s nice to me” 
“Never mind” 

Now, these are just silly scenarios I made up but there are so many problems with this that teachers now avoid groupings if they can. The problem with that is then parents wonder why there AREN’T groups. 

“Why isn’t Becky with the higher readers so she can move ahead faster?” 
“Does Billy behave or is he disruptive during reading time?” 
“Isn’t Jack special needs? Why is he learning to read with my child?” 
“I don’t think Carl is a good influence and I would rather see my child in a different group” 

What is my biggest point? Don’t worry about groupings. They are not what they used to be and do not mean what they used to mean. They may occur and the teacher may have a strategy but that is her prerogative and can assure you of your own child’s success, but not about any other children in the class.  

If you have a grave concern, ask the teacher to talk privately, without your child there. The teacher will be able to give you some sort of explanation and ease your mind, but please remember, the majority of teachers out there only have the best intentions for all the children in their classrooms.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: K 04/13/2020

Kind Acts

Kind acts includes a huge gamut of things to do. People of every age can do kind things and it can be kind things to family members, societal members, and in this day and age – first responders and care takers. With social isolation and distancing, kind acts have to be somewhat virtual if aimed at someone outside of your immediate household.

So what are some ideas of kind acts?

  • Send messages on social media. Unlike years ago, before all of the modern technology, this was not possible. Nowadays, almost everyone can be reached via social media. Even people you don’t personally know. For instance, local police departments. They have Facebook pages, as do many hospitals. Post on their Facebook page how proud you are of what they are doing for so many sick people.
  • Make posters for your car for display when out on errands. You will never know when you may pull up at the gas pump, next to a nurse or doctor. They may look over and see encouraging words written on a poster in your car. A smile may come to their face. It’s just a small way to say thank you.
  • Stay home! Yes, staying home is a kind act. If you stay home you are just one more person who ISN’T going to spread the virus.
  • Write letters to first responders. Don’t have a stamp? Check with your local mail carrier if there is a way to get mail to local offices. You may have to drop thank you letters or notes of other contents, right at the hospital or fire station. When you pull up, most places now have someone come out to you to see what your needs are. Hand them the notes and ask them to bring them inside. The only problem with this is that some places don’t want to accept any product from the outside. If this were to happen, go back to social media.
  • Take a walk in front of your elderly neighbors house. Call them to the door and just wave and say hello from the street or down their driveway. Sometimes a simple hello can brighten someone’s day.

Yes, with social distancing and this horrible virus, kind acts are not what we typically envision. Be creative and I almost guarantee that every effort will be appreciated.

Stay safe, healthy, and home!!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: J 04/11/2020

Juggling: multiple classes/classwork and everything else 

Basing my blogs on education I did have a different direction to bring this post, however, based on current real-life conditions I want to address the idea of juggling more on a track of kids at home.

All over the country children are home, learning via virtual classrooms. Google classroom, Dojo, Kahoot, Kahn Academy, See Saw Learning, Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, Big Blue Button, Learn Cube, Wiz IQ, Samba Live, …. and many others.

So, the schools are getting a good handle on education but how do you juggle learning time, playtime, downtime, and mealtime while everyone is at home? My first response: Make a schedule for the entire household. It is not only the children who need a schedule to stick to, it’s the adults too! Time passes before our eyes, especially when we are doing fun things like watching movies or playing outside. You want to secure a certain amount of time each day as a learning block. It doesn’t have to be all in one block, but it should be set.

Once you have the schedule for learning time versus other times, you have to delegate what parts of that learning time are devoted to each class. When children are at school they don’t sit for three hours straight working on English or Math. They are moving between subjects. This movement, at home, can include a short bit of exercise, a quick healthy snack, a walk outside. The breaks should also be timed. Ten minutes should be sufficient between subjects.

The biggest problem families will face is efficacy! Make sure you all stick to the schedule! If you don’t, things will pile up around you all, making life seem overwhelming and unbearable. When tasks pile up, people shut down. Don’t fall prey to free time!

If you need other ideas for keeping kids on task, please message me here or send me an email: stinewriting@gmail.com

Stay safe and healthy!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: I 04/10/2020

Inner feelings – don’t be afraid to share 

This post can be construed in multiple ways, so I will address my belief in multiple ways.

Right now, the world is turned upside down with sickness, despair, sadness, you name it! Kids see and hear things that they don’t necessarily talk about. They might overhear you on the phone saying you hope you don’t get sick because you don’t want your kids to be alone. Well, if they hear that, what they really hear is: “I’m going to die and my children will be alone.” So, what do you do? Talk to your children. Tell them what you are afraid of, tell them what scares you. By seeming human to them, they will then share with you. Talking about how you really feel is probably one of the healthiest things you can do.

In another sense, I think it is important to teach kids that their feelings do matter to you. They need to understand that although everyone in their lives are not going to agree with them or even care, you are there to care! If a child tells you they are scared, don’t just so, “Oh, it will be fine soon.” Ask them what part they are afraid of. You will get much more attention this way and they will feel like you are listening. Why would someone want to share their feelings if they knew they would only be brushed aside.

Also, talked to your children about what they think OTHERS are feeling right now. That is called empathy, being able to understand what another person is going through. (Merriam Webster: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: H 04/09/2020

Help – what can you help teach? 

This blog goes to both parents and children!

Teaching others is not just for the adults. There are a lot of things that kids can teach us, we just need to know what to ask. I know many people are reading this and thinking I am one of those people who think that “children are little people, equal to adults”. Well, NOPE! I think that the idea that children are on the same level as adults is setting them up for a big kick in the ass! Seriously, if you tell your child they are more important and more like an adult than anyone else, you will be the only one and they will be devastated. I’m not saying you shouldn’t tell your kids how important they are TO YOU. That goes without saying, but hyping them up to be superhuman is just going to be a big let-down for them in the future.

Now that many children are home participating in online learning or some sort of distance learning, it might be hard to help without them saying, “I know what to do!” If you want to be sure, ask them to teach you! I don’t mean to tell them, “Well, if you know then tell me!” I mean “Hey, you know a lot about that. Want to teach me a little bit too?” Empower your learners! This not only boosts self-confidence it also helps reinforce learning because they are telling it back to you.

On the other hand, if a child does need help, don’t be like one of the teachers with the big, red pen! I laugh when I say this because if any of my former students saw this they would tell me I’m a hypocrite. I always used a red pen. Not because red is bad, but because you can see it on their papers! Anyhow, walk kids through what they need to learn and then let it sink in, let them tell you that they think they’ve got it. Also, encourage them to tell you that they don’t understand. Finally, when a child does their work for school, don’t make sure it is 100% correct before they send it back to their teacher every time. I used to tell my parents and students that a teacher also needs to know what kids are NOT understanding so they can teach it further. If you are telling your child, this is wrong, fix that, that is wrong…you are pointing out errors that isn’t teaching them why or what to do differently. Again, I am not saying to have your students hand in crappy work. If the effort wasn’t there, then yes, redo, but if they put all their effort in and they are proud, let them hand their work in AS IS. Telling a kid how much they don’t do right is the same as telling them how much they are doing wrong!

Sharing learning is one of the best strategies for understanding.

A funny story: My daughter, who is now 21, used to make notecards for every test she ever had. This was through middle and high school. The way that she studied was she made me play student and she played teacher. She would quiz me on the work and until I got it all right, we went through the pile of cards over and over. By her telling me and reading it, and then hearing me, she learned what she needed and practically had straight A’s! Now, can I still remember every bone in the body or every capital of every US state, well no, but she probably does!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: G 04/08/2020

Giving makes you feel positive 

Right now everyone in the entire world is feeling the wrath of COVID-19. There are some areas that are less talked about, but I believe there is nowhere this virus has not spread. In these times, people are out of work and some are desperate. Giving seems like the right thing to do, but what if you are one of the people that is needy?

Teaching kids to give is a positive life lesson. The biggest thing to think about however, is not the size of your giving, but the feeling behind it. Perhaps your child is home and watching television, seeing how hard the doctors and nurses are working to keep people alive. What can a kid do to help? Here are some ideas:

  • Go onto social media and say thank you to doctors, nurses, first responders….Anyone that is out there helping people to survive this pandemic.
  • Write a thank you note to your local ER or police station. Sometimes just a quick thank you is enough for people to know they are appreciated.
  • Have your children go through their toys. Which ones do they barely play with? Donating them this minute might not be an option but if people are out of work for this long, the winter holidays are going to be tight for everyone.
  • Have older kids go through their clothes and shoes. For some people, Target is a good name brand while other people only like Holister or American Eagle. Well, when the going gets tough, like it is now, there will be many people looking for nice things.
  • Children can make posters saying thank you to our doctors, nurses, and first responders. These posters can be out in the yard, displayed in a front window, or displayed in a car. Anything to show appreciation.

So, these are just a few ideas. Teaching kids to give will also teach them to feel intrinsically good about themselves. (Merriam Webster – intrinsic: belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing)

We have a lot of time on our hands and many of us have something we can do, even if it is small, to show the hard-workers that they do matter. This in turn makes you feel good inside, knowing you may have brightened at least one person’s day. It does matter. Then share what you did! Spread your good intentions to others, like a chain reaction, it will grow. You don’t share to say, “Hey look I shared”, you share to say, “Hello! Is everyone out there realizing how much other people are doing?!”

“Go from ME to WE”: we are all in this together.

Share other ideas you have here or on other social media.