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Tips for Successful School Conferences

12 Oct

We shared some of our tips for school conferences on Fox4 KC. Click on the link below to watch.

smart-mom-university

 

Great Read Aloud Books

30 Jul

THIS IS IMPORTANT!

Now that I have your attention, I wanted you to know that you should read to your kids until they are at least 11 or 12 years old. (Some kids will let you read to them until they leave the house.) Select books that are at a higher level than they can read by themselves, but can still understand. Reading aloud to your kids will encourage their imagination, build vocabulary and model reading skills. Most of all it will be a great bonding time for your family.

It’s important not to change the vocabulary words or ask your child to help you read. You are the reader and they are the listener.

Here’s a list of books we think your kids would enjoy listening to.

Ages 5 and up

  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Lois Sachar
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
  • Stuart Little by E. B. White
Ages 7 and up
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L ‘Engle
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  • The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Ages 9 and up
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

What Do I Do With the Kids?

28 Jun

Are you looking for things to do with the kids this summer? Download our July activity calendar for some simple fun every day of the month.

Play and Learn Game Board

14 Jun

This simple and inexpensive game board is easy to make at home with things you have around the house. You can use it to have fun reinforcing skills your kids learned at school.

Materials

  • File folder
  • Markers
  • Stickers
  • Index cards

Open your file folder and draw a wiggly line with the markers. Make a “Start” and “Finish”. Add stickers along the line for places to land on.

Decorate the front of the file folder for added interest. We used markers, jewels, sequence and wiggly eyes.

Make game cards using index cards. If your child needs to work on recognizing letters, write one letter on each card. If your child needs to work on addition or subtraction, write one math problem (without the answer) on each card, etc.

To play the game, have each player select a marker (coins work well). Place the game cards face down. Player One rolls the die, selects a card and tries to answer the question. If the answer is correct, Player One move the number of spaces on the die. If the answer is incorrect, the player stays where he is. First one to the finish wins.

 

Summer Reading Programs

4 Jun

Don’t miss these summer reading programs available to your kids. Kids of all ages can participate and often earn a prize for reading. It’s a great incentive. Here are some summer reading programs to try: Your library, Barnes and Noble or other bookstores, Scholastic Books,Sylvan Learning CentersHalf Price BookstoresPBSTD Bank, and Chuck E. Cheese.

Summer Fun

1 Jun

If you’re having difficulty reading this post, click on the blog title.

Summer’s here and our family is ready for some rest and relaxation. How about you?

Click on the calendar above to download a month of fun activities for your whole family. We’ll be posting fewer blogs this summer so we can spend more time with our kids. We’re using this calendar in our house to provide a little routine and some ideas so the summer doesn’t slip by.

We really want to see what you do this summer and we hope you’ll post some pictures on our Facebook page. We have so many followers from around the world that and there’s so much to share to bring us closer together. We also LOVE to look at pictures!

Here’s hoping you and your family have a great time together and enjoy the summer, or winter, if you’re south of the equator

 

Bubble Gum Math

31 May

Who says math is boring! See who can blow the biggest bubble or try this bubble gum fun.

Ask the Teacher

25 May

Whether your child is a high achieving student or needs some extra help, summer is a great time to practice all kinds of school related skills. Your child’s teacher knows your child’s skills better than anyone else and are your best resource.

Ask your child’s teacher for a suggestion on each of the following:

  • What is the most important skill my child could work on academically?
  • What social/emotional skill could my child work on improving?
  • If there was one thing your would recommend that my child could do over the summer what would it be?

Some of parents who read this will think that their child doesn’t need to work on any of the skills listed above. Believe it or not, every child has something to work on! Your child’s teacher spends at least 8 hours a day with your child in a setting far different than your home. They know many things you don’t know about your child!

Finally, and most importantly, when you ask the teacher these questions, listen carefully and be open-minded to what they are saying. Their advice will only make your child a better person and student.

Prepping for Summer

24 May

Now that you’ve got your summer routine in set up, it’s time to start prepping so you’re not scrambling for activities when the kids are out of school. We have lots of ideas of things to have available for the kids and activities, but you should only choose the ones you feel comfortable doing. You might want to select two or three of the listed activities to prep for your kids’ summer.

Identify the major chores you want to teach your kids this summer and add them to your calendar. Find places you can volunteer with your kids. Discover what activities your library will have this summer. Research places you want to go on a field trip and find out their hours and directions.

Reading Programs: Gather the record sheets for the summer reading programs available to you. Kids of all ages can participate and often earn a prize for reading. It’s a great incentive. Here are some summer reading programs to try: Your library, Barnes and Noble or other bookstores, Scholastic Books, Sylvan Learning Centers, Half Price Bookstores, PBS, TD Bank, and Chuck E. Cheese.

Art Activities: This is one of the best lists of art materials and activities I’ve ever seen. The best thing is that everything on the list can be purchased at the dollar store. I’m going to choose 3-5 of the activities to have on hand because they are different than any we’ve done before. I’m definitely getting yellow highlighters for glow in the dark activities and plastic table cloths for easy to set up slip and slides. My girls will even use a lot of the ideas for babysitting.

Science Activities: Don’t be afraid, science can be as easy as having your kids mix vinegar and baking soda with eye droppers. Here are some other simple ideas: Make a leaf rubbing, bird feeder, plant some flowers, go geocaching, or melt an iceberg.

Writing Activities: Fill a basket with writing materials, make some shape books, covered books, accordion books.

Math Activities: Make a card holder and get a deck of cards, pick up some foam shapes for the bath tub, bake or cook something.

If you prep one thing from each activity now, you’ll have a trick to pull out of your sleeve at a moments notice. We even have great suggestions on our Pinterest board for you to check out. If you don’t have a Pinterest account, just ask us for an invite.

Also, we LOVE to see what you and your kids are up to this summer. Share some pictures with us on our Facebook page.

Mapping Out the Big Stuff

22 May

When I think about my childhood summer, I think about days on end spent outside swimming and playing. When I think about my own children’s summer, I think about scheduling. It’s unfortunate, I clearly know, but I function better with a routine and so do my kids. The most important thing I remember about creating our summer routine is that it is never set in stone and can always be changed.

My last blog gave you a video overview of how I plan my summers with my kids, and today I’ll break it down in to how I map out the “big” stuff. Since the school year is busy and exhausting that we often don’t take advantage of our great city or spend as much time doing the things that are truly important to our family. Our summer calendar allows us spend more quality time together and enjoying the things we love. Now that my children are older, we also have some major activities, events, and camps that they attend. Here’s how I make it all work.

First: The first thing I write on my calendar are: camps, vacations, mission trips, and any other events that have unchangeable dates.

Next: After those are in place, I give each weekday a specific activity. In our house, Monday is library day, Tuesday is volunteer day, Wednesday is major chore day, Thursday is school work day, and Friday is field trip day. Your family may want to make one day play date day or pool day. It just depends upon what works for your family and how old your children are.

Now that you see how I map out the major events, let me give you a few suggestions for the each day.

Library Day: You may not know all of the services your library offers; I know we didn’t. Here’s a list of some things your library may offer during the summer. Storytimes, art activities, guest musicians, performances, summer reading programs. We even found out that our library has a program for kids 12 and up that gives them the opportunity to review books before they are even published. My avid reader can’t wait to be part of that this summer. Teach your kids about all of the resources the library can offer them. Trust me, when they’re in high school they’ll appreciate it! Don’t forget to check out some books, too!

Volunteer Day: Did you know that even infants can volunteer? When my kids were ages 0 and 3, we would make a weekly visit to the assisted living home. The residents loved it! I will never forget the older woman who sat in her wheelchair and rolled a ball with my son who was a crawler at the time. At the end of our visit, she would always ask if we would be back. My 3-year-old would color or do a simple puzzle with the residents. They always loved getting her pictures when she was finished.

Some volunteer places have age restrictions but Meals on Wheels and nursing homes are always appreciative of children’s art work. (I’m sure you have a lot of drawings around your house you don’t know what to do with. ;)) Older children can help prepare meals, stuff envelopes for an organization, dust the shelves or clean pews at a church. There are so many organizations needing help, I’m sure you will easily find something that works for your family. (You can always contact Smart Mom U for volunteer ideas. We’d be happy to help you.)

Major Chore Day: Daily chores are great but why not get some help with major chores around the house. Aren’t kids closer to the baseboards than you? This is a great life lesson to teach kids about keeping their living area clean and healthy. Here’s a list of some chores your kids can do to help around the house.

School day: Even though school is out, it’s still important to keep those little minds engaged. Research shows that kids who don’t do any work over the summer lose 2 months worth of learning and they spend the beginning of the new school year catching up. If your kids are little, spend only 15-30 minutes working on some simple skills. Older elementary and middle schoolers should spend about an hour on some kind of school work. This summer, we’re going to work on our writing skills. Although my kids have learned good writing skills at school, we’re going to focus on learning how to narrow down a story topic, writing more interesting sentences, improving word choice. It sounds daunting but all I am doing is taking what they have brought home from school and helping them edit one or two stories during the summer. You can get more ideas for school-like activities on our website in our Summer School or Junior College. (P.S. Workbooks are good but not necessary. We do recommend Summer Bridge workbooks and have them for sale through Amazon in our website bookstore.)

Field Trip Day: This is one of my favorite days because our city has so much to offer kids of all ages. We have been on some field trips that weren’t so fun, but most of them have been fantastic. There are even some my kids request every summer. Some of the field trips we take are for learning purposes so I try to choose some that went along with what they studied during the year. For instance, they all learned about Kansas History so we will take a field trip to one of the sites that has costumed interpreters who will demonstrate what Kansas was like during the pioneer days. Other field trips are just to get out and have some fun. We may bring a picnic and some friends and try a park we’ve never been to. Younger kids may enjoy being engaged during a field trip and we have lots of ideas on how to do this, so let us know how we can help.

You’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have this summer with a little bit of planning. Don’t forget to contact us if you need some ideas.

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