Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School Blues (and Hopes)

Today is a day I've been both looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  It is the first day of school for Peanut and Pumpkin.

I am sitting here feeling a bit morose, yet hopeful.  I miss my girls - my reading buddies, my house cleaning helpers, my background musicians, my constant sources of surprise and amusement.  I miss our amazing and sometimes profound conversations.  I love our time together where we can create our own schedule, rules, and fun.  I already miss the random hugs throughout the day for no reason at all.  I miss listening to them play together (even when they argue).  I even miss the constant interruptions when I'm trying to get something done.  (I feel like I should probably accomplish more when they are back at school, but somehow, I don't.)

While there is so much that I miss when my girls are at school, I send them because I have hope.  I hope that they will learn more than I would be able to teach them. I hope that they will develop friendships that will help them through the difficult tween/teen years. I hope to expose them to people that are different than they are.  I want my children to be kind, compassionate, and open-minded.  I hope that school provides them with unique perspectives so that they can make well informed decisions about what they think, feel and believe.  I hope that they will find their voices, their passions, their paths in life that will make them the most content.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Avoiding Summer Slide (And Beyond) - #3 Financial Awareness

Several summers ago, when I was growing tired of Peanut and Pumpkin asking me for snacks, treats, etc every time we went into a store or past an ice cream shop, I decided that I needed to give my kids more financial responsibility.  I was tired of saying "No", but I certainly wasn't about to start saying "Yes" to all of these extravagances.  I took several steps to increase their financial awareness.

1)  More responsibility at home.  
My girls have been doing chores since they were tiny.  Before they could even speak in complete sentences I would have them find all of the socks in the laundry.  That was their only job - find socks. Then we moved on to finding socks and matching them.  Eventually they found, matched, folded and put socks away in the appropriate drawers.  Now they can pretty much do their own laundry from start to finish.  While we prefer to do it all together - we've had some amazing conversations over the laundry basket - the girls can handle it if I ask them to do it.   This is just one of their "required" chores. Just as no one pays me to cook dinner or drive the girls to practices and events, Peanut and Pumpkin do not get paid for required chores.  (Each year I reevaluate what the girls are capable of doing and modify their chore list.  During the summer they are able to do more than they are during the school year.)

2)  An opportunity to earn their own money.  
While the girls don't get paid for required chores like laundry, wiping down the bathroom sink, sweeping and vacuuming the kitchen floor (essentially cleaning up after themselves), they do have the opportunity to earn money by doing other chores.  The paid chores are listed in the kitchen pantry with the job, the frequency with which it can be done, and the pay rate.   If Peanut and/or Pumpkin are saving up for something, if they are bored, or if they just want to earn a little spending money, they can look at the list and choose something to do.  (FYI - My pay rate is pretty low.  The girls don't really need an overabundance of spending money.  If they have too much, then they don't really have to think too hard before making financial decisions.)

3)  Keeping track of their money.  
Since the girls are earning money, I think it is also important for them to keep track of it.  Peanut and Pumpkin have a checkbook that has a record of the money they've earned and the money they've spent. When they earn money by doing a chore, they add it to their checkbook (which I keep in my purse). This works well for us for a couple reasons.  1 - I don't always have to have cash to pay them for their chores.  2 - They are learning to balance a checkbook.

4) Making their own financial decisions.
Now, when the girls ask for some item that I think is silly or frivolous, I don't have to say "No".  I simply tell them that they can buy it if they have enough money in their checkbook and decide that they want to.  The change in their desire to spend money is amazing.  They are so much more aware of how much things cost.   For example, Peanut loves ICEEs.  Every time we would see a place that sells ICEEs she would ask to buy one.  Now, she asks how much it costs.  Before, she didn't realize that the same item can vary in price from $6.00 at a theme park, to $3.00 at the mall, to just over $1.00 at Sam's Club. This new appreciation for the value of products is refreshing.   I've found that both girls check prices even when we're shopping for items that they need and know that I intend to buy for them.

So far, these four steps have worked really well to make Peanut and Pumpkin more financially aware and more financially responsible.  Do you have any tips that you use with your kids?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

This past weekend, a couple dear friends of mine lost someone that was very special to them.  As they go through this difficult time, I am reminded of the amazing people in my life that I was blessed to know and heartbroken to lose.  While it is true that the sadness and pain do seem to lessen with time, it is also true that it can sneak up on you again at any moment without notice.

Missing someone isn't about how long it's been since you've seen them last or the amount of time since you've talked. It's about that very moment when you're doing something, and you wish that they were right there with you.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Avoiding Summer Slide - Tips & Suggestions (#2 Reading Together)

I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget.

–William Lyon Phelps

I love to read!  Historical Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Suspense, True Crime, Nonfiction - I read them all.  More often than not, I am a read to forget kind of girl, however I do occasionally read to remember. I have found that I can learn quite a bit about myself, others, and the world in general by reading a good book.  Because I have an appreciation for the knowledge and escape that comes from reading, I have always had a desire to pass that on to my children.

From the first day that I brought my babies home from the hospital, we have read together.  While some people thought that it was a bit extreme to read with my girls at such a young age, I have never regretted it.  Though the girls are now 8 & 10, and can (and do) read just as easily on their own, we still read together almost every day.  

Researchers have studied the benefits of reading with children, and I have yet to hear of one that doesn't recommend it.  However, experience has given me my own list of reasons why we love to read together:

1)  Vocabulary - It is very rare for Peanut or Pumpkin to come across a word that they don't recognize or can't figure out with context clues.  Occasionally, if they're feeling lazy, they'll ask what a word means, but usually they read ahead a bit or reread a sentence to figure out what it means on their own.  By reading books by authors from other countries, classic books that are written using terminology from a previous generation, and books and may be a bit older than their reading level, they are exposed to words, sentences, and phrases that make them think.

2)  Bonding - When we read together at home, the girls and I squish into our chair and a half, cuddle up with a blanket, and relax.  It is one of my favorite places to be.  While the girls still love hugs and are very affectionate, our reading/cuddle time is reminiscent of when they were babies and we'd sit cuddled together for hours at a time.  It is comfort!

3)  Conversation - Reading together gives us something to talk about.  We can talk about the book, or even topics that the book brings up.  I feel that serious topics, like death, drugs, poverty, etc., are a bit easier to discuss when they are relevant only in a book and not necessarily in their real lives yet.  Books open the door to discussions that need to take place.

Do you read together with your kids?  What benefits have you found?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

 Another Wednesday means it is time for another quote.  Here's the latest food for thought:
"The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child's home." -William Temple
While many would like to blame the schools and the government for the state of education in our city, state, and country (and they certainly aren't blameless), we must also look to ourselves for some of the failures that we see.  Personally, I think that what we teach our children at home is most influential in determining what they believe and are able to achieve.

*Credit for quotes may be incorrect, but regardless of who said them, I like them.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Box Tops for Education - Meijer Box Tops Sweepstakes

For those of you that are Meijer shoppers and Box Tops for Education clippers - here is an opportunity to win some bonus Box Tops for your school!

From August 1st to August 14th, when you purchase five General Mills participating products at Meijer in a single trip, you'll receive a special code.† Enter that code here for your chance to win up to 10,000 eBoxTops® for your school – it's that easy!
Plus, when you enter your code, you'll have a shot at winning 100 eBoxTops for your school INSTANTLY. So what are you waiting for?
Guess what?!

If you check out the rules here, you'll find that you don't even need to make a purchase to enter and win.  They list a free code you can use to enter.

Good Luck!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Avoiding Summer Slide - Tips & Suggestions (#1 Khan Academy)

I LOVE summer break!

From the beach to boat trips to lazy pajama days, there is so much that makes me happy about the summer.

I like to be able to take my girls out to experience life.  I want them to have amazing memories from their childhood.  When they look back on their lives as they get older, I want them to smile - not because they remember the things they had, but because they remember their feelings and experiences.  

While there are so many fun things for kids (and adults) to do when they're on break, that doesn't mean that responsibilities can be completely neglected.   This is especially true if you're trying to avoid the dreaded summer slide.  

I consider myself to be quite fortunate.  My girls are bright.  Even if they do experience a bit of summer slide, they are able to quickly recover.  Last summer, I made sure that Peanut and Pumpkin both read, but other than that, I didn't really worry too much about their "schooling" during the summer.  This year, I tried to create a schedule that would allow them to work on more than just reading during these fun-filled summer months.  

Have you heard of Khan Academy?  
Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.
All of the site's resources are available to anyone. It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. Khan Academy's materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.
I had an amazing friend tell me about Khan Academy last year.  This summer, I decided to sign my girls up and have them work on their math skills (though there are many other subjects to choose from as well).  Peanut and Pumpkin spend 1/2 hour each weekday morning practicing skills that they have previously learned as well as learning new skills.  The curriculum includes questions/problems to solve, hints, and even videos explaining topics that might be new to you or your children.   Generally, the girls can practice on their own while I am getting other things done around the house.  Only occasionally do they have a question that one of the videos or hints doesn't answer for them.

One of my favorite things about Khan Academy (other than the fact that it is completely FREE!) is that they send me a weekly update telling me how much time my kids have spent on the site.  They also send a breakdown of the skills they are working on, having trouble with, and have mastered.   Another bonus - my kids enjoy doing it!  :)

While I can't say exactly the impact that Khan Academy has had on my girls' success in school, I do have to say that it does seem to be a wonderful program.  I have recommended it to all of my friends and family with children (and may actually brush up on my own math skills this fall).   I'd be interested to hear your opinions as well.

I have a few more tips and suggestions that I'll be sharing in future posts.  Do you have any other ideas or sites that have been helpful for your family in preventing summer slide?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

I love looking up fun and inspirational quotes to suit my mood.  Today I happened upon this one and thought it was highly appropriate as we get ever closer to our first day back at school.

"The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson."- Tom Bodett

Perhaps we need to change how we teach our children, since it seems like life lessons are always a bit easier to remember long term than typical school lessons.

*I don't really know if Tom Bodett said this, but no matter who did, I like it.  :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Box Tops for Education - Receipts Promotion

I am a HUGE fan of Box Tops for Education (except for the days when I have to sort, count, and send them in).  I am always asking friends, family, neighbors, and anyone that will listen for their Box Tops if they aren't going to use them.  

Every Box Top is worth $0.10 to your school!  While a dime might not seem like much, it really adds up if you can get the entire school paying attention and clipping instead of tossing those tiny pieces of plastic, paper, cardboard, etc.

My favorite thing about the Box Tops for Education program is that they actually send a check directly to your school!  You don't have to save up points for items that you may or may not need.  Your school gets money that can be used for just about anything.

While the Box Tops themselves add up fairly quickly, I love when BTFE offers promotions that allow you to earn bonus Box Tops.   Here's a great one that is going on right now:

For every 10 participating Box Tops for Education™ Receipt Rewards products you purchase in a single transaction between 7/21/14 and 8/31/14 at a participating grocery retailer, you can earn 50 bonus eBoxTops™ for your selected school. By 10/1/14 either upload a picture of your receipt to, or email or text a picture of your receipt to A star must be placed next to the date of purchase, the UPC codes for all 10 participating products and the total amount of your receipt transaction, and each starred item must be legible in the photo. After your receipt has been validated, you will receive a reply email or text with a unique code. enter the code at by 12/1/14. All eBoxTops will be awarded directly to the selected school. Only BTFE registered schools can redeem eBoxTops. Each eBoxTops credit is worth 10 cents to the redeeming school. All eBoxTops are subject to the Official Rules available at Limit 10 participating BTFE products per transaction. Limit 5 receipts per phone number or email address. Msg & data rates may apply. Must be 18+ to send text. Subject to General Mills privacy policy at

I'll be heading out to the store this week to pick up my 10 BTFE items (we're almost out of cereal anyway) and my bonus $5.00 for my kids' school.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to School and Back to Blogging

I don't know how some of my amazing blogger friends do it.  They have wonderful blogs full of quality content that people love to read.  When I started blogging, I had high hopes that I would be able to do the same.  Over the years, however, I've discovered that I'm not a great blogger.  I take long breaks, my grammar isn't perfect, and I don't have much focus.   With that knowledge, I have decided to change my purpose for this blog.  I don't think I'll ever be able to use it to make any extra money, so I will use it for something else.

Most of my life is focused on the education of my children, so I will focus my blog on the same.  I am highly interested in the direction that education is going (and perhaps trying to change the course a bit). So, I'll write about the changes I see and share articles that others write as well.  I'd love to hear your opinions on the changes I'm seeing.  If I have a question, I'd be very interested to receive advice from people that have already experienced the same issues.  I'll also happily share my experiences with you.  I have always enjoyed finding freebies for my kids' school and their classroom teachers, so I'll share that information as I happen across it.   Hopefully you will find it to be useful.

I'll still write the occasional review and offer giveaways as the opportunity arises.  So, if you hear of a product that you think is a great fit, please let me know.

Looking forward to the journey ahead!