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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Family’s Farm: Non-fiction Children’s Book about Turkey Farms

Drum roll, please…





Okay – I really meant to just write a blog post introducing the non-fiction children’s book I wrote, but I’m just too excited for a dry, boring, “this is what I wrote and this is why I wrote it” post.

So, instead, you get some intense gushing emotion.

I wrote a book.  And it’s done.  And I’m proud of it.

And I found a partner (Iowa Turkey Federation) to sponsor the printing, so I can GIVE IT AWAY to K and 1st grade teachers in Iowa.

(It’s surprising they agreed to work with me, considering how often I start a sentence with “and.”)

So yeah, it’s just a children’s book.

And it’s just non-fiction.

And it’s self-published, not regular-published.

But I don’t care.

The way I see it, I’m well on my way to being my generation’s Laura Ingalls Wilder, sharing my life on the prairie with children around the world. (Right?)My Family Farm - Page 005


Now, the nitty gritty details:

Age range: 4+

I included two sections of text on each page.  The first section is in Adam’s voice, and is meant for younger kids.  The other section is more detailed background information appropriate for older students (3rd grade through 6th grade.)

Availability: FREE online version found here

Printed version for K & 1st grade teachers in Iowa FREE here

Printed version available to the rest of the world soon for a nominal fee

Bonus material: Free printable Thanksgiving and farm materials here


What’s that? You want to read the online version?  I set up a page on my blog just for that!


Please, feel free to share, pin, and give me some feedback (as long as it’s positive and contributes to my gushing emotions, okay?)



Katie Olthoff, Author

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


If you’ve been following along, you may have noticed that I took a little break from my #write31days series.  It seems I’m not the only one.  Even The Nester and her sister took a hiatus this year.

I hit a mental block, and just wasn’t feeling it anymore.  Actually, I think the problem is that my brain veered off in a totally different direction and I can’t seem to get it back to “Secrets from a Teacher.”  My husband always says I have a one-track-mind, and it’s on a different track right now.

So, this is my version of recess.  I’m going to take some pressure off myself and stretch out the series.  I’ll continue to post Secrets from a Teacher as a regular installment on my blog, but I’m going to do it more slowly here on out.

In the meantime, I have some other blog posts to share, so you can look forward to those in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Brains can Grow

And you need to tell your kid so!

brains grow

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck, was life-changing for me.  (And I was at a conference for teachers of gifted education once and the presenter said the same thing.)

In it, Dweck outlines two different mindsets:

1. Growth mindset: People believe that they can improve (or grow) with work.  So, if there’s something they want to do better, they practice.  A growth mindset can be an amazing motivator.

2. Fixed mindset: People believe that their abilities are permanent.  They are either good athletes or they are not.  They are either good at spelling or they are not.  They are either organized or they are not.  And if they are not, they quit trying.



Graphic by Nigel Holmes

This is a gross oversimplification of the two mindsets, but my purpose here is just to give you a quick introduction and point you to some more useful resources:

Mindset Online: The official website of Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Mindset Works: A curriculum to teach a growth mindset.  Also a free e-newsletter with tips. Thorough article on Mindset

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Ask the Experts

When Isaac was nearing his second birthday, I started to think that his speech was delayed.

But I wasn’t sure, so I hemmed and hawed about it for a couple more months.

Then, I finally called to get him evaluated.

As it turned out, his speech WAS delayed, but just barely.


Even with my background in child development and my experience with my older child, I had a hard time telling whether Isaac’s development was normal or not.  The great thing is that I didn’t have to figure it out on my own.  Every state has a myriad of resources available for early childhood education…all you have to do is ask.


So when you are unsure whether or not your child’s development (or behavior or tantrums or poop) are normal, find an expert and ask!

ask an expert


(The expert pictured above is Alisha from Your Kids Table, the occupational therapist I’ve consulted several times about my kids’ eating habits.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Praise Properly



Praise is a powerful thing.  When done correctly, it can motivate, raise self-esteem, and inspire confidence. 

When done incorrectly, it can do the exact opposite.  Praising your children CAN be harmful.

I read NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children several years ago and it had a profound impact on my teaching and parenting.  I could summarize the authors’ argument, but this video does it better.



(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Kids Need Recess!

It was a beautiful weekend here in Iowa.  And my kids got plenty of time to play outdoors; at a birthday party in a park, at a family gathering with their cousins, walking the dog, and working outside with their dad.

But not every weekend is the same.  Sometimes, the weather is crummy or the kids get zoned out in front of the tv and don’t go outside.

Truth be told, those days affect them.  They are grouchier, restless, and more obstinate.  But a change of scenery and a chance to use their large motor skills can help.


Both exercise and time outdoors have been shown to improve mood and brain function.  So make an effort, even when the weather’s not great, to get your kids outside.  When weather really makes it impossible (Iowa in February, for example) try some large motor games inside.  My boys love trying to keep a balloon from hitting the ground, throwing ball-pit balls at a “spider web” of painter’s tape across a doorway, and doing Wii Just Dance.  Kids gyms and indoor playgrounds are great options, too.

Don’t underestimate the power of active play!

(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Ask Open-Ended Questions

One of my professors in college was adamant that we ask, “What questions do you have?” instead of, “Do you have any questions?”  He insisted that the latter question would nearly always be met with the answer, “No,” but the former encouraged thoughtful discussion.

Turns out he was right.

“What questions do you have?” is far more effective than, “Do you have any questions?” “Does that make sense?” and, “Got it?”

(Side note: I apologize if I butchered the punctuation in that sentence. It was a tricky one.)

How does that apply to your interactions with your children?  Well, when you are trying to get information out of your children, try to replace questions that can be answered with one word with questions that invite conversation or explanation.

open ended questions

Instead of, “Did you have a good day at school?” Try, “What was the best thing at school today?  The worst?”

Instead of, “How do you feel when so-and-so does such-and-such?” Try, “Tell me what it’s like when…” (Thanks, Susan Stiffelman for that one.)

And of course, instead of, “Does that make sense?” ask, “What questions do you have?”

(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

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