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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

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

Drum roll, please…

cover

I WROTE A BOOK!

AND IT’S GETTING PRINTED!

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?)

Sincerely,
Katie Olthoff, Author


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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Recess!

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.

 

mindset

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.

BrainPickings.org: 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

 

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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 write31days.com 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.

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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 write31days.com 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 write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Read Aloud to Your Kids, No Matter Their Age

I don’t know why, but it seems like parents quit reading to their kids as soon as they can read on their own.  But kids of all ages benefit from being read to. 

read aloud

Consider these 4 reasons to read aloud to your kids long after they begin to read on their own:

1.  They need to hear fluent readers.  Remember the modeling I talked about?  Kids need to hear an experienced reader from time to time, so that they can emulate them.

2.  It is a great bonding experience. The 5 Love Languages of Childrenoutlines 5 different ways our children express love and feel loved.  Reading aloud to them covers at least three of them: quality time, acts of service, and physical touch (if you’re sitting near each other.)

3.  A child’s listening comprehension level is often 3 grade levels above their independent reading level.  That means that your 2nd grader may be able to read beginning chapter books on his own, but he may be interested in The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter. (This is especially important for an older child who struggles with reading.  What if your 5th grader reads at a 2nd grade level? Trust me, he’s tired of Junie B. Jones by then!)  Give your child the gift of a good story – read it to them.

4.  It’s more fun!  Learning to read is hard work.  It’s no wonder many kids don’t like it!  But listening to a great story read by someone else (even a book on tape!) can be much more rewarding for kids.


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Don’t say “This is easy!”

 

It slips out of our mouths before we even notice. 

“Come on, it’s not that hard.” 

“This is easy, just…”

I guess it’s meant to be encouraging.  But it usually has the opposite effect.

Once, a colleague was giving me directions to find something in a storage closet.  I repeated the directions back to her (and made a mistake) and she responded with, “It’s not that hard.”

Turns out, it was hard for me.  I’m terrible with directions, as evidenced by the fact that I told my friend to turn right when I meant left just this week.  She figured out where to go, but this is a real problem for me.

So when my colleague said, “It’s not that hard,” I heard, “It shouldn’t be this hard. What’s wrong with you?”

There shouldn’t be shame in struggling to accomplish something.  There shouldn’t be shame in working hard at something that is difficult for you.  So, when you child is having a hard time, instead of saying, “This is easy,” try something more in tune with their feelings.  “I know this is hard, but we’ll work through it together,” or “If you keep practicing problems like this, they’ll get easier.”

this is easy

Same thing applies after the fact.  Adam’s been working on tying his shoes for a LONG time.  When he finally figures it out, which would be a better response?  “See? That was easy!” or “Great job Adam! When you practice hard things, they get easier!”


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Break tasks into steps

 

We got a new couch for our basement at a garage sale this weekend, which meant we had to get the old couch OUT of the basement.  Getting it down there in the first place was such an adventure, we really weren’t sure how we’d ever get it out.  But we found a solution – break it into smaller chunks.

Instead of carrying the massive couch up the stairs and out the door in one piece, we tore the couch apart, and ended up with a much more manageable task.

Sometimes, our kids need things broken down, too.  Sunday morning, I made pancakes for my family.  Isaac could hardly wait, so he was eager to help expedite the process.  I asked him to clear off the table (it still held Saturday night’s supper dishes) and he was willing.  But when he looked at the task before him, he quickly got overwhelmed and whined, “I can’t do it!”

“Clear off the table” seems like an easy task, but for a 3 year old, it can be intimidating.  How would he ever carry all those dirty dishes to the sink?  When I gave more specific directions, it went more smoothly.  “Bring your cup to the sink.” Ten seconds later…”Bring Adam’s cup to the sink, now.”  Ten seconds later… “Okay, now bring your plate.”  Before we knew it, the table was clear.

smaller steps

Breaking a complex task into steps gives kids the confidence and direction needed to complete it.  Whether the task is cleaning their room, completing a big project for school, or just doing a long math problem, segmenting it into do-able chunks can help.


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Rotate Toys

During the summer, over Christmas break and virtually every Saturday, I am baffled by the fact that my children have a million toys, but are bored and do not play with them.

Last Christmas break, I had one of those lightbulb moments and I realized what I was doing wrong.

Rotate Toys

Think about a preschool or kindergarten classroom for a minute.  Most kindergarten classes have “center time.”  Although “center time” is more structured than free play, the kids don’t seem to notice a difference.  They see games, pretend play, and blocks as toys and they eagerly play with them!

But a kindergarten teacher would never put out ALL of the center activities for the year at once.  Instead, the teacher rotates activities.  There are many reasons for doing so,  but one of those reasons is to keep the kids excited and interested in whatever is coming next.

It works the same way at home.  Packing away some toys makes them that much more exciting when you get them out again!  And, limiting choices keeps kids from feeling too overwhelmed when they see an ocean of toys spread all over the floor.

I started rotating toys in December and have kept up on it fairly well since then.  There are many different systems for toy rotation, so I encourage you to figure out one that works for your family.  We have 6 large tubs that hold different sets of toys.  Each tub has one type of blocks, one type of dramatic play, and maybe some other toys.  For example, the tub that is out now has Thomas trains, wooden blocks, and tools.  Every week (or when the kids get antsy) we pack up those toys and get out a different tub.

By limiting our choices, keeping like items together, and rotating toys for excitement, my boys’ play time has increased (and the mess in my house has decreased!)

For other bloggers’ tips on rotating toys, check out my pinterest board, Rotate Toys.


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Celebrate your Child’s Strengths

Shortly before Isaac turned two, I decided to have him screened for a speech delay.  One of the first questions I was asked was, “What are Isaac’s strengths?” And I honestly couldn’t answer the question.

He was not quite two.  He was below average verbally, and he was very unlike my older son.  Isaac was much more active, much less verbal, and much harder to manage.  We called him “Hurricane Isaac.”

I’ve thought about that ever since, and tried to focus on Isaac’s strengths, without comparing him to his brother.  It’s hard, at times, to remember that my crazy little boy is also exceptionally loving and charismatic.  He brings joy to all those around him.  He loves animals and nature and stores random facts about both in his young little mind.  He has an amazing sense of humor and engages in elaborate pretend play with inanimate (or imaginary) objects.

So although Isaac’s strengths aren’t the same as his brothers, they still exist, they are important, and they deserve to be celebrated!

2014-07-29 09_14_31

Student teaching in a kindergarten classroom was really hard for me.  Kindergarten just isn’t my favorite age group to teach.  One particularly rough day, I spent my drive home going through the class list mentally, listing something I liked about each student.  It was amazing. I didn’t have to look very hard to see their strengths, and changing my focus from my frustrations made a huge difference in my attitude.

When you stop focusing on a child’s weaknesses, and instead, celebrate their strengths, your relationship will become stronger, your attitude better, and your parenting better.


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Model the Behavior You Want to See

 

I’m reading (listening to) Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm, and Connected by Susan Stiffelman right now, and it has been really helpful.  I have learned a lot of new things, and been reminded of a few that I already knew, but don’t consistently implement.

In Stiffelman’s discussion of “screen time,” she brought up a valuable time.  If you are trying to limit your child’s screen time, make sure you are setting a good example.  It’s hard to convince your kids to spend less time in front of a screen if they see you spending your free time that way.

model behavior

Children (unfortunately) will do as we do, not as we say.  So it’s important that we set a good example and model the behavior we want them to mimic.  I mentioned this earlier in regards to reading.  Want your kids to be avid readers? Let them see you reading!  Want them to eat vegetables? Eat more vegetables yourself! Want them to apologize sincerely when they upset someone? Let them hear you apologizing (to them or someone else.)

How many times have you heard your words come out of your child’s mouth?  Over the weekend, I saw a child push a stroller into the back of his mom’s legs while she was shopping.  When she exclaimed in surprise, he immediately said, “Well, then watch out!”  I wonder where he heard that?

Although we tend to notice it more when our kids publicly mimic our not-so-good behaviors, they copy all of it from time to time.  Sadly, modeling the behavior you want to see is NOT a surefire way to get your kids to behave the same way.  But it can help.  And heaven knows, we need all the help we can some days!


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Wait Time

This is one of my favorite secrets, because I didn’t believe in its power until I saw it myself, and then I was blown away.

The secret is this: wait time.

wait time

And it works like this: when you ask a question, wait at least 5 seconds before calling on a student.

Now, I realize, in your everyday life as a parent, you are not usually asking a question and waiting for a kid to raise their hand to answer.  But “wait time” is applicable when you’re reading with your kid and they are struggling with a word, or when you tell your toddler to repeat a new word you’ve just said, or when you just want your child to elaborate more on something they’ve told you.

When I first heard about “wait time,” I had to practice it.  I was working in kindergarten and first grade classrooms at the time, and I was used to asking a question and calling on one of the first kids who raised their hand.  What’s wrong with this?  It doesn’t give the “careful thinkers” time to think!

So, I tried it.  I asked a question to a class of first graders and counted silently in my head.  A couple of hands shot up immediately, and then a couple more.  When I got to 5, it was like magic!  SEVEN more kids raised their hands.  Amazing, right?

Kids need time to think.  They need time to solve their own problems.  They need time to process new information.

Try using “wait time” the next time you are working on something new with them, and don’t rush them to answer before they’re ready.  You will be surprised what they can do when you give them just a little extra time to think about it!

 


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Let Your Kids See You Reading

 

I was going to post another, more serious tip today…another analysis of what I did wrong yesterday morning that led to a 3-year-old’s meltdown in church.

But, after rolling it around in my head all day, I started reading October’s pick for the Blogger Book Club (The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel ) instead of writing a blog post.  Now, I’m scrambling to get this done in 10 minutes before Adam gets off the bus.

So, here’s today’s short, but important “secret.”

Let your kids see you reading.

reading

Children must understand that reading has value beyond school.  Reading can be enjoyable.  Reading can give us information we need.  Reading is something grown-ups do all the time!

When my class had silent reading time, I tried to read along with them (although I often had papers to grade and lessons to prepare.)  I shared my favorite books with them and made a point of letting them know that I am a lifelong reader.

At home, I do the same thing.  I want my sons to know that I read a LOT.  Most of the reading I do now is on my phone – I read the news, several ag websites, articles on parenting and more everyday.  And I take advantage of my library’s online lending program so that I can read for FUN, too!  Because it’s on my phone, I have to make a point to tell them that I’m not just playing games or checking facebook.  I’m reading and I want them to know it!

(Need something to read? Try this one!)


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Prevention is Priceless

There are a lot of things I should have done differently this morning. I could write a week’s worth of blog posts about it. 

We went to my cousin’s baptism at a nearby church.  It is not our regular church, and although Isaac (3) has been there before, he probably didn’t remember it.  Isaac has also been crabby the past few days, and doesn’t like crowds.  Add that to the fact that I was not well-prepared this morning and we were running late, and the end result was slightly disastrous.

When my class went on a field trip, or was participating in another special event, like Career Day or Track and Field Day, I was always very careful to explain what was going to happen and the behavior I expected from them.

“When we go to the gym for the assembly, I expect you to sit quietly and listen to the speaker.  If you cannot do that, you will end up sitting by me.”

“On the bus, you need to sit in your seat.  You can not switch seats while the bus is moving, and be sure not to distract the driver.  That means no throwing things, yelling, or rough-housing of any kind.”

 

And I should have done that today.

“We’re going to a different church today to see Gianna and Jaxon get baptized!  We will sit by Grandma and Grandpa in the pew, and I packed some toys and crayons for you.  Remember, we have to whisper in church, okay?”

Just a quick explanation of what is going on and a couple of behavioral guidelines might have helped immensely.  When you are going somewhere or doing something unfamiliar, take a few seconds to think about the behavior you expect and discuss it with your kiddos.  Because an ounce of prevention is priceless.

prevention


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Art Class: Photography

(Sorry – I’m taking a break from Secrets from a Teacher today!  Stay tuned for your regularly scheduled parenting tips tomorrow!)

Fall in Iowa: A Photo Essay

Okay, maybe “photo essay” is a stretch, but I was looking through pictures this morning and picked out some of my favorites from autumns past.

fall in iowa

Decorating for fall just feels right.  I’m a big fan of the muted colors and natural elements.

fall planter

fall outdoor decorDIY fall wreath

But Mother Nature does a pretty good job of decorating on her own. Dark gray blue skies, golden fields, and a rainbow of leaves…

fall in Iowafall sunsetold bridge boone county iowafall in iowa

fall leavesfall squaw creek iowafall corn field

But for many of my friends and family members, fall isn’t about decorating or lounging around enjoying nature’s beauty.  Fall is about farming.

20131109_101240(rev 0)img_2606pile of corn

A message for my farmer friends this harvest season:

Thank you for what you do.  Be safe this fall.  And take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty around you as you reap the rewards of your hard work.

And if you need a reminder not to take life too seriously during this incredible busy and stressful time, I offer you these pictures of my sweet little boys, because I’m pretty sure you can’t help but smile at them.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Plan Ahead

As a teacher, I was required to write lesson plans.  And quite honestly, it was one of the best parts of the job.  I loved searching for ideas, organizing my thoughts, and getting ready for the week.

Unless you are homeschooling (or a stay at home mom to little ones) you probably don’t need to schedule out your entire day, but planning ahead still has some merit.  Think about it – which evening goes more smoothly? The one where supper is in the crock pot and ready for your hungry little mouths at 5:30?  Or the evening when your kids tell you they’re hungry and you haven’t a clue what you’re going to feed them?

Unfortunately for my family, the latter happens more often than not at my house.  The kids are starving, the turkey is still frozen solid and I have no idea what to make for supper. 

And then there are Saturday morning soccer games.  How do they sneak up on me so quickly?  It was on the calendar all week, but we still run around like maniacs looking for the jersey, shin guards and socks every week!

The solution to these problems?  PLAN AHEAD!

plan ahead

It sounds so simple in writing, doesn’t it?

Every good lesson plan lists the supplies needed.  And every good teacher makes sure those supplies are ready to go well in advance.  (A good routine helps guarantee this.  I used to get the spelling packets ready every Monday before school.  Boom! I didn’t even have to think about it and it was done! And let’s face it, mindless copying and stapling was a good job for early Monday mornings.)

So, let’s try an experiment together.  On your weekly calendar, try listing the “supplies needed” for each event and get those things ready the day before.

  • Soccer: jersey, socks, shin guards
  • Sunday School: church clothes, church shoes, snacks
  • HomeShed sale: receipt books, Red Granite Farm sweatshirt, toolbox

As a teacher, I used a daily organizer like this to make sure all my supplies were ready to go. 

The small baskets may not work for a family, but a closet organizer would be great for laying everything out in advance. (affiliate link)


As I write this, I wonder how I could possibly have taken my job as a teacher so seriously, but fail so miserably as a parent in many, many ways.  Of course my home is not a classroom, but there are so many aspects of classroom management and teaching that would make my life as a parent easier.  Is it ironic that the first tips I’m focusing on are the ones that I need to put into practice more often in my own life?

(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Routines Work

I think I should retitle this series. Instead of Secrets from a Teacher to Make you a Better Parent, I’m thinking it should have been Secrets from a Teacher to MAKE PARENTING EASIER. Because we all need that, right?

And routines can make it easier.

routines work

I am, admittedly, not good at keeping up on routines at home. But at school, it was a MUST. With 20+ kids in a room, it was generally best if they knew what to do when. And routines made that happen.

In one of my elementary ed classes in college, we were given a list of 40 different scenarios that we needed to prepare a routine for. What will the kids do when they come in the classroom in the morning? What about after recess? After they finish their spelling test? Routine, routine, routine.

Routines help in several ways.

1. Predictability. Kids just function better when they have an idea of what’s coming next.

2. Cooperation. Routines cut down on so many battles. The kids know what’s expected of them from the start.

3. Self-sufficiency. Kids can become more self-sufficient when they know what to do without asking a grown-up.

Let’s apply this to a classic parenting battle: getting out the door on time in the morning.

For the past couple of years, we’ve had willy-nilly mornings. No real routine, until it was really time to go, and then I’d end up stressing out and running late, fighting the kids to turn off the tv, get dressed, and leave the house. I timed it once…it took 17 minutes from the time I first said, “Put on your shoes” to the time they were actually on his feet. Oh. My. Lanta.

But this year is different. Adam gets on the bus at 7:05 and doesn’t have time for tv or 17 minutes of fighting shoes. Instead, we have a short, tight routine and it gets the job done. Adam goes to bed and wakes up knowing exactly what is going to happen first thing in the morning. He knows what he needs to do and has a timeline for getting it done. (We set a timer on my phone that rings when he needs to brush his teeth and put on shoes.) He doesn’t fight about it and he can easily get himself ready for school on time.

(Isaac, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be at preschool until 9. Which means he has plenty of time to avoid having a routine.)

We need more routines at our house. A laundry routine, a room-cleaning routine, a supper routine…while I understand the value of routines, I also understand that life is unpredictable and hectic and it can be hard to eat dinner at the same time every night, or make time for a lengthy bedtime ritual.

But when things start to feel out of control, ask yourself if a routine would help.

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent

secrets teacher
I’ve been thinking about this series for a long time. You see, I am not a perfect parent, but I have quite a bit of experience with kids, and a degree saying I’m qualified to work with them every day, so that’s something, right?
My 4 (and a half) years as a teacher taught me a thing or two about kids and their behavior, and I’ve tried to apply that thinking to my parenting. Because being a parent is hard, and we all want to do better, right?
My professional kid-focused career began when I served as the summertime nanny for my cousin’s kids as a high school student. And a professional, I was not. Those poor, sweet kids spent a lot of time watching tv while I read novels, worked on my scrapbooks, and napped with the baby. (Fast forward a few years, and that sounds really similar to my maternity leave with my second child. Ooops.)
(I think I should issue an official apology to my cousin, her husband and her children, who have grown up to be amazing high school and college students despite, not because, my involvement in their lives.)
(Apologies should also be extended to my little brother, who had to bear the brunt of my inexperience in child care. Sorry, dude. I’ll try to make it up to you someday.)
Fast forward a few years and I spent a year and a half working at an after school program for kindergarten – 6th graders. I had two amazing bosses (Hi Erin, Robin and Rachel!) and coworkers I loved. And because I was working towards my B.S. in Elementary Education at the time, I was able to try out many of the things I’d been learning in class
My senior year in college, I worked nearly full-time as a Child Abuse Prevention Specialist. I visited every kindergarten and 1st grade classroom in our county, and saw over 1300 kids that year. The program I taught (Talking About Touching) helped children identify safe and unsafe touches, and what to do if abuse occurs. And during my time in this position, I was again able to put into practice the methods and techniques I was learning in my classes (and figure out what to do when a kindergartener convinces his whole class that armpits are private parts, because he really hated being tickled.)
I did my student teaching in kindergarten and fourth grade. The fourth grade class was ½ Hispanic, ¼ English Language Learners, ¼ Talented and Gifted and ½ Special Ed (an integrated Special Ed/Gen Ed class.) Then, after graduating in December, I subbed for the rest of the year before interviewing and accepting my first teaching job as a 4th grade teacher in a rural Iowa school district.
And so began my official teaching career, which would last exactly the average in Iowa (4 ½ years) and include three different positions (4th grade, 4th – 6th Title 1 Reading and Math, and K – 12 Talented and Gifted.) I realized after signing my contract for the 5th year that I really wanted to be home with my 3 year old and 5 month old. But licensed Talented and Gifted teachers are hard to come by in Iowa, so it wasn’t until several months later, when a former TAG teacher decided to come out of retirement to finish the year for me that my “day job” came to an end.
That was 3 years ago, and although I no longer spend my free time writing lesson plans or grading papers, I still consider myself a teacher. And when I sat down a made a list of Secrets of a Teacher that make ME a better parent, I wasn’t surprised that my list grew to more than 50 tips quickly! I’ve whittled those down to 30 of the most important and most impactful to share with you.
Because, hey, I want my B.S. + 27 graduate credits + 15 years total experience with children to continue to make a difference in this world, even though my official title has gone from “teacher” to “mom.”
 

(This post is part of a 31 Days series, in which I’ll be writing about the same topic everyday in October.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)
By the way, I updated the “Our Little House” page!  Check it out!

Shared at: Mom to Mom Monday