The Pressure of Mother’s Day

mothers-day

It may seem strange but Mother’s Day has been one of my least favorite holidays since my kids were born. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a Mom and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything.

Before I had kids of my own it was great to bring my Mom flowers and have lunch with her. However, when I listen to her talk about Mother’s day as I was growing up I think she had the same opinion of Mother’s Day as I do.  She recounts tales of endless Mother’s Day outings to McDonald’s, her least favorite restaurant.  She ate the burgers that she detested for her children. Really? It was MOTHER’S Day! Right?

Fast forward 25 years and there’s a older version of me. Exhausted after having 3 children in 2 years and wanting some peace on Mother’s Day.  My husband tried to get everyone to cooperate but it ended with him trying too hard and everything exploding in chaos.

I decided to go shopping for the day. And every Mother’s Day after that for the next 10 years. From that day forward I decided that Mother’s Day was for me as I desperately needed that day to recharge.

Alone.

As I shopped I noticed families seeming to enjoy themselves, but meltdown after meltdown seemed to land square on Mom’s shoulders and I could tell that she needed a break too.

It seems that Mother’s Day puts so much pressure on one day. Shouldn’t mothers be appreciated every day.

This is what I want my kids to learn about appreciating mom’s everywhere.

  • Appreciate those around you every day.

  • Make mom feel celebrated each day by your actions and your generosity.

  • Stopping to open the door for a woman juggling two kids and a bag of groceries may just make their day.

  • Giving a smile of reassurance and a kind word to the mom whose child is having a meltdown.

  • Talking to the child in the cart in line at the store may just help that mom get five more minutes peace.

  • Respect when mom says she needs time to herself.

  • Hold Mom’s hand when she’s on the phone to let her know you need her attention instead of saying “Mom, Mom, Mom”

How was your day?

 

Children_about_to_board_the_school_bus_(Thibodaux,_Louisiana)

The front door closes and the kids start to go about their afternoon rituals. Snacks, talking to friends, homework and maybe an evening activity.

But have you taken the time to see how their day was? Not just “How was your day?”

There are many different ways to find out more about school and learn more about your child at the same time.

Ask questions that are open ended. Anytime you ask a yes or no question you have to be prepared to get only one word back.

Try one of these questions afterschool today:

  1. What is the new song that you are learning in choir/band right now? Which part is your favorite of the song?
  2. What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  3. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  4. What would you pick for school lunch if you could have anything you wanted?
  5. Are there any changes that you would want to make at your school?
  6. Who is your favorite teacher and what do you like about them?
  7. If you could be Principal for the day what is the first thing that you would do?
  8. Which rule was hardest to follow today?
  9. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you choose? Why?
  10. On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your day? Why?

 

 

8 Ways to Keep the Family Connected During the Holiday Season

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We pull them here. We take them there. We ask them to shake hands, make conversation and be on their best behavior.

For many kids, the holiday season is very stressful. Their routine is upset and it can turn a kid’s world upside down.  While we are taking them out and asking them to do their best they may be somersaulting internally.

So how can parents enjoy the holiday hoopla while keeping the kids content?

  1. Open a Book – Wrap a holiday or favorite book (old or new) for every day from December 1 – December 31. Each day a child chooses a book for the family to read together at a designated time. Traveling… bring the books with and keep the routine going.
  2. Let them wear comfortable clothes. Yes, the frilly dresses and ties look cute but it’s hard to feel at ease when you are in stiff clothes.
  3. Bring along some of their favorite snacks. Not every kid likes lutefisk and lefse and when you are hungry it is hard to be on your best behavior.
  4. Try to maintain a consistent bedtime. If you know it’s going to be a late night it might be a good time to call a babysitter.
  5. Keep it simple. Many kids are overwhelmed by all of the gifts and expectations of the holiday season.
  6.  Bake cookies together. Baking can be a great learning experience and a fun way to connect.
  7. Have a family movie night. For ideas of fun family movies check out this list.
  8. Try to remember the things you enjoyed as a kid about the holiday season and share them with your kids.

 

Staying Involved

staying involved

One of our jobs as parents is to raise independent, productive members of society.

When they are small they are totally dependent on you. As they get older, slowly, that dependency decreases. Does that mean our job is over?

No Way!

Another part of parenting is making sure our children have an appropriate education and attending Parent-Teacher conferences is a great way to make sure that is happening.

Parent-Teacher conferences can be such a joy to attend when kids are young.

You walk in to the welcoming classroom adorned by bright and creative artwork. You are approached by the teacher who comes with a smile on their face and an outstretched hand. They show you a folder of your child’s accomplishments and you leave with a feeling of pride. Even if they say your child moves around too much or talks too much, they can still find positive things to say.

Fast forward to the secondary years. You move from teacher to teacher in a crowded gymnasium (or hallway) to see how your child is doing. Are they missing assignments, can they handle the course load? You leave feeling overwhelmed but optimistic that things will improve now that you have been given the tools needed for your child to succeed.

Many parents decide that conferences are not as important once kids reach the secondary years. However, what that student needs to see is that they have a support system. They need to see that they have parents and teachers who care about their education.

As they get older they may not want to attend conferences with you. So why should you bring the sullen grumpy teen that would rather be with their friends or watching Netflix?

  • It’s so valuable to see how your child speaks to an adult on their own behalf.
  • A teacher gains a different perspective by watching the parent / student dynamic.

But most of all…

You are empowering them by standing by their side and letting them lead the conversation. You are creating an advocate in your child by letting them make decisions in their education.

Thank you for being an involved parent and making the extra time to attend conferences with you child. They may not thank you today but it will leave a lasting impact on them.

Partnerships are Key to Student Success

Roosevelt Middle School wins national award for partnership with parents, community

Roosevelt This week we highlight the accomplishments of the Partnership Team at Roosevelt Middle School in Blaine, MN.  Anoka-Hennepin Parent Involvement supports the great partnerships created to support student success. We thank Anoka-Hennepin’s communications department for this information.
Roosevelt Middle School in Blaine, MN is being recognized for its effective partnership program that gets families and the community involved in student achievement.

The 2015 Partnership Award from the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) at Johns Hopkins University was given to Roosevelt’s Parent Partnership Team, which works with school staff and the community to further school goals.

Roosevelt is one of 12 schools in the country to receive the award.

“We’re excited. We’ve had incredible parents in leadership roles doing fantastic things for our students, our staff, our schools and our community,” said Roosevelt Principal Greg Blodgett. “They’re doing award-winning work.”

The school’s Parent Partnership team consists of five parents and three staff members who meet monthly and work together to create strategies to reach specific school goals. Dozens of volunteers help enact the team’s vision throughout year.

Those goals include improving student organizational skills, developing relationships with stakeholders, and increasing literacy. To help reach the literacy goal, for instance, students write letters to soldiers, and the school holds a book exchange right before summer break each year. Students who donate three used books get a ticket for a free book.

“The whole goal is getting more books in the hands of kids over the summer,” Blodgett said.

To help students improve organizational skills, the team created a scavenger hunt for sixth graders that requires them to work with their parents and a planner and rewards them with prizes.

The school was recognized by NNPS for making excellent progress in strengthening and sustaining its comprehensive program.

“Roosevelt Middle School is applying research-based approaches to strengthen its welcoming climate and to engage parents and community partners in ways that improve student achievement related to study skills and literacy,” said Dr. Joyce L. Epstein, director of NNPS.

NNPS is a research-based model out of Johns Hopkins University; Roosevelt has been participating in it for the better part of the last decade. Blodgett said when he first arrived, he was looking to increase parental involvement to the school beyond basic volunteering. At the time, two other schools in the district were part of NNPS.

“The core is that it’s not about anything related to fundraising. It’s about having a leadership team of parents and staff working together to support school goals,” he said. “I love this model. And this team should be recognized for greatness.”

To My Favorite Teacher

Teacher Appreciation

To you, the teacher that made a difference in my life, I thank you today during Teacher Appreciation week.

You were there for me and my classmates as our beloved school closed and we moved to a new school outside of our neighborhood. You chose to loop with our class and taught third grade at one school and fourth at the next.

You didn’t know that the years that you were my teacher my parents had separated and you were my constant.

I loved coming into your classroom.

You taught me more than reading, math and science. You taught me that there are people out there beyond my family who truly care for me.

Always there for a hug with a smile on your face. You taught me that that place I wanted to be was making a difference in the lives of kids. You instilled in me a lifelong love of learning.

Never underestimate the impact one person can have on the world.

Earth Day everyday?

Earth day blog

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

But how do we make sure that they are getting out into nature and having the experiences that we had?

There has been a lot of recent conversation around Free Range Kids lately. Part of the Free Rangeness is giving kids the freedoms to explore and step more into nature.

It seems that with the growth of technology many kids are not experiencing the outdoor adventures that we did as kids because they are inside on the computer or watching tv.

So how do we get them off the couch and outside?

PARENT!

We are the ones to set the limits. We also set the examples. Want to get your kids to go out and climb trees? Explore with them when they are young and as they grow they will return to the outdoors you have taught them to love and appreciate.

For a few years I worried about how much one of my kids was getting outside. Sure, he played outdoor sports but after that seemed to come home and lie around.  I made sure that he was outside doing something each day. There were many days he was not happy with me as I turned down his requests to play video games. However, now that he is more independent and can drive he and his friends love to go out and explore state parks.

He still loves to climb and explore.

Our kids are products of our parenting and the world around us. If we show them how wonderful the outdoors can be we are giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.

Unwinding the Cord

DOGI have such clear memories of stretching the cord on the family telephone and trying to go as far as it would take me to get some privacy while talking to friends when I was growing up.

Is there an equivalent of this today?

How about the teen who goes in their room, closes the door and texts their friends.

Most of the conversations I’m sure are very similar to the ones I had as a teen.

However, that’s where the similarities end.

Here are some reasons why:

1. Sarcasm and other emotions are not recognized by the words in a text. Emoticons can’t convey everything.

2. With the depersonalization of texting it is much more likely that teens would share highly personal information (many times too personal) than if they had to speak on the phone.

3. Teens are not learning the art of conversation by texting. They choose to text instead of talk. However, the real world will catch up and those conversational skills will be needed for the rest of their lives.

The important point to remember is that successful relationships need to build intimacy, moving through texting and other less-direct forms of communication to more direct connections. Many of us use technology to distance ourselves from each other, so that the more connectivity we have, the less connected we actually are. It’s a double edge sword. Challenge your teen to pick up the phone and call a friend. Give Grandma a call and ask her how her bridge game was.

The sooner teens develop active communication skills with their peers, family and community the more likely they are to flourish in the social world around them. It’s not that they need to drop texting but build a balance to have their technology and use it wisely.

As parents we need to be there to guide them and to model those skills for them.

Though the phones are now cordless the message is still the same.

Communication is essential.

How You Play the Game

Basketball

Last night, my husband and I breathed a sigh of relief as the final buzzer of the last game of the season ended. In our opinion it had been a long season of watching our son’s team beaten by 20-30 points each game.

As we watched the boys gather together for their post game talk another picture emerged. A sister of one of the boys walked over holding a poster she had made with the team name and each of the boys’ names. They looked so proud.

It was obvious that my competitive ideals did not match up with that of the tight group of boys in the hall. They were all smiles. They felt proud of what they had accomplished and how they played the game. We walked out of the school listening to the boys tell each other “Good Game” with smiles on their faces.

Before bed I was talking with my son. He told me how his team was the best team he had ever played on. This caught me by surprise and I asked him to explain why. He told me that “there are no stars. Everyone is equal and treats each other that way.”  I had to stop and think of how proud I am of this 14 yr old who values relationships over winning the game.

Each year the basketball association asks for parent volunteers. Often, the parents who step up are doing this, not because they have knowledge or love for the game, but because they want to do what’s best for the kids. The coach that we had watched from the sideline and we wondered what he was doing may not have taught my son the technical side of the game but was sending a much bigger message. Sportsmanship, self-confidence and the value of friendship.

The lesson on and off the court (for both players and fans): It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.

Who’s Watching Minecraft?

Who's Watching

My kids are basically techie kids. They are all at different levels and each really love their technology.  Nine years ago my oldest asked my to help him purchase a beta game from the Netherlands called Minecraft.  I hadn’t heard of it but after some research it looked like something to invest $15 in. It reminded me of the very basic computer games that I played in school when we got our first computers. It was no Oregon Trail but I thought we’d give it a try.

From that day on Minecraft became the go to game. It was like the favorite pair of footie pajamas passed down from sibling to sibling. When one felt they were getting too old to play a younger sibling would take over.

The kids have gotten older and over the past months there’s a growing trend that I have noticed. The kids aren’t at the computer playing the game anymore. They are gathered around their devices watching Minecraft videos on YouTube.

As a parent there are major differences that I see in this transition between game play and watching game play. Kids tend to have their favorite YouTubers. Some of these people are intentionally creating family friendly content and others are teens/young adults just having fun and playing the game. I try to listen when my kids are watching the videos and live streams. There are times when I have heard language that I don’t approve of and have the kids switch to a different YouTuber.  I encourage parents to monitor their child’s YouTube usage.

Here’s a blog that describes some of the Minecraft YouTubers that are recommended for children.  http://learningworksforkids.com/2015/03/minecraft-videos-watch/

I love listening to the kids all laugh along with their YouTubers. They seem to have formed a community around Minecraft. They have their own language and cultural norms. They know when their favorite YouTuber’s birthday is and where they live.

It’s such a different generation of kids that are tuned into technology in a way I never expected.

I have a lot to learn.