Category Archives: Parenting

When Your Child Starts to Fall Behind {a guideline for parents}

happy boy doing homeworkby Ria Clarke 

Comment to win a $20 School Box gift card! {Drawn monthly} 

As much as we, as parents, like to believe that we are on top of things, there are times when we let things slide. After all, life is stressful and filled with distractions and constant interruptions. Falling behind happens to the best of us.

But what happens when you begin to notice your student making low grades, or you get a note from the teacher that there’s an issue? What’s a parent to do? Here are some practical steps to get your child back on track.

1. Identify the problem if possible. Make a mental checklist and ask yourself important questions: Have you created a dedicated learning space at home that is free from noise and distraction? Is your child getting enough sleep? Is your child over-scheduled? Have they had a recent eye or hearing test? Are they too engrossed in gadgets or television? Rule out overlooked easy-to-resolve issues, first. 

2. Communicate with the teacher. Don’t wait for the problem to mushroom. My son’s second grade teacher has after-school tutoring for children that are falling behind. During these sessions, she gives them the personalized attention that may be impossible during the regular class period. Regular communication with your child’s teacher will help nip problems in the bud before they get out of control.

Asian Mom Daughter3. Make the necessary adjustments. If you have identified that your child is over-scheduled or is not getting enough sleep, take the necessary steps to ensure that your child cuts back on extra-curricular activities or nighttime television so that he or she is well rested. Make sure your child has all the supplies and essentials handy in their homework center and make sure that distractions are kept to a minimum. And, keep yourself in the loop on their progress by checking over your child’s homework so you catch any errors or missed problems before assignments are handed in and graded.

4. Review the material. Not all teachers offer after-school tutoring, but you can help your child by spending the time to go over concepts at home. Visit your local teacher store and purchase homework helpers and various learning aids to reinforce what your child has been doing at school. Make the review sessions short but meaningful so your child doesn’t get resentful or frustrated.

5. Consider professional help. Ask your child’s teacher for references, or check your local library or go online to search for homework help or private tutors. Investigate established places like LearningRx, Omega Learning Centers, Appleton Learning, Huntington Learning Center, or Kumon for extra help.

SonKissingMom High ResIt is also important to recognize that each child is different and learns differently. Work with your child’s teacher to help your child unlock the potential that may be locked inside. It may be frustrating at first but stick with it. Remember that practice makes perfect.

Ria Clarke is the proud parent of a second grader and a toddler. She’s also a SAHM and freelance writer of various lifestyle and educational issues. When she’s not actively involved in projects and homework or chasing down a toddler, she can be found in the kitchen baking or curled up with a good book.

Advertisements

Comments Off on When Your Child Starts to Fall Behind {a guideline for parents}

Filed under Assessments, Behavior Management, brain training, Extracurricular, Organization, Parenting, Uncategorized

Creative Ideas for Peaceful School Mornings

Happy School Kidsby Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

This article originally appeared in Little Black Dress|Little Red Wagon Magazine. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win $20 to The School Box. Woohoo!

It’s 8 a.m. and my household has already witnessed three meltdowns, two resulting in tears, and one of them mine. Seriously, it should not be this difficult to get the kids ready for school and out the door.

When I was pregnant, I envisioned school-day mornings with homemade breakfasts, freshly poured (maybe even squeezed) OJ, neatly parted hair and happy smiles. While this may have been pie-in-the-sky, I am a put-together enough person to at least achieve toaster waffles and canned juice without weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, this year, dangit, I am vowing to pull off more peaceful school mornings. And I’ve called in three pros to advise and counsel: Cheryl Bahneman, Francie Towey, and Beverly Boney. As the champions for working moms everywhere, these three run the Primrose Schools at Brookstone and Oregon Park (Cheryl), Primrose Schools at Macland Pointe and Sprayberry (Francie), and Primrose at Bentwater (Beverly).

I love, love, LOVE the fresh, creative tips they shared for making mornings more peaceful on the home front.

Make a Morning Map

Create a checklist or picture map to help kids stay on track with the morning routine: make bed, go potty, brush teeth, get bookbag, etc. Laminate the list and provide a dry-erase marker so that children can check off the steps as they go. “Setting concrete expectations about the sequence of tasks is important for little ones,” affirms Francie.

“Allowing your child to chime in when creating the list will ensure their ownership over this idea, too,” Cheryl adds. Let them help type and add clip art to make their Morning Map. Feeling crafty? Take a pic of your child doing each action, and use those for a customized checklist.

Create a Family Command Center Binder

Fill a three-ring binder with page protectors and dividers. Label the dividers: Family Basics, Contacts, Pending, and then label one divider with each child’s name.

In the page protectors under Family Basics, slide in emergency info and babysitter instructions. The Contacts section is for important numbers and business cards: school, doctor, vet, painter, plumber. Pending page protectors hold Netflix mailers, receipts for online purchases, upcoming birthday invitations. In each child’s section, keep their extracurricular schedules, school information and the like. “Creating organizational systems that work is key for peaceful routines,” affirms Beverly.

Have Homemade Breakfast in a Hurry!

Okay, so making a huge hot breakfast every morning isn’t always (ever?) realistic. Instead, opt for grab-and-go homemade: Make batches of homemade pancakes and waffles once a month. Freeze them on cookie sheets and then rebag into freezer baggies to reheat in the toaster. Voila—homemade in a hurry!

Take the Pressure Off

Finally, set a positive tone for your child’s school day by letting them know you’re behind them, regardless of performance. “Children thrive more when they don’t feel pressure from their mom or dad to perform,” shares Francie. “The most important attribute a parent can teach their child is to try. If a child learns that, they will do amazing things—without stress.”

Sources:

Primrose School at Brookstone, www.primrosebrookstone.com

Primrose School at Macland Pointe, www.primrosemaclandpointe.com

Primrose School at Oregon Park, www.primroseoregonpark.com

Primrose School of Sprayberry, www.primrosesprayberry.com

Primrose School at Bentwater, www.primrosebentwater.com

2 Comments

Filed under Academic Success, Organization, Parenting

Fostering Text-to-Life Connections through Common Summertime Activities – Part II

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are drawn monthly. 

Making connections between a text and a reader’s life is an important part of reading comprehension. The more young readers are encouraged to relate books to their own experiences, the better they’ll be able to access prior knowledge, make predictions, infer cause and effect relationships, and synthesize meaning. And, the more readers practice making connections, the more natural this critical reading skill will become.

So, why not use summer to practice making authentic text-to-life connections? It’s easy. Just pick a book and read it before, during, or after an activity with a similar theme. Before you begin reading and also during reading, ask prompting questions like:

  • “Have you ever done this?”
  • “What was your favorite part about _____(fill in experience)___?”
  • “How do you feel when you’re ___(with Grandma, at the beach, camping, etc.)___?”
  • “How do you think the character is feeling now? How would you feel in this situation?”
  • “What did we do next when we were ____(experience)__? What do you think the character is going to do next?”
  • “How was this like our trip? How was this book different?”

To get you started, we shared a list of books that connect to visiting grandparents and going to the beach in Part I of this series. Now, here’s a list of books that connect to camping, flying on an airplane, and making something creative out of an empty box!

Summertime Activity:

Camping!

The books that connect to the activity:

S if for S'mores

S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet, by Helen Foster James

From what to pack, to where to go, to what to do when you get there, S is for Smores: A Camping Alphabet takes readers on an A-Z trail exploring this outdoor pastime.

Canoe Days, by Gary Paulsen

This gorgeous picture book is by the award-winning outdoor youth novelist of Hatchet. Here’s the publisher’s review: Opening this book is like sitting down in a canoe, taking up a paddle, and gliding out into the summer beauty of a hidden lake. In this picture book that is as refreshing and inviting as a perfect canoe day, a fawn peeks out from the trees as ducklings fan out behind their mother. Ruth Wright Paulsen’s sunlit paintings and Gary Paulsen’s poetic text capture all the peace and pleasure of a day when water and sky are one.

Summertime Activity:

Going on a picnic!

The books that connect to the activity:

The Picnic, by Ruth Brown

This delightful book narrates a picnic from the perspective of the animals that live both on top of–and under–the ground.

The Bears’ Picnic by Stan and Jan Baranstein

Oh, silly Father Bear! That’s not how you pick a picnic spot! In this bear-errific misadventure, Father Bear leads the family on a quest for the perfect picnic spot…but ends up trying out quite a few subpar spots (train tracks, dumping ground, mosquito swamp) first.

Summertime Activity:

Turning an empty box into a house, or castle, or race car, or ship, or….

The books that connect to the activity:

Christina Katerina and the Box, by Patricia Lee GauchChristina Katerina and the Box

If you can get your hands on a copy, DO IT! This imaginative book was my favorite growing up (and judging from the many reviews on Amazon.com, I wasn’t alone), and now it’s a favorite for my own young readers. Christina likes nothing more than the promise of an empty box. So, when a new fridge arrives at her house one summer day, Christina quickly claims the box. She pulls it into her front yard where it becomes a castle, club house, race car, and ballroom floor. It will inspire countless hours of imaginative play with your own empty boxes!

Other Summertime Activity Books:

1 Comment

Filed under Academic Success, Critical Thinking, Home Schooling, Parenting, Reading, Summer Learning

Virtual Summer Field Trips {without leaving home!}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box gift card; winners drawn monthly. 

“Van Gogh’s ear got cut off!” This was how my 5-year-old son greeted me after art & museum week at summer camp. “Yeah, it was probably cuz some kids were playing with scissors,” he wisely concluded.

Of course I found this humorous, but then, as he rattled off van Gogh’s bio and described with enthusiasm how he had painted his own Starry Night at camp, I shifted from bemused to downright impressed.

So, what had inspired my rough-and-tumble boy to suddenly declare, “I think I want to be an artist one day, a really good one like van Gogh”? Turns out it was a bevy of virtual museum field trips they’d taken during camp.

His enthusiasm in turn inspired the educator-mom in me. So, I popped open my laptop and collected a list of truly stellar world-class museum sites. No need to book a plane ticket; we can visit the Smithsonian, MET, and Louve without ever leaving our living room.

Here’s a rundown of the best:

The Smithsonian {for kids}: www.si.edu/kids

Meet Smithsonian scientists, watch the LIVE animal cams at the National Zoo, and–best part!–take a virtual interactive tour of the Dinosaur Exhibit. Awesome!

The Louvre: www.louvre.fr

Did you know that The Louvre was originally a fortress built by the French king Philippe Auguste? It was intended to protect Paris from attack via the Seine. Today, visitors can walk around the original perimeter moat and view the piers that supported the drawbridge…and you can take a virtual tour here! Or take a virtual tour of Egyptian Antiquities (mummies!).

The U.S. Mint: www.usmint.gov

Learn the history of our currency with a kid-friendly, interactive timeline where you’ll pick up some intriguing facts. (Like that our currency system was inspired by an idea from John Hancock. Who knew?)

Then, play some money games! Kids can also travel to different parts of the world to learn about their currencies, too, in this fun toon.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: www.metmuseum.org

Almost their entire collection can be viewed online! Simply search for a piece of art, and voila! An image and information about the piece appears.

But the best part of this website is the interactive family and children’s media section. Took some digging to find it, but here are the best spots:

Cezanne’s Astonishing Apples: Learn about Cezanne and view his masterpieces.

Aaron’s Awesome Adventure: An animated read-aloud of the story of a boy who visits the Met.

And check out their TweenCasts, special podcasts produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art specifically for adolescent audiences. Fabulous!

So go tour some cultural wonders of the world. Who knows what you might discover–aside from scissor safety, that is. 

3 Comments

Filed under Art, Parenting, Summer Learning, Teacher Inspiration, Virtual tour

Favorite {FUN} Ways to Keep Learning!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn each month.  

Don’t let summer turn into a brain bummer! There are a slew of super fun activities out there that keep mental skills sharp. Here are some favorite games, workbooks, and activities that parents can easily pull off all summer–without a lot of hassle. And, best part: kids LOVE them! In fact, the games would even make great birthday presents….

Games {for the whole family to play together}

Pathwords

The “Tetris meets Words Search” puzzle brings the fun of our popular PathWords game to younger players. Players exercise verbal and spatial reasoning as they place the Tetris-stylepuzzle pieces onto the challenge grid so the letters under each piece spell a word. Single player game. Ages 6+, Grades 1-4, $19.99.

Yikerz!

Place your magnets down on the board and try to avoid attracting the other pieces already played. The object is to get rid of all your pieces. If they collapse together, those pieces are yours to add to your stack. Includes travel pouch for portable fun! Ages 14+, $16.99.

Workbooks {good interactive ones!}

Summer Bridge

Help children maintain skills while away from school with this award-winning series and original summer learning program! Daily activities in reading, writing, math and language arts with bonus activities in science and geography. Also included are full-color flash cards, incentive contract calendars, a certificate of completion, and more! Grades PreK-8th, 160 pages, $14.99.

Summer Fit

This innovative workbook series integrates online resources with workbook-based learning to help students retain basic skills in reading, writing, math, and language arts while–get this!–keeping them physically active on a daily basis! The daily fitness routines in this series were developed with input from coaches and trainers throughout the country. Grades PreK-8th, $12.95.

Learning on the Go {for swim meets, vacations, car trips and more}

The perfectly portable, totally independent, completely interactive preschool learning system! Cards can be used alone as traditional flash cards, or when used with any Hot Dots or Hot Dots Jr. Pen (sold separately), fun lights and encouraging sounds guide children through the cute, colorful lessons. Each card set features 72 activities on double-sided cards and teaches children all they need for academic success. $14.99
 
Travel Blurt!
This handy, portable version of best-selling Blurt includes 75 new Blurt definition cards and 450 new Blurt clues. Take turns passing the cards, reading the definitions, and blurting out the answers. Ages 10+. 3-4 players, $12.99.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic Success, Activities, Art, Parenting, Summer Learning

10 Ways to Fight the Summer Slide and Keep Skills Sharp, Part I

by Kristen Thompson

Comment on this post and be entered to win $25 to The School Box! 

Teachers routinely get a shock when they return to their classrooms in the fall and see the first test scores of their new students. The initial reaction is generally, “What in the world did they do last year?”

In reality, it’s not what they spent the previous year doing – it’s what they spent the summer not doing: exercising their brains. It’s a phenomenon so well known it’s often called “the summer slide.”

During the summer, kids lose an average 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math computation skills and 25 percent of their reading skills. That explains why teachers usually spend four to six weeks re-teaching materials in the fall.

So what’s a parent to do?

In this article, we’ll share five ways to fight back against the summer slide. Later this week, we’ll share five more practical tips.

Five Easy Ideas: 

  1. Create a Brainy Toybox. Make a rainy day toybox so kids don’t end up watching TV all day. It can consist of age-appropriate puzzles, Playdoh, circle-the-word booklets, art supplies, craft ideas, board games, playing cards, etc.
  2. Print Brainteasers. Bookmark or print out brainteasers from sites like the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Sites like www.Funbrain.com offer entertaining material on spelling, reading, math and grammar, and http://www.GamesForTheBrain.com has classic strategy games.
  3. Stock the Seats with Car Games. Buy or create a book of games you can play in the car. Even a simple game like “20 Questions” can help improve a child’s logic and reasoning and memory. For more travel game ideas, check out www.schoolbox.com.
  4. Unplug. Limit television, computer and video game time. Invite your child’s friends over frequently to encourage creative play and interaction.
  5. Reward Reading. Have your child create a reward system for the number and level of books he/she reads over the summer. Hang a reward chart somewhere prominent, like on your child’s bedroom wall or the refrigerator, and let your child add a sticker every time they finish a book or chapter. After a certain number of stickers are earned, a tangible reward may be in order…maybe a new book??
Start with those five easy, fun ideas to help bridge the learning gap between May and August. We’ll share five more ideas in Part II of this series.

Kristen Thompson is a parent, former teacher, and also the director atLearningRx Kennesaw, a center that specializes in helping learners of all ages and stages reach their full potential. LearningRx is located at 3420 Acworth Due West Road, Suite B, Kennesaw, GA 30144. 

5 Comments

Filed under Academic Success, Home Schooling, Parenting, Reading, Summer Learning

a long way from Legos: the latest, greatest building sets {and how to use them in the classroom}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! (Which you could use to buy…building sets! :)

Legos and Lincoln Logs used to rule the roost when it came to building sets. Not so these days, my friend. Magnets, gears and pulleys make today’s building sets more engaging–and mind-bending–than ever. Whether you’re looking for sets for a classroom, birthday gift, or just a rainy day, here are our top picks for kiddie-approved, creativity-inspiring building sets, followed by some ways to incorporate them into your classroom.

Gears, Gears, Gears!

The fun Gears, Gears, Gears! sets allow young builders to construct buildings, vehicles, factories and the like. There are a variety of sets, from beginner to themed kits (like this cute Movin’ Monkeys set), but all are interchangeable. Sets include spinning gears, pillars, connectors and cranks to set creations in motion–plus interlocking plates for limitless building.

Magneatos

I first discovered these magnetized balls, rods and plates when my son received a Magneatos set from his Popi. Three years later, they’re still a favorite. No wonder why Magneatos have garnered so much praise: recipient of 2005 & 2006 OPPENHEIM AWARD WINNER; featured on NBC’s Today Show and Featured in MONEY magazine; recipient of Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award (Top Honor); recipient of Oppenheim SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product) Award Winner.

Thistle Blocks

Thistle Blocks are an oldie but goodie– a cousin to the Bristle Blocks from my own childhood. Guess what? These stick-to-each-other squares, rectangles and rods are still tons of fun. 

Flexiblocks

What set allows children to build movable bridges, creatures, vehicles and reptiles all with the same blocks? Flexiblocks! These wonder blocks, shown below, can be configured into a limitless variety of critters and formations: a boredom buster for sure. 

In the Classroom

Here are three ideas for using building sets in the classroom to encourage critical thinking and creativity, while practicing  hands-on geometry, public speaking, measuring, graphing and writing.

  • Hold a Building Challenge.

Break students into groups or pairs. Give each group the same number of blocks (or have pairs bring in building sets from home) and set the clock. Give the groups 15 or 20 minutes to build. Then, have each group present their creation to the class. The class can vote on which structures win Most Creative, Most Impressive, Most Blocks Used, Most Movable, etc.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, oral speaking/presenting

  • Create (and Write About) a Fantasy World.

Allow students (individually or in small groups) to build a fantasy world with sets of blocks, including buildings, creatures, people, vehicles, bridges–whatever their imaginations hold. At the end of a set building period (around 20-30 minutes), students will then write either fiction stories, descriptive narratives or poems about their fantasy world, explaining what it looks like, who lives there, and how life works within the world of their imagination.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, writing, grammar

  • Have a Race and Chart the Results.

Lots of building sets have circle or disk components that make great wheels. Allow students to build vehicles and then hold a race. Make predictions about which vehicle will go farthest. Create a starting line with tape, line up students two-at-a-time to race their creations. Then, use a ruler or yard stick to measure the distance traveled. Chart or graph the distances as a class on a piece of a bulletin board or chart paper. Be sure to note which are creative and aesthetic, even if they don’t go the distance! :)

Skills utilized: critical thinking, predicting, math, graphing, measuring, comparing/contrasting

For more great building sets, click here and here and here.

Build on!

Comments Off on a long way from Legos: the latest, greatest building sets {and how to use them in the classroom}

Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Critical Thinking, Parenting, School Readiness, Science, Summer Learning

Making Homework Fun, Part II!

by Kate Wilson and Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card!

As a parent, it’s up to you to set the right tone, provide the right support and create a positive atmosphere for homework time. We shared three TIPS on how to do this in Part I of this series, and now here are three more!

1. Set a goal.

Don’t you work better (and faster) when you know you’ll get to do something fun as soon as you’re done? Well, kids are the same way! So, at the start of each session, ask your child what they look forward to doing as soon as they’re done. Tell them that their goal is to finish their homework by ___(pick a concrete ending point, like 4:30), so they’ll still have plenty of time to do x. Then, if they start dragging their feet, point to the time and remind them of their fun goal.

And, sometimes a small treat may be an appropriate motivation, too. We’re not talking full-scale bribery here, but just a small reward, like a piece of her favorite candy or favorite cookie, once homework is completed. Small enticements can be very motivating!

2. Roll up your own sleeves.

Okay, so it may have been decades since you last did long division, but it’s time to polish those skills, Mom and Dad. The best way to motivate your child to do his or her homework is to be there to help them.

This doesn’t mean that you need to write the entire thing, but you should be readily available if your child needs help. Your presence cuts down on frustrations and also expedites the process; you can refer them to books and websites they may need, or help them look up an answer. Bonus: you are also modeling good study skills.

A great idea we recently heard: Use homework time to check your own e-mail and wrap up loose ends on your computer, too. Sitting with your child, say, at the kitchen table while you both work sends the message that homework time isn’t punishment; it’s important. Even for adults.

3. Talk with the teacher.

Use your child’s teacher as a resource. If your child seems to be struggling (something you will also be able to observe if you’re there to help with homework), or if homework is taking an inordinate amount of time even when your child applies himself, there may be an underlying issue. Ask your child’s teacher is he or she observes similar issues at school.

And, if you feel that too much homework is being assigned, you can politely broach that subject with the teacher, as well. Ask the teacher: “How long should it be taking for ___ to complete his/her homework assignments? I’m asking because homework seems to be taking several hours each night, and I don’t know if this is normal.”

Okay, so your child still may not be begging to do their homework after implementing these tips, but hopefully the process is a little less arduous, a little less fuss, and a lot more productive. And maybe, just maybe, even fun.

Kate Wilson is a professional blogger who enjoys writing about child development issues. She is also a cook, avid reader, and environmental enthusiast. 

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

Comments Off on Making Homework Fun, Part II!

Filed under Academic Success, Behavior Management, Parenting

Making Homework Fun! (really)

by Kate Wilson and Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card!

Okay, so you will be hard pressed to find a child who loves doing homework. So, it is expected that children might fuss a bit when it’s time to unzip that book bag and buckle down. Enter: you. The parent. As a parent, it’s up to you to set the right tone, provide the right support and create a positive atmosphere for homework time. Here’s how:

1. Put on your empathy hat.

First, step into your child’s shoes and feel what they feel for a moment. Children have been at school, under the scrutiny and rules of someone else, all day. Now that they’re home, homework, in their minds, deprives them of playing, socializing and just being–all the things that they have been waiting to do all day.

So, don’t fuss back. Don’t scold. Don’t slap. Tell your child that you understand homework isn’t what they want to do at the moment, but assure them that you are going to help them get it done well, quickly, and maybe even with a little fun thrown in. Then calmly follow the next steps….

2. Make homework inspiring!

Novel idea: What if you tried to make homework actually inspiring? Impossible, you say? Well, let’s unpack this idea a bit. If you freak out at your child and use coercion and/or monkey torture to force him to do his homework, you are starting a battle that, I promise, will likely become a daily struggle (not to mention a waste of perfectly good monkeys).

Try this easy tip instead: Write (or print) a different joke or riddle at your child’s homework place before they begin each day. For an array of fun kid-friendly jokes and riddles, check out: http://101kidz.com/jokes/. You can print some, cut them out, and leave them to be discovered by your child.

Starting homework time with a giggle sets a positive tone and creates associations that homework can actually be (gasp!) fun…and, dare we say, inspiring?

3. Have a snack ready.

It’s yum-o time. Set out a fun snack that your children get to munch while they work. Something yummy that also doubles as good “brain food” is ideal: peanut butter on graham crackers, carrot sticks and ranch, tortilla chips and salsa, apples and caramel dip, crackers and cheese, a sandwich, trail mix, a bowl of cereal with milk.

Then, every once in a while, surprise them with a plate of cookies or a favorite “splurge” treat…something to make them feel rewarded for sitting down without fuss to do their homework. And, if you’re worried about peanut butter smudges on their papers, get over it. Completed homework that smells like ranch is better than pristine blank homework any day.

Stay tuned….we’ll be back soon with three more tips for surefire homework success in Part II of this Making Homework Fun series!

Kate Wilson is a professional blogger who enjoys writing about child development issues. She is also a cook, avid reader, and environmental enthusiast

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic Success, Parenting

Hands-on Science for Home or School, Part II

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

Science is one of those subjects that, when done right, really is just as fun on a Friday night at home with the kids as it is in class. This three-part series will explore fun science projects perfect for home or school.

Blow Up a Balloon with Yeast

How does yeast make bread rise? This experiment from Science Bob will explore that question…with a balloon!

Materials:

A packet of yeast (available in the grocery store)

A small, clean, clear, plastic soda bottle (16 oz. or smaller)

1 teaspoon of sugar

Some warm water

A small balloon

Instructions:

  1. Fill the bottle up with about one inch of warm water. (When yeast is cold or dry the micro organisms are resting.)
  2. Add all of the yeast packet and gently swirl the bottle a few seconds. (As the yeast dissolves, it becomes active – it comes to life! Don’t bother looking for movement, yeast is a microscopic fungus organism.)
  3. Add the sugar and swirl it around some more. Like people, yeast needs energy (food) to be active, so we

    will give it sugar. Now the yeast is “eating!”

  4. Blow up the balloon a few times to stretch it out then place the neck of the balloon over the neck of the bottle.
  5. Let the bottle sit in a warm place for about 20 minutes.

If all goes well the balloon will begin to inflate!

How It Works:

As the yeast eats the sugar, it releases a gas called carbon dioxide. The gas fills the bottle and then fills the balloon as more gas is created. We all know that there are “holes” in bread, but how are they made? The answer sounds a little like the plot of a horror movie. Most breads are made using YEAST. Believe it or not, yeast is actually living microorganisms! When bread is made, the yeast becomes spread out in flour. Each bit of yeast makes tiny gas bubbles and that puts millions of bubbles (holes) in our bread before it gets baked. Naturalist’s note – The yeast used in this experiment are the related species and strains of Saccharomyces cervisiae. (I’m sure you were wondering about that.) Anyway, when the bread gets baked in the oven, the yeast dies and leaves all those bubbles (holes) in the bread. Yum.

 Make it an Experiment:

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does room temperature affect how much gas is created by the yeast?

2. Does the size of the container affect how much gas is created?

3. What water/room temperature helps the yeast create the most gas?

4. What “yeast food” helps the yeast create the most gas? (try sugar, syrup, honey, etc.)

For more fun science projects, visit http://www.sciencebob.com/experiments/index.php and stay tuned for the the next feature in this series on A Learning Experience!

For awesome science kits that kids love (that would also make great birthday presents), check out this top-shelf array from The School Box: http://www.schoolbox.com/Science-Fair-Projects-And-Kits.aspx.

2 Comments

Filed under Parenting, Science