Common Core Standards

A reader asked: “The Common Core–I’d love to hear your opinion on it if you feel like you want to share it; how will affect my children–will it be a difficult transition?  Anything I can do to help them with the transition?”


Yes!  I would like to share my thoughts on the Common Core standards!  Here is a good overview and history on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).   Here is the official website if you want to take a look.   If you don’t want to go to look at those sites, but aren’t familiar with the CCSS, they are essentially new educational standards that the US is urging all states to adopt.  All but about 13 states have fully implemented them (with most of those 13 looking to implement them fully within the next couple years).  Arizona—which is where I live—has adopted them.  They had them in place for grades K-2 last year, and fully starting this year.  They are math and reading standards for kindergarten through 12th grade.  The goal is to:

  •  Help standards be more uniform across the nation (and closer to the standards in other parts of the world).
  • Help students thing deeper and explain their thinking and reasoning.
  • Ensure that student who graduate are prepared to enter college or the workforce.

There are lots of people out there who are passionately against these new standards.  There are also lots of people who strong advocates.  I fall in the middle of the spectrum.  I feel like some of the changes are really good for children.  I also feel like some of the expectations are unrealistic and overly rigorous (at least for a second grader [which is where my experience lies]).

You asked how it will affect your child and if it will be a difficult transition.  The biggest change I see is that students are required to think deeper.   Here’s an example—the following mathematical practices are for all grade levels:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

The biggest change for your child will be that they will need to explain how they got an answer or how they reached a conclusion.  In the past in education the answer has been what really matters.  Now, what matters even more than the answer is explaining HOW they got there and why it makes sense.  They will also be asked to have lots of discussions with peers.  In these conversations and discussions they will have the chance to agree or disagree (respectfully) with others’ thinking, share their ideas, teach and explain to others, work together, and come up with questions of their own.  A lot of these things will be new or challenging for your child in the beginning.   That leads to the next piece of the question asked.

How can you help?  Here are a few ideas:

When they say “this is hard” have a response ready.  Something like “Oh yeah?  That means it’s really helping strengthen your brain and making you smarter!” or “I understand that feeling like something is tricky is not the best feeling, but when you work through it you are going to feel so proud of yourself!” or “You’re right!  I’m glad you have the tools to accomplish this, even if it’s tough”.

Let them be the teacher and explain what they’re doing to you when they are working on their homework.

– Be patient with your child.

– Use LOTS of pictures, visuals, and tools when working through things together.   This could include drawings, tables, counters (beans, buttons, pennies, etc.), rulers or base 10 blocks.

Remember that there is more than one way to solve a problem (This is another idea that is emphasized with common core.)  Every way to solve a problem is great as long as it can be explained and justified.

The CCSS are new and different: that means that they’ll take some getting used to. Teachers, so you have any ideas to add?  Parents, what have you done to support your child with the changes?

Helping kids deal with death

 I know this is a heavy topic this week.  Early Sunday morning my husband’s grandma passed away.  She was 97 and lived a long, full, wonderful life.  Despite all that, it is still sad to have her gone.

In light of her passing and the events to come, a relative wrote in: “How can I help my children cope with death of a loved one?  I’m especially concerned about the viewing.”

Dealing-with-deathphoto credit

Death can be a really hard thing for kids to understand and deal with.

As I thought about this, my mind went back to the first death I dealt with.  Here is the journal entry my 9-year-old self wrote:

IMG_3487“8-8-95  My Great grandma died.  My hamster died the same day it was a hard day.  I was rilly sad. And I’m still sad. I went to her funaral it was my first funaral.  She died a few days before her Birthday.  She died 8-2-95.”

Here I am 16 years later and I still feel a lot of those same things now.  Having someone die who is close to us is sad and I don’t think that will ever change.  Here are some good ways to help young children work through that grief and find comfort, hope, and peace:

Listen.  It is healthy for kids to talk about what they are thinking and feeling.  This also helps them identify what is bothering them the most.  Sometimes, as adults we get tired of them asking questions or talking about it so much.  But try to be patient and let them talk. They may start to worry that they could die, or one of their parents (not just an old person) might die.  On the other hand, some children will not want to talk about it, but need to be encouraged to do so.

Let them cry and grieve.  This seems to be the most painful part: the many tears and the heartache.  Yet this is part of the process to healing and accepting.  Convey that to your child!  It is natural and healthy to feel sad.  The length of time a child/person needs to grieve is different for every individual.  Bear in mind that it may not go completely away.  I still feel sadness for those I have lost even thought many years have past.  The good news is that as time passes the hurt lessens.

Tell happy memories.  When my maternal grandmother passed away about 5 years ago we had a ‘memory sharing’ at the gravesite.  I remember how nice it was to share my happy memories about her and hear memories other had as well.

Talk about the afterlife/religion. I have always found a great amount of peace knowing that I will see my loved ones after this life.  Also remember that lots of questions will likely arise.  Be open and honest as you answer questions your kids have.  My knowledge has always been an incredible anchor during these hard times.  This little video is a good way to show kids about our bodies and spirits.

Write in a journal.  If your child already has a journal they could write their feelings and memories there.  If they don’t yet own a journal it could be a good opportunity to start one.  It could also be special if you put together a ‘remembering journal’ as a family.  Each family member could write a few memories, you could glue in pictures, and record the feelings each person has.

Give them choices about the funeral/viewing.  It is beneficial to be open and give your children some choices.  If they have never been to a funeral or viewing, explain what will take place.  Let them know that at a viewing the body may look different than they remember.  Let them know that if at any time during the viewing or funeral they feel uncomfortable they can sit really close to you, take a little break (go into the hallway or step outside for a couple minutes), close their eyes, or take a bathroom break.

Remember that although there is no way to completely erase all the heartache that accompanies death, talking, crying, journaling and retelling happy memories can help children work through the grieving process

“I don’t want to go to church, it’s boring!”

Last week, after a mom read our post on making Sunday a Fun Day, she had another question, “How do you get your kids to want to go to church?” Has YOUR child ever said, “I don’t want to go to church, it’s boring?”


Guess what, your child is probably right; church can be boring for them. Think about it. They are sitting on a bench that is so tall their feet can’t touch the ground. The pew in front of them is so high they can’t see out of their row, all they can hear is talking, talking, talking, most of which they don’t understand. Sound fun? Not to me.

A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints asked this question. We are members of this church so the answers we write are geared toward our religion. But we suspect this issue is not specific to any one denomination. With that said, we know that many of these thoughts and ideas could be tailored to fit anyone’s needs

Becky Bailey author of Easy to Love Hard to Discipline writes that parents should stop trying to control their children’s feelings.  Children have the right to all their feelings. I agree with this idea but sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when our children express feelings we don’t like, or don’t understand. So if your child says they feel like church is boring, what should you say?

You might be tempted to say something like, “church is not boring” or, “Too bad, you’re going anyway”.  Instead try to understand why they feel the way they do and ask something like, “What part of church feels boring to you?” or “What could we do to help church not feel so boring to you?” Or, “I know it’s not as fun as other things, but it’s important for us to go because it helps us learn more about Jesus and show Him that we love Him.

So, what’s to be done? Here are a few ideas that might help your child enjoy church more:

Cookie Sunday- Our family did this when our children were young. During   Sacrament meeting kids had a pad of paper and they wrote a few key words (or drew a picture depending on their age) to help them remember stories or ideas they hear from the speakers. For every idea they wrote, they got a cookie when they got home (these ideas need to be about something the speaker said, not like my kids would sometimes try to get away with like, “he had on a red tie”)

Make a Sunday Book – Our Sunday book was a 3-ring notebook containing pictures of Jesus through out his life (I used pictures from the New Testament section of the Gospel Art Kit). I slid them into plastic pocket protector sheets.  You can also add blank paper for drawing and a pencil bag with a few colored pencils. Also, scripture based quiet books are a great idea, homemade or purchased, or non-sewn types.

Friend magazine– If you never seem to get around to using it at home, take it to      sacrament meeting.  Let your kids look through it and do the activities on the Funstuff page or other activities that look interesting (I did draw the line at using scissors at church, we took Scotch tape to church but not scissors). They can dog ear the corner of the pages of things that can’t be done during Sacrament meeting that they want to do when they get home, or stories they want read to them later.

Lead the music – Tell your children to watch the music director as she leads the     songs (also page 384 of the LSD hymnbook shows how to lead music).   Show them     how to draw shapes in the air: square (for 4/4 time), triangle (for ¾ time), and a smile shape (for 2/4 or 6/8 time).  Show them where the time signature is on the music and when each hymn is sung have them watch the music leader or the hymnbook and follow them with small hand movements that can only be seen by those sitting on your row.

Narrate the sacrament (or communion)- If your child is a toddler or young pre-  schooler, when the sacrament starts stand them stand up on the bench close to you (this shows them there is a lot going on outside your pew). Whisper quietly to them what is happening during the sacrament. Explain every step, in detail. It’s okay to use some words you know your child does not know yet. Your comments should include gospel teachings, not just who is walking where.

Example:“It’s time for the sacrament, watch, the Priests are going to take the white cloth off the sacrament table and we’ll be able to see the trays of bread and the cups of water. See them?”


“Now it’s time for the blessing on the bread, one boy who holds the priesthood is going to pray and bless the bread, let’s close our eyes and bow are heads and listen”

“Now the deacons are going to stand up all at the same time and go get trays of bread, watch. Now they are going to take the bread to the bishop, the deacons give the bread to the bishop first, see, bishop is taking a piece of bread. The deacons can pass the sacrament because they hold the Aaronic Priesthood”


“Look, now they are coming to bring the bread to us. When they get here, we’ll take the tray and take just one piece of bread. The bread reminds us that Jesus body hung on the cross and died for us. He was resurrected and we can be resurrected too.”

You get the idea? There is a certain age where this is really affective and they will listen as long as you talk and point things out.

As with many things, this can seem a little overwhelming, but remember that even one or two small changes can make a big difference. Good luck!

What do you do that works well?  Do you have any successes to share?

Sunday fun day!

Last week we wrote that next weeks post would be ideas on how to teach self-regulation, however we had a comment from a parent and that takes priority (we do love your comments and questions). So next week we’ll post about the how-tos of teaching self-regulation.  But for today: 

Make Sunday a Fun day

 This last Sunday at church I was talking to a friend who has a 4 year old.  In an effort to make Sunday a little more reverent, they have decided to cut back on TV for that one day each week.  She told me that is has been rough!  When I mentioned it to my mom she remembered what we used to do at our house on Sunday.  We thought that this would be something useful to share.


For kids sometime Sunday does not feel like a fun day. It feels like a day filled with more don’ts than do’s and therefore it feels restrictive. Especially if we, as parents, try to establish some better habits, which result in taking away some things they use to do that they loved.  One idea is rather than only take away activities they use to do, replace old activities with new ones. Make Sunday a day of fun activities, not just restrictions.  Keeping the Sabbath Day holy does not have to mean sitting in the house all day being still and quiet (remember the Primary song: Reverence is more than just quietly sitting…?).  We can still be reverent by enjoying nature, visiting loved ones, and doing service.

One thing our family did when we had a house full of young children was to have a Sunday bucket We used a bucket because we had one on hand, however any container will do: box, bag, bucket, tub, or drawer.

What is a Sunday bucket?  A Sunday bucket is a container that can be decorated on the outside and the inside is filled with toys, stories or activities that are not part of your child’s everyday world.  Let them know that the lid can only come off on Sunday and that the activities are exclusively for that day. In order to keep the container exciting, engaging, and effective, consider trading out/adding a new activity every week.  If you have children who will be tempted to peek or sneak an activity before Sunday you could simply add the new activity Saturday after they go to bed.

Here are a few fun, easy, inexpensive things a Sunday box might contain:

  • Puppets and a sheet to drape over the back of some chairs for the stage
  • Play dough recipe and ingredients
  • Picnic items to eat lunch out side
  • A map for a family walk around the neighborhood
  • A few boxes of different colored Jell-O and cookie cutters to make “Jell-O Jigglers”
  • Materials to make ‘forts’ such as clothes pins and sheets (when making a fort utilize the couch or kitchen table or chairs)
  • Art supplies to make cards, thank you notes, or I love you notes to friends or relatives. This would include a drive to the post office where you child gets roll down the window and put the letter in the mailbox.
  • Ingredients to make treats to do “ring and run” to neighbors.

Don’t stress, the Sunday Box item don’t have to be expensive or elaborate.

Below are some other ideas for Sunday activities. Some may need to be tweaked to make them feel more Sunday-like. But use them as a spring board and make them fit your family.

Creating Fancy Foods

Fun With Games

Arts and Crafts

Magic Tricks

Creating Pictures and Things


Bird Watching Close to Home  Recently I was watching my grandsons and sat on a blanket on the grass in the back yard and listened to hear how many different types of bird songs we could hear. I was surprised how may different ones there were!

If you’re interested in more ideas follow this link  and scroll all the way down to Family Activities.

Good luck with your Sunday box!  Let us know what you try or share with us if there is something you already do that works well.

Teaching honesty

We received this question from a reader: “Wondering if either of you had advice about how to help children understand and apply honesty to their lives.  What would you do if they choose to lie?  My children are 9 and 10, and I want them to grow up to be trustworthy, honest–so important–but so often a challenge for them.  Any thoughts that may help?”


This is a good question because I think it’s a common challenge in parenting.

It’s hard for me to write briefly on this subject because there are so many good things to be learned in this area of parenting. So I’ll tell you a few things that were specific to our house, and then refer you to a few sites that have ideas that I agree with and used when raising my children.

First, remember:

1- Children are not born knowing about honesty, they must be taught.

2 – Children follow the example of their parents. I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.”

3 – An episode of lying or stealing does not make your child bad, or a “liar” (they are a good kid, who made a wrong choice)

4- The age of the child determines how to handle the situation. If a child is 3 years old or younger, teach the difference between reality and fantasy. Sometimes you may need to say, “That sounds like a story to me”.  Help them learn the difference.

Think about how many time you have had discussions about honesty with your child.  It seems that as parents we tend to talk about honesty only when there is a problem with dishonesty. And we assume they are learning about honesty in church, or school or magically on their own.  So we don’t bring it up much in between. You need to start early and talk about honesty often.

At our house the saying was, “If it’s not yours, just leave it alone”. Often kids (and some adults) see an item lying around and because it does not have a name on it, or there is nobody guarding it they think the object is free for the taking. Teach your child that it does not matter where they see something, or how much they would like to have it, if it does not belong to them they should just leave it alone.

Teach a child how it feels when they have been dishonest and honest. Feelings that come with dishonesty are uncomfortable; they might worry that someone will find out what they have done. They have to hide the item they took because they don’t want anyone to question them as to where they got it. Or they have to remember the lie they told so they can re-tell the story the same way if they are asked again. Teach them that when they are honest they don’t have to worry about any of those things; they will have a clear conscious and feel peace. Also, talk to your child about how they feel when someone has been dishonest TO THEM. The conversation can then show that when someone is dishonest to you it doesn’t feel good and we would never want to make another person feel that way.  I believe it is beneficial to have then recognize the feeling on BOTH sides.

With your children, make a “safe place” where kids and parents can go to talk.  Find a comfortable, private location either in your house, or outside. It could be under a shade tree in the yard, or on Mom’s bed, just make sure the location is known by each child and parent and that it does not change. When either one of you suggests you need to go to the safe place to talk, you know there might be hard things talked about but that there will only be understanding, kindness and love shown.  Anger, yelling, criticism, blaming and punishments are not allowed in the “safe place”.

Avoid questions that make it easy for your children to lie. This was an inspiration to me when I first heard the idea.  If you saw your child do something do not ask them if they did it.  For example, don’t ask, “Did you spill the cereal all over the floor”, this question encourages a child to lie to stay out of trouble. Rather say, “Please clean up the spilled cereal”.

Another way to teach these concepts to your child is to read books that deal with honesty/dishonesty. Even older children can enjoy a picture book read aloud to them. See our list below for ideas.

Books that help teach honesty to children

Picture Books

Arthur’s Classroom Fib by Marc Brown – After hearing about the exciting summer vacations of his classmates, Arthur decides to write an embellished version of his own

Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It by Michael B. Kaplan – Louis finds a toy model airplane in the playground and takes it home, but soon his guilt over taking something that is not his overpowers his love for toy airplanes.

Jamaica’s Find by Juanita Havill – A little girl finds a stuffed dog in the park and decides to take it home.

Princess Kim and the Lie that Grew by Maryann Cocca-Leffler – After new girl Kim tells her classmates she is from a royal family, her lie grows and grows

Princess Kim and too much truth –By Maryann Cocca-Leffler  -Young Kim discovers that there is a difference between being honest and always speaking the truth.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf – An Aesop’s Fable retold by B.G. Hennessy  – A boy tending sheep on a lonely mountainside thinks it a fine joke to cry “wolf” and watch the people come running–and then one day a wolf is really there, but no one answers his call.

The Berenstain Bears and the Truth by Stan Berestain – Brother and Sister Bear learn how important it is to tell the truth after they accidentally break Mama Bear’s most favorite lamp.

The Empty Pot by Demi – When Ping admits that he is the only child in China unable to grow a flower from the seeds distributed by the Emperor, he is rewarded for his honesty.

Zip, Zip Homework by Nancy Poydar- Violet has a great new backpack with wheels and zippers, but when the many pockets distract and cause her to misplace her homework she tells a lie to cover it up, so the teacher gives her an even harder assignment.

Chapter Books

 Big Whopper by Patricia Reilly Giff – When Destiny Washington cannot think of a discovery during Discovery Week at school, she makes up a story, but finds that she cannot keep on pretending it is true

Fancy Nancy and the Too Loose Tooth by Jane O’Connor – Nancy is about to lose her first tooth, but if she can prevent it from falling out until she arrives at school she will get a special necklace from the nurse.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Farm, story 1, The Not Truthful Cure by Betty McDonald- Mrs Piggle-Wiggle puts Fetlock to work on her farm and helps him realize that he does not have to lie to be accepted by friends.

Non-Fiction for Children

 Honesty by Kathryn Kyle – Easy-to-read scenarios, such as telling a store clerk that you received too much change or telling your mother you fed your broccoli to the dog, provide lessons in honesty.

Honest! By Kelly Dounda – This book discusses the importance of honesty, using examples of people who display this characteristic in different situations and including a story about a boy named James who broke a window.


If you would like to read more about activities to teach your child honesty, visit:

Activities to Teach Children Honesty

When Do Children Know What a Lie Is? -I recommend the first five paragraphs, but not the comments.

Teaching Your Kids to be Honest


Back to school on a budget

We love when people contact us and have questions!  We were recently asked “Any advice or ideas for how to prep for school on a small budget?” Yes! Yes we do!  So without further delay:


  • Don’t go shopping until you get a list of supplies from the teacher.  Each class and each teacher require different supplies and tools.  Lots of supplies are actually provided by the school.  You should receive a list of items for your child to bring for themselves as well as donations needed for the whole class Remember, the whole class donations can be given later during the year. For example, wait until cold weather and buy tissues on sale to donate when runny nose season starts.  Don’t rush out and buy everything you think your child will need because you may end up spending more than necessary.
  • Back to school sales.  Staples, Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, Target, and many other stores have incredible back to school sales.  I have seen crayons, pencils, notebooks, and glue sticks for pennies!  Look at adds and listen for the best sales.
  • Reuse items from the previous year.  Lots of schools supplies are durable and can be used for a few years if not more.  Kids don’t need new pencil boxes and backpacks every single year.  Most backpacks are washable. If the backpack has no holes, toss it in the washer on the gentle cycle and be surprised at how much better it looks clean again. To convince your child to re-use an old back pack, add a small, inexpensive, clip on lip balm or hand sanitizer, etc to the zipper pull.  Take a look around your house and see what you can use again.
  • Go to thrift stores.  A thrift store is the perfect place to find great deals.  Yes, it takes more time and diligence, but you can save a great deal on clothes, shoes, backpacks, and more.  If you are willing to do some searching and invest some time you can save quite a bit.  Keep you eyes open for Goodwill’s  50% off everything Saturdays.
  • Ask your school about any programs and assistance they have available.Back to school  Many schools have help and programs you may not know about.  As a teacher, I was given a brand new backpack every year to pass along to a student in need.  My school also had a program that got brand new shoes for a number of students.  If money is extra tight make sure you explore the help that is out there and take advantage of the opportunities at your school or in your community.
  • Splurge on one item.  Discuss with your child what they think they need or want the most this year.  It may be a new pair of jeans, a backpack, sparkly pencils, or a Spiderman binder!  Let them be part of the decision making process then go get one really nice item that will get them ready for the school year.

Good luck!