Your Child IS Your Work

One of my fellow grandma friends told me that her daughter-in-law would always ask her to babysit her child when she went to the grocery store. My friend was trying to figure out if it was really necessary because she had always taken her son to the store with her.

That said, I know that it’s a LOT easier to do things without having a little helper or two around. But I think it’s important to remember that your child is not in the way of your work, rather your child is your work. We need to go to work to have money to buy the things our families need. Making healthy meals is important for our families. It’s nice to have a clean, organized house and cute job chart for our kids. However we do all of those things because we have kids.

In the book Letters of CS Lewis he suggests that a housewife’s work is the most important in the world. He writes, “What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government, etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes?… So your job is the one for which all others exist”.

So next time you’re trying to do the dishes and your 2 year old is hanging on your leg, pull a chair up to the sink next to you, take off their shirt, put an inch of soapy water in the sink with a few plastic cups and let them help you do the dishes (throwing a towel on the floor to mop up all the water they spilt was often my version of mopping my floor). If you’re trying to fold clothes and they are unfolding faster than you can fold, dump out the clothes, put your child in the basket (my kids loved to sit in and be pushed around in laundry baskets), put the clothes on top of them and call out what article of clothing you want and have them throw it to you as you quickly fold it and put it on the couch behind you. If you’re mopping or sweeping get them a toy mop and broom and let them imitate what your doing while you’re doing it. I’ve heard it said a child’s play is their work – that’s how they learn. So let them play house cleaning while you are working. You get the idea, rather than think of what movie you can put on for your child while you work, try to figure out how they can be constructively involved in what your doing.

I know moms cannot do this 100% of the time. At some point you are going to have to stop and sit down and read them a book or play a game for a few minutes. But just remember that your children are the reason you’re doing all the housework in the first place.

For more ideas on grocery story trips: A Little Helper at the Store or Now What Do I Say?

 

Classroom Jobs

It’s good and healthy for people of all ages to work! Many of you readers work full time (in or out of the home). Today I want to talk about helping kids learn to work. I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but I do work with lots of children every day and I am helping them learn to work.

In my classroom we have class jobs. Obviously my job is to teach, but I want to help my students learn to be responsible and learn to help.

Most kids naturally love to help. I will often say, “Who wants to help me…” and before I can finish my sentence lots of tiny hands shoot into the air. Kids want to help and feel useful and jobs can fulfill that need. (It also makes my life easier, so that’s a benefit too!)

I have seen many different job charts in people’s homes and classrooms. There are lots of places you can buy classroom job charts, but I just like to make my own. In my classroom I have found a system that works best for me. I make a big pocket chart. Each pocket has a job written on it. Then I write my student’s names on popsicle sticks. I slide a stick into each pocket and I am done! I choose to rotate my jobs weekly, so when class is done on Friday I just shift each stick over one slot.

My students can hardly wait to see their new jobs on Monday. They rush into the room and huddle around the chart. They look to see what job they have, what job their friends have and who has their favorite job!

Not only does giving my students jobs help them have a chance to work, but it also helps me have less to do at the end of each class and day. I no longer have to go find stray pencils around the classroom or straighten the books on the bookshelf. I don’t have to pick up trash or erase the whiteboard. My kids love doing their assigned job and helping remind their friends to do theirs as well. They enjoy it and I have less to do. It’s a win-win situation!

Less Stressing About Morning Dressing

Do you ever find yourself scrambling to find one of your child’s shoes 2 minutes before the school bus pick up? Or it’s a cold morning and your child needs some long pants to wear and they are nowhere to be found? A friend recently told me of her system I thought was a great idea that I’d like to pass along to help your mornings be a little less chaotic.

She bought a hanging fabric shoe rack; the ones with rows of individual pockets. After her Saturday laundry day she takes complete sets of school clothes for her son – pants, shirt, underwear and socks and rolls them up and puts a set in each pocket. That way in the morning he can grab them and dress quickly. If you have a child who likes to choose their own clothes, they could even be in charge of choosing the outfit for each day. If you have a daughter who is a fashionista she could help choose her outfit for Saturday.

Shoes can also be put in the bottom row for a quick find. I don’t know about you, but for me anything that helps save time in the morning and make for a little less contention is a great trade off for a small Saturday job.

Don’t use “baby talk”

Don’t Use Baby Talk

Recently in a waiting room I over heard a mother say to her young child, “I like how you made a responsible choice”.

Contrast that with a film I watched in my Early Interventions class at ASU. The scenarios were from a video camera that had been hidden in a doctor’s office waiting room, filming interactions with patients and their children while they waited for their appointments. The one that stuck in my mind was a young mother with her 2-year-old daughter. The child had access to some toys and books that were in the waiting room. During the observation the child would bring the mother toys to show her, or books to look at and several times needed help getting along with another child. The mom used almost no verbal language to communicate with the child. She would shake her head no, point for the child to put something back, or stand up and physically move the child or a toy. She referred to the child as “Mamma”, rather than her real first name and that was about the only word she used during the time they spent in the waiting room.

What a stark contrast in the words used by these two mothers.

Talk to your young children often.

By age two the average child should be using about 25 words and know close to 300 words, says Andrew N. Meltzoff, Ph.D., coauthor of The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn (William Morrow, 1999). However don’t panic if your child’s vocabulary is a little different, remember every child develops at a different rate (he suggests that if your child does not use 25 words by age 3, consult your pediatrician). And where do they learn those words? From YOU and the people they are around all day. Because a child cannot speak it can be tempting to speak in partial sentences or in “baby talk” thinking they will understand it better. However, just because they have not yet learned to verbalize does not mean they can’t understand what’s being said.

Talk to your young children often.

A few weeks ago my grandson wanted to take a toy into the bathtub that was powered by batteries. My son said he explained to his 5-year-old son about mechanical toys (ones that wind up or are driven by rubber bands), electrical (ones that take batteries) and electrical/mechanical (the combination of both). It was surprising to me that he would explain such a complicated idea to a child so young so and I asked if the 5-year old had understood. My son said he got the idea—he didn’t understand it all perfectly but he understood the concept. He also said the next time he was helping his son in the bathtub the young boy brought it up to him again and he could repeat the information.

Talk to your young children often.

            My daughter in law talks to her 10-month-old daughter as they are grocery shopping. She narrates the trip, talks about what they are seeing, what they are buying, etc. My son says people often look at her like, “Lady, who are you talking to?” I guess they don’t know that that baby is in English 101—learning her first language. For a child every minute they are awake they are in the classroom, so to speak. The more you speak to your child the more language they can learn.

            So, you get the idea? Yes, talk to your young children often, even if you don’t think they are old enough to understand. Remember they can understand more words than they can say and with every word you speak you are helping to increasing their vocabulary and understanding.

Children’s Bedtime

“I want a drink of water”

“I need to go to the bathroom”

“I can’t go to sleep”

Are these some of the things you hear from your kids night after night when they are finally in bed, but not asleep?

Here’s one idea to help kids settle down at night and be ready to sleep.

Twenty minutes before bedtime Announce, “In 20 minutes, that’s 8:00, I’m going to read out loud in my bed. Anyone who is ALL ready for bed is invited”.

ALL ready for bed might need to be defined a head of time. That way, after the reading when the kids are relaxed the spell is not broken by extra activity between your bed and theirs. Our routine was pajamas on, teeth brushed, prayer said, already used the bathroom and got a last drink. Then you can add ANYTHING else your family does as part of a nightly routine.

Ten minutes later say, “Reading in my bed in 10 minutes, hope you’re there”

And when it’s time to start say something like, “Reading fun will now begin” Or something that makes them realize that this activity is a real treat.

Also, I accepted latecomers. If they were not quite ready when the reading began they could finish getting ready and then join us. Missing part of the story seemed to be it’s own punishment for tardiness. There were times when a child was not ready and they could not seem to understand why I would not wait for them to get there before I began. It was a good chance for me to teach them to accept responsibility by saying, “I said I was starting to read at 8:00 so I need to start now. Go ahead and finish getting ready quickly and then come. It would not be fair to everyone who was ready to have to wait. Maybe tomorrow you need to start getting ready a little earlier”.

I have sweet memories of evenings with a bed full of kids, pillows and a good book.

When the reading is done and the kids are relaxed they can be sent (or carried is even more fun for them) gently and quietly to their own beds.

I think there is no shortage of book lists available to give you ideas for good reads. If you need some help to begin try Scholastic ,  International Reading Association, Teachers First (scroll down to “100 Best Books”). Or just go to the library and let you kids choose some of their own books! Don’t get too stressed over trying to find books that fit the age of every child listening. I think almost any age child will not complain with a good picture book even if it is technically below them in ability. And I found that often a young child will listen to a chapter book.

A few of our favorite books that come to mind:

Picture books:

The Empty Pot

How Much is a Million

Strega Nonna

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

The 5 Chinese Brothers

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel

Chapter books:

Little House on the Prairie series (my favorites are House in the Big Woods and

Farmer Boy)

Cricket in Time Square

Mouse and the Motor Cycle

Trumpet of the Swan

Charlotte’s Web

Indian In the Cupboard

Reading at bedtime can help calm kids, and raise a reader at the same time.

Homework

homework

“Homework time!”  Are those dreaded words at your house?  I know that when I was growing up that was my least favorite time of the day.  If your kids echo this sentiment then we have some ideas for you!

  • Have a set homework time.  If there is no homework that night then they read during that time.  It’s funny how kids can “magically remember” they have homework when they realize that they are going to be reading anyways and not having free time.  Have your homework time the same time each night: like right when they get home from school, right after dinner, or the hour before bedtime.
  • Be close by in case they need help.  When kids have a reason to get up (hunting you down to ask a question for example) they are more likely to get sidetracked and off task.
  • Have a set homework space.
  • Have tool and materials close by and easily accessible.  The types of tools needed vary greatly depending on the age of the student.  Materials could include an alphabet chart, number line, blocks or counters, a dictionary/thesaurus, pencils, pens, highlighters, paper, a computer, sticky notes, etc.  This is also a great place to keep all their textbooks.  Again, this gives them no excuse to get up, possibly wonder around and lose momentum.
  • Help them realize that you understand that homework isn’t fun, but it’s expected to get done.  Whenever I would tell my did that I didn’t want to do something his reply would consistently be, “You don’t have to want to do it, you just have to do it.”
  • Make it a party!  I know, I know… the words ‘homework’ and ‘party’ seem like polar opposites, but hear me out.  Use the word ‘party’, throw out a couple snacks (I almost typed snakes!  That would make things interesting for sure—HA!), make it a group effort instead of an isolated event, have a good attitude, and BAM, homework time just got a little bit better.  As silly as it may sound, I have many fond memories of doing homework with my brothers.  You know what they say: a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

Hopefully some of these ideas can help homework feel a little less painful.  Keep in mind that these are just ideas we have—use as few or as many as you feel will help.  Anything you guys would like to share that has worked for you?  We always love your ideas!  Happy homeworking!

You have our permission!

Happy New Years! We know that lots of you are setting goals and making resolutions for next year.  If ‘have a cleaner house” or “stay on top of cleaning” is on your list then this post if for you!  Even if those aren’t on your list we feel like you might find something here helpful.  When a space (or home) is organized and clean it has a positive affect on a family (or those who live there).  Yes, happier families in 2014!

My mom and I were talking about how we set rules for ourselves—rules about what we can and can’t do around the house and in our daily lives.  Most of them don’t have much reasoning behind them and we probably didn’t even reach the decisions consciously, yet we feel bound to these ‘rules’.  We are here to share some insights we have had about what we allow ourselves to do after receiving ‘permission’ from someone else.   So let’s get rid of a few silly rules we have subconsciously set for ourselves and make our lives around the house a little bit easier!

Simple-tips

  You now have our permission to:

Throw a cup of water on the floor and spot mop with a towel.  My mom’s friend (who always seems to have a nice clean house) says that sometimes when her floor is dirty (but she doesn’t have the time/energy/motivation to do a whole official mopping) she will pour a cup of water on the floor, toss down a bath towel, and have a mini dance party on the towel.  Now you can take the time you just saved and read a story to your child.

Run the dishwasher half full.  It feels like it can be a waste of water not to utilize every last inch of space.  We find ourselves waiting to run the dishwasher because there was room for 3 or 4 more dishes.  But then we would forget, have a sink full of dishes and end up in a dish funk.  In an effort to save water or energy we get behind. OR we end up adding the 3 more dishes, starting the dishwasher, and washing a sink full of dishes by hand.  Now did that really save water or time in the end…? No.  So you now have our permission to run your dishwasher before it’s all the way full.

Never leave a room empty handed.   I read this somewhere and thought it was such a good idea!  As I’ve implemented this, it really helps.  It makes cleaning up an integrated task instead of a big chore that takes a chunk of time.   Always carry something with you as you go to another room.  If you walk down the hallway and see something in the wrong place, it takes almost the same amount of time to think, “I’ll get that and put it away later” as it does to pick it up and put it away as you pass it’s home.

Happy cleaning and happy New Years! We hope these tips (and our permission) make your life a little easier!

Cultivating a positive classroom environment

I was talking to a reader last night.  She was wondering how to know when we posted something new.  Our goal is to post each week.  We will be shooting for the middle of the week (Wednesday/Thursday-ish) You can also follow us on Facebook (Askaparentorteacher) or Bloglovin’.  We’ll let you know about other social media venue options as we join them.

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Creating a Positive Classroom Environment

classroom-environment

Now that that’s taken care of, on to some teacher writing!  I was chatting with a couple parents yesterday at a soccer game.  As we talked, the topics of teachers, classroom environments, and kids enjoying school came up.  We talked about how their children feel about school, how comfortable they feel in their classroom, their favorite teachers so far, etc.  That got me thinking about what makes a kid happy at school (and in turn, a teacher happy at school [seeing as that’s the end I have been on most recently]).  I believe that the single most important part to this “happiness at school” puzzle is the classroom environment.

Teachers, lets talk about cultivating a positive classroom environment!   **As my mom read this she commented that all these things apply to parenting and family life as well!  So parents, read on**

I cannot tell you how many times I heard professors and teachers say, “Classroom management is the most important thing!  You can’t teach if you are constantly having to deal with behavior issues.”  At the time I brushed it off a bit, thinking that it was important, but they were exaggerating a little bit.  I’ve come to learn that they were spot on! Imagine that! Here are some things I have learned in this area:

  • Developing a sense of community is so important!  When kids feel like they belong and are a part of a team, wonderful things happen: they want to do a good job for themselves and their teammates, they are quick to help and encourage others, they are more kind, they feel valuable and needed, and they are happy.  In my class we frequently talk about being good teammates.  I call my class “Team 24” (because that’s our room number).  Anytime I talk to them I address them as “team” or “team 24” They hear it so frequently that is almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  At the beginning of the year we do a lot of community building activities.  We also revisit these types of activities when I feel we need a little strengthening.
  • Students need to know that you care about them.  Learn about what they enjoy and bring it up occasionally.  If you know they love Legos ask them what they have built lately.  If they have a dog ask how the dog is doing.  If they are passionate about fashion comment on their wardrobe.  If you don’t know about a kid’s life, ask!  If they know you care they will be quicker to care about you and listen to you.
  • Be positive!  When kids walk into my classroom they each get a high five (or thumbs up, or peace sign, or knuckle bump, or the like) and a “Good morning!”  They return the gesture and wish me a good morning as well.  Right off the bat they know that I am glad that they are there.  I recently attended a meeting where they spoke about being positive with kids.  It was said that the positive/negative ratio should be 8:1.  That means for every negative thing you say, you should say 8 encouraging/positive things.  In a marriage class it was said that the same is true in marriages with your spouse, except the ratio they gave was 5:1.  Human nature!  People like positive experiences!
  • Be consistent.  Kids feel safe and happy when they know what to expect.  Establish expectations and consequences and then stick to it!  (This could be a post all in itself.)  Kids don’t like negative consequences, but as they come to see that you are consistent and they have the power to choose they will adjust their behavior.  Last year when kids didn’t do their homework they had to stay in for morning recess and do it then.  It was rough at the beginning of the year, but by the middle of the year the kids knew what was expected and took responsibility.  If fact I would have kids walk into class and say things like “I need to stay in from recess today because I chose not to do my homework” or “I need to do my homework at recess“.  My kids also know that we work hard before we play.  A few days before the end of the year party a student raised his hand and said “Why don’t we work really hard in the morning, then have our party in the afternoon.”  I had been so consistent in teaching that, that it was natural to them.
  • Have fun and let them get to know you.  When I was student teaching I felt like I had to be so professional that I never talked about myself.  My sweet mentor teacher encouraged me to let the kids see who I was and talk about myself.  I learned that my students love to know about my husband, my pets, my fear and such.  Have fun and laugh with them.  When you have fun together it strengthens that classroom community.

As you create a safe, fun, consistent, comfortable place for students, great things will happen.  It is really hard work in the beginning, but pays off in the end!

How to respond to a child calling from another room

MOM!-{how-to-answer}

As a mother do you ever feel like people are calling you from several directions at once? Do you feel that you can’t seem to get to everyone?

Here’s one simple tip that may help. When one of your children (or maybe even a husband??) calls for you, rather than saying “What”, simply answer, “I’m in the kitchen” or “I’m in my bedroom” or where ever you at the time. Chances are high that if you state your location, they will come to you.  If you answer by saying “What” they usually reply  “Come here”.  Try it, see how it works and let me know.

~Jen

Be in control of the morning!

Moms, School’s starting!

 Take control of the morning rather than allowing the morning to take control of you.

take-charge-of-the-morning

 

When I was a very young mom I went to a class where the woman speaking said, “When you get up in the morning, put on lip stick! Your kids hear you better when you are wearing lipstick”. Everyone laughed and I thought, “I don’t get it”. Well, now that I’m an old mom I think I understand. If you get up in the morning and get dressed, comb your hair, put on lip stick, or what ever it is that shows your children that you are ready for the day they will feel like you’re in control and pay attention to you better.

When I had a 13-month-old son I brought newborn twin boys home from the hospital. Thank goodness my mom lived close and was so willing to help. For the first 6 weeks of their lives, she came over every morning at 6:30 am for a few hours to help me. The first thing that she would do every morning was open the curtains in my dark front room and say, “Oh, what a beautiful day!”  That’s not what I was thinking; I was feeling tired, discouraged and overwhelmed. After I nursed the twins, I would go back into my room, alone, and sleep a while, then shower, dress and come out to the front room. There my mom had all the boys dressed and breakfast cleaned up. She would then go home and I could handle the rest of the day.

Why do I tell you this? Because, 30 years ago, even though I felt tired and overwhelmed with my three small children, every morning, no matter what the weather, my mom would let the sunshine into my house and say, “What a beautiful day!” and it had a lasting, positive affect on me. Even if I did not show it at the time, it was encouraging to me.

Now you’re the mom. And sometimes you will wake up feeling tired, overwhelmed, or discouraged. Instead of letting those feeling take over, take control of the morning!  Put on lipstick, open your curtains, tell your kids it’s going to be a great day, sing a song out load, put on some good music, or what ever is your style and take control of your morning: it will empower your children

~Jen