Deciding to be a Stay-at-home Mom

Quitting my teaching job was probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.  I know other women say it was the easiest decision they ever made.  You love your kids more anything, so it should be a no-brainer right?  Well, it didn’t seem that straightforward to me.  Maybe that’s because I’m horrible at making decisions and often second-guess my dinner choice at restaurants once I see other people’s food.  So I relied on the old pro-con list.  Or in this case the pro-pro list.  I’d recommend it for dinner menus as well. 🙂

Reasons to keep my job as a teacher

  • I love kids- it’s the reason anyone becomes a teacher.  They say funny things.   They give hugs.  Enough said.
  • Teaching new things is fun.  Maybe I like being a know-it-all?  I seem really smart compared to eight-year-olds.
  • I have something that is mine.  It’s my own little world away from the family.
  • I feel like I’m doing important work.  I’m contributing to society and making a difference.  It’s not curing cancer, but it’s something.
  • I got lucky with a great school community.  I loved my co-workers, principal, and parents.  I couldn’t ask for better support as a teacher.
  • I get paid.  Who doesn’t like that?

Reasons why I should stay home with my kids

  • I love MY kids.  My happiest moments in life are having fun with my two girls.
  • It is a calmer life.  I know being a stay-at-home mom can be hectic sometimes.  But, to me, it feels more laid back than being a working mom.  No morning hustle out to get everyone dressed, fed, and packed up.  No trying to start dinner the moment you walk through the door after a busy day.
  • More freedom.  It’s beautiful outside and I want to go to the zoo?  Done.  It’s cold outside and I want to snuggle up and watch a movie?  Done.
  • Daycare is expensive.  Yeah, I was still making money…but not that much.
  • They are only little once and then it’s over.

And that last reasons is the one that sold it to me.  How many years do I have left before both my kids are in school?  Three.  That’s not much.  Why not spend as much time as possible with my kids in those three years?  So here I am.  (Okay technically right now I am spending time with the computer because my kids are upstairs napping, but you knew what I meant, right?)

Advertisements

Learning Letters

When do you start teaching your child letters?   Ideally, whenever they show an interest.  Our oldest daughter would hold up magnetic letters and ask “Wat dis?”  But even if you don’t get a clear sign that your child is ready, go ahead and expose them to the alphabet.  Most children will start recognizing a few letters around the age 2-3.

“Expose” sounds dirty.  What do you mean?  Surround them with letters.  We have magnetic letters on the fridge, foam letters in the bathtub, letter puzzles on the toy shelf, letter stickers in the art cabinet, and a letter mat on the floor.  And of course the best way to see lots of letters is by reading!  There are lots of good alphabet books out there.  One of our family favorites is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Okay, we have some letter toys.  Now what?  Just play with the stuff and casually point out letters.  I’d start with the first letter of your child’s name.  Then “M” for Mom, “D” for Dad, and the first letter of sibling names.  Once they are comfortable with those letters, then go back and introduce the other letters in your child’s name.  Use all capital letters at first for consistency.

What about alphabet flashcards?  Keep it fun and leave the letter flashcards in the box.  Unless you want to play a game with them (see below).

I’m bored pointing out letters.  What else can I do?  So glad you asked….

  • Sort letters into groups and see if your child can guess the groupings. Or have them do their own groupings.  Some ideas: capital/lower case, letters with curves/straight letters, letters in their name/not in their name, etc.
  • Go on a letter hunt at a store.  Count all the letter “T”s you can find on signs or products.
  • Trace around one of the letters and let your child decorate it.
  • Take alphabet flashcards and place them on things around the house that begin with that letter.
  • Play Go Fish with alphabet flashcards.  Match up a capital and a lower case letter to form a pair. (hint: If you want a shorter game, only play with half of the alphabet at a time)
  • Write the letters really big with chalk and let your child walk the lines.
  • Arrange objects into letter shapes.  Blocks work great for this.
  • Write out the alphabet and sing the ABC song as you point to them.  Or write them with chalk outside and hop on them.
  • Help your child make his body into a letter shape.  Take his picture so he can see it!
  • Play a find-it game while looking at your letter toys.  “I see a letter that looks like a circle.  Can you find it?”  “Can you find all the letters have lines across the top?”
  • “Write” letters on their back with your finger and see if they can guess the letter.
  • Stash letter toys or flashcards around the house and have your kiddos go on a letter hunt instead of an Easter egg hunt.
  • Put a letter toy in a container.  Have your child reach in and feel the letter without seeing it.  See if she can guess what she is holding.
  • If they are good with scissors, they can cut (big) letters out of magazines.

Remember recognizing and WRITING letters are two different skills.  Identifying letters comes months or years before being able to write the letters.

Common Core Standard:  (kindergarten- Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet)

Learning with Chalk

IMG_6333

Drawing with sidewalk chalk is a great summer activity.  It’s cheap, easily washable, and gets kids outside enjoying the sunshine.  Encourage your kids to do lots of free drawing, but also try out some of these ideas.  Don’t overload them….just one or two ideas per chalk session.

(Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

Babies

  • Let them feel the chalk and try to make marks on different surfaces
  • Color in one spot so there is a lot of chalk dust.  Put baby’s hands in it and see if you can help them make hand prints on the pavement.  Messy, but fun!

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Draw different colored shapes a few feet apart.  Play a game and ask them to stand on the blue circle.  Then walk (or run, skip, hop, etc.) to the purple rectangle.  (kindergarten-Identify and describe shapes)
  • IMG_6324
  • Big sidewalk chalk is perfect beginning writers.  Draw dotted lines of shapes, letters, or numbers and see if they can trace it.  Or write a letter first and see if they can copy it. (kindergarten- Print many upper- and lowercase letters)
  • Write their name in REALLY big letters and have them walk the letters of their name.
  • Write numbers in order.  Let kids hop from number to number counting as they go.  (kindergarten- Know the number names and count sequence)IMG_6338
  • Draw a path for kiddos to use with their tricycle or bicycle.
  • IMG_6340

Elementary

  • Make a Twister board with chalk and call out directions if you don’t have a spinner.
  • Trace around your kiddo and then have him design and color the clothing.  Or he could draw the organs (heart, brain, lungs, etc.) in their proper spot.
  • Make a large grid.  Work together to make a different pattern in each square of the grid.
  • Tell addition stories and have your child draw to solve the problem.  For example, “I have 3 apples.  Then I buy 4 more.  How many apples do I have now?”   (grades 1 and 2- Represent and solve problems using addition and subtraction)
  • Write numbers in order, but leave some out and have your kiddo fill in the missing numbers.  Then have them skip count and hop to the different numbers.
  • Kids write out the alphabet in big letters.  Then say a word and they run from letter to letter to spell it.   (grades K-6- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing)
  • Write out a silly sentence incorrectly (no capitalization or punctuation) and have kids correct your mistakes.  (grades K-6- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing)
  • Ask kids to draw shapes and then divide them into equal parts to make fractions.  (grades 1,2,3- Reasons with shapes and their attributes)

Choosing Books for Every Age

Babies

  • Board books or indestructible books  so you won’t have to worry about baby tearing it up
  • Black and white or bright colors for babies developing eyesight
  • Short books for little ones with short attention spans
  • One word per page to identify objects
  • Simple rhyming books such as Mother Goose
  • Large faces in the illustrations…better yet, make your own book with pictures of family members

Toddler and Preschooler books

  • Board books or stiff paper books are easier for little fingers
  • Texture or lift-the-flap books with things to touch
  • One word per page to identify objects
  • Mother Goose or other rhyming books
  • Simple stories with a beginning, middle, and end
  • Alphabet, color, or number books
  • Books about an area of interest: trains, favorite animals, princesses, etc.
  • Non-fiction books that relate to their life:  animals at the zoo, how to make cookies, new baby in the family, etc.

Elementary books (K-3)

  • Books for beginning readers- fewer words, rhyming words, repeating words
  • Simple stories with a beginning, middle, and end
  • Fairy tales
  • Longer books for read alouds
  • Books about an area of interest
  • Non-fiction books that relate to their life:  subject studying in school, family vacation, hobbies, etc.
  • Chapter books for advanced readers- Check to make sure subject matter is appropriate for their age-level.

Upper Elementary books (4-6)

  • Chapter books
  • Picture books with complex plots or subject matter
  • Non-fiction books: subject studying in school, area of interest, biography, etc.

The best way to choose a book is if it makes you or your child happy.  Start with books that you enjoyed when you were little.  Then ask friends with kids to recommend some good ones.   For older children, ask their teacher and librarian which books fit your children’s reading level.  But don’t let that limit you.  Maybe your first grader is reading on a second grade reading level.  That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy reading first grade or even kindergarten books every now and then.  And it doesn’t mean you can’t read a third grade chapter book together before bedtime.  Remember, your job is to provide your kiddo with lots of book choices, and let them make the final decision.

Happy reading!

What Should a 4 Year Old Know?

With Back to School season upon us, I’ve been seeing “What Should a 4 Year Old Know?” posted a lot on Facebook.  The author states parents shouldn’t be so concerned about their preschooler doing a checklist of skills.  Instead, they need to let children be free to explore, make a mess, and have fun.  I agree.  Parents need to calm down, put away the flashcards, and go have fun with their kids.  After all, everyone learns in their own time.  They are only four-years-old once.  Worry less, and play more.

However, I also think most parents that ask “What should a 4 year old know?”  have their hearts in the right place.  They don’t want to get their kid on Leno for memorizing all the names of the presidents.  They just want their kid to feel smart when they start kindergarten.  They want the best for their kids.  Nobody wants their child to begin their school career feeling confused and left behind when everyone else knows how to count to ten. Those feelings stick with kids.

I think there is a middle ground between constant unstructured free time and constant drill and practice with flash cards.  I agree with the author that learning should be worked into life naturally.  How about spending time with your kids and finding some teachable moments in fun activities?  You can count how many cups you need while cooking or how many elephants you see at the zoo.  You can find letters in signs as you drive.  You can do a shape hunt at the playground or write letters in the sandbox.  They get the benefit of having fun with you AND they learn academic skills.

I have a 4 year old.  She is not going to preschool at all this year.  She will start kindergarten next fall.  My plan is to have fun and make some memories (probably mostly mine) of this last year before she starts school.  And the learning?  I think this will prepare her enough for kindergarten.

Food Smart

I have an embarrassing confession.  I am not a healthy eater and I don’t even know what most vegetables look like.  As a twentysomething I was eating a salad (a big achievement for me!) and someone commented about my spinach.  WHAT?!  I was eating spinach?!  I honestly thought spinach was yucky, slimy, green stuff in a can.  It never occurred to me that it was a leaf.  Ridiculous.

I am determined for my own girls to grow up healthier and smarter.  Okay.  I’m not going to get all crazy and never go to McDonald’s again.  Trust me.  I still want to eat cheeseburgers.  I just want them to know about other foods, too.

Besides being good for your body, trying all kinds of food also gives you general background knowledge that aids in reading comprehension.  You will understand a lot more about a book about pineapples, for example, if you have a background knowledge of what a pineapple looks like, tastes like, and how it grows.

So what can we do as parents?

1.  Let kids see food in their natural form as much as possible.  Yes, you can buy corn in a can.  But show them what an ear of corn looks like in the grocery store.  Or better yet, look at a corn field.  It seems like common sense…but if you don’t show kids, then they don’t know (ie my spinach story).

2.  Try it!  Make trying new foods part of your routine.  We have a “Try One Bite” rule at our house.  After that bite, everyone is free to say “no thank you” and eat other things on his/her plate.

3.  Grow it!  Kids are much more likely to try something if they have invested their time in growing it.  Start small with a just a seed and a pot or do a whole garden in the backyard.  And check out these garden resources from the USDA:  http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/garden.html

4.  Pick it!  Look for farms where you can pick your own strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, etc.  This is a great experience to see how food is grown, harvested, and (if you are ambitious) used in cooking.

4.  Make it a fun game.  Slice up a few different fruits and kids close their eyes and guess which fruits they are tasting.  Or try a few foods and put them into categories of fruits/vegetables or yummy/yucky.

5.  Make it a family goal.  Maybe pick out one new fruit or vegetable each time you go to the grocery store?  After reading Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert we set the goal of eating everything in the book.  As you can imagine, I’ve never even seen most of them.

Idea Jar

IMG_6011

Okay, so this isn’t so much about learning.  It’s more about beating boredom and having fun with your kids.  When I realized we were playing the same handful of games over and over again, I had an idea….for a jar.  Idea jar.  Ha.  I cut up some colored paper and then went around the house writing down every game, toy, and activity.  Then I put them in a jar.  Whenever the kids are bored, we pull one out and do whatever it says.  It could also be used as a reward jar.

I made our jar with ideas that could all be done inside (in case of rainy days) and could be done as a family (some games that we have are too complicated for our two-year-old).  What’s that you say?  You don’t want to stay inside?  How about an idea jar for things you can do in your backyard?  Or field trips to places you would like to go on the weekend?  Or how about activities older kids can do by themselves for 10 minutes so you can have some time to check Facebook in peace?  You could even (gasp) make an idea jar for chores.  Everything is more fun when you draw it randomly out of a jar, even doing the dishes, right?  Well, it’s at least worth a shot.

Materials:

  • jar or container
  • paper
  • pen

Time investment:  about 15 minutes

Difficulty:  As easy as writing your name.  Literally.  It is just writing.