• Re-Discovering Books You Love

    Why is it that we can see movies so many times we have them memorized? Yet once we have read a book, that's it. It's over. We don't read them again. WHY? Is it because we know how they end? Or we have lent them to someone and can't remember where they are? I have been thinking about that idea. Often times my kids will have me read the same books over and over and over. We tend to check out books from the library more than once and reread them again. We have developed favorites in our family. We got talking about this over the weekend and I was excited to know that my children have so many favorite books. That was a great family conversation on a long road trip back to Salt Lake.

    What are YOUR favorite books? What is it time to go and reread again? I've been thinking of many that I personally love to reread. Here are a few:

    I love to read To Kill a Mockingbird about every couple of years. I read it in high school and it was okay. I don't think I appreciated it then; after all, it WAS required. That takes the fun out of reading in high school. But I read it again 20 years later and LOVED it! I've been reading it much more often since then. I love Gifts from the Sea and The Alchemist and The Secret Life of Bees. I loved The Help and Unbroken and anything that has redemption and stories of inspiration or people overcoming incredible odds. I love to be inspired!

    I've been reading to my children since the day they started living in my house, long before they knew they were being read to. So many children's books remind me of those rocking chair nights reading and rocking before my kids fell asleep on my lap. I still love the books we read. I still love reading Charlotte's Web with my kids. The descriptive language in it is so wonderful. Plus the tale of loyal friendship is layered and reminds me of the kind of friend I want to be. We love Because of Winn Dixie and almost all "dog" books. Except they all make us cry and after we read one we say "no more dog books" until we read another one and love it. My daughter and I love Walk Two Moons and The Bridge to Terebithia and Number the Stars. We love The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane because it reminds us when Isaac (my son) was born and we think the ending is the best ever. Of course Isaac is still in the read-to-me-at-night stage and he loves all of the wonderful picture books that are full of things to imagine and dream about. All The Places To Love reminds us of Idaho and summers there. We love Skippy Jon Jones because we have two Siamese cats and they DO think they are dogs! We love books that make us laugh, books that make us think, books that make us cry, and books that take us away to far away places, or teach us about all of the many wonders of trucks, cars, trains, and diggers! Isaac can't read enough books about construction vehicles or things with wheels. He loves learning how things work. There are so many questions to ask when reading books! We love reading about birds, maps of the world, and all kinds of people. We still even love The Big Red Barn and Goodnight Moon even though we are way past the board-book phase. How did I ever live without Margaret Wise Brown as a child? I can't imagine my kids' lives without her. Or without Kate DiCamillo and so many other favorites. There are too many to mention.

    Mostly, we love rereading them all again and again. Rediscovering favorite books is like rediscovering old friends you haven't seen in awhile. It's wonderful!

  • A Few Words About Homework...

    We're all into September and the homework assignments are coming home nightly. So how do we, as parents, make the experience of homework LESS stressful, both FOR our KIDS and for US?

    I realize there is a tendency as parents to help a bit too much with homework. Some parents really love doing the posters for projects, doing the lettering, drawing the images, coming up with the ideas. Many parents are math wizards and can finish their son or daughter's math homework in a snap! But if you are a parent, you've been to elementary school and beyond. You had your chance. Now it is your children's opportunity to LEARN how to learn! This means that you can support them but NOT do work for them that they need to learn to do themselves!

    I realize that parents don't want their children to fail. I don't either. But think about this concept. If, as parents, we prevent our children from any form of failure some serious problems will develop in their lives. Let me list them:

    • Our children will not fail. It's true. But then they will have a false sense of their abilities. How will they ever know what THEY CAN DO if parents are always stepping in to "help" or "make things easier or better?"
    • Our children will not risk. Why would they take any chances if there is a possibility that it might not work out? So they will not risk. They will play it safe, which may limit their potential.
    • Our children will eventually stop trying. When parents do too much for their children, why try? If they wait long enough, their parents will do it for them. This teaches children that they are incapable of doing things themselves.
    • We ROB THEM of success. The most important problem with parents doing too much for their children is that it truly robs them of their own success. The kids know that their parents came up with and developed their science fair project. Sure, they won the district level award, but deep down the kids know that the project was not their idea, so the success is not theirs either.

    One way to reduce stress is to help support your child(ren) without intervening or doing for them something that they CAN DO on their own.

    Here are a few ways parents can help with homework:

    • Help your child organize what is due, and when, by writing down due dates on a calendar.
    • Prioritize homework. Emphasize: "FIRST, DO what is DUE!"
    • Teach them how to work to deadlines and be prepared to TURN IN their assignments on time.
    • Allow them to CHOOSE HOW they want to tackle their assignments: starting with the easy ones or starting with more difficult ones? Let them choose.
    • Remind them that if they skip a night's worth of homework, the next night will be extra difficult. Give them alternatives so they can choose for themselves, then let the consequences fall where they naturally do. For example, if a child wants to skip homework one night to watch a TV show, say something like this: "Well, let's see your homework. It looks like you have 3 assignments due on Friday. If you skip these tonight, that means you will have these plus additional homework tomorrow night. I'd plan on adding an hour to your homework tomorrow night. You might want to think about what you have going tomorrow night and decide if the TV show is worth it. You decide. If your homework is late, I'm sure your teacher will have consequences. So you decide." AND THEN LET THEM DECIDE!! If they choose to skip the homework and the next night they are too tired to do two night's worth of assignments and things are turned in late, THAT IS THEIR CHOICE and now it is THEIR PROBLEM! Walk away. These are huge lessons for kids to learn! This is the real world of work!!

    Good Luck!! I'm sure this will be an ongoing conversation..


  • 9-11-2001 What have you taught your young children about this day?

    I can remember 9-11-2001 just as clearly as if it were yesterday. I'm sure we all can remember "where we were" when we saw these horrific images cross our television screens that Tuesday morning. I was feeding my baby who wasn't quite a year old and my husband was getting ready for work. He was making breakfast and had the television on in the kitchen. All of a sudden he yelled to me, "You have got to see this! An airplane just hit the World Trade Center building!!" I will never forget the sound in his voice. He knew a plane hitting that building was too strange to believe, as did the news commentators on cable television that morning. We all watched in complete disbelief as the events unfolded. As we watched this image of a second plane crashing into the second tower, we both realized something sinister was happening and wondered what else was going to happen that day.

    Eleven years later, my 6th grader, who was not even a year old that day, knows about 9-11 and what happened because every year we watch the videos and remind ourselves what happened that day. My daughter knows the stories of the heroes of Flight 93 who overtook the cockpit and diverted the fourth plane into a field in Shanksville, PA, which may have hit the Capitol or the White House. She knows that there were people who PLANNED to kill and hurt our country. While my son is just learning these stories at almost 6 years old, he has seen the images and also knows that the impact of 9-11 has stayed with us, his parents, for these 11 years in a profound, indelible way.

    We have taught her, and her younger brother now, how the events of 9-11-2001 changed and united our country as Americans. That day, we were mad. We were stunned. We were shocked. We were hurt because all of us felt vulnerable. We were scared too. We didn't know what was coming next. We were also ONE. We were UNITED. We connected with each other because it happened on our soil. Everyone had a connection to the events on some level. Everyone wanted to talk to each other about how they felt connected. I remember teaching my university class and realizing in the first five minutes of class that the content of my course couldn't compare to the lessons that were available to talk about on September 12th. I remember that, as a country, we vowed we would NEVER FORGET these events. We committed to stay true to the values we share as Americans. On that day, and the days that followed, we were nicer, more generous, more forgiving, more thoughtful, more polite, more careful, and our actions were more deliberate. We were alive! We had seen something so unbelievable it woke up all of our senses, our emotions, our thoughts. But are we still awake? Has time clouded our memories? Skewed our perspectives? Divided us? Is our memory still accurate? or have we rewritten the events of this day? Do we still remember?

    Eleven years later, what does this day remind you of? What have you taught your children? Do you continue to teach your children about this day and what it represents? How are we teaching our children to be UNITED? Committed to honor, truth, loyalty, and love? What are we contributing to our communities, our families, our relationships that is POSITIVE? uniting? inclusive? knowledge-building? memorable?

    In a world where the 24/7 news cycle is full of negative images, depressing stories, and divisive language pitting one person or group of people against another, HOW are we teaching our children to rise above it all? How are we teaching our children to LOVE the truth? to LOVE others? to LOVE our country? to LOVE learning?

    What happened on 9-11 that day is that all of us learned something. What did YOU learn? And what are you teaching your children?

    Stay Engaged!!


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