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March 31, 2010

Different Ways to Travel

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 11:31 am

Yesterday I spoke about my New Year’s Resolution to travel more this year. I wanted to break down exactly what I am doing to make this resolution actually stick!

Travel Regionally

What I mean by this is that you don’t have to fly all the way to Europe of Australia to travel with your family. If you haven’t traveled much this year, or in years past, it might be a challenge to abruptly become a family that travels with ease. Because we are guilty of not traveling much lately, we try to to look for weekend getaways that are nearby. In a past posting, I shared with you our trip to Pinnacles National Monument, only a few hours from our home. This is an example of a great day trip you can take with your kids. Find a National Park/Monument or a neat trail near where you live and go there. We have even started going to different small towns or cities near us and exploring that way. We live close to San Francisco, which is a mecca of culture, so it’s easy to go to Chinatown, or to Alcatraz Island for a tour. You may not be close to a big city such as San Francisco, but it’s fun to explore anywhere you’ve never been, and your kids will have a great time. Another idea is to take your kids out to explore the town you live in. We live in San Jose, and we haven’t explored the entire city yet–there is so much to take in.


Multi-Task Your Travel Plans

We are all accustomed to multi-tasking, so why not do this while we are traveling. I try to bunch together a few different events while traveling. Usually, we take the in-laws or grandma with us, so it’s a larger family affair. We get to spend time with those that we don’t always see, and it also helps having another adult to help with the kids. We also make sure that each destination we visit, we have an education plan in place. If we are going to the beach, we plan a biology/zoology lesson so that we can teach the kids about the different families of species in the ocean. If we go to the Grand Canyon, we make sure to have lesson plans about Geology and Natural History. *Hint – Most National Parks have Curriculum Guides already put together for you. It’s so neat! Just go to www.NPS.gov and find a park near you. Then click on the “Teacher Resources” and you’ll find everything you need. It’s a great way to tie in learning with the outdoor adventures.

Budget for traveling endeavors

If you never set aside money for travel, or budget vacation time, guess what? You’ll probably never go! We are certainly guilty of this. It seems as though it was easier to take a last-minute trip when you didn’t have kids, right? More planning is definitely needed when kids are involved, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a last-minute getaway. Even if you think every penny of your monthly income is committed to something else, there is always a way to stash some cash aside for a trip. Last year I went through old closets and found books, toys, and just things the family didn’t use anymore and sold them on eBay and Amazon as a way to help fund our trip. This gave us a couple hundred dollars in the bucket and we pulled off a great trip. One tip that works for me is to plan a vacation and how much it will cost us, and then start saving. That way, I already have a destination and plan in sight. That way, when I go to the store, I ask myself if we really need that one item, or if I’d rather go on vacation. I usually pick the vacation. My family doesn’t go without, but we can make due without a new coffee maker or a frivolous purchase.

Travel, Travel, TRAVEL!

We make traveling a priority in our lives, just like anything else. One key element is changing your perspective on travel. I used to see the weekend as a time to clean the house, play outside in the yard with the kids, and relax with my better half, but now I see it as an excuse to get out of the house and bond with the family. I see it as an excuse to explore and go on an adventure. There are so many things you could do with your upcoming tax return, but why not set half of that aside for a family vacation this year? It’s nice to get away, and your family will appreciate and memories you’ll make.

Never stop learning,

March 30, 2010

Top 10 Reasons You Should Travel With Your Kids

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 11:26 am

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for our family this year was to travel. Don’t get me wrong, we do travel every year, but what I wanted to do different this year was to actually spend some time seeing this beautiful country we live in. We’ve been to almost all of the National Parks in California (where we live) and we’ve been to some beautiful places in Florida, New York, Utah, Colorado, Montana, etc, but it’s important to know the culture of this country and it’s a great lesson to teach our kids. So many people think they can’t travel with kids, but one of the best gifts you can give your children is the experience they receive with traveling.

For me, there are so many reasons to travel with kids. One of these is the bonding experience you get, and the other is the countless learning experiences the kids get from seeing things in context, rather than in a textbook or online.

Of course, traveling can be expensive, but just like there are lots of ways to homeschool on a budget, there are lots of ways traveling can be budget friendly too.

Instead of thinking about reasons why you can’t travel, here are the top 10 reasons you should travel with your kids. (Print this, clip it to the fridge or, better yet, a piggy bank, as a reminder of your goal to travel):

1. Your kids will have a blast. I can’t think of a better excuse to travel. Seeing your children’s eyes light up as they explore and discover new things. Kids love to travel! It’s exciting, it’s cool, and it’s better than learning from a textbook.

2. Your kids will get exercise and will lessons about team-building. We all see the reports about childhood obesity these days, but traveling with our kids provides the chance to get out of the house, hike, climb, and walk around exploring. It’s also a great way to team-build. By this, I mean climbing to the summit of a mountain with the family, as a team. Last year we did this and it was such a great family moment. We still talk about that hike and we did it as a team.

3. Kids learn more when they see things in context. Your kids can read endless books and never really understand the awe of the Rocky Mountains, the Arches in Utah, the Space Needle in Seattle, or the Elephants at a Zoo. They will always remember what they learn while traveling, because it is more significant and life-sized. I still remember a trip when I was 8, when we went to the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches National Park. It was amazing and I remember being in awe of all of the intriguing rock formations and mountains.

4. You get to spend quality time with the kids. Hey, we’re all guilty of being too distracted and busy with day-to-day activities to really spend some quality time with our kids. At home, everything is about homeschooling and other things like work, keeping house, paying bills and other non-kid-friendly concerns. While traveling, you get some wonderful one-on-one time with your children.

5. Traveling helps kids become more open-minded. When kids are only exposed to a small world view, they can become limited and close-minded adults. Expose them to various cultures and experiences, and they will realize there is so much more to the world than their small corner of it.

6. Traveling allows you to see the world through your child’s eyes. It’s amazing all of the things you don’t notice about the world until your children happen to point them out. Even if you have traveled a lot before having children, you truly haven’t traveled until you’ve watched your own child stare up in amazement all the marvels around the world.

7. It’s not as hard as you might think! Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy lugging strollers, whining kids, luggage and more along on a trip, but when it boils down to it, it really isn’t all that hard. The great thing about traveling with kids is that they adapt quite easily.

8. You can travel on a budget. You don’t have to wait or save up until you can afford a trip around the world with your kids–start small. Each Saturday, take a day trip to a nearby town or National Park/Monument. Go on a hike with your kids, or explore the culture of a town nearby. You can then work your way up to a long weekend a few hundred miles away. Once you feel comfortable with that, you can take a longer annual vacation somewhere fabulous. *Another tip is to save for your annual trip monthly. We do this at our house. We started with $50/month and have upped that number each year, allowing us to take a great vacation once a year.*

9. Traveling gives your kids wonderful memories. This one is also beneficial to you. Your children will cherish these memories for a lifetime, and so will you. When you were a kid, do you remember the family vacations or the time spent at home, more? As I mentioned above, I remember the family vacations, back when I was 8. I’ll always cherish those times with my family.

10. Traveling instills a sense of adventure in your children. I always feel sad when I meet someone who has rarely left their home town. There is so much out there to see and learn! Aspire your children to reach for more. If you travel often with your children, they will grow up yearning to travel, understanding all the intensity (both good and bad) of travel, and seeking out their own travel adventures with your future grandchildren.

Never stop learning,

March 29, 2010

Homeschooling on a Budget

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 11:01 am

I’ve had the dreaded bronchitis this last week, so it’s been a few days since I’ve posted. I promised to follow-up my last post with more ideas about homeschooling on a budget, so here they are.

Grocery Store Curriculum

Everyday chores offer free learning opportunities. For example, the next time you head to the grocery store, take the kids along and do some “grocery store math.” Depending on your child’s skill level, you can ask your child:
* If two cans cost ninety-nine cents, how much are four cans? Three?

Estimate what a bag of fruit or tomatoes weight and then weigh it to see how close she came to guessing correctly.
* Which is a better buy, the name brand using this coupon or the store band without a coupon?
* What is twenty percent of the cost of this box of cereal? How much would it be if it were twenty percent off?
* Estimate the total cost of groceries while waiting in the check-out line, or guess how many bags your order will fill.
* How many different deli meats would we have to buy to have three pounds if we buy one-quarter pound of each?

Fun Learning Materials to Make Yourself

Like adults, children take pride in creations of their very own, and these will be used for many years. Materials for fun and useful resources are inexpensive and easily available.

Geoboards. Typically a wooden board with equally spaced nails in rows, 6 x 6, 7 x 7, and so on. Your child uses rubber bands wrapped around different nails to create geometric shapes and to learn about area.

Tangrams. A tangram is a square of material cut into seven pieces-five triangles, one rhomboid, and one square. These are used as a puzzle to recreate predetermined pictures, always using all seven pieces, and may also be used informally to explore shapes. Search “tangram” on the Internet for a readily available pattern.

Geometric shape. Use string and a box of straws to create geometric shapes.

Maps. Maps may be drawn, found on the Internet, or purchased inexpensively from office supplies stores. Your child can color, make a cookie map, or have fun mapping out the route the wolf took to Little Red Riding Hood’s house.

Books. Children love their own books whether filled with pictures or words. Younger ones can illustrate a favorite story printed by an adult. Every child’s creative writing can become an illustrated book, with only 8 ½” x 10″ paper stapled together full-size or folded in half to more closely resemble a book. Illustrations can be drawn or cut out of old magazines and catalogs.

Ziploc bags can be filled with pictures, dried flowers, family mementos, etc., then connected by yarn or ribbon through holes punched equidistant from the edges on each bag.

The Basics. Artists keep appropriate supplies at hand, and a musician’s instrument is never far away lest inspiration strikes.

A learning child should similarly have some basic materials on hand for easy access. These need not be expensive either, and many of the reference books that formerly needed to be purchased are available online.

Useful reference books include encyclopedias and dictionaries. General ones are great, but don’t forget to keep your eyes open at garage and library sales (and online) for the many specialized editions available. A thesaurus is handy, as are Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and Elements of Style, a succinct primer on writing rules for older students.

Atlases and almanacs teem with information for the taking. A desk, cubbyhole, or corner of a room can become the place to study for your child if s/he can make it his/her own. Make sure the area is well lit for reading and writing.

Here s/he can store a calculator, ruler, stapler, paper clips, extra pens and pencils (different colors and media are a lot of fun), paper of all sorts, protractor and compass (age appropriate-a compass has a very sharp point.)

Not only does home education need to be inexpensive, there are many benefits to accepting the challenge to keep down the cost for your family. When you’re on the lookout for educational opportunities, you will begin to look at the world differently, discovering that you’re surrounded by opportunity daily.

This awareness helps you and your family appreciate the world as your ultimate classroom. Thinking about alternatives for expensive materials exercises your imagination and creativity, which makes them grow stronger. These traits will serve you-and your child-well throughout your homeschooling experience, and save you lots of money at the same time.

Never stop learning,

March 24, 2010

More Ideas for Low-Cost Homeschooling

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 7:11 pm

I thought a good follow-up to yesterday’s post would be more ideas about how to keep costs low when homeschooling this year. In addition to the ideas I suggested yesterday, here are some others you might consider.

Volunteering

The saying, “It is better to give than to receive,” holds a lot of truth as far as home educators are concerned. Every community has countless needs for volunteer services, and homeschooling families have discovered that by giving, they receive more than they could have imagined.

The rewards of volunteerism are plentiful, when you realize that your child can learn from everyone s/he meets. While volunteers aren’t paid, they often perform the same work as their paid counterparts. This provides priceless experience, available nowhere else, to children and young adults who will learn much from the experience. Volunteerism also teaches the need, and creates the desire, to give back to the community–a habit much needed in today’s world.

If you’re unsure of where your community needs volunteer efforts, just keep an eye on your local paper. Watch for activity announcements such as Meals on Wheels, adult literacy programs, soup kitchens, medical associations, church, neighborhood organization, etc.

Even places like your public library and local nature center rely on the donation of volunteer hours. Think about signing up right along with your child, especially if s/he is under fourteen years of age (many organizations will have a problem with an unsupervised child less than fourteen-years-old, but will gladly welcome him/her if you are there as a chaperon).

Without a doubt, volunteering is a gift that keeps on giving for both the recipient and the provider of services.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are volunteering-with a twist. Typically, there is no pay for services rendered, but the volunteer/apprentice learns a useful skill under the instruction of a knowledgeable individual.

Apprenticeships usually focus on the transfer of vocational abilities. A professional devotes time helping the youth-apprentice learn business skills. Not only does the youth build talents s/he will possess for a lifetime, but s/he also gets a taste of a trade or profession s/he’s interested in to help him/her make future life career decisions.

The professional doesn’t charge money for his expertise. Instead, the apprentice performs “real” work in exchange for new-found skills. The arrangement with the apprenticeship provider may be an informal or formal one, but for everyone’s peace of mind it should be in writing so there are no misunderstandings.

A simple document should set forth the total length of the apprenticeship. Most homeschoolers recommend a trial run of four to six weeks. If things go well, it can always be extended. All parties should agree to hours per day, days per week, and briefly outline what they intend to provide to each other.

All parties to the agreement, including you as parent, should sign and keep a copy. Once again, by thinking outside the box, the possibilities of apprenticeships are endless, and a great way to keep down the cost of the learning process.

Do You Need Textbooks and Curriculum?

Purchasing just a few full-price textbooks could eat up $200 in a hurry, as could most prepared curricula. The good news is that you don’t need to spend money at that rate to provide a superior home education. Your public library, computer, and home contain information on any topic you could possibly need or want to address in home study.

Most parents who hesitate to take this different route to learning are hesitant because they feel without a “map” they don’t know where they’re going. “Learning maps” are totally free!

They come in the form of curriculum, or may be called “scope and sequence.” A curriculum outlines what subjects/concepts/skills are to be covered in a specific grade; it maps out a course of study. A scope and sequence is similar to a rough outline of what children of a certain age are expected to know.

As it turns out, the choice of what gets studied when in traditional schools is quite arbitrary. In other words, it doesn’t matter all that much whether your child first studies nouns or verbs, or simple machines, or earth science.

As long as you have a map, or a general idea of where you’d like home study to take your child, you can use free or low cost information sources to get there. Here is a source of curricula lists to get you started:

http://www.worldbook.com/typical_course_of_study.html

For many more curriculum maps, type “homeschool scope and sequence” into Google and you’ll see everything you need.

Replacing Textbooks with Common Household Items:

Let’s take a look around your home for learning materials that help teach arithmetic concepts that are either free, or that you can make or buy inexpensively.

First, children love playing with money. You can use bills and coins, real or pretend, to teach:
* Money values
* Making change
* Interest
* Tithing/Offering
* Carrying and borrowing
* Decimals
* Percentages

Kitchen Materials: Every home contains food, from dry beans to assorted shaped macaroni, from asparagus spears to a bag of M&M’s.

You can use food to teach:
* Sorting
* Counting
* Graphing
* Patterns
* Subtraction
* Standard measurement and fractions through baking and cooking

Go Outside!

As in one of my previous posts about outdoor learning, who says you need to learn inside?! On a beautiful sunny morning, you can head outside and play:
* Hoppable number lines
* Parking lot multiplication
* Number hopscotch
* Feed the birds using fractions.
* Go on a hike and learn about different species
* The popular “Horse” basketball game with multiplication or division instead of letters.

With money being tight these days, it’s important to spend our money wisely. In homeschooling, there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to teaching our children. What are some things that you do to cut costs? I’ll post more ideas tomorrow.

Never stop learning,

March 23, 2010

Low-Cost Homeschooling

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 6:24 pm

With the economy the way it is, low-cost homeschooling really takes on a whole different meaning than it used to. I’ve noticed homeschooling groups in my area holding swap meets to trade different curriculum with each other, I’ve heard mother’s talking about the great deals they’ve found on Ebay and I wanted to share with you some of the ways we help cut costs when homeschooling.

With Children outgrowing learning materials as readily as they do clothing and shoes, you’ll often find homeschooling groups swapping or selling resources at bargain basement prices. A bonus of this approach is that you can get a review of the product directly from someone who has used it. Remember, something that works well for one child doesn’t necessarily work well for the next, so hearing from someone with experience can stop you from purchasing something that might become your home’s newest dust collector.

If you don’t have a support group nearby, don’t despair. Similar previously used homeschooling materials are available through the Internet at sites set up specifically to meet the need for low cost materials. You can search the web for additional sources, but here are a few to get you started:

http://www.clevermoms.com

http://www.homeschool-curriculum.com

http://www.rsts.net/home/recycler/

http://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org/

http://www.theswap.com

Materials are also always popping up on eBay where the auction set-up can result in incredible bargains. Just go to www.eBay.com and conduct a search on a few key words. Check often, as what isn’t there today could show up tomorrow.

Keep both school and non-school resources in mind and head out for neighborhood yard sales. Yes, you can often pick up books for nickels and dimes, but also other educational treasures can be had for similar price tags.

Take home that old alarm clock, wind it up, remove the back, and watch how the gears work. Pick up that ten cent rain gauge and let it become the center of weather related learning. That box of seashells (that the garage sale proprietor would probably throw in for free) offers hours for a sorting and classifying activity.

Children can write literary masterpieces on old typewriters, build a fort with lumber scraps, and turn an old window or door screen into a sifter for a backyard archaeological dig.

Find local Musuems, Planetariums, Aquariums…

Join! (Many educational organizations offer family memberships for a fee.) – Check into local museums of all types, historic sites, planetariums, aquariums, science centers and more. While at first glance the fee may seem expensive, say $60 – $75 per year, before you dismiss it, you should ask for a schedule and assess how frequently you and your children would be likely to visit. You may find that if you divide the total cost between enough programs, exhibits, visiting lecturers, and other educational opportunities that each visit emerges as a great bargain.

While you may be fortunate enough to be surrounded by many choices, join just one or two each year. The membership costs of more than two can easily add up. You’re also more likely to take advantage of more offerings at a single venue if you don’t have an overflowing plate to choose from.

With schedule in hand, you’ll know what the organization will offer. It’s easy to plan our own studies around the topics. You can use the field trip to the organization’s facility as anything from an introduction to a specific topic to the grand finale of studies almost completed.

Bartering

Here’s yet another opportunity to get creative to save some money. Many homeschooling families have saved countless dollars through bartering, the old fashioned exchange of services. You or your child can provide a few evening meals each week for an elderly neighbor who then teaches your child how to garden, knit, or share stories as a veteran of past wars.

An artist neighbor might be willing to nourish your child’s creative talents in exchange for a few hours of babysitting. Or an arrangement might be as simple as a share of your garden produce or your delectable strawberry jam in exchange for foreign language lessons.

Before you approach someone with a talent or information to share, discuss with your child what both of you would be willing to do in return. Then put forth your proposition. The worst anyone can do is say “no, thank you,” but odds are in your favor that someone will welcome the opportunity to share what s/he knows to receive your bartered wares in exchange.

Not only can home education be cheap, there are many benefits to accepting the challenge to keep down the cost for your family. When you’re on the lookout for educational opportunities, you will begin to look at the world differently, discovering that you’re surrounded by opportunity daily.

This awareness helps you and your family appreciate the world as your ultimate classroom. Thinking about alternatives for expensive materials exercises your imagination and creativity, which makes them grow stronger. These traits will serve you-and your child-well throughout your homeschooling experience, and save you lots of money at the same time.

Never stop learning,

March 22, 2010

Teaching Nutrition

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 8:52 pm

Yesterday I blogged about my new weight loss goal so I thought a good little follow-up post would be about teaching nutrition to our kids. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. No two families approach homeschooling in the exact same way. They also do not cover the same topics.

Most families cover the basics like math, grammar, etc. But from there, the topics can become more diverse.

I have a homeschooling friend who implements gardening in her daily lessons. She suggested I go to a botany class, so last spring I took my niece and nephew–they now both love working in the garden and tending to their tomato plants. I on the other hand, don’t have a green thumb and could kill almost any plant in our house if it weren’t for the Aqua Globes!

Some of you might not have a green thumb, like me, but the topic of nutrition might be a good one to teach your kids anyway! I love to cook and bake a lot–and whenever the kids are here (Niece and Nephew –no kids of our own yet) we always have a cooking or baking project in the works. Along with this falls the subject of nutrition. I feel it is an important topic and it can easily be combined with topics in biology or when discussing functions of the body. We have a cookbook, The Healthy Body Cookbook, that begins each chapter by introducing a body concept and then giving an activity to do. Then each chapter is full of recipes that contain nutrients needed by that part of the body.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) has a catalog full of items designed with homeschooling in mind. Items found in the catalog help to educate children on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. For advice on healthy eating and kid-friendly recipes, you can visit Fruits & Veggies More Matters. For interactive, online fun, head over to Fruit & Veggie Color Champions. Nutrition can be a fun topic and you would be surprised at how kids will make good choices when they are informed. It will also help you to know which foods pack the most nutritional value. I bet you’ll be surprised with some of them!

Never stop learning,

My Long Journey Towards Health

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 12:11 am

My Long Journey Towards Health

This past weekend I went on a hike with a few friends and while we were mid-way up the mountain, I was huffing and puffing. I couldn’t remember the last time I had this much trouble hiking up a hill. To be honest, I always used to go hiking, but with life starting to move faster these days, buying our first home, going back to school to get my Master’s degree, working full-time, and all of the duties we have as adults, I just kind of “forgot” how important health and exercise is.

This is not a blog post about me feeling bad about myself–it’s quite the opposite. I was never a really skinny girl–even when I was younger I was always “big-boned.” I was okay with that until a few years ago when I had a family member pass away. Not because of him being overweight, but of cancer. After that, I realized how precious life is and that I wanted to become healthy. I immediately joined a gym and in one year, I had lost 120 pounds.. Yep, you read correctly…120 pounds.

I was healthy. I was active. I hiked every weekend, I went to the gym 2 hours a day. One hour in the morning and one at night. Then something went wrong..Well, maybe not wrong–because going back to school to get my Master’s degree was the correct decision, but I thought I could handle the workload in addition to the workout routine. Apparently I was wrong. Not that I have stopped exercising completely–I still go 3-4 times a week for about an hour–but in almost a year I have packed on 15 pounds. Yikes!

I don’t think that any of us know how these things happen. Maybe when the energy level of my childhood dwindled, my genetics saw an open door and swooped in. Maybe we can blame it on the busy schedules, the hundreds of television channels, having kids, etc.

And here is the funny thing about being overweight, we all think we are overweight. Even my friends who are a size 2, or even a size 0–yes I still have friends that are disgustingly skinny :) (I LOVE YOU GIRLS!) think they need to lose weight. I know it sounds crazy, but in everyone’s minds, we could all lose a few. The thing that drives me nuts is that fact that it creeps up so easily that you don’t even realize it has happened until you can’t zip up the jeans you want to wear.

I used to be much more health conscious that I am now. When I lost the weight previously, you couldn’t pay me to put a piece of cheese pizza in my mouth. Now, I get a slice at least once a month with friends, and I even get dessert when we go out. You couldn’t shove dessert in my face 2 years ago. I just wouldn’t eat it. I was too health conscious to do that. I will never know when I made the switch in my mind. But it’s time to switch back.

Today. Monday. March 22, 2010!

I’ve already shared with you that I lost 120 pounds–I was very overweight. I’m 5’10″ and if I told you my weight today, you wouldn’t believe me. I don’t actually look as heavy as I still am. I went to the doctor last week and she says I need to lose another 95 pounds. Yes, that’s right folks. Today I’m going to make some changes.

1. More Water: I don’t drink enough liquids. It’s not like I drink soda, or juice…I just don’t drink much at all, besides coffee in the morning. It’s bad–I know. but I desperately need to drink to be successful on this journey.

2. Smart Snacking: Working late most nights has turned into snacking late most nights. Even if it means packing up the computer and shutting down, I need to stop the late night snacks. If I get a craving during a night class, or while I am working on a piece for work, I need to grab almonds, or something healthy. An apple. Something other than sugar.

3. More movement: Today I am starting my new exercise regimen. I will exercise from 6-7am on my bike at home, then it’s off to classes/work depending on the day. I will also exercise again at night for one hour (or more if I have the time).

It’s time to shed this weight–once and for all. Any one out there care to join me in this journey?

Never stop learning,

March 13, 2010

The Preschool Years

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 10:32 pm

The preschool years are an exciting but intense time for us as parents, and for our children. Schooling choices, potty training, and socialization. In the beginning, we fought our way through sleepless nights, survived the terrible two’s, and just as we thought the worst was over, enter the tantrum filled, whiny preschool years. Obviously, we knew parenting wasn’t going to be easy–especially when we are working through our children’s crucial child development years. But, we love our children, even though sometimes they make us want to pull our hair out–they have this kooky way of making us smile at the end of the day. So, don’t we owe it to our children to mold them into the best person they can be? Here is a parent-friendly way to tackle the aggravating preschool-age behaviors head-on, hopefully without losing your mind!

Be Polite

As well all know, our kids aren’t born polite. They will tell you the cold, hard truth. I remember going to an antique store a few years back and hearing “this is soooo ugly–mom, look how ugly this is!” The woman gave me a dirty look, and we just left. I haven’t been back since. We, as parents, know that our child’s social behavior is learned through experience and what we teach them. If you are a good example of being polite, your child will emulate that. Tip #1, let your child frequently hear you say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me.” It being polite is part of your everyday interactions with others around you, your child will think of it as second-nature and will display those traits.

We’ve all seen how fast our children absorb information–it’s astonishing–and when they’re bombarded with a lots of dos and don’ts, they can easily forget – so Tip #2 is to introduce rules gradually and offer plenty of gentle reminders. When you notice your child making an effort to be polite to others, give them a little positive feedback by saying, “I liked the way you said thank you when grandma gave you that new toy.” This type of honest praise will encourage your little one to continue with their polite ways.

No Whining

The one thing that gets on my nerves the most is the high-pitched squeals of a child. Mostly because I get migraines very easily from it. It’s tempting to give in to your whining preschooler’s demands just to silence him, but caving in will only perpetuate the behavior. Tip #3 is when your child starts to whine, stay calm and request that he speak to you using his normal voice. But, if the whining is continuous, your child might be signaling something deeper. Take a step back and assess your situation. Have you been preoccupied with other things lately? Have you had more stress than usual and less time to spend with your child? This may be a plea for attention so it’s always important to make an effort to spend one-on-one time with each of your children each day.

Compliance, every parent’s favorite word

Preschoolers have an amazing sense of autonomy through the preschool years and they aren’t afraid to let others know it! Your child refuses to eat, go to bed, get dressed, put shoes on, etc. Unfortunately, we, as parents, are always on the receiving end of this non-compliant behavior. When your young child refuses to do what you ask, it’s easy get frustrated and lose it. We’ve all been there. But flipping out and punishing your child won’t solve the problem – it will only lead to unnecessary power struggles and more frustration for both of you.

Luckily, there is a way to combat this non-compliance. Tip #4, allow your preschooler to make simple choices. Before your child gets dressed in the mornings, lay out two outfits, and let him choose which one he wants to wear. During lunchtime your little one can decide whether he wants a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. At night, you can give your child the option of taking a bath before dinner or after (of course, you’ll need a little wipe-down after dinner if they choose to have a bath before they eat). Offering limited choices to your youngster can give them the independence they need without compromising your sanity. The choices you give your child should be ones that you don’t mind complying with either, so no matter what your youngster chooses, it’s a win-win for each of you.

And last, but not least–Tip #5 – Routines! Routines can save a parent’s sanity and are great for children. Routines enable youngsters to predict what’s going to happen next, and if your child understands that nap-time comes shortly after lunch, he’ll be less likely to put up a fight because knowing what to expect gives him a sense of control. In order for routines to be effective though, they have to be consistent, so once you get your child’s routine in place, avoid any unnecessary disruptions.

Our children aren’t robots and tackling their rude comments, whining and refusals won’t come over night. These behaviors are a normal part of preschool development, and nipping them in the bud takes time, but when we work with our kids on their behaviors, improvements are sure to be made.

Never stop learning,

March 9, 2010

Learning Outdoors

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 12:00 am

What better classroom is there than the great outdoors? A place that is a never-ending exploration of science, math, art, geography, history and social studies. Do you remember the good ol’ days when we would run outside on weekends and just play, dig and explore all day long? We couldn’t wait to get outside in the mornings, and were bummed when Mom would call us in for dinner at night. Now that we homeschool our children, exploring the outdoors is just another subject in our overall homeschool curriculum. Exploring the scientific world of insects, plant life and weather provides real life hands-on learning outside of the written textbook world. Science, math and all kinds of other subjects come alive when children study them in real life. They understand the concepts beyond just what they learn in the textbooks.  When you learn outdoors, you get to understand life cycles, food chains, habitats and other scientific theories, which tend to be much more valuable when comprehended first hand by the learner.

Additionally, many other outdoor activities such as sports can enhance the understanding of addition, subtraction, algebraic equations, geometric shapes, measurements and probability (soccer is a great way to understand math). It’s also been proven that children comprehend much better through active participation rather than learning from flash cards and textbooks.

So what do you say, let’s ditch the textbooks today and go outside to explore the wonderful world of hands-on learning!

*weather permitting!*

Never stop learning,

March 3, 2010

A Trip to Pinnacles National Monument

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — kate @ 12:35 pm

I must tell you about the adventure we took a few weeks ago to Pinnacles National Monument. If you live in California, this is a must-see! And, even if you don’t live in California, if you ever plan to visit, you need to check this place out! It’s about 2 hours south of the San Francisco Bay Area and is a quiet, beautiful park with nice hiking, climbing and cave exploring. This serene area is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen as an adult. It has well marked and obvious trails for the nature photographer or group of cub scouts to meander through; in addition, it has some amazing caves with waterfalls in them (the kids loved this!). The wildflowers are especially nice in Spring (roughly late March to early May). Lots of birdwatchers enjoy the park as well.

We went to the East side of the park to the Bear Gulch caves. From the ranger station and east parking lot, we headed down a paved road towards Bear Gulch and then followed the well-marked trail to the caves. There is a high-caves area and a lower caves area (one or the other may be closed because of the protected bat colonies that live there). You may not actually see any bats, and for many, that’s just as well. Bring a flashflight! A small one will do. The kids loved the walk through the caves and and the fact that they had to squeeze around the occasional rock.

It is a little slippery here and there and you may have to crawl a tiny bit (maybe 5 feet once or twice), but seniors and parents with small children (infants and toddlers too) routinely go through the caves. The kids had a fantastic time exploring, pointing out different birds, rock formations, and the scenery. One thing I must point out is that the National Park Service has done a very nice job keeping this place safe and well marked. I was so impressed with the trails and the safety features in the caves. At the bottom of the caves there is a small dam and reservoir. It is a nice place for a picnic or snack after going through the caves. It’s just gorgeous!

(Picture of reservoir on right)

Before you start on your hike, there is a small ranger station building where you can see a scale model of the park, use the restrooms (across the road) and meet with the rangers who are very friendly and will talk with the kids about all of the wildlife and plants in the area. There is also a campground accessible on the east entrance to the park only. You drive past it on the way into the east entrance of the park. It looks nice but we haven’t stayed there yet.


One additional note–the road into the east and west side of the park do not connect! You need to decide which side you want to enter, because it is a long (one hour) way around to the other side.

There is a good map of the park available here (oddly, there isn’t one on the NPS site): http://www.classbrain.com/artmonument/uploads/pinnmap1.pdf

http://www.nps.gov/pinn/
TIPS FOR THE PARK:
* Hiking on the west side is a little more desert-like, while the east side is a bit more forested.
* Check the website listed above for a botanical description of the 4 sub-ecosystems in the park.
* Make sure you bring lots of water to guzzle as you will need it.


Never stop learning,

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