Let’s Play an Instrument

Let’s Play an Instrument

I played sports growing up. I never showed any interest in learning to play an instrument, maybe it’s because my brother “played” the saxophone for less than a year. So, I wasn’t sure what to say when my fourth grader said, “I want to play the violin.”

I forced a smile on my face. You know. You’re supposed to support your kids when they want to try something new. I’m trying my best. I was surprised he wanted to play. Cohen doesn’t like to do much but play soccer, watch videos and play video games. But he insisted he wanted to learn to play, and all the child experts say it’s a good idea for kids to learn how to play an instrument. So I agreed.

The Beginnings of Violin Lessons

Free strings lessons are offered at our elementary school, beginning in fourth grade. So, we leased his first violin—a half-sized violin made for smaller hands. He had class once a week during school and practiced every day.

I’ll warn you now, as soon as you make the first payment on your child’s instrument, you will become insufferable. You will turn into an overbearing ogre who harbors some vague notion of propelling your young prodigy onto the stage of Carnegie Hall. You will make this happen through sheer willpower (i.e., screaming and threats); you will convince yourself this motivational tactic is not crazy behavior.

Learning to Play Songs

Every beginner violin player starts out by learning “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” You will get tired of listening to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for 15 minutes every day.

You will say, “I bet this is how Lindsey Stirling started!” and “Good job! Your playing sounds a bit less like 30 cats in a fight today!”

“EEEEEEEEEE. EEEEE. EEEEE….RRRRRRR,” went his violin.

“Great job,” I said giving him a thumbs up.

So, even though he practiced at school, Cohen, being the video watcher that he is, of course YouTubed how to play the violin. So, instead of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” I heard “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“EEEE. EEEEEEEE. RRRRRRR. EEEEE.”

“Great.” I put another smile on my face. I mean, he was learning. Down the line I imagine it’ll sound better.

Practice Makes Perfect

Cohen’s music teacher must be a saint. She gives kids a solid foundation. She works some crazy magic and makes 60 intermediate-beginner strings, woodwinds and brass musicians sound like the Boston Pops Orchestra….at least by the spring concert, I hope. You may need to strain your ears a bit to hear it during the early fall concert.

In the beginning, Cohen didn’t mind practicing. However, he would get tired of playing the same songs over and over, and I frankly got tired of listening. However, I paid for a violin, so he was going to play that violin. Even if he played while he was kicking and screaming!

Supporting Your Musician

Then one sunny day, without being asked Cohen picked up his violin and began playing on his own. Maybe it’s a sonata. Or maybe he’s noodling through a rough version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” or the Sunday Night Football theme. I didn’t say a word. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I just kept doing the laundry and enjoyed the music.

Whether the lessons are initiated by me, his father, his music teacher or by Cohen himself, he is much more likely to be enthusiastic about them if those lessons are supported at home by my participation. I noticed that when music is a family value, kids learn to value it. Whether Cohen sits first chair in Carnegie Hall or he stops playing the violin after one year, music will stick with him throughout his life.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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My Child Has No Friends

My Child Has No Friends

We’d all like our kids to thrive in academics, the arts, sports and overall at being a good person. Here’s another item to add to our wish list for their success: friendship. I want to see my children happy, engaged and interacting with their peers.

Is My Child Missing Out?

Last year, my son had a best friend. However, he moved away this past summer. Even though Cohen is involved in sports, Boy Scouts and band, he still doesn’t seem to have friends. There are plenty of kids in the neighborhood, but when I ask him if he wants to play outside with them he says no. He never gets calls for play dates, and he attends only a few birthday parties a year.

So what’s a parent to do when they realize that their child, for whatever reason, is having a difficult time making friends? I feel that my child is missing out or being shunned for one reason or another. As his mother, iI find this very upsetting, to say the least. No parent wants to see their child hurt and left out of the fun. However, he doesn’t seem bothered by this at all.

Encouraging Your Child to Build Friendships

There are very few things more frustrating than watching your child struggle to make friends. We’ve tried following his interests and he is enjoying the activities he’s involved with, but doesn’t seem to have friends. I know it’s important to remember that it will take time for Cohen to develop good social skills.

I encourage Cohen to seek out the kids at school who are shy and tell him to ask them questions that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no”. I hope this helps him build relationships with others who might also be looking for a friend.

My husband, who is better at this than I am, taught Cohen about empathy. He told Cohen to focus on what others are saying and then discuss how that feels after the conversation is over, thus helping build relationships. I, myself, have a hard time showing empathy. But as a parent, I am very aware that my children learn from my behavior. I feel it’s important to be consciously aware of how I interact with others when my children are watching.

Realizing Everything Will Be Okay

Again, Cohen has not expressed that he has been bullied or that he has concerns about his friendships. I have reached out to his teachers, and they’ve shared that he gets along with mostly everyone in class and has a great group of friends that he plays with at recess.

Sometimes, I think what I perceive as no friendships or not enough friendships isn’t what Cohen is experiencing. I need to realize that I shouldn’t panic if things seem a little shaky. He has many opportunities to learn and gain new skills and friendships.

As long as I continue to pay attention and keep things in perspective, it will be okay. All I see, hear and experience as a parent in these early years is information I can act upon, but there is no need to panic and overreact!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How the First Day of School Was Different this Year

How the First Day of School Was Different this Year

Anxious. Nervous. Not ready at all. Excited. Overwhelmed. Ready. My emotions and thoughts were all over the place as I prepared for the first day of school.

The planner in me was not prepared for any day beyond the first day. I was even more nervous knowing that the schedule for the first two days did not include seeing all students both days. The uncertainty of how school would “look” made me nervous. I worried about school being ordinary. I hated not knowing what to expect. The planner in me hated hearing “I don’t know” or “let me get back to you.”

A Different First Day of School

However, the first day started and it was exhilarating being back in the building. I worried about not seeing the smiles of students, but I definitely could see the smiles behind the masks. The students had more questions than I had answers; yet they extended grace and waited until I could find the answer.

It had been nearly 160 days since the last time students were in the building, so they all were glad to be back. The worry, anxiousness and uncertainty of the day started fading away as each student smiled and said, “Hi Mrs. Mo, it’s great to be back!”

For how much I longed for a normal ordinary school year after teaching remotely last spring, this year is hardly off to a normal start. There’s social distancing between desks, students wearing masks, lunch in three different areas of the school, and even cleaning classrooms between passing periods. Yet, I am already a better teacher as I adapt to this not normal year.

Learning and Sharing our Experiences

Learning can and will take place anywhere. However, building relationships is extremely hard via remote learning. When I look into my students’ eyes, there are some still filled with fear in the uncertain world, but they have so much to share. They all have a perspective on what is happening. They have found ways to learn, unlearn and relearn, they have found ways to be positive role models and most of them want to share.

And more for me, this is hard. I am a private person and most times, I do not like to share. After two days, my students have made me better, and they have showed me the importance of asking questions and letting them lead discussions.

I spent most of the summer wishing for a normal, ordinary year. And now I am thankful this is anything but normal right now. The bright spot in this unordinary year is that my students are making me a better person. It has taken only a few days for me to realize this. Hopefully by the end of the year, I will have made all of them better.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Sending Our Daughter Off to College

Sending Our Daughter Off to College

I remember it quite vividly. It was the second Sunday in cold, cold January, and I was sitting on the couch sobbing uncontrollably on my mom’s shoulder. I didn’t want to go back to college. I had a rough first semester of college and was about to embark on a new adventure as I transferred to a different college. However, I. Did. Not. Want. To. Go.

Encouraging Words from Mom

I was scared. I was nervous. I was fearful. I was anxious. Yet, most importantly, I was loved. My mom let me sob for half an hour and then she said, “It’s time for you to go. I am more than confident you will find friends, and this new college will be for you. I have raised you well for this adventure.”

And with that, I was off in my car driving 35 minutes to my new college, with tears still in my eyes and what my mom said to me on my heart.

A New Stage of Parenting

Fast forward 22 years, and within the next three weeks we’ll be sending our daughter off to college. Many days I’m ready to send her off, and then there are those days when a memory pops up on Facebook or Instagram and I wish she was little again.

This parenting thing is hard. It was hard when they were babies. It was hard when they were toddlers, and don’t even get me started with those middle school years. Now, we’re embarking on a new stage of parenting—letting go and watching our oldest fly. Parenting is hard, but we have to trust we did our absolute best in each stage.

I think about the 18 years of parenting our oldest: how challenging she was as a baby, how I adored her rolls upon rolls, how she started potty training herself at 18 months, how she developed a passion for softball, how stubborn she is if she believes she’s right, how she developed an unmatched work ethic, how it took a village to help raise our daughter, and how she never forgets to tell us she loves us each night before bed.

Ready for the Next Chapter

Now it comes down to three weeks. Three weeks of her being in our home before her next chapter begins. I know I’m not ready for her to be gone physically from home, but my heart and mind are ready for her next stage. I know my husband and I have done everything possible to raise her into the young woman she is today and for this next chapter.

It will be the chapter where we get to see her fly. The chapter where we get to watch her and encourage her to make life decisions. The chapter where we get to see her create her own adventures. The chapter where we must trust and have the faith that we’ve done our absolute best in raising our daughter.

You see, my mom and dad pushed me out the door that cold, cold January day because it was time for me to leave home. They were ready to watch me fly. Now, life has come full circle. In three weeks, we will “push” our daughter out of the door. Our daughter is anxious. She is excited. She is hopeful. She is full of joy. She is ready. Most importantly, she is loved and we are ready to watch her fly.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Back to School…I Hope

Back to School…I Hope

In the next few weeks before school starts, people will decide what’s best for their family – whether that’s home schooling, distance learning or going back to in-person learning. This is a hot topic that hits every parent hard, and there are lots of opinions and emotions involved.

Before you talk to your friend, your neighbor, your sibling or your coworker who has made a different choice, I suggest you check your tone. And if you don’t have anything nice to say during this uncertain time, just don’t say anything.

Concerns About the 2020-2021 School Year

I didn’t like any of the options in the survey for Lincoln Public Schools regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 school session. My husband and I have full-time jobs, normally in an office, and can’t stay home some mornings, afternoons and every other week to help with distance learning. Nor do I feel that my children benefited from virtual learning. I know LPS will have a solid plan in place that will address everyone’s issues. Most of my concerns were addressed when I watched the public forums and after I read the notes from the board meetings.

I reached out to my son’s previous teacher, and she is excited to get back. Yes, there are more requirements to stay safe, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to give my children the best “normal” routine through all of this.

But if I’m being completely honest, none of the changes from the schools make me feel completely confident that my child will be safe from contracting COVID-19. I’m well aware of my kids’ hygiene habits and other kids’ hygiene habits in general, so even with the extra precautions in place, I’m not sure how effective the changes will be.

Why I Want the Kids Back at School

However, the longer we remain in quarantine, the longer my husband and I realize that this is a pretty indefinite situation until some medical solutions are found. And our child’s mental well-being could not wait the one, two or three years it would take to find those solutions.

We had some conversations and agreed it’s in everyone’s best interest to hopefully send the kids back to school full time, if available. This was decided based on what we know about the status and future of the virus and what we know about our children, plus the fact that I was drowning trying to keep up with professional work, housework, teaching and mommying.

All summer long, we crossed our fingers and toes that school would be open without varying times or days. My son, who will be in 4th grade, is very excited to return to school. Hopefully, it will be full time. Otherwise, I am not sure what we will do for daycare or how we will get virtual classes scheduled. If they go back to school full time, I’ll be able to concentrate on my job and give it my full attention during the day, and then focus on the kids in the evenings.

Making the Best Decision for Your Family

I know that this decision doesn’t have to be permanent. Just like with all of our parenting decisions, we’re constantly evaluating how they are working for our family and ready to make the necessary changes if this plan stops working for us. So if I feel like it’s no longer safe for them to go to school because of COVID-19, I will keep them home, but for now, sending them back is our plan.

I know our decision will have some negative responses from family or friends, which seem to be driven by worries about the infection risk. Many people are highly doubtful that children can prevent sharing bugs and carrying them out into the community, and lots of people have picked up on teachers’ concerns about whether schools have had enough time to prepare a safe environment.

It seems likely that people’s responses are driven by understandable fear and uncertainty, but if you’re a parent run ragged by nine weeks of homeschooling while attempting to hold down a job, other people’s judgement is likely to be the last thing you need. So check your tone before you comment on other people’s situations.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Scholarships Season is Stressful

Scholarships Season is Stressful

It’s snowing outside, the Christmas lights are shining bright on the tree, and I am sitting in the recliner enjoying my cup of hot cider watching holiday movies. I’m enjoying the silence and reminiscing about the most wonderful time of the year. Then I hear it, “Mom, what does this mean?” “Mom can you proofread this essay?” “Mom, do you remember what year I did this?” Even the daily, “Mom get off my back, I will get it done by the deadline!” It hardly seems like the most wonderful time of the year with all the stress of scholarship writing.

Scholarships Are Stressful

It may be stressful, but this is an important time of the year. As a parent, I thought preparing for graduation would be stressful, however, preparing for graduation seems easy compared to the stress of scholarship writing. Our daughter’s stress definitely comes down to her personality and wanting to be the best version of herself in all of the applications. Still my constant harping, “Do you have that scholarship done?” may be adding to the stress.

The cost of college and writing scholarships is a frequent conversation in our home right now. The other night our daughter was finishing up a semester budgeting project and she commented, “It really takes 20 years to pay off college debt?” Another learning opportunity for my husband and I to talk to her about the cost of college and the implication of debt beyond the college years.

Have the Tough Conversations

We discussed with our daughter how we paid off my college debt in less than eight years by making monthly payments, however, at one point we paid between $1,500 and $1,750 per month for one year to get rid of the debt. Our discussion turned to needs and wants and delaying purchasing gratification but I could not go without saying, “Do you see how important applying for scholarships really is?” In hindsight this was not the most opportune time to make the comment.

Right now, all our daughter sees is the time it takes in her busy schedule to write and apply for scholarships. Yet, for all the stress that may occur and the time preparing scholarships, it really is worth the time for the potential financial rewards. As she continues through the scholarship writing season, I definitely need to trust she will complete the application and quit nagging her each day. Our daughter does have high expectations of herself and I know she will complete all of her applications.

Sit Back & Have Faith

As I sit in my recliner and answer questions throughout the scholarship writing season, I listen as I know I will not be around her next year in college encouraging (nagging) her to meet deadlines. I also remind myself this is all part of me learning to let go of control. Ultimately, this scholarship season is another growing season for me to have faith and continue letting her grow into the adult I have prayed for her to become since the day she was born.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Darting Memories

Darting Memories

Being a retired educator, our poor grandkids have learned I always have a lot of questions about school. I tend to ask what classes they are taking, who their teachers are and what topic they are studying in a particular class. I also ask about tests, their projects and grades. I guess my questions come with the territory of my professional life.

All of the grandkids have used me as a topic or reference in one class or another, and they love asking me questions. Heck, they have probably also used me as a class project I’m not even aware of like “Things not to do when you get older” or “Why do older adults not understand their phones?”

Finding Out More

I knew our grandson was taking a literature class this semester. He’s not a huge reader, so I wanted to know how he was doing. I couldn’t remember if he was taking a Holocaust Literature class or the Sci-fi Literature class, since both are great opportunities to get students involved. He responded by saying he was taking the Sci-fi Lit class. Next question, “Who’s your teacher?” As my retirement years keep growing, I know fewer and fewer teachers. I have found my influence with the kids or their teachers is waning. Probably a good thing on everyone’s behalf. Next question, “Do you like it?” He said it was OK for an English class. I thought to myself, “BONUS!” I know he won’t read “War and Peace” soon, but a positive response was a thrill to hear.

Next question, “What are you reading?” I could tell he was deep in thought for a second. In my mind I’m thinking, the kid has no idea what he’s reading? Doesn’t he go to class every day? Is he not participating in any class discussion because he’s not reading the book? Why the hesitancy? Following the sci-fi theme, is this kid really an alien who has been taken the body over my grandson?

Memories Come Darting Back

Two seconds passed and my grandson looks at me with a twinkle in his eye and he hit his chest four times and made some whistling sounds. What the heck was this? Are they teaching sound effects in sci-fi class? I thought for two seconds. I then asked if the novel he was reading was “Frankenstein” written by Mary Shelley. He smiled at me. Telepathically, we recalled the time all four grandkids watched the movie “Young Frankenstein” at our house.

We watched the movie during one of our movie dates at our house. “Young Frankenstein” has always been one of my favorite movies, so of course I wanted to share this unique experience with them. Both my grandson and I started slapping our chests making the whistling sound. This is the scene when the police chief pretends to throw the darts at the dart board. The chief actually puts the darts into his wooden arm. The chief made a whistling sound with his mouth imitating the darts going through the air and striking the dart board.

Reliving Memories Together

Soon, the other grandkids caught on and joined in the charade. The five of us had a great time sharing our experience with their parents and grandpa. It was a fun reminder of how we’ve enjoyed connecting in the past. One of our granddaughters then commented they liked the “Young Frankenstein” movie, however, she was really freaked out by the movie, “The Crows.” The Crows?? The rest of us looked at each other in a confused state of not being able to recall the movie. She talked about the scene which really scared her. It was when the crows were in the school yard attacking the kids running down the street. I quickly realized she was talking about the movie, “The Birds.” What a hoot, and I laughed till I cried.

The grandkids haven’t been over to see a movie in a couple of years, so to have them recall some of those memories was a thrill for me and, hopefully, for them. It was a reminder to me that the memories I hope to create may or may not have a long term connection with my grandkids, but when it does, it sure is great.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Just the phrase “parent-teacher conference” makes me anxious. However, this last experience was a positive one. Typically, parent-teacher conferences happen either right before or right after report cards. And with grades in the picture, the stakes are raised.

That means it’s worthwhile to make the most of the short time you have to meet with the teacher, and it’s also reasonable to expect that the teacher is prepared to discuss your child in a meaningful way.

Some have been more successful than others, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the preparation beforehand that makes the difference.

Worry Leads to Joy

Like most parent-teacher conferences I worry, as the last few experiences haven’t been positive. Going into this year, I was expecting the typical: Cohen’s reading isn’t grade level, he’s getting upset very easily, he’s becoming anxious, he’s needing to go the office, and so on. Those have been his critiques for the past three years.

But boy was I surprised during this year’s conference. Cohen’s teacher had nothing but good things to say about him. The way she described him and her attitude towards him gave me goosebumps. You could see her overall joy when talking about Cohen. She talked about his wonderful personality, his willingness to help, and his compassion towards others. She made the executive decision to stop the score sheet he had to bring home every day because he continuously got a perfect score. She was shocked that he needed to do those sheets for the last three years.

Sure, she addressed his reading and his anxiety when taking tests, but she was proud of his determination and his willingness to participate despite his lack of confidence when it comes to reading. Lastly, she hoped her son, who is 6 months old, will have Cohen’s characteristics when he’s that age. This comment brought tears to my eyes. I have never left a conference feeling so proud and excited for him like I have in this class with this teacher!

It’s All in the Preparation

This last conference made me realize that there are different ways to prepare. I’d like to offer a few tips on how you, as a parent, can get the most helpful information from your child’s parent-teacher conference.

I purposely choose the last conference of the night. That way if we go long, I’m not holding up anyone else. If I can, I don’t bring my children. That way I can bring up things that I want to say that I wouldn’t say in front my child and vice versa.

As hard as it is, I try and come with an open mind. As a parent, I have to remind myself of this often, but my children’s grades and behavior are not a reflection of who I am as a person. They have free will and will make mistakes and decisions that I don’t approve of, but It doesn’t make me a bad parent.

Ask the Teacher Questions

I also bring specific questions or concerns and not the typical, “So how’s my kid doing in your class?” Since we only have a few minutes to talk, I’d like to know right away which areas are of concern.

If your child is unhappy in school, you may be the emotional dump at home who hears about all the things that went wrong during the day. That’s what I hear from Cohen most days. I don’t get to witness my children having fun with their friends at lunch or answering a question that stumped everyone else in the class. I learned that we needed to focus and build on these little victories together.

Lastly, tell the teacher what works well at home and what you need help with. I often feel like I’m on my own once my children get home, but teachers often have tips that may help studying and getting organized at home go more smoothly too.

Now that I know a few tricks of the trade, I am less anxious for these conferences. I feel that Cohen is growing and learning in third grade. I love that his teacher was so open and honest with me, and I’m glad she is willing to work with him and for him. I trust in her and am so happy she is teaching my child because Cohen is starting hate school a little less.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ah, summer—the sun is hot, school is out, energy is high, and let’s face it, for parents this can be a challenging time. Not only does your routine change, but it’s also difficult to keep your kids reading.

Does “summer school work” sound like a chore to your kids? It’s a constant struggle for me to convince my children to do anything other than watch TV or play outside. The question I faced was, “How can I make reading or any other school work be just as exciting as any other summer activity?”

How to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Before school was out for the summer, I made a plan. I wanted to continue helping Cohen read throughout the summer. I heard of the summer slide, which is a term teachers use to describe the learning loss between grades over the summer, and I didn’t want that for Cohen. He had made such great progress throughout the year and was nearing a third grade level that I didn’t want him to fall farther behind.

Find Programs that Have Worked Previously

I looked into several reading programs being offered during the summer months, but they were ridiculously expensive! Plus, the times the classes were offered were not convenient for working parents, so that was a little frustrating! I realized I would need to make it a priority.

Make a Plan

I made a plan to go to the library once a week and have my kids pick out books they wanted to read. I also signed Cohen up for the library summer reading program, which is free! Then, we went to Barnes and Noble and signed up for that summer reading program. Lastly, I wanted him to continue with his frequency folder and have him read the same passage every day. I thought I had a great plan in place.

But life gets in the way. My plans for him to read continues to be pushed aside for the different activities planned in the evenings that Cohen wants to do. My son didn’t view reading as a fun activity and I realized I needed to make it a priority and encourage summer reading. It was time to get creative!

Set Goals

It was time to set some summer reading goals. I had Cohen help me set our goals and create a chart together when he finished his frequency passage. Cohen and I made a “Reading Hall of Fame” bulletin board. After every book he finished, we take a picture and I post it to the board.

Make Reading a Family Event

My daughter starts kindergarten in the fall, so I am trying to make reading this summer a family affair. During the warm weather months, it can be hard for busy, on-the-move families to fit reading in. So we started to set aside some time to read before bedtime. Every family member grabs some books, we turn off all electrics, and read for 20 minutes. We’re also trying to listen to more audio books—while at the library, I found some fun family reads on CD.

Make it Fun

Lastly, his teacher gave me this idea before summer vacation—twice a month during the summer we have a “Cookie and Bookie” where we read a story or two together, he reads one page then I read the other, and when finished we discuss what we read. Then, of course, we bake cookies together!

Granted, these are no substitutes for cracking the books. And I don’t pretend to have any magical suggestions for preventing the summer slide, but I am trying to make reading a priority this summer so Cohen won’t be far behind when he enters 3rd grade this fall.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How to Get Ready for Prom

How to Get Ready for Prom

I remember it like it was yesterday: the curled pigtails, the little white dress, the big smile, the small basket of flowers. Our daughter looked like a princess walking down the aisle with the other flower girl and ring bearer. I remember saying to my husband, “Before we know it, she will be going to her high school prom.”

Even though she’ll always be my little girl, that time has come, and she is looking forward to one of the highlights of her junior year—prom.

A Prom Mom’s Prep List

I’m very well-versed in this prom stuff. This will be the twentieth prom my husband and I will attend together—three as high school sweethearts and seventeen as prom/class sponsors. But it’s my first year as a “prom mom,” and I am learning that a lot goes into preparing for the day and that it can be an expensive night.

In the midst of all of the craziness that goes into the night, I want to make sure we help make our daughter’s first prom a great high school experience. With that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Lesson 1: Start preparing early.

I didn’t want our daughter to procrastinate on finding a dress. We started shopping the summer before prom because there was an off-season dress sale. We had no intention of buying a dress that day. My daughter wanted to peruse and find a style she liked. Luckily, she found something she liked and didn’t feel rushed to make a decision. Often when we rush, we end up spending more money.

Along with buying and altering the dress early, I encouraged our daughter to schedule her nail and hair appointments ahead of time to help eliminate unnecessary anxiety.

Lesson 2: Create a budget that works for your family and communicate this budget with your teenager.

We told our daughter she has a certain amount of dollars allocated to prom. We were willing to pay for the dress, shoes, hair stylist and corsage. She will be responsible for all other expenses. Communicating the budget to our daughter has been an integral part of this experience. By giving her a spending limit, she was conscientious about staying under budget.

A helpful tip: buy your prom dress in the off-season to save money.

Lesson 3: Don’t forget the details.

Prom is right around the corner, and we’re starting to have conversations about our expectations for the evening. We’ll be setting a curfew and discussing what it means to make wise choices. I want her to know the importance of making wise choices to ensure she has a memorable yet safe experience.

Also, many adults will have a part in making this day a memorable experience, and I’m encouraging our daughter to be diligent in thanking them.

My Little Girl

Life moves pretty fast. After our daughter’s hair and makeup are done, and she puts on her navy dress, she’ll be ready to dance the evening away. I’ll probably smile and envision my little princess with her curly pigtails once again.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Five Tips for a Successful Snow Day

Five Tips for a Successful Snow Day

Snow days — I love them and I hate them — despite the sheer joy at hearing the early morning news about a snow day. According to our three kids, I was “that” mom today. You know “that” mom who makes all of her children do their chores. “That” mom who makes her children do their homework. “That” mom who is crabby all day long.

Snow Day Expectations

My kids and I had different expectations of what our snow day should look like. Each of them had their day planned out from playing video games to staying curled up in blankets to watching movies. My expectations were a little different.

According to my children, I was the ONLY mom in the entire state requiring kids to do chores and homework all day long on a snow day. One would have thought I asked all three kids to write a dissertation. For about two hours “that” mom surfaced and so did frustration, arguing, tears and disappointment.

In the midst of the two hours here are just a few of our interactions:

  • Our oldest: “Mom, I am tired of doing laundry! That is all I have done since your surgery.”
  • Middle daughter: “Mom, you have unrealistic expectations. I don’t understand what I even have to do.”
  • Our youngest: “I hate homework. Why are you making me complete the entire week of assignments? I still have two days before my spelling test.”
  • Our oldest daughter: “Please everyone just quit arguing.”

Facing My Disappointment

Knowing how busy the rest of our week was going to be due to schedule changes, I knew we finally had a day to get ahead on chores and homework. My kids couldn’t see my vision for the day and I made it known that I was disappointed. I was not only disappointed in how we were treating each other, but also that my kids were not helping out around the house.

I felt guilty that I did not extend any grace to my kids. I was disappointed in myself for not recognizing their need to just have a lazy day. Our kids are pushed to do so much during the school day, especially our teenagers who are feeling the pressure to keep good grades and be involved in organizations. Today, what I failed to see is that all three kids are stressed either with their schedules and homework. They just wanted a day to relax. If adults need a break sometimes, kids definitely need one too.

Tips for Surviving A Snow Day

After everyone calmed down and completed their homework, everyone was able to enjoy watching movies for playing videos games. However, I decided to write down a few tips in the hopes that the next snow day does not escalate to tears and unrealistic expectations.

  • Give up on productivity: Our kids do need some down time, especially our son who just loves being home. He finds his peace and needs his quiet time at home.
  • Let the kids be kids: I need to encourage our kids to be more childlike, even our teenagers, particularly on snow days.
  • Extend some grace: I definitely can do better on this, knowing our kids have had virtually every chore added to their lists, as I am recovering from a surgery. I just needed to breathe and extend some grace.
  • Turn the technology off
  • Set better expectations: If anything does need to be accomplished I will set better expectations. For example as a family we will sort, wash and fold three loads of laundry.

A snow day can throw a wrench into any schedule. With the help of the tips above, hopefully the next snow day can be a little more relaxing and childlike before “that” mom comes out.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

I have never been more excited and sad to register Collyns for kindergarten. It’s only January but I already filled out the necessary paperwork and made her appointment for her kindergarten physical. August 13 can’t get here soon enough! My last baby will be in school come the fall. Yes, I am sad. Yes, I will cry. But, that means no more full-time daycare! Now I feel like there is a light at the end of this daycare tunnel. Read More

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