Reconnecting With My Substitute Grandkids

Reconnecting With My Substitute Grandkids

The weekend of June 18 was certainly a fun one for me. It was filled with my involvement in a couple of community activism events. I’ve always worked hard to include my grandkids in my community activities. We marched in the Martin Luther King Youth Rallies for years, volunteered at the Malone Center handing out food to those in need, and we even marched at the capitol for Women’s Rights. Since my grandbabies have left town, at least for the time being, I can only send pictures and text them about my activities in Lincoln and hope they will in turn become more involved and participate in their own community events which mean something near and dear to their hearts.

Taking Part in Community Activism

Earlier in the spring, I signed up to walk in my church’s entry in the Pride Parade. Last year, several of the grandkids and I watched the Pride Parade participants walking around the Nebraska Capitol. It was fun to be an observer, so I was really looking forward to participating in the parade this year. My church group had matching t-shirts and loved the idea of sharing the love.

The highlight of the parade was not our church’s entry, although we were a merry and welcoming marching group. The highlight was joining with a couple of past Lincoln Southeast High School graduates who were also marching with our church. I remembered them as strong women athletes who lead Lincoln Southeast High School in women’s basketball to numerous Nebraska State Tournaments. I was thrilled to see them and we reconnected quickly and not so quietly. I had maintained some connection with these young women and we found we were reconnected with a renewed sense of energy. We were proud of our Pride Convictions and loved reliving their joyous youth and present successes in their lives.

The second highlight of the weekend was experiencing the 2022 Juneteenth Celebration at the Lincoln Malone Center. There were multiple tents that sheltered various organizations and non-profit groups offering support to the Lincoln families. The Malone Center was very well organized and I enjoyed walking through the tents and learning how the Lincoln community supports all citizens. I learned a great deal!

It was a terribly hot afternoon. I kept under the shade of the tents as much as possible and then moved to the shade around the water sprinkler children’s fun area at Trago Park. I thought it would be a great spot to watch the small kids running through the sprinklers. I cannot deny a part of me wanted to run around with the little kids in the water spray. I’m pleased to say I controlled my heated emotions and relaxed quietly in the shade.

I relaxed quietly until I heard the Juneteenth Celebration’s emcee speaking into the mic. I paused and thought I recognized the voice. I had no idea who the emcee was and dismissed any type of connection. As I continued to watch the water spray, I also continued to listen to the emcee. He was encouraging audience members to rap the ABCs following a beat on the piano. Since I felt a connection with the emcee’s voice, I left the shade of the water spray area and moved to the heat in front of the emcee’s stage.

Reconnecting With Former Students

I looked closely at the emcee and in an instant realized he was a Lincoln Southeast High School graduate while I was principal. I stood in the heat in front of the stage hoping the emcee would recognize me. Nope, no luck. My white hair and grandma body is no longer a visual connection to the kids I had in high school in the 90s. I waited patiently until the emcee had a break. I went up to him and introduced myself. He was thrilled to reconnect with me. We hugged, took pictures, laughed and even cried together. It was another amazing reunion!

The next day, I reflected on my weekend. I truly missed not seeing and being with my own grandkids. I shared with each of my grandkids my experiences and sent them accompanied pictures. There is no replacement for not being able to be with my grandbabies. However, what I did experience was the joy of having substitute grandkids with me that weekend. I was able to laugh, cry and hug my way through the weekend in a way I never expected. Somehow I wondered how I would deal with life without my grandkids being in Lincoln with me. Now I know I can hang in there, as long as I am active in the community, active in my Southeast and Northstar high schools, and continue to look forward to reconnecting with my substitute grandkids wherever they may be.

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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Getting Ready for Middle School

Getting Ready for Middle School

Middle school. Just saying the words brings me thoughts of puberty and pimples. Of insecurity and awkwardness, including bad hair and braces. Really, middle school years, I believe may be the most challenging and confusing time in one’s life.

However, the idea of changing schools for middle school is new to me. I went to a private school that was Kindergarten through 8th grade, so I never had to transition to middle school. Recently, Cohen and I had information night at his new middle school. We took a tour, met some of the staff, asked questions, and learned about expectations and procedures. He had so many questions that I tried to answer but again I didn’t go to middle school, so this is new to the both of us. Cohen says he is ready, but I am not.

Since he is my oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, he’s excited about meeting new people, having new experiences and gaining more independence. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching him grow. I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. I’ve heard lots of stories about kids making bad choices, giving in to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriateness and trying to do grown-up things far too soon. I’m sure he’s aware of these things as well.

Part of me wants to think he is too smart and too good to fall into those traps. But then there is the real me, that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

Yes, I have taught him basic values and morals, but now, more than ever is the time to help him apply it all. I believe middle school is the ideal time to mentor him in how to practically work out the character qualities that he learned as a boy. He is so sweet, loving, kind and innocent – and I don’t want that to change.

Because he is our first child, it may seem like the other parents are giving freedoms and privileges that I will not; I may be stricter, but I hope to stand my ground and not feel pressured to do the same. I know my son better than anyone, and I can make the call when the time is right to do these so-called more grown-up things.

And perhaps my greatest job during these years is to study my son and determine just where he is on that spectrum of growth and development, mentally and physically, and parent him accordingly. Not according to a number (grade or age). I do not want to parent him according to what his friends are doing. I want to do the very best thing for him, in the stage he is currently in.

For me, hitting the middle school years is like getting to half-time of an important game: I may be ahead now, but the game’s not over. I need to towel-off, get a big drink of water and then gear up for the second half. This is something that I want to finish strong.

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 I Work to Inspire High School Students

How I Work to Inspire High School Students

As a principal, my husband gives many talks to the students throughout the year. Most times the talks are informational and to remind students of expectations but there are times when the talks are inspirational. During any one of these talks the students and teachers really see the heart of my husband. My favorite talk, however, is each year when my husband talks to the senior class. The words are never the same, yet the message is. I always get a little choked up when he ends this discussion, “Just remember, I love you all.” Yet, what gets to me the most is he not only encourages students to graduate from Milford High School with their high school diploma but also with a passion, a purpose and an employable skill.

Passion, Purpose, and Skill

With a passion, a purpose and an employable skill. My husband articulates this sentiment so well, yet this is my belief. This is my colleagues down the hall belief. What is really crazy about this, is an article I read about a month ago, suggesting employers today are starting to value skills over degrees. This article made it very clear degrees are still important, however, the skills prospective employees possess may have a bigger impact during the hiring process. This made me think even more. What can I do as a teacher to better connect students with their values and their employability skills?

A Love For Teaching

I love the teaching profession because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. I get the opportunity to have discussions with students on the importance of finding a passion. The importance of starting to develop or find their purpose. And even, teach about values and how these values develop into passionate employees.

Success in high school looks completely different to each student I serve. Even with my passion for teaching, I need a shift in my thinking. I need to encourage failure more and more inside my classroom. Allow students to develop more self-awareness of their values and apply these in the learning process. I need to encourage students to enjoy the learning process rather than focus on the grade. I need to encourage all of this while also helping my students find relevant experiences to connect their values and beliefs to their learning. Most importantly, I want my students to understand that no matter where their next stage in life takes them, the skills and passions they developed in high school will help them continue to live out their purpose. Through all of this, I can truly support our principal’s sentiments of graduating high school with a passion, purpose and employable skill.

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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Is She Trying?

Is She Trying?

School is supposed to be a fun time where children learn new and exciting things about themselves and the world around them. But sometimes children can lack motivation in school and not give it their best effort. As parents, all we want is to see our children succeed in life and that starts with school.

2 – Approaches district expectations.

That’s what I saw on most of my daughter’s report card. But this wasn’t a surprise. At parent/teacher conferences, I knew she was struggling. When I met with her 2nd grade teacher, we talked about a plan and identified the areas where she was not applying herself.

So, I wonder, is she trying? Does she care?

Setting Achievable Goals

Do you remember when you were in school, how overwhelmed you would feel with a big project or test? Maybe Collyns might be feeling too overwhelmed to do any schoolwork. So, we decided to help her by setting achievable goals that she can hit. Breaking something big into smaller milestones is a tool she has enjoyed and will use her whole life. Smaller goals make her feel accomplished and inspire her to continue working to keep this feeling up.

We started small. We decided she needed extra help in reading. She now works with a para and has a fluency folder – which is a 1-minute read at home every night, over the course of the week. She gets books from the library that she seems to enjoy reading. But to be truthful, she still hates it. She also has a hard time with reading comprehension. She tends to rush through her tests and guess on the questions rather than look for text evidence. She again despises these tests and wants them over with and so she doesn’t seem to care. During these tests, her teacher reminds her to slow down and focus and the task on hand.

Working Together at Home

At home, we also work on her spelling words. She likes using a dry-erase board to work on her list instead of pencil and paper. At night we work on 5 words from her 15-word list, so she isn’t overwhelmed with the entire list every night. Then the night before her test we work on the words she questioned during the week.

We continue to help her with math. Even though every night seems to be a fight she tries and eventually finishes the problems. She seems to understand the lesson that they are working on but must be reminded. Recently, I started to set a timer for 5 minutes. She must see how much math homework she can do correctly in the time. Most of the time she gets it done and looks at me and says, “that didn’t take as long as I thought it would.” She continues to gain confidence in her work. If she is overwhelmed, we take a break. I don’t make her do all her work in one setting if she becomes frustrated.

How you represent school and learning in your house is how your child is going to view school overall. So, if you are yelling or disciplining your child for doing bad on a test or report card, they may start to resent school and stop trying!

We’ve all done it. Used the threat of taking away something our child loves in order to try and motivate them. ‘If you don’t start doing your homework in the next 10 minutes, there will be no iPad after dinner.’

I’ve learned that doesn’t help motivate Collyns. It makes her angrier. If she starts her homework with a bad attitude, it will take her twice as long and it will most likely end with me yelling and her in tears. She will continue to hate school and feel less confident and continue to not try either at home or in class.

Staying Positive

This is not how I want her to see school. Instead, I remind myself every night to remain positive, talk about what she is doing well and see why she thinks she is not doing well in other subjects. I try not to talk down to her, but instead be the positive force she needs in her life. Fingers crossed, some of these strategies will pay off for the spring semester.

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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Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Today I started the day out in a rush. I hit my snooze button for an extra 30 minutes. I took a little longer to put makeup on, brush my teeth and walk out the door. Little did I know a handful of colored circles with wobbly lines would change my day.

Needing to Slow Down

Once I arrived at school it seemed as if I had left my checklist completely unattended the day before and there were already six new items to check off before the warning bell rang. To start the day, there was a tech issue in the Spanish classroom and I explained in my best Spanish, “Yo estoy rapido en la mañana!” All the students looked at me with a look of confusion. The actual Spanish teacher explained, “I was in a hurry this morning.”

My day started out in a rush and feeling behind. I kept reminding myself I needed that extra sleep and time this morning just to prepare myself for the day. I kept focusing on the big picture of the day. I wanted to control what needed to be checked off on my list and became very frustrated when I remembered things to keep adding to this list. At one point in the morning, my daughter kindly asked, “Mom, do you need me to help you today? You seem so rushed.”

It’s the Little Things that Matter

And before I knew it, I was abruptly reminded at about 8:30, 9:15, 10:20 and then again at 11:10, that the little things are what bring us joy. Two text messages, a reminder that a “to do” list is overrated, a “this is so cool” comment from a seventh-grader, and the excited “oohs” from kindergarteners.

Yes, four times I was reminded to look at the simple, little things. I don’t think I was intentionally ignoring the small moments of joy, I just think I wasn’t “seeing” those moments. The fourth reminder came from my little kindergartener friends. They showed me joy is right in front of me, they showed me simplicity brings joy. In my small time frame with kindergarteners today, I brought joy to them by showing them how to color little circles with wobbly lines using technology. Yet, they reminded me of my life word — joy.

“Your Gift is Joy”

Later on in the day, I was teaching my Intro to Business students a lesson on leadership and a quote from my mom popped up on one of the slides, which I had forgotten I had typed. My mom told me prior to her passing away, “Shelly your gift is joy, share it daily with your students.” It took me everything to hold back tears.

My day needed to start out in a hurry, because I needed to be reminded of the joy the simple/little things bring us in life. Some days I get caught up looking at the big picture, looking at the big goal, I forget it is about the small things that we do that allow us to have the greatest impact on those around us. I am thankful for those wobbly colored circles as they reminded me that my greatest gift is the joy I share with others.

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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Creating a Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

I’m a huge fan of routine, and so are my kids. I’m not the most organized of moms, and I’m certainly not a very organized housewife. However, I do believe that my kids need routine, and so do I. Their routine is good for me. During the summer, our routine went out the window. So now that school is upon us, it’s a great time to start getting back into our groove. I’m sharing my routine in hopes of helping other working moms get the most out of their routine on school days.

If you’re a working mom, your morning routine can either help you start off your day on the right foot, or it can be an obstacle that you must overcome. It can be a struggle each and every day. My tips and tricks will hopefully help you create a smoother morning routine. And the school year is the perfect time to get a fresh start in how you schedule your day and manage your time.

How to Get Started

Remember how last year you said you’d start adjusting bedtimes before the night before school started? Well, during the summer months, we decided to keep the kid’s bedtime routine the same. They rarely stayed up late, and they continued to get up at the same time. This made for an easier adjustment for heading back to school. Small adjustments are what I can handle with everything I have going on.

During the school year, I have to get us ready and out of the house by 8 a.m. for drop off at school. Without a routine, getting two young kids – ages 10 and 7, my hubby and the dog out of the house feels like I’m herding cats. Can you relate, mamas?

Granted, the first few weeks of school this year, I’m still working from home, so I’ll share how that makes things a bit different. For starters, I’m not an early bird. I’ll sleep in as late as I possibly can while still being on time. However, many moms I know wake up early. That way, they get in a power hour before anyone else is up. It makes a huge difference in how productive they are, and it allows them to be available later in the day to help with school work. Since I’m not an early riser, one of the things that helps in our house is to use the night before. We do as much the night before so that the morning is simply smoother.

Tips for Your Morning Routine

Lay out clothes night before. Each night both of our kids lay out what they’ll wear the next day, and I can provide input if necessary (e.g., look nicer for picture day or if it’s going to be 100 degrees, no long sleeve shirts, etc.) If I have morning meetings or a presentation, I also choose what I’ll wear the night before for the next day. I want to avoid this stress in the morning.

Put stuff out and together. For example, the lunch boxes go on the counter with containers ready. That way, if you need extra help from your significant other if something comes up, you don’t have to explain where things are or what to use. Some moms I know prep sandwiches, although I don’t do that. I don’t generally cut up fruit until the morning because it can get mushy, but even washing and drying fruit the night before will shave off time in the morning.

Put items that need to go with you by the door or always in the same place. This goes for water bottles, backpacks, folders, car keys, masks, etc. Have a consistent home for these items so you’re not looking for them in the morning and wasting precious time. Who has an extra 10 minutes to look for car keys or kids’ shoes? This goes for your stuff, that of your significant other and your kids.

Have breakfast options in mind. We try hard to not have breakfast be the same all the time, and yet, this can be one of the hardest meals of the day creatively speaking. We generally give the kids some options when they wake up so that we can get breakfast going. Have breakfast-on-the-go options. Let’s face it—you’ll have days, especially in the first few weeks of school, when you’re running late. Whatever the reason, I recognize that sometimes our kids will be eating breakfast in the car. Sometimes we’ll have bagels that are easily mobile.

Be Flexible & Relax

See how you’re feeling and make any adjustments to set yourself up for success for the day. For example, if you’re tired, give yourself more time and be gentle with yourself. If you’re stressed, it might be time for some deep breaths. It takes only a few moments of your day and makes a big impact. I do this before I even get out of bed as I’m turning off my alarm.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to feel more grounded, consider meditating. I’m talking minutes here, not hours. Or you can extend it for however long you like. Make sure you don’t throw off your schedule, though. If you have the time, get in that workout. I usually get in some exercise a few times a week. In the warmer months, I work out early since I usually head outside for my exercise.

Decide what you want from your morning routine. Consider what you want your morning routine to include and generally look like. If you do better when you have a few minutes alone, plan your wake-up time with this in mind. Want a moment of yoga or meditation? Perhaps you want a few minutes to enjoy your coffee before you get everything going. Only you know what you need.

Hopefully, these tips will help decrease stress and start the day off with more smiles for all! Now the afternoon routine is a completely different battle especially with all the after-school activities the kids are involved in. That takes a daily calendar on the fridge, a hope and prayer to get us to our bedtime routine on time.

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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Sending Our Daughter Off to College

Sending Our Daughter Off to College

“Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught to them.” – Jonas Salk

As we walk the path of parenting, I’m sure you’ve read or heard this quote many times. Lately, a version of this quote has been on my heart. My husband and I are preparing to send our oldest daughter back to college. Not only is she going back to college, but she’s also moving into an apartment and we fully recognize she won’t be moving back home next year.

Preparing for the Change

Is my 40-something heart ready for this? I’m not sure. I know, though, that this is the circle of life, and we prepare our children and ourselves for this time. I remember whispering to our three-month old daughter that I would teach her the tools to keep her grounded but when the time came, I would give her the wings of independence.

For nearly 20 years, what we’ve taught her has been deeply rooted in faith, hard work, joy and wanderlust. And now, I must hold up the other end of the deal and let her fly. She’s more than ready, but my heart is still heavy and full of joy.

The Transition at Home

Then I look at our other two children and how much they’ve loved having their sister home this summer. They’ll also have an adjustment period. Our sophomore daughter will no longer have those extra clothes and shoes around the house. She’ll be upgraded to oldest sibling status and her responsibilities will change. She’ll get the opportunity to be the chauffeur for her brother—just like her older sister did for her.

Our junior high son will tell you he’s taking over his sister’s room immediately, but deep down he feels as if his best friend is moving out again. He’s going to miss his older sister taking him places and paying for him. Yet, he’s excited to have more hot water in our home.

Just like one of my best friends, my husband just keeps encouraging me. This is the way it should be. We just have to trust. Our oldest’s wings are ready to fly. Yet, we know she has her roots and will find home for supper, her siblings’ events or a weekend.

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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Masks at School

Masks at School

I can’t believe it’s less than one month until kids are back in school. Summer break seems to fly by every year. On local parent forums, parents are excited about the planned return to full-time, face-to-face classes next month. Parents are engaging in the normal back-to-school chatter about teacher assignments, band camps, school supplies and one out-of-the-ordinary topic—whether or not to mask their unvaccinated child.

With school quickly approaching, I recently read the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) official back-to-school plan outlining COVID-19 prevention protocols. Last year, I was very impressed with how the schools handled the pandemic, but this year, the kids and I are ready for some normalcy. But how normal?

Changes at Lunch & Recess

I know there are a couple of changes the kids are hoping return to normal like no more “zones” at recess. That was one of the “pandemic rules” my kids hated and that I heard the most about daily. My kids want to play with other kids in their grade and play where they want to play. Kids shouldn’t be restricted to where and who they can play with at recess. Recess is their fun time.

Another change they’re hoping to see is removing the plexiglass from the cafeteria tables. This was a big one for my son. Again, my son wants to sit with his friends and enjoy having a conversation at lunch. Last year, the plexiglass made it difficult to hear each other. Many conversations were had under the table. And I know both of these things were put in for safety reasons, but my kids are ready for food, friends and fun at lunch and recess!

As moms, we always worry about germs—and even more now. My kids don’t wash their hands as much as they should, but I applaud LPS for the amount of time that the teachers and staff allowed kids to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. I felt comfortable sending my kids to school because of the amount of cleaning that was taken place in the building. Even my daughter was excited to pick out the sparkly hand sanitizer and the “squishy” carrier it fit in that attached to her backpack. Hand sanitizer is now a part of the supplies needed for back to school.

Wondering if Masks Will Be Required

Among the protocols LPS is suggesting for the return to school this year is that masks will be strongly recommended for unvaccinated students and required for unvaccinated staff. But masks are not mandatory—at least not yet. My children are still in elementary school, so they’re not vaccinated. Ever since the mask mandate was lifted, my kids no longer wear masks in public. Wearing masks has never been a problem for my kids. They never complained, they followed the rules, and they liked to pick out the masks they wore—unicorns for my daughter and a Denver Broncos mask for my son. Currently, my son wears a mask at his summer camp that he attends every day, which is a requirement. My daughter goes to an in-home daycare and does not wear a mask.

Last year, they were required to wear masks every day, all day! I appreciated the protocols. They never tested positive for COVID-19, and they were not sick once—not even a cold. So having them wear masks this school year would be beneficial. Also, COVID-19 is not going away, and since my children are not vaccinated, I’ll ask my kids to wear them, but my worry is that not all kids will be wearing masks.

If it’s not mandatory and my kids have an option, what will they choose? My son told me that he plans to wear his mask. “No big deal mom, I’m used to it,” he says. However, if my daughter’s friends aren’t wearing one, she probably won’t either. I’m still undecided if they’ll actually wear the masks this upcoming school year. But all of this could change if the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. It wouldn’t surprise me if LPS makes masks mandatory for elementary kids.

Are other parents worried their kids won’t wear their masks if it’s not required? What are other parents planning to do? Let me know!

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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Falling Behind in School

Falling Behind in School

Here we are at the end of another school. Cohen finished 4th grade and Collyns completed 1st grade. Cohen excelled this year and continues to work very hard. Collyns however, struggled, but is it because of Covid-19 and remote learning last year?

Everyone is worried about how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting children. And it IS affecting them. Instead of feeling anxiety about the ongoing pandemic, as parents, we’re told to agonize over failing test scores and academic regression.

What’s Happening At School

Collyns is falling behind, they say.

Hurry up. Get going. She’s behind! She has to catch up to where she would be if there hadn’t been a global pandemic! Hurry up! Schools have this timetable and she’s falling behind! SHE’S FALLING BEHIND!

That’s what we’ve been hearing all year. She has had extra help in reading and we continue to work with her at home. But now that summer is upon us what do we do. She will be starting second grade. We believe she will catch up and we shouldn’t be worried. But over the summer so many kids regress and she could fall even further behind come fall.

Should Learning Continue in the Summer?

So, I stressed over it and listened and made the decision to put her in summer school. Starting in June she will attend summer school five days a week for half the day. That way she will get the extra help she needs. But she may hate it! Let’s get something straight. I know there is no ultimate timetable for learning. But the idea that my child is not intellectually where she SHOULD be and if we don’t do something about it now she may be at risk of falling further behind has me concerned. And, I wonder should I be doing everything the school is offering to better her situation in the fall?

Mitch, my husband, and I are not on the same page. He thinks she’s too young and she will learn when she is ready to learn. And if our child isn’t ready today, that doesn’t mean she’ll never be ready. He reassured me that it doesn’t mean one child is smarter than another. It just means their brains develop at different rates. And it’s perfectly normal. I know this and agreed with him. I keep thinking, summer school can only help her. But, what if she’s miserable and that makes home life worse?

Figuring Out What’s Best

Mitch and I agreed to give it a try. If she absolutely hates going then we won’t make her continue. She will just go to her daycare and we will make a better effort at home to help her catch up. The key is to provide her with the opportunities and the circumstances that maximize the likelihood of learning. Not pedantically checking off skills and benchmarks. We want her to enjoy her summer break and continue to learn. We just hope that this summer school will make learning fun. Fingers crossed that to her this is a summer camp, not school.

Yes, their educations have been disrupted by the virus. But a global pandemic will do that. You want to fix the problem, nothing short of ending the crisis ultimately will work. Kids are just that – kids. My children aren’t falling behind. They’re surviving a pandemic. Keep trying to fix the problem and they’ll be fine.

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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Learning the Importance of Teamwork

Learning the Importance of Teamwork

Few of us ever work alone in our lives. We brainstorm and discuss new ideas, we collaborate, and in some instances, we ask for help. For many of us, we welcome working with others; yet there are also times where we would rather scream, “just let me do it alone.”

Trust me, I know the importance of teamwork and being able to collaborate with my peers. I know the importance of being able to formally collaborate and communicate in the virtual world. Yet, I also know the importance of an individual’s high expectations.

Working on Group Projects

All three of our children are at three different ages of school—college, high school and elementary—and they usually start out excited about group projects, but before long, they’re wishing they would have completed the assignment individually.

In most instances, I can’t blame them. It’s those dreaded thoughts of, “I’m going to end up doing all the work” or “this is going to be a disaster” or “I don’t want to fail this project because my partner didn’t contribute.”

For instance, our college age daughter was assigned a lab group for the entire semester, but one week into college one group member dropped the class. Halfway through the semester, another member rarely showed up to class. She often found herself collaborating on the reports with one other member while hoping the third member would somehow complete the portion he was assigned before the due date. Our daughter eventually felt it was necessary to email the professor to communicate the group dynamics and responsibilities.

Tips for Group Work

The maturity level of our college student is vastly different from our other two. Therefore, I must encourage the younger two to work through the challenges of group work and create a positive experience. Here are a few tips that I shared with my children:

  1. What is your expectation?
  2. Ask the group member(s) their expectation.
  3. Define the roles in the group.
  4. Create a timeline or follow the given timeline.
  5. Determine how your group will communicate information.

Group dynamics are always a challenge as are the expectations. Some members may strive for an “A,” while others just want to complete the assignment. However, having a discussion with the above simple tips allows our children to work through group projects and find the positives, while also encouraging them to not lower their expectations.

With each group project, our children develop a little more confidence in relinquishing responsibilities and trusting the other group members. And even though most times we may want to work alone, working with others is imperative as very few of us actually work alone in our daily lives.

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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Tackling School Drop-Off

Tackling School Drop-Off

Patience. As parents, we need A LOT of it. I blog a lot about household stuff—laundry, chores, how I try to be a good mom—but today this one is about school drop-off.

Since the weather outside is cold, more and more parents are taking their children to school—me included. At the beginning of the school year, the school sent out the best practices for dropping off and picking up children from school. These etiquette measures are simply lost when the snowy weather hits!

Staying Positive During Hectic Mornings

Mornings with my kids can be hectic. I try to preplan the night before but sometimes locating backpacks and library books, making lunches and figuring out what to have for breakfast happens in the mornings. Plus, if you have school-aged kids, this all needs to be done under a timeline AND the kids need to be somewhat presentable, wearing clean clothes and ready for the day. At my house, we have it easy because my kids could walk to school. But with the temperatures and the time crunch, I take them the two blocks to their respective doors. Yes, I said doors—more on that in a second.

If the school parking lot is one of your ‘necessary evils’ each day, the worst thing you can do is add a bad attitude on top of it. You’ll be unhappy and that will translate to your kids—setting the tone for their day. Do what you need to do to keep a clear head and a positive outlook, then try and practice it each day. You have plenty of chances!

Lately, the drop-off line extends to my driveway. Luckily, someone is usually nice enough to let us out so we too can take part in the long line of cars. Then we wait and hope things go smoothly from there. From the start of my morning, I get to show my kids how patience is a virtue. I have to bite my tongue numerous times in the car and show kindness by smiling and waving at other merging cars.

Tackling School Drop-Off

Now onto the different doors. Each grade has different doors to enter through in the morning. Cohen’s door is pretty easy to get to; however, the car line for his drop-off is lengthy. Not to mention, I still have to get Collyns to her door by the time the bell rings. For Cohen, his door is close to a crosswalk. I hope and pray that there are kids that have to cross the street when I am close to his drop-off location. When he hears me unlock the car, he tucks and rolls! It happens so fast I barely get an “I love you” out of my mouth.

Now it’s onto Collyns’ door. Her drop-off location is trickier because it’s the main entrance to the school. Usually there are two lanes for cars. One for parking and the other for passing but due to the ridiculously large amount of snow, there is only one lane. Now, this may be a little harsh but moms, dads and grandparents, your child has been going to school for over five months now, and I promise they know the path from the car to the door of the school. Heck, it’s only a few feet and you can still SEE them. It’s time to let them walk to the door alone. You don’t need to park and get out of the car. Remember, please apply the tuck-and-roll method. There are other cars waiting behind you and people who want to get on with their lives.

I hope this tidbit of information is helpful to you in your future drop-off adventures. And remember to show patience because your kids are watching you. Let’s all unite and make this world a better place one school day at a time!

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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Rewarding Your Child

Rewarding Your Child

Getting a 100% on a test.

Unloading the dishwasher.

Playing your hardest in a game.

These are all reasons why a parent could reward their child. But is the reward necessary and does it help? Or are the above reasons what is expected of them?

When I was growing up, I never received an allowance for doing chores or was given money for getting good grades. But recently, my children told me about their friends getting rewarded for doing well on a report card. Silly me, I thought that was a kid’s “job” to do well in school. But that got me thinking, “How do you motivate kids?”

Motivating Your Kids

It may be one of the biggest struggles parents and teachers experience. As parents, we remind them to clean their rooms or do their schoolwork. They reply that it’s too hard or boring. We plead with them to do their chores and they whine, procrastinate and even ignore us. So how do we motivate them?

I’ve tried punishment with a timeout or withdrawal of privileges. However, rewards do seem much sweeter than punishments.

When I offer bribes (or threats), this usually leads to the desired behavior I am seeking. For example: as a parent, I want to encourage my kids to clean their rooms, but if I measure room cleaning behavior over a two-week period, I’ll discover that room cleaning is at zero, even with nagging. It just doesn’t happen. But when I implement a reward system to motivate better behavior, I find that room cleaning has increased enormously. It MUST be working!

Eventually, however, my reward system fails because I am tired of rewarding my children for what I think is expected of them.

And when the reward system is taken away, suddenly school achievements drop off and the room cleaning behavior stops. Then the reward system starts again and results improve. It’s a vicious cycle.

Addressing Their Challenges

However, I realized that rewards and punishments ignore what’s going on for my kids struggling with motivation. Instead, I now ask them what their challenges are. Why are they lacking intrinsic motivation? Is the task really boring? Or is there something else going on? When I genuinely understand their challenge, I typically find that it’s not going to be fixed by a goody.

They say things like, “it’s boring”… and a reward isn’t going to remedy that. Rewards don’t make things interesting. They simply shift the focus from the task to the reward. I needed to focus less on behaviors and more on obstacles to desired behaviors. Are they tired? Lonely? Stressed? Is it too hard? Does it seem to lack meaning?

Addressing the obstacles requires me to consider how I might be contributing to the problem and work creatively with my child to find ways around the obstacles. Is the work I’m asking them to do meaningful to them?

I found that giving them a choice leads to an automatic increase in motivation. Or giving them a challenge like, “I bet you can clean up your room is less than 5 minutes” helps with motivation.

Changing the Reward

Finally, I recognized that when my child feels competent, they are going to be more motivated than when they feel incapable. As a parent, my job is to build their sense of mastery so they feel like the things I invite them to do are achievable.

If I MUST offer a reward, I make it unexpected. And assure my child that this isn’t going to be a regular thing.

But I also changed the reward system. A reward is now an investment in our time together, not money. It’s now a trip to the zoo, museum or the movie theater. To me, this is a much better idea than simply getting them the latest game or gadget. I make this a special one-on-one trip with my child and give them the benefit of my attention. Experiential trips make for great rewards and inevitably teach my children that money is not everything, but spending some mindful time together is.

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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