The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Learn How to Write for Children

As the author of hundreds of stories and articles for children's magazine, two books for teachers, over twenty articles for parents and teachers, and one picture book for children, you might wonder how I arrived at where I am today.  I attribute this moderate success to two things: (1) In 1999, I enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature for their Writing for Children and Teens course. (2) In 2000, I attended a week-long intensive writer's workshop sponsored by The Highlights Foundation.  Between those two very valuable resources, I learned how to write for children and present my writing to the best possible markets.  It's not rocket science, folks!  The tips I learned showed me how to use my basic writing ability to help children understand themselves and their environment.

Now I am an instructor for The Institute of Children's Literature, so if you'd like to take that same course, simply contact them and ask for me! For more than forty years, the Institute of Children’s Literature has offered the premier writing course, books, and a newsletter to adults interested in learning how to write and be published for children and teens. The hallmark of the course is one-on-one personalized instruction with active professional writers and experienced editors. College credits are available for all courses. Instruction is conveniently available everywhere via the traditional home study method—with lessons exchanged either through the mail or via the Internet.  If you want a retirement activity or simply want to learn how to write with more flair, then go to the Writing Aptitude Test , fill it out on screen, and submit it online. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed with the education you receive.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

4th of July Cupcake Fun!

This 4th of July (or any occasion!), you don't need to have to be a Cake Boss to design a beautiful dessert for your picnic.  Simply arrange cupcakes in a pattern and Whalla! instant fun dessert. Arrange your creations on a piece of heavy cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Here are a few ideas:
  • Color some cupcake icing blue, some white, and some red.  Place the cupcakes according to the flag, and don't be afraid to make your flag wave! Add sugar stars to the blue cupcakes.
  • Color all of your cupcakes yellow and arrange in a star pattern.  (Better yet - leave them white and place them on patriotic napkins!)
  • Using multi-colored sprinkles on random colors of icing, randomly place your cupcakes on the platter, then add slices of red licorice for fireworks.
What other patriotic patterns can you develop?  Here is a website with some hints:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teens and Curfews

How many of you with driving teenagers give them a strict curfew?  When my children were teenagers, I encouraged them to come home at a reasonable hour.  They seldom disappointed me and usually came in around midnight, give or take a few minutes.  My problem with strict curfews is that if a teen is twenty minutes from curfew but twenty-five minutes driving time away from home, he or she is very likely to speed to avoid the dreaded restrictions.  I can think of nothing more dangerous than a speeding new driver at midnight when the usual drunk adults wander the streets. 

Here's another story:  My daughters had a friend whose parents took away her TV, phone privileges, and other luxuries when she arrived home even five minutes after her established 11:00 pm curfew, even if it was beyond her ability to get home on time.  Here's what happened... I was the designated driver from the bowling alley that night, picking up my daughters and several friends, all under driving age.  I arrived on time at the bowling alley to get everyone home on time, but as luck would have it, a fight had broken out, the cops arrived, and I was delayed getting out.  My daughter's friend, who had the extremely strict curfew, was hysterical on the way home.  She kept encouraging me to go beyond the speed limit, but I refused to drive unsafely with other people's kids in the car.  I offered to speak to her parents about the problem, but she said it would make matters worse.  We arrived at her house at 11:05.  The following week, she could not watch TV, could only go to school and back home, and couldn't call any of her friends.  Arghhh!  Is it any wonder that she left the nest immediately after graduation?  Flexibility is a key component to effective parenting. 

Are you a flexible, understanding parent?  Or are you unyielding and strict with your demands on your children?   For more tips on teens and curfews go to

Monday, June 27, 2011

Born to Stand Out!

Why fit in when you were born to stand out? — Dr. Seuss

Do you encourage your children to fit in with the crowd?  Or do you encourage them to be individuals and stand out in a positive manner?  

Encouraging children to fit in helps them to be team players and get positive discipline reports in school.  However, fitting in also means that they are average players and average students. 

Encouraging them to be individuals can go two ways:  They will be strong, positive role models for other children in the family and in school.  Or they will be negative role models, extracting attention for inappropriate behavior.

Therefore, here are some ideas for encouraging positive behavior that will allow children to stand out in a crowd filled with positive influence:
  • Ignore inappropriate behavior unless it is life-threatening.  For example, if your child becomes loud and obnoxious, simply walk away from the behavior.  He won't get the attention he wants. I know this is difficult to do, but you'll be happy with the transformation in your child's behavior after a few weeks.  He'll understand that will and what won't get your attention.
  • Reward positive behavior in little ways by offering to color with your child or simply giving her a hug.  When you reward positive behavior in huge ways with money or trips to a store, you raise a little mercenary who won't do anything right unless she gets a reward for it.
  • Catch 'em being good!  The old theory of leaving well enough alone does not work for kids.  If they are quietly reading, simply sit next to your child with your own book.  He'll understand that what he's doing is good and acceptable.  
How do these suggestions help your child to stand out in a crowd?  Because he'll strive to get positive attention for positive behavior in any situation - school, sports, and beyond as an adult.  And that's exactly what all parents want for their children - responsible individuals at any age.

Happy parenting!

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Burgers vs Childhood Asthma

    I read in Reader's Digest that kids who eat three or more burgers per week are 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than kids who never or rarely eat burgers.  That study covered 50,000 children in 20 countries, so I label the findings very reliable.  So, I dug further to find the source. The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Thorax.  Look at this information in reverse, the researchers found that eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fish was associated with a lower chance of developing asthma and wheezing.  That's because fruits and veggies are good sources of antioxidant vitamins, and fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Antioxidants and omega-3 both have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation in the airways triggers asthma-related breathing problems as well as wheezing and coughing. The saturated fat in burgers promotes asthma by causing inflammation, to say nothing of how the fat clogs young arteries and contributes to childhood obesity. 

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Kids on the Streets

    Now that summer is here, how young is too young to let your child roam the streets on foot or on bicycle?  The answer is now easy, but the folks at the Kidproof blog offer some valuable suggestions for your child's safety:
    • Experts agree that kids younger than 10 don’t yet have the street smarts to respond to an emergency or sniff out danger by themselves, so it’s best to keep little ones close to home.
    •  For an older child, look for signs of maturity. Before you let him out of view, you’ll want to see that he’s generally responsible with things like homework and chores, reacts well to surprises, follows the rules, avoids unnecessary risks, knows basic safety rules and first-aid, and plays it safe when dealing with strangers. 
    • Consider your neighborhood. Do you know lots of friendly, trustworthy neighbors who would be willing to help in an emergency, is there much crime in the area, and are you near any major streets?
    Here is a disturbing statistic: the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found that 43 percent of attempted abductions involved kids ages 10 to 14. Sixty-eight percent involved a suspect in a car or truck, who would most often offer the child a ride, hold out candy or sweets, ask for help with an animal, offer money or ask for directions. A kid who knows these tricks and can avert the advances will stay safe. 

    Teach your child to always take a friend with them on walks or bike rides, and to stay in plain view, avoiding shortcuts through alleys or other dark or isolated areas. If someone tries to grab him, he should yell “Help! This person is trying to take me!” while he walks runs, yells, kicks, bites or does anything he needs to do to resist.

    Remind your child that it’s important to tell you or another trusted grown-up about anything that’s bothering them. Keep a conversation going about safety issues, and share newspaper articles or stories from your own childhood. Once you’ve talked it all through, practice basic skills with role playing, or make a game of it, quizzing your child with “What would you do if…” questions.

    Most important, be an active parent. Know where your child is, and who he’s with, at all times. If he’s visiting a friend’s house, have him send you a quick text message when he gets there, when he heads home, or if there’s a change of plans. Enforce any curfews, ask him how his day went, and get to know his friends and their families. Model good behavior by letting him no when you’re running late.

    Knowing that you’re looking out for him will help him feel safe and confident – and ready to explore your little corner of the world.

    (Original Kidproof blog by Audrey Brown)  For more updates like this, go to
    Also read "Child Abductions: How to Protect Your Children."

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    I want an APP for that!

    If I could develop my own APP, I'd call it ALTERNATIVE PARENTING PROCEDURES.  Too often, parents fall back into a comfortable mode of hitting, demeaning, and yelling at their children to get them to behave according to their expectations.  Wouldn't it be great if parents could download a discipline APP?  Here is a list of alternatives they would find there:
    1. Discuss the reason for the misbehavior and how the child can improve next time.
    2. Set up realistic logical consequences for misbehavior and then be consistent with them.
    3. Use humor to defuse a situation before talking about the source of the problem.
    4. Allow the natural consequences of the behavior take over - no parental action is necessary.
    5. Offer if-then options that don't involve ultimatums, which allow children to make their own good choices.
    6. Determine the severity of the misdemeanor.  Let it go if it isn't critical.  Just like too much sweetness, too much discipline is not healthy for a child's emotional intelligence.
    7. Redirect the bad behavior into something positive.
    8. Develop a system of rewards, whereby the children must earn them over time.
    9. Discover the underlying cause for the bad behavior.
    10. Love your children for who they are, but discipline what they do.
    Happy Parenting!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Host Your Own Game Show

    Here's a fun idea for summer entertainment.  Establish a date and time to hold a family Game Show.  Everybody gets a category to choose questions to answer.  Use family-specific questions like Favorite Vacations, Homework Help, and Dinner Dilemmas.  Develop about 20 questions in each category.  Using a regular board game, play using the family-specific questions.  For extra fun, personalize the game pieces by having each person make their own using self-hardening clay.  Have fun playing The _____ (fill in family name)  Game!

    If you are creatively-challenged, you can purchase a Make Your Own Game kit:

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Healthy Eating for Parents, Teachers, and Children

    It's a fact - adults who eat right and exercise frequently have a more positive attitude and better behaved children than lethargic, overweight adults.  When you feel good about yourself and your body, you'll transfer that positive energy to your children.  You'll also teach them healthy eating habits.  When I was teaching, I had an orange for lunch every day.  I put the orange peels in a bowl right by the door.  This had several effects: It helped overcome the odors of a hundred teenagers going in and out of my room every day, it added an aromatic Feng Shui remedy, and it showed my students that I modeled healthy eating by having an orange every day.

    Here are some suggestions for healthy eating that will make for happier, healthier parents, teachers, and children (click the hyperlinks for food choices):
    • Drink at least four 8-ounce glasses of water each day.  This helps to flush out toxins and increases "regularity."
    • Limit carbs to three small portions a day.  If you must have your morning bagel, it should be whole grain.  Want a potato for dinner?  Have half today and half tomorrow.
    • Protein builds and holds muscle mass.  Eat lots of protein and dairy products, but limit the amount of fat-laden proteins.
    • Fruits are good, but in moderation because they are high in natural sugar.  Limit to 3 servings a day.
    • Veggies are wonderful for weight loss, helping you to feel full, and to supplement the vitamins and minerals in an otherwise balanced diet.
    With a balanced diet and consistent exercise, you'll have enough energy for your children or students! Here is a helpful list of suggestions for weight loss:

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Road trip!

    When I was a kid, oh so many years ago, we traveled to Florida, Pennsylvania, and California by car.  During those young years as an only child, my parents kept busy in the back seat with coloring books and story books.  When I got bored with those activities, we would count things along the way - different license plates, different color cars, etc.  My father even showed me where a vent pipe emerged from the roof of a house, so we looked to find the location of the family's bathroom.  What fun!

    Today's children have many other travel activities to keep them busy on the road.  Here are a few that I would use if my kids were little:
    Finally, here's my all-time favorite car game: Create-a-story.  One person is designated the narrator, who begins the story and adds story components.  The rest of the occupants of the car take turns providing the details.  When the story is done, everyone draws a picture of the story.  Here's and example:  Once upon a time there were three __________________.  Their names were ____________, _____________, and _________.  They didn't like to ______________________, so instead they ________________.  (The narrator would then continue like this until the story reaches a natural conclusion.)

    Happy traveling!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    A Father's Contribution to the Family

    In 1960, only 11 percent of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. By 2010, that percentage had risen to 27 percent. The role of fathers in the modern American family is changing, and I fear that many families are in jeopardy of producing children without strong male role models.  What impact does that have for future generations? 
    • Children will see marriage as a temporary arrangement, suitable only for those who are 100% compatible. (There is no such animal as a perfect marriage!)  
    • When children have fathers who are emotionally involved, those children score higher on tests of emotional intelligence.
    • When children live with a positive male role model, they tend to have better relationships with other children and behave less aggressively. 
    • Fathers can be key teachers for a strong business ethic that shows children how to be diligent in school.
    • Fathers tend to challenge their children more than mothers, which encourages independent thinking.
    • When fathers are present in the home, they provide more financial support than when they live apart from their children.
    Given all those reasons and the many others outlined in this article (How Do Fathers Fit in?), I applaud all those fathers who have stepped up to the family plate and batted a home run for their team by providing emotional strength, moral support, and financial contributions.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Children and OCD

    If you've ever seen the movie As Good as it Gets, you understand how OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) manifests in adults with extreme compulsions and rigid routine.  With children, the lines between worry and OCD are a bit less defined. 

    Many years ago, I had a four-year-old in my program who showed early signs of OCD.  His felt his hand-drawn pictures were never good enough.  Even the pictures that my students drew for him were never perfect enough; he crumbled and tossed a student's drawing in the trash because it did not meet his expectations.  I helped him to understand that art is more about the expression of the medium than the finished product (in terms a child can understand, of course), but that did little to help him overcome his feelings of inadequacy. In other areas of his young life, he had to make sure all of his coat buttons were buttoned before he left the room and made sure all of his things were perfect inside of his backpack. Naturally, every time we did a messy art project, he had to wash his hands several times during the session. I'm sure this type of extreme neatness and cleanliness was pleasing to his parents, but it was very scary for me as a teacher and parent to witness this behavior in a child so young.  I can only image the discipline he encountered at home.

    Psychologists agree that we have little control over our fears, however irrational they may be.  However, what we CAN control is our reaction to those fears.  When a child is afraid that his drawing is not good enough, help him to understand that simply because he created it makes it good enough for anyone to see.  He can put a mental blue ribbon on his paper when it's finished, saying to himself that his picture is the best in the room, even if it happens to be the only drawn picture in the room!  Make sure you recognize small successes so he sees his life as successful rather than a series of constant failures.  Don't set the bar so high for your children that they can never reach your level of expectations. 

    Redirecting thoughts from obsessive actions to positive actions is a powerful cure for people of any age, but when the OCD person is a child, the habit becomes particularly effective in possibly preventing the manifestation of the disorder in adulthood.  If you suspect your child has OCD, get professional help immediately.  For more information. go to

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Going the extra mile

    I was in my not-so-friendly Wal-Mart yesterday buying a new wireless router so I could access the Internet again (grrrr!!!) when I encountered a sales clerk with a 'tude.  When I approached with two brands and asked to consult about which was better for my needs, she told me that wasn't her job and called for Russell.  Russell was very nice, but simply told me that the Netgear was better than the Belkin but offered no reason.  Whatever!  By the time I got back to Ms. 'Tude's register, someone else was checking out.  He had an old credit card with a worn magnetic strip that wouldn't work.  When he asked if she could punch in the numbers (obviously he had done this before), she said she didn't know how to do that.  (Uh-huh!)  In the midst of this, I asked if I could check out my electronics up front.  She told me I had to check out the electronics with the spider bands in this section.  (Whatever!) So credit card man left very disgruntled without his purchase and I finally got to buy my router, but by this time, her register had locked up on her.  She called over to Russell, who told her to go find a CSR.  As she was leaving, she mumbled something about "ain't doin' nuthin' more than I have to."  Russell checked me out on a different register and told me that yes, I could have gone up front and apologized for the delay.  Arghhh!

    So where am I going with all this?  To remind you to help your children understand the value of going the extra mile.  Even an extra yard would be preferable to not taking the initiative to help someone else at all.  When your kids learn this work ethic early, they'll be better employees and will find success in their chosen careers and won't end up in a job they don't like, don't want, and will likely lose due to a poor performance review!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Signatures Count!

    When you're trying to get your children to agree to a specific behavior, whether it's a ten-year-old who needs to bring up math grades or the teenager who needs to drive safely, a contract has more impact than a verbal agreement.  Sit down with your child, outline the behavior you can both live with, and then mutually sign the "contract."  Post it where it is a constant reminder.

    That's not the end of the story, though.  Even though simple contracts like mortgages and car loans work for adults who pay their debts monthly, children need a little more incentive to live up to the agreement.  The last line of the contract should also outline the reward for maintaining the contract.

    That's still not the end of the story!  In addition to a mutually-agreed upon behavior and a reward for that behavior, the contract should also include a time frame.  Mortgages go for thirty years; car loans for five.  Children's contracts can have weekly, monthly, or even yearly terms.

    If you're word-challenged, you can go to but you can't personalize the contract and you must purchase the package.  You can find suggestions here: and an interesting sample contract for teachers here:

    Whatever you choose for your contract needs the three components: Expected behavior, reward, and time frame to be successful.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Preserving Childhood Projects

    Remember the pictures on the fridge... 3-D log cabins ... volcanoes that really erupt.... milk carton bird feeders... and the myriad of other projects your children have made?  How do you preserve those memories without crowding your basement, attic, and garage with clutter?  Create an album of photographic memories for each child. 

    Even if you aren't into scrapbooking, simply creating an album of photographs will be an important part of your children's memories.  However, decorating the pages with dates, quotes, and other enhancements will definitely increase their value as your children get older.  Or maybe you'd like to create a digital album of their projects!  Whatever you decide, you can take a picture of the project after a suitable amount of "real" appreciation time.  Then put the item in a designated place for a little more time in case the young person wants to see it again.  Then after a few more months have passed and other projects have come to the front of their memories, you can toss the project, knowing that you have preserved it for generations!

    Here are some links to helpful websites: Mixbook, Smilebox, Scrapgirls, and Shabby Princess. However, if you surf the net, you'll find many, many more ideas for preserving childhood memories. 

    Attention, teachers... You can also use this to preserve memories of each year's projects and students.  Remember to record names, dates, and comments.  You'll thank me when you retire!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Kids and Cliques

    What happens when your child gets excluded from play? He probably feels sad, depressed, and left out.  However, with a little education from you, he will learn to see the exclusion as a life lesson rather than a life hurdle.  Here are some ideas that your excluded child can understand:
    • Children who exclude children from their play usually want to control the neighborhood or playground.  Psychologists would see this as a rubber-band effect from having too much control at home.  Your child should learn to cultivate friends who accept him without qualifications.
    • When kids say mean things to your child, show him how he can place an invisible shield around himself to insulate him from the mean words.  By allowing the other child's words to bounce away, your child can learn a valuable life lesson.  
    • Ignoring a bully is the best way to stop the bullying behavior.  This is difficult for some kids to understand, but it's a proven fact that no matter the age, if someone bullies another person, that person is looking for negative attention.  Teach your child that when another child excludes him from play, he should simply ignore the request.  If the other child gets violent as a result, that's when it's time to leave and retreat.  
    • Finally, help your child to understand that if another child excludes him from playing with him, he's not worth the association. 
    When your child learns this lesson early in life, he'll be better equipped to deal with similar situations in the workplace.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Family-friendly meal times

    Do your family meals turn into battlegrounds with children fighting adults for control of the plate?  Did you know that the single most frequent response when adults are asked what they remember as children involve family meals?  Think about your own family meal rituals.  What will your children remember in twenty-five years when they have your grandchildren sitting around their tables?  How will your legacy of happy family meals continue through the generations?  Here are a few suggestions for creating happier family meals:
    1. Everyone does not have to eat the same thing as everyone else.  In other words, you don't need to force your children to eat peas if they don't like peas!
    2. Encourage conversation by turning off the TV and iPods.
    3. Have one family member help with the choice, preparation, and presentation of the dinner occasionally.
    4. In a busy family, designate one day as family dinner day when everyone makes sure they are home at a specific time.
    5. Develop unique family recipes, traditions, or grace before meals.
    When you create happy meals for your family, research shows that children with asthma have fewer attacks, teens are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and all family members have a lower tendency for eating disorders.  What are you having for dinner tonight?  Meat loaf or family togetherness?

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Hotels vs. Toddlers - The Hidden Dangers

    It's vacation time!  Here are some tips to make sure your littlest visitor stays safe throughout your trip:
    1.      Keep an eye on your kids the whole time.
    2.      Teach little people to fingers away from elevator doors.
    3.      Move furniture away from windows that can open.
    4.      Ask the front desk if they have a kid-safety kit with outlet covers.  Better yet, bring your own!
    5.      If your room has a mini-bar, ask the hotel staff to remove the alcohol. Or store them on a high shelf until you leave.
    6.      Tie up dangling drapery cords.
    7.      Inspect the safety of the TV, wall units, and any other furniture that can fall over if a little person climbs or pulls on it.
    8.      If the hotel uses glass beverage holders, substitute them for plastic.
    9.      Check the temperature of the water before putting your toddler in the bath.  Many hotels set their water heaters higher than most homeowners with toddlers. 
    10.  If you use the hotel crib, check for modern safety regulations:
    a.       No more than 2 3/8 inches (about the width of a soda can) between crib slats unless you get a porta-crib.
    b.      No missing, loose, broken or improperly installed hardware.
    c.       A firm, tight-fitting mattress
    11.  If you have older children, allow kids over six to sleep alone on the top bunk.
    12.  Finally, if your hotel room has a balcony, never leave your children out there unattended, even when you leave briefly for a bathroom visit.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Not All Peanut Butters are Created Equal

    I love it when the Bon Appetit editors do my work for me!  They analyzed several brands of peanut butter, so I condensed their findings into this chart (based on a 2 TBSP serving):

    Santa Cruz Organic
    Skippy Creamy
    Smuckers Natural
    Cost (16 oz)
    Sugar (gr)
    Protein (gr)
    Fat (gr)
    Sodium (mg)

    Here's what I concluded:  It doesn't matter whether you get the all natural or the regular peanut butter if you are considering fat, calories, and protein value of this popular kids' lunch food.  However, the organic and all-natural peanut butters had less sodium and less sugar than the regular.  However, when you compare cost with nutritional value, my money goes to the Smuckers Natural.  It is less expensive and moderately lower in sodium than Skippy, which has more sugar.  Isn't that nutty? :-)

    Here's a link to the full article:

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    The Traveling Trash Can

    Remember the Feng Shui that is so important to the success of a classroom environment and the comfort of your home?  The same concept applies to your automobile.  During the summer months, it's very easy to leave the remnants of your trip to the lake, shore, or theme park at the end of the day when you're tired and the kids are cranky.  That's understandable!  But next morning, before the next day's events, remember to clean out those crumbs, orange peels, collected shells, and assorted other tidbits.  Not only will this improve the odor in your car but it should decrease your chances of mechanical failure because of the happy chi surrounding your car.  Clutter is a chi buster whether it is in your house, your classroom, your digital files, or your car!

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    It's all a matter of perception

    One of my favorite songs is Kenny Rogers' The Greatest.  It's the story of a young ball player who tries to toss the ball up and hit it before it lands in the dirt.  Over and over he tries, unsuccessfully, to hit the ball.  Finally, it's time to go home and he decides that he never knew he was such a good pitcher, throwing strikes every time!  What a marvelous attitude!

    Do you help your children to see the positive aspect of every situation?  Do they see the glass half empty or half full with love from his or her parents?  Do you strive for perfection or accept that kids can be imperfect?  Being positive is a healthy attitude, both for mind and body.   For more information, read this article: Well-Rounded Kids.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    2011 Caldecott Tidbits

    At this time of year, I like to look at the award winners in children's literature...

    A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, tells the story of a kindly zookeeper who gets sick one day and is unable to care for his beloved animals.  Instead, they all come to visit him.  What Amos thought would be a horrible day turned out to be a wonderful day.

    Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier, is the story of a little-known African-American artisan.  Told in a rhythmic, rhyming text, the story shows Dave's triumph over adversity in the face of bigoted oppression. 

    Interrupting Chicken, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, is a humorous book about Little Red Chicken and her Papa.  Papa wants to read a bedtime story, but Little Chicken always interrupts. (Sound familiar to anyone?)  Papa comes up with a brilliant idea to have Little Red Chicken write her own story with hilarious results. 

    These three books show the diversity in children's literature today, but also a growing trend to help children accept other people's differences and to care about other people's needs.   

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Watch the Sugar, Sugar!

    You can find sugar in practically every food your child eats except meats.  That's why eating foods with added sugar can overload a young system.  Here are the naturally occurring sugars:
    • Sucrose, which is common table or white sugar, is found naturally in sugar cane, sugar beets and, in smaller amounts, in some fruits.
    • Fructose, the sweetest sugar, which combines with glucose to form sucrose. This is found in fruits.
    • Glucose, which is slightly less sweet than sucrose.This is found in starches.
    • Lactose, or milk sugar. 
    So, you can see that if a child has a bowl of sweetened cereal with milk, strawberries, and a glass of orange juice for breakfast, he is overloaded on all kinds of sugar.  Eliminate added sugar from the cereal and you have decreased the amount of sugar somewhat, but not by much.  What can you feed your child instead?  Add a protein - peanut butter, eggs, or cheese.

    Why is so much sugar bad for your child in the morning?  Because simple carbohydrates like refined sugars give your child a shot of energy, but then his body slows down by mid-morning.  In addition to adding protein, give your child complex carbohydrates, which will keep him going all morning long, such as whole wheat toast, bran cereal, and oatmeal.

    Contrary to popular belief, too much sugar does not cause hyperactivity.  However, it does lead to obesity and the potential for diabetes.  If you want the best food for your child, cut out as much simple sugars as possible and add more complex carbohydrates.   Having a good breakfast has also been proven to prevent lead poisoning!

    This would be a good breakfast for your child:
    Strawberry smoothie made with frozen yogurt
    Hard boiled egg
    Whole wheat toast with peanut butter 


    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Classroom Feng Shui ... for next year

    At this time of year, many of you are probably cleaning the classroom, tossing old projects, and looking forward to a relaxing summer.  Here are some ideas to consider over the summer so you can begin with a Feng Shui-ed classroom in September:

    A.    Your entrance area needs to be welcoming and uncluttered.  It is also your diversity area.  FS this area to bring your students into your realm with an arrangement that helps them feel comfortable with their environment.  As with any other meeting, first impressions are important.  So, you need to attack as many senses as possible.  Can you find a round metal table from a yard sale that you can place there? (Remember to wash it well before placing it in your classroom to remove other folks’ bad chi.)  It should be no more than about 18 inches in diameter or whatever will fit comfortably in that space.   On the wall in that area, include posters or mantras that show people working together for the common good.  
    B.     Put your metal file cabinet to the left of your door for strength – it will support your career area.  On the side of the cabinet as students come in the door, rotate career ideas for your subject area every month.  By the end of the year, you’ll have shown them ten different careers that will use your subject matter.  Avoid earth elements here, but include wavy, watery things, perhaps a wavy border around the four edges of that side of the file cabinet highlighting your career posters.  Keep the top clear of clutter by placing an incandescent lamp there – something blue or black, wavy, and metal. 
    C.     Place your desk to the right of the door with your back to the wall.   A white flowering plant on your desk would be perfect.  Remember that this is usually an "metal" corner in most classrooms, so use a round ceramic pot that has a touch of turquoise or blue for that plant.  Also, keep your desk neat and clutter-free as much as possible. 
    D.    The magic number for your knowledge corner (left as you walk in the room - see below) is 8.  Can you think of 8 key curriculum concepts you can highlight either on the wall?  Remember to refresh those eight concepts with each unit or marking period.
    For more tips to consider this summer, read Feng Shui for the Classroom: 101 Easy-to-Use IdeasWhile you're browsing my website, consider reserving a workshop for the rest of the faculty next year! 


    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Two Kinds of Models

    When adults interact with children, they are capable of being two kinds of models: 
    1. The positive role model - The adult who is kind, caring, respectful, and giving to others shows children that this behavior is acceptable.  The child looks up to that adult as a positive role model for his or her own behavior.  Conversely, the adult who yells, punishes, slaps, and demeans children shows them that violent and disrespectful behavior is acceptable.  It's no surprise that our children look to the adults in their lives for guidance on how to live their lives.  What kind of role model are you?
    2. The perfection model - This kind of model is less known but just as effective in molding children's behavior.  When a young child colors in a coloring book, he scribbles around, sometimes trying to stay in the lines, sometimes not.  All the while, however, he is simply exploring the medium.  He isn't trying to be perfect.  An adult who sits with that child and colors his own picture, staying in the lines and pointing out how this is preferable, is setting the child up for failure and discouragement. He can't live up to that standard. Modeling perfect art is a simple act, but very effective in showing children whether the parent approves or not. What can you do instead?  Explore the medium, as well.  Have fun molding clay into amorphous shapes, pounding it and rolling it.  When a child shows you her creation, comment on what you see, rather than what you like.  Example: "Look at what I made."  The parent can then say, "You did a great job of rolling your clay."  Less effective: "I like that log."  What's wrong with the last statement?  It might not be a log!  And the parent (or teacher) has equated the child's work with adult approval rather than acknowledgement of his or her diligence.  Do you model perfection or diligence in your children?

      Thursday, June 2, 2011

      Don't worry ... Be Happy!

      When Bobby McFerrin wrote his song by that title, it instantly became my personal theme song.  For many years, I viewed worry as negative prayer.  If you worry enough about something, it's bound to happen.  Many years ago, an acquaintance worried that she would get cancer; five years later she was dead of liver cancer.  Just recently, I went against my own advice on a much less critical matter: I had on white capris for a Memorial Day party and was slicing strawberries shortly before I left, telling myself to not get any on my white pants. Yep, you guessed it - almost near the end of my slicing and dicing, a rogue slice landed on the white pants.  Where am I going with these personal musings?  To let you know that when you worry about your kids, the thing you worry about most may actually happen.  Your son is on the football team and you worry that he'll get injured, or your teenage daughter dates an older boy and you worry that she'll get pregnant ... is there anything good that can come from those worries?  NO!  If you are a praying person, you'll pray that your son and daughter stay safe.  Do you see the difference?  When you worry, you hope things won't happen.  When you pray, you hope for things that will happen.  Now, I'm not the type of person who actually asks God for gifts, so the nature of my prayers is slightly different from most folks.  But the bottom line is that when you worry, you actually draw in the problems of the universe like iron filings to a magnet.  When you visualize your son succeeding at the football game or your daughter enjoying good clean fun with the boyfriend, you also pull in the positive aspects of life like those iron fillings. So, when it comes to your children, let them play, discover their own mistakes, and fix their boo-boos when they happen. Pull the power of positive thinking into your life.

      In other words, Don't Worry ... Be Happy! 

      Wednesday, June 1, 2011

      Meatloaf Cupcakes?

      My friend had trouble getting her child to eat protein, so she made meatloaf into a cupcake and she loved it!  Here's how she did it:
      1. Take any meatloaf recipe using ground beef, turkey, pork, or any combination of meats.  Add ground or pureed veggies.
      2. Put the meatloaf into greased muffin cups and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
      3. Remove the meat muffin from the cup and top with mashed potatoes.
      It's that easy!  Try turkey cupcakes with mashed sweet potatoes on top for an autumn treat.  Add food coloring for holiday fun  like green for St. Patrick's Day and pink for Valentine's Day. 
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