The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

New Australian Children's Book Series

Maureen Larter has begun a fascinating series of ebooks called The Alphabet Animals of Australia.  In each book, the author presents both scientific and character education themes in addition to alliteration of all the animal names.  Here are here first three in the series, available at 

ANGUS ANT AND THE ACROBATS illustrated by Alice Sabrie and Maëlle Chessard, 2011
One day, Angus decides that he doesn’t like working all day long so he looks outside of his home to find some friends.  Along the way he finds a springtail, a flea, a grasshopper, and a butterfly.  Each friend tries to do what the other does, but without much success.  In  the end, each animal realizes that they have special talents that should be used to their potential.  This book teaches about insect activity and an appreciation of one’s talents.

BETTY BEE’S BIRTHDAY BASH illustrated by Alice Sabrie and Maëlle Chessard, 2011
Betty and Bobbie decide they want to do gather extra nectar for the Queen’s birthday, but it is raining.  They know that bees don’t fly well in the rain, so they fashion umbrellas from thin slices of wax.  But they become tired holding the umbrella and gathering nectar at the same time.  They enlist the help of the entire hive, and through cooperative effort successfully hold a wonderful party for the Queen.   This book teaches about bee activity and cooperation.

CANDY COW AND THE CATERPILLAR illustrated by Patsy Seager, 2013
Candy Cow loves everything around her, especially the juicy leaves of the trees.  But one day, a caterpillar on one of those leaves asks her to save the leaf.  They discuss camouflage so Candy Cow can see the caterpillar better.  Candy Cow agrees to leave the leaf and the caterpillar eventually changes into a lovely, bright butterfly.  This book teaches about metamorphosis and acceptance of differences.

Each of Maureen Larter’s books is available in e-version and hardcover and contains a teacher’s guide at the end for further activities.  I recommend this series for children ages 2-5.  

To see the blog author's books that also teach scientific concepts with character education and language literacy, go to

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

End-of-year Stress?

It's the end of the school year. You have a bazillion final exams or essays to grade, many students to process through the digital grading system, several reports to file with your supervisor, and assorted signatures to secure on your sign-out sheet. Top that with your duties at home, and it is no wonder you're stressed. I understand and appreciate the challenges you are experiencing right now, so I offer the following suggestions to ease your life:
  1. Eat right - research has proven that a diet filled with fast food and carbonated beverages causes our bodies to destroy the ability to effectively deal with stress. Instead, revise your shopping list to include whole grains, plenty of fruits and veggies, lean meats, and unprocessed foods. In other words, shop mostly in the perimeter of your grocery store. But, you say you don't have time to make all that fresh food? Consider using the almighty slow cooker! Make a big pot in the morning by tossing in all the meat and fresh veggies. By dinner time when you're exhausted, you'll have wholesome food waiting for your return home.
  2. Meditate - Call it prayer, meditation, or downtime, but it is still an escape from everyday reality. Ten minutes - that's all it takes to recondition your mind and body to cope with everyday stresses. Consider finding a picture of your favorite vacation or a picture on the Internet of your fantasy vacation. Focus on that while you slip away from reality for a while. You'll emerge from the experience refreshed and renewed.
  3. Exercise - Ah, those endorphins! Those feel-good chemicals that block pain, and are also responsible for our feelings of pleasure. They are released with exercise. So before you go home, run a lap around the track or head to your gym. You'll be better able to cope with the pressures at home after a stressed day at work.
  4. Sleep - You don't think you have enough time to sleep because you have too much to do? Think again! You should be getting seven hours of sleep each night. Get too little sleep, and your work becomes sluggish, taking longer to complete the task. Get enough sleep and you become an efficient grading machine!
  5. Plan - If you have those bazillion essays to grade and you have two weeks in which to get them done, then set aside time to several each day. That makes the task more manageable and less odious. Also plan time to spend with your support group - family and friends who care about you. Be in the moment - don't spend time with them while you worry about clearing the clutter in your room by the end of the school year. Enjoy your time with others - laugh, play, sing, or simply sip tea and talk (but not about work!)
  6. Overlap - Try to find things you can do together, like straightening your room while you exercise (bend over five times before you pick up that piece of paper on the floor!) And when you plan your elementary book list for next year, add EnteleTrons™ titles because their books combine STEM topics with character education in the literacy curriculum!

When you put this plan in place, you'll have a less stressed end of the school year. Enjoy your summer and return in September ready to educate the next class of students who are eager for your words of wisdom on intellectual, social, and moral topics!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An excerpt from Woody's World

So many people have asked what my elementary chapter book, Woody's World is like, that I have decided to post an excerpt during Children's Book Week.  If you like what you read, you can order the book at Character Publishing. Now on sale!  Also, if you order a classroom set of 20 or more, I will send you my 8-week, 98-page Study Guide that includes a variety of learning experiences for third and fourth grade readers. (A $13.95 value at Teachers Pay Teachers) Woody's World recently won a 2013 Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

Happy reading and please post a comment:
to post the first chapter here for your review during

Chapter One
The Princeton Trolley

            “We can’t make it,” I screamed.  “Stop!”
            “Trust me, Woody,” Henry yelled over his shoulder.  “We can beat the trolley.”
            I clutched the sides of our sled as we slid toward the tracks on a collision course with the morning travelers.  I had to decide whether to roll off the speeding sled and risk breaking several bones or to stay with Henry and risk getting killed.
            “Hold on!” Henry shouted.
            I dug my fingers into Henry’s shoulders and prayed that I had been good enough in my twelve years to merit a hereafter in Heaven.  All the times I had teased my little sister exploded into awareness.  All the times I had lied to my parents or cheated on a test flooded my mind.  I was doomed!
            I leaned forward and hunched over Henry’s pea coat.  My heart raced faster than the sled.  Hundreds of electric sparks shot past my head.  Hot oil from the tracks assaulted my nose as we slipped in front of the trolley.  I couldn’t tell whether the screaming came from me or from the travelers.
            We coasted to a stop and scrambled out of the sled into a foot of drifted snow. Even though it was twenty degrees out, I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants.  Then I stared back at the trolley as it clack-clack-clacked its way toward Princeton Junction.
“Toot, toot!”  Henry made the trolley sound and pulled an imaginary cord.
            “Are you crazy?  You could have gotten us killed!  You could have ruined my sled!”  I flapped my arms in the air trying to shake off the lingering fear.  Henry stood motionless, gazing down the tracks.
            “Are you listening to me?”  I shook his shoulders.
            Without turning around, he said, “Woody, that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.”
            “No, that was the most stupid thing we’ve ever done.  How did you know we would miss the trolley?”
            “I didn’t.  I thought it was worth a try.  I knew it would slow down before it went around the corner.  It worked, didn’t it?  You’re alive.  Your precious sled is in one piece.”
            I wrestled Henry into the drift.  We rolled around and around, laughing and punching each other until we both fell back, exhausted.
            “Don’t you ever do that to me again, Henry.”
            “Do what?  Have some fun and excitement?”
            He was impossible.  Since we first met in kindergarten, I’d never known him to be careful about anything.  And that’s what I liked about him.  My childhood would have been dull and boring without him.
            I picked up the cord of my sled and started toward home.  It was lunchtime.  Mom said she’d have tuna sandwiches and tomato soup for us.
            “Henry, don’t tell Mom about the trolley.”
            Henry looked at me for a moment, then ran his fingers through his thick, curly red hair.  “I may be foolish, but I’m not crazy.”
            Henry wasn’t crazy, but somebody on the train was a snitch.  When I got home, my father barred my way through the door.  His crossed arms and spread stance told me I was in bigger trouble than the time I had snuck a mouse into Miss Mallory’s handbag.
            “Woodrow Michael Bartram, are you out of your mind?” he boomed.
            “What do you mean?”  I took a step backwards, lengthening the distance between myself and Dad’s belt.
            “Uncle Mike saw you and Henry slide in front of the trolley today.  He called as soon as he got in the station.”
            I hung my head.  “It was either that or break my neck jumping from the sled,” I mumbled.  Out the corner of my eye, I saw Henry tiptoe from the inquisition on the porch.
            “Speak up, boy.  I’m sure you said you were sorry that you almost caused your mother and me to make funeral plans for you.”
            I could tell that the lecture would go on for hours, but at least he didn’t take off his belt.  The welts on my bottom had just disappeared from my last whoopin’.  Dad finished his sermon about responsibility with his usual comparison.  “Respect is like a Hershey bar, boy.  Every time you make someone lose respect for you, part of the candy bar gets eaten away.”
I had heard this analogy twice already.  The R disappeared when I thought it would be fun to drive the car up and down the driveway.  I wouldn’t have gotten caught if the tree hadn’t jumped out in front of me. Then I lost the E when Henry and I decided to climb up to the top of the Princeton water tower. We had taken sandwiches and a canteen of water and had only taken one bite when Dad found us.  Now the S was gone.
“Better watch yourself, boy,” Dad said.
“Yes, sir. I’ll try to be more responsible.”
            “Trying isn’t good enough.  You have to know how to be responsible.”
            The lecture continued for another hour with extra chores for a week added to my list and a quick lashing with his belt as we went inside the house.  Obviously, Mom knew nothing about my half-eaten RESPECT bar.  She gave me a hug and asked if I’d had fun sledding with Henry.  That day I vowed I’d make my old man proud of me … somehow… some day.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Creative Ways to Save for a Family Vacation

It's getting close to summer vacation time!  Have you saved enough to have fun for a week or two?  If not, here are some ideas from my friends at

Family vacations are a great way to make lasting memories that you all cherish for the rest of your lives, but they can also be quite pricey. That doesn’t mean that the trip of your dreams is out of reach, however, even if you’re faced with a relatively tight budget. These 20 savings tips can add up big time, helping you to reach your travel goals before you know it.
  1. Start a Family Travel Fund – Pitch in as a family. Contributing allowances, gift money and spare change as a group helps everyone take responsibility for the expenses of an exciting travel adventure.
  2. Hold a Garage Sale – The garage sale is a time-honored tradition that can help you create more space in your home as well as collect a bit of pocket money. Holding a garage sale with the intention of putting 100% of the proceeds towards your vacation is a great way to jump-start your vacation savings account.
  3. Break Out the Change Jar – Making a habit of dumping your pocket change into a large jar adds up surprisingly fast, even more so when every member of the family is chipping in.
  4. Liquidate Your Assets – Selling a bunch of old collectibles that are taking up space online helps you corner a niche market that may not be available through a traditional, on-site garage sale. In some cases specialty items can fetch much higher prices online.
  5. Establish a Family Dinner Routine – If your family eats out more than once a week, start researching money-saving meals you can prepare at home and deposit the average check price of those meals into a dedicated savings account.
  6. Make Cutting Energy Costs Fun – Make a game of seeing who can use the least amount of energy in your home. Not only will you save big on your utility bills, you’ll also be reducing your household footprint.
  7. Sign Up for Flash Sale Groups – Online marketing groups that offer flash sales generally have big-ticket items available at bargain-basement prices for a very short time. Signing up for these groups can help you save big and you can put the money you would have spent away for your family trip.
  8. Have Family Coupon Clipping Parties – Clipping coupons is tedious work, but it can be fun when the whole family sits down together to make an event of the chore.
  9. Encourage Kids to Contribute – Whether they’re mowing lawns, babysitting, setting up a lemonade stand or chipping in from a birthday fund, encouraging your kids to contribute allows them to make a difference in your vacation budget. This gives them a sense of pride and the savings account a boost.
  10. Break Bad Habits Together – If one member of the family is a smoker, another has an expensive coffee habit and the kids are all addicted to sugar, making a family effort to break those bad habits while putting the money saved in a travel account can be a great motivator on all fronts.
  11. Cut Down on Car Use – There are times in most families’ lives when it would be just as easy to walk, use mass transit or bike to a location than to drive. When those opportunities arise, take advantage of them and save money on gasoline in the process.
  12. Hold a Savings Competition – Competing with one another to see who can save the most is a great way to encourage savings, especially when you’re all contributing to a common goal.
  13. Make a Savings Thermometer – There’s a reason why the savings thermometer is a fundraising standby: it works! Making your own vacation savings gauge provides an actual goal and shows how much further you have to go before you reach it.
  14. Start a “No Waste” Challenge – The average family throws away a shocking amount of money through sheer product waste. Starting a “no waste” challenge encourages more responsible habits and saves money.
  15. Take Advantage of Local “Free Days” – Museums, libraries and other institutions often run “free day” promotions. Taking advantage of them allows your family to enjoy no-cost entertainment, freeing up more funds for travel.
  16. Host Potluck Get-Togethers – There’s no need to stop entertaining when you’re trying to save, but instead of footing the bill for the entire meal just hold an old-fashioned potluck! When everyone contributes to the party, you’re able to save big and still enjoy the company of your nearest and dearest.
  17. Hold Fashion Swaps – Kids outgrow clothing so quickly that it’s not uncommon to send an item with tags still attached to the local thrift store. Hosting a fashion-swap at your house with other parents allows everyone to trade out gently-worn clothing, saving money and enjoying one another’s company in the process.
  18. Go Paperless – Stop spending money on stamps, envelopes and checks by going paperless with all of your bills.
  19. Get DIY Savvy – There are so many things you can do at home for a fraction of the price of purchasing store-bought goods, all you need is a bit of know-how. Online tutorials for everything from making butter to building furniture are plentiful.
  20. Visit Professionals in Training – Rather than spending a small fortune on haircuts, teeth cleanings and other basic services, consider visiting your local training center. There, professionals in training will perform these services with the supervision of a skilled instructor at a fraction of the cost!
Happy parenting!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

" I love you more."

A few days ago, I overheard a mother and her six-year-old son "arguing" like this:

Son: "I love you, Mom."
Mom: "I love you more."
Son: (a little louder) "I love you, Mom."
Mom: "But I love you more."
Son: (even louder) "I LOVE you, Mom."
Mom: (still calm) "Yes, but I love you more, now let's stop this."

I half expected the kid to take out an ad in the local paper proclaiming his love for his mother.  Did the mother not see that she was totally ruining the moment by invalidating her son's love for her? Did she not see that saying she loves him more sends the message that he doesn't love her enough ... ever?  How did that annoying practice begin - telling someone that you love him more than he is capable of loving you?

Certainly, you can say, "I love you more than chocolate." That would surely satisfy me!  Or how about, "I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow," to quote a Spiral Staircase tune.  That's also acceptable.  Anything is better than, "I love you more."

So what might the six-year-old have said after Mom's "I love you more"?  Maybe "That's impossible," but that's a bit advanced for his age. How about, "I know," but that invalidates his own "I love you" again.  Hmmm... I don't see anything that would satisfy the controlling mother who wants to subconsciouly put her son down by saying she loves him more than he could ever possibly love her. 

So the bottom line is, when your child tells you he or she loves you, accept that unconditional love with a hug, a kiss, and an, "I love you, too."  Everybody wins in that situation.  And remember to say that wonderful phrase first sometimes!

Happy parenting!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Breaking your child's sense of entitlement

This guest blog is from my friends at The author summarizes what I've been saying for years - reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior, and don't create little mercenaries by rewarding with money all the time!

Raising children in a reasonably privileged household and ensuring that they have all of the opportunities that privilege affords them without creating a false sense of entitlement is difficult to do. However, breaking a budding sense of entitlement that’s already beginning to take hold is even more of a challenge. While you naturally want to do everything in your power to make your children happy and provide them with the best possible life, it’s important to remember that their childhood training needs to be grounded in the idea of helping them become productive, independent members of adult society. Stripping away the negative trappings of privilege, like the loss of pride, responsibility and initiative that come with feeling that good things are owed by virtue of existence is essential, especially if you’re not willing to spend the rest of your life financially supporting children who feel as if they’re deserving of the easiest road through life.

Give Rewards, Not Lavish Gifts
So much of commercial marketing is directed at children, teaching them from an early age that their value in society is attached to how many of the coolest gadgets, toys and outfits they can collect. Combating the influence of a consumer-driven culture is one of the most difficult tasks the modern parent faces, but it’s also one of the most important. Rather than purchasing every big-ticket item that your child asks for simply because he wants it, sit down together and work on finding a way of helping him earn it. When kids work to obtain the things they want, their possessions have more value and they’re learning a basic tenet of adult life: if you want something, you have to earn it.

Create – and Stick to – a Chore Schedule
Whether you’re working out a system of completing chores in exchange for rewards or have decided that your children should simply be responsible for helping to maintain their living spaces, a chore schedule is one of the most effective ways of teaching children about the necessity of work. Even if you’ve chosen not to connect a weekly allowance or tangible rewards to the completion of their chores, it may be wise to create a chart where kids can check off what they’ve completed or receive stickers for a job well done. Remember that acknowledging their hard work and giving them recognition for their efforts is important, and isn’t the same as bribing them with toys or money to do housework.

Refuse to "Reward" Bad Behavior
At the peak of a public meltdown, it can be very tempting to simply buy the toy your child is screaming for in order to salvage whatever is left of your dignity. By giving in to the screams, shouts and demands, however, you’re effectively allowing your child to hold you hostage emotionally. Learning that his bad behavior earns him the recognition he needs and the physical items he desires only inspires your child to continue the pattern of outbursts when he’s denied something he wants. Refusing to give in to those demands helps him to see that not only does bad behavior not get the results he’s looking for, but that he also has to face the consequences of having a tantrum.

Volunteer as a Family
When you volunteer together, your children not only observe the socially-conscious and helpful behavior that you’re modeling for them, but also experience first-hand just how unfortunate others can be in comparison. One of the first steps along the path of abolishing a sense of entitlement is to help your youngster understand just how much he’s been blessed with and how hard his parents work to provide the things that he has. Seeing people that aren’t so lucky can drive that point home.

Spend Time, Not Money
Assuaging your own feelings of guilt after a divorce or because work pulls you away from home too often by making extravagant purchases is normal behavior, but it can have some unpleasant repercussions. Rather than spending the contents of your wallet in an afternoon, try to spend some quality time together. Busy, working parents may not be able to be with their children as much as they’d like, but there is some time in the evenings or on weekends that can be carved out. Spend that time doing something that you both enjoy that doesn’t involve expensive gear or high admission prices.

Happy parenting!

Friday, January 11, 2013

10 Ways to Make Sure You are Raising an Optimist

I couldn't have said it better myself!  This comes from my friends at

We live in a hectic, stressful world that makes it easy to be pessimistic and depressed. However, these attitudes aren’t helpful and can actually be harmful. Every parent wants their children to be happy, healthy and optimistic about their future, but sometimes can lose sight of how to accomplish that state of mind. Kids who are often sullen and dejected can eventually end up depressed, so it’s important to do what you can as a parent to help prevent that from happening. Here are 10 ways to make sure you are raising an optimist and not a pessimist.
  1. Affection – The first step is to show your children tons of affection. Knowing they are loved and cared for is a big part of helping kids deal with adversity. Failures in life are easier to take when they know they are loved.
  2. Praise – Always praise your child’s accomplishments and be specific when you do. Give them feedback that links their achievements to what they did to accomplish it. An example would be to state how all the extra studying paid off with a good grade on a test.
  3. Monitor – Pay attention to what your child is watching on television, the games they play and the books they read. You should monitor their activities to make sure they’re not exposed to too many bad influences. Also, make sure they’re not attempting to accomplish too much, as taking on more than they can reasonably handle can set them up for failure.
  4. Be an example – Children will often mirror their parent’s attitudes, so be a good example. Kids will only learn to be optimistic if you show them how. Parents who are continually complaining or are pessimistic will pass those traits on to their children.
  5. Reinforcement – When your child expresses optimism, be sure to comment on their great attitude. This positive reinforcement will put the emphasis on the desired behavior instead of focusing on the negative.
  6. Accentuate the positive – When something bad happens, always try to find the bright side. If bad weather cancels an event, find something fun to do instead. Accentuate the positive by commenting how you wouldn’t have had so much fun if the picnic wasn’t cancelled.
  7. Thought catching – Teach children how to do thought catching to prevent negative behavior. When something bad happens ask them what thoughts they had so they’re aware of them and can capture the negativity. Kids often have negative thoughts without ever realizing it.
  8. Minimize failures – Losing a championship or failing a test may seem like the end of the world, but it never is. Parents can raise optimists if they are successful at minimizing failures by putting them into perspective. Point out that life goes on and there will be endless opportunities down the road.
  9. Promote success – Encourage kids with age appropriate activities they are able to excel at to promote success. Having unrealistic expectations only sets children up for failure, so make sure they’re not trying to do too much.
  10. Laugh – The best way to encourage an optimistic attitude is with lots of laughter. Teach children how to laugh at themselves and not take everything so seriously. Laughing is the best way to diffuse a troubling situation.
Life is full of challenges and failures, so an optimistic attitude will go a long way to help your children deal with problems as they grow up. As adults, having this optimism will be an important way for them to achieve success and bounce back from failures. A positive outlook will help them in personal relationships and they can lead happy lives with better mental and physical health.

Remember: Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.

Happy Parenting!
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