Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back To School!

September means back to school at our house - some areas are back already - so it's time to put away the summer lifestyle and get ready for school days! Here are some things you can do to help your child get ready:

1. Start adjusting bedtimes/wake-up times if they've changed a lot in the summer holidays.

2. Think about the volume of communication that will be coming home shortly and come up with a way to handle it quickly and efficiently ... a binder, basket, magnet clips ... whatever you think will keep things organized and at your fingertips. Try to return papers as they come home to avoid build-up and stress!

3. Check your school's website for calendars, supply lists, reading lists - many schools are going paperless in many areas and there may be useful information posted already! Any information you have ahead of time will make the transition into school easier.

4. Work out a morning routine, complete with a schedule and expectations, and get your child involved in setting it up - the best way to avoid those early morning melt-downs is to have a clear picture of what needs to happen and then, to follow through - start the year out as you want it to continue.

5. Come up with a short list of lunches/snacks that will work for your child and try to keep options stocked and available as your fall-back when you're not feeling creative and you don't have a plan - keep it simple!

6. If you haven't seen school friends all summer, set up a lunch or play date with a friend or two to ease the way back into school - comfortable children always do better in school :)

7. If you've slacked off reading and writing during the summer, begin reintroducing short periods when your child can spend some time engaging in these activities and reconnecting with the elements of literacy.

8. Chances are that your children will be asked to draw and/or write about their summer when they start school - generate some ideas through discussion, so they can feel confident about their first assignments. Have them reflect on photos or play "remember when..." to get them started.

9. Stamina can be an issue after a long, lazy summer - get moving and walk, bike, run with your child to increase their (and your!) stamina for those longer periods of time when they will need to focus.

10. Positive statements about school, friends, teachers, experiences will help your child look forward to the days ahead - focus on the positive instead of dwelling on the end of vacation and you will be happy when your child is happy, too!

Enjoy! Have fun!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Books to Love: "The Little House" by Virginia Lee Burton

Virginia Lee Burton's "The Little House" is one of those books that has been around forever but still captivates new readers every year! It was first published in 1942, but seems timeless - even as it lays the groundwork for some cool history lessons! I loved it as a little girl (a long time ago!) and I love it now!


Make sure to preview or review the illustrations in this book - they are charming and such a large part of the story as a whole! I swear that the house looks like it has a face - and, in fact, the house IS the main character in the book. The theme of curiosity, on the part of the house, leads the readers into the developing story, and their own curious natures will be looking ahead for "what-happens-next!"

Children will be fascinated by the changes in the same old scene, as the days, nights, seasons and years pass. They will see for themselves how the old saying, "The grass is always greener ..." is proven false, as the city encroaches on the little house in the country. Depending on their age and experience, great discussions about the balance between progress and protecting our environment could take place - "progress" is another theme of the story.

There are so many different lessons contained in the text and pictures - changes in clothing, transportation and types of neighborhoods, cycles of day and night, seasons and years - every time you pick it up you can focus on something new!

For an extension activity, use a cutout of a "little house" as a picture-starter. Make available different colors of construction paper in smaller pieces to be cut into shapes for doors, windows and shutters. Use larger paper for mounting the house on and have LOTS of art materials to create the scene of each child's perfect "little house." Have them include things that they think would make it perfect ... after brainstorming and listing! Maybe they would like a pool or a swing, as in the story, or something else!! Have them dictate or write the response to "My Little House would have ..."

For a seasons lesson, divide large paper into four, with four little houses, and have the children decorate accordingly ...leaves sprouting, sun shining, leaves changing, snow falling, ...

If your reader has a great imagination, have them take on the "personality" of one of the big buildings toward the end of the story and tell a story from the building's point of view! Stretch those story-telling brains!! Make sure to illustrate it, as well :)

Have fun!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Character Book Bags

Plush toys that represent characters from books that kids love are so much fun! Curious George, Clifford, Franklin, Madeline, Babar and Mouse (from the Mouse and the Cookie books) are all currently in my collection, to name just a few! Children love to hold them as we read books - it makes reading personal and gives them a tactile connection to the story!


Here's a fun idea that I've done in the past - maybe your kids would like to try it, too! Choose a character that is a favorite with your children and gather up some of the stories that go with that character. Begin a notebook that records the character's adventures while he is "visiting" your house - it might say "Curious George came for a visit today and we decided to make it a beach day! We packed up all of our beach toys and headed off - George made sure to buckle his seatbelt in the car ...." (Have the story dictated by your child  and make sure to read some books that go along with your character, for background.)

Then, when your visit is done, pack it all up - character, notebook and books - in some kind of bag, suitcase or backpack and pass them along to a friend. Have your character spend a night or two with a few different friends, following the same process, and eventually come back to see you again - you'll have fun reading all about his adventures!


Some friends might like to include photos of his adventures - my "Curious George" visited zoos, stores, beaches, the firehouse ... he was strapped into carseats, strollers and tucked in at night ... the opportunities are endless for traveling about! Use your imaginations!

Other friends might like to draw a picture and illustrate the "adventures" of whatever character you choose to travel around. Get some cutting and gluing practice in if you're adding something to the travel notebook and you might attempt a few letters or words of your own story, if you're able! You and your friends will be the authors of a fascinating travel book when you're all done - then, do it again!

Have fun!