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From Kindergarten to High School – How to Prevent the Summer Slide

I’m a teacher, so you’d think that I’d have my kids outfitted in the very best camps and summer education money can buy. That is so not the case. From my perspective, we are limited on the hot weather time we get together, and since our days during the school year are short and hurried, I love to let my babes relax as much as possible when school is out of session. However, once school is out for summer, we don’t want to think about the grind of returning, but in my oldest boys’ lives, I realized it was time to have a little work with our play. I worked through many plans, and we have had great results with these tips the last two summer breaks.


Pre-K – Elementary

Read

Get your little one’s hands on anything and everything you can. Reading with your kids helps them achieve in all subject areas, provides them an intellectual escape, and increases their background knowledge which helps in all areas of life.

According to Scholastic, “…reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. When choosing the six, be sure that they are just right – not too hard and not too easy.” Local libraries have summer programs that are both fun and educational. They work to get children excited about reading and the library. They usually encourage kids to break out of their preferred genres, and they are surrounded by other avid readers with whom they can build a relationship.

Give your children quiet time each day that you set aside just for reading, and make sure to continue to read out loud to them so that you can model what a good and fluent reader sounds like.

Sidewalk chalk spelling and math

For some reason, if you are spelling words or completing a math problem with sidewalk chalk, it is so much more fun than on paper. While practicing spelling with your kids in the summer, try to chunk sounds and have them add the missing letters. For example, if you were to write the word “chunk”, have the parent write the “unk” and ask the child to add what was missing. This makes it more of a game for the kids, and they are learning their blends at the same time.

With math, parents have so many options. They can set up actual math problems for their kids with the chalk, or they can draw the outline of two or three children on the ground, and have them count the hands, the fingers, the toes, etc. As long as they are counting, they are thinking.

Experiments and examination

Exploratory nature walks are great in the summer. Have your child collect a certain kind of leaf, rock, or bug, then bring them home so that he or she can list down the similarities and differences they notice. They can make observation charts, or even conduct a sidewalk chalk presentation for siblings or the neighbors. Having them think like a scientist is a great way to get them thinking through how things work in the world. If you have a pet, find information on the pet that makes them special. Most kids will want to learn about the animals they love every day. They could also report those findings.

 

 

Middle School

Real money

It’s terrifying yet fun to send my middle schooler into a store to get something for me. I make it small enough so that he can use a $20.00 bill. Before sending him in for stamps or a Gatorade, I ask him how much money he should get back if stamps are $9.39 or if the Gatorade is $1.03, which makes for good practice of calculating in one’s head. Working out money in his head is actually harder than his geometry. The same work applies when we have a garage sale or a lemonade stand. Making change as part of the sale is good math practice.

Scavenger hunts

This will take some preparation, but it can be so much fun. Either have your child create a scavenger hunt for the younger children, or write your own. They will be reading, critically thinking, and problem solving. There are many scavenger hunt websites online that can help you create them, but I prefer composing my own hints that rhyme. Have fun and challenge your kids with an in-home scavenger hunt.

Museums and cultural studies

Get your kids out of the house and into a museum or interesting part of town. Each and every one of our cities has a history. Children will take ownership in researching what makes the city what it is today, and parents can learn right along with them.

If you aren’t sure where to go or if you’re new in town, a Google search will get you to your town’s homepage. Those websites are incredibly informative with sites and attractions close by. Your child can report with a Power Point, poster, or speech to your family. It can be as formal or as informal as you’d like it to be. Kids are motivated to learn about what surrounds them, and this type of research helps them take ownership in their very own community.

High School

ACT preparation

There are quite a few programs out there that require a lot of money on the part of the parents. ACT.org has practice exams and important information listed for free. Not only are the practices listed, but students can get immediate feedback on their answers. When they get the answer back, the site provides feedback as to why something is correct or incorrect.

The more access your child has to the type of questioning used by ACT, the higher their comfort level goes, and – in turn – the higher their score jumps. If you want to make it closer to the actual ACT, start timing your child. All of this preparation seems stressful, but this will help them to become more comfortable on test day.

Allow your teen to complete this practice at a coffee shop or restaurant as long as he or she is showing progress.These practices can be done weekly or daily, depending on the time you want your child to put in.  This may be the most important routine you establish for your high schooler.

Summer job

Get your kids out into the world and have them practice time management with a job. Learning a new skill, developing a work-life balance, and appreciating the value of their own money will pay off in more ways than the obvious.

Jeylan Mortimer found evidence that teens can benefit from employment if it is balanced with other activities. In Mortimer’s 2010 article, “The Benefits and Risks of Adolescent Employment,” it states, “We find evidence, however, that work experience can promote the healthy development of some young people, especially when it is moderate in intensity and steady in duration – attributes that assure that employment does not interfere with other important elements in a teen’s life, and instead foster an appropriate balance between school and work.”

Through employment, teens are gaining interpersonal communication skills along with becoming a contributing member of society.

Teach younger ones

I am never as good at a skill until I teach someone one. Have your older children guide the younger ones in their studies. Not only will this give parents a break, but siblings can connect on an academic level. The high school students will take pride in watching their little study buddy grow intellectually when they realize the growth came because of the partnership.

No matter their ages, there are endless creative ways to keep your children’s minds sharp during the summer. The resources available should help with their fall placement exams, and in some cases, get them money towards the college of their choice. There should still be time for all of the excellent parts of summer, but our children can only benefit from us taking a portion of our summer days to sharpen their skills.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)


No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

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When the world heard that the Duchess of Sussex was both pregnant and embarking on a whirlwind royal tour involving 76 engagements over 16 days, many mamas around the world were simultaneously thrilled for the Duchess and thankful that they don't have to keep a schedule like hers.

The tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga packs a lot of appearances into little more than two weeks, and while expecting mamas can, of course, continue to work (in most cases) during pregnancy, it did seem like the royal agenda didn't leave a ton of time for rest.

That's why we were happy to hear that, after the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games went way long (like two hours longer than expected) on Saturday night, the Duchess decided not to join Prince Harry at the games on Sunday morning.

Kensington Palace released a statement explaining the absence and acknowledging that there will be some more of them.

"After a busy programme, the duke and duchess have decided to cut back the duchess's schedule slightly for the next couple of days, ahead of the final week-and-a-half of the tour," a royal spokesperson wrote.

Good for her, we say. Because while pregnancy certainly does not mean women should be sidelined for nine months, we also have to admit that we're not superhuman. It's okay if you need a nap, mama.

Markle is reportedly not sick, just really tired, and the palace and Prince Harry are encouraging her to pace herself, and not push herself too hard. It's advice many mamas (pregnant or not) need to hear sometimes.

And so on Sunday, Prince Harry presented the medals for the Invictus Games road cycling event without his wife by his side, but she did make it to the sailing race in the afternoon, joining Prince Harry on a yacht in Sydney Harbor.

On Monday, Prince Harry will make some solo appearances on Fraser Island while Markle rests up.

Pregnancy can be physically demanding. It can be exhausting. By admitting this on the world's stage, by not forcing herself to smile and wave when she really needs to be sleeping, Markle isn't just protecting her health and her baby, she's sending a message to the world:

It's okay to admit we are human, even (and maybe especially) when we are pregnant.

It's no secret that pregnant people often face discrimination in the workplace. Some are forced out of the workforce. Others overcompensate, forcing themselves to commit to gruelling (even dangerous) schedules to prove they're still a valuable employee. Some have no choice but to show up at work and lift heavy boxes, or work overtime, or attend an after-hours meeting even when they are beyond exhausted.

The palace had the power to change Markle's schedule, and employers have the power to change the culture that makes exhausted pregnant mothers (and everyone else) feel they have no choice but to show up early and stay late.

For too many women, asking for reasonable accommodations (like not doing heavy lifting, or limiting the work week to 40 hours) means they put are out of a job at a time when financial security is so important. Lawmakers have the ability to protect pregnant women seeking reasonable accommodations, and employers have the ability to recognize that we are humans before we are workers (or, in Markle's case, royalty).

If the palace (which is not exactly known for admitting the humanity of the mothers in its ranks) can do it, so can the office.

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We're almost there—it's hard to believe but 2019 is just weeks away. And after the ball drops and the calendar flips, mamas who are due in the new year will be counting down the weeks until the can sing Happy Birthday instead of Auld Lang Syne.

If you're due in 2019, you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry 

We'll start with perhaps the most talked about pregnancy in the world right now. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting a baby in the spring of 2019.

The couple embarked on a tour of Australia as the baby news broke, and while UK betters are already putting money on potential baby names, the royal couple haven't publicly discussed the baby's sex or potential name picks yet.

There is no shortage of inspiration though: Along every stop of their post-baby-announcement tour name ideas were offered.

"We've been given a long list of names from everyone," Markle said early in the tour. "We're going to sit down and have a look at them!"

Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher 

Carrie Underwood is also due in the spring of 2019. She and husband Mike Fisher are expecting again after struggling in their journey to have a second child, and the couldn't be happier. The couple's son, 3-year-old Isaiah, is pretty pumped, too, according to his mama.

"Mike and Isaiah and I are absolutely over the moon and excited to be adding another little fish to our pond," Underwood said in a social media video announcing her pregnancy. "This has just been a dream come true," she said.

Bekah Martinez and Grayston Leonard

Bachelor alumn Bekah Martinez is due in January and absolutely thrilled about it, even if the pregnancy was originally a bit of a surprise.

The 23-year-old mama in the making told PureWow she and Leonard had been dating about three months when she found out she was expecting, and while the news may have come a little earlier than she planned, motherhood was always a long-term goal for her.

"It's the one thing that I've known with certainty for so long," she said. "I've always felt sure that I want to be a mom."

Kate Upton and Justin Verlander  

When Kate Upton announced her pregnancy via Instagram back in July, her husband, baseball player Justin Verlander, was quick to chime in with a sweet comment.

"You're going to be the most amazing Mom!! I can't wait to start this new journey with you!" he wrote. "You're the most thoughtful, loving, caring, and strong woman I've ever met! I'm so proud that our little one is going to be raised in this world by a woman like you! I love you so much."

Too sweet. 😍


Jessica Simpson and Eric Johnson 

Jessica Simpson's family is growing. She and husband Eric Johnson (along with 6-year-old Maxwell and 5-year-old Ace) are awaiting the newest member of the family due in 2019.

"This little baby girl will make us a family of five," Simpson said in her birth announcement. "We couldn't be happier to announce this precious blessing of life.

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A barking cough echoed over the baby monitor at 5:00 am. My eyes hadn't even opened and in a hoarse morning voice I asked my husband, "You heard that too, right?" Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought. But he agreed, and I groaned, knowing what my day—already planned to the hour—would now look like.

My husband is a teacher with a hefty commute and not always a lot of flexibility, so things like sick kids, vet appointments and oil changes usually fall to me. While I'm thankful for a job that essentially allows me to work anywhere—like car dealership waiting areas, my kitchen table or even waiting in line at the grocery store (thanks, email app!)—I still flinch at any disruption from my usual schedule.

I knew the barking baby seal probably meant Croup and because my older kiddo had also been battling a nasty cough and cold, I made plans to take both kids to the doctor. Four hours of meetings scheduled? No problem. I'd make the kids appointments, change my in-person meetings to conference calls, get the kids comfortable with some PBS and pillows and get on with my day working from home.

Two doctors appointments, a breathing treatment (due to unforeseen wheezing) and a trip to the pharmacy later, the girls and I were back home. I had 10 minutes to spare before a call with my manager. Barely breaking a sweat, I thought. Oh, the smug confidence.

I texted a quick update to my mom who'd asked how the girls were. Exasperated, my 3-year-old began pacing in circles in the kitchen. She might have been sick, but somehow her energy never faltered. She gestured with frustration— her palms up and little fingers spread wide, "It's not time for texting, Mommy. It's time for lunch!"

Some people have the type of kids who get colds and melt into the couch for days. They sleep more than usual, they're quieter and they are more than happy to zone out to a movie. I do not have such children.

But she was right. I apologized and sloppily slathered some peanut butter and honey on stale bread ends. Then added bread to the running grocery list.

Five minutes to spare.

As I served up a gourmet lunch, of PB&H and a juice box, I fumbled around to find the conference code when I heard the splat of baby barf hitting the floor (it's possible there is no worse sound.)

"Mommy! Ew! She barfed!"

I made a mental note to talk to the toddler about using the word, 'barf.'

My confident attitude about taking the day head on was now in a swift downward spiral. Sure, I could still join my meeting. I could half listen on mute and soothe the coughing baby with some gentle hip bouncing. But I'd likely have to answer a question and unmute myself, no doubt as the baby started crying again or the dog barked at a UPS truck.

I could make it happen and later face my oldest asking why I'm always on the phone or always texting and never playing. Basically, I could make it work, but not work well.

So, here's what I did.

I sent one final text to my manager that said, "Thought I could make today work but can't. Two sick kids. Need to reschedule."

I then breathed a huge sigh of relief for making one decision and not trying to squeeze in 50 things. I was able to refocus my attention to the little people who actually needed me. My manager sympathetically—and genuinely—responded, "Mom job comes first."

Because let's face it—my 3-year-old doesn't care that my inbox is full and my calendar is back-to-back. All she knows is this: When I'm home she wants to play.

And just because I can work anywhere, doesn't mean I should. I have to learn to stop "making it work." Some days it just doesn't work. I need the reminder to put the phone down. Close the laptop. Focus on what's in front of me. Find a way to shut off the part of my brain that's yelling and anxious about everything I need to do.

Sometimes I need to just s l o w d o w n.

My career isn't going to come to a screeching halt because I spent a few hours or even a few days with sick kids. But I'd like to think my kids will remember the times I spent snuggling and relaxing with them when they were sick. I'd rather they hold on to those memories than ones of me texting and scheduling and over-scheduling and trying to make ALL of it work.

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Motherhood is likely to be the most demanding gig you'll ever have, which is why having the right tools for the job is essential. Of course, even first-time mamas know they'll need a place to sleep, feed and change their newborn—but, there some key ways to set up the baby's room that will make each of those activities less stressful.

Here they are:

1. Re-think lighting

Youthful Nest

An average room has a single ceiling light centered in the middle of the room. Since that isn't where you'll place a changing table to change diapers, rethink how to shed some light on this and other essential caregiver tasks.

First, install a dimmer on the main overhead lighting so you can control the brightness for stealthy middle-of-the-night responsibilities, like feedings and diaper changes. You don't want be attempting these to-dos fumbling around in the darkness nor under bright lights that completely waken you and baby to the point that makes going back to sleep impossible.

Then, add in strategic task lighting. Key spots are near the changing table and next to the glider. If possible, even near the crib. This can be done with floor or table task lamps, preferably with adjustable brightness control, battery-powered motion sensor lights or baby nightlights.

2. Make one space to do multiple tasks

Youthful Nest

Motherhood brings a whole new meaning to the term multitasking. You might be nursing, snacking and emailing all at the same time. Even if you are handling one task at a time, you'll want to have the proper workstation to do your thing.

Wherever you place your glider, be sure to have a decent surface space within arm's reach where you can access items without having to get up from that comfy spot or move baby.

Think about setting up your glider area like you might a work desk. Have baby and mom necessities just a swivel away, including your feeding supplies, books, throws, drink cups, cell phone charger set on a side table or shelf system.

This same principle goes for the changing table area. For safety reasons, you don't want to leave your baby unattended so make sure you can grab the essentials with one hand. (Especially for those moments when the other hand is covered in poo. 💩)

Ensure the changing table area can hold the essential wipes and diapers and a couple sets of clean clothing, rash cream, nasal aspirator, nail clippers, boogie wipes and any other must-have baby toiletries.

3. Create comfort + support for you, mama

Youthful Nest

You deserve to put your feet up, mama. That means you'll want to include a pouf, ottoman or other type of footrest in your nursery. Using one will allow you to elevate your feet during feedings, naps and everything in between.

Your body will go through enough physical wear and tear during pregnancy and postpartum so help your body by using a footrest to improve blood circulation in your legs. Since you'll be sitting for extended periods of time in the glider, putting your feet up will keep those unwanted varicose veins away and could even prevent blood clots.

Like a pouf, a décor pillow isn't just good to bring into the nursery because it looks super stylish. It will actually work hard to support your back during all those feedings and occasional naps you accidentally take in the glider.

Pick one you love the look of, but also be sure that it is big enough and comfortable to lean back on evenly. Longer lumbar pillows are great because they fit nicely in the glider, giving you optimal support.

I would also suggest having a second décor pillow, one that you can tuck under your arm to get the height just right especially while feeding or reading. Too often gliders' armrests are not quite at the perfect height for everyone so a smaller throw pillow can be just enough support.

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