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

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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.

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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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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

This article is sponsored by Nordstrom. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.

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Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.

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Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Work + Money

Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.

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Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.

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There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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