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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.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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