Keeping Young Minds Active During the Summer

Summer is a time for relaxation and family fun, but most parents would agree that their children should be actively engaged in educational activities and experiences over the school break. To keep your child productive, consider the following ideas, broken down into each major subject area:

1. Heed the Need to Read: Countless studies show the importance of summer reading: Kids who read in the summer outperform their peers in the fall. Avoid the “summer slide” by making sure your kids read often during the summer.

●Most libraries have a summer reading program with incentives and prizes. Visiting the library once a week can be a fun family escape. Research shows that kids who choose their own books (with parent approval) read more.

●Create a time during the day when no TV or electronics are allowed.

● Read to your child and listen to your child read.

●Listen to books on CD  while traveling.

●Model reading.

2. Do the Math! Few would argue the importance of math. Skills that are not used are often forgotten, so practice is essential. Besides specialized math tutoring facilities, which are gaining popularity and producing increasingly impressive results, there are many ways to keep math skills sharp at home. Consider these fun activities that allow your child to practice math:

● Follow recipes

● Read maps, and calculate mileage on trips.

● Use flashcards to practice facts.

● Utilize online math practice sites for kids, such as the following:

-Funbrain.com

-AAA math.com

-Coolmath.com

3. Invite ‘em to Write! Good writing skills provide evidence of learning and understanding. Writing makes thoughts and ideas visible and gives children a clear way to express themselves. Encourage your children to write using these ideas:

● Keep a journal on trips and at home.

●Write letters and emails, requiring correct capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

●Let your child record her voice telling a story, then dictate that story onto paper.

●Encourage your child to write one short story a week. Keep them in a folder as a keepsake from the summer.

4. Smart Summer Science:  Science helps us to understand the world around us. Besides being educational, science can be lots of fun! The following activities reinforce important science concepts:

●Visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums.

●Dig for fossils.

●Gaze at stars, find constellations and track the moon’s phases.

●There are many fun experiments that can be done at home. Visit the following web sites for ideas:

-National Geographic Kids

-PBS Kids-Dragonfly TV

-Funology

 

5. Make History with Social Studies Activities-Summer provides an escape from  that sometimes-boring history class. Use the summer months to strengthen your child’s interest in things of the past. History teaches helps us learn from our past and prepares us for the future. Geography knowledge is vital, but often over-looked. There are many activities that can encourage your child’s social studies understanding:

● Visit history museums and historical places.

●Research your family tree.

●Make a map of your neighborhood using a GPS .

●Research and report upon the locations (states/countries) that you visit on vacation.

 

Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and fifth grade teacher living in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education.

Be a Father by Carey Casey

In ParentLife this month, I wrote about dads who deserve to be honored, and the idea of making “sacrifices” for our children. It occurs to me that another great point to make is that there are dads out there who pretty much define that word “sacrifice.” So I want to add a salute to dads who are committed to meeting the needs of their kids—no matter what.

This is expressed by dads in many different challenging situations, but I have one group in mind specifically.

Some years ago, my bride Melanie and I came face-to-face with the difficult truth that our son had a mild learning challenge. It wasn’t anything major, and he has nearly overcome it in the years since. But at the time it set me back for a while. Our family is not perfect by any means. Still, it seemed like the kind of thing that just didn’t happen to us. My three other children have their unique strengths and weaknesses, but they didn’t have this specific challenge.

So I started asking questions I’m sure are normal for these kinds of situations: What caused this? Was it something I did—or didn’t do? Did we miss something that could have made a difference?

But it wasn’t long before those more self-centered thoughts turned to love and concern for my son. No matter what happened in the past, what can I do now to help him? My consuming thought was, Hey, this is my time to step up. I have to be a father. I need to be there for my son.

If any of you dads listening today have children with even more challenging issues—like autism, Down’s Syndrome, or something else—I know you’re very familiar with those thoughts and emotions. It’s often dads like you who set the mark and help us to define what it means to be a committed dad. When the needs of your child required some extra sacrifices, you stepped up. You put your child’s needs before your own, and you’ve never regretted it.

Those dads deserve more recognition for what they do.

And this message may be more for the rest of us who face the routine rigors of being a dad, but aren’t facing the overwhelming exhaustion of raising a child with extreme disabilities. I would say, “Dad, take a page from the playbook of the most committed dads you know. Make the radical decision to sacrifice your own desires and goals for the sake of your children.”

And then my other thought would be this: no matter what your children’s gifts, abilities, and weaknesses may be, cherish them for who they are. Be flexible, and grow with them. Let them teach you what it means to be a committed father.

 

careycaseycasual2007Carey Casey is Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City-based National Center for Fathering and author of the book Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad.

Through his work across the country, Casey has earned a reputation as a dynamic communicator, especially on the topic of men being good fathers. He’s known as a compassionate ambassador, particularly within the American sports community.

At All Times by Jessie Weaver

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My three-year-old, Libbie, really never ceases to amaze me.

She can turn a conversation so quickly it gives me whiplash. One minute we’re talking about trees and the next minute she’s giving her teddy bear shots.

One Sunday morning on the way to church, she suddenly declared, “God made Daddy, and Mommy, and even David and me! And God died on the cross!” We gently reminded her that Jesus rose again from the grave. Then she chimed in with, “And Jesus walked on cars!”

Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

As we tried to turn the conversation to the fact that maybe she meant water, not cars, Libbie was already on to a different story, one about Cinderella being captured by a scary witch. Worlds colliding.

She doesn’t know to separate the religious and the secular, and I love that.

The psalmists loved to remind the reader that being with God is an all the time event.

“I will extol the LORD at all times” (34:1).
“Trust in him at all times” (62:8).
“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” (119:20).

Consumed with longing for His laws? Really? How much time do I spend longing to live in obedience to God as opposed to determining how I might skirt around them or at least not stumble too much?

Libbie is learning what it means to be with God at all times, in her own simple way. If that means a land where God and Cinderella can coincide, I think that’s OK. For me, I think it means I can read novels, write blog posts, and chase my kids on the playground while still “extolling” Him. It means I consider whether or not I am convicted not to read a novel or watch a certain TV show. It means I write what He places on my heart and fingers to type. It means I teach my kids His ways: kindness, mercy, grace, love.

There are not two worlds; there is just life. A life where our lens is God.

SNV32999 copy.jpgWhen Jessie Weaver is not busy being the resident ParentLife Blogger, she writes at Vanderbilt Wife and also for magazines like HomeLife and ParentLife. She lives in Chattanooga with her husband, where they run after two little ones: Libbie (3) and David (1). Jessie is currently expecting their third child, due in March. 

I’m Sick … So Stay Away!

Our household was hit by some kind of virus this weekend. Christy and Jonathan were really sick. Christopher felt really bad and had a fever. And I had my turn at being the primary caregiver!

William_Summey-22.jpgI thought about how everyone seems to respond differently to being sick. I have been told several times how I am not a good patient and tend to want to sleep and just be left alone! Christy is definitely just the opposite, enjoying conversation and companionship even in the midst of being sick. And I think the boys are a mix of us both. They both get grumpy but also need some close attention.

One moment illustrated this well. I stayed up with Jonathan when he was sick but trying to go to sleep. He was uncomfortable with his stomach hurting so he didn’t want anyone too close. I sat at the foot of his bed. Then he asked if I would hold his feet while he went to sleep! A funny request, but it summarized this whole conversation: Sometimes when you are sick you need your space, but need someone close by at the same time taking care!

Obviously sickness is no fun. There is a reason why patients and patience sound so much alike but can be opposites! But in retrospect, it definitely made us slow down and we had some fun time together in the midst of it all.

I hope you are staying well this summer. When your kids are sick, what kind of patients are they?

Packing for Camp

We ran across this great information from the American Camp Association (ACA) about packing for camp and thought parents might find it useful for kids who are going to camp the second half of summer. The ACA encourages parents to contact their camp for specific packing lists and guidelines. In addition, the ACA suggests the following guidelines for parents to keep in mind when packing for camp:

  • Headgear – Parents should pack items to protect a camper from the sun: scarves, bandannas, baseball caps, or sunhats, as well as needed eyeglasses, sunglasses, and swimming goggles.19-Ropers.jpg
  • Clothing – Clothing is a necessary component of camp, just do not expect any to return home clean! Include T-shirts, a swim suit, and shorts for hot days; a jacket, sweatshirt, and jeans for cool or cold days; and a raincoat or poncho for rainy days. Also, long pants will protect a camper from poison ivy, bugs, and thorns during hikes.
  • Footwear – Appropriate footwear is one of the most important items to pack for children at camp, especially when they are hiking, spelunking, running, and heading to the beach. Consider packing boots, tennis shoes, sandals, lots of socks — and dress shoes if the camp requires them. Remember that shoes should be broken in prior to the start of camp.
  • Bed and Bath Needs – For children attending a resident camp, parents should remember to pack the home basics: towels, as well as a blanket, pillow, pillow cases, sheets, sleeping bag, laundry bag, and mattress pad. Bathroom Kits are essential. Families should pack a brush and comb, shampoo, soap and soap container, toothbrush and holder, toothpaste, deodorant, insect repellent, sun block, and lip balm with sun block in it.
  • Additional Items – Pack some additional items including books and magazines, flashlights and batteries, Frisbees® or other toys, a water bottle, and writing materials. When considering electronics, musical instruments, and other special gear, check with the camp about policies. 

Decisions about camp, including from what to pack, should be made together as a family. When children participate in the decision-making process, their likelihood of enjoying a positive experience is improved.

For expert advice on what to pack, or preparing for camp, visit ACA’s parent resource site at www.CampParents.org.

Where are you sending your kids to camp this summer? Tell us about your camp experience!

 

What’s on Tonight? TV, Movies, & Our Kids

I love to watch TV! In fact, some of my favorite downtime at the end of the day is getting to watch a favorite show we have recorded or to start a movie.

But with kids, there are often so many things to be careful about regarding the TV shows and movies they watch. We definitely draw boundaries as to the type of shows and movies that our boys watch, but sometimes they hear from friends about other shows and movies we would not let our boys see. So how do you decide what to let your kids watch?

CommonSenselogo.gifOne resource that I have used for evaluating movie and TV content is Common Sense Media. They provide a target age range for every movie and TV show and even video games, books, and music. Common Sense Media gives an age that they evaluate media to be appropriate for and then evaluates content based on several subject categories: Violence; Language; Sex; Consumerism; Drinking, drugs, & smoking; and Message & role models. Check out their evaluation on the new video release of Bolt to get an idea of how their system works.

PTC logo.jpgThe Parents Television Council is another good source for information regarding TV shows and what kids are actually watching. Check out their research on the best and worst TV shows for kids.

No matter what tool you use to evaluate shows and movies, sometimes the best option is to sit and watch shows together and talk about what you are watching. So many times even the best shows or sporting events can have commercials that are violent, sexually charged, or promote alcohol, so the best bet is to be involved and communicate about media with your kids.

Are there other tools you use to evaluate movies and TV shows? What are the best shows that your kids watch?

Listening to Our Kids

31_homework.jpgSometimes we spend too much time and energy listening to what experts say we should do as parents. Oftentimes it is our kids who tell us what they need the most!

Proof positive are these real-life student comments submitted by ParentLife writer, Mia Pinson, a middle school teacher in South Carolina. Their assignment was to write down advice they would give their parents to help them be a better student in school.

Listen to what some students said they really want from their parents.

• Help me with homework.

• Don’t ignore me when I ask for help.

• Help me study so I don’t have to make bad grades. I am embarrassed when I do.

• Don’t yell at me when I don’t get my homework.

• Don’t scream at me if I mess up.

• Don’t yell at me to wake me up in the morning. It starts me off in a bad mood.

• Reward me for good grades with a surprise.

• Please congratulate me more.

• Be happy when I make a good grade.

• When I tell you the truth about something, don’t go and try to fix me.

• Spend time with me. Talk to me about school.

• Don’t fuss if I get a C on my report card and I tried my best.

• Don’t make me feel bad because I am not smart.

• Stand up for me. Show other people you are proud of me.

• Show me how to love school.

• Pay more attention to me. Encourage me to do well.

• Thank you for always asking me what my day was like and for trying to understand me.

• Thank you for saying you love me.

This list was humbling to me. I think it shows that, no matter the context, our kids need our love, help, support, and encouragement. And it makes me want to ask my sons, “How could Daddy be a better parent?” I think they would say, “Play with us more!” What do you think your kids would say?

 

Super Bowl® Parenting

I love this time of year! Nothing is better than football in January (except maybe March Madness). You might be thinking, “But the big football game is now in February every year!” That’s true … but also part of the reason why I say that football in January is so great.

SuperBowlXLIIILogo.jpg

Let’s face it. Super Bowl games can be duds. The best games often are in earlier rounds of the playoffs. The Super Bowl gets so much hype and attention. How could it possibly pay off?

Have you noticed that once your kids entered school that parenting becomes a lot more event centered? You have to take them to practice, rehearsals, school, church and all the corresponding games, performances, recitals, plays, parents’ nights, and other important events. Ever beat yourself up for missing some of those big events?

As Dads, we sometimes put too much emphasis on the things we do or a few big things in life — Christmas morning, a birthday party, or a family vacation — when those events may not live up to expectations either. The heart of parenting comes in the day-to-day time you spend with your child — being there, talking, loving, and even drawing boundaries fairly and consistently. This knowledge can take the pressure off trying to perfect those big events and back on how you live today.

Don’t worry about tomorrow! Take some time for your child today.

Let me hear from you: What are some of the things that stand in the way of you doing all that you want to do as a dad?

Welcome to the ParentLife Blog!

ParentLife Online is here! We are excited for the opportunity to communicate with you online. ParentLife Online will be updated daily during the week with commentary from the ParentLife staff, content that goes deeper into topics appearing in our print magazine, product reviews, and helpful links to parenting sites and the latest parenting information.

We also want to hear from you! Respond to our posts, send us ideas for articles, and submit your writing and queries to be considered for ParentLife.

Meet the Editor in Chief

william.jpgHi there! I am William Summey, the editor in chief of ParentLife. I have been working on ParentLife for 7 years, initially as editor and now as editor in chief (EIC). As an EIC, I help edit the magazine but function as team leader, helping everyone do their jobs as best they can.

I have been married to my wife, Christy, for 15 years. We have two boys, Jonathan (10) and Christopher (4).

One of my passions is to help encourage parents in their parenting journey. One of the best ways to encourage others is by being open and honest about parenting struggles and challenges. By building community, we are all stronger. I hope that our blog can be a small piece of that community for you!

What are the parenting issues you feel most strongly about? I would love to hear from you!