I have to admit it…I woke up kind of giddy this morning. It’s December and that means it’s officially Christmastime! (I respectfully abhor disagree with the retail world’s attempts to have Christmas start two weeks before Halloween. Sigh.) Yes, I know it’s an overwhelmingly busy time of year. And yes, I know I’ll spend too much money this month. And no, I don’t know how I’m going to avoid gaining 5, 10, a lot of pounds in the wake of all the festivities. But I don’t care. I love it. I love, love, love, love, love, love it. I love the lights and the music and the smells and the…well…the giddy!
What I don’t love, is what happens to my children in the face of all the wonder that’s available to them this month. It’s not their fault. When else do I actually encourage them to sit down and write a list of every material thing their hearts desire? When else do I allow them this much sugar and TV time? (I could watch that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer every night of December). So it’s not their fault, but it’s only December 1st and they’re already acting more like Halloween monsters than Christmas angels. (“I want….”, “I want….”, “I want…”). How do I turn them back into angels without taking away all the giddy?!?
Like so many of my parenting struggles, my solution has come from a quick phone chat with my fabulous sister-in-law. Yesterday she introduced me to RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) and I haven’t been so excited about anything since I can’t remember when.
RACK is very simple…you just set a goal, with your kids, of celebrating the advent season with 25 acts of selfless generosity. One kind act a day. Doesn’t have to be complicated, shouldn’t be expensive, just a moment of their time to help brighten someone’s day, make them smile, and help them remember how delicious this season really is. Ideas my SIL suggested include gifting an extra coat to someone on the street who needs it, shoveling a neighbor’s walk, taping a quarter to a gumball machine, or buying a cup of coffee for a stranger.
To help us keep track of our Acts, I created a little calendar. And to help make RACK contagious I made these simple cards to hand out to our “victims”. (I chose not to include our names to keep the idea of doing good without getting rewarded). I’ll share them both here.
I hope lots of you will join us in “RACKing December”. Let me know how you put your own spin on this ideas and what Acts your kids come up with. And happy, happy holidays!
I’ve tried clicking my heels together and chanting “there’s no place like summer.” I’ve tried pulling the covers over my head when the alarm goes off. I’ve even tried letting my kids eat ice cream for dinner on a Tuesday. Nothing is working. Despite all my best attempts to hold on to summer for a little bit longer, it seems the new school year has started and intends to stick around for the next 172 days (but who’s counting?)
I always mourn the end of summer a little. As a mom who works part time, I can’t claim that summers in my house are filled with long lazy days (like the summers of my childhood), but I can say that life’s a little easier in the summer. Schedules are more flexible, nutrition standards are less rigorous, bedtimes are bendable. All in all things are just a bit more relaxed. And I LOVE relaxed.
Part of my panic around the beginning of the school year is thinking about what it’s going to take to get up to speed for the new school year. What do I need to know? How do I reverse the brain mush my kids have developed during the relaxed summer? How do I get us all re-engaged?
Lucky for me I work for Eduation.com and was given the opportunity to help create something that would help my family and others like us get a Great Start to the new school year. The result is the Great Start Challenge which is being graciously sponsored by Kumon Learning Centers. When you sign up for the Great Start Challenge, you’ll get access to our new Great Start Kits. There’s a different one for each grade and they include a few articles for Mom and Dad (to help us see what’s coming down the pike this year), a few worksheets, games & coloring pages to help our kiddos clear out some of that brain mush, and a few activities for our families to complete together to get the whole gang back in the swing of having fun learning together.
Just print out one kit for each of your kids and work together to complete it (complete instructions are on the first page). When you’re done, return to the Great Start Challenge Page, click the orange “Complete the Challenge” button, and answer a few questions about your family’s experience. When you’re done, you’ll be entered to win a shiny new iPad 2 or one of ten $100 Amazon.com gift cards we’re giving away and your family will receive a personalized Certificate of Achievement. Most importantly, you and your kids will be one step closer to accepting the end of summer and getting a Great Start to the new school year.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about the Challenge – send your ideas and feedback to ActivitiesChallenge@education.com.
Good Luck – and have a great year!
A few weekends ago, I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego with my talented and fun coworkers Danielle and Alex for BlogHer ’11. We’re so grateful for all the amazing bloggers who share Education.com with their readers (more than 50 each month!) so we were excited to get to meet (or reconnect) with some of them at this zany, inspiring, exhausting event.
While it was great fun to meet all those amazing bloggers and to attend all those amazing sessions, the real highlight of the weekend for me was working with Alex and Danielle to create the Education.com Fun Zone at the Ford Family Picnic on the last day of the event. After a kind introduction from the BlogHer team, Ford’s social media head genius Scott Monty invited us to be part of Ford’s event and gave us the goal of helping them “make sure bloggers have a kickass time and feel welcome to bring the whole family”.
The day of the event was spectacularly gorgeous and the Ford gang – led by the brilliant David Scully – had scouted out a beautiful park in which to hold the event. The Education.com Fun Zone was set up right in the middle of the action and we had three stations: The Wiggle Zone was a taped off area chock full of hula hoops, balls, bubbles, rocket balloons, and other things to get all the little bodies busy. Masterpiece Central was an area on the ground where kids could get messy with lots of painting activities (including the crowd pleasing salad spinner art station). Finally, we had my personal favorite – the Make Your Own Rainstick Center.
It was so fun to see all the kiddos (and their blogging parents) enjoying Education.com activities. Their creativity and boundless energy were inspiring.
We ended the day exhausted and covered in paint and grass stains. And yet, when we finally sat down at a bar with the Ford team for a hard earned, um…lemonade. We all said the same thing…”We can’t wait for our next outing with the Fun Zone!”
Got a great idea for where we should break out the Fun Zone next? Let us know about your favorite family event and we may just make an appearance!
My boys are very lucky to know two of their great grandfathers – “Gramps” and “GP”. Both men are remarkably active and healthy, both are prone to slipping my kids candy when I’m not looking, and both are veterans of WWII. Luckily, they also have in common making it home from the war alive and uninjured. But, like all service people, they each made sacrifices. Both men missed the births of their first children (my dad and mother-in-law respectively) and had to wait until their kids were walking and talking before they got to know them. Now that I’m a parent myself, I can only imagine how tortuous that must have been.
Yesterday, as Speed, Whiz, and I were enjoying Veterans Day off, we called our favorite vets. Gramps got pretty emotional when he heard my boys call out “Thank you for serving our country Gramps” and I realized in that moment and that neither my children nor I say “Thank You” nearly enough. Not to Gramps or GP, and certainly not to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who are missing their own children’s lives right now to keep our life as great as it is. (more…)
Speed and Whiz have been in school for a few weeks now but it’s only just starting to sink in for me that summer is really and truly over. Every afternoon I’m surprised that my kids really have homework to do. I’m disappointed every evening when I realize ice cream for dinner really isn’t an option anymore. And I’m crushed every night after the kids are in bed that instead of sitting by the pool with my husband and a glass of red wine, I’m packing lunches, processing endless papers in backpacks, and creating the next day’s “battle plan” for how to get everyone where they need to be, when they need to be there, with the gear they need to have. Summer is really, and truly, and sadly – over.
And with the end of summer came the end of our 2010 Summer Activities Challenge. What a great summer we had with all of you! Almost 3,500 families participated. That’s a lot of kids moving their bodies and using their brains instead of spending their summer vacation on the couch watching tv or playing video games.
We’d like to send out a huge “Thank You” to all the parents, grandparents, nannies, day care providers, camp counselors, and other grown-ups in charge of kids who signed up to take the Challenge. We know time in the summer is precious and we appreciate your spending some of it with us. (more…)
I was interviewed today by Florida radio station WDBO. Last week, two different parents in that state reached the boiling point about their kids’ experience being bullied and responded in inappropriate and ineffective ways. In both cases the parents indicated that they felt the school wasn’t doing enough to protect their children. So WDBO asked Education.com to comment on what works and what doesn’t work in terms of school bullying policies. Here are some insights I shared on the show – all of which can be found in our Special Edition on Bullying.
School bullying policies: What doesn’t work -
I’m raising hoarders.
It’s not their fault. Their father is a hoarder. When we moved last year, it took all I had to convince him to have a yard sale. And then when we had that yard sale I ended up having to banish him from the front yard because he was intimidating the customers. (“You’re going to buy that TABLE?!? That was my great grandmother’s table! She loved that table! How could you buy that table?!?”)
Recently I was at the front door of a gal pal of Speed’s telling the girl’s mom about the great play date they’d enjoyed that afternoon. ”They played for hours on the trampoline,” I said. ”She should sleep well tonight!”
[insert long awkward silence here]
“Oh.” said the mom. ”You have a trampoline. My kids would love one but they’re so…..” her voice trailed off into another awkward silence.
“Dangerous?” I said bravely.
“Yes…from what I hear” said the other mom.
And with that, a line was drawn in the sand – “Good Mommy” on one side and “Bad Mommy” on the other. It was clear that this was my opportunity to explain myself and the next words I uttered would forever place me on one side of the line or the other in this woman’s mind.
I inhaled in preparation for the smart and redemptive explanation I would give but as I exhaled, the words that came out were “Ok! Well, see you tomorrow at drop off! She was a gem…SUCH amazing manners!” And I beat a hasty retreat back to the car.
One of my favorite things about blogging is the opportunity it provides to take mulligans on my toughest mom moments. So, please join me as I take another deep breath and help myself to a fantasy do-over. Here’s what I would say: (more…)
A few weeks ago Speed and Whiz put on a bake sale with some of their pals to help raise money for Haiti.
It goes without saying that I felt really proud of them for the idea. I know the people of Haiti are still desperate for support and I know it’s important for kids to contribute to their (global) community.
So I felt proud. But I also felt lots of other things. I felt concerned that focusing so much attention on the horrific events in Haiti would be too big of a burden on their little hearts and minds. I felt worried that they wouldn’t make much money and they’d get discouraged about their ability, as little people, to make a difference in the big world. And (and this is the one I’m least proud of) I felt overwhelmed – maybe even a tiny bit annoyed – at the idea of managing the logistics of one more thing in an already jam-packed life.
But I cast aside concerned, worried, and annoyed and let proud lead the way. In cahoots with a couple of other moms and a small gaggle of kids we stormed the corner of Broadway and Winslow on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. Armed with some handmade signs, a few platters of homemade baked goods, my grandmother’s coffee urn filled with fresh squeezed lemonade, a card table, and boundless enthusiasm, we set up shop.
After 15 minutes we had earned…Nothing. We’d missed the down town lunch crowd yet were too early for the early diners and movie theater goers. There was almost no one on the streets of our usually bustling down town. We moms started to sputter and fret – plotting to move the sale to another location, or another day. Meanwhile, the kids doubled down on their sales strategy…instead of standing on the corner politely waiting for people to come to their bake sale, they started running up and down the side walk in groups yelling “Heeeeelllllllp Haaaaiti” at the top of their lungs.
The moms were mortified but apparently the universe was inspired. A handful of people came. And then more. And then many more. A pack of students came. Some police men came. A disabled Vietnam vet came. Nearly everyone from Education.com came. Guys in suits and guys in sweat suits came. Moms pushing strollers and grandmas pushing canes came. Some kids who had moved here from Haiti came. In trickles and in streams people came. After about 3 hours our money box was full, our treat plates were empty, and $1,600 dollars were on their way to Haiti (thanks to the donations we received and a dollar-for-dollar corporate match).
I focus a lot of time and energy on educating my kids. And I know they learned a lot that day. But I think I came away with lessons, or at least reminders, that were at least as valuable as what they learned. And here they are:
- Miracles happen - In our old house we had lemon trees and I always had more lemons than I knew what to do with. Our new house doesn’t have a lemon tree and I was bummed at the options of either spending a fortune on store bought lemons or selling lemonade made from powder. The day before the sale, a box of lemons arrived from some dear friends in Arizona who have an over productive lemon tree. I had not asked for the lemons or mentioned the lemonade sale…hadn’t talked to them in months as a matter of fact. Life gave us miraculous lemons…and we made lemonade.
- Kids are bigger than they look – A homeless couple walked by the bake sale and when the kids asked if they’d like to buy something the woman said “I’m sorry. I can’t”.
I said “that’s ok!”
One of the girls in our group, without missing a beat, said “have whatever you’d like” and the kids immediately declared a new policy that they’d give treats to anyone who couldn’t buy them.
- There’s family where you least expect it – The first people who showed up at the sale were some of my friends from Education.com. They continued to show up in a steady stream throughout the afternoon. Interns who couldn’t afford the money and execs who couldn’t afford the time showed up. They gave money and they gave smiles and they gave encouragement. My closest blood relatives live thousands of miles away, but that day I realized that family can happen anywhere.
- People are good – Times are tough right now. Really tough. But you’d never have known that if you’d visited us on the corner of Winslow and Broadway that day. We invited people to give whatever they could in exchange for our baked goods and lemonade. We were expecting quarters – maybe dollars. We got some of those. But mostly we got fives, tens, and twenties…lots of them. People gave more than they needed to give to kids who were planning to give the money to people they’d never know who live 2,938 miles away. That’s pretty good.
It turns out I was right. Hosting a bake sale is really annoying. By the end I was horse and exhausted, and I’d somehow managed to throw my house keys away during all the clean up commotion. But I was also moved, and inspired, and humbled, and hopeful, and most of all, really, really proud.
If you’d like to find ways to help your family experience the joy of serving your community, please check out our Volunteering and Citizenship information center. It’s packed with information about how (and why) your family can help.
As I’ve posted before, I’m having a little bit of a hard time saying goodbye to summer. Thank goodness, my job here at Education.com has put a little “happily” in the ever after of summer. As you hopefully know, this summer we held our first ever Summer Activities Challenge. In this summer long contest, we challenged families to do at least 20 different Education.com activities together. Those who completed the Challenge earned a personalized Certificate of Achievement and were entered to win one of 100 LEGO Creator Mini Sets or a new Dell Latitude 2100 Netbook.
We were SO excited about the results! We had over 2,000 families join us in the challenge. Many of them wrote to us to tell us about their experiences and said things like:
- My grandkids and I have had more fun doing projects from your site. They are 4, 2 1/2 and 2 years old. The ideas I got from you brought so much fun for us, helped the kids learn so many things and brought us all closer. Thank You So Much! It made our summer!
- I just wanted you to know I was so pleased I came across your web-site this was so great-I had to work this summer but it gave us a chance to do things together that did not take a lot of time for the most part and even my 19 year old got into the act and helped her brother. I have you bookmarked can not wait for next summers’ activities GREAT JOB!
- Many thanks for all the summer fun. I’ve been telling all my friends about your great site.
- I enjoy your [Summer Activities Challenge ] e-mails so much. I use your ideas many times each week. They come in handy when we get tired of playing and need something new to do. Keep up the good work. Very much appreciated.
- We had a terrific and active summer thanks to Education.com’s Summer Activity Challenge!!!
And now I have the GREAT honor of announcing the grand prize winner of this year’s Summer Activities Challenge – Tamara Schoch! Congratulations Tamara! We hope you and your family enjoy the new laptop…and don’t forget to add Education.com to your ‘favorites’ list! Congratulations too to the 100 families who won Lego sets and to ALL families who participated, avoided the summer slide, and had fun learning together. We can’t wait to see you all again for next year’s Summer Challenge! And stay tuned to our site – a new Activities Photo Contest will be announced soon!