Friday, March 1, 2013

Teaching Kids To Write - FUNDAMENTAL!!

Teaching kids to write is one of the most fundamental and important things that you can instill in your kids. In my opinion, writing is one of the most under-assigned homework activities. As I look at the homework assignments that my kids bring home each day, it seem as though there's always a bunch of repetitive math problems and plenty of reading, but not much in the way of writing assignments. What happened to reading, WRITING, and arithmetic? I remember the school yard verses about the things you hated about school as a kid, but it seems like a major component of that classic rhyme is being left out.

The reason I started thinking about this in the first place is because my oldest son recently had a standardized state writing test. My concern isn't so much whether he could write complete sentences that follow a particular order or string of events, but if it's legible. I love my son more than anything, but if his life depended on being able to write clearly, he might not make it...He's always been very smart and ahead of his level in most subjects, but with writing, it's like a race. He tries to write as fast as he can to get his thoughts on paper as quickly as possible to so that he can get away from the desk and to his friends' houses as quickly as possible. He is a kid after all. He just wants to play.

So, is being able to write still relevant today with all the computers and smartphones and tablets available? Or, is writing old fashioned and out-dated?  Teachers are still teaching kids to write, of course, but it wouldn't hurt to spend a few more minutes on writing at home. Maybe I'm just old school, but I feel like I remember things better when I put pencil to paper. And not just that, but it helps improve writing and creativity. It's nice to come up with things that aren't being forced into my brain from a computer screen or TV.

This got me thinking about what my kids could do to improve their writing legibility and organization and it hit me that it could also be a good creative outlet for them. Kids have amazing minds and seem to be more receptive to things that we rule out as inaccurate or foolish as adults. As I thought about the benefits of writing (not just know HOW to write), I decided that I should encourage both of my boys to write more for a few reasons, such as  improving legibility, learning problem solving skills, opening their imaginations, learning to express themselves, having fun and so many more reasons that are only going to help them in the short term ans long run! And it's so simple! All I needed was:

  1. A lined notebook
  2. A list of writing topics
  3. Assign a writing topic each day
  4. Write a paragraph to a page about the topic
  5. That's it

This accomplishes everything I want my kids to get better at. Practice  makes perfect! And the coolest part is that often times I will find my kids having fun and getting lost in their writing, creating crazy funny stories that keep me entertained as well. Ultimately, being able to write will put kids above and beyond the average person in the real world, especially when it comes to things that matter...like getting a job. Your child may not end up to be a famous author, but it's pretty much guaranteed that knowing how to write will help your kids in many aspects of life. Teaching kids to write well should be a regular part of the homework routine and it only takes a few extra minutes each day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kids School Desk At Home - Good Idea?

Are you kidding me?! Of COURSE it's a good idea to have a kids school desk at home. One thing I lacked growing up was having a place to call my own. Coming from a family with 8 kids made it hard to claim a spot for myself. Most of the time our desk was what is commonly referred to as a kitchen table. As I've though t about this over the years, especially now that I have my own kids, I've realized that while the kitchen table served the purpose of being a kids school desk, it probably wasn't the best for a learning, growing child. I mean, it worked great if all 8 of us crowded around it to do our homework at the same time...assuming Mom was there to keep us focused on our homework and not fighting with each other - "Stop hitting my elbow Jimmy!" or "Ewww Stephan farted and it's stinky" or "Julia, stop being so noisy!" Yes, these were all common phrases in my home as we did our homework around the table together. It probably wasn't the most productive option, but I can certainly sympathize with my mother who had the enormous chore of making sure we all got our homework done and done right.

Fast forward 20 years and now I'm the one with kids who need to get their homework done. I've decided that having them to their homework in the same room where the TV is on is not a good idea. I think anybody would agree that Spongebob and iCarly command the attention of young one much better than homework. Also, I feel like it's important for my kids to have a "homework area", a place where they can keep pencils and papers and scissors and calculators and other things that they will need as they do their homework. If they have a homework spot, I fugure that they'll be more keen on doing their homework instead of being disctracted by toys. Wow, did I really just use the word "Keen"? I haven't seen that word since a video game I played when I was 10 called "Commander Keen". Haha!

Anyway, this is what I ended up doing. I put a desk in my sons' rooms, yes, it also helps to keep them separated, that I got from Ikea. Just a simple kids school desk with a chair, light and homework supplies. It was fairly cheap, being from Ikea, so I don't expect it to last too long, but it gives them their OWN space where they can sit in peace and do their homework. When they don't have homework to do, it makes a nice place for them to draw or color or use for other activities to keep them busy.
So, in the end, the kids school desk has already made getting homework done MUCH easier and more efficient. When the homework is done, it's time to play!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

School's out for Summer!

Yup. It's that time of year! The time that every school aged kid looks forward to. Summer vacation. Water parks, playing with friends all day long, trips out of town, sno-cones and all sorts of fun, right? Of course, there's the constant nagging for entertainment from your kids who all-of-the-sudden have nothing to do. It can be a trying time for parents, especially those of us who work. We all want to make sure our kids have constructive things to do to keep them busy throughout the Summer and sharp at that, so I've compiled a list of ideas to help you and your young ones enjoy the the Summer vacation!

Library - Check out book to read at your local library to help keep your kids' minds sharp!
Waterparks - Can get a little pricey, but it makes for a fun splurge a few times a Summer. Most cities have local Recreation Center that you can get into for much cheaper than a privately owned water park.
Picnics - What could be more fun that packing up some sandwiches, chips and drinks and enjoying a little lunch in the sun with your kids?
Parks and Playgrounds - Take footballs, frisbees, baseball bats and balls, tennis rackets, basketballs, volleyballs, or any other outdoor toys with you to make the most of your local park.
Academic Workbooks - available at wal-mart, costco, target...
Hikes - Explore the scenery around you. Kids love nature.
Bike Rides - A great way to get a little exercise with your kids!
Sleepovers - with friends, cousins or both!
Paintings - Let your kids do some watercolor paintings. You can get a little crazy with it and uy big rolls of paper and let your kids take their shoes off, roll up their sleeves and make a painting using their hands, feet, noses, and elbows!
Museums - Many museums offer free admissions. It's a  great way tyo learn more about anything from art to dinosaurs.
Movies - Find a local dollar theater for some inexpensive fun. Many even sell cheap ticket packages for the summer showing favorites that have already been released to video.
Carnivals and Fairs - No Summer is complete without visiting at least one carnival or fair. It's easy to spend a lot so make sure you budget for them wisely!
Yard work - Sounds silly, but my kids love to help me mow the lawn. they've never shied away from digging a hole either!
Gardening - Teach your kids how to grow something simple and then let them enjoy the fruits, or veggies, of their labors!
Be creative - there are so many things you can do and so many projects that can keep your kids entertained during the long Summer break. Don't be afraid to ask them what kinds of things they would like to do. Most elementary schools will send home a list of things your kids can do over the Summer to help them stay active and retain what they learned during the school year. Whatever it is you do with your kids the biggest thing to remember is to have fun and enjoy your time together! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bowling, Bowling, Bowling, Keep Those Kiddo's Bowling

Is there anything more entertaining than watching little kids bowl? Seriously, ANYTHING can happen! And it gets even more fun if you go later when the bowling alley turns the lights down, cranks up the music and everything glows.  All I can say is that we had a heck of a time!
For a family of 4 bowling can get a bit expensive. We usually do a couple of games and get some food to snack on at the bowling alley. Call me crazy, but bowling alley fries are my favorite! In high school for part of our P.E. program would would do 4 straight weeks of bowling. Talk about an easy A! While at the bowling alley we would always get fries and I've been hooked ever since. Now my kids get to enjoy my cravings!
After watching my kids bowl and dance for 2 hours we finally headed home for the night. On the way home you have to stop for ice cream! There's a few places we like to hit, but ColdStone Creamery is a favorite in our house and that's what got the votes. It was a perfect end to night out with family.



Leaves are Falling All Around!

The leaves are changing, the weather is getting cold, and the days are getting shorter. Yes, fall is upon us and Winter is quickly approaching. We even had our first snow in the valley last week. It didn't last, but a day, but it was still exciting to see everything blanketed in white. It's an amazing time of year for so many reasons! A lot of people don't like the snow, but I love it! It reminds me of being a kid when I would put on 5 layers of clothing, my gloves, and a hat only to slowly get rid of each layer as my snowsuit turned into a sauna. By the time I went back inside I was practically in just my underwear! Then I got to sip hot cocoa with marshmallows and warm up on a heater vent. That's correct, a heater vent, not a fireplace. Back then I didn't have a fireplace. Oh, the fun that comes with the cold weather. Halloween just passed and that's a favorite for kids of all ages (yes, I'm referring to myself as a BIG kid). Thanksgiving is coming up in a few weeks, and of course Christmas is soon to follow. Then we kick of the New Year and start the fun all over again!
Halloween this year was a special treat because my kids got to hang out with Grammy J. Unfortunately, we only get to see her a couple times a year because she lives far away. She loves to see her grandkids and they love to see her. They got to help her cook, carve pumpkins, trick-or-treat, and just hangout with hot chocolate and Harry Potter. It was an exciting and fun Halloween for us all.
Next up is Thanksgiving, and though this has been a rough year, we have much to be thankful for. As do all of you! It's easy to get caught up in the things that are going wrong. I've learned that if you focus on the things that are going right, then the rest doesn't matter so much. There's always something to be happy about. My wife and kids are a constant source of happiness for me and I know that no matter what happens in life, I will always have them. So during this wonderful time of year keep in mind what you do have to be happy about and enjoy the holidays!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cart Racing With The Fam

What a blast! We decided to do something different with the boys last weekend. Instead of a movie we took them go-cart racing. It was so much fun! We were a little nervous when we got to Speed Street Racing because the guys that were on the track were flying around corners and gunning it down the straightaways so we weren't sure how our younger boys might handle them. Until the front desk girl let us know that those guys were professionals practicing for an upcoming race. Whew! I could just see my little guys slamming into walls, carts on fire, yelling for help, but luckily I didn't have to worry about that.
The place we went to was pretty professional. Being our first time doing anything like that we were impressed and happy with the whole experience. They made us watch a safety video before we got to ride that explained how to drive, the rules and safety precautions. They provide you with a balaclava (that you get to keep) and helmets and you're required to wear seat belts. It was pretty safe and my boys caught on how to drive the carts pretty quickly. Even though the carts could get up to 45 mph my little fellas didn't drive that fast.
It was a pretty cool setup too. The track had sharp curves that really pulled you to the side of your cart as well as a straightaway where you could really fly. They had all the flags and caution lights just like a real race. And when the driving was done we got a printout of all of our lap times and speeds. It was fun to see who had the fastest lap and who got moving the fastest.
The carts themselves were well built and maintained. We didn't have any problems with them at all. I think they were the Sodi-Cart brand, which is supposed to be the best of the best out there. They were easy to get the hang of and responsive. They had them in different sizes so that the kids could drive smaller ones while the adults got bigger ones. They were comfortable and not awkward feeling at all.
It actually lasted a bit longer than I thought it would. We got to run 20 laps for $9 so it wasn't too expensive either. It's normally $18 for 20 laps, but we found a coupon online. We did have to pay for a "License" since it was our first time, but it only cost $5 and it's good for a year. Maybe that's just a way to get us to come back, but it's still fun to have and the boys love showing them to their friends. They think they're real racers!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kids Bedroom Ideas

I need some kids bedroom ideas. Any help would be much appreciated. After talking about it, my wife and I have decided that it's time for our kids to have their own rooms. They've been in the same bedroom for about 5 years now. They've enjoyed it, but they're starting to outgrow each other. So, it's time to get rid of the playroom, or war room, and turn it into a bedroom.
When we first looked at different kids bedroom ideas a few years back we decided to go with a monkey surfing theme. The bedding looked good, it was comfy and all boys love monkeys! Of course, they're into all sorts of things now and have their own opinions about what they like and what they don't like. So, coming up with kids bedroom ideas  for both of them is turning out to be quite a chore. They don't agree on anything! Which is one reason we decided to split them up. That way they can both pick out their own style, colors, designs, accessories and make their room more personal.
Of course, Mom and Dad have to agree on whatever bedding they pick out, but we seem to be a little more lenient on them than they are on each other. Even so, splitting them up is a lot of work. They both already have beds and dressers, but they might want a nightstand, some shelves for their books, toy bins, rugs, things for the wall, and of course, bedding and pillows. It seems like a lot so they probably won't get everything at once. Once we decide on a them though, it's easy to search for things that will match.
We looked around at different local stores and some had really cute stuff, while others had really horrifying things. Which led me online.
There are lots of great websites that I checked out to find some good kids bedroom ideas. Our oldest boy wants to be a scientist when he grows up and we found lots of space themes that he liked. Our younger one likes anything with action so sports or motorcycle themes are hat he gravitated towards. My wife wishes we could be picking out princess themed stuff, but our boys weren't havin' it! WE found some really cute bedding at The Land Of Nod. They have a space theme that we all love. The other website we like a lot is ATG Stores. They have a bigger selection and their prices are a little lower as well. We found a few themes there for bedding that we liked. My son loved a baseball bedding set that we found, but we're waiting to see if it's just because he's still playing baseball right now. Both webistes also has a great selection of furniture and other items for the kids bedroom ideas we're looking at. The Land Of Nod seems to have really cute stuff and is more specifically a website for kids bedrooms. ATG Stores is a bit cheaper, but the kids bedroom stuff is only a small part of their website that offers items for all over the house for all types of things.
I think we've narrowed down our kids bedroom ideas to a space theme from TheLand Of Nod and a sports theme from ATG Stores. I think everyone will be happy!
If you have fun or creative kids bedroom ideas please let me know! The bedding is just a start. I'd love to theme the whole room and really make it fun for my boys so if you have some great ideas comment below!