The Brave Mom (Choosing NOT to send your toddler to camp!)

June 22, 2017

It was a decision I thought long and hard about.  On great days with my three year old I looked forward to having her all to myself all summer.  On the not-so-good days, I couldn’t believe I was going to have my daughter ALL to myself ALL summer.  On the last day of school, I literally felt it difficult to breathe as us moms stood outside the classroom door chatting.

“Are you doing camp?” One asked.  The others all nodded enthusiastically with comments, like, “There’s no way I could have _____ home all summer.”  They even mostly signed up for the extra week between school and camp because they didn’t know what else they would do for those 5 long days.  Believe me, I’m not speaking badly of these moms…I too didn’t know what the he** I was going to do.

Thankfully I left the building that day and met up with a friend who had made the same (insane?) decision.  She got me breathing again with one simple thought: “We are lucky to be able to spend all summer with these guys.”  We happened to be pushing the girls on the swings at our beautiful park at that moment, they were laughing, and I realized this was a moment I never wanted to forget.  Pretty soon we won’t be the center of our kids lives, and they will rather spend time with their friends than us.  So, I decided to try to grab every minute, filling our summer with fun (and also some education).

We are in week 2 now, and it’s actually nice not having to get up and out every single morning…the rush through breakfast, pressure of getting to school/camp on time, trying to get as much done as I can before having to pick her up again, and having her need my constant attention for the remainder of the day.  I’m actually finding she is less needy of my time now.  We play for awhile, and then I can tell her I have some work to do, and she will happily play by herself for awhile.  I’m really enjoying running around the playground with her, encouraging her to try things she hasn’t before, and screaming with pride when she does.

I want to share some specific things we’re doing, both for fun and educationally.

  1. Summertime Learning Workbook.  I have the Preparing for Pre-K book, and we love it.  It is designed specifically for the 8 week summer vacation, and has a reading and math activity for each day.  For my daughter’s age, we are talking activities like finishing the pattern, finding and circling all the letters they see on a page, and a few items I think are advanced, like actually writing numbers.  We’re using this as mostly something fun to work on together, but it’s a bonus if it helps her with pre-k skills.  When kids finish a page, they put a sticker on a sun at the top of the page.
  2. Remember when you were a school-aged kid and the library or your school gave you a chart to record your summer reading progress?  They have this now for younger kids too.  My library gave me a chart where we put a sticker each time we read for 20 minutes, or read a new book, or attend a library program, or various other activities.  We can bring the chart in at various stages for a special prize.  We’ve been checking out a lot of books and attending a lot of programs.  Check out your local library.  I believe Barnes and Noble has a similar program where you can get free books also.
    1. An extra thing I’ve been doing is helping my daughter become an active reader.  A little bit by accident, I put my teacher hat on, and have begun reading comprehension skills.  I stop reading at times and ask my daughter what she thinks will happen next (making predictions), or ask her to look at a picture and tell me how that person is feeling and why.  A lot of times she’ll ask me that question, and I’ll read (or reread) that passage and ask her to find the answer herself.  I’ll ask her if she’s ever felt that way, or had that experience (making connections) which has actually helped her vocalize her own feelings.
  3. My paid for items.  I limited my paid-for options to just 3 but there are many more, with varying degrees of giving you free time:
    1. Ballet class
    2. Swim class
    3. Bronx zoo membership
  4. Taking the learning outside.  I love nature and have been trying to spend a lot of time outside.  We stop and listen to birds, go on treasure hunts, and do lots of other corny things.  My daughter can now spot a butterfly before I can.  I think I’m teaching her an appreciation for nature, but also how to look carefully and really see things.  I’ve been surprised how much opportunity for learning there has also been…discussing the differences between ponds, rivers, seas, learning about different types of insects, finding birds nests, watching an ant carry more than its own weight on its back…and also at the playground, teaching my daughter to be strong, how to climb various things, maneuvering around social situations (what to do when someone pushes or takes her turn.)  I’m also making play dates, and encouraging her to play with other kids when we see them at the park.  On the swings, we count down from 3 and blast off.  I ask my daughter what she sees.  Sometimes she jokes and says “the playground,” but more often she smiles knowingly and tells me she sees the sun, stars, moon, and then begins to name the planets.  The possibilities for learning are endless with a small child who has so much they can learn.

I also have the crazy goal of getting my almost 4 year old to finally kick her thumb-sucking habit.  I’m taking the chart we got from the library as a basis for making my own sticker goal chart.  I can hope, can’t I?

We’re still figuring things out, but I now know I made the right decision for me (and I’ll use this post to remind me during those rough moments when I’m having second thoughts!)


No Place Like Earth

June 6, 2017

Want to teach your child about the importance of our planet?  In No Place Like Earth, a child’s dream takes her on a journey through space.  She visits each planet, but finds that some are too hot, some are too cold, and some are just made of liquid and gas.  Only planet Earth is just right.  My new picture book is an introduction to the planets for young children, and can also be the start to a bigger conversation about the importance of our planet and taking care of it.

I wrote this book for my 3 year old daughter who loves taking her rocket ship to space.  I couldn’t find the right book for her.  She is too old for board books, and the picture books I found had too much text to keep her interest.  My book has just two lines of rhyming text per page, but that text is packed with facts about each planet.  It’s just enough to keep her interest, and get her asking questions.  Older children I have read this to take the reading further, and can attempt to answer questions the book asks.  One 5 year old recently said, “yes, we can land on Saturn,” and pointed to the rings that he said looked like roads.  The text let him know that Saturn was yet another planet we’d have to pass because it is made of just liquid and gas.

The print edition released April 5, and the Kindle edition just released today!  Check it out here.  For a look inside at some sample spreads, visit the book’s page on my website.

Hannah holding book in rocketship

A Teachers Pay Teachers Surprise

June 6, 2017

Following up my previous post lamenting the lack of reviews for my books, I am now pleased to write about some amazing reviews I’ve gotten on Teachers Pay Teachers.  For those who don’t know, this is a site where I have teaching materials available for download…lesson and unit plans, exams, fun activities, and more for all different subjects and grade levels.

I got an email today that I had a new review.  I am thankful for every review, especially positive ones, but they are usually just a few words, “thanks,” “great,” “useful,” etc.   The review I got today was a special one.  It was for my largest item, a complete unit for teaching the book Night, and this is what it said:

“This was my life raft as I taught Night. I was teaching three different grade levels this year, so having something already created helped a bunch. Organized and easy to use!”

This email inspired me to visit the Teachers Pay Teachers site, which I haven’t done in awhile, and I was surprised to see I have 36 reviews (all from people I don’t know) totaling 3.9 out of 4 stars!  I want to thank these strangers for taking the time to rate and write about their experiences with my products.  I read every review and truly appreciate the time the reviewers have spent to go back to the site, find my product, and write the review.

I noticed most, if not all, of my reviewers are also sellers on the site.  I can’t help but think this is why they make that effort to review the items they buy.  They must know how awesome it is to get a review, and want to show their appreciation by doing the same for others.  It is for this reason that I also try to review products, especially ones I love, and especially when I know the seller is someone not making huge bucks.  Whether you think they make a difference or not (see my previous post,) they definitely make the seller feel pretty good.  🙂


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