Summer Brain Drain – Am I the Only One Who Worries?

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Editorial by Amy O., Southern California Mom

It’s summer! Hooray! Our kids have worked so hard all year and it’s great to see them getting the break they deserve. I love leisurely days lounging at the shore, pool parties, play dates, sleepovers, summer camp… Okay, yes, if I’m being honest, there’s plenty of time spent eyes glazing over at YouTube videos. But still. Summer! I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has cut my Olaf impression short… “In SUMMER!” I’m like Maria twirling atop her hillside in The Sound of Music. I love summer that much.

Even amidst all my merriment, there’s a worry nagging in the back of my mind about just what’s being lost while our sanity is being regained through all this relaxation and play time. Research shows that kids in all grades lose months’ worth of academics over the summer. Months! Meaning teachers spend the first few months of each new school year re-teaching everything the students forgot over the summer. In some cases, they don’t even begin introducing new material until around Thanksgiving. What? As with the pool in June, I want my kiddo jumping in with both feet come September—refreshed, relaxed, and ready to learn something new, just just reviewing what she forgot over the summer. At the same time, I want summer to be a time for de-stressing and relaxing, not a regimented routine of academics. Like many parents, I’m just trying to find that balance.

So I cleverly plant enticing books around the house, insist on a few pages from the summer bridge workbook each morning (well, each morning for the first few weeks before we got off schedule), and make fun suggestions about keeping a journal or writing about her day from the cat’s perspective, few of which ever come to fruition. I tell myself that measuring the ingredients for the cookies we’re making counts as math!
But still… all that reading! And vocabulary! And spelling! And writing skills! Am I the only one who worries about what’s lost over the summer while the kids are out of school? Do you have summer brain drain worries? Here are some of my favorite ways to keep my kiddo entertained without draining the brain this summer…what are yours?

 Nancy B's Science Club® MoonScope™ & Sky Gazer's Activity Journal

Nancy B’s Science Club® MoonScope™ & Sky Gazer’s Activity Journal

Grab your MoonScope and take a tour of the nighttime sky complete with visits to the stars, Saturn, Jupiter, and even the mountain ranges and craters on the moon! The Sky Gazer’s Journal is packed with fun activities, like learning about the lunar phases, writing a moon myth, drawing your own man in the moon, and more! >> SEE MORE

 

 The Sci or Fi ® Files

The Sci or Fi ® Files

Test your knowledge of science truths with this set of 480 strange science statements! Includes 200 double-sided cards with fun facts and scientific explanations 32 score chips and 18 answer cards in file-cabinet box. For 2–6 players. Grades 5+ >> SEE MORE

 

 Nancy B’s Science Club® Microscope & Activity Journal

Nancy B’s Science Club® Microscope & Activity Journal

Zoom in on the fun with the Nancy B Microscope! This 2-in-1 light and dissecting microscope gives up-close views—30x, 100x, and 400x magnifications—of anything you can imagine, from peacock feathers and goldfish scales to your own skin and cheek cells. The included keepsake journal features 22 pages of fun science experiments for kids and activities from observation to creative writing, drawing, and more. >> SEE MORE

 

 Math Slam™

Math Slam™

Read the question, jam to the beat, scan the possible answers, and slam the one that’s correct! Better move quickly, though, each game of 13 questions is timed—the faster you get through the questions, the better your score! Incorrect responses are recycled until they are correctly answered. Three levels, flashing lights, and fun sound effects keep players interested. >> SEE MORE

 

This Summer, Play Your Way to School Readiness! Simple Tips to Get Kids Ready for Kindergarten

Free Worksheets for summer learning

Woo hoo! It’s summer! Time for fun in the sun, trips to the zoo, and family vacations. But boy, can time fly, and September will be here before you know it. Below are some simple—and fun—things you can do over the summer to help prepare your child for Kindergarten.

Work It Out

Download our FREE summer math and ‘getting ready to read’ packets, which offer perfect practice for preschoolers preparing to enter Kindergarten. With 24 pages of fun readiness activities, there’s plenty of learning to last all summer long. And if your kids love learning with these pages, be sure to check out our selection of interactive Hot Dots® Jr. storybooks and card sets to take learning fun to the next level!

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Click HERE to download our FREE Summer math packet

Reading Worksheet Page 1 Reading Worksheet Page 2
Click HERE to download our FREE Summer ‘getting ready to read’ packet.

Play It Out

Play, Play, Play! Set up playdates with kids your child’s age and trade off locations. This will not only help your child learn to interact with others, but also get him comfortable with being away from you. Story time at the library and music and movement classes at the park are also great ways to get your child used to being in a group setting. Be sure to provide plenty of toys and activities to keep little ones engaged—Magic Moves® Jammin’ Gym is a great way for kids to play together and release some energy, too!

Take Turns! Eager to never hear the words “I saw it first!” or “It’s mine!” ever again?  Help your child learn how to share and socialize by teaching them by example.  Play a board game like Kitten Caboodle, emphasizing “my turn” vs “your turn”, or trade off on the swings to practice taking turns and sharing.

Follow Instructions! Give your child a simple instruction and make sure she follows through. Then try two- or three-part instructions like “Please take your shoes to your room, put your socks in the laundry basket, and pick out a book you’d like to read.”

Act It Out! Slip some “first day” practice into playtime by acting out your child’s first day of school. Use stuffed animals or puppets like Puppet-on-a-Stick™ to represent the teacher and the students, and show your child what to expect.

Learn, Learn, Learn!

Learn Those Letters! Sing the alphabet song and look at letters on paper. Your child’s name is a great place to start but there are letters everywhere! Point them out in storybooks, road signs, and at the grocery store. Talk about the sounds each letter makes. “S, ssss…., S is for Star!”

Count It Out! Help your child learn to count to 20. You can count the Cheerios in his snack, the stairs up to the library, or the action figures in his toy chest. Then show him the numbers 1-10 and help him learn to identify each one and match it to the correct quantity.

Shape Up! Help your child identify basic shapes like circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles. Search the house for items of each shape, identify them, and try drawing them. Take a walk around your neighborhood and point out shapes you see – rectangular doors, square car windows, circular wheels. Games like Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco are also a great way to practice matching geometric shapes to real-world shapes.

Read, Read, Read! Listening to a story hones concentration and focus skills as well as increasing vocabulary. Read together for just 15-20 minutes a day – then be sure to ask your child about the story they just heard. What was it about? What happened at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end? Our Hot Dots Jr. Interactive Storybook Sets are a wonderful way to get kids excited about reading and practice key Kindergarten concepts. There are also some wonderful books all about the first day of Kindergarten that can help ease your child’s fears and illustrate what she can expect. We especially love First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.

Hot Dots® Jr. Princess Fairytales Interactive Storybook Set

Move That Body!

Gross Motor Skills! Make sure your child gets plenty of outdoor play time. Practice bouncing, throwing, catching, and kicking a ball. Run races. Hop, skip, and jump.

Fine Motor Skills! Afternoon quiet time is a great time to practice fine motor skills. Squishing, squashing, squeezing, and shaping molding substances like Playfoam®, stringing beads, and putting puzzles together are all great ways to develop fine motor skills.

Playfoam

Block Play! The benefits of blocks are nearly endless. In addition to developing motor skills, they also introduce important early math, science, and engineering concepts and encourage creativity and imagination.

Incorporating these simple, but crucial, activities into your summer days will go a long way toward preparing your preschooler for Kindergarten!

6 Tips from a 6th Grade Teacher – Mrs. Rodemeyer

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Name: Carole Jean Rodemeyer
School: Lincoln Alternative School
Grade: 6th
How many years teaching: 20

What’s your favorite subject to teach?
If I could only pick one, it would be Language Arts, because you can go anywhere (real or imaginary) in books, and you can learn all the other subjects along the way.

What are 3 great books for 6th graders?
Giver, by Lois Lowry. It makes the kids imagine a totally different way of life while seeing that kids everywhere face issues of growing up and becoming independent and accepting the consequences of their choices.

Charlotte Doyle. This is another “growing up” story set is a time and location that the kids will never experience, so they can safely try out possible solutions to the problems without actually having to live with the consequences of those decisions. It is also good because it has a girl hero in a traditionally male environment.

Egypt Game. This book encourages the use of imagination, improvising, and changing an environment to suit your own needs. It explores different kinds of family relationships, which can be an issue for some students. It also provides a safe discussion forum for students to express many different feelings.

What the 5 things every teacher should own?
A full coffee thermos, Wireless Eggspert for classroom games, Grading chart, Sense of humor, Extensive classroom book/music library.

What’s your teaching motto?
Kids are people too! You need to listen to them and respect them, and they will usually reciprocate. Also, improvise.

If you could give a new teacher any advice – what would it be?
Acknowledge “good” mistakes – yours and theirs. Show the students how everybody can learn from the mistakes of one person. Allow the students to learn their way. They are going to learn somethings despite you, so lead them in the direction you want them to go while letting them think it was their idea. Let the kids get frustrated, and allow them time to solve problems on their own, or in small groups. Have them explain their thinking, and acknowledge their individual critical thinking skills.

What is special about the 6th grade?
The kids are changing from children to adolescents. They need both nurturing and independence. (They don’t know what they need, it’s up to the teacher to figure that out from minute to minute!) It is a time for the kids to try out new personas, to see who they want to be. If you really listen to them, they can be very open and honest with you. It’s a privilege to earn their trust, and have them share themselves with you.

What have YOU learned from your 6th grade students?
I’ve learned that each child knows what works best when they want to learn something new, and they can tell you if you have enough sense to ask! They have taught me the usefulness of electronic devices, even though I am not always comfortable using them myself. Most important, I’ve learned that kids need to act like kids, at least some of the time! (It helps if the teacher does, too!)

Spring Into Summer: 3-Step Terrarium in a Jar

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The perfect combination of craft project and botanical fun, terrariums are not only easy to make, but also easy to keep alive! With a few supplies, you and your kids can put together a lovely terrarium, perfect for displaying in a sunny window or giving to a grandparent or teacher as a gift. Follow the simple steps below to make your own today!

 
terrarium-supplies

Supplies:

  • A glass jar, vase, or container with a wide opening
  • Succulent soil
  • Pea gravel
  • A spoon or small shovel
  • Small succulents with exposed roots

Creating Your Terrarium:

terrarium-step1

Pour the pea gravel into your container until it covers the bottom 2 inches.

 
terrarium-step2

Layer your succulent soil on top of the gravel, covering the next several inches of your container.

 
terrarium-step4

Determine where you’d like to put each of your succulents, then dig a small hole in the dirt with your spoon and place the first succulent’s roots in the hole. Repeat until all of your succulents are in place, patting the dirt down firmly around each plant.

 
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Now for the fun part! Customize your terrarium with rocks, crystals, hand-made signs, small animal figurines, or other decorations. Be sure to place your terrarium in a sunny spot, where it will receive at least 5 hours of direct sunlight every day. Water your terrarium ever two weeks and be sure to pour slowly! The gravel provides good drainage, but no more than an inch of water should accumulate at the bottom of your container.

Do your kids love digging in the dirt? Have you tried a terrarium or are there other gardening projects you’d recommend to your fellow parents? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to tag any photos of your family terrarium with #GoGROW

It Runs in the Family: 5 Set of Successful Siblings!

It’s National Siblings Day! We thought it would be fun to learn more about some of our favorite sibling duos who have achieved greatness together, separately, and sometimes even in competition with each other!

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Venus Williams and Serena Williams

Professional tennis players Venus and Serena Williams have competed around the world, winning the most gold medals in Olympic tennis history. The William sisters are famous for playing doubles tennis, where they work together, as well as singles tennis, where they often play against each other. Since 1998, Venus and Serena have competed against each other in 27 professional matches. Now that’s what we call sibling rivalry!

Fun Fact: Serena Williams has lost 9 matches in her 15 U.S. Open appearances. The only person to beat her twice is her sister, Venus (2001 and 2005).
 

markscott

Mark Kelly and Scott Kelly

Identical twins are already pretty incredible; but Mark and Scott Kelly have proven that the sky’s the limit! These smart siblings, known for their amazing achievements in science and space exploration, have both traveled into space as NASA Astronauts. Most recently, Mark and Scott have been the subjects of a very important research study that will give the scientists at NASA a better idea of how long-term space travel affects the human body. Mark, who recently returned from a 340-day mission, actually grew 1.5 inches while in space, but has since returned to his pre-mission height.

Fun Fact: Mark and Scott’s parents, Richard and Patricia Kelly, are both retired police officers.
 

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Ann Landers & Dear Abby

Born on July 4th in 1918, Pauline Ester Phillips and her twin sister Ester “Eppie” Pauline Phillips were American advice columnists and writers, who did just about everything together, including getting married in a double wedding ceremony when they were 21 years old. In 1955, Eppie began writing a popular newspaper column called “Ask Ann Landers”, where she gave advice to readers of the Chicago Sun-Times. Just a year later, to Eppie’s dismay, her twin sister Pauline started her own advice column under the name Abigail Van Buren and quickly became a newspaper celebrity . Her column, “Dear Abby”, made a lasting impact on the publishing world.

Fun Fact: Both Pauline and Eppie had daughters who followed their footsteps and have their own advice columns.
 

orvillebros

Orville and Wilbur Wright

The Wright brothers’ passion for airplanes was launched with the gift of a model helicopter toy from their father in 1878. Orville and Wilbur later opened a bicycle shop, the Wright Cycle Company, which made them plenty of money to fund their early aeronautical experiments. The fearless duo tested and perfected their glider designs for several years. After several failed attempts, the Wright brothers soared to success, working together to design, build, and fly the first fully practical airplane in 1903. Neither Wilbur nor Orville took individual credit for their innovations, choosing instead to share all of the awards and accolades they received.

Fun Fact: Orville and Wilbur had promised their father, who feared losing both sons in an airplane accident that they would never fly together. The father made a single exception, however, on May 25, 1910, and allowed the brothers to share a six-minute flight near Dayton with Orville piloting and Wilbur the passenger. After landing, Orville took his 82-year-old father on his first and only flight. As Orville gained elevation, his excited father cried out, “Higher, Orville, higher!”
 

obamasiss

Malia and Sasha Obama

This set of spunky sisters is probably a lot like your own children… except that these teens have lived in the White House since 2009! Their father, President Barack Obama, has served as President of the United States for the majority of 17-year-old Malia’s and 14-year-old Sasha’s (born Natasha) lives. But, when the girls are not traveling to Europe, Africa, and Asia and meeting the likes of the Pope and Queen Elizabeth, they’re doing everyday teenager things. Sasha is super-sporty and loves soccer, basketball, gymnastics, and dance. Malia is in the process of choosing a college and has spent time interning on the set of television shows and volunteering with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Fun Fact: First Daughter Malia is a true patriot. She was even born on the 4th of July!