Five Random Facts About Fall

0922_AutumnBlog-R2

Cozy sweaters, wood fires, warm apple cider… what’s not to love about fall? Also called autumn or harvest (after the harvest moon), fall is a favorite season for many of your EI friends. In tribute, we’ve culled some of our favorite, little-known facts, just for you!

Fall Foliage

Despite what most people think, leaves don’t turn orange, yellow, and red in the fall. In fact, they’re always orange, red and yellow. It’s just that these colors are overpowered by the bright green produced by chlorophyll during the brighter, longer days. Weaker sun for fewer hours decreases chlorophyll production and lets their natural colors shine. It’s thought that catching a falling fall leaf brings a full month of good luck the prior year, if you believe that sort of thing.

Oh Baby

More Facebook users change their status from “single” to “in a relationship” in the fall than in any other month (more break ups happen in summer, in case you were wondering). This might explain why more babies are born in September than any other month of the year. Bonus – autumn babies are more likely to live to be 100 years old than babies born in any other month!

Run for the Border

Monarch butterflies embark on a serious journey every fall, flying up to 2,500 miles to find warmer weather. Monarchs who summer east of the Rockies migrate all the way to Mexico; those coming from the west of the Rockies wind up in Pacific Grove, California. Either way, they migrate to the exact same trees every year – remarkable, considering they’re not the same butterflies (monarchs only live 2-6 weeks).

The Real Yin and Yang

During the autumnal equinox, which takes place September 22 this year, the Earth’s equator is perfectly aligned with the sun, ensuring equal day and night hours. This means we’ll have exactly as much daylight as darkness (12 hours each). The word equinox actually means “equal night”.

It’s All Greek to Us

Legend has it, we can thank Greek goddess Persephone for these crisp, cool autumn months. Snatched by Hades to be his underground bride and tricked into eating the food of the underworld, young Persephone was destined to spend her days with the dead. Luckily, her mother, Demeter, struck a deal that allowed her daughter to spend six months in the underworld and six months above ground every year. Sadness overtook the Earth when the young beauty was gone, resulting in the fall and winter months.

Reading Rocks

0911_whyread-blog-2

You know reading is important, but you may not know just how far the benefits of reading extend. Beginning in infancy and extending through the teen years, reading to your child, encouraging your child to read on their own, and listening to your child read aloud to you has an incredible impact on their future success, both academically and emotionally. Plus, it’s fun!

Why Read TO Your Child?

When you read out loud, you’re modeling the smooth flow of language, which is key to fluency. Odds are you’re “doing the voices”, which helps your child transition from one character to another and follow along with the story. You’re probably also adding emotion and expression to your readings, which provides context for new words, helps children interpret the tone of the story, and keeps them interested and engaged for longer. All of these pieces add up to a kiddo who enters school with the ability to understand instruction and follow directions, has a better ability to focus and concentration, demonstrates enhanced speech and language skills, and has a larger vocabulary, which has a proven effect on academic success. Developmental benefits aside, reading together is also a great way to strengthen your relationship with cozy, focused time for just you two!

It may be tempting to stop reading aloud once your kiddo learns to read, but don’t! Reading aloud to your older child continues to build vocabulary and enhance listening and comprehension skills. Reading to your younger child also lets them enjoy stories that may be too difficult for them to read themselves. Reading with tweens and teens affords parents an opportunity to work through mature scenarios together and provides a contrast to the sometimes dull texts they read at school, reminding them that reading should be fun!

Why Encourage Your Child to Read on Their Own?

Reading is a more complex task than watching TV or playing games on the iPad. In fact, reading actually builds new neural connections (this may be why you never see kids staring at the pages of their books with glossy eyes and a dazed look on their faces). Books can also expose kids to new ideas, cultures, and peoples, broadening their worlds and encouraging empathy. Plus, practice makes perfect, so the more they read, the better they get, and research indicates that better readers get better grades. Perhaps most importantly, though, reading can help kids learn to express themselves without getting flustered or frustrated, building confidence and a strong self-image.

Why Ask Your Child to Read to You?

0911_whyread-blog-1

Reading out loud is different than reading to yourself. Where you can gloss over unknown or tricky words or phrases in your head, reading aloud requires fluency and smoothness and the more you do it, the better you get. Expressive reading – doing the voices and adding appropriate intonation – requires kids to really understand what’s happening in a story and with the characters so that they know which emotions to communicate. This means they must fully comprehending the material – an important skill for studying and learning.

No matter their age, make sure you are building reading time into your child’s day each and every day. And don’t forget to model reading as a fulfilling hobby yourself. ‘Scuse us while we grab a book and a cup of tea!

Back to School Success – 5 Top Tips and Tricks from Teachers

0822_TeacherTips

Other parents are an awesome resource for back to school hacks – sweatshirts on sale, free printable lunchbox love notes, the longest-lasting backpacks (or shoes, for that matter!). But if you really want to know what’s going to make a difference in terms of your child’s back to school success, why not ask the teachers?
We reached out to teachers across the country who’ve dedicated their careers to helping kids reach their fullest potential to ask for their very best best back-to-school advice, just for you!

On Making the Most of the Summer:

“Plan, prepare, and serve a meal. Grow a plant. Write a thank you note. Keep a diary. Do a science experiment. Learn the location of a country on a map. Organize your toys. Practice skip counting…”
Nancy Balter, 7th and 8th Grade Math and Science Teacher

On Starting the School Day:

“Ensure that children eat in the morning. This is so key. Start the day with a healthy meal or at least a decent bar, cup of dry cereal with nuts/dried fruits, etc, or a smoothie for the car. Start them off making healthy food choices – go visit a community garden or the farmer’s market – introduce it early and they’ll continue in school when they have their own choices to make.”
Erin O.
ESL, preschool, and elementary teacher

On Reading:

“Both parents should read aloud to their kid(s). Often this falls to mom. Dad’s love of reading is a powerful motivator.”
Marcia G.
Pre-K and 9-12 teacher

On Parent Involvement:

“Be involved. If you’re not home during your child’s homework time, have them leave it out for you to look over, ideally with their homework planner. Check your child’s work. Check their backpack for notes and other school communication. Ask to see their tests and review them together. Ask about their school day and what they learned – maybe even have them try to explain a lesson to you. When you show an interest in your child’s education, it shows that it matters and is important. And that you care!”
Jennifer C.
5th and 6th Grade Teacher

On Getting Organized:

“Being organized in the digital sphere is just as important as the physical organization of school books and papers. Use Google Drive, Dropbox, or another free cloud service to make folders where you can store and share your digital work, photos, videos, and more. Color code the folders and use a consistent naming system so that you start off and remain organized all year round!”
Deborah L.
Senior Ed Tech Specialist, K-12

5 Tips to Help Manage Back to School Anxiety

0711_Anxiety-R4

While some kids can’t wait to start school, others are dreading the first day. Feeling anxious or nervous about the new and unknown is totally normal, particularly for first-time students or those starting a new school. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to help calm your child’s concerns and get them geared up for the first day of school.

1. Talk It Through – Depending on your child’s age, they could be worried about anything from being away from you and coping with mean teachers to finding friends and fitting in. Encourage your kiddo to articulate their fears so that you can discuss each one. Go beyond simple reassurance and role play ways they might respond to and overcome some of their biggest worries. Then shift gears and help your kiddo see some of the positives about school, like making new friends, learning new things, playing, creating music and art, and so much more.

2. Visit the School – In addition to participating in your school’s open house, where your child can tour the classrooms and meet his teachers, take a walk around the school together a day or two before classes start. A real-life run through of the first day goes a long way toward eliminating the unknown. Walk or drive the route your child will take to school, take a peek through the classroom windows, and find the bathrooms, lunch tables, and drinking fountains. Walk to the spot where your child will be picked up from school and talk about who will be there waiting for him. Eliminate as much of the unknown as possible.

3. Set the Scene for Success – Nothing causes stress like rushing, so be sure you leave plenty of time to get ready on the first days of school. Pack your child’s bag and pick out an outfit the night before. Roll back bedtimes and wake times so that your child is well-rested for the first day of school. Leave plenty of time for a calm, quiet, nourishing breakfast together. Then, check off everything your child needs, out loud, before you head out.

4. Stay Calm – Kids pick up on adults’ emotions, so be sure to keep yours in check. Keep your concerns and worries to yourself and focus on the positives. Know that your child is in safe and capable hands and exude excitement and joy about this important milestone in your child’s life.

anxiety-kids-blog

Most likely, your child is likely going to love going to school. They’ll have a chance to develop social skills and make new friends, acquire the knowledge needed to grow and thrive, learn to manage successes and failures, and take the first steps toward independence. With a little preparation and a lot of reassurance, you can help make back to school an exciting time for all.

Something Fun For Summer Smarties

0728_worksheet

Prep your kids for school with our FREE, weekly summer worksheets! With plenty of learning to last all summer, we’ll work on shapes, colors, letters, numbers, and so much more. Start the school year right, with a little help from EI! And, if your kiddo loves these pages, check out our complete line of Hot Dots Jr. card sets for an interactive way to encourage little learners.

worksheets-blog-post-8
Worksheet 9: Numbers & Counting — Download here

worksheets-blog-post-8
Worksheet 8: Practice L Blends & Practice Short and Long Vowels — Download here

worksheets-blog-post-7
Worksheet 7: Practice S Blends & Make a Word Slide — Download here

worksheets-blog-post-6
Worksheet 6: Practice R Blends & Review Digraphs — Download here

worksheets-blog-post-5
Worksheet 5: Read Short Vowel Phrases & Practice Word Families — Download here

worksheets-blog-post-4
Worksheet 4: Practice Digraphs & Long Vowel Phrases — Download here

worksheets-blog-post-3
Worksheet 3: Beginning Consonants — Download here

worksheets-blog-post-1
Worksheet 2: Long Vowels + Long Vowel Words — Download here

M0930_SummerWorksheet2-1
Worksheet 1: Short Vowel + Soft C and Soft G — Download here