Scholarship Advice Following Feedback Form One

Our new scholarship format for the ‘22-’23 school year includes more optional feedback between us and the student. The format is as follows: 

Form 1: The Idea

No idea what to do or where to start? No problem! By filling out this form, you will receive one-on-one mentoring to help you come up with a design thinking project.

Deadline: November 7th, 2022

Form 2: Plan of Action

Now that you’ve started on your project, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your goals, resources, tactics, and the steps you’ve taken (or will be taking) to build up your community. If you feel stuck or unsure, this form will provide one-on-one guidance to ensure that you have everything you need to get started. If you missed the deadline for the Idea form and are still interested in coming up with a project, you can use this form for help in determining what project would best support your community.

Deadline: December 5th, 2022

Form 3: Implementation

*speaks in the style of Kronk* “Oh yeah, it’s all comin’ together.”

This is our third and final form before final submissions are due and it is all about action. We want all the details about your project up to this point. Why you chose this project and the consequent goals that you set. Most importantly, we want to know HOW you accomplished your goals. Show us rather than tell us. We will provide personalized feedback and any tips we can to aid you in submitting your final application.

Deadline: February 20th, 2023

Now that Form One is complete and all feedback has been sent back to the students, here is some of the advice that I found myself telling students over and over. 

Enlist a mentor. This is not only required for the final submission but also incredibly helpful for the development of your project. We as a team here at Honors Graduation can help mentor you as much as we can, but having someone within your community that knows exactly what issues your community is seeing and ways to help make it better will be more beneficial to you than we ever can be! 

Establish a why. If the why behind your project is, “because I observed this issue within my community.” then I can tell you right now that there is a good chance your project won’t make it as a finalist. You need passion and drive behind your project, which brings us to our next point.

If you’re really passionate about it, it will naturally shine through. We read through each submission at least two or three times, if not more. If this project that betters your community in some way is something meaningful and important to you, it shows in your writing. Choose to do something that you love and care about. 

Think long-term. It’s not a scholarship requirement to continue working on your project for years to come, but we do prioritize the projects that will have an impact for the longest. Oftentimes graduating high school seniors will be moving away for college, how will you set your project up so that it can be a continuing thing once you’re gone? 

Don’t think too big. We’re asking you to change your community, not change the world. There are some great ideas out there for huge projects that will have a massive impact on our world! And we definitely do not want to shoot these ideas down. But what project can you do now that will better where you live? We’ve had winners and applicants that have started STEM clubs at their schools. Or planted sunflowers in their local park. Some have simply started tutoring programs. It doesn’t always have to be as massively scaled as some may think it needs to be. 

If you’re seeking additional feedback on your current project, feel free to fill out form 2 from now until Dec. 5th (this deadline is SOON!). Form 3 is also open for submissions from now until Feb. 20th. We look forward to seeing this year’s applicants and what great projects you have been working on. Choosing winners is never easy for us! 

To the Parents Newly Entering the School System: You’ve Got This

I spent many years going to school to become a teacher. More specifically, a public school teacher. I wasn’t opposed to private or charter schools, but I did feel more of a draw for public schools. Maybe because that was my school experience, so that’s what I felt the most comfortable with? 

During my undergrad, I was able to spend time in around 5 different public schools and 1 public charter school in the Cache Valley, Utah area. It gave me a good look into the amazing, the good, the bad, and the ugly of our public school systems. 

When it came time to register my oldest for kindergarten, I was excited for her to start in a public school that I felt so drawn to! (For the record, I was open to her attending private or charter, but it’s not a feasible option in our current location.) We walked into the halls of the school on a mid-May day and could hear students practicing songs for their end-of-the-year program. We could physically feel the spring itch everyone had, ready for school to be out for the year so that summer vacation could officially commence. It made me so excited! We took the registration papers from the front desk, filled them out, and received all of the information we needed to know about the first day of school in the fall. 

The summer went on with constant excitement and conversation about starting school. I realized that as the day came closer and closer, the more nervous I felt. I tried not to let this show to my daughter, she was just one giant ball of excitement, and I knew if my nerves were showing, she would take them on herself, and that was something neither of us needed. 

Our school allowed parents to request teachers, but we were new to this town we were in and didn’t even have anyone we could ask for their opinions on which teacher to request! I assumed all four kindergarten teachers were probably amazing because it really takes an amazing human being to choose the profession of a kinder teacher. But when it came down to it, the reason I had so much anxiety about sending my daughter to school was the amount of control I had to give up as a parent. 

I’ve tried really hard not to be a helicopter mom to my kids and allow them as much independence as possible, which can sometimes be hard to do when you just want what’s best, easiest, and safest for your kids! However, research article after research article will tell you how important it is for children to have independence, opportunities for decision-making, and even moments of failure or risk. 

What ended up being the hard part for me was the fact that I had complete control over who was taking care of my children at any given time in their lives. Anytime we had babysitters, extra help with our kids, had to leave them overnight for something, or even just child care during work hours, I was always able to have a very large choice in the matter. When we chose a daycare for our kids, I took the time to tour and interview various daycares near us to choose which one I felt most comfortable sending my kids to. 

When it came time for my oldest to start public school, it wasn’t a matter of “tour various locations and interview many people to make the best possible decision.” It was a matter of, “This is where the boundaries say your child should go to school, so this is where you will go. Furthermore, we will assign teachers to the students.” 

Okay, it wasn’t that harsh. A lot of school districts will allow you to change schools and/or districts if you go through all of the right steps and paperwork. And they did allow requests for teachers. 

But in a large way, I really did feel like I was giving up so much of my voice and control over who my child spends time with and what she is exposed to all day every day by sending her to public school. It was daunting and anxiety-inducing. 

However, we are almost three months into it, and I’m realizing that it’s okay. 

It’s okay for her to be around a good diversity of safe adults within a public school. 

It’s okay for her to choose who to play with at recess. 

It’s okay for her to choose not to eat her lunch sometimes. 

It’s okay for her to grow and develop a relationship with her teacher, even if I didn’t handpick that teacher. 

So to all you parents that are new to any school system. Yes, even those that homeschooled for years and years and made the jump out of homeschooling and into public, private, or charter school. 

I see you. 

It’s hard and overwhelming to make this huge adjustment to your life. It’s overwhelming how many decisions are being made that you just cannot be a part of. It can be fearful to wonder what happens in those school hallways for all of those hours that you’re not there with your child, especially if you’ve been accustomed to staying home all day or most of the day with them. 

But it’s also so, so good. For both of you. And it’s okay for both feelings to exist at the same time. You’ve got this. 

Photo by Vlad Vasnetsov

Sight Word Games For the Early Reader in Your Life

With my oldest in kindergarten this year, sight words have become a big part of our daily life. She’s practicing them at school and then we have a list at home that we can work on as well. And as I’ve written time and time again, “Play is a child’s work.” So we don’t just buzz through sight word flashcards as fast as we can, we use sight words in our play. Here are a few games we’ve come up with together to help along the way. 

Sight word board game: My daughter and I made this game together in a similar way to how you would play Candyland. There are two ways you can play it- make your own cards with sight words written on them to indicate where your next square is. Or, roll the dice, move forward that many spaces, and read the words as you move. For pieces, we use Bingo tokens, various board game pieces, or small toys. Yes, Skye and Chase help us play this game! If you know, you know!

Sight word Jenga: We bought a few of these tiny tumbling tower sets from Dollar Tree and wrote various sight words on them. Once we pull a brick out, we read the word, and once the tower has tumbled, we take turns making sentences with the words we pulled. We did multiple sets so we could add in more sight words as they learn them in class. I plan to do CVC and CVC-e words someday when she’s ready for that. 

Sight word sentence builder: I bought a pack of sight word flash cards for cheap on Amazon to save me the time and effort of making my own. We use these cards, plus a few index cards with words we decide to add, to create fun sentences. We also use our Jenga blocks for this as well! This one is my daughter’s favorite way to play with sight words! 

Sight word seek and find: For this, we use our sight word flashcards, or sometimes I’ll write them out on sticky notes and use those instead. One of us hides the sight words and then the other one finds them while reading out which word they found. Pictured here is your classic “hide it in the Christmas tree” move. The amount of random toys I pull out of our Christmas tree at the end of the holiday from various hide-and-seek games is unreal!

Sight word seek and find + builder: This game is a two-part game! I place sticky notes with letters throughout our family room, then she is required to find the letters and build the sight words out of the letters. This one took some scaffolding. In the beginning, it was just a letter here or there omitted in sight words that she had to find, but as she got better and better at it, she started spelling her own words with less prompting. 

Sight word hopscotch: This one can be as intricate or as easy as your time and energy allow. We’ve done this quickly outside with sidewalk chalk, quickly inside with our flashcards, or intricately with painter’s tape boxes taped out on the floor or full sheets of paper with the words written on them taped to the floor. SO many different ways to do this one! While jumping from square to square, we read the words. 

Sight word beanbag toss: This one is a simple one we like to do in addition to the other games we’ve been playing. I simply just lay the flashcards out on the floor and my daughter takes a beanbag (or a soft toy, stuffed animal, etc.), tosses it at a card, and if it’s touching the card she reads the word, then she is handed the card. If she doesn’t read the word correctly, she tries again!


Not only are these sight word games building awareness of words, but they are also utilizing fine and gross motor skills, moving around the room, and using, deconstructing, and building these words in ways they haven’t before. Learning sight words isn’t reading. It’s memorizing. And play is a child’s work, so in order to work through memorizing these words, they must play. 

What sight word games would you add to this list? 

Playing Preschool Round ✌🏽

A few years ago I started Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum with my oldest. She was about three years old at the time and I wrote my review on the curriculum here. 

And now I’m back in the same position with my second child, utilizing our Playing Preschool guide once again! We trekked down to our storage room in the basement and pulled out the tape, dot stickers, pipe cleaners, and paint. We even dedicated a little corner in our home and call it the preschool room! 

Our Melissa and Doug calendar is set up on the wall and we start off our preschool day with poems and songs just like we did in the past. 

This is my second time around with the Playing Preschool curriculum and I am impressed all over again! It truly is learning through playing. As Susie from Busy Toddler promises, there are no worksheets and nothing complicated. It’s just everyday supplies gathered and utilized to help little minds grow and learn. A few things I’ve learned the second time around: 

  • I’ve taken the pressure off of myself to accomplish every single activity outlined for the day. Some days we get through it all, other days I see that learning isn’t happening and we need to take a break for the day. 
  • The repetition of one unit for two weeks can feel really… redundant for adults. After the 7th day of the apple theme, I didn’t want to look at or talk about apples ever again! But the repetition for those preschool-aged minds truly is crucial for learning. 
  • One of my cons on my last review was the hard time I had finding books to use because the pandemic shut down a lot of resources for finding what I needed. However, this time around with libraries open, it’s been much easier. After going through each of these units a second time, I’m more aware of what the needs are with the books used and can change and adapt the books as needed. 
  • The most important part of the entire Playing Preschool curriculum is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong! 

Have you purchased Playing Preschool? What are your thoughts on the curriculum? 

Christmas Picture Books for 2022

For the past three years, I’ve written a new Christmas book list of favorite Christmas books to read during this season. It’s been such a fun blog post for me every single year, so this year I am excited to announce that this will be my fourth Christmas book list! Picture books are near and dear to my heart, but Christmas books just hit different. You can read past book lists here:

2019

2020

2021

And without further adieu: Christmas Picture Books 2022

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

The rhythm of this book is really what makes it fun! You won’t be disappointed by this one. 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Seuss

I’m not typically a Dr. Suess fan, the books seem excessively long and almost a little too far-fetched for me. However, this is one that I do love. 

Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans 

I grew up on Madeline books, “an old house in Paris that was covered with vines” brings comfort to my soul. But adding Christmas to the setting just makes it a notch better! 

5 More Sleeps ‘til Christmas by Jimmy Fallon 

Such a fun book that encompasses the anticipation leading up to Christmas through the eyes of a child. 

What Christmas picture book is on your list this year?

The 2022 Scholarship Winners- My Thoughts

For the ‘21-’22 scholarship season, our beloved blog writer Kassidy took over the submissions and hand selecting the top five winners, which I know is no small feat after having done it myself! 

It starts with reading through every single submission at least twice. And then reading and re-reading, again and again, to somewhat rank them. After picking out which applications are on the higher end of the ranking, then comes multiple phone calls to schools and mentors to hear about the projects from their point of view, as well as hearing about the student’s personality and work ethic. We then read each submission over and over again and again, ensuring that each applicant has followed all of the rules and guidelines, make more phone calls if needed, and discuss, discuss, and discuss amongst all of the scholarship board members to narrow it down to the top five.  

So when I say it’s no small feat, I mean it! And Kassidy absolutely took it in stride and found five incredible winners for our 2022 awards. 

Shoshana Folic with Wishing’ U Well saw an immediate problem within her community and filled it. And the coolest part is that she started on a community level and it grew and grew into something huge! We are so proud to have Shoshana as our top winner. 

We also saw foldable tiny houses, fiddle groups that closed the generational age gap, community gardens, and kits to help the displaced people in the community. You can read about all of the past winners here. 

Reading through their stories is truly so inspiring to see how these youth are changing and improving their communities. With kids like these in our world, we don’t need to worry about our future. These scholarship applications are proof that empathetic, kind, caring kids are out there and willing and ready to help. 

Stop Pushing The Books And Let Them Take it at Their Own Pace!

You guys, I love reading. I love reading so much that I have consumed (and completely finished) 47 books this year. If I were to include the books I’ve skimmed or started but didn’t finish, I’d be somewhere near 60+ on the number of books I’ve read this year. 

From the time my oldest was born, I have tried so hard to instill a love of reading in her. I’ve done everything the professionals tell you to do for kids to enjoy reading. I don’t ever push books on her, I let her take the lead on what to read, how to read it, and when to read them. I never turn down an opportunity to read a book if she’s bringing one to me. Yet still, she’s seemed very disinterested in reading and learning to read. 

It’s been hard for me to have such a love for reading and watch her not care as much. She’s now five years old and started kindergarten this last fall. It seems like an opportune time to introduce chapter books with a little more depth and story to them, but those turn her off even more! I always dreamed of the day I would sit down in a big recliner with my child and read Charlotte’s Web for the first time, but that day feels so distant to me right now, which is disappointing. 

However, I’m doing my best to create a safe, fun environment around books for her, so I’m working every day on not pushing the literature! Instead, we spend plenty of time surrounded by books, all throughout our home at the school library, and the public library. I model reading for her by reading my own books. We also spend a lot of time looking through picture books but not reading them, which is always a win, too. 

Do you have a kiddo that doesn’t love reading whether your own child or in your classroom? How do you help foster a love of reading and an environment of support for them?