Thoughts On Kid’s Extracurriculars

Back in February of 2019, I saw Mary’s post about placing her kids in activities and her formula for whether or not they should be in them. Here’s what she came up with, 

“Stress of making activity happen > benefit of activity = CANCEL regret-free!” 

When I read her post, my oldest was not even two years old yet so we were not even thinking about extracurriculars yet. However, I made a mental note about it to remember for the future. 

So far in the last two years, my kids have participated in swim lessons, soccer, dance, tumbling, and a handful of others. Every single time we’ve gone through an activity I have the same thought process, “what is this activity’s worth? Are the stresses of making this activity happen worth it?” 

Soccer? Nope. It was not worth it. But we learned and moved on. 

Swim lessons? Because of the nature of the private swim lessons we did, it was definitely the most commitment, the longest drive, and the most stressful. But having my kids become water safe and able to self-rescue in the water before they were a year old? Worth it. 

Dance? It didn’t interfere with any meal times, it was an easy time of the day to go, and it was close enough for us to walk. But my daughter protested it each week, and that alone made it not worth it. 

Tumbling? Easy time of the day, the location was close, and my daughter loved it and was learning so much. Yes. Worth it. 

Even at our preschool, I try every year to keep it in close proximity to our house and within decent times that are doable for us. 

And I have to say, I love it! I don’t feel like I’m spending all of my free time in my minivan acting as a chauffeur and my kids are spending more time in my backyard and in our playroom with neighbors and friends instead of buckled into their car seats rushing to the next thing. They are getting a great dose of unstructured play because of this handy formula that Mary created. 

And just because the video that Mary shared in her post was so perfect, I wanted to share it again here. 

Do You Also Hyper-Focus On Your Child’s Ability To Retain Rote Memorization?

The pressure of learning in early childhood is real and unnecessary. I’ve written articles on this exact topic and I’ve done my own research on it as well! But still… it’s real. It’s there. The ideology that children should be able to name colors, shapes, numbers, letters and more all before Kindergarten seems wild and academic-minded instead of development-minded. However, even I have fallen into the trap of this thought process!

We were wrestling with the decision of sending my daughter to Kindergarten the year she met the cut-off or holding her back one year. The idea of sending her the year-earlier came up and my first questions were,

Does she know all of her letters though?
I know for a fact that she doesn’t know all of their sounds yet.
She’s pretty good at the numbers 1-10, but what about 11+?
How is she supposed to be reading if she doesn’t know her letter sounds?

I quickly fell into the trap of “kindergarten readiness” and thought that my daughter wasn’t going to be ready in time because she didn’t know enough yet. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s currently November 2021 and she won’t even start kinder until September 2022!!

Once I took a deep breath and realized what I was doing, I pulled up an old post that Mary write about kindergarten prep and a list of what you truly should be focused on when deciding if a child is ready for school or not:

  • Feel capable and confident, and tackle new demands with an “I can do it” attitude.
    Check.
  • Have an open, curious attitude toward new experiences
    Absolutley she does.
  • Enjoy being with other children.
    YES. It fuels her extroverted soul.
  • Can establish a trusting relationship with adults other than parents.
    Check. Again, I’ve got an extrovert on my hands.
  • Can engage in physical activity such as walk, run, climb (children with handicaps can have a fine time in kindergarten if school and parents work cooperatively on necessary special arrangements).
    All day every day.
  • Take care of their own basic needs, such as dressing, eating, and toileting.
    The most independent soul I know.
  • Have had experience with small toys, such as puzzles and crayons.
    Yes.
  • Express themselves clearly in conversation.
    Yes, well enough for a 4 year old.
  • Understand that symbols (such as a stop sign) are used to provide useful information.
    Check.
  • Love books, stories and songs and can sit still to listen.
    Oh, yes.

So when you also inevitably find yourself getting caught up with your child’s knowledge on rote memorization (yes, that’s all learning letters, shapes, etc is.), take a deep breath. Realize that it’s normal to have this thought process, but there is more to it. And then come back to this list and remember the important things that your child really needs to know when they go to school.

Making Kindergarten Decisions

kindergarten decisions

Late last winter I wrote a post about when I should send my late summer birthday daughter to Kindergarten and how hard the decision was for us. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a fairly common debate parents have when their children are late-summer birthdays. One of the hardest parts is that there are so many pros and cons that go into the two different options, and you never will be able to know what the better decision is because you can’t choose them both and compare and contrast the situations. You just have to dive right in with what you feel is best and go with it! 

It was one day after my daughter came home from preschool with a few extra letter activities from the days she missed school that my husband and I really started talking about it. We had participated in plenty of discussions up until that point, but watching her sit there and carry out what she was excited to call “homework” as she wrote her letters to the best of her ability, really made us dig deep to discuss it. 

I had always been leaning towards holding her back and instead of sending her to kindergarten, filling her days with other enriching activities like preschool and tumbling classes during that year instead. However, after seeing her excitement and love for learning, it helped me feel better about placing her in a classroom a little sooner. My husband had always leaned towards the same as I, but I think his perspective was changed as well at that moment. 

Another hard part of the decision-making process was that she is our first child, and we have other children with late summer birthdays in our family to consider as well. If we sent her next year to kindergarten but ended up holding our son back a year from school, it would make them 3 grades apart in school, but only 2 years apart in age! There are just way too many factors to take into consideration! It’s stressful! 

And my last biggest worry was…. Will she be ready for kindergarten next year? 

Both Mary and I have written multiple articles on kindergarten prep and why we need to stop buying into the idea that our kids aren’t ready because they aren’t ready academically. I’ll link a few. 

How Kindergarten Prep Frenzy Changed My Teaching Perspective

10 Signs That Your Child Is More Ready for Kindergarten Than You Might Think Spoiler alert: none of these have to do with letters, numbers, or writing their name! 

Reading Before Kindergarten- Is It Really Necessary?

However, even though I know this information is out there and the research behind it stands strong about how our children should be learning and growing at this age, I still have that parent guilt that I’ve bought into. The second the possibility of my child attending kindergarten near year came up, my first thoughts turned to letters. She can name the majority of the letters, but not all. And as far as what sounds they make… yeesh. Not sure about that! Also, she has a LONG name and she can only write the first half of her name unassisted! And what about numbers? I actually don’t even know if she can identify her numbers… Is she even going to be ready?! 

Okay, deep breaths. 

First, it is currently November, meaning the school year is not even halfway over yet. She still has so much time to continue learning and growing in preschool. And on top of that, she can still go into kindergarten with the knowledge she currently has academically, because her social/emotional skills are there. Her ability to play with others and independently is where it needs to be. She knows how to pick up a book and turn the pages the correct way, even if she can’t read it yet. She can get her shoes on and off by herself, use the bathroom on her own, take care of her own jacket and backpack, and more. She’s more ready than I will EVER give her credit for. 

I’ve said from the day she was born, “If there’s any child that’s going to walk early, it will be her.” and when she took her first steps at 9 months old, walking independently by 10 months old, she proved me right. 

“If there’s any child that is going to ride her bike early, it’s going to be her.” and just a few weeks shy of her 4th birthday, she was taking off on her two-wheeler! 

“If there’s any kid that is going to excel and do great at kindergarten, regardless of her age, it’s going to be her.” and I absolutely know that to be true. So at last, we have come to a decision. Our daughter will be starting her journey to school in the 2022-23 school year, and she’s going to do amazing. I can already tell. Even if she doesn’t know all of her letters and numbers yet. 

Gift Giving For Kids: The Benefits, Even When It’s Hard

Gift giving for kids: The benefits

Every Christmas, birthday, and other gift-giving holidays I drag my kids to the store to help them pick out gifts for friends, teachers, siblings, and more. 

Maybe saying “I drag my kids” is the wrong way to phrase this. More like… “My kids drag me” to the store. I know it’s important and such a great learning moment for my kids, but let’s be honest, it’s hard! And a lot of work on the parent’s end. So why do we do it?? Why don’t we just buy the gift on our own time and slap their name on it? 

Because there’s no learning in doing it that way. 

It is hard and a lot of work to take the time to teach our kids the value and benefit of gift-giving, but they learn so much from it. 

Like genuine love for another person. 

And that others have needs that they can help meet. 

They learn empathy through gift-giving. 

And how to genuinely care for someone else. 

It gives them a chance to think about and ponder the person they want to get a gift for. 

It brings out the happiness in them that you can only get when giving gifts. 

Their confidence is given a boost as well when they watch the receiver open the gift. 

And it teaches them grace and proper reactions for their own gift receiving. 

This list is just a small amount of what goes on in the process of gift-giving with kids, so of course, it’s worth it! Maybe this list is more for me, but hopefully when you’re in the trenches of Target trying to settle on a good gift for your children’s grandparents, just remember the lessons they are learning are absolutely priceless and will stay with them through the rest of their lives. 

Questions To Ask At Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conferences can be an overwhelming time for parents. What do I need to be prepared for? What will my child’s teacher say about them? And one of the most daunting questions- what questions do I ask? Here is a list of thought-provoking questions you can bring to parent-teacher conferences with you to get the most out of your experience. 

How is his/her/their social development? 

Are there any concerns I should have? 

What can I do to support my child’s academics at home? 

What can I do to support you as my child’s teacher? 

Is your classroom in need of any school supplies? 

What is something my child did really well this week/month? 

What type of workload can we expect from this class moving forward? 

What strengths and weaknesses does my child have in your classroom? 

And then of course questions specifically for you:

What is the best way to get in contact with you if I need anything? 

Can I talk to you about this concern I have? 

Do you know about this situation my son/daughter has going on at home?  

Is there anything else going on in the classroom that I need to know about?

Fall and Halloween Themed Crafts and Activities For All Ages

fall school activities for all ages

Being a teacher during Halloween is a whole new ball game, especially if you’re teaching in an elementary setting. If you’re needing crafts and activities to get you through these next few weeks before the big day, here’s a quick list of some, with all different age ranges, difficulties, and times. 

Our personal favorite, but one that can take a lot of time and work, is a giant tape-resistant spider web art. It can be a great individual activity on a smaller scale or a few bigger, collaborative pieces for the whole class. This activity originates from Busy Toddler. 

There’s always your classic bowling with pumpkins activity. The pins can be anything from plastic pins found online or two-liter recycled bottles. As long as a small pumpkin is being used to knock them over, that’s all that matters! 

Investigating pumpkins is always a great activity as well. This can be as open-ended or guided as needed for your class, but opening, discovering, touching, squishing, sorting, and smelling each part of a pumpkin can be such a great hands-on activity. 

A good old-fashioned vinegar and baking soda reaction with a touch of green or purple food coloring can make a great witches brew. 

A great Halloween craft to talk about and learn more about anatomy is making a skeleton out of q-tips. 

photo from mombrite.com

Simple seek n find or color pages are easy to download (legally!) and use this time of the year. 

For the younger kids, washing pumpkins is a great sensory activity. 

To see a great list of Halloween/Fall-themed books, head here. 

How To Choose A Good Preschool

How to choose a good preschool

I feel bad writing this post right now because the time to choose a preschool is more in the late winter/ spring since that’s when registration typically falls. However, it’s been a subject on my mind as my daughter attends her second year of preschool and I talk with friends and neighbors about the preschools they’ve chosen for their kids. It made me realize that not all preschools are created equal and there should be a good thought process/ questioning stage before sending our kids off to them. 

First and foremost- preschool is not required. It’s not something you have to sign your child up for, especially because it can be a HUGE financial responsibility when you factor in monthly tuition for 8-9 months for one child, let alone multiple children over multiple years. There are a lot of preschool curriculums you can purchase to use at home if you’re willing. Our favorite is Playing Preschool by Suzy from Busy Toddler.  But there is also NO shame in not doing a full-on preschool curriculum at home with your child either!

If you’re looking for an in-person preschool, here are a few tips and questions you can look into before choosing the correct one for your family: 

Ask about the curriculum and look for keywords like “play” and “social interaction”. It shouldn’t just focus on letters, numbers, shapes, and strict learning. If you have to ask about playtime, that’s a red flag! Almost every preschool will have playtime built into the day, but if it’s not something they bring up without prompting, it’s not their sole focus. 

Here are multiple posts on why preschool is not just letters and numbers: 

There’s More to Preschool Than Letters and Numbers

An entire page on multiple early childhood resources focusing on play, preschool, and independent kids. 

Can you tell our previous writer, Mary, and I are incredibly passionate about this subject?! 

Another tip: tour the preschool if possible! Look at the setup, are art supplies, backpack hooks, toys, and other supplies at a child’s level? This promotes independence and gives children access to a world that often shuts them out. 

Does the space feel safe and somewhere learning can happen? Is it open and ready for play? 

Is the preschool within a reasonable distance from your home, or is there a bus/carpool system? 

Questions to ask: 

Is homework ever required? (Unless the homework is to play, paint, enjoy childhood, or only if the child wants to do it, the answer to this question should always be NO.)

How much is monthly tuition and are there any other fees on top of that? (You need to make sure it’s affordable and sustainable for your family!) 

What school supplies is my child required to have? (Again, affordable and sustainable for your family.) 

What is your goal for the children throughout the school year? (If they say something along the lines of “have them reading before kinder”, please RUN far away and do not incline your 4-5-year-old to the pressures of reading before kinder.) 

What are some daily activities they will be participating in? (Painting, play-dough, pretend play, singing, reading, and other fun activities along those lines are the answers you’ll want to hear.)