A Post to be Proud Of

Writing previously about our most-read posts in 2023 had me reflecting on past posts I’ve written for HonorsGradU. I’ve been a writer on this blog since 2019, so with four years of blog posts floating around this website, I have plenty of work to sift through. So, as humble as possible, I’d like to share my top five favorite posts that I have written for this blog.

Helicopter Mom was one of the very first blog posts I ever wrote and still is one of my favorites. I think about this post often and remind myself of the topics I learned this day and I continue in motherhood and teaching. I also wrote Helicopter Mom Part II a few years later and felt like it was also a great reflection post for me.

A little background on this post… I initially had this post written in February 2020 and scheduled to post in March 2020. However, once the COVID shutdown started, I quickly realized that I needed to modify my original writings to better fit the situation. It ended up becoming our most-read post in 2020, and for good reason.

This isn’t necessarily a post, but a page on our blog that leads to several other pages. This page has been my pride and joy since I started it. Several times I have sent the link to this page to friends and family when they ask me questions about sensory bins and how or when to start them or when they want more information on play-based learning. It has been such a work in progress over the last several years and I am proud of that!

The story of Mr. Meyers is one that I find myself often thinking about. It’s a story about teachers and the influence and lessons they teach us, beyond just math, writing, and reading.

I had a group of friends over the other day and our discussion led to children’s activities and where to start. I ended up not only sending them my page on early childhood resources, but I also giving them several books and book recommendations on the subject. I truly belive that most of life’s problems can be solved by reading a book!

There have been many blog posts over the last several years, I could make this list much, much longer but I won’t gloat too much 😉

Do you have any favorite posts from HonorsGradU? Tell us in the comments!

A Worked For Perfect Score- The Spelling Test #TeacherMom

My daughter brought home her first list of spelling words a few weeks ago. There was a quick note from the teacher- “Please practice these spelling words with your children so they can be prepared for the test at the end of the week.” 

The remainder of the week looked like us working together to practice the spelling words, she is the type of student and child who needed to take the reins on her own homework and decide how much work and effort she was going to put in. And in true fashion, she put in all of the effort and work possible. 

She set up a time to type out the words on a computer to practice and asked us to quiz her once she felt like she had them down better. She practiced spelling them out loud and on paper and took the time to notice patterns within the different words. She worked really hard and put in a lot of effort to learn this new skill, and I was proud of her for this! She even worked extra hard on her bonus words, one of them being the word school, which is a tricky word to spell! 

The day of the spelling test she was a ball of nerves, completely anxious about what was ahead of her. We practiced a few affirmations. 

“I am more than my spelling test.”

“I am a smart kid.”

“I worked hard on my spelling words.” 

“I will do my best and that is good enough.” 

I knew all of the emotions she was feeling as memories of my high school AP literature test, my college statistics final, and many, many more instances came flooding back. The feeling that you just spent a lot of time and effort studying and not doing well on the test would be absolutely devastating and heartbreaking. 

The spelling test came and went, she came home from school and said that she felt really good about it but was still nervous to see her final score the next Monday. Again, I felt the same feelings with her, knowing that it’s out of her hands but the score is yet to come with the fear of the unknown. 

On Monday she came home from school with a spelling test in her backpack… And of course, she received 100%! She even spelled both bonus words correctly. 

That feeling of working hard and having it pay off was felt equally between us. 

There was also a big sense of pride I had in her knowing that this perfect score wasn’t something she easily obtained by natural smarts. It was something she set a plan and a goal for and worked hard to get there. To me, an easy perfect score is one thing, but putting in the time and effort for a good score is next level. 

Mary’s experience and advice with spelling tests:

Where We Draw the Line With Extracurriculars

My oldest is 5 years old and we are already deep in the trenches of managing extracurriculars. It’s mind-boggling that we would even be at this phase of life already when she’s only in kindergarten. Yet she comes home roughly every six weeks with a new flyer from our Recreation District about soccer signs up, t-ball the next time, and basketball the month after. And the discussion between friends always starts at school, “Are you playing soccer this year? I am, I want you to be on my team!”

While I am very impressed with our Rec District and happy they are providing these opportunities for our community, I’m also an overwhelmed parent that can’t keep up with practices and games and everything else that comes with each sport! So, we don’t

When do we finally call it quits? 

Well, there are a lot of factors to consider. I love Mary’s perspective on this topic. I’d also like to add that we live in a very small community and participating in extracurriculars and spending Saturdays on the soccer fields is a huge community event where we all know one another and have time to socialize. This factor plays in when making a decision! 

But my biggest selling point for this decision-making process is time for free play. Are my kids coming home from school, rushing to change clothes and eat a snack, just to get back in the car and head to soccer practice? Once in a while, that’s fine! One night a week we live this way so we can make it to a tumbling class, and it’s an overall benefit to our whole family. But the rest of the week they come home, have some downtime by themselves or with screens, and then spend the rest of the evening deep in play, sometimes inside, sometimes outside. Sometimes we involve friends and neighbors, sometimes we don’t! 

But play is the real work of childhood, not basketball. Not choir practice. So when all of these extracurricular activities start interfering with playtime, that’s where and when the line is drawn in our family. 

It’s always a tricky road to navigate, though! How do you decide which extracurriculars and how many your child can and will be involved in? 

Other helpful posts:

Dear Future Teacher Me

Dear Future Teacher Me, 

I know it’s been a few years since you graduated with your teaching degree and received your teaching license (OKAY it’s been more than a few.) But someday you’ll find yourself back in the classroom teaching again when it feels suitable for your family. Someday you will walk through those doors to set up your own classroom instead of walking your own to theirs. 

And someday when that day comes, there are things you need to remember to carry with you that you learned during your time as a parent in the school setting instead of a teacher. 

Remember that all you ever want is what’s best for your kids. So when it feels like a parent won’t get off your back about something, remember that really all they want is what’s best for their child. 

Remember that you’re doing the best you can to support your children’s teachers, but sometimes it’s hard to be as supportive as possible because your life is busy and there’s a lot going on. So someday when you feel like you’re not getting enough support in your classroom, remember that these parents have multiple children and jobs and responsibilities. Their time to volunteer may not be right now. 

Remember that every day you send your children to school and worry immensely about their safety, but also place a lot of trust in the teachers and staff of the school to do everything they can to keep them safe. Remember this, because someday parents will be sending their kids to you and expecting the same. 

Remember that you think so highly of your kid’s teachers and are constantly impressed by what they are able to create and do in their classrooms and that someday, parents will think the same of you. 

Remember that you often forget to convey your gratitude and appreciation for your kid’s teachers and that parents will forget just the same. But that doesn’t mean the gratitude and appreciation aren’t there. 

Most of all, remember that you love your own kids, but you’ll also love your students like they are your own kids, too. Someday, you’ll make a great teacher. You may not have been teaching in a classroom for the last several years, but you’ve done your fair share of teaching with the children in your home, and that experience will carry over to your classroom someday, too. 

You’ve got this. 

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? 

A Kindergarten Decision

A while back I wrote a post about struggling with the decision of sending my late-summer birthday child to kindergarten this year, or holding her back for a year and waiting until she was a little older and more mature. 

My husband and I went back and forth on this decision for basically five years. No, I’m not even being dramatic about that, it really was something that from the time she was born until the day I sent her to her first day of school, we were going back and forth about when the right time was to send her. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that she would start kindergarten this year, the year she was technically supposed to start, not a year late. 

The majority of this decision was intuitive. We did look at research and listened to advice from friends and neighbors that had been in similar circumstances, but at the end of the day, we made a decision for what felt best for her specifically. In fact, a lot of the research you read online leans towards sending kids to kindergarten later/ when they are older, but ultimately it didn’t feel right for her. 

We even had a curveball thrown at us because initially, we were living in a school district with half-day kindergarten and plenty of familiar friends that would be in class with her so it felt safer. But through a turn of events, we ended up moving to a different school district and even a different state. The elementary school in our new location is full-day kindergarten, 4-day school weeks, and because of moving, no familiar faces. 

You would think it would be plenty of reason to delay kinder one year to give her and us time to make friends and time for her to grow and become comfortable in her new environment. However, at the end of the day, we still felt like we were making the right decision. I was nervous through the whole process, constantly wondering if we were making the right call. 

The first day of kindergarten came and walking her through the hallways of this new, big school, I still had the thought, “I could take her home right now. I can still put school off for another year. She doesn’t have to go to school right now.” Yet still, we put one foot in front of the other, and we were both as brave as we could be as we walked into that new classroom with a backpack full of crayons and pencils inside of her clear pencil box decorated with princess stickers. 

Okay, let’s be honest here. My daughter walked into that classroom as confident and excited as can be. I, on the other hand, was the one trying to put on a brave face. 

Even after leaving her at the school, walking out the doors, and calling my husband with a shaky voice on the verge of tears, I stood by my gut instinct that was telling me it was time for her to go to school. It was incredibly hard to have my brain, my heart, and my instincts all pulling me in different ways, where ultimately, all of them were the right decision. 

After the first week of school, I started feeling really good about our decision. And after a few months of school when we attended our first parent-teacher conferences, I approached my daughter’s teacher about the subject. I told her about our internal struggle of sending her this year to school or waiting until next year and was wondering how she was doing overall, not just how she was doing on her test scores. 

What she said next has stuck with me and helped me on the days that I doubt myself. She said, “You couldn’t have made a better decision for her. She is absolutely thriving in this classroom. She fits in so well with her peers, even if a lot of them are quite a bit older than her. Had you waited until next year, I don’t think she would have felt so at home and fit in as well. She would have been significantly older and struggled with friendships. And academically, she’s right where she needs to be.” 

You couldn’t have made a better decision for her. She is absolutely thriving in this classroom.

This was the validation I needed. I felt massive amounts of confidence after hearing this from her teacher. 

It was one of the hardest, more tearing decisions I’ve ever had to make for my kids, but I’m so happy I stuck with my gut and chose what she needed, regardless of what I wanted. 

Isn’t it wild that watching your kids get older and experience new things can be so sad and so incredible at the same time?

Picture Books for Valentine’s Day & Learning About Feelings & Emotions

Not only is Valentine’s day a great time to celebrate a holiday in the classroom, but it can also be a great segway into learning more about feelings. Here are a few picture books to use in the classroom during this time. 

Love Is by: Diane Adams 

The Invisible String by: Patrice Karst 

The Day it Rained Hearts by: Felicia Bond

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by: Jo Witek

Sealed With a Kiss by: Beth Ferry