Teach Her Tuesday: Advocating For Her Education

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I was looking forward to an amazing year at a charter school. This was our first foray into this world. The Frog Princess spent 3 years in a Montessori school, tucked away absorbing information in a way her dad and I had not. We were grateful for the new ways in which learning could take place.

We are both firm believers that education is the responsibility of the parents. To that end, we make ourselves available to our teachers for whatever help they might need. We turn to them when we have questions about the way the Frog Princess learns or if we are having a hard time grasping some concepts (like the fact that she sometimes still inverts her B's and D's). We look to them to let us know what needs to be reinforced at home so they have a better time at school.

It's why we took a long hard look at what school she would attend and settled on a STEAM-based charter school.

Our belief in the "if we get involved and stay involved there won't be any real big issues we can't all tackle together" mindset has been thrown out the window, though. Let me give you the long background and how we find ourselves advocating extra hard for our kid today.

Once Upon a Time...

It started in the Fall. Wait. I lie. It started the day we met the teacher.

There we were, excited to be bringing the kid to meet her teacher, school supply bags in hand. Me, like the total geek that I am, with a supply bin for the teacher as well (see, teacher friends! I hear you complaining about not having things). This wasn't a bribe. It was my way of starting off the year the way that so many of my friends say they wish they would.

As we are almost finished talking to her (we were the first parents there), another set of parents walked in. I was just asking about the school lunch. Up until now, I'd been packing lunches and wanted to know the procedure for this glorious new "school lunch" thing. I was told that packets of information would go out to parents the next week. As we were milling about, checking out the classroom (I was eyeing the bookshelf), the teacher comes back and states that she'd just give us the packet now since we were there.

We thanked her and went about our way (we were heading to Disney). As I stepped outside I looked at the packet. It was the free school lunch packet.

I handed it over to Elena's dad in the parking lot who admonished "don't start". This was microaggression #1. Because while I was on free school lunch at school and feel very strongly about the program, I felt mightily uneasy about the fact that I was asking about what would be served at lunch and what the procedure was and you felt that what I was really asking about was free lunch.

The Test

The Frog Princess took a test at one point and failed it. It happens right? Except that the reason she failed it was because it seemed that two of the papers had been stuck together and she hadn't answered those questions. We talked to her about the importance of her flipping through each page and made sure we reviewed test taking procedures with her. Her dad took the lead in emailing her teacher to ask if there was any way that she could be given the test questions since we had not shown her those pages but merely discussed the issue with her not turning pages or ensuring that the test get checked thoroughly.

A week later, we had heard nothing (he'd copied me on the email). I had an email thread with the teacher and decided to ask about the lack of response. She stated that she had responded but the email had stayed in the outbox for some reason. That was it.

Fast forward to the first report card. An email went out stating that honor roll information would be included with the report card that was being mailed and further information would follow.

I realized then that I hadn't changed our address when we moved! YIKES! I let the teacher know and was told the kid had made the honor roll (yipee!). Leading up to the day, I helped with putting up the bulletin board (I signed up to be a co-room parent). At that time, the teacher tells me that the honor roll ceremony is on Thursday at 9. I realized quickly that this was the first day of Type A and resolve to being late because this was my girl's first honor roll ceremony. That Wednesday, I had to carry the pumpkin project to class because someone hadn't been lifting weights. I drop off, see another parent in the classroom and the teacher busy. I wave (she did not say hello) and go about my business.

I get home, find the report card finally forwarded to the new address and it looks like the honor roll ceremony was earlier that morning.

I was livid. Let's not get that twisted.

It is of the utmost importance to us that we show up for our child. And it's not just for her sake. We are well aware of the perception having to do with children of color AND parents of color as well.

Her dad took the lead and called the school and asked to speak with an administrator as it seemed we had some sort of communication issue.

The Meeting

At the meeting (which was held with the principal and the teacher) we were told this was not the first instance of the child missing pages on a test because the pages were stuck together. This was the first we'd heard of it.

We ask that she please advise us when there was an issue so that we could help correct the behavior. Class Dojo is used at this school and so, communication flows through there. I not as concerned about my child sitting  properly in class (positive Dojo given) as much as I care about my child having an issue that you've tried to correct on your own but not advised us of.

It was agreed that there had been a miscommunication and she would do better with advising us if anything like that happened. We were also told she was missing classwork because her work was in the "catch up" folder and she wasn't finishing it on time and "all the other students do". Again, something else we hadn't heard before. There had been discussions of my child being meticulous with her work but I did not think it was causing a problem. Here, I will insert the accolades we received for my daughter's "great handwriting". Yes, this is the equivalent of being told she's well-spoken but, we digress.

Of note in the miscommunication department was the fact that she claimed the Wednesday when I dropped off the girl's pumpkin, she asked me if I was staying for the ceremony. I assure you, friends, had I been looked at and spoken to, I would've acknowledged it and I would've been at the ceremony.

At the end of the conversation we'd come to the conclusion that because the Frog Princess had attended a Montessori school, she was not used to certain things (specifically speaking about her issue with the catch up folder). We agreed that if any issues came back up, we would be told via the Dojo app.

At that point her dad, wanting to clear the air, states that he apologized if he seemed upset but that we take her education very seriously. The teacher then stated that she felt like we had gone over her head by going directly to the assistant principal and requesting this meeting and wasn't happy about it. I was taken aback because no foul language was spewed, nothing outside of the concern for the education of our child and the desire to help the school to teach her, had been shared. And yet...

He apologized for doing it and said he hoped there weren't any hard feelings. Since then, there have been a couple of small instances that I've kept in the back of my mind but generally speaking, we've enjoyed 2 semesters on the honor roll and one student of the month award for the month of November.

We thought everything was okay. But alas, it seems that just when you least expect it you find yourself having to advocate for your child… (to be continued)

Reading Between the Lines

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The Beginning

I am an avid reader. Anyone who knows me is aware of this little fact. I am also a great big advocate to instill the love of reading in children. I have a shirt somewhere that states that I help turn children into lifelong learners. It's the thing I took the most pride in while working at Scholastic Book Fairs.

Last year, I started noticing some issues with the Frog Princess as she learned to read. She started plateauing in the fall of her kindergarten year and I noted this to the teacher. I realized during that fall and winter that the teacher wasn't necessarily qualified to help me when my child had an issue (she suggested that I "get help for that" and I was so confused because wasn't that a school? Couldn't she help me?).

Enniweighs, last spring, I recalled a co-worker at Book Fairs having a similar issue with her child and it turned out to be something going on with his eyesight. He had an issue tracking and got physical therapy for it. That knowledge led me to the eye doctor and sure enough, the Frog Princess needed glasses.

[Tweet "We must learn to advocate for our kids! Without feeling like we failed."]

By this time, though, I noticed that her confidence was waning a bit. My frustration didn't help, I'm sure. Since then I had her assessed by a teacher who assured me she was actually ahead for her age and all has been well. She's on the honor roll for the 2nd time already and I'm super proud of the way she has tackled school.

Her reading grade is now an A. AN. A!

The Middle

I try my best to figure out how she learns. In the fall semester I felt like I was putting too much of my expectation on my kid. And even though I wasn't consciously doing this, I wondered if some of my frustration was because of other people's assumptions of her learning/reading level simply based on my current and ongoing love affair with books.

Shefali Tsabary sums it up beautifully: “When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”

Dude, I have an amazing kid who happens to read slightly above her grade level. No, she's not reading novels. Not yet ready to finish up a Junie B. Jones book on her own. But she is compassionate and kind to others without prompting. She has a deep understanding of empathy and integrity. Her sense of direction is off the chain and her sense of humor trumps her cuteness.

The End

Not that I need to qualify anything that I am saying about my kid. The Frog Princess is learning. As her parents, so are we. The other night, I explained that learning is a treasure map for us. Her dad and I are searching with her to help her figure out the treasure. It's important for her to know that just as it was important for us to say that, sometimes, we might get frustrated not because of anything she's doing wrong but because we don't know if what we are doing is right.

The thing I am proud of is that I've managed to help her find her confidence. That I've sparked curiosity in her by the books I bring into the home. We listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone this past Fall and she enjoyed it. Then we watched the movie. Now she's hoping to be sorted into Gryffindor.

If you follow me on Insta, you know we made a pact to get through 200 books this year. Some I will read to her and some, she will read to me. Last night, she read me Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend. All 38 pages of it. I was so happy I could burst.

We have an Amazon wishlist and I'm trying to fill it up even though we have more than a few books around the house.

I'm also tracking our reading in Good Reads and because I have a list problem, I have a list of books she reads and a list of books I read to her. These will add up to 200 by the time December 31st rolls in. Follow the convo on social and share your books using #YearofBooks and #SheReads.

This kid is not a mini-me and I am not my parents. Don't get me wrong, Mami was all the things but if I parented just like her, I would've missed the point. Because I have different resources at my disposal and the one thing I could say about Mami was that she did the best she could with the tools that she had. So I have to do the same for the Frog Princess. Unapologetically. Because I'm at a point in my life when I feel the most attuned with myself and the most whole, I find that this helps me see her separate from me and brings me closer to her all at the same time. As I think of all of this, I am reminded of this quote:

“It’s no surprise we fail to tune into our children’s essence. How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? How can we feel their spirit and hear the beat of their heart if we can’t do this in our own life?” - Shefali Tsabary

By listening to my own beat, I can teach her to follow hers. By understanding that there's so much more to life right now than her reading level, I become aware of the many gifts my child brings into this world. For me, this realization makes me even more excited to center myself and my purpose because I know that when I do that, I'm giving her a road map toward hers.

Teaching Her To Give On #GivingTuesday

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It's Giving Tuesday. We are not only coming back from the Thanksgiving holiday but also, from my girl's birthday. Frog_Princess_Birthday_Gifts

I know I have a special little girl on my hands. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday she said nothing because someone had gotten her the snow cone maker she'd wanted.

Even so, it's important for me that she understand not only how blessed she is to have but how blessed she is to be able to give.

So today we will sit down and donate to a few of our favorite organizations. I will tell her what each one of does and why we will be supporting them. It's important to me that she understand about giving.

Giving Tuesday has a very special place in my heart because of the thought behind it.

We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.

Don't you just love that? And I love that I can also show the Frog Princess all of the other countries around the world that are also giving.

Community, both big and small. That's also part of what I want to teach her.

Who are you giving to this year? Want some suggestions? Here you go!

2015-eat-sleep-giveMomsRisingan on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to achieve economic security for all moms, women, and families in the United States. MomsRising is working for paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable childcare, and for an end to the wage and hiring discrimination which penalizes so many mothers. If you donate today, an anonymous donor will throw an additional $25 on top. How cool is that?

2015-Its-Time-for-GivingBETA Centera private, nonprofit organization with 35 years of experience helping families, regardless of age or economic status, in the greater Orlando area including Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. With a focus on parenting, teen moms and at-risk families, BETA Center changes behaviors and lives. The agency offers a wide range of services to support children and families, increase healthy family functioning and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation: my mom died of this type of cancer. Their mission is one I can definitely get behind: To find a cure and improve the quality of life for those affected by cholangiocarcinoma.

Center for Contemporary Dancea leading Florida cultural organization operating in accordance with the National Standards for Dance Education.  Programs are designed to provide the students of all ages—from novice to professional—with vast experiences in classical, post-classical and world dance forms. A complete dance education is our priority.

How do you teach your kids to give?

 

Teach Her Tuesday: Dolch Words for First Grade

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The kiddo was tested at the beginning of the school year and is reading at first grade level. Woohoo! I stay collecting information and lists and lined papers, match up games, you name it! Anything to feed her mind while she is at home. Last year I started a Get Schooled board but this year I've supplemented it with a Kindergarten and First Grade board.

I'm a firm believer that we are our children's first teachers and so I try to have as much on-hand as I can. Because I'm not a teacher, I have to make it up as I go and find resources on the interwebs (thank you Pinterest!).

I'm not inventing anything new. Between amazing home school moms and terrific teachers that are super dedicated to making sure that kids everywhere have access to tools that work, I think I'm covered.

But, I do like sight words. In the past, I used the list of Kindergarten words provided to students in one of the local counties but I've moved on to the Dolch Word List.

The frog princess works!

This is a list of commonly used English words that was originally compiled by Edward William Dolch. He wrote a book called Problems In Reading way back in 1948.

He basically ran through the words in the children's books of the time and pulled out 220 words which he called service words which he thought children needed to recognize in order to gain reading fluency.

That's what we are about these days in this house. Fluency. We don't always use the sight words. We've been reading and talking about what we read (which is sometimes difficult because her favorite mode of exercise these days includes raising her hand while I'm in the middle of a sentence). We've also started journaling about what we read. Pictures and words are okay.

I'm getting excited, y'all. Initially, the Frog Princess wasn't about that book life and it was breaking my heart. Now that she's getting better at reading, we can't get enough of books. Somebody pinch me!!!!!

Enniweighs, sign up to get the Dolch first grade words in case you need to motivate kids to be about that reading life. I laid them out in card format so all you have to do is print and cut (if you're like me, you'll laminate as well).

Get the 1st Grade Dolch List Emailed to You Today

 

What are you teaching at home? What tools are you looking for or what tools do you recommend?

Teach Her Tuesday: Malala

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Some days I would see Malala in the news and wonder if she was for real. Wondered how a child could've endured so much and stood up for so many. She's incredible, isn't she? I always think of her as being beyond her years. Except that recently, I got a chance to be on a conference call with her and I got to hear her giggle. That giggle that we can only produce during our teen years. The one that holds hope and wonder and excitement. And I was humbled to have wondered about her and feeling a great amount of gratitude that I had a chance to be in a space where I could hear the beauty of her voice and feel the energy of purpose.

A group of bloggers were on the conference call to talk about the new documentary He Named Me Malala. It was beyond inspiring. One of those things you write down so you can later tell your child. The Frog Princess wanted to know when we were going to meet her and told me that she wanted to give Malala one of her toys. I may or may not have had sweaty eyeballs.

This past weekend found me at Type A Conference so I was unable to head to the movie theater to support the movie. Rest assured, that will be remedied expeditiously. Haven't heard of it? That's okay. Here's the trailer (note: I have yet to watch this trailer without tearing up):

I've spoken to a few folks who asked about taking their kids and I'm happy to report that you can check out the parent discussion guide for the movie.

I talked to the Frog Princess about Malala and she was rightfully impressed. She was incredulous when I told her that not all girls can go to school. And she wanted to hear more when I told her that Malala is changing that and that we can help.

Teaching her to be a responsible world citizen is one of the biggest tasks on my list. I'm glad I have someone like Malala as an example.

Cull through the guide and figure out if you can take your kids to see this. I think it will be fabulous for both girls and boys.

Be sure to check out The Malala Fund on Facebook and when you go to watch the movie, let everyone know that you #StandWithMalala on social media. You can also use #HeNamedMeMalala to let us know you're joining in as witness.

Have you seen the movie yet? Will you be going soon? Sound off, good people!

Disclosure: I am a goodwill ambassador for this movie. All thoughts and opinions are purely my own.

Teach Her Tuesday: Mundo Lanugo

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Disclosure: this is a sponsored post. All thoughts, opinions and pride are purely my own. Lanugo_Logo_01_SmallI met Carla at Hispanicize a while back. She had these adorable products with cuteness all over them and sayings in Spanish. She also had what is the all-time favorite music of the Frog Princess: a CD with personalized songs for the kids. In Spanish! Doesn't get any better than that.

I tell you this because I love to watch women entrepreneurs grow into their dreams and beyond. This past summer, I recall that Despierta América had animated shorts featuring Mundo Lanugo. And it felt as if it was my dream on the screen.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to do something pretty special. I downloaded Mundo Lanugo onto my phone. And Muki, Gloria, Mia and Chuy came to life on the screen. Hablando mi idioma, no less!

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While the Frog Princess is still "shy" about speaking in Spanish, she hears it all the time. It was an added joy to be able to hand over my phone and watch her interact with the characters and the activities.

The app takes the kids through Mundo Lanugo, a world with carnivals, shops, painting studios and more where the kids can play, paint and most importantly, learn.

In the past, I've given the Frog Princess apps in Spanish and she'll play with it for a bit and then return the phone completely uninterested. And it breaks my heart. This time around, I had to make a call and ended up having to use a different phone because she was so engaged with the characters.

Mundo Lanugo Characters

I loved that it wasn't just her mesmerized by the screen. As I watched, the peppered me with questions about things she saw and I was able to incorporate a little bit of Mami's life throughout her playing time. Anything that helps me further expose her to the Spanish language and allows me to share the story of me and where I come from with her is a winner in my book.

You know what else is a winner?! That you can get this app FOR FREE from now until 10/15! It's in the App Store and the Google Play store. After the 15th, the app will be $1.99. Still a great deal but, I'm trying to help you out here.

Go grab it and tell me what you think! 

Who's your favorite character?

Stop by the Facebook page and check out what they're up to and get on Twitter and tell them I sent ya!

#TeachHerTuesday: M Is For Monster

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Disclosure: I was sent a Monster Box to check out the insides and bring you this review. All opinions are purely my own. When Mandy sent over the email telling me about Monster Box, I got giddy. Y'all know how much I love educational things. And educational things that won't have me going to different stores to buy components? I am here for it, people!

I thought it was fate that the first week in my box was "frog". It's like Mandy planned it that way!

What Do You Get?

If you order the monthly box, you get one box a month with weekly activities. The weekly bags have everything you need for the activities of the week.

M Is For Monster Box

(hint: if you sign up for the newsletter, you will get 50% off your first subscription box. You're welcome!)

You have the option of 3 different boxes:

  1. Toddler boxes are good for ages 2-3 and focus on uppercase letters, numbers 1-10 and basic shapes.
  2. Preschool boxes are good for ages 4-5 and focus on lowercase, numbers 1-20 and basic shapes. More complex activities for children with longer attention spans are introduced here.
  3. Kindergarten boxes focus on sight words, spelling, counting, identifying shapes and lots more!

M Is For Monster - May GoodiesI love that you can subscribe and cancel whenever so you're not held to a set time. But with all of the activities found every month, why would you cancel? I can tell you that I spend a lot more than $38.95 at the craft store (and usually end up buying lots more that never gets used).

This is perfect for summer! The Frog Princess goes to camp but is here a couple of days a week. We love playing with our monster treats and can't wait to hear if you like yours too!

Are you a crafty person? Do you think your kids would like their very own M Is For Monster Box?

Follow Mandy and her Monster Box on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Teach Her Tuesday: Beyond the Backpack

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With Spring officially here, the freaking out of Kindergarten has begun. Okay, let's be honest, I started freaking out last Spring about where the girl would be for Kindergarten, whether or not she was prepared and what skills we need to hone in and work on. We do a lot of learning through play mainly because it's important for me that she develop a love of learning without that "ohemgee! I'm actually doing work!" feeling.

nick-jr-beyond-the-backpack-logo-back-pack-nickelodeon-preschool-junior-jnrSo when I heard about Beyond the Backpack, I was excited to have a guide. Once I received it, I was doubly excited because this is something I think everyone should have in-hand.

The toolkit has learning games and checklists that you can use to determine whether or not your little one is ready for Kindergarten. I especially loved that this toolkit is available in both English and Spanish.

You can download the pages from the site, which I think will decrease your stress. Do you think your kiddo is ready for Kindergarten?

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this guide in order to give you my thoughts. All opinions and freak out are purely my own.

#TeachHerTuesday: Kindergarten Sight Words

One of the coolest (and scariest) things about parenting is that we are our children's first teacher. I've learned a lot about what I like to do, what I said I wouldn't do (but did) and what I will say I'm doing in the future. If that didn't make sense, then we are on the same page. Teach_Her_Tuesday_K_Sight_Words

I always get asked what I'm using with the frog princess. So I decided to start Teach Her Tuesday as I way to share how I'm guiding her. The Frog Princess does a lot of learning. I would love to take credit for it but I think of myself more as a guide than a teacher. I respond to her cues and try to feed her what I think she needs. And I am in constant contact with her teachers. I ask questions and I always gain wisdom on what to do to help my girl along.

It didn't come overnight. For example, when I started showing her site words, I quickly learned that in order for her to grasp the words, she had to relate it to something. So inevitably, it wasn't so much as sight words as it was sight stories. An example: we were reviewing words one day and the word was "the". She looked, repeated it and with hand gestures and facial expression said: like "Uncle Pete was on THE stage!". My favorite moments guiding her are those moments when she is connecting a new concept and understanding it.

Enniweighs, I'm tired of making sight words for friends (this is the true reason why I'm posting this. Cuz I'm lazy!). So instead, I'm making y'all do the work!

Here's a download of Kindergarten sight words. I print them in card stock and then laminate them (yeah, I have my own laminator because...geek!). You can take the pages to Kinko's or Staples and they'll do it for you there as well.

Don't start with all 120 of them. Do 5 at a time. As your child starts to grasp a group, introduce some others. I started these with her last May but truth be told, I don't drill her on these. I take a more laid back approach (though it sometimes kills me). I let her guide the learning.

For example, I realized that when we first started, I was getting so frustrated because she wasn't "getting it". Until I realized that doing sight words before bed was bad news. She was tired. I've learned to read her queues better though I still get it wrong sometimes.

Each kid is different though. This is what I do with her but it doesn't necessarily mean you should do it this way too. The fun part is trying to figure out how they learn! Don't get frustrated! It's a great time to humble yourself to this thing called parenting. They're still young and have loads to learn and loads of time to do so.

What information/tools/resources do you use for your child? What are you searching for? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to find it for you! And if you want to share with me, use the hashtag #TeachHerTuesday so I can see what goodies you guys use!