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Fight Winter Blues and SAD with Fun Activities for the Family

By: Beth Werrell
Fun Family Activities to Kick Winter Blues

It’s hard to avoid the winter blues once in a while, no matter how much you love the snow. But sometimes, those winter blues can develop into seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is something to pay attention to in your child. Here are some tips to help you determine whether or not it’s time to consider consulting a doctor, as well as some fun activities to alleviate the winter blues.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Let’s start with the basics! SAD is a type of depression that appears in the autumn and winter months as daylight hours dwindle. It lifts as the weather gets warmer and the sun makes more of an appearance each day. Approximately 6 percent of the population experiences SAD. Although there is no known cause, it is thought to be linked to the rising and setting of the sun in relation to the body’s natural sleep cycle.

What are the signs to look for?

It is important to note that the following symptoms may be indicative of a simple case of winter blues. However, you know your child best. If your child’s symptoms persist for weeks or seem relatively severe, it may be time to consult his or her doctor. Here are some things to watch for in your child as winter drags on and the sun doesn’t make an appearance in a while:

  • Eating habit shifts: SAD typically causes a craving for simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods like cake, syrups, candy, and ...

Easy Ways to Build New Valentine’s Day Family Traditions

By: Beth Werrell
Building Valentine's Day Family Traditions

One of the unique opportunities for children in virtual school is that they are always surrounded by their support network. As your child starts virtual school, it is important to build a foundation of support for his or her schooling.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to develop family traditions and nurture your loving, supportive environment. Below are some ideas to get you started building these traditions, including meal ideas, craft activities, and Valentine’s movies for the whole family.

Morning traditions

What to make

  • Strawberry pancakes are a simple, cute morning treat that you and your child can cook side by side! If your family really likes the taste of strawberries or you just want to add extra color, you can also replace your maple syrup with a strawberry syrup and strawberry jam.
  • Pair your pancakes with some heart-shaped fruit kabobs of your choice. Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe are perfect for cutting out heart-shaped pieces. You can either do this by hand or use a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

What to craft

  • Create secret Valentine’s Day messages for friends, neighbors, grandparents, and other family members with homemade invisible ink. All you need is some baking soda, water, grape juice, cotton swabs, and paper. It’s a simple way to get your child reading, writing, and expressing his or her feelings in a supportive environment.
Afternoon Traditions

What to make

A Groundhog’s Tale: Winter’s End

By: Beth Werrell

In anticipation of Groundhog Day, I traveled to Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania last week to talk to Punxsutawney Phil, the marmot who has been predicting winter's end every year since 1886.

With hundreds of reporters starting to gather outside, I managed to squeeze into Phil's burrow early to celebrate the event over a game of Groundhog Day Vocabulary Bingo and to ask him how he came to be the world's most famous weather forecaster.

Here's what the solitary and somewhat cranky rodent told me …

Q: So, Phil, how did Groundhog Day get started?
Phil: Well, the story handed down in my family goes like this.

Long ago, humans were very concerned with how long each winter would be. Being furless and unable to hibernate like us more sensible creatures, they worried that winter would outlast their food and firewood.

So these humans looked for ways to predict when winter would end. In Germany, they wisely looked to my friend the hedgehog for a clue.

Q: What was the clue?
Phil: February 2nd, Candlemas Day, was considered the traditional midpoint of winter—halfway between the shortest, darkest day of the year and the spring equinox. And folks came to believe that the weather on that particular day provided a sign of winter's end. They'd even sing this song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings cloud and rain,
Go, winter, and come not again.

Q: ...

Plan a Fun Break with Our Winter Activity Calendar

By: Beth Werrell

Calendars are useful tools in virtual school for many reasons. A typical calendar helps by keeping track of appointments, test dates, special occasions, and more. Learning calendars can help you understand the learning process by recording what goes well and what can be improved. There are also family calendar apps that help families manage daily priorities.

Calendars also make fun crafts, especially if they take on a creative form. For example, the dates on our Winter Activity Calendar are represented by paper cutouts, which dangle from a clothes hanger on a piece of string.

The Winter Activity Calendar also has a special purpose: to help students schedule activities over winter break. To try this calendar craft, download the Winter Shapes Templates and click on the graphic below to see the activity instructions.

Winter Activity Ideas

When you’re choosing activities for your winter calendar, take a look at the following list for inspiration.

  1. Write a poem about winter.
  2. Find coding tutorials to try.
  3. Make paper snowflakes to study symmetry.
  4. Play a board game.
  5. Build nature smarts by finding and counting evergreen plants in the backyard.
  6. Do our holiday marbled paper craft.
  7. Find the most effective feeder for your backyard birds on January 5th, which is National Bird Day.
  8. Learn how to dust for fingerprints.
  9. Test out new indoor physical education activities for K–5 students or exercises for students in grades 6–12.
  10. Make positive refrigerator magnets.
  11. Bake cookies to ...

9 Pinterest-Inspired Winter Learning and Craft Ideas for Kids

By: Stephanie Osorno
Pinterest Winter Break Activities

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again—endless food, festive parties, gift giving, and family gatherings! This joyful season is especially exciting for kids, who have most likely been anticipating the winter celebrations for months. But how do you motivate your student when the holiday fun is over and it’s time to get back to the daily school routine? Luckily, the learning never has to stop! There are plenty of enjoyable winter learning activity ideas available on Connections Academy's Pinterest boards that you can do together over the winter break to keep your child stimulated and excited about academics.

How Does It Work?

For those of you who are not familiar with the site, Pinterest is a “visual discovery tool that you can use to find ideas for all your projects and interests.” It serves as a useful virtual bulletin board to store all of your creative findings! The assortment of inspirational ideas and projects are broken down into different themed “boards,” which you can choose to “follow.”

“We are using Pinterest to find some creative craft ideas so we can decorate our home for the holidays. From making hand turkeys to making snow, we find a way to incorporate math, reading, or science into our fun activities—and, of course, we do work outside on a beautiful day!”
~ Kelley Christiansen, Louisiana Connections Academy parent

What Do You Look For?

We curate a number of helpful and interesting boards that, among others, include useful tips for parents ...

Teach Kids to Show Gratitude with Thanksgiving Place Mats

By: Beth Werrell

When young children are old enough to talk, they start to learn simple words as well as basic manners. And when a child learns the appropriate times to say “please” and “thank you,” he or she slowly starts to connect manners and gratitude. Teaching children to be grateful is essential to character development.

To help your child understand and express gratitude, try our Thanksgiving place mat activity. It’s a simple construction paper craft that gives kids a chance to thank every friend and family member at the Thanksgiving dinner table. These personalized place mats are decorated with cutout leaves, which have handwritten messages such as “Thank you for teaching me how to bake cookies.” It’s a great exercise because writing specific messages reminds kids of all the things they are grateful for.

Other Crafty Place Mat Ideas

The Thanksgiving place mat craft is easy to modify if your child wants to get creative. Here are a few ideas he or she might like to try.

  • Add extra flair with stickers, stamps, and markers.
  • Use tempura paint to make a handprint turkey in the middle of the place mat.
  • Draw a picture of the family member on a blank sheet of paper. Cut it out and glue it to the center of the place mat.
  • Glue on a couple of real leaves, if you can still find some outside.
  • Include one of the thank-you quotes at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget ...

Why Do Leaves Change Color? A Leaf Activity for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Every autumn when the leaves start to fall from the trees, we admire the bright array of colors they display. We rake the leaves up, play in them, and even use them for crafts like this leaf symmetry activity. But do you and your child ever stop and wonder why the leaves change color and fall at this time of year?

Now is your chance to take the next step and discover the scientific side of fall. Just try this leaf activity for kids to find out why leaves change color. In the leaf experiment, you and your child will use chemistry to break leaves down and reveal their secrets.

To start the activity, follow the instructions by clicking on the leaf graphic below.

All About Leaves

Do you have other questions about leaves? Here are some fun facts that might answer them.

Why do trees grow leaves?
Trees grow leaves to conduct photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, the cells in leaves turn sunlight into the sugars and starches trees need for food.1

Why are leaves green?
Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives leaves their green color. All trees have chlorophyll because they need it to soak in sunlight for photosynthesis.2

Why do leaves fall?
If leaves didn’t fall, they would freeze during the winter because they contain water.1

How do leaves fall?
To shed its leaves, a tree will form barriers of cells between its branches and the stems of ...

Making Sense of Math: Applying, Playing, Exploring

By: Kim McConnell
young student using an abacus

Does your child …

  • Feel competent and comfortable working with numbers?
  • Know how to check an exact calculation by estimating the answer?
  • Know and choose between several methods of solving a math problem?
  • Understand the relationship between the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)?
  • Use mental math efficiently?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then congratulations, your child is numerate! That is, he or she has numbers sense, the ability to use numbers flexibly and understand basic math concepts.

As the foundation for all later math study, numeracy ensures that students will be ready to approach progressively more difficult problems and subjects like algebra confidently and logically—without being overwhelmed. Like literacy, it’s an essential skill set for navigating through life.

But what if your child isn’t numerate? What if your he or she …

  • “Hates” math?
  • Doesn’t know how to estimate an answer to check its reasonableness?
  • Needs pencil and paper to perform simple calculations?
  • Isn’t sure how numbers and operations are related?

Well, just because a student isn’t numerate today doesn’t mean that he or she can’t become numerate tomorrow. Here are a few suggestions and resources you can use to help.

Developing Numeracy Skills

To help develop your child’s numeracy skills, it’s important to first understand how students make sense of math. Basically, it comes down to APE: applying, playing, and exploring.

50 Facts and Events in U.S. Education History

By: Beth Werrell
50 important events in U.S. Education History

The Fourth of July is practically here! Flags wave at every corner, fireworks sprinkle the sky, and children sing patriotic anthems. It’s time to gather with family for festive picnics and celebrate the birth of the United States.

We all know how our country grew from thirteen British colonies to fifty United States. The Boston Tea Party and the ride of Paul Revere are just a couple legendary events that dot the timeline. But while U.S. parents and children know how the U.S. was formed, few know how our education system has evolved.

Review the fifty facts and events on this timeline with your child and give thanks for getting an education!
  • 1635—Boston Latin School becomes the first public school as well as the oldest existing school in the U.S.
  • 1647—A law passed in Massachusetts requires towns with fifty or more families to hire a teacher, and towns with a hundred or more families to build a grammar school.
  • 1690—Benjamin Harris prints The New England Primer, a reading textbook that becomes widely used for the next century.
  • 1783—Noah Webster finishes A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, a three-volume work he developed because he didn’t like the textbooks from England that were used at the time. In later editions, Webster rewrote words using American spelling.
  • 1791—Individual states take control of education when the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified.
  • 1801—While James Pillans discovered the method of using chalk on ...

Test the Sun’s Effects in this Sunscreen Experiment

By: Beth Werrell

Does your young child wriggle away when you apply sunscreen to his nose? Does your teen complain that she isn’t “tan enough”? Some children need help forming good sun-safety habits, and reinforcing them is crucial if you want to protect your child from permanent sun damage.

“There’s no other way to say it—tanned skin is damaged skin,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why it’s so important to apply sunscreen diligently. To help your student understand the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, try this sunscreen experiment for kids. All you need are a few household items and a sunny day.

Click on the graphic below to see the full instructions for this sunscreen experiment.

True or False

Ask your child these true-or-false questions to measure his or her knowledge of the skin.

  1. The skin is the largest organ of the body.
  2. Birthmarks are caused by minor damage to a baby’s skin in the womb.
  3. A callus is a bump on the skin that’s filled with fluid.
  4. You should wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  5. One way pimples form is when your skin produces too much oil.
  6. Scars can form on your skin when an injury heals too quickly.
  7. You don’t have to worry about UV rays on cloudy days.
  8. You have skin on your scalp.
  9. A first-degree burn damages the first layer of skin.
  10. Only humans and primates have fingerprints.


  1. True...

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