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Spring Cleaning: Lessons Learned Celebrating Spring

By: Beth Werrell
Siblings with duster brushes learning life lessons about spring cleaning.

It may seem hard to believe, but …

One spring day, decades from now, your grown children will catch the first scent of clover and fresh-mowed grass. Suddenly, they will be struck with an irresistible urge to … wash windows, clean out the garage, or weed the garden. Reaching across time, they’ll connect with you and the lessons you taught them about spring cleaning and maybe even life.

With that day in mind, here are some thoughts about what and how parents are really teaching their kids during annual spring cleaning rituals.

Celebrating spring. Making transitions.

After a long, dark winter, aren’t we all ready to just go out and play? Like “decking the halls” in preparation for the winter holidays, you can model a celebratory attitude about spring cleaning by first focusing on the fun tasks ahead. You can let your children:

  • Set the mood by creating individual playlists of “music to clean by” and allowing them to “crank it up” during cleaning sessions.
  • Get in gear by focusing on the first tasks of organizing and maintaining seasonal toys and sports equipment—packing away the ice skates and sprucing up the bicycles.
  • Get outside, working with them in the yard or garden where they can enjoy the sun and see the immediate impact of their work. (First time gardening with your children? Check out this kid-friendly site from the University of Illinois.)
“Chunking” tasks.

As the old saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a ...

Books That Teach Kids about Kindness

By: Beth Werrell

books for kids that teach and inspire kindnessSelecting books that show positive character traits is a great way to teach your child about your family’s values. Reading a good story together will not only reinforce reading skills, but also open the door to talk about the characters and their actions. In recognition of National Bullying Awareness Month, we suggest that you begin by discussing bullying and the importance of being kind and compassionate toward others.

One easy way to start is by participating in Jumpstart and Pearson Foundation’s Read for the Record campaign on October 3 at 12:00 noon ET. This year’s featured book, Otis, by Loren Long, is a timeless story of friendship and kindness. The book and activity guides will be available to you online—for free!—when you complete the pledge to read.

Afterward, you can keep your kids reading and thinking about kindness by selecting age-appropriate books from the list we’ve compiled below.

Ages 4 to 6
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip Stead
Hey, Little Ant
by Philip and Hannah Hoose
How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen
How Kind by Mary Murphy
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie

Ages 7 to 8
All Families Are Special
by Norma Simon
The Ant Bully
by John Nickle
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
Horace and Morris But Mostly ...

Make Spring Cleaning a Learning Experience

By: Kim McConnell

online Learning Coach cleaning out wardrobeWhen you’re busy acting as both parent and online school Learning Coach, you may wonder if your house will ever be clean and tidy again. Something as ambitious as spring cleaning may seem like an impossible dream!

To accomplish your household goals, why not involve your family in projects like spring cleaning? Your children can learn from your example. By enlisting their help, you can teach valuable lessons about planning, setting goals and priorities, responsibility, and teamwork. Here are a few tips and ideas to get you started on the right foot:

  • Discuss the Plan – Before you begin, talk to your children about what you are doing, what it will accomplish, and how they can help. Using a whiteboard or large sheet of paper, make a big checklist of all the cleaning tasks so everyone can clearly see what needs to be done. Check off tasks as they are completed. If you plan to weed out old items, give children some autonomy by letting them choose a few things in their rooms that are “off-limits” and won’t be touched, like a favorite box of action figures or collected rocks.
  • Establish Rewards – Naturally, you’ll want to reward your child for hard work completed with your words of praise and gratitude. But you may also want to consider an appropriate incentive when a goal is achieved to keep motivation high, like a favorite meal, a trip to the zoo, or a new video game. The bigger the accomplishment, ...

Laying the Groundwork: Make Any Child a Lifelong Learner

By: Kim McConnell
children sitting on books tower

Kids may not listen to what you say, but they almost always notice what you do! If your family’s lifestyle shows a commitment to the importance of education, you can strongly influence how your child feels about school and learning. Here are a few suggestions for how you can lay a foundation for lifelong learning—online and offline:

  • Incorporate family values. Try to tie your educational values  to family ones, so your child will see the two as linked. For example, make sure your child has the opportunity to see parents and other adults conduct research and read to learn something new. If education is important not just for school but also for the everyday lives of people in your family, it strengthens the desire to learn.

  • Relate it to the real world. One of the best ways to get your child engaged in a lesson is to show him or her how to use the concepts/skills in real life. Having a context for what is being learned is the perfect way to show children why it’s important to advance their education.

  • Encourage questions. The more questions your child asks, the more invested he or she is in the material being learned. Don’t forget that you can use questions to generate conversation, drive home an important point, or elaborate on a critical concept. Questions lead to discussion, and discussion leads to a richer overall understanding.

  • Celebrate little victories. Your child’s earning a great score on a big exam isn’t the ...

The Role of Parent vs. That of Online Learning Coach

By: Kim McConnell
online learning coach kissed by son and daughter

How do you answer “Mom, please just solve this one math problem for me”? As a parent, you might really want to just relieve your child’s stress and anxiety by providing the answer, but as a Learning Coach, you know the math problem must be solved by the student. So, what are the keys to smoothly shifting from a parent-child relationship to a Learning Coach-student relationship? Throughout my years of homeschooling and virtual schooling, I have found that discipline and communication are critical. It’s so important to set clear rules and boundaries in order to establish a cooperative and joyful household.

Create and discuss your rules at the beginning of school and review them periodically throughout the year to keep students focused on completing schoolwork successfully at home.

Here are some rules that have worked for me and that might help you with establishing a winning school-at-home routine too:

  1. Consistently be the Learning Coach during the school day.
    Let your students know that besides being their mom or dad, you are also the Learning Coach and that you will answer any questions and help the best you can while they are working on their virtual school lessons. However, be careful to not give away answers or solve entire problems for them. Instead, help your child become an autonomous online learner.

  2. Be clear about rules and consequences.
    If your child previously attended a different school, ask him or her to tell you some of the rules, and ...

Harvard Study Shows What Online School Families Already Know

By: Steven Guttentag

I just read a new study by Harvard Professor Nancy Hill concluding that parents’ helping children with their homework does not help them do well in school (article by Deborah Blagg, 2009). Wait a second, I thought, that is what good parents do! My wife and I take turns working with our three children on their homework because we assumed that our efforts would help them succeed in school and beyond. I guess if the world always worked as we expected, we wouldn’t need research.Brian King, Connections Academy Student and Spelling Bee Winner

So if “homework help” isn’t really helping, what should we be doing to ensure that our children are successful in school and in life? According to Professor Hill, volunteering (e.g., PTA, helping out in the classroom) helps a little, and educational activities (e.g., trips to the library or a museum) also can’t hurt, but what really can make a difference is our ability to connect children’s schoolwork to their life’s work. Hill writes, “Our study shows that helping children understand the value and utility of education correlates well with higher achievement levels in middle school and high school.” Children need to understand that mastering their times tables, reading Shakespeare, and learning the state capitals all have a connection to higher education, meaningful work, and ultimately a good life. If you can convince them of that, then they will get their homework done on their own—and you will just need to get out of the way.

So how do you do this? Hill’s analysis ...