Sunday, November 1, 2015

Friendship Notebooks – A Fun Way for Kids to Practice their Reading and Writing Skills

If you were in middle school in the 80s or 90s then you probably remember Slam Books.  They were books, usually spiral notebooks that got passed around among friends, a way to pass notes and letters in between classes.  The covers were usually decorated with artwork and stickers.   I remember looking forward to writing to my best friend and would eagerly wait for her reply.  I think some Slam Books unfortunately were negative, they were used to gossip about other classmates, but the one I shared with my friend was positive.  We would write about our interests, share secrets, mostly we would talk about our favorite show…Beverly Hills 90210, and the actors we had crushes on!  

My 90s Crush!

My fond memory of writing and reading letters with my friend inspired me to create something I call “Friendship Notebooks” for my children.  I shared the idea with them, they loved it, and so we moved forward with it.  We asked another family who has children around the same age as mine if they would be interested in doing this with us, and they said yes!  

Our Friendship Notebooks

We purchased a couple of spiral notebooks, stapled some construction paper to the cover, and had the children decorate it with artwork.  We paired up the children, my oldest shares a notebook with the oldest in the other family, and my younger twins share a notebook with the youngest in the other family.  It has been a fun way for my oldest to practice her cursive writing, and for my younger ones to practice their print.   They also add artwork at the end of each letter, a drawing or something creative.  The children practice spelling, reading, and writing through their “Friendship Notebooks”, but even more importantly they are learning about their friends, asking questions they may otherwise not ask in person.  They are building relationships and learning how to write letters, a bit of a lost art.   

"Friendship Notebooks" are so simple and fun.  Pair up with another family that lives close by or one that you see often in order to make the exchange easy.  It’s like a pen pal but there’s something fun about having the notebook that you pass back and forth with friends that you get to see and connect with.

What other fun ways do you engage your children in reading and writing?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Nature Tables – A Simple Way to Connect Your Child With the Season

Nature Tables are a fun way to connect your child with the season. They are used in Waldorf schools and can easily be done at home too. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.

Children love to collect things when they play outdoors, so why not have a place where they can proudly display their collections? It is a special way to bring a little bit of the outdoors into your home. It doesn’t take much; we have converted an old laptop desk into our Nature Table. Use a small table, shelf, or night stand. The idea is that your child can change the Nature Table as the seasons change. Fill your nature table with things that your child collects on nature walks as well as handmade decorations and crafts. You can incorporate holidays that you celebrate each season into the table as well. My children look forward to changing our Nature Table every season, and adding to it throughout the year. Find inspiration on Pinterest. There are so many wonderful ideas out on the web, here are just a few ways we have decorated our table over the years:

Autumn – Little pumpkins, gourds and squash that the children picked out at our local pumpkin patch. Jars filled with acorns. Baskets filled fall leaves that we’ve pressed. A needle felted pumpkin. Fall leaves and pinecones made out of beeswax.

Our current Autumn Nature Table

Winter – Glass jars filled with pine cones, needle felted angels, paper snowflakes hanging over the table.

Spring – Butterflies made from coffee filters hanging over the table, flowers in baskets that the children have collected.

Summer – Glass jars filled with sand and shells collected from our trips to the beach. Peg dolls made with a summer theme, lady bugs, bumble bees, etc.

What do you plan to put on your Nature Table?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Networking Recipe - Strategies for Networking and Building Community

    In my last post I discussed how networking is a means to building community for your family.  I introduced a "recipe" to help guide you in your networking efforts and felt it was important to dive a little deeper here and provide you with some specific strategies and examples.

1) Develop a networking mindset

Embrace individual differences as an opportunity to grow and learn.  We know our own situations and children the best, but exposure to new things and different ways (within reason) helps accelerate growth.

Think about how you feel when you have been truly helpful to someone.  Feels good, right?  By connecting with others we learn about their strengths, their needs and where we can be of service.

Now trade places in that scenario.  Networking is also about letting people who want to be helpful know how they can be helpful.  Remind yourself that networking is a two way street. It is energizing to give and receive support in ways that are meaningful to both parties. 

2) Finding common ground to get the ball rolling

I am reminded of the importance of networking and building community as I recently spent a long weekend living in a beach house with three other homeschooling families.  We found each other through our own individual networking efforts.  Our shared values in home-based education initially brought us together, yet when you take a closer look at our four families, we couldn’t be more different.  Our differences allow us to learn from each other and our shared experiences that weekend solidified our bond. Networking and building community is not only about finding commonalities, but also creating shared experiences and respecting, learning from, and leveraging unique individual differences, styles, and preferences.  We learn and grow together as we benefit from each other’s experiences and point of views. 

Sharing experiences builds community (our beach house getaway)

3) Contributing to your network

Just like any other relationship, there is a give and take involved with your network.  Ensure you are an engaged member of the community by sharing ideas, information, and resources.  Be proactive in helping others.  It's easiest to do this in ways that are authentic and energizing to you.  You have unique strengths and interests that others will appreciate learning from or leveraging so they can focus on their own strengths and interests.

Some ways I like to help my homeschool community is by scheduling field trips, and creating and organizing various interest-led clubs.  For example, I have formed clubs for hiking, chess, philosophy, entrepreneurship, and art.  I can’t tell you how many times parents have told me “I never knew this [insert resource/activity]existed, thank you so much for inviting us!”  It brings me joy to share these experiences with other families and to provide opportunities to our local homeschool community.  And because organizing outings and activities energizes me, it doesn't feel much like work.  This is my contribution to a great community that also provides me with resources and opportunities that I otherwise would not know about or have as much energy in creating on my own.

4) Leveraging your network 

There are so many ways to benefit from your network:  Have a group of like-minded people that you feel you can trust.  Socialize to give yourself and your children new experiences and exposure to different points of view. Be open to learning from the diverse experiences held by those in your community.  Gain information and ideas by asking for advice.   Expand your toolkit by trying other's techniques.  

When we came home from our trip to the beach house, I noticed how much my children grew just by being around a diverse group of people, their vocabulary increased and interests in other areas emerged.

Have you tried one of these techniques and would like to share?  Do you have any different strategies that work well for you? 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Use the Power of Networking to Build Community for Your Family

Can we use networking in our personal lives to do more than share pictures and give thumbs up?  You bet!


Why is community important?

We all have heard the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  But what does that proverb really mean?  It makes me think of community and how important it is to be intentional about building community for our families.  Community is defined as a group of people that share a common value.  This group of people provides a sense of belonging, support, friendship, and opportunities for learning and growth.  The reciprocal relationship between you and your community allows for an exchange of ideas and information.  As parents, it’s our obligation to maximize the benefits of community for our children.



What do you think of when you hear the word “networking?”

Social networking, like Facebook, is such a huge part of our culture right now, but did you know that successful organizations have been leveraging the concept of networking to maximize the potential of both the individual as well as the team and organization?  And they found out something else along the way… that the act of networking also improves employee satisfaction, engagement, and commitment!  

Can we use networking in our personal lives to do more than share pictures and give thumbs up?  You bet!  We are social animals and the better we are at socializing, the happier and more successful we are in family, friendship, work, education… in life.  And it’s not just about you - networking is a two way street that allows you, if you do it right, to help others in ways that are energizing and authentic to you.  Building and maintaining relationships are essential life skills that most people have only scratched the surface of.  Just like any other skill, networking requires practice in order to build competence.



 “But I HATE networking!!!”

In order to build a community for yourself and your family, you need to be skilled at networking.   I know what you are thinking….

It’s awkward!

I don’t want to be fake.”

Why would anyone want to talk to me?”

I feel like I’m imposing.

I get that it’s important, but I don’t know what to do.”



Don’t let these common barriers get in your way:

Lack of confidence.  Fear of rejection.  Not having a networking mindset.  Although it may not feel completely natural to you at first, you will feel more comfortable over time and with practice. Remember, you are doing this for your family.  Don't be afraid to put yourself out there.  Take risks, stretch yourself a bit, go outside your comfort zone.  It's especially hard for us introverts, but the long-term benefits outweigh the short term discomfort.


"How do I begin?" 

The networking recipe: 

1) Develop a networking mindset

2) Find common ground to get the ball rolling

3) Contribute to your network

4) Leverage your network

These four key ingredients will help you as you get started. Your children will also learn how to network and build community by observing as you model these behaviors.  Check back soon for specific strategies on these four key ingredients to the networking recipe!

Additionally, some online resources that can help you network are, Facebook Groups, and Yahoo Groups.  Just search for the type of group you are looking for based on the interest or value you are seeking.

Also, check out these 4 and 5 star books to further develop your networking skills:

The Frog and Prince: Secrets of Positive Networking To Change Your Life

Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

Community is out there waiting for you, take advantage of it and contribute to it!