• Top 10 Life Skills Kids Need Before College

    My book list of Top 10 Books to Teach Kids to Be More Responsible made me start to think about life skills that kids need before going off to college. That and the fact that my oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, will be starting high school next fall so we have only 4 years to tackle this […]

  • Today I am on the Front Page of The Boston Globe

    Today I am on the front page of The Boston Globe for the past week of posts that I wrote on my microblog, I Love Newton, about the anti-Asian racism in the local high school musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. School play’s stereotypes bring outcry and apology. “Millie” touches nerve in Newton by Ellen Ishkanian, Globe […]

  • Get Kids Reading Strategies: 12 Surefire Ways

    I searched five years of digital photographs looking for photos of my kids reading and I only came up with the handful here. Why? It’s not easy getting kids reading, especially to love reading enough that they choose it over more exciting things like screens, playdates or sports! I started my blog after my oldest […]

  • 10 Perfect Read Aloud Books for 3rd Grade

    I had the great fortune to meet The Nerdy Book Club founders at a dinner for Anne Ursu hosted by Walden Pond Press to celebrate her latest chapter book, The Real Boy. (It’s wonderful. I put it on my  Newbery 2014 Contenders list! And it just won a Middle Grade Fiction Nerdie). Colby Sharp, one of […]

  • Best Beginning Chapter Books for 2nd and 3rd Grade

    Best books for beginning readers from my library. This list is perfect for 2nd grade and 3rd grade.

  • How To: Create a Great Kids’ Book Club (Activity and Book Suggestions)

    Some ideas on how to set up a book club for your child with examples of successful book club meetings.

  • Top 10: Best Dragon Children’s Books (ages 2-16)

    The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog has a great post on dragons that preempted this post but I actually had been working on this for several weeks. There is something magical about dragons and I’m glad that some kids can keep the magic alive. I’ve gathered my favorite dragon books that range in age from picture books to young adult. What is your favorite dragon book? Please share!

  • Best Science Apps for Kids (ages 4-21)

    I am starting to buy into this idea of teaching and really connecting material through games and apps. I was sort of on board with this concept, but since playing around with The Elements (a Harry Potter version of the Periodic Table) that my brother-in-law turned me on to, I am now a believer as I saw, with my own eyes, how captivated my kids were with the Periodic Table, an otherwise dull chart.

  • Newbery Winners by Grade Appropriateness!

    Thank you to Hubpages for this information. There are additional book suggestions by grade if click here to see their post. I have added an asterisk to the books that I’ve read and loved (and two astericks for must reads!).

  • Best Picture Books That Teach Math Concepts

    Picture books can be a visual and fun way to introduce math concepts. I think it makes math less intimidating when it’s part of a story. For those kids who love math, it’s another way to eat it up!

garden rooms for kids, garden play spaces for kids,

Fantasy Garden Play Spaces for Kids and Adults

Now that it has warmed up, I’m thinking of my garden again. My husband keeps reminding me that it desperately needs weeding. My old neighbor taught me this trick of sliding an old paring knife to the tap root. It works better than the weeding tool I used to use.

Still, I’d rather think about fantasy garden play spaces for kids and adults than about all those weeds!

My fantasy started when I saw this sideshow from Dwell that made me drool about garden play spaces for kids. They suggest adding hills, stumps, boulders, dens, gates to nowhere, and loose extra materials to make the most awesome garden for kid sized adventures.

We are going to get rid of a tree to get more sunlight into our dark backyard. I’ll have to remember to get someone to slice disks for playing with. An old stump as holder would be amazing too!

Dwell kids garden spacesRead more…

every day adventures, N. Captiva Florida, Quaker Perfect Portions

Everyday Adventures Occur When You Slow Down!

We were on vacation in North Captiva, Florida, a barrier island accessible only by boat a few months ago. The charm of the island is that there is nothing to do. There aren’t even cars, just golf carts (that my kids drive surreptitiously because you are supposed to be 18 or older with a valid driver’s license or the people there give you a really hard time!).

But the downside is that there is nothing to do — assuming you are bored with the beach and the swimming pool AND already stopped for ice cream. Yep, nothing to do … except enjoy the beauty of the island.

I decided to take my two bored girls with iPhone cameras and the camera in hand and we headed out with the golf cart for a few hours of exploration.

We decided to drive r e a l l y    s  l  o  w  l  y which is the opposite of how we typically move. Yes, slow, I told them, so we wouldn’t miss anything.

It is amazing what you do see when you slow down! Grasshopper and Sensei, now 13, saw these twisted trees. Read more…

teaching kids compassion for special needs classmates, Understanding Our Differences, books for kids with special needs characters

Teaching Kids Compassion for Special Needs Classmates

I volunteered in the 5th grade a few weeks ago for a really great program run by volunteer moms called Understanding Our Differences. I believe we purchase curriculum from a Newton based non-profit with the same name which was started by a Newton parent with a special needs child. It’s basically sensitivity training for grades 3 through 5, possibly even younger.

Understanding Our Differences Makes a Difference

Understanding Our Differences sponsored author R. J. Palacio of Wonder as well to speak at our local high school as well and I run into them on Twitter. Small world, isn’t it?

I am not a coordinator. I just show to help run the breakout sessions. This was the final session for the 5th graders and we combined in two units that day: Physical Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders, focusing on Asperger’s Syndrome.

Understanding Our Differences, special needs education for kids, physical disabilities, spectrum disorders sensitivity training for kids, Newton School District, Newton MARead more…

what to pack in hospital bag,

Hospital Bag Checklist When Having a Baby

Katie from Moore from Katie said, “A few weeks ago, I had a couple of girlfriends at my house and we began talking about what we packed for the hospital when our children were born.  We began to reminisce about the odd items our husbands suggested to pack and I thought I would put a fun twist on our conversation.  I created a collage and wanted to pass it along.  Take a look at my collage here: ”

She thought it would be fun to have other mom bloggers share what they packed for the delivery room hospital stay. My hospital bag checklist is below Katie’s.

Hospital Bag Checklist for Baby Delivery

Katie’s Must-Haves:

1. Diaper Bag: I love this color! Source: www.potterybarnkids.com
2. ID and Insurance Cards: These are a MUST have for the hospital- to ensure they process your paperwork correctly.
3. Cord Blood Collection Kit: This is of your partner’s responsibilities and is important to give to your doctor. Source: www.viacord.com
4. Flip-Flops: Many of my friends brought slippers, which got dirty quickly at the hospital. I chose flip-flops and they were great!
5. Bathrobe: It’s important to be comfortable and a cozy robe is a perfect choice.
6. Big Sibling Gift: Making your first child feel involved is very important. Bring his/her gift to the hospital for their arrival!
7. iPad: Comes in handy to Skype and e-mail!
8. Camera: My husband was able to capture some beautiful pictures with our camera. These memories are priceless. Read more…

25 math games, 25 math skills games,

25 Math Skills Games for Kids

As the school year starts to wind down, I’m longing for summer even though the school year is in full force and quite hectic this time of year. Every summer, I bribe my kids to do some math review so I’m also starting to think about what workbooks to buy. Some moms I know manage to do math review in a fun, gaming kind of way. It makes me think that summer math can and should be fun.

Since this is not my forte, I’m thrilled to introduce Karla Valenti of Tot Thoughts, who created a list of 25 fun and free math skills games to play with kids.

Are you thinking of doing summer math with your kids? What resources and games will you using? Please share. I could use the help!


25 Fun and Easy Math Skills Games

So, your child struggles with math?

They pay attention, they work hard, they do their homework and yet… those tricky math concepts simply refuse to sink in.

You bring in tutors, you practice flash cards, you spend hours going over worksheets, drilling your child in the car or at the breakfast table.

You tell yourself that if your kid just keeps at it, one day, it’ll “click.” But deep down, you’re worried that they’re falling further and further behind. Your child’s teacher is worried too.

And your child is starting to think they’re not smart. Worse, you’re starting to wonder if that might not be true. Read more…

best new chapter books for kids, best books for kids, best summer reading books for kids, best new chapter books

Great New Chapter Books for Kids GIVEAWAY

I’ve been trying to read more children’s book lately to catch up on my pile so I’ve taken to carting around a small pile of books everywhere I go and reading a little here and a little there until the book draws me in such that I am forced to read to the end. Some books are like that. If they have that power for me, I’m hoping they will for your child too.

As the school year is nearing the close, things are heating up. Are they for you too? You might not be needing new chapter books for kids yet for summer reading but I hope some of these will work for you!

What are your kids reading and recommending? Please share! It doesn’t have to be a newly published book either!


If You Read One Book This Summer …

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

This is not a newly published book but it’s a perfect gem of a chapter book for spring. Told from the point of view of disparate neighbors in a rough part of town in Cleveland, a young Korean girl digs out a space in a rundown lot to plant lima bean seeds which starts of a chain of reaction towards positive change.

PickyKidPix did a school project on this book for 5th grade and recommended it to me. She wasn’t allowed to read two of the stories (one is about a pregnant teenager who hates her unborn baby and the other about a boy who wants to grow marijuana) so she had me check out the book at the library so she could read them.

This is a really beautiful multicultural chapter book that is also a fast read. The power of gardening is such that it creates a community that wasn’t there before. And this community ends up changing lives. Does life really work like this? I think it does. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

Read more…

5th grade slavery unit, picture books on slavery, chapter books on slavery, ya on slavery

5th Grade Slavery Unit in Newton

My daughter is studying slavery and the first thing I thought of what that our town was a part of the Underground Railroad. Not our particular house (not old enough) but the Jackson Homestead in Newtonwhich is a museum and historic home on the National Underground Railroad Millennium Trail.

Slavery and The South End of Boston

Before we lived in Newton, we lived in an apartment and condominium in the South End. There was a large bronze statue of Harriet Tubman. I’d heard of her, of course, but I had no idea she lived in the South End of Boston.

Although Tubman never lived in Boston, she had links to the city through her network of abolitionist friends, one of whom opened the Harriet Tubman House as a settlement house for black women who had migrated from the South. The house has since relocated, but it still exists today as part of the United South End Settlements program. from Public Art Boston Read more…

100 Days of Play, Lemonade Stand entrepreneurs

Lemonade Stand Ideas for Young Entrepreneurs: 100 Days of Play

I’m thrilled to be joining Sun Scholars and 99 other bloggers for 100 Days of Play! Need play ideas? Please join us as we explore ideas for playful learning!

With nice weather finally arriving in New England, I’ve seen numerous lemonade stand ideas pop up in my neighborhood. It’s been fun to support the neighborhood kids and sample their wares. Some have been selling lemonade and brownies. Others have more traditional stands.

One thing that struck me is how much the pricing varies. I thought I would teach entrepreneurial finance for kids today for my 100 Days of Play contribution by looking at pricing your [successful] lemonade stand.


Pricing Lemonade for Your Stand Read more…

best Holocaust books for kids, best Holocaust books for children, best Holocaust chapter books, best Holocaust chapter books, best Holocaust graphic novels for kids

38 Haunting Holocaust Books for Kids

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. ~ Edmund Burke

I will be the first to admit that I avoid children’s books about war. They depress me. I even get nightmares. So you can imagine that I don’t go seeking out books on the Holocaust. The very idea of man’s inhumanity turns my stomach. And yet … it’s such an important event in this lifetime to remember and seek out whatever lessons possible to prevent a reoccurrence. Right?

Some of these books beckoned and drew me in, reluctant reader that I was, on this subject. Jerry Spinelli’s Milkweed is a perfect example. I had checked out a pile of his books and brought this last unread one on a train ride. I didn’t want to read it, honestly. I wanted something lighter and uplifting. But as soon as I opened his book, I wasn’t able to put it down.

In creating this list, my question is simply, “Can a single ordinary person make a difference in the face of such abject horror?” There are unsung heroes in all these books, both real and imagined. I would suggest these books, even the picture books, for ages 10 and up. The Holocaust is a subject for an older child.

It goes without saying that any book for kids that gets published on the topic of the Holocaust is worthy of accolades and children’s literature awards. The bar is set high since this is a tough subject to sell. It’s no coincidence that many of these books have won prestigious awards.

What are the books you read with your child about the Holocaust that you recommend? Please share! Read more…