Happy April Fools’ Day Easter

Last year around Easter, we talked about a nice big Easter spring clean here. This time around, I just realized that Easter falls on April Fools’ Day this year, or vice versa. That got me thinking: How about some Easter fun pranks on Fools’ Day, to fool around and have a good time? So here goes… nothing.

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Easter Egg Fight” by feraliminal is licensed under CC by 2.0

What about substituting hard-boiled, nicely painted Easter eggs with not boiled, nicely painted ones? A word of caution though: Any egg activity with the said eggs should strictly be carried out outdoors, since gooeyness of egg insides is hard to get off most things. Be it an Easter egg relay race with the egg on a spoon or simply a treasure hunt, the expressions of kids will be a sight to behold when the egg cracks open suddenly (I’m pretty sure though my son will be thrilled with the discovery if it happens to him and he’ll smear it happily all over, ugh).

Easter also means everything sweet and chocolatey, and even more so at our place. Small bits and pieces of chopped vegetables dipped in chocolate sauce and wrapped in silver foil would act as the perfect chocolates to be handed out to the kids as treats. Well, everyone loves almonds and pistachios within chocolates; why not a bit of carrot or a piece of broccoli at the core to bite off?

Why, I’m already excited at the ‘evil’ thoughts taking shape in my mind. Care to add to this list with some enlightening ideas?

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3 Reasons for Choosing to Homeschool My Kids

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Studying Together” by oksmith is licensed under CC by 2.0

Okay, so this is just me letting off a bit of steam here, through this post. I hate to admit – yet I have to – that even after all these years of homeschooling, I do tend to doubt myself every now and again. Am I doing the right thing for my kids? What if they grow into socially inept people in a couple of years? This, that and so much more. And because I’m presently going through such a ‘phase’ (as I like to call it), here’s reminding myself why I chose to take it up in the first place.

  • I wanted to be the primary influence in my children’s lives, to gently guide them through their learning years.
  • I did not want my kids to be restricted by any set curriculum of a particular school, which may not suit them; I wanted them to be learning at their own comfortable pace.
  • I wanted them to be able to chase their dreams and discover what they are good at, by trying out everything without formal lesson plans – be it sports, studies or anything else.

Phew! That sure was cathartic. To all the like-minded parents out there, all I want to say is this: There will be unproductive days on your homeschooling journey and there will be days when you’ll doubt your own capabilities of being able to impart the best education to your kids; but in the end, you’ll be proud to have a major hand in their coming out as terrific human beings. Keep going, homeschoolers!

Family New Year Resolutions for 2018

Another New Year, yet another chance for us to make the wrongs right and be more awesome than the year that went by. Less junk food and more real green leafy food; less late nights and more early to bed and early to rise; less frowning and complaining with more smiling and forgiving; less talking and more listening; less sitting and more walking… and the list goes on. But yes, like always – easier said than done, of course.

Instead of making the same old promises to yourself at the beginning of the year, why not take this opportunity to make some New Year resolutions as a family, which you can all work on together in the coming year? This way someone will always have your back to give you that extra nudge or a word of encouragement when you wander off your set path.

Here are three New Year resolutions we have decided to adopt as a family this 2018.

Sweat, Smile, Repeat

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Kids on a Jungle Gym” by j4p4n is licensed under CC by 2.0

Exercising together as a family is resolution number one. It is no myth that happy healthy parents make happy healthy children. Let’s lead the way and become examples for our kids, making our exercise time a fun activity rather than just sitting indoors and playing all sorts of virtual games on your tablet every evening. No, going to the gym is a big no here. Go for a short jog with your kids early in the morning and hear the birds chirping. Cycle together with your kids as a weekly ritual to the neighborhood grocery market. Learn a sport together and get really good at it. It’s a win-win situation all around – you keep fit, you spend quality time together and you have fun together as a family while doing it.

Collect Moments, Not Things

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Old Man Teaches Boy” by j4p4n is licensed under CC by 2.0

Mark Victor Hansen, the successful book author, trainer and inspirational speaker puts it like this: “Give your children family pictures. Create family memories and leave a pictorial family history. Keep a journal so that your kids can really know you… Maintain a library. The books you keep will give your children an idea of what you read, what was important to you and what you found influential. Kids can see where you have dog-eared a corner or underlined a sentence.” He said it all in those few words. Collecting moments and not things will always prove to be your life’s greatest treasure.

Spend what is Left after Saving

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Coins (Money)” by mystica is licensed under CC by 2.0

It is never too early to teach your kids how to save money. Giving them a monthly allowance from their early years and helping them how to manage it can go a long way in developing healthy monetary habits for them in their later years. Gift them a transparent glass jar instead of a piggy bank so they can actually see their money grow. After a couple of months, let them buy something of their choice with their own money; and then begin by saving up again for something else they would like to purchase at a later date. Spending what is left after saving and not the other way around is what must be inculcated into the children’s minds from a very young age.

The key to keeping any kind of resolutions is this: If it makes you happy, you’ll end up doing it anyhow. If it doesn’t, then it’s just a matter of time before you’ll give it up. But since family is all about laughter, love and happiness, these family resolutions will definitely be yours to keep. Happy New Year!

DIY Simple Halloween Costumes for Kids

It’s Halloween season once again! Last year, we talked about how we could celebrate this occasion in an eco-friendly way (read the full post here). This time around, the focus of this article will be on how to get ready creative Halloween costumes for your little ones even if you’re short of time (read: now). I, sadly, belong to this category.

Dragon

Turning your kid into a cute yet ferocious dinosaur-cum-dragon this Halloween can be quite easy. This is because the major part of the costume is just a dangerous-looking tail, plus an added handmade mask for extra effect (this tutorial seems pretty useful for some quick work). All you need is some fabric in vibrant colors – tomato red or sunshine yellow or bright green works best. Lay a rectangular piece of the fabric on the ground and fill it up with cotton (I’m planning to use the filling from an old mattress for the purpose). The slightly tricky part here is to sew it up so make sure the cotton filling is not too much. You could also use empty toilet paper rolls taped together as a filling or even otherwise instead of cotton.

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Halloween” by ArtsyBee is licensed under CC by 2.0

The length of the tail should be such that it drags for a little distance on the ground when fitted at the waist. Using another color of fabric, you need to make small round balls filled with cotton to be roughly sewn onto the length of the tail. A yellow tail with red rounded balls as protuberances sticking out of it looks great. Make little belt loops on either side of one extreme end, insert a belt into the loops and fasten it on your child’s waist. Your roaring dragon is ready with a lethal tail trailing behind!

A Bunch of Grapes

This costume is the absolute go-to if, say, you need to get your kid dressed for trick-or-treating as soon as tonight. Simply head to the nearest store and buy a packet of black or purple or green balloons (at least 30-40 in number). Blow them up using a pump to save on time – it will take less than half the time it would otherwise take if you decided to blow them up manually. You need not worry about the size of the balloons; some could be larger and others smaller. Attach a small safety pin to each knot of the balloon, since you’ll be pinning them up on your kids.

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Ball” by Pexels is licensed under CC by 2.0

A word of caution here: The child needs to be wearing at least two layers of clothing, an inner t-shirt as well as a sweat suit. Carefully pin on the balloons on the front and back, top and bottom and your bunch of grapes is ready to flounce around! To add extra flair, twist a couple of pipe cleaners such that they resemble vines, stick them atop a hat and prop it on your little one’s head. This outfit couldn’t have been easier, could it?

P.S. Though my son is super excited to roar around and behave like a dragon (aka one of the creatures from his favorite dragon games), the daughter isn’t too ecstatic with her bunch of grapes idea of a costume. She wants to be a witch on a broomstick (I guess her neighborhood pals put that idea into her head). And so, with the promise of an elaborately designed wicked witch costume for next year, I’m off to get my two little tykes ready to say boo!

Having Fun with the Summer Slide (Part II)

It’s been two whole months since I did this post (Part I) about having fun with the summer slide. I had originally meant to do a couple of them by and by, but summer just rushed past and now I suddenly realize we’re already at the fag end of the holiday season. Though schools in our area re-open after August 31, my kids are happily having an extended vacation of sorts; their grandparents are visiting in the next fortnight, hence their home/school classes will actually begin after mid-September.

We’ve been making it a point to read every day this summer, the whole family. Evenings are more often than not spent curled up on the couch or bean bag with a book. I personally love those quiet times together.

Now when the summers are about to end, here are some ways to get your kids up and about, ready for schooling, unschooling and homeschooling. Needless to say, there’s fun involved too!

Experiment. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

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Explore” by SchoolPRPro is licensed under CC by 2.0

Science experiments are not meant for the school chemistry lab alone. Neither are they only meant for middle or high school kids. Irrespective of how old your kids are, there is bound to be a variety of science experiments like these you can easily carry out at home, the DIY way. Allow bread mold to grow on a slice of bread and explain what mold is all about. Use food coloring and bleach to carry out the ‘appear-disappear’ act for kids. Make it rain with ice cubes and some hot water in the interiors of your home within a jar. Or even write a spooky secret message using invisible ink (read: lemon juice). The possibilities are endless; and so are the learning and fun parts. For some really good ideas, you could go through this post too.

Kid-Friendly Cooking

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Cooking With Kids” by congerdesign is licensed under CC by 2.0

“Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment and creativity,” says Guy Fieri, the renowned American restaurateur, author, TV personality and game show host. And about creating a BIG mess, if I may add (from personal experience). Here’s why it is all worth it.

First and foremost, cooking becomes fun if the family does it together (followed by the cleaning up which is also done together). Right from something as simple as cracking an egg open to meticulously decorating a bunch of cupcakes fresh out of the oven, there is no denying the fact that these skills will hold your kids in good stead later on in their lives. Finding their way about in the kitchen can only be learnt at home; no amount of schooling can teach them that. What’s more, it can be a good way to brush up on the basic math skills of younger kids as well, say fractions or multiplication tables (for instance: how many cookies on a tray, if there are 6 rows of 6 cookies each?).

Sigh. As I get the next meal ready, I can already see a pile of reading worksheets peeking out at me cheekily from the bottom-most drawer in the next room. An indication perhaps that summer is over and soon enough, like it or not, we’ll have to firmly pull up our socks. Alas!

Having Fun with the Summer Slide (Part I)

‘A term that suggests a playful amusement park attraction but actually describes a grim reality. The phenomenon was studied extensively by Johns Hopkins University researchers… [in 2007 and their] longitudinal study tracked Baltimore students from 1st grade through age 22… The researchers concluded that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by [lack of] access to summer learning opportunities during elementary school.’

This is how the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) defines ‘summer slide’, the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.

Though we are a homeschooling family and learn all year round without the concept of any particularly long vacation of sorts, things do tend to get a bit different come summers. We go a bit slower than usual from the drawn-up curriculum, spending our time more on other ‘non-studying’ activities than classes, worksheets and ‘homework’ (yes, my kids still get homework from their homeschooling mom-cum-teacher, which they have to submit for correction the following day). Hence, homeschoolers like us also experience a summer slide, albeit perhaps a milder version as compared to those who attend school regularly.

I’ve decided to do a series of posts that talk about how we can keep our kids gainfully occupied this summer. Some of the ideas are tried-and-tested, others I found interesting while I came across them sometime in the past, which seemed suitable for the coming weeks. These can work for all kids – schooled, unschooled, homeschooled and the rest. Read on, and please feel free to add or subtract or suggest your own ideas.

On Your Mark, Get Set… Read!

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Kids” by henriquesaf is licensed under CC by 2.0

For kids who love reading (like mine), this one is simple. For parents of kids who don’t, this one will need a patient approach to get them into the habit. Try reading games like these which are interactive and helpful for beginners. If your little ones are old enough to read but simply not interested in curling up on the couch with a book, try something more fun. Join a neighborhood library. Ours organizes read-aloud story sessions for young kids. What’s more, kids do spend more time than usual with books if they have a whole shelf of them to choose from. Or else, read in places along with your child where you wouldn’t generally. Like the beach, or the park, or on a picnic. Make it all about the picnic (say) rather than the act of reading. Another exciting alternative is to read story books which have been made into cartoons or films. I remember reading The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Elves and The Shoemaker with mother back as a child and then following it up watching its video on the television. Reading time should be equivalent to family time.

Summer Camps… Where Strangers Become Friends

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Holiday” by lentemamaatje is licensed under CC by 2.0

“Summers are a particularly good opportunity to take into account our children’s interests and likes. Building activities around what our children enjoy or want to explore is essential to creating positive summer learning experiences,” says Mr. Boulay from the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA).

I’ve never been to summer camp myself but my husband has and vouches for their worth. Camps could be about anything your kids are interested in – skating, swimming, reading, photography, dance, baking, art… the possibilities are endless. In one word, a summer camp is akin to action; kids will be physically active, meeting new people, forming bonds and friendships, getting to know how to work as a team. There’s always something going on at a camp; even sitting around laughing and being silly all day long with your peer group is a learning experience for young minds. Read more here about how camps are a good idea both for your kids as well as for you.

No interesting summer camps in the immediate neighborhood? Not a problem. Discuss with your neighborhood parents and take the kids out on a day trip every weekend. It could be a zoo, an amusement park or just a giant playground where they can run around and play catch. A carefree day well-spent with like-minded kids of their own age will do them a world of good.

After all, aren’t summers all about going crazy and making the best memories possible together, slide and all?

Simple Ways to Make Your Child More Independent

‘The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.’

These words by Denis Waitley, the popular motivational speaker and writer, ring very true. However, more often than not, parents like us tend to do everything in their power to make life as seamless as possible for their kids. And while that comes naturally to over-protective mommies and daddies, we need to make sure we know where to draw the line, all for the greater good of our tiny tots.

Here are some simple ways we can help our kids become more independent and learn to stand on their own rapidly growing feet.

Following a basic routine

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Quotes” by fshnextension is licensed under CC by 2.0

Back in my childhood, I remember mom struggling to get me and my sister ready for school on time in the mornings. School mornings used to be nothing short of a whirlwind of activity – mum running to get the shoes on me while popping up the toaster and hurrying up my sister to finish her shower in ‘2 minutes flat’ (she loved to simply stand and hum under running water, regardless of how late she was). Eventually, we were told what all we needed to do ourselves. Our school clothes would be neatly laid out, provided we dress ourselves up, top to toe. Likewise, breakfast would be waiting for us in the kitchen, and we needed to clear up our plates even if the bus was honking outside. Agreed, it was difficult in the beginning but then eventually we got the hang of it. Once I missed the school bus because I couldn’t find my shoe at the last moment. That taught me more than what days of mother’s tirades could. Today, since my kids are homeschooled, they don’t have a bus impatiently honking for them outside. But yes, class is at home sharp at 9 am and they know they need to be dressed and ready in their seats then. A basic routine helps in inculcating a sense of self-discipline in any individual, kids or adults.

Daily/weekly grocery shopping

This one is for slightly older kids. You could begin with guiding your son/daughter through the supermarket, armed with a list of things to be bought. Helping you with grocery shopping is fun for them too; they get to decide what goes on the list before leaving for the grocery store, they can then check off the items one by one once each object is in the shopping basket and they learn how to handle money plus not overshoot the budget for the day. A treat once in a while doesn’t matter but kids should know that having a fixed budget and not going overboard helps them to save for the future. For younger kids, one could introduce the piggy bank concept and put in a couple of pennies saved for every shopping expedition.

Caring for pets

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Animal” by OpenClipart-Vectors is licensed under CC by 2.0

Now this one is a dicey option. Not everyone is in favor of having a pet dog or a cat at home (including me). But I’ve seen my kids bonding with the Labrador next door; they will forget their own lunch but will dash out of the house before time when they know the pet will come out to his kennel for his mealtimes. Apart from the fact that dogs, for instance, make great companions, children are generally very responsive to pets they can proudly call ‘their very own’ and don’t shy away from taking responsibility for them. Many of my parent friends vouch for this fact. Though I partly agree with them, I do understand that having a pet is a huge responsibility for the entire family, not just the kids. So it’ll probably be just a pet turtle along with the usual virtual pets for my kids to begin with, for now. Then we’ll decide whether we’re ready for the big decision.

Also, we need to remember that praising the little ones for small tasks they’ve managed to accomplish on their own will help them a great deal in the feel-good factor. It may be something as simple as buttoning up their shirt correctly, or tying up their shoelaces (a tad haphazardly) the first time. But it’s a big deal for them, and thus a big deal in turn, for us. :)