Category Archives: Home & Family

Nurturing an Interest in STEM

Children are natural-born engineers. From their ability to imagine and create to their love of discovery, they are hardwired to explore all facets of life.
With this realization comes the opportunity for parents to nurture those inherent tendencies as a way to bridge their child’s interest in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—subjects and learning that will lead to an array of career paths in the future.
Raleigh-based Brentwood Magnet Elementary School of Engineering was designed with that learning focus in mind and has since garnered national recognition for the specialized engineering program it provides. The first elementary school in the state to be named an NC Model STEM School, Brentwood provides students with access to a 3D-printer, iPad minis, and a variety of engineering materials to utilize in their core curriculum.
“Brentwood students engage in solving real-world problems across all content areas using the Engineering Design Process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve,” said school Principal Robert Epler. “These hands-on activities and exploration occur across all school settings, including a Makerspace where the grade level teacher and a STEM teacher team teach. Our engineering theme opens the door for students to demonstrate and build upon their creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical-thinking skills.”
Do you want to guide your eager engineer’s interest in STEM sooner rather than later? There are many ways you can introduce this learning approach in your own home.  
Answer questions with questions:
Speaking with your child may seem like a game of 21 questions. She asks and you answer, and so on and so on. Consider turning the tables by answering her question with a question. Ignite an opportunity for her to tell you what she thinks rather than hearing what you think.
Choose exploration over instruction
Give your son a project and let him make his own plan to complete it. By limiting

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Is cold weather play okay?

Q. My preschool-age twins love to be outside no matter what the weather may be including the freezing cold temperatures we’ve recently experienced. Is it okay to let them play outdoors in the winter weather? Do you have any suggestions for outdoor, cold-weather activities that we should do? Would it be better if I chose to keep the boys indoors instead?
A. I hear you on this one! It can be so tempting to try and entertain children indoors when the weather outside is less than desirable, especially on really cold days. Many parents fear that their child will get sick when playing in the cold or will not like being outdoors. However, when dressed appropriately for the weather conditions, playing outdoors on a cold day can provide many benefits for a young child who needs and craves daily physical activity.
Some benefits of bundling up and playing outside in the cold weather include:
There are many fun ways that children can learn and explore the world around them, even when it’s chilly outside. Nature looks different during the winter months, and the changes in the plants, trees, and animals offer plenty to discover, inspect, and discuss.
Consider these activities to interest your children in outdoor exploration:
Scavenger hunt: Give your children a list of outdoor items to find in the backyard. Let them loose on the hunt, but time them to ensure they aren’t exposed to the cold too long. For children who aren’t yet able to read, you can print pictures of the items and have them look for something similar outdoors.
Take a hike: Go on a nature walk and have your children point out the different items they see. Take the opportunity to incorporate higher-level language concepts such as asking them to use descriptive words, answer WH questions (who, what, when,

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Language Learning at Home

Is your toddler learning to piece together two and three words to form sentences? Is your four-year-old expanding her vocabulary daily? Has your rising kindergartener started to recognize the alphabet and spell her name? Now is the time to consider introducing a foreign language to your eager learners.
Beyond the ability to communicate and engage with a broader, more diverse population, there is great value in teaching your children a second language sooner rather than later. Research studies have shown that bi- or multi-lingual children may develop advanced problem-solving and reasoning skills, improved memory and cognitive flexibility, and a broader view of the numerous cultures that make up the world.
“Exposure to different languages and cultures at a young age is an important step toward helping our children become successful citizens of an increasingly connected world,” said Green Magnet Elementary Principal Lisa Brown.
Interested in helping your children get a leg up on the bilingual bandwagon? You can seek out language immersion preschools or specialized programs like the one at Green Magnet Elementary, and you can also introduce a new language to them at home. There are a variety of ways you can incorporate language learning into their daily routines, even if you will be learning it right along with them.
Get started on dual language learning in your home with these easy tips:
Be a label maker
Let your children see the words that correspond to the various items in your home by labeling them. Label the door, a window, the light switch, a lamp, the kitchen table, their favorite toys, anything really, with the words in the new language you are teaching. Teach them the words for each and ask them to say the words aloud when they use each of the items.
Look and listen
Turn on the tube to watch an age appropriate TV

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How do I make the most of my child’s therapy sessions?

Q. My four-year-old daughter just started receiving private weekly speech therapy to address some articulation issues. Our weekly co-pay is expensive and a bit of a financial investment for us, so I want to make sure that my husband and I are doing all we can to make the most of her sessions. What are some ways that we can help her progress?
A. Kudos to you for wanting to play an active role in your daughter’s progress during speech therapy. In my practice, I see the value that parent involvement brings to the therapeutic process. Parents often play an important and vital role in their child’s ability to meet therapy goals as they have the unique opportunity to practice with their child beyond the scheduled therapy sessions. Their participation often helps drive progress towards goals and an overall change in their child.
Here are some ways that you can make the most of your daughter’s speech therapy experience:
Be present
It’s ideal to have a parent attend therapy sessions and sit in on the sessions to see how the speech-language pathologist elicits desired skills and provides cueing and feedback. If your presence is distracting to your child, consider coming into the room for the last few minutes of her sessions to observe and have a detailed conversation with the therapist afterward.
Practice at home
Your daughter’s therapist should be providing you with activities to do at home to encourage the skills she is practicing in therapy. The activities the therapist assigns will enable your daughter to practice her new skills throughout the week in a comfortable setting. Incorporate these practice sessions into your daily routine and do your best to make them fun and enjoyable for your daughter, your husband and you.
Always ask
While therapists try to use parent-friendly language, there may be terms

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Home Again, Home Again Zip-A-Di-Da

She came in on a train direct from Union Station.  It was Friday night, the week before Christmas.  I was so joyful.  DJ, my college sophomore, was returning for an entire month!
I was committed to our performance in the Christmas Carol play so her grandmother picked her up.  DJ was in a hurry because she had agreed to bar tend at a neighbor’s Christmas party for cash.  I’m so proud – my daughter, a barmaid.
I was amazed that she got her suitcase into the house.  It was the size of a pirate chest, but heavier.  She dropped it in the kitchen, its innards spilled out under the bar – she apparently had a quick change.
I called my buddy Jack to see if he could help me get the Samsonite up to her bedroom.  He couldn’t come over until the next day.  So when she got home, we broke the contents up into four laundry baskets and then carried the almost empty case up on its own.  My grandmother always said, “You can eat an elephant in small pieces.”
I do love my girl.
She had plans on Saturday night and spent Sunday night with high school friends.
Tuesday she went to the beach with the same high school friends.  She returned Wednesday night.  We ate dessert together.  Quality time.
On Thursday she returned to the coast to meet a dude from college for dinner, the one she just spent an entire semester with.
“Honey, do you think you’ll be able to stop by the house to receive your gifts on Christmas day?”  I was just wondering if I should perhaps mail them to a friend’s house.  She assured me she was free for the entire day.
I love that child.
I enjoy the memories of times gone by when she visits:
her bedroom floor unfindable due to the

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A Single Parent Morning

Do you see a battery here?
It was one of those days that being a single parent hurts.
It was 7:20: Stephanie had an exam at 8.  I was about to take Michelle to school.  The older headed out the door in a rush to meet a friend for some final cramming.
7:21 AM:  “Dad, my car won’t start!  HELP!”
Indeed, we had a dead battery.  I was buttoning my white, starched, dress shirt but my flannels and bedroom shoes were still on my bottom half.  I grabbed my keys knowing I’d be late to work.
7:22 AM:  I texted my co-worker informing her of my likely tardiness.
7:25.15 AM:  The gas is nearly out indicator light came on.
7:25.30.16 AM:  I cursed.
7:36 AM:  Stephanie jumped out of the car rushing to her exam.
Me:  “Can you find a ride home from school?”
Her:  “Probably.”
Me:  “If so, pick your sister up at 3:15, assuming I get the car started.  If not, hang tight.  I’ll pick you up at some point before bedtime!”
7:40 AM:  Me:  “Michelle.  Someone will pick you up after school today.  Keep your phone on.  If Stephanie or I can’t get there by 3:30, go to Panera.”
Michelle:  “I don’t have any money.”
Me:  “Neither do I – check the ashtray.”
Michelle:  “There’s only $1.63.”
Me:  “Give them our home phone number, I think we have enough Panera points for a free pastry.  Drink water if you can’t find another quarter.  I think  drink is like $2.”
Michelle:  “What can you get as a free pastry?”
Me:  “I think anything in the glass case.  Pick the most expensive thing.”
Michelle:  “What if I don’t like it?”
Me:  “Get it anyway.  We want to maximize our purchasing power.”
7:56 AM:  Dropped Michelle at school.
7:59 AM:  Arrived at the gas station.
8:01 AM:  Man in a pickup truck eyeballed my choice of clothing.
Get at me dude!
8:30 AM:  I open

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Meaningful Play Makes for Successful Learning

It’s certainly no surprise that children like to play. They jump, they color, they make-believe, they story-tell, and while it may seem like all fun and games (which it is), play is also an important vehicle for learning.
It’s so important in fact that one area school has incorporated play-based learning into their curriculum and educational offerings. Just this year, Wake County Public School System introduced its first Play and Ingenuity magnet theme at Powell Magnet Elementary School. With a broad array of Domain and elective courses to support core subjects as well as visual, performing, and contemporary arts, and media, Powell Center for Play and Ingenuity engages its students through play and game-like learning that encourages active participation and exploration to build and strengthen brain pathways.
“Children innately use play to understand the world around them,” said Justin Kram, the play integration specialist at Powell Center for Play and Ingenuity. “At Powell, we inspire our students to explore our curriculum dynamically through play and to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. We guide the learning process, but wherever possible, we give our students the reins.”
You too can harness the power of anticipation and enjoyment of meaningful play to support your child’s educational development and growth at home. A few simple cues and the willingness to empower your child to self-direct a new path of play will get you started. Here are some ideas to consider:
Space out
Learning doesn’t have to take place at a desk or a table. Create a space of possibility for your child. Let her make a comfy reading nook inside an empty clothesbasket or cardboard box. Set up an outdoor “workstation” on a picnic bench. Give her empty floor space to stretch out with the projects and games that hold her interest.
Get to gaming
Let your son create his

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Hands-on Giving

I fully buy into Christmas being about giving.
As a kid, Christmas presents were a big, big deal.  My parents went over the top with Santa followed by gifts from them.  In addition, my brother and I were the only grandchildren on both sides of the family.  They ensured that any potential gaps in our want list were fully covered.
My parents also didn’t buy us anything the other 11 months of the year.  December not only brought in the toys we desired, but it also stocked us up on socks and underwear for the year, a leisure suit for church and shoes.
In November, we looked like we’d just stepped out of the play Oliver Twist.  Our pants too short, and we had holes in our drawers.    January 1, it appeared as if Daddy Warbucks was kin.  We were looking great again!
But now, I have the ability to buy what I need, when I need it.  I’m not rich, but if my tennis shoes are worn, I pretty much have the capacity to replace them winter, spring, summer or fall.  Thus, this time of year has shifted for me.  Unlike my youthful self I am appreciative, but unmotivated by what awaits me under the tree.  A coffee cup with my kid’s art on the side is more exciting to me than a Brooks Brothers’ suit.  It’s all about maturity and perspective.
I do, however, really, really want others to appreciate what I have chosen for them.  And it saddens me to think of those who aren’t able to celebrate the holiday with the same vigor as we do.
For years I have adopted a family from the YMCA’s Angel Tree.  Our organization works to help bring Christmas to thousands of underserved kids who participate in our programs.  With my busy work schedule and the play

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Blended Families: Holiday Edition

Holidays are a special time for families. They are extra special for blended families. During the holidays, these non-traditional families who are united by marriage and bonded through mutual experience, join in fellowship and celebration.
I grew up and a blended family. Now I have one of my own. I have learned from experience, the bigger the family, the more people to love and the more effort required to bring loved ones together. This is especially true around the holidays when successful coordination is likely to involve two, three, or more households.
In blended families like ours, where children live out of state, time is precious and every second counts. For this reason, we do our best to Maximize the Moment. If you are a blended family, here are ways to make the most of your holiday time.
Communicate with your spouse. Your relationship with your spouse is an essential part of the family unit. It’s important for you communicate effectively with him or her to ensure that you are on the same page with holiday plans.
Set plans and stick to them. Naturally, blended families have a lot of moving parts. Planning across households can be a challenge. It is best to set dates of visits, travel, and other arrangements in advance to be considerate of schedules; and to hold to plans (especially if they have been shared with children).
Establish positive relationships with ex-partners, ex-spouses, and other primary caregivers. It’s easier to work with someone you genuinely like and get along with. In reality, that is not always the case. But, no matter what the dynamics, the children should be always be the priority. Negative feelings among caregivers should not get in the way of their happiness.
Consistency matters. Whether your non-custodial child(ren) visits every weekend or only on holidays, be consistent in your

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Disney on Ice: Follow Your Heart Ticket Giveaway

Win a Family 4 Pack to Disney on Ice!
Win 4 tickets to see Disney on Ice: Follow Your Heart at 2:30 PM, December 10, 2016. Seats are in The News & Observer Suite at PNC Arena. Food and drinks included.
Deadline to enter is December 8.

(Two winners will be selected) 
The post Disney on Ice: Follow Your Heart Ticket Giveaway appeared first on Triangle Mom2Mom.

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