3 Quality-Time Hacks for Working Moms

Like 60% of two-parent families in the U.S., both of my parents worked growing up. My mother was particularly busy since she had her own law practice and worked seven days a week. She often spent nights preparing for her client meetings, cooking, or helping with the occasional school project. But, for some reason, I never felt like my mom was too busy for me.

Many of my friends and my co-workers are working moms and they are constantly trying to strike the perfect balance between their work-life and their professional life. How can they be a hands-on mom and break the glass ceiling? How can they raise confident, self-aware kids that feel loved all while working 10+ hours at a charter school or while their dealing with the stressors of medical school?  When I reflected on my own childhood, I realized that my mother had the same dilemma but used some of these life-hacks that almost made it seem like I had a full-time mom.

1. Mommy & Me Day

I have two brothers and each of us had our own”Mommy and Me Day.” I always looked forward to my turn. Whether it meant going to a client meeting with my mother as her ‘assistant’, going to the park, or going to Burger King and a movie, I loved Mommy and Me Day. I didn’t always get to share the cool things that I did at school every single day, but I didn’t get upset because I knew I’d have a lot to share when it was my Mommy and Me Day. This is a tradition we continued through elementary school that quelled our sibling rivalries and created some of the best memories I have with my mother. So, whether it’s going to the park, getting a mani-pedi, or a Barnes and Nobles/Starbucks trip (my personal favorite) Mommy and Me Day is perfect for busy parents to create lasting memories or traditions with their kids.

2. Secret Diary

This mom-hack comes from my favorite elementary school teacher, Mrs. Feibus. I remember her as a caring, calm, talented- and super busy teacher with three kids. One day during share circle Ms. Feibus said that she worried about missing her il_570xn-852757315_7uejdaughter’s school events and not spending a lot of time wither her because of their mix-matched schedules. But then she told us about their secret diary- just for her and her daughter. “No boys allowed,” she said. This way, they could share details about their day, her daughter would tell her secrets, plus they both received the physical and mental health benefits that come along with journaling. This is something that I often suggest for my parents who work the graveyard shift. Those who have tried said that they look forward to picking up the journal during their lunch breaks and noticed that it helped improve their child’s reading and writing too!

3. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em! 

This is one of my favorite mom-hacks, especially for those who are struggling to connect with their pre-teen and teenaged boys. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard “all he wants to do is play video games” when it comes to the boys spending time with their family. It may seem weird or even silly at first but you might actually end up having a lot of fun! After finally playing a game of Call of Duty with her animated-family-playing-video-game-13765868eighth-grader, one of my school-moms was so delighted to overhear her son bragging to his friends about how fast she picked it up. Whether it’s Call of Duty, FIFA, playing basketball, or watching a reality T.V. show, participating in something that your child likes to do is a great way to bond with them on their terms. And, you might even find a new hobby in the process!


Are you a busy parent? What do you do for quality time with your kids? Comment below or tell me on Twitter!


Raising a Sight Word Superstar


What are sight words you ask? They’re a list of words that readers just need to know.  No decoding. No sounding out. Nothing. Words like a, at, he, she, it, and the appear on almost every page of every book,so, students need to know them ‘on sight.’ Students are often taught sight words through memorization but  that doesn’t work for all learners. Whether you’re trying to play catch up at home because your first grader isn’t on track to master 150 sight words by the end of the year, or you’re trying to prepare your youngest for kindergarten, these tips will help make sight words fun and help your child become a fluent reader.


1. Star Charts

Your child may have a progress tracker at school, but having one at home w2253_largeis a whole different ballgame. Kids will be excited to show you their success in person and you’ll have a clear understanding of how they’re doing without waiting for a progress report or waiting for the next parent teacher conference.

Now, you can track progress in many ways. You can use a star chart or a bar graph to keep track of how many times your reader identified and pronounced a specific sight word correctly.

2. Sight Word Twister 

Right hand on blue, left food on red! Most of us have played a game of p1140850Twister, but, I for one never thought about using it for educational purposes- until I started teaching elementary school. One day during indoor recess, one of my students decided to turn a friendly game of Twister into a math challenge. Students wrote facts on index cards (ie: 4 x 3 or 2 x 6) and someone would call “Left hand on 12.” The students would then have to find a fact that equals 12 on the plastic mat.

For early readers, you can alter this game by writing sight words on the index cards instead of multiplication facts. You then place the words on the different circles and your child will have to find whatever sight word you call out. Not only is this a fun game (great for kinesthetic learners) but it could also double a family building activity. Not to mention that this game would be a great way for your child and their friends to enjoy some summer fun without losing any of their skills from the school year.


3. Sight Word Sports sight-word-soccer-a-fun-way-to-move-and-learn-while-you-are-practicing-sight-or-spelling-words

While most kids nowadays opt for screen-time over ‘green-time‘ I grew up spending my summers at swim camp, basketball camp, and soccer camps. And even though summer camps may not be an option for your family, you can always get moving at home. But with sight word sports, your child gets a two-for-one deal: practicing a sport and practicing their sight words at the same time. You can practice dribbling a basketball onto certain sight words or (if your child is particularly young) you can get small plastic balls, write sight words on them and shoot them into a bucket. For sight word soccer, you can set up cones in your backyard or a living room (my brother and I would remove all vases and lamps when we played indoors) and tape different sight words on them. Your scholar-athlete in training will shout out the different words as he or she zig-zags around the cones.


These are just some ways you can help your child become a strong reader early on. You can also play sight word games online using Starfall or use good old-fashioned flashcards. Do you have an early reader at home? How does your family practice? Share your ideas in the comments section below,

3 Ways to Get Your Child Reading Without Books


“Put down that game and pick up a book!” Sound familiar? You’ve either heard it as a child or you’ve said it as a parent. If your kid hasn’t found their favorite series or genre yet or if your child, like many kids across the world, have trouble reading, getting them to read at school and at home can be quite a feat. But, whether your child struggles with reading or reads all the time, these three strategies will have them reading all the time without even realizing! 

1. Comics

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “comic books are toys.” And, yes, comic books are riddled with fart sounds, bright colors, and cartoons, but, they also provide many academic benefits.  Not only do comics get hesitant and developing readers excited about reading, comic books also help kids learn about specific topics (especially in science and history), and helps them understand dialogue and point of view. Don’t know where to start? Classic Marvel series and the hilarious Captain Underpants Series (my childhood favorite) were popular picks in my classroom library. You can check this list of kid-friendly comics as well.


2. Closed Captioning 

During my Parent Teacher conferences this suggestion often left my students very excited and left their parents very skeptical. Nonetheless, closed captioning, or using subtitles while watching T.V., can help improve your child’s literacy in many ways. Believe it or not, closed captioning does more than force your child to read the words at the bottom of the screen. The words help early readers match words with sounds, helps them with spelling, and helps early readers with word identification. Some studies even show that closed captions help the viewer read faster and pick up more vocabulary words.


3. Cooking

Like board games, cooking with your child goes way beyond just improving your their reading level. Not only do you get a chance to bond, but you’re teaching an important life skill at the same time. As far as reading is concerned, following a recipe allows kids to put events in chronological order (sequencing) and helps them pick up more vocabulary words; two very important parts of reading comprehension in grades 1-3. Not to mention that sight words like ‘in’, ‘under’, ‘a’, ‘to’, and many other ‘must know’ words for young readers appear over and over again in recipes and provide great practice.


What are some creative ideas you use to get your child reading? Comment below or tell me on Twitter!



The Summer Slide: Don’t Let it Happen to You

The Summer Slide. Although it sounds similar, we’re not talking about the winding, bright red or yellow ones at the park where you yell “wee” and you land in a warm pit of sand. The Summer Slide, also known as Summer Learning Loss or the Summer Slump, is when students forget the skills that they learned during the school year. It might not seem like a big deal and you may even think that our kids deserve a break from school during the summer months, but, taking an extended vacation from academics has some pretty damaging effects. Studies show that students who experience Learning Loss each summer can fall up to three years behind by the time they reach fifth grade. But, instead of lamenting on the statistics about the Summer Slide and it’s role in the Achievement Gap or the Opportunity Gap, NFB is going to share some ways to beat the Summer Slide.


1. Read Baby, Read! 

We’ve all heard it before, “Reading is fundamental.” And while it’s a cliche, it’s true. Research shows that by reading six books over the summer you can help prevent summer learning loss. Your child having a hard time picking a good book? Use some of these strategies and remember that all text is good text! Newspapers, comic books, articles, blogs, and even watching T.V. with the closed captions on, can help your child practice their reading skills.


2. Summer Journal

Nationwide, students are struggling with writing. Whether your child is struggling with basic handwriting and capitalization or working on sophisticated dialogue and “Show not Tell”, a summer journal will take your child’s writing to the next level. A summer reading journal can take many forms. You can decorate a composition notebook, have your child type their journal entries in Microsoft Word or GoogleDocs. Your child can write about their day, write about their surroundings, keep a reading log, or they can use Scholastic’s 75 Summer Writing Prompts. I particularly like the last one because you can all answer the prompts as a family and siblings can share their writing and help each other edit and improve their work as a team.


3. Field Trips 

Not able to chaperone or pay for a school field trip during the academic year? Why not go on your day off or take a vacation day to do it? Kids have so much fun learning at their own pace at an interactive science exhibit, a nature walk, or even an art museum. If your child is Pre-K or Kindergarten age in the New York City area, you can sign-up for a Cool Culture Pass and get into 90 culture institutions (botanical gardens, museums, or zoos) for free. Even if you don’t live in the Tri-State area, many museums offer discounted prices for school-age children. If you’re not sure about the museums near you, do a quick Google search or just check out this list of 20 Free Museums across the U.S.


4. Summer Bridge Activities 

I personally spent every summer using these workbooks. These workbooks are leveled by grade, range from Pre-K to 8th grade, have incentives, and have work for all subjects. What I liked (read as: what my parents liked) about the Summer Bridge books is that you can buy a book a few grade levels above your child’s to provide a little extra push or challenge. If your child is a more hands-on learner, try-out Summer Bridge’s Explorations; a series of mini-projects that keep your kids engaged with real-life applications that use all of their core subjects. The regular workbooks are about ten bucks and the Exploration books are about thirteen dollars. These Summer Bridge activities are easy-to-use, affordable, and extremely popular- a timeless way to beat the Summer Slide.


5. Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) 

NFE is all about building up and using our community. Go to your local YMCA or sign up at your local library for free summer programs, free summer camps, or reading challenges.  If your library or local community center is too far away or if you worry about your kids getting their by themselves, you can always host a book-club or a reading challenge at your house or at your local park. If that fails, you can always look on Pinterest for different summer projects.

How do you keep your kids learning during the summer months? What are some fun summer learning activities you did as a kid? Share your ideas and experiences with your fellow NFE families in the comment section below so we can beat the Summer Slide!