Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

With my son’s blessing & permission, we are sharing our story of what is like to have & be the parent of a child with ADD in this continuing series. To read Part One of our diagnosis story, click here.  Part 2 continued the diagnosis and treatment process!  Today we tackle working with the schools! We welcome your comments and hope our story helps other families facing the same challenges.

I think one of the biggest challenges for me as a parent wasn’t just the treatment process, but more the stigma and worry about what having a label like ADD can do.  Before we dealt with this, I had always thought of this as kids being crazy (and probably indulging in too much sugar), but ADD/ADHD can be so different for each kid. Maybe you had an idea for that label too? It isn’t always necessarily hyper kids- I don’t think I would have identified my child as that. In each child, it looks a little differently with similar characteristic traits.

Today I want to talk about how we tried to set Ethan up for success at school.  I already told you, this kid is SMART (he gets it from his daddy!), but we needed to get certain tools and people in place to help him be the star that we know he is!

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

Start Talking Early

We knew that Ethan was struggling at school and we felt like we needed to let our teacher know that we were working really hard to improve things for him and hopefully for her too! I set up a meeting with the principal and his teacher and tearfully explained that we were working with our doctor and were in the process of figuring things out and asked for a little patience until we had some answers. They both were genuinely kind and sympathetic as we were floundering to figure out how to help Ethan.  Looping them in early bought us a little grace during the diagnosis process because they knew we were trying very hard to make things better for all the parties involved.

Once we had a diagnosis, we were able to begin making the accommodations necessary through our public school system and our principal explained how we could get a 504 for Ethan in place once we had this paperwork. Depending on your needs, you may need an IEP or a 504.  If you are trying to figure out what you need, I love this table that breaks down what each of these means on Understood (a great resource for parents!). At times, with speech services we needed an IEP. When speech was dropped, we just needed the 504. It depends on what type of accommodations your family needs to determine which type of paperwork is filed.

What The Heck is a 504?

Once we had the official paperwork from the testing with our diagnosis, we put a plan in place for Ethan.  We set up a meeting with the principal, his teacher, and with someone who could set up something called a 504 plan for him. A 504 is basically a blueprint or plan for how a child will have access to learning at school that is written together.  It provides services and changes to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students and is provided at no cost to you.

Here is the thing… I did not want to ask for special favors or inconvenience our teacher, but I knew that there were things that really needed to happen so that Ethan could perform successfully at school. It pained me to ask for “favors” (I am a big people pleaser and hate being a bother to people), but I knew this could help him so much!

Our 504 has pretty much remained the same since elementary school with a few tweaks here and there for his accommodations.

We Need To Be In the Loop- Our biggest issue was that we felt in the dark about what needed to happen during the day and if the teacher needed something from us. We asked that Ethan write in his agenda daily what needed to happen and requested the teacher initial to verify everything so we weren’t missing important papers and deadlines anymore. We also asked that any further communication that she wanted to do with us also was on the agenda so we could be sure not to miss anything.

We Need Access to Quiet Spaces Sometimes- Some classrooms are rowdier than others. He had a hard time focusing when there was a lot going on and we wanted to be sure that he could take advantage of a quieter room if he needed it. This is something we only have cashed in on once, but it’s nice to have in place.

We Asked for A Little Grace on Late Papers- This is never to be abused, but sometimes our disorganization has caused us to be late on assignments. We just asked for grace, particularly transitioning into our new school routines since having zeros for late assignments could really lower his grades.

We Need Extra Time At the End of the Day- This was particularly important as we headed into middle school so that he had enough time to get his books and papers gathered and organized before getting on the bus. That extra 5-10 minutes made an enormous difference in our organizational level and our grades. I think this was the best thing we asked for!

Where Does the 504 Go?

For us, one of our biggest transitions was going from an elementary school setting to a middle school setting. Although we had communicated with his teachers that he had ADD, we did not know that we need to communicate with the middle school that he had a 504 from elementary school and that we wanted to make sure everything was set with it moving forward into our new school. If there is one thing we learned through this process, we learned that we need to check in every year about this and make sure that it is communicated with his teachers. The first year of middle school taught us a lot about making requests known as we were struggling to even pass because the accommodations weren’t there.

What ends up being the difference in the grades if the 504 is not addressed?

We went from barely pulling C’s to High Principal’s Honor Roll!

That’s an incredible difference for a child and for their family.

It’s also an incredible difference in my child’s confidence about himself.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

How Can I Continue Making His Day Better?

Not only do we have the 504 in place for Ethan, but we take advantage of anything that the school offers that can continue improving those grades and helping him feel confident.

Confidence is such an important thing for a kid.

When our middle school offered free tutoring, we took advantage of that so he could stay after school and tackle that homework with help. We found that he was more productive in that environment than he was riding the bus trying to work on his homework when he got home.

We also looked into ways that he could burn off energy in a positive way. We were lucky enough to have gotten the scoop on cross country in middle school from another mom and this helped Ethan burn off some energy and be a part of a team that really fit with his personality.  I love that his coach focuses on each child doing their own personal best and that he has managed to find fun ways to encourage my child to run with a system of great rewards that Ethan finds motivating. We also love that running is an activity he can always do when he needs to burn off a little steam at home. What a great gift!

I wrote a special note to his coach to thank him for all he does to encourage our son because it has meant so much to us and to Ethan. His positive influence has been a big gift to our family.

How Can I Set My Kid Up for Success?

Success at school starts at home. I can do all of these incredible things for him through the people he interacts with at school, but if I am disorganized at home, those repercussions follow Ethan and make his day hard. It’s a team mentality and I struggle each year as the new school year starts. I can barely keep myself organized most days, let alone stay on top of someone else’s stuff too!

As a parent, I have to make sure that I communicate with his teachers from day one, I have to make sure the appropriate paperwork is filed on his 504, and I have to be the one to stay on top of everything with his homework and projects.

Being organized at home is important because it can be the difference between a good day and a bad day for my son.

As he gets older though, I am trying to push a little more back to him. Someday he will be an adult and he won’t have a mom setting everything up for him in his workplace and in his home. I want to raise a self-sufficient child so I have to do my part to help him do that. Sometimes he will do great with it, sometimes he won’t.

We don’t expect perfection, we are proud of him for trying and doing the best he can.

We certainly aren’t perfect either.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

The Nagging Mom Transformation

I needed to work on my nagging as much as Ethan needed to work on better habits.

In the morning, the routine was the same:

Do you have your papers?

Did you get your agenda signed?

Did you do your homework?

Do you have your gym clothes?

(said in a nagging mom voice)

I started utilizing a checklist that I would sit by his backpack to go through and would just remind him to check his checklist in the morning instead of the daily nag. I turned off my own distractions and just focused on a good breakfast and building that kid up at the bus stop. I made more time for hugs and less time for Facebook-checking. I tried to tell him one thing I was proud of him each day. All of this has become such a part of my routine that I don’t think about it anymore.

I don’t think this makes me an amazing mom and I don’t say this to brag, I just say this because part of the transformation of this diagnosis is the transforming I had to do on myself.  I had to see the psychologist so I knew how to respond to my child better. I have to invest the time monthly in check-ups and making sure his medical needs are addressed. I have to communicate with the school staff so they know I care. I have to make room in our schedule for activities that make my son feel confident.

It has all been worth it.




I hope that sharing this story offers some encouragement to you. As a blogger, there is a difficult balance that we have to deal with when sharing about our families. I shared this because I felt so very alone in this process and I know our story can help others.

If you are working through this with your child, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are a good mom.

The process of discovery, diagnosis, and treatment can be transformative for a family.

Your process might look different than mine or you might explore other avenues than we did. Each family must figure out what works best for them.

I have found I was a much harsher judge of other moms before this experience. Now I just look at all of our different paths (with all those winding turns) and say, “I am so proud of you for doing what’s best for you!”

If there is anything I have learned from this experience it is that it takes a village.

I am so thankful for mine.


Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

With my son’s blessing & permission, we are sharing our story of what is like to have & be the parent of a child with ADD in this continuing series. To read Part One of our diagnosis story, click here. We welcome your comments and hope our story helps other families facing the same challenges.

Testing day could not come quickly enough, but it first required a session with the psychologist to explain our concerns. We didn’t just talk about his inability to follow through on tasks and disorganization (although that was frustrating). Our biggest concern was the emotional outbursts and anger that we were dealing with. We knew we weren’t handling these situations well and were concerned that not only were we dealing with a possible ADD diagnosis, but that maybe something emotionally was wrong too.

I remember that the doctor said that often by treating the ADD that these emotional outbursts lessen because the child is not so frustrated.  I certainly didn’t want to pin my hopes on that, but wouldn’t it be incredible if we were able to help both elements of our struggles as parents?

He said he would get us scheduled with some weekly visits for the anger issues though so we could get that under control.

Good, we needed it!

Testing, Testing

Testing day had finally arrived. We had lots of questionnaires to fill out and even ones to pass on to our teacher to share about how our son performed in the classroom.

Testing can be done in a variety of ways (every family needs to explore those options with their own doctor/psychologist)  and the psychologist we chose diagnosed through an IQ test. I remember nervously dropping him off with a big snack and a kiss for the morning.

Once the test results were done, we got to come back in and chat with the psychologist about the diagnosis.

What did the results show us? He was incredibly smart (you don’t have to tell us that!), but his memory/processing/sequencing (I apologize that I don’t remember the specific category) was extremely low. Since those numbers don’t correlate, he had every characteristic listed on every ADD site we ever visited, and the questionnaire filled out by us and by his teachers supported this theory, the psychologist said that he felt confident that our son had ADD.

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

He has ADD, Now What?

Hallelujah! We have an answer!  In my mind, someone gives us a prescription and we go along on our merry way and live happily ever after.

It wasn’t like that though.

The psychologist gave us the paperwork and we had to set up an appointment with our physician and then the doctor had to outline the treatment and then we had to go back to the psychologist.

Of course, we haven’t even touched the anger issues so we need to set up appointments for that.

Oh, and loop in our teacher and the school system.

Instead of relief, it felt like a million more pounds of stuff I needed to do.

First, we contacted our doctor and he had a complete physical that gave us information about where we were starting at (particularly his height & weight) and then she recommended a medication that we could try, letting me know that we could start a small dose and then increase the dosage based on what we needed. Since I know nothing about medication or dosage, I left this piece of the puzzle in the doctor’s hands.

She assured me she would keep a close eye on things since I would be seeing her once a month now.

WAIT, HOLD UP. I have to go to the doctor with my kid every month for this?

Granted, I know other moms who have had a much harder time with their kids and medical issues so this feels really ridiculous for me to feel like this is a burden, but the idea of going to the doctor monthly for physicals and having to have a handwritten prescription every month that I could not just get filled annually, but have to bring in a physical prescription every four weeks seemed like a lot to deal with on top of our counseling appointments.

It goes without saying, but the cost of all of these tests, medications, and physicals were also unexpected.

Pass the wine!  But just the boxed stuff because BILLS.

Treatment Begins

This is probably the hardest part of our journey and this journey can look so differently for so many families.

This was the part of the journey that Ethan wanted me to share specifically with you.

The struggles with figuring out the right medication and the right dosage for our child were extremely difficult as were the side effects that he experienced. Remember how I said I left the medication piece of the puzzle up to our doctor to figure out? We had no idea that the dosage was too high for our son because we had no idea what an appropriate dosage would be.

Although it is typical to experience side effects from medication as your body adjusts to it, our child did not even resemble my child anymore.

He could not sleep at night.

He barely ate.

He seemed like a robot.

After the first day in school on his medication though, he told me something though that nearly brought me to my knees.

“I finally feel smart.”

This beautifully bright boy had never felt smart until now and that just about broke me.

I was still riddled with the guilt of yelling at him and feeling like I failed him as a mom. What if I would have caught this sooner? What if I could have helped him feel smart years ago?  The guilt and the part I played in this story really bothered me.

We headed to our weekly therapy appointments to deal with anger.

Guess who sat out in the waiting room?

The kid with the anger management issues.

Guess who went to therapy?

My husband and I!

Oh, that made me so mad…

I wonder where he got those anger issues from.

As the doctor had suggested though, Ethan wasn’t angry anymore. We didn’t experience emotional outbursts, but we wanted to be prepared if they started back up again. My husband and I headed to anger management class and my son sat out in the waiting room reading his book, unaware how cool we were going to be after all this training.

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

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Go With Your Gut

Even though Ethan felt really smart, I did not love the side effects of this medication he was on. I went along with the the plan despite my misgivings.  I regret that I did not speak up sooner for him and for our family.

After a year of living with a zombie, we ended up needing to switch doctors and I got a referral into one of the best doctors in our town. He immediately put him on the lowest dosage available and also selected a pill that would have very few side effects. Instead of changing my kid, it would just act as a little aid to help him tap into those smarts that he already possessed. I started to see my boy again and I knew we were on a better path.

What I learned from that experience was that I may not be a doctor, but I need to always be an advocate for his treatment.  If I’m not comfortable with how things are going, I need to speak up about it.

Since he is growing like a weed now and doing so well with this pill, we don’t have to meet with our doctor monthly, but we still have several meetings a month where our doctor talks to him about school and learning to tune in to the things that he experiences with his medication and learning how to utilize those cues as life skills if he doesn’t want to continue a medication later in life.  This is a conversation that the two of them have and I chime in as needed. It’s a good place to be in when you have such a great dialogue with your physician.

Now that we got through our biggest hurdles, we still had to address how we handled everything at school. Next week I’ll share what it has been like going to bat for Ethan in the school system and what I have learned from this experience together!



Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

I am sure if you have been a reader here, you know how fiercely I guard the privacy of my children. Over the years I have struggled a lot as a mom and one of my biggest struggles was my son’s diagnosis with ADD. Through his diagnosis and treatment, we have had the opportunity to help so many parents locally who have been going through the same difficulties and  point them to doctors and resources that have helped improve their lives.

It is with his blessing and permission that I share our story today, in hopes we can help someone else going through the same struggles.

I am so proud of our boy for sharing his story to help other families! I hope you will leave him a little note to tell him that! 

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

When Your Kid Doesn’t Fit in the Box

Ethan was the kind of kid that never fit into the box and this is just one of many reasons why I love him. From his shocking entry into the world (early and complete with a placental abruption that could have killed us both), I should have known he was going to challenge everything I thought about parenting.  Ethan hit most milestones normally with the exception of one… speech.  He was a silent baby and did not make any noises at all.  He rarely made eye contact with us and never turned to us when we said his name. Since he was my first baby, I had no expectations of what he should be doing, but others in our family and our pediatrician were concerned about his lack of speech. At ten months he qualified for early intervention speech therapy in Massachusetts. When my husband lost his job, we relocated around that time to Indiana, and I decided to hold off on the speech therapy and see if Ethan might blossom in his new location.

At eighteen months, he still made hardly any audible sounds and still would not turn to me when I called his name. We were placed into the First Steps program where he benefited from an incredible therapist who helped us both with Ethan’s speech delay and sensory issues. I remember thinking how ridiculous this all seemed as she played with playdough and blew bubbles with him on my kitchen floor. Clearly I knew nothing because not only did he start speaking, we couldn’t get this kid to shut up! The ability to speak helped curb some of his frustrated outbursts and baby signing helped us until he could communicate fully.

Instead of speaking like a baby though, he went full-out sentences and would fixate on one particular thing and talk about it nonstop. It began with trains and then later it was dinosaurs. This child who could not even say mom now said Ankylosaurus and had memorized an entire dinosaur dictionary. It was so wild to me!

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

Everything is Fine Until You Have to Go to School

Since Ethan was an only child, our therapist thought he might benefit from being around other kids his age more, so we looked into a school program for him when he turned two. He loved school so much and I loved seeing his vocabulary growing. I remember that he was so busy and I couldn’t believe all this big energy that could be in such a little body!  Socially, we were struggling. Ethan would only do things he wanted to do, preferring to not interact with other kids at all unless they played his games. He never listened to anyone else- and only talked excessively about what he was into. In circle times, he did not sit like he was supposed to, preferring to get up and do laps instead of sitting.

To help improve our circle time at school, I took him to storytime at the library. As the kids sat in their mama’s laps and sang songs and listened to the librarian, my son refused to sit with me and spent the entire time lapping the room, ripping open the cabinets behind the librarian, and screaming if I tried to hold him in my lap. I sobbed in the parking lot and vowed I would NEVER do that to myself again.

We held Ethan back a year to see if he might benefit from an extra year of preschool before we put him in elementary school, thinking he had some social issues to work through. That year of Pre-K was one of the worst years of my parenting life. Ethan was bored in school and every morning to take him there was a battle and not the kind of battles I had ever seen any of my friends deal with. He kicked and screamed. He hit me. He would stretch his arms and legs as wide as they would go and refuse to get in the car. Many days, I took this five year-old kid and left him outside of his classroom, kicking and screaming. I would walk away and be glad I didn’t have to deal with him for a few hours.

It wasn’t my proudest moment as a mom.

I screamed at him.

I was embarrassed by his outbursts.

These moments of frustration were peppered throughout the years until he turned nine. He would have toddler-like tantrums about doing homework.

One night he barricaded his door with all of his belongings just to keep us out of his room.

He was always disorganized.

He would not bring home papers for me to sign, he would do work at school and just fizzle out at the end of worksheets for no reason, and he was always angry and frustrated with us.

Harder than that though, were the apologies after the outbursts and the crocodile tears down his face as he told us he was sorry and didn’t know why he was doing this.

I became a broken nagging record every single day, begging him to just, FOR THE LOVE, do your homework and bring your stuff home. HOW HARD IS IT? IT’S SO SIMPLE.

In fourth grade (for lack of better words), the shit hit the fan. As his teacher was preparing him for middle school, our frustrations got bigger and the homework got longer and the outbursts were out of control. He was so mean and so angry.

I was so mean and so angry.

As I shared my frustrations with a family member, she said, “That reminds me of so-and-so in our family.”

That so-and-so in our family had ADD.


ADD- Is that Even a Real Thing?

I didn’t think ADD was a real thing, but was an excuse for disorganization and lack of discipline. Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes at me! I tend to believe that good exercise, a healthy diet, and vitamins are the cure for anything that ails you. The idea that my son had something that might require a doctor’s care and treatment baffled me.

I also felt ashamed that it made me feel relieved too to know there was something wrong and I wasn’t just a terrible mom.

If there is something wrong and we can figure it out, I can help us all.

As I clicked through website after website, these things that I thought were problems that only Ethan had, were actually characteristics of someone who had ADD.

  • Constantly fidgets and squirms
  • Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
  • Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
  • Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”
  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items

It was as though someone knew our family personally and the struggles we were experiencing. Not only that, but when I flipped through his report cards, the teachers had even said some of these same exact phrases on his report card. Were they trying to clue me in?

Now that I thought I might know what the issue was, I was more determined than ever to get a proper diagnosis and not a quickie questionnaire in the doctor’s office. I wanted a true capture of what we were dealing with and how we could help our child.

We reached out to a psychologist in town for an evaluation and waited an excruciating two weeks until he could come in for testing.

That test changed our lives and our interactions with our child forever!

Come back next Tuesday for the continuation of our story!


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Do You Really Need That Degree? College Loans, Options, and Savings

Monday, October 27th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

College debt has reached an all-time high in the United States. Collectively, we owe over a trillion dollars in student loan debt. Yes, trillion with a capital T. It’s actually over $1,200,000,000,000. Ouch.

Is that degree really worth it

Student loan debt is unlike most other debts though in that it is nearly impossible to get rid of, known as forgiveness or discharge. This means even if you fall on hard times, lose a job, or your life circumstances change drastically it’s extremely uncommon to have that debt wiped away – you’re pretty much stuck with it. For some adults this means they will be carrying debt from choices made in their teens and twenties well into their middle age and often they’ll still be paying off those debts while paying for their children’s education.

When considering our finances it’s important to look at the impact student loan debt has since many readers are impacted by college debt. It’s likely you still owe for your college education if you have one (and often even if you don’t have a degree!). Others may be considering college costs for their children whether they’re toddlers or getting ready to head to college. Finally, there are many adults who go back to school when they change professions or need additional education to improve their earning power.

Since there are a lot of scenarios to cover here I’ll break them down, and you can head to the subsection that applies to you.

Already in Student Loan Debt

You already have a degree and the debt to prove it. While you may owe anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands the advice to not get into debt doesn’t apply. You need solutions and advice on getting out of student loan debt.


If you have multiple loans look into consolidation. You can consolidate loans with your spouse as well. This may allow you to get a lower interest rate or lower monthly payment, but it also makes it easier to manage than several loans.

Pay More than the Minimum

While it’s common sense, paying more than the minimum means you will pay it off sooner. Some ways you can ‘find’ more than the minimum in your budget include: slashing expenses (like dropping cable or getting a cheaper cell phone plan) or adding any pay raises to your loan payment.

Work a Side Gig or Second Job

Need to earn extra money to meet your loan payments or increase your payments to pay it off quicker? Get a side gig or work a second job to earn extra money to put towards your college loans.

Investigate Options

If you’re really struggling financially like having no job call your student loan company before you skip a payment. They may be able to hold or defer payments or offer some other options to help keep you from defaulting on your loans.

Getting Ready or Going to College

If you or someone in your family is headed to school or back to school for a degree it’s the perfect time to consider all the options.

Do you Really Need That Degree?

While a college degree is still statistically going to increase your earning ability over time it’s not always a necessity in every profession. Some professions simply don’t require a degree, and many trades are desperately seeking qualified and well-trained individuals.

Additionally, the job market has changed drastically to allow small businesses with little overhead to thrive. In an age of consulting, freelancing, and startups a degree is nice-but it’s not exactly a requirement. Depending on your skillset you may not have the need for a traditional college diploma.

Check Pay Rates and Rental/Home Prices

Whether you’re going back to school or headed to college for the first time you need to consider the cost versus the income you will earn in the future. While we all know there are no guarantees of future income checking pay rates in your area and investigating the cost of housing will help you get a general idea of what you’ll have to spend on student loan repayment.

For instance, it doesn’t financially make sense to spend $150,000 on a degree if the average entry-level earnings are $35,000 per year and average rentals cost $750/month.

The math would show you it would take an awfully long time to pay back your loans, and in the end it’s unlikely to be worth the added stress and costs when you could get a solid education and degree for 1/4 that cost.

Exhaust Scholarship and Grant Options

Grants and scholarships are plentiful, but it takes some hunting and some time to getting the most money you can for school. If you dedicate the time upfront though you could end up saving thousands of dollars. There are scholarships and grants that are high value and competitive, and there are smaller scholarships and grants that are for less money and more obscure.

Consider Starting Small

Instead of diving into a 4 year college with big expenses consider a local, smaller school to get your initial credits out of the way. You could even consider an online education if you’re an adult or need to work full-time to fund your education.

Saving for Future College Costs

Saving for your children or family members who you hope to help go to college is a great gift, but you have to consider all the options before you start saving.

It’s vital to be sure you aren’t locking up money that is needed for an emergency fund or for retirement first and foremost.

However, if you have a healthy emergency fund and are (mostly) on track with retirement savings here are come options to consider:

529 Plans

529s are a great option since they offer no taxes when withdrawn for qualified education expenses like tuition. Many states also have no tax on withdraws.

There are two types:

  • Pre-paid plans: You pay for college costs at today’s rates even if costs go up when your student goes to school.
  • Saving plans: Savings plans are based on the stock market with a mix of investments that get more conservative as your child nears college age.

The downside: Funds that aren’t used for college are taxed fully and a 10% penalty is tacked on. While it’s hard to tell when they’re infants, it’s not exactly ideal if Junior decides not to go to school or ends up with a full scholarship.

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs are a retirement savings vehicle, but they also offer the option of withdraw for college expenses. This can offer the best of both options for families who need to get the most out of their long-term savings.

With a Roth IRA you can use funds for educational expenses OR retirement meaning if your child doesn’t need all the funds you can continue to grow them for retirement without paying penalties.

The downside: Current Roth IRA limits mean you can only save $5,500 each year or $6,500 if you’re over 50 in these accounts.

Note on investing for college: You can encourage family members to add to your little tyke’s college fund (for instance in lieu of gifts for the holidays or birthday presents). For instance grandparents can gift funds to each child, currently you can give $14,000 per year without penalties. 

When Should You NOT Save?

If you’re in debt or struggling financially saving for college shouldn’t even be a consideration. High interest debt (i.e., not your mortgage or your own student loans!) should be tackled before you consider saving for college. If you’re paying 14.99% on your credit cards the math is against you saving for college costs…for now.

Parents often make the mistake of saving for college funds over retirement thinking they have less time to ‘catchup’ on college education costs, but if they aren’t maxing out their retirement savings they could be in major trouble later in life.

While it is a great goal to make sure your children enter adulthood debt-free it shouldn’t come at the cost of your own savings and financial stability-that will impact your children now.

What it comes down to is this–take care and consider all your options whether you’re paying off college costs or saving for your children’s future.

What are your thoughts on student loan debt and college savings? Do you still owe for your education or are you worried about financing your children’s education?


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Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

As my children grow older, I strive to find more meaningful ways to celebrate holidays. The 4th of July has always been a burst of red, white, & blue through our home, but I can’t say that we have ever spent time together discussing the importance of this day and getting to know the heroes behind what makes the 4th of July so special. Today I want to share with you a fun way you can share about the 4th of July Heroes in your home and a fun way to incorporate their images in your home to make the day more meaningful and festive.

I partnered with Walmart on this project and all the materials you need for this can be found at their store.

To begin, you can select your 4th of July Heroes that you want to talk about. I found this great list for kids that I used to select our heroes to focus upon. I then headed to Wikipedia and found images of each of our heroes and converted them to black & white and saved them on my computer. If you would like to use the same heroes as us, here are the heroes we selected for our project.

George Washington

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

John Hancock

John Hancock

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks

John Adams

John Adams

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your heroes selected, head to the Walmart Photo Site and upload the images there. In addition to having 1 of each image printed in 4×6, also add 1 set of wallets for each person.  If you send these to the one-hour lab, it will be less than $6 for all of them. While you are there, you can also pick up a package of mini-clothespins, a set of notecards for your kids to write on, supplies for this easy flag bunting, and this burlap wreath to decorate with. Since I already had these things in our home, it helps cut down on cost and storage for us this year.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your images, have kids select which person they are interested in discovering and have them find information about their 4th of July heroes. I challenged my kids to find one or two facts about each hero.  We also read about the first 4th of July and how different is from how we celebrate today.

I am embarrassed to say that I was learning right along with my children and soaking it all in as much as they were. Abigail Adams, for example, was one of our favorite people we learned about. Did you know that she had five kids that she cared for and homeschooled while her husband was away serving his country?  Not only was she passionate about women’s rights, but she was also passionate about equality for all people, whether they were black or white. She helped care for the soldiers in her home (feeding them and treating their injuries), and she even learned how to make her own gunpowder. Emily and I are big fans of Abigail Adams now and all she did for our country.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Likewise, my son loved John Adams and his fun fact was that he thought his teachers, “held him back.” Despite being held back from his true potential in grade school, he passed his entrance exams to Harvard and his parents, who were farmers, gave up several acres of their own farm land to pay for John’s schooling. And, boy, did that pay off! John Adams strongly supported independence from Britain, signed the Declaration of Independence, and negotiated the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He later became the nation’s first vice president and second president.  This led to a great discussion about recognizing our true potential when sometimes others do not.

Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King referenced Crispus Attucks in one of his speeches? He held him up as an example of black patriotism at the beginning of our nation’s history. Yet, we never knew anything about what he did for our country. I’m so glad we know now.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids
Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

If you have smaller kids, you can share simple facts and have them draw pictures. Clearly, the fact that Abigail Adams rocked it as a mom and had five kids was worthy of a picture. Make this time fun for your kids while acknowledging the sacrifices that so many gave up for our freedom.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once we were done discussing our heroes, I incorporated these pictures into our holiday decor. I pulled some of the flags off of our bunting and switched them with pictures of our heroes.  I took the items off of my burlap wreath and clipped the wallet images with mini clothespins on the wreath. I hung this in the center of our mirror and added the flag & hero bunting around the frame of the mirror.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

I love these touches to our 4th of July decorating, but I love even more that my kids know about these patriotic heroes.  I hope this idea inspires you to learn more about this holiday and the heroes who made this day possible for all of us.

Happy 4th of July, friends!


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8 Simple Tips To Help Your Child Read

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Take away the skill of reading and not only books become a mysterious and foreign world, but reading train timetables, ordering from a menu, understanding bank statements, and any number of straightforward daily activities become virtually impossible.

If your child is struggling to read, the effects of their problem can reach into adulthood, be humiliating, and extremely limiting.

The world of a non reader is a mixed up place where only those who know the ‘secret code’ can decipher the strange symbols around them and fully participate.

A sad, lonely, and stressful place indeed.

The time to catch your child’s reading problems and support them in their quest to become a confident and capable life long reader is Primary School. Preferably before they reach Grade 3.

Your school will be monitoring your child’s progress and implementing a detailed plan to improve their reading skills and strategies. But, if you’re worried that the school is not, then an appointment with the teacher is a must to thoroughly explore your concerns and issues.

Do not put this off!

After Grade 3 it is more difficult for children to bridge the gap, learn new patterns of reading behavior, and develop appropriate reading strategies. Encouraging them while they’re young is vital, and there are some things you can do at home to complement and support your school’s efforts. Here are 8 simple ways to help your child if reading is a struggle for them:

  1. Make your reading time a regular activity at a specific time each day. Children love structure and will look forward to the closeness and bonding this time brings.
    For some children this may be the only intimate one-on-one time they get to spend with a parent on a regular basis. Making reading together a special time for just the two of you only takes 10 or 15 minutes a day, and the rewards are tremendous.
  2. Vary how you structure your reading time together. Don’t always expect your child to read to you. Read to them sometimes. Take turns reading. Read out loud together! Make sure it’s a stress free and enjoyable time together.
  3. Use the 3 P’s. Pause, prompt, praise.
    Pause when your child comes to a word they don’t know. Don’t jump in straight away by telling them the word or getting them to sound it out. Let them think.
    Prompt your child if they haven’t answered after about 10 – 20 seconds. Say ‘Make your mouth say the first sound’, or ‘ What word would make sense there?’, or ‘Can you tell me what would sound right there?’. Only sound out the word if it can be effectively sounded out.
    If your child doesn’t get the word after a couple of prompts or an attempt at sounding out, tell them the word straight away. You want to avoid feelings of failure, plus make sure they get on with the book while they can still remember what the story is about.
    Praise your child for their efforts. Say something like ‘Well done, you made it look and sound right’, or ‘Well done, you used the first sound to help you figure out the rest of the word’. If they didn’t get the word, simply praise them for trying their best… ‘That was a great try – well done‘. Be as specific as possible.
  4. Not every single word has to be right. Refrain from picking on every last error unless you want to make your child feel inadequate and fearful of making too many mistakes. This will contribute to their negative attitude towards reading and make their progress even slower.
    If your child is gaining the overall meaning from the story or text, then they are achieving the major goal of reading – to decipher words and receive a message.
  5. Talk, talk, talk…… Ask your child to retell their favourite part of the book in their own words. Talk about what they would do if they were a person from the book. Talk about the way the characters in the book felt and why they felt like that. Talk about interesting words from the book and what they mean. This will help increase your child’s level of comprehension.
  6. Be seen to be a reader. It’s surprising how many kids never see their own parents reading a book. A newspaper yes – but not a book! Kids are the greatest mimics in the world, and they especially love to copy their mum or dad.
    Sit down and read your own separate books at the same time. Share parts of your books with one another by reading them out loud and telling why you chose that part. Make it obvious that reading is something you personally value and think is worthwhile.
  7. Don’t cover up the pictures! Never. Ever. Using pictures is one of the ways children gather information to support their use of sound, letter, and word skills. Pictures support the meaning of a story and provide a context to help children solve unknown words.
    Picture story books have pictures for a reason. Many times the text doesn’t make sense without the pictures, and asking your child to read it without looking at the pictures will often feel like trickery to them.
  8. Last but definitely not least – make reading fun! The last thing it needs to be is a chore. You can‘t blame any child for being unwilling if something is hard AND a bore.

Find books about topics your child is interested in. Read craft books and make things. Get out a cookbook and follow a recipe. Get out the words to favourite songs and follow along. Create a treasure hunt with lots of clues to read – anything that makes reading something to look forward to.

Make your reading time together regular, interesting, stress free, and fun. Your child will benefit, and so might you!
Happy reading!

What is Homeschooling?

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Do you know what these famous people have in common?

  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • George Patton
  • Albert Einstein
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Winston Churchill
  • Agatha Christie
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Will Rogers

If you guessed that they were all homeschoolers, you’d be correct. This is a very short list of famous and successful people who were educated at home. If you would like to expand this list, do a search on the Internet for “famous homeschoolers.” There are many websites that list these people and some provide detailed biographies. There is even a book called, aptly, “Famous Homeschoolers“, by Nancy and Malcolm Plant.

The point here is to get into the mindset that people can be educated and become successful adults without attending public school. And because I can almost “hear” what you are thinking, no, it is not necessary to have a high school diploma to go to college.

So what is homeschooling? In the broadest sense, homeschooling is educating your children at home. You, as parent, become teacher. Parents homeschool for more reasons than you can imagine. Some want to avoid having their children exposed to violence and peer pressure. Some homeschool so that they can make sure their children’s education adheres to their religious beliefs. Some live a different lifestyle: perhaps they travel a lot and want their children’s schooling to be flexible enough to fit around that life style. And some, like me, simply enjoy being with their children. They don’t want the public school to interrupt and weaken the parent/child bond that they have been working hard to create for the first five years of their child’s life.

Just as there are many reasons to homeschool, there are many methods of homeschooling. All the way from “un-schooling” (learning by doing, learning from life, not using textbook type materials) to “school at home” (using textbooks at desks set up in a schoolroom at home) and everything in between. It’s very easy to find hundreds of homeschool Websites by using a search engine, but just to get you started, try: Jon’s Homeschool Resource Page

When I decided to write this article, I thought hard about what I could offer that wasn’t being displayed on thousands of Websites on the Internet. I realized that the only thing I have to offer anyone interested in homeschooling is my experience. So everything in the article below comes from my fifteen years of experience homeschooling my four youngest children. I hope it is of some use to you.

Deciding to homeschool your child may be one of the most important decisions you ever make as a parent, and it will take a lot of thought and soul searching. To the newcomer, it may seem impossible, overwhelming and very, very lonely. But like most huge obstacles, once it’s broken down into smaller pieces, it becomes manageable. We’ll take it one step at a time, in small enough chunks to get a hold of. So, if you’re game, roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work figuring out if homeschooling is for you and your child.

First things first. Organization is the key. Get a three-ring binder (homeschooling parent’s LOVE three-ring binders) and put a label on the front. (If you’ve made the transition to digital record keeping, you can just start a folder on the computer. But it’s not as much fun.) Label it something serious, like “My Homeschooling Plans” or “Homeschooling Thoughts.” Put some paper in the binder, find a really comfortable ink pen, and sit down somewhere quiet.

Ready? Good. Now, let’s get started.

What are your reasons for considering homeschooling? Even if you haven’t actually made the decision to homeschool, the fact that you are here reading this article says you are curious. Perhaps you honestly don’t know the answer yet, and that’s ok. The remainder of this article is going to try to help you start to find those answers.

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but each state has it’s own set of laws that must be followed. Compulsory (how I hate that word) education here in Washington State starts at the age of 8. Even though I had been homeschooling him from birth, to stay legal once my son reached 8-years old, I was required to become “certified.” That meant I either had to have two years of college education, or take a “certification class.” I met this requirement by taking an independent correspondence class, during which I was asked to put on paper my goals, philosophies and reasons for wanting to homeschool. I’d like to help you do the same right now.

Start a page–either the “tree” kind or a file on the computer and title it, “My Educational Beliefs.” List what personal beliefs you have about education especially the education of your own children. Get as detailed as you can here–the value is in the thinking process behind the list. Take your time, I’m in no hurry.

As an example to get you started, I’m going to share with you what I wrote on my list nine years ago:

My Educational Beliefs

1. I believe my child’s attitude about learning should be: One of continual curiosity and seeking of knowledge.

2. I believe my child’s learning should lead towards a lifestyle that is: Rural, physically active, creative.

3. I believe these basic values should be part of my child’s learning:

  • Respect for others
  • Loyalty to family and friends
  • Honesty
  • Generosity

4. I believe children learn best: Through hands-on learning experience, reading, workbooks.

5. I believe a teacher should:

  • Provide side-by-side assistance and direction.
  • Interact with the child.
  • Provide the structure within which the child may explore, experiment, study and achieve.
  • Provide a good example of excitement in learning.

6. Other beliefs:

I believe my child should grow up to be self-reliant and occupationally secure in a field of high interest to them.

Now, that wasn’t too bad, was it? Don’t give up on this until you have at least something written down, but don’t agonize over it either. You can come back to it later if need be. Next, start a paper or file titled “Life Goals For My Child.”

I want you to write down what kind of person you envision your child being as an adult. What are your hopes and dreams for him/her? What educational gifts do you hope to be able to help them find that will serve them their entire lives?

I’ll share mine from 9 years ago, just to get you started:

“Life Goals for My Child”

  • Be literate.
  • Be self-reliant.
  • Compete well in their chosen field of occupation.
  • Appreciate art, music, and literature.
  • Be creative.
  • Be inventive and resourceful.
  • Be healthy, mentally and physically.
  • Co-operate with others.
  • Maintain a strong sense of self-worth.
  • Maintain a life-long curiosity, seeking knowledge as a way of life.
  • Look to the future with a sense of excitement and adventure.

For the last exercise, start a third paper titled: Why We (I) Am Going to Homeschool Our (My) Child? (Yes, single parents can successfully homeschool their children.) You may not have all the answers for this one yet either, but just get something down. All of these ideas and beliefs can start getting mixed in with other people’s opinions once we start educating ourselves in depth about homeschooling, and you’ll be glad you have these lists tucked away.

Okay, here’s my old list:

Why We Are Going To Homeschool Our Children

Our family consists of myself, my husband, a 21-year-old daughter, a 19-year-old daughter, an 8-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter, a 4-½ year old daughter, and an unborn son due in 6 months. My two oldest daughters (from my first marriage) were in the public school system for the whole of their educational years. It is largely a dissatisfaction with the public schools and all it’s attendant problems (academic, social, and moral) that has caused us to make the decision to homeschool our youngest children. We decided, even before our 8-year-old son (the oldest of the younger set) was born, that somehow we would find an alternative to the public schools.

We want to homeschool for some additional reasons. We want added closeness with our children. We want more independence, greater control over our family’s moral and philosophical values, and better awareness of our children’s interests.

We dislike the thought of any government agency–no matter how well meaning–directing the raising of our children.

We intend to homeschool because we do not want our children’s academic, social, and moral education taken out of our hands.

We believe these areas of a child’s education are a parent’s responsibility, right, and pleasure.

I’d like you to spend some time going over these lists until you feel they accurately reflect your feelings about homeschooling your children. When I did these exercises, I had only a vague idea about why I wanted to homeschool and what kind of education I wanted to help my children acquire. These simple exercises helped me to solidify my ideas and provided the basis for our future homeschooling methods. I hope they help you to do the same. Keep these lists in a safe place and add to them as you explore the possibility of homeschooling your child.

Developmental Toys

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

When I was pregnant with my first child a friend said to me, “You know, you don’t need to buy many toys for a child. Just make sure you have some Tupperware, a cardboard box, some plastic measuring cups, and a wooden spoon and she’ll be happy”. I chuckled at the time, thinking “How many toys can one little baby need?”, but by my child’s first birthday I was no longer chuckling. Toys seemed to spontaneously generate in our living room. There were dozens of things that people told me my child needed . Mothers in my play group didn’t ask IF we had something, but HOW MANY we had. I received emails regularly from toy companies touting their latest toys that my child needed to have to develop on target. I conscientiously read all labels, did safety checks, scanned Amazon reviews, and kept checklists to make sure that I got my child what she needed when she needed it and that it was safe and reliable.

Then one day, after I had had my second child and the toy parade had started up its encore, I decided to stop the madness. What did my child really need? I certainly survived childhood (and even came out okay) without all these things to stimulate my left brain, my right brain, my intellect through music, and the many, many electronic items that cause my husband and I to purchase batteries each time we’re near a Target. I took a step back and thought about what we had that we really needed, versus what we enjoyed. The following article covers items that I feel really do contribute to a child’s development. Please note that it is NOT an all-inclusive list. I’m sure there are more things out there, or your own child may have benefited from or loved another item. These are not the “items any mother can’t live without” but my own personal take on “the type of toys that you should invest in since they contribute to a child’s development in his/her first 18 months”. Feel free to add to this list through one of the Mom Advice forums!

For the littlest ones, let’s start with toys that promote sensorimotor development. Rattles encourage reaching and grabbing and help motor skills development. Mobiles encourage visual tracking and reaching. Textures, such as rough, soft, crinkly, etc. give varying kinesthetic responses for your baby. Setting interesting toys just out of reach while on the floor encourages a slightly older baby (4+ months) to reach, roll, or crawl. Having an unbreakable mirror available for “tummy time” is fun for the baby and encourages beginning social skills.

As the child grows, ride-on toys that roll or rock are good for gross motor skill development. Soft balls for throwing and catching are great for outdoors or indoors. A larger, soft ball for rolling, kicking, and throwing with both hands is useful, too.

Language is an area that most parents focus on, and the best way to promote these skills is by talking to your child. (This is even free!). Naming items, talking to your baby whether he or she can understand the words or not, singing, and reading to your child are all important. The importance of reading to your child can’t be underemphasized. However, I have noticed that children’s books are as expensive, if not more, than adult books! The public library can be a super resource for the family. Many libraries also have baby or toddler programs with story time, etc. Books are plentiful and free. Most libraries also hold book sales where you can get children’s books at a bargain. Garage sales and discount websites are good bets, too.

Speaking of books, I’m often asked my opinion on the many electronic books available today. Here’s what I think: they are fun but not necessary. A good, old-fashioned book will do everything you need it to just by being a good story. (I read some interesting research through the International Reading Association recently that suggests that these electronic books are actually a bit of a distraction for “readers”. They are best for preschool and older children who already have the concept of a story (beginning, middle, end, etc.) to enhance the story as opposed to distracting from the language for younger ones).

While we’re on the subject of books, I can’t resist mentioning the oh-so-popular “video board books” that are ubiquitous these days. Do we own them? Yes. Do I like them? Yes. Are they essential for good development? No. There is nothing in these DVD’s that you can’t get from a classical music CD and a good book. (However, I do love how they calm the kids at “fussy time”!!).

This leads me to music, or more specifically classical music. When I was first pregnant I picked up a “brain builder” CD of classical music (for $17.99). I was shocked to see that it was all music I already owned. There was no big secret here. It was basically a lovely selection of classical pieces. Additionally the research on the “brain benefits” of classical music is pretty shaky; however, I’m a big believer in exposing kids to music (not just classical), so a good radio station, or calming CD’s, or favorite digital music station on television is always okay in my book.

As young children develop spatial skills, their cognitive skills develop as well. That’s why is useful to have some simple toys around to build these important skills. Stacking/nesting cups or blocks are usually cheap (mine were $2.99 at Target) but focus on important skills. “Shape sorters” are good, too, to develop cognitive skills and hand-eye coordination. And, I just can’t say enough good about old-fashioned blocks. These can be an essential tool for development that correlates with later math skills (there’s great research out of Boston College on this). I have noticed, though, that it can be hard to find old-fashioned, wooden building blocks, and once I found them I nearly fell over when I saw the price. However, they are a good investment for both boys and girls.

These months from birth to 18 months are key for developing so many skills. Children’s play is largely motor driven at first, and then exploratory. Language is critical, and you want to continue to foster those important language skills with your children through play. By 12-18 months, little ones are ready for a bit more challenge with play, and you can introduce crayons and markers to build motor and spatial skills (and foster creativity!), puzzles for perceptual organization develop, and “imaginary play” items, such as a play kitchen, tool bench, or dress-up clothes.

And, of course, everyone (at all ages!) needs at least one good “lovey”!

Raising Creative Kids

Saturday, February 12th, 2005

“Where did he come up with that?” Kids often amaze us with their imaginative ideas, and we should give ourselves a pat on the back for playing a role in this development. Innovative thinking is essential for success in school and in life, and it’s our job as parents to nurture our kids’ innate desire to be creative. Inventive play fosters original thinking, an asset when children are confronted with new situations. By providing activities that use their creativity and imaginations, we are giving our children an important tool to deal with life down the road.

Give them ideas

Children come up with things to do on their own, but we also need to provide them with new ideas of interesting activities. Think back to what you did as a kid. Did you write a diary, create elaborate puppet shows, or sing and dance for relatives? Share ideas from your own childhood experiences. Offer creative writing ideas like writing an episode for a favorite television show or writing a new ending to a favorite story. Craft projects offer another outlet for inspiring imaginations. Craft kits, especially those from Curiosity Kits and ALEX, offer a wide variety of unusual and fun projects. They’ve brought us a long way from the sock puppets of our youth. These manufacturers offer ideas and supplies to make such things as scrapbooks, powerballs, soaps, candy, sun catchers, dolls, planes, dinosaurs, jewelry treasures, and lots of decorative items. Kids can gather ideas from the instructions, and then give the projects their own unique touches.

Keep ideas fresh

Pick up any parenting magazine and you’ll find lots of ideas to get those creative juices flowing in your kids. Search the web and check out craft stores. Keep a journal or file for magazine clippings and ideas as you find them. Stockpile so that you’ll know how to answer the whiny “I’m bored” call from your kids.

Give them freedom

Once you’ve given your kids some suggestions and supplies, step back and see which they choose and where they go with them. This unstructured play time gives kids an opportunity to stretch their creative muscles. Watch as they incorporate your ideas and branch out on their own.

Set an example.

Chances are, if you are a creative person, your child will be too. You display creativity in your everyday activities like when you reason with a disgruntled child, change lyrics to songs, and maybe even do some interpretive dancing to entertain a toddler. Your children see your silliness and it rubs off on them. You surely use creativity to juggle your and your family’s schedules. It’s a great idea to point out to your kids how you use creativity in your daily life.

As parents, we always try to do the very best for our kids and provide opportunities that will help them mature into intelligent, capable adults. Nurturing their creative spirits helps them along this road. With their well-developed imaginations, maybe they’ll turn it into a yellow brick, pink polka-dotted road with sparkles!

Reading to Your Children

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

When is a good time to start reading to your children? The answer is, as soon as you can! Babies in utero can hear the outside world starting at 4-5 months, so you can start reading aloud to your baby before he and/or she is even born. Reading aloud to your children is one of the best things you can do to promote language development and to encourage a love of reading. This can prime them for future school success. You also don’t have to stop reading with or to your child once they learn to read by themselves. Reading together can be a lifetime joy.

Reading to your young child (age 0-4) fosters their understanding of language. It provides and introduces them to new vocabulary words. It enhances their speech and language production. Children this age also love to hear the same stories again and again, then to “read” it themselves from memory. This is great practice! Plus, reading to your child is a great bonding time together.

Reading with your preschooler can be a great avenue into their own world of reading. Furthermore, it can enhance problem-solving skills, listening skills, and foster attention span. As you read, move beyond the words on the page to point out the pictures, ask questions, have your child predict what will happen next, etc. These are all great pre-reading skills to foster. Additionally, children at this age are learning “concepts about print”: how we read left to right, how you hold a book right side up, how you turn pages as you read. These skills are important pre-reading skills.

As children start school they will be learning to read themselves, if they haven’t started reading on their own already. Reading aloud to them continues to model reading expression and fluency and encourages them in their own reading attempts. One thing to incorporate at this stage is “fingerpoint reading” – pointing to each word as you read. This “points” out for the child that each word is a unique entity. (Studies done at UC Davis by Linnea Ehri have indicated that fingerpoint reading actually helps children move into independent reading).

As children begin to read on their own, many parents feel they should no longer be the readers, but the audience. While it is wonderful, and often necessary, to listen and support your child as they learn to read, this doesn’t mean that reading to them has to stop. Beginning readers often want to read or hear books that are far above their reading levels (the “Harry Potter” books are a good example). This is a great time to select a challenging book that they are interested in but cannot read on their own. As you read to them, you will be continuing to foster their reading and language skills.

So while there is no magic age at which one should start reading to his or her children, there also is no magic age at which to stop. Sharing books aloud can continue into adulthood! Developing a love of reading and literature is a lifelong gift that you can give your children.