Thursday, February 4, 2016


BEYOND THE BOOKS is a weekly meme where KissinBlueKaren throws out a topic (mostly non-bookish), and we blog about it.

Of course this would be my first tip. Ha ha. I always buy books as newborn presents for friends and family and nine times out of ten I get confused looks. Once an old high school friend of mine came right out and said, "Well, that isn't going to get any use for a couple of years." I want to shake these people! I started buying books for Sebastian the minute I knew I was expecting. Research now shows that babies make the connection between being loved and reading. I also think it stimulates the brain in other ways; setting the framework for better language skills and early reading.

2. Teach your kids to read before they go to school. 
It is easier and less time consuming than you think, and it gives them a huge leg up in school that carries them like a wave through to graduation. I started teaching Sebastian to read the day he turned two years old, and by second grade he tested reading at an 11th grade level.  It also helps you catch reading problems early, so you can figure things out, one on one, in the security of your own home, about how they learn best. This will have them reading confidently so they don't feel insecure at school. You don't need a lot of time or fancy boxed reading systems. I did a blog post about it: HERE.
3. Play video games with your kiddos. 
It can be a wonderful bonding activity. There are so many games for teaching skills, and sometimes they are so well done the kids don't even realize they are learning something. As they get older you can switch to regular games. If you are inept like I am, your children can be proud they are teaching you something. I think Sebastian stayed home a lot more as he got older because we participated in things he liked to do. Even if you are only the navigator, or assistant puzzle solver while they are paying (like I was most of the time), they love it. With Sebastian it was also a time to talk about things. It amazed me how many different topics came up in conversation.

4. Eat dinner together. 
Having the kids help cook is a wonderful thing, too. Sebastian was a master mess maker, so helping was rarely in the plans for him, but rather than have him parked in front of the television while we cooked, I had him in the kitchen reading to me, playing word association games, or singing. I know kids have busy schedules and it isn't always possible, but make the people who are home come to the table. Even if it is take-out.
5. Play High Point/Low Point at the dinner table, or wherever you are eating. Each person tells about the high point and low point in their day. Sebastian did not want to be bothered with conversation when he came home from school, so this was a good way to find out what was going on with his school and friends.

5. Do enrichment activities. 
I could never figure out why people would ask me if Sebastian was homeschooled when he was younger because he was not. Then one day a person said they asked because he knew detailed facts about so many different subjects. Then it dawned on me; in elementary school and middle school they touch on a lot of things, but don't really get into the heart of them. Museums, especially children's hands on and science centers, the planetarium, and the zoo were always the go to for us more than amusement parks and movies. When I became friends with a mom who homeschooled her children, through Sebastian's theater group, I found out that we did a lot of things at home that homeschoolers do. We did many free enrichment activities, too; like going to the library and getting books and videos to research a subject of interest. Gardening in our own backyard and composting, birdwatching and keeping a birding book, tree identification walks and keeping a leaf book, and bug collecting were all things we did.
Ths is the actual book we have. There is a checklist in the back of the book to keep track of all of the birds you have seen.

6. Have them play a musical instrument, sing, or dance.
I think this gets a bad rap because too many parents push it too the extreme. Sebastian started cello in third grade and didn't like it, so instead of pushing him to keep going and spend his time doing something he hated, we said that is okay, tell us if you want to try something else next year. Pushing it will just make them not want to play anything at all. He was in chorus so he was good to go anyway. He didn't decide to start percussion until sixth grade, but he loved it and we never had to push him to practice. Plus, even if they don't want to be a public performer, encourage them as they get older because being able to play an instrument or dance is great self-therapy during sad or stressful times.

7. Be honest with your kids.
I have seen too many children be dramatically upset because they were in an activity and didn't get picked for something. Sebastian started playing soccer when he was six. He got upset one day because he didn't get chosen for a goalie rotation at a game. I explained to him that he had a habit of "zoning out" when the action was up field and usually didn't get set up in time when the ball was kicked from a distance. We agreed that this wasn't a good thing for a goalie, but that he was a great dribbler and he was more of an asset on the field. I always stressed not everyone was good at everything. Later on, when he was doing musical theater we made a pact that I would never tell him he did something well if he didn't, so as to save him public embarrassment. This all stemmed from a certain cast member who got a lot of prime singing parts because his parents made hefty contributions to the performing arts center; even though he sounded like a strangled cat when he sang. Sebastian saw how people laughed about it and didn't want to suffer the same. The boy's mother was always telling him how great he was at EVERYTHING. The kids shunned him because they saw it as the boy ruining the show they all worked so hard on. The boy's mother told him it was because the other cast members were jealous of his talent. It got to the point that when kids found out they were in his cast they would sometimes take a lesser part just so they could be transferred to another group. The first time the boy didn't get the part he wanted (because a richer family had taken over) his mother switched him to the university children's theater program, where he was brutally ridiculed in front of everyone, by the music director, after his first audition. This is what will kill your child's self confidence, not telling them they are not the best at something. If being a goalie or the lead in a musical is that important to the child they will practice and try harder. If they still don't get there, praise and reward their hard work and encourage them to try something else.
Yes, this is wee little Baz during his 1st grade soccer days. He played for five years and then decided he wanted to do musical theater instead.

8. Expose your kids to diversity.
If your child goes to a school where they are in the majority try and find an activity where there is a bouquet of people like a community club or a free library program. I applied for Sebastian to go to a preschool where half of the students had physical or cognitive disabilities, he didn't move up fast enough on the waiting list to go, but what a wonderful idea. I always made sure that I spoke to disabled children when we were out as an example for Sebastian. Reading books about diverse characters is a must too. This is how racism and bullying will be stopped in the coming generations.

9. Do charitable work together.
Our family saved pennies, nickels and dimes in a special jar and when there was anything that needed a donation we would take the change to the bank and get cash for the donation. We also made an activity  of matching coupons to sales to get free food to put in the CHOW barrels. Do charity walks as a family. When Sebastian got older he volunteered extra, beyond the hours he needed for his high school graduation, at a food bank. I didn't even know he was doing it until someone I knew was dropping off donations and saw him unloading a truck. Starting young and making it a family activity makes a difference.

9. Take walks together when you can.
Again, another communications booster. It's all about making discussion a normal, regular, not forced, or dreadful thing. It will save your kids from making at lot of unguided, unwise decisions.

10. Have a pet.
I know a lot of parents who say they won't have one because the all the work will end up on them, but make it a family thing anyway. Walk the dog together, clean the catbox or the hamster cage together. It's called "learning" responsibility not "having" responsibility. Sebastian used to just carry the bag of dirty kitty litter to the garbage, then it was that plus putting newspaper liner and clean litter in the pan, now he does it all. I will admit the last step didn't happen until he went to high school. Ha ha. Also, making it a rule that the pets get fed before humans can have dinner, helps a lot.

11. Make things for them.
This always was a big deal for Sebastian. I made the "dollhouse", furniture, food, and clothing for his toy mouse family. I made playdough and bubble making contraptions, a slip and slide, his first wand, board games, and the biggest deal to him... his Halloween costumes. He went trick or treating from six months old to 12, and I made every costume. I didn't know how much that meant to him until he was in kindergarten and I had started daycaring a newborn. I hadn't had the time to make anything so we went to Target. When we started looking at costumes and asking him which ones he liked he looked confused and said he thought we were looking for costumes for us, and then he started to cry. I asked him what was the matter and he said I didn't love him anymore. He saw me making his costumes as an act of caring. We ended up buying a black sweatsuit and a Cat in the Hat hat and I made the white belly and red bow and that satisfied him.
 12. I almost decided not to do this one because it can be a touchy subject for some people, but here goes any way. No corporal punishment. 100% of prisoners incarcerated for violent crimes say they were spanked as children as opposed to less than 1/2 of one percent of students in masters degree programs. I never spanked my son and he was not an easy child. I never wanted him to behave because he feared me. I think too many parents confuse respect and fear. Yes, it is more difficult to suffer the whining and stomping around when they get their video games taken away, or are not allowed to go to the movies with their friends, but parenting isn't about the easy way. I always see those memes that say "you're their parent, not their friend", well I have managed to be both, and as a single parent from the age of 12. And this is how he turned out...
He earned three full high school diplomas: New York State Regents, RIT Lead the Way pre-engineering program, and Rod Serling School of Fine Arts Music program. He was National Honor Society and a Nobel Association Scholar. He also did two full regional musical theater productions every year, participated in six different music ensembles at school, and fullfilled his 300 hours of community service requirement for his regents diploma; even though he had a deferment because he was seriously ill his last two years of high school. The one best thing I can say is to love them and respect them and they will love and respect you back.

1. Don't make them kiss Aunt Margaret.
2. Don't dance, or sing in front of their friends.
3. Don't buy underwear for birthdays.
4. A tank of fish is not a pet.
5. Don't send boxed raisins for the school  Halloween party.
6. If you drive them to school in your pajamas don't get out of the car.
7. Homemade is not a good thing when it comes to school Valentine's Day cards, or teachers' gifts.
8. Go to every public performance that they are in. Even if they are a fifth row tree in a singing forest for Earth Day. If you can't make it, send Aunt Margret.
9. Don't send store bought cupcakes for the school bake sale. At least make rice crispies treats or those pretzel things where you melt M&Ms on the holes.
10. Don't send them to sleep away camp unless they ask to go. Then when they become traumatized you can truthfully say that they did it to themselves.


  1. This is great! So many good tips, and that graphic is awesome. I cracked up! I love Good Night Moon, and your reading tips are great ideas. I've always thought birdwatching would be fun too, but have never really made the time for it- I bet that would be a great activity to do with kids too.

    1. The birdwatching thing we kind of still do. If one of us happens to see a new bird we mark it in the book. Sebastian had a tree identification section for one of his Biology classes and the other students cried no fair because he already knew them. :)

  2. Great advice and I think you and I line up on pretty much everything. Especially the reading from the beginning. I don't care when they learn to read but I think exposure to books and story structure is so important. Even if they don't start reading early they still have a leg up when they start reading because it's familiar (if that makes sense). Fascinating post and your son has quite the impressive resume!

    1. Yeah, I don't get the head scratching when it comes to reading to babies, and these are college educated people. Oh well, I think it is becoming a normal thing now, so the next geration will be reading nurtured at least. I know I must have done somethings right because my son has said when he has children he doesn't want anyone else to daycare them but me. Ha ha. :)

  3. Wow, what a thoughtful post! Though I am not a parent, I can see how these are incredibly important. As a child, I know how important some of these things are for me. I actually look forward to reading to my child, attending their performances, and taking them trick-or-treating for Halloween. But, hey, that's like 10 years from now!

    Jess @Princessica of Books

    1. That is my parenting philosophy, do what your parents did that made you happy and self-confident, and don't do what had negative effects. Ha ha. :)


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