Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Ross Giveaway!

I am very fortunate to have another gift card to give to a reader!

Sorry for the two week hiatus. Sometimes a mom needs a break. A going-to-bed-at-a-decent-hour and walking-every-night type of break. I've been staring at my babies more, counting leaves with my kids, and taking in all the new colors fall brings.

Speaking of fall... we need clothes, again!

My kids grow and I never know what they will need in advance. Never. I don't know the system for buying in advance, and now it is chilly and their jeans from last year could be capris. When Ross Dress for Less asked if I would do another giveaway, I didn't hesitate.

Last time Za got tons of back-to-school clothes. This time Ty needed them more. He loves his new outfit, but won't cooperate for the camera though. To get a picture of him in his Ross outfit, I had to settle for a picture of him running away from me:

Anywho, the kiddos and I returned to Ross and had another wonderful experience. I am accustomed to discount stores being messy, but this store is not - which means I can find clothes easily. Clothes are not strewn around or on the wrong rack.

They also have hard to find clothes, like SLIM PANTS for my tall man Ty. I normally have to pay more for special sizes for kids like slim or large. These are his long, slim jeans in his size, name-brand, and at a low price. He normally suffers through with regular jeans because stores don't carry slim or long (let alone together!), but I got to choose between several pairs of slim/long pants.

I didn't stand in line long, and of course had to take Za to the bathroom, which was clean. (This is a parenting bonus- it just is). I did not care for the shoe selection, again, which is a bit of a bummer. I need some discount shoes!

Overall though, we spent our gift card and a little bit more, but Ty got two pairs of pants and a shirt for fall. Every item was name brand, and the jeans were more than 50% off the retail tag.

So... I love making my readers happy like I am, so here's how to enter for your own gift card to Ross:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

I did receive compensation in the form of a gift card from Ross Dress for Less in exchange for sponsoring this giveaway on Switching Classrooms. Opinions stated in this blog and any subsequent blog posts, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, or other social media or personal statements are my own. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Children's Discovery Museum

Children's Discovery Museum - Normal, IL

We live about an hour away from Normal, IL. My kids have been to the Children's Discovery Museum several times, some with us and other times on class trips. They ask to go frequently, but we are members at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. With the gas and time and ticket price, I always tell them no and go to the museum 10 minutes from us. For a treat though, the family went a few days before school started.

We had a blast, and the kids showed me that they are too old for pictures. I also answered my biggest question, "is the Normal or Peoria museum better for kids?"

First, the review.

The Children's Discovery Museum has three floors. Floor one has a section for little kids/babies, a water table, a dentist chair, medical section, restaurant, train tables, and a padded area for babies. (That's a ton of kid-friendly stuff).

Baby playing with blocks.

Sometimes educational places don't have baby areas, but this museum has several.

This is large area has steps and carpeted play areas for toddlers.  

PLUS the museum has a "dirty toy box" for slobbered toys. Fabulous.

Floating demonstration.
While Ty and Za went off to explore messy and open areas with dad, baby C.J. and I had toddler areas to explore.

The elevator... why do kids love the elevator? It must seem magical to them, and they love pressing buttons. Anyway...

Floor two has a combine that the kids put balls in, crank, and then collect. They can also shoot the balls across the room, which I don't need to explain is the coolest thing ever. 

Dumping the balls in the vacuum for them to go across the ceiling.

The floor has interactive computer touch-screens for kids to learn about the food they eat. I do not agree with everything presented in these info-graphics (corn, dairy), but explained what was presented, the sponsors of the area (ahem), and what dad and I believe.

Ty milking the cow.
Sisters driving the tractor.

Much of floor two has information about farming, recycling, and compost. This is my favorite floor and my kids actually spent the majority of the time on it.

Za making music.

It also has a noise machine with cranks that allow the user to change the volume and tone.

Floor three contains large items - a walk-on piano, a drum set, a small room for crafts, a stage, and a painting area.

My kids wanted to spend the most time up here. The encouragement to paint on the walls is too exciting to resist!


This museum is huge. My suggestion is to plan how long your family can stay focused without breakdowns (about an hour for mine) and divide by three. Each floor is worthwhile, but we spent too much time on floor two. The kids were hungry but wanted to keep painting on floor three. We had to drag them out to feed them. A little bit of organization on our part, with five-minute alerts for the kids, would have helped.

I should add that the museum has a party area for food, and vending machines with some decent choices. We staved off hunger for a bit, but eventually had to leave for a pizza.

The kids loved it. I got bored watching them dump those balls in the vacuum, but hey, it happens. Which leads me to my thoughts about the "better" museum in the Central Illinois area.

Second, the decision. 

When we left, I had the Children's Discovery Museum totally sold in my head as the better choice. My kids love it and ran around, jumping from one interactive toy to another. My kids never want to leave the Peoria museum either, but even taking the "newness" of the museum they seldom frequent into account, I still believed they liked Normal better than Peoria. They might still - and it is very educational, well worth the ticket price.

Then as were buckling the kids in for the ride home, we asked the kids what their favorite part was. After they answered, Ty asked me the same thing.

"I don't know," I told him. I love watching my kids at that museum, but it is a kid museum, not catered to me. I have more fun at the Peoria museum. The kids' areas are smack in the middle of the "adult" areas. While I watch them play, I read about fish, area hospitals, or athletics.

That edged the Peoria museum up in my mind. I set the example for my kids by learning while they do - and our areas are not totally separate. My kids explore and learn at both museums, but I also learn in a "mom area" as the kids call it. Showing my kids that I enjoy learning while they explore - that is the best example of lifelong learning I can imagine. I wish Normal would add some parent material so parents can set the same examples there.

I was not compensated in any way for this post. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Financial Friday: Homemade Notes

Writing thank-you notes with your kids teaches SO many concepts.

The finished product.
I always want my children to write. I believe that most parts of what teachers teach in school is valuable. However - if students do not see a real life connection, they typically won't care and they won't do it well. Writing, and using the writing process well, will help all students in and out of school.

Writing notes, like thank-you notes, helps kids learn appreciation and compassion. We write notes throughout the school year to people who help at school, and for Christmas and birthday gifts.

This also teaching the writing process, which is simple. It will be used throughout your child's schooling, and teaching it now is simple.

Brainstorming ideas about what to write, and then writing a rough draft are the first two steps. Revising/proofreading (with help from mom) is the next step:
Writing it neatly and delivering it are the final steps. We added decorations to the card, and Ty was happy when he returned from school. He said that his recipients were happy!

The writing process and kindness are inexpensive lessons with homemade notes.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Christmas Pinecones: Spray Them Now!

We make tons of Christmas crafts using pinecones. The possibilities are endless, really. 

Pinecones are on the ground now. My kids have gathered them.

I have an idea of how to think ahead, and make my life easier.

I am spraying these cones now, while the weather is nice.

That way, I have cones dry when I need them in a few months. I do not have to spray them in the snow, on the kitchen table, or in the garage and either freeze or clean up messy paint later.

Not that I've ever made a mess before.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Types of Intelligences

One idea I strongly believe is that when parents understand why teachers do activities in the classroom, everyone involved is happier.

Explaining the "secrets" behind teaching and lesson planning has always been one of my goals with this blog - to encourage parents to teach and to create a bridge from the classroom to the home.

Lots of my writings on this blog deal with ways for parents to incorporate the eight intelligences into their children's lives. Completing a variety of activities with young children helps parents understand how their children learn, which then leads to parents helping their children more successfully with school work, and parents having confidence to speak to teachers concerning their child's strengths.

One idea I always stress is that parents should not pigeonhole their children into an intelligence. For instance, parents may want a little engineer. Working with math skills is fabulous, but only doing math skills may backfire. Work with your child in a variety of ways.

My mathematical-logical oriented child, camping and fishing.

Additionally, children will build connections between the intelligences parents won't see. A child presented with many learning opportunities (not necessarily costly ones!) will learn in different ways - an important part of life.

Teachers know this. A large portion of a teaching training program is studying different ways that children learn, and how to incorporate those ways into a classroom.

That is why your child may not care for every assignment. A teacher may assign work that you and your child groan over. It was hopefully assigned with a purpose, hopefully to teach a concept a different way, to hit different kinds of learners.

For instance, Ty would rather read a nonfiction book than a fictional book. He does not thrive on imaginative play like Za does.

This is rare for Ty to play pretend.
His teacher does assign him creative writing and drawing projects. He needs to develop those skills, and for other students, those projects are addressing their strong suites.

What I can do as a parent is to support his teacher, and encourage him to do these assignments well. Ty takes no probing to finish math homework, but he does draw out writing projects.

I understand that he has a preference, but it is detrimental for a child's parents to explain away an assignment or belittle the teacher.

Aside from building a skill he may not voluntarily concentrate on, he is learning that a part of any job requires completing assignments you may not love. (Ever have a job where you loved every bit of your assigned duties? I have not).

What do you think? Do you work to incorporate all intelligences in your child's life? Do you see this in your child's school work?