Browsing Category: parenting

Day 15: Read the book…see the play

This year, the boy is learning about various genres in literature. He is reading a quality book in a specific genre and then completeing extension activitives about the book and the facets of the genre. So far, this has been a really fun way to grow his literary habits and for the two of us to dig deep into various types of books.

A few weeks ago we wrapped up our study on Adventure books. Being a boy, Isaac is all about the adventure story. One of the books he read during this time was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Over the summer when I was planning for the upcoming school year, I noticed that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was playing at a local theater company.


Last Friday the children and I took school on the road and set out to enjoy this production. Isaac loved seeing the pages of a book he had read and studied come to life on the stage. Ironically, he became terribly involved in the suspense and got upset when he thought danger had taken the life of Tom.

Being the compassionate mother that I am, I leaned over and said, “Dude, you have read the book. You know what happens.”

Mom of the Year over here.

Taking children to see a play based on a book they have read is a great way to ignite a love for reading and for literature. When the story becomes alive on the stage, suddenly loved characters of a book are real and interactive. The places that were once only residing in a child’s imagination are suddenly right before their eyes.

Plays are a great way to encourage a love for books and for the wonder they hold.

Day 12: Books as Problem-Solvers

Most of us probably loved books as small children. As babies, we likely enjoyed nawwing on a a chunky board book. As toddlers, we loved the feel of carrying books around the house. As preschoolers we found pleasure in being read to by an adult or older sibling.

Then we eventually head off to school and at some point books become assosicated with work.

During my two years of grad school, I doubt I read one book merely for fun. Do not misunderstand…I read a lot (a lot!) during that time but it was all school-associated. I remember the husband and I talking at one point about how nice it would be to read for fun once all of our schooling was behind us.

One way to break this association that older kids may make between reading and school work is to help them understand the usefulness of books at an early age. Books open many doors, including ways to help the reader overcome real life battles.


Issues with bullying? Check out The Juice Box Bully. or 100 Dresses

Having problems getting along with siblings? Read The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight

School anxiety plague your little one? Try 100th Day Worries

Little ones having a difficult time controlling their anger? Pull out When Sophie Gets Angry

Children having issue with rude language? The Berenstain Bears Show Some Respect


Showing children that books posses power is a great way to ignite a love for reading. In this case, showing kids how they can read stories that relate to their own lives and situations helps them understand that books are not merely for the classroom.



Day 7: What Happens in Book Club, Stays in Book Club

Admit it: We all think clubs are kind-of cool.

Even those of us who may act like they do not think clubs are cool, find some sort of anti-club to join. (thus joining a club)

Being a part of something gives us a sense of belonging. It gives us a cause to believe in. It provides a way for us to connect.

If one were to flip through my senior yearbook, it may be noted that I was a member of quite a few clubs. This was in no way because I was terribly interested in any of the club’s misson statements nor because I felt strongly about a particular issue.

Instead my membership was solely based on two things:

1. Getting my picture in the yearbook a lot.

2. Being with my friends.

Encouraging your child to have an interest in books can be as easy as starting a family book club. Family book clubs can look a variety of ways, depending on the age and reading level of participants. Younger children can share a book with mommy and daddy and then talk about it afterwards. Perhaps an extension activity such as drawing a picture about the story or making a craft to go along with the book happens after reading together.

Older kids and parents can read books separately and then come together to discuss them. My husband and son have done this on several occasions. They read the same book and then talk about it (or giggle over it, in the case of this series).  Older kids can also do a project to go along with their book, such as making a lapbook or creating a diorama (yes…for fun and not for a grade.)

Creating a book club that meets at a particular time (even if that meeting occurs around the dinner table on a regular ol Tuesday) is a fabulous way to encourage children to read.

Some great starter books include:

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf (extension activities found here)

Berenstain Bear books (these are great for non-readers because they open up lots of topics for discussion)

Little House on the Prairie Series

The Invention of Hugo Cabret  (Husband and son did this one last winter)

My Father’s Dragon (Husband and son doing this series right now)


Does your family have a book club? If so, what are some things you do to make book club fun and interesting?




Day 4: Make it Visual (31 Days Towards Igniting a Love of Reading in Kids)

We live in a culture of praise.

Kids get a to stick their hands in a prize box at school, at home, at the dentist, at Sunday school and basically anywhere they show up and do not act like a complete disaster.

I have some issue about the over-abundance of praise and reward, a thought that basically centers on the idea of what happens when children raised on rewards on no longer rewarded as an adult. A future president of our great country is likely being given a cheap plastic toy and five stickers for merely showing up at school today. The idea is a bit frightening.

The idea of praise and reward stems from the visual and kinesthetic nature of children. They like to SEE how they are doing at something. Slapping a shiny sticker on a chart motivates a child to do a lot things (especially when young) because they enjoy the actual act of sticker-slapping (totally going to coin that phrase, by the way).

One can inspire a love of reading by playing into this desire of kids to see and be involved in their personal progress. Before you run off and stockpile a stash of kiddie meal toys to pass out for each book read, understand that I am not proposing that children be extrinsically rewarded for reading. Rather, create a way to publicly chart and display what the family is reading.

Enter: The Family Reading Log.

This Fall, we are keeping a list of all the books our family reads on our fridge. Even the adults are joining in on the fun as they write down the titles they finish as well. Creating a public space (visual aspect) where kids can write down (kinesthetic aspect) books read is a great way to get them reading. It opens the door for conversation about books read and books one plans to read.

Get friends and family in on the fun. When they stop by, have kids ask if they have read any good books lately. If so, give them a chance to fill in the title on your family reading log.

Everyone feels validated and proud of their reading accomplishments…and there are no junky plastic toys laying around in the end.

Day 3: Set the Example (31 Days towards a love of reading)

One of the most humbling aspects of being a parent is when you hear your words come out of your child’s mouth.

And those words are not pretty.

These words are not the standard off-limit four letter words. They are not swear words. Rather they are words of impatience, grumpiness and frustration. Ugh.

Such times leaving me running for my copy of “Power of a Postive Mom” and attempting my best impersonation of June Cleaver’s even tones.

These times also remind me that little ones are constantly watching my actions and words so they can follow my lead.

Fortunately, children do not merely hone in on our negative traits and copy them for all the world to see. They also pick up on our positive qualities, which can be a significant key to getting children to love reading. One of the best ways to get kids interested in books is to set the example.

Here is my nightstand

Obviously I have yet to embrace the e-reader)

OObviously we love us a good book around here.

Because we are both avid readers, our children see us quite often with a book of some sort in our hands. The husband is particularly good about telling the kids about what he is reading. He pulls out something interesting to share with them from his book. Regardless of the genre of book (business to science fiction…and everything in between), both children become really interested in the fact shared.

Set the reading example for your children. Turn off the TV, stop cleaning up the kitchen for the 7th time that day (have I mentioned that my seven year old somehow managed to have the world’s worst apple juice spill with only a 1/4 cup of juice the other morning? It was on the wall, the window, the baseboards and the floor. Sigh.) and sit down to read. Do not wait for little ones to be tucked in for the evening. Read now while they are awake and happily playing (even if “happily playing” only lasts about five minutes as it does in my house some days).

You will all be inspired.


This is a part of a “31 Series” hosted by The Nester 

Day 2: Seasonal Books (31 Days towards Igniting a Love of Reading)

Tomorrow a cold front is predicted to roll through our area. By Saturday, high temperatures will be in the lower 50’s.

The boots in my closet just did a happy dance.

When you live in a place that could quite possibly see 100 degrees on Halloween (It has happened, people, and it was not pretty), experiencing brisk temperatures early in the Fall is a blessing.

When such weather rolls around, I want to just gather my family together and breathe in the season. Bring on the pumpkins and chili and hot apple cider.

As parents, we all attempt in our own little ways to make the coming and going of seasons fun and exciting for children. Some may go all out and create holiday countdown boards while others scoop up some seasonal donuts and call it a day. A great way to welcome and appreciate the changing of seasons is through books.

Over the years, we have collected a large amount of seasonal books: Back to School books, Halloween Books, Easter books, Valentines Books, etc. Our Christmas book collection has become so crazy that it has a a large plastic bin all its own that lives in the attic eleven months out of the year.

The other books are all housed together in a storage bucket until their season arrives. When a special time comes around (for example: Halloween), the kids and I dig through the seasonal books and pull the appropriate titles. Every year this task is exciting because we see some favorites and also discover some forgotten titles. These seasonal books are put in a bucket by our fireplace where they can be enjoyed for the entire month.

Having a seasonal bucket of books in the main living space of one’s home encourages kids to flip through books on their own. Who doesn’t feel inspired when brisk air is swirling all around the window outside and a tasty treat and a great book are readily available?

Want to ignite a love of reading in your child? Gather up some books about Fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving and place them in a bucket in the living room. Toss in a comfy blanket and a soft pillow and your little ones are ready to explore the wonders of the season in their own living room.


This post is a part of an ongoing “31 Series”. For more like this, check out The Nester


31 Days to Igniting a Love for Reading (Day One: Make it Fun)

Whenever I take my children into their yearly well visit with our pediatrician, one of the questions she always asks is “Are you reading to your children at least 30 minutes a day?”

Great question, huh?

It is also one that can make us feel a ping of mom guilt when we realize that maybe Dora is doing a bit more entertaining than that stack of books from the library that seems to be gathering dust. 

Reading aloud to kids is a great way to ignite a love of reading. Because we homeschool, we have several times set aside during our day where I read to the children. During this time we read a variety of books: fiction, nonfiction, classics or just something fun and whimsical.

Something that I have found to make read-aloud time doable is to make it fun and special on occasion. Sure most of us partake in  the standard bedtime stories that most kids crave, but what can be done  to make the chapter book during the day exciting to listen to for little ones?

Making that time special creates a fun environment for books of all variety.

At our house, we do our history reading during morning snack time.  The kids love when I make this part of our day special.

Before you click off this post, assuming that I have coordinated the book and snack or monogrammed napkins and pulled fresh scones from the oven, rest assured that “special” does not imply “labor-intensive.”

Some days I might make a quick glass of hot chocolate and serve it in nice tea cups. Other days we might have lemonade with a fun (read: leftover from our last birthday party) straw and a handful of goldfish. The kids really love it if I set a fun table with out-of-the-ordinary things (again, I have simply pulled out remnants from past parties).

Making a special time during the day to read aloud to children really gets them interested in books. Take time this week to put together a fun snack and read something to your kids. Perhaps even challenge yourself (and them!) and read something with chapters and an author who provides little to no illustrations.

You will be amazed by their response!


31 Days towards a Love of Reading

Want to know what is really great about the Internet?

Creative, inspired, and well-spoken individuals can all come together and share thoughts to motivate others.

And they allow the rest of us to tag along.

For the month of October, The Nester is hosting a “31 series” in which people share 31 posts (one per day) of something for the good of others. Sure the Internet is frustrating at times. And yes, Internet Addiction is about to be added to the new DSM V (let us pause and discuss how the DSM III had just hit the shelves when I started Grad School. Dear Time: Quit Flying.). However, the World Wide Web also allows us to learn and share, the basic rules of friendship we all were taught in our preschool days.

Ignore the fact that the calender reads October 3rd today and I will graciously acknowledge that I am a bit late to the party.

For my 31 Days, I opted to share how to cultivate a love of reading in one’s home. Books are so incredibly important to us here at casa de phillips. The husband and I both entered into our marital union holding a strong affection for a good book. When we travel, we carry no less than 3 books per person and likely toss in a few magazines as well. Reading is third to breathing and eating to us.

We desire for our children to share a love for reading as well.

I hope you will follow along with me this month as I discuss tips, tricks, and ideas on how to ignite a love of reading in children.

Day 1 will be posted shortly.

(Want to write your own 31 Days series? No worries, there is still time to jump on the late bus with me! Head over to The Nester and link up!)


Raising Adults….via ice cream sundaes

One of my parenting goals is to not have children living in my basement when they are adults..

This goal likely will work out because we currently have no basement at casa de phillips and currently reside in a part of the country where soil conditions make basements practically obsolete.

In all seriousness, we have started early in attempting to teach our children life skills so that when they are 21 they will know how to carry out adult responsibilities. As I have blogged before, I tend to be a helicopter parent. I come from a long line of helicopter parenting, of moms and grandmothers intent on making sure I am happy and fed and feel loved. There are some really great aspects of helicopter parenting. One never questions the faithfulness of a helicopter mom. They do not have the chance to because mom is always right there. However, I did grow up knowing how to do certain tasks and was able to easily transition from adolescence to independent living quite smoothly.

We hope the same for our children.

Slowly, we are adding to their responsibilities around the house. Two phrases I often say to them in regards to housecleaning are:

Oh, the maid did not show up today. You better go clean up your ____________ (dishes, room, toothbrush, Hot Wheels track that spans across most of the upstairs).”


Am I going to have to drive to your house when you are 30 and do this for you? Mommy will be very old and tired then.” (This is usually in regards to little ones resisting learning how to perform a new chore or task. This little phrase…said in a funny way…was how I got both kids to dress themselves independently when they were younger.)

Currently I am reading Cleaning House, which is really an easy read that will convict parents about avoiding the entitlement trap with kids and ensuring that they are teaching (and following through!) with life skills training. Most likely, I will write a review of it when I finish it this weekend.

I would like to say that our children complete the chores at hand with a happy attitude every day, whistling while they work. I would like to say that because they know they are responsible for cleaning up their messes, when an epic yogurt spill happens it is quickly and efficently cleaned up (And not slightly sopped up with a kitchen towel…which is then haphazardly hung back onto the oven door….leaving a trail of sticky yogurt globs in its wake). I would like to say that there are never mornings when unloading the dishwasher sounds like a foreign and strange notion that I have passed down, despite the fact that these two unload it every day after breakfast. I would also like to say that I do not get the occassional blank stare when I ask someone to strip their beds and take the bedding down to the laundry room as if they did not know such a place existed in our home (we are working on the chore of laundry right now). And of course I would like to say that I never get frustrated or tired with the less-than-stellar cleanining efforts of small hands and simply do the task myself to save time and my sanity.

It’s a process…that raising of children.

Sometimes I make work fun. Sometimes it is mandatory. Sometimes it is rewarded. Othertimes a simple “thanks” is all that is doled out.

Occasionally, I get creative.

Yesterday the afternoon heat was getting to us. We had spent the morning at the local mall doing a bit of birthday shopping. Lunch and a semi-quiet time led us into a long afternoon. There were chores to be done and everyone seemed more intent on fussing and complaining rather than working.

I gave them their instructions (clean up your rooms unless you want Littlest Pet Shop and Ninjago pieces to be sucked up in the vaccum) and then dust all the baseboards upstairs.

While they were working, I set up a special afternoon snack. The price of admission to said snack time was one dusty rag showing me that the baseboards had indeed been wiped down well.

Everyone paid their admisson price and was welcomed into our “Ice Cream Sundae” bar.

Despite the fact that I simply threw this little snack together with leftovers from our 4th of July celebration, the children thought it was great. They felt proud to show their admission ticket and loved having ice cream as a snack.


How do you make chores fun somedays?


A little tip from me: Dusting is a great chore to start little ones out doing. My kids have had their very own Swiffer dusters for years. Sure, they might not get all the dust bunnies but they will get some dusting done and build a bit of self-worth in the process.

Surviving Summer: Vacation

Want to know what word needs to be scrubbed from the vocabulary of every American?


I question how one can say that word without:


A. Assuming they are being filmed for a reality show that involves either housewives or bachelors


B. living under the assumption that they are fifteen years old


The husband and I attempted years ago to bring the term “holiday” into the spotlight here in the good ol USA as people refer to their vacations. No one really picked up on it so it remains more of a European term rather than an American one. We still have high hopes for the word though, wishing fervently that it would gain (and surpass) the popularity of “vacay.”

Speaking of vacation, we recently went on one with our family.

We packed up the family station wagon and set our sights on the beach. We live in a state that is home to (part of) the gulf, so beach-going is not terribly difficult for us. The grandparents just happened to be vacationing in our fine state and we are not ones to turn down a vacation with them.

Especially a vacation that involves two other adults to help with the entertaining of the children.

Our vacation went swimmingly. The children loved the ocean. Our accommodations were wonderful for a group of six. I drank coffee on a balcony overlooking the bay every morning, while chatting with my mom and reading. We dined on seafood every night.

Here are a few summer vacation tips from our family to yours:


1. Plan…but do not over plan.


Our schedule for the week looked a bit like this: Get up. Eat a lazy breakfast. Go to the beach. Return home for lunch. Nap. Get dressed. Go out for dinner and fun. Return home for ice cream.

We had a plan but we were not running from activity to activity. There are some vacations where the husband and I attempt to fill every moment (NYC in the fall). However, kids (and parents) need some downtime. Allow for rest and relaxation. No one is having fun when the little people are crying and the big people are frustrated because so much “Fun” was crammed into one day.


2. Set expectations.

On this particular vacation, our children slept on air mattresses. Although we were in a very large condo, there were only two King-sized beds. The children each had their own air mattress. Before we left, I let them know exactly what their sleeping arrangements would be. They brought some special bedding and a fun stuffed animal. When we arrived at our destination, they helped choose the location for their air mattress and help set up their own little space. Doing all this set their expectations about where they would be sleeping (essentially on the floor). Because of this advance preparation, we had no sleep issues all week. When kids know what to expect, they are better able to acclimate to their new surroundings.


3. Pack accordingly.


My favorite packing tip for kids is to put their whole outfit (shorts, shirt, underwear, socks, bow) in a large ziploc bag and label the bag. This allows the child to know exactly what they need to wear each day and how to find it without assistance. At the end of the day, all the dirty clothes can be put back in the bag and repacked.

We also had each of the kids pack an “entertainment” bag. This one is filled with coloring books, reading books, small toys and other fun trinkets. This is the bag that entertains them in the car as well as at the hotel.


4. Avoid assumptions.

Sometimes when vacationing with kids, we assume we can only do “kid things.” Give kiddos more credit than that and plan to do some things on vacation that are interesting to adults as well. We had a museum day where we visited three museums. Visiting museums is a pretty common activity for our kiddos. However, one of these museums had the “Bodies Revealed” show on display. Originally I thought it might be too much for our kids. What 6 and 5 year old really want to look at dissected bodies on vacation?

Apparently, ours.

They enjoyed the exhibit much more than I felt like they might. I do have to say that both of them thought that the bodies were fake and never realized they were actual people. Evelyn was fascinated by the the “smoker’s lung” while Isaac walked around independently reading about the various body parts/systems (We learned a lot of anatomy this past year in school, which is likely why it was all very interesting to him.). Do not assume one can only do kid-friendly things on vacation. Have your whole family step out of the box and try something a bit new or different.


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