Posted in general education, homeschool, more seeds, parents, reflection, special education

The Week in Review: Gardening, Growing and Gratitude

This Week’s Posts

I hope you have been following along with my back-to-school endeavors to maintain balance so I can do right for myself, my family and my students. If you’re just joining us, fear not! Here’s what we did last week…

Launching a Workshop Model in High School

For the past two weeks, I’ve worked on my new workshop schedule, trying it out with the kids after dabbling during summer school. I really think it will be a good way to keep kids engaged, no matter where they are. They like independence, with just enough support – and not too much talking! We’re going to a reduced day (5.5 hrs) instead of our early dismissal schedule at noon from the last two weeks. In the afternoon, I’ll add more hands-on tasks: digital journaling, garden work, science experiments… Stay tuned.

Getting in that Garden…

We had a few thundershowers this week, so I had to spend less time watering the new hydrangeas that my youngest son brought home from work for me. In the garden, I thought a lot about the things that nurture my soul:  teaching troubled teens, spending time in prayer and study, and time in the garden. Taking time to care for yourself is important in unpredictable times such as these. I hope you remembered to schedule it in your day.

I don’t garden because I’m the world best gardener – I’m not. I don’t have a good track record with houseplants, for example. They REALLY must have a sense of humor – and not mind being grazed on by cats. Here’s a shot of my new palm that sits behind me in my office. It just screams, “Please, chew on me!”

I DO love gardening, but not because I raise enough food on a quarter acre to feed my family through the zombie apocalypse. This year, between spring slugs, unbearable heat and weeks with little rain, I have managed to grow salad greens, arugula, a few cherry tomato plants and some herbs. Last weekend, I stuck some ornamental cabbage and kale in the ground, and planted one last round of beans, radishes and lettuce – fall gardening, to the rescue!

Gardening gives me (and my students) peace. Something about digging in the soil, the smell of the basil in the morning, the feeling of the sunshine on my back, the music of the warblers, cicadas and spring peepers. It’s the way a catbird eyes me and follows me as I weed, snagging grubs or beetles that I toss to the side. Kids and adults benefit greatly from getting outside in the garden. 

Peace and Gratitude

In the garden, I feel God’s presence. I see evidence of His qualities in what he created: beauty, and mathematics, and patterns, and music, and warmth, and freshness, and renewal. I can talk to Him, and He answers me with a breeze, in a slowly circling  buzzard, or a butterfly on a bit of clover.

A friend loaned me her son’s UCONN pompom to cheer on my colleagues on the first day of school. I’m waving it for YOU now! You’ve got this! Even Chiquita thinks so… {Image credits: (c) 2020, Kim M. Bennett

“Life-fulfilling work is never about the money – when you feel true passion for something, you instinctively find ways to nurture it.” ~ Eileen Fisher, Fashion Designer

School and Life Shopping for the Week

Admit it, teacher-friends: between back-to-school and COVID stay-at-home orders and quarantines, we have all developed a heavy-duty Amazon addiction. Sorry not sorry. I put some items in my overstuffed Amazon cart this week:

I’ve also been shopping for my new journaling love: washi tape. If you haven’t starting using it, I will warn you: once you do, you’ll want to put washi tape on anything you write. One of my girls saw me using it, and I just had to give her a roll. She is currently using it to bedazzle her Chrome Book.

Check Out These New Features:

  • This Week, in Five Photos: This week, you’ll see a recap of my adventures in the garden;
  • Planner Pointers: Pop over to read how I focused on starting my day with a statement of gratitude.

Posted in general education, homeschool, more seeds, outdoor education, parents, reflection, social-emotional, special education, spirit

This Week, in Five Photos: In the Garden

Gratitude, Growth and Gardening

This week, I headed outside into the garden, both at home and at school with my students. The garden was a source of peace and connection with the world for me, and some much needed break from screens and keyboards for my students.

School Garden Curriculum
https://allkidscanlearn.school.blog

At this writing, my fall radishes, lettuce and beans are already up, and the raised bed at school is awaiting cleaning and planting. I purchased The School Garden Curriculum for lesson ideas. The compost bins at school will be set up and ready to go for the fall, and the kids are using their new Google Docs skills to research and share ideas for planting their fall garden. Stay tuned!

On a personal note, my husband had his 8-month check up post heart transplant (January 21, 2020). He (and the new heart!) got a big gold star for doing great. I AM grateful…

Looking Ahead to Next Week…

My students have always enjoyed journaling. I have been turning my journal pages into art therapy of a sort. I think I’m going to start electronic journals with the students next week, and refer to the components in my journal as we go, starting with morning gratitude statements.

Our essential question for our first month is “What Influences the Way You Act?” Last week, we talked about culture, and family, and personal choices based on character. We even connected the concept to the early European explorers, discussing reasons why someone would want to be an explorer (desire for adventure, skills at navigating, quest for fame and power, need to be the leader over something…). To connect art with this study, I made a note in my “post-it note brain” to start vision boards with the kids next week. Gotta gather up those old magazines…

“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come. It will not tarry” ~ Habakkuk 2:2

My Wish for You

I hope the week was a smooth, happy one for all of you. Enjoy your weekend, and remember: you are important in the lives of your students. You matter. You are working hard. I see you, and I love you.

Be well,

~ Kim

Posted in general education, homeschool, more seeds, parents, reflection, special education

Planner Pointers: Start Your Day With Gratitude

A Grateful Perspective

I once had an acquaintance who would say, “I’m grateful that I have an electric bill, because that means I have lights. I’m grateful to pay my rent, because that means I have a warm, dry place to sleep at night. I’m grateful for my bunions because it means I have feet. Some people don’t have any of those things.”

Gratitude does not mean ignoring the bad in life or pretending that your life is perfect. It means accepting it – no, being thankful for it – including the parts that are sad, unpleasant or disappointing, When you begin to approach each day on a positive note, and you do it over, and over, and over again, you begin to see a change in your whole outlook on life.

Be thankful for what you have. You will end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

Oprah Winfrey

A Little Note of Gratitude

My planner has a place to write a morning message of gratitude. But you don’t have to have a printed space in order to write a gratitude statement. Find an unused square in your school-issued plan book, or jot a note at the top of the day’s page. Even a fancy post-it note at the top of the page works. The added bonus for the post-it is that, if you have to move it throughout the day to write in your plan book, you read the gratitude statement all over again, as a reminder!

Starting your day with a written note of gratitude can help shape the rest of your day in a positive way. {Image Credit: (c) 2020 Kim M. Bennett}

Be Honest… Be Grateful…

The friend I mentioned above didn’t try to get fancy with his gratitude. When you write statements, don’t feel the need to “dress them up.” Here are the things I was grateful for in August, as an example. You can kind of see the things we went through during August of 2020:

  1. The sound of crickets chirping in the early morning ~ reminds me of childhood.
  2. A new day.
  3. The freedom to get up early in the morning.
  4. Hot coffee.
  5. A tree fell on the house we USED to live in ~ and NOT the one we live in currently.
  6. Even when things have seemed hopeless, God has provided for all of our needs, “according to His riches in glory.” {Phil 4:19}
  7. Vacation.
  8. Extra sleep on Saturdays.
  9. A job that I love.
  10. The sounds of early morning: frogs, crickets, faraway traffic, a wren singing, “Teakettle! Teakettle! Teakettle!”
  11. New day – new ideas – new possibilities.
  12. Each day can be a “do over.”
  13. Living a life of gratitude.
  14. A restart after a not-so-good day before.
  15. Time to relax.
  16. Extra sleep.
  17. An extra early start (even though I didn’t choose it) – thanks to our dog.
  18. Quiet spaces to work and think.
  19. One more day of life.
  20. A family who loves me and takes care of me when I don’t feel well.
  21. A family who can manage things while I’m under the weather.
  22. Negative COVID test!
  23. A great night’s sleep.
  24. The excitement of getting up and writing every morning.
  25. Sunshine ~ because everything seems better when the sun is shining.
  26. Fresh autumn air in the morning.
  27. Being able to return to work.
  28. My son is feeling better and can go back to work soon.
  29. A day to rest when I don’t feel well.
  30. One more weekend day.
  31. The return of the students to the building ~ I’ve missed them!

I’m laughing about all the references to extra sleep. My normal day is 4:00 am to 9:00 pm. It’s a luxury for me to sleep until 6:00 am. I don’t often do it, even on no-work days.

Living a life of gratitude starts with one simple statement ~ “Today, I’m grateful for…” {Image credit: (c) 2020, Kim M. Bennett}

Your Challenge ~ 30 Days of Gratitude

Self Journal
https://allkidscanlearn.school.blog

Don’t wait for the 1st of a month – start tomorrow. At the top of your planner, before you even begin the day, jot down one thing that you’re grateful for. Do this every day for 30 days. At the end of the month, see how much better you feel.

Namaste.

Posted in body, general education, health, homeschool, mind, more seeds, outdoor education, parents, science, social-emotional, special education, spirit

Gardening with Children

The Importance of Outdoor Time

Earlier this week, we focused on some of the benefits of having a fall garden at your school or in your yard (for those of you who are homeschoolers or remote learning families). We also reviewed the social emotional skills that children practice when they are active participants in gardening.

Whether you are tending a planter with a few annuals, cleaning trash from school plantings, or creating an organic garden that feeds the students, just 15 minutes a day outside has been proven to enhance the well-being of children and adults of all ages.

Need more information or resources? See the sections below for information on gardening with children, with the focus age level noted: P = infants, toddlers and preschool; EC = early childhood (grades K-2) years; E = elementary grades (grades 3-5); A = all ages

Whether your garden is a small planter or a 1/4 acre organic plot, gardening with kids brings benefits to children of all ages. {Image Credit: (c) 2020, Kim M. Bennett}

10 Resources on Gardening with Kids

I recently purchased The School Garden Curriculum, by Kaci Rae Christopher. It has 280 pages of weekly lesson plans and links to online printables, for Grades K-8 (although I plan to adapt the lessons for my older students, too). If you’re not looking into purchasing something, check out these resources, below. Don’t let the homeschool sites distract you – sometimes we “credentialed” educators make teaching and learning unnecessarily complicated. Less really is more when it comes to good learning.

Some sprouted potatoes in an old trash can full of leaves = a no fuss garden for any backyard. {Image Credit: (c) 2020, Kim M. Bennett}

Ready… Set… Garden!

I love testimonials. Share your wins, your lessons learned, other resources other people MUST have.

Now go outside. It’s time to garden.

Posted in body, general education, health, homeschool, mind, more seeds, outdoor education, parents, science, social-emotional, special education, spirit

Cultivating Social Emotional Skills Through Gardening

The Need for Social Emotional Learning TODAY

Many people bemoan all the changes that have occurred since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2019. It’s been especially hard for teachers, who have suddenly become essential, not just to our students, but to society, offering wrap-around support to families, providing a safe place for kids to go while parents try to navigate no jobs / different jobs / changed hours / changed childcare / working from home. Schools feel pressure to open because kids need stability, parents need to work and society needs to find SOME sense of normalcy. We all crave a sense of normalcy.

Children are resilient – at least on the outside. But many of us who have spent our lives working closely with children know that stress often shows up wearing different clothes in kids, than it does in adults. Kids might sleep more – or not sleep. They might be noisy and provocative, or exceptionally quiet and compliant. Previously learned self-care routines (toileting, turn-taking, rules-following) may regress. Some kids might vanish from our rosters. We have been instructed, therefore, to pay especially close attention to social emotional learning and the mental health needs of our charges, as they return to the classroom this fall.

A garden is a perfect place for students to practice social emotional skills. {Image Credit: (c) 2014, Kim M. Bennett}

The Five Elements of Social Emotional Learning

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) promotes the incorporation of social emotional skills into students’ daily curriculum, not just to support their social emotional needs, specifically. Boosting students’ skills through social-emotional learning (SEL) has also been shown to increase their academic performance (Durlak et. al., 2011).

CASEL identifies five proficiencies in SEL: self-awareness, self- management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. As a special educator, I find that addressing social skills – or any skills, in fact – through real-life situations gives them relevance and leads to better mastery. Such real-world situations might include service learning projects, special school events, classroom management tasks and similar activities.

Gardening to Support SEL

Working in a classroom garden can be an excellent opportunity to practice five strategies that will give students a chance to work on these five proficiency areas. Each strategy is coded to show what area it supports: self-awareness (A); self-management (M); social awareness (S); relationship skills (R); responsible decision-making (D). In child-friendly terms, Kaci Rae Christopher, author of The School Garden Curriculum, refers to three principles, which reflect these nicely: Care for Self, Care for Others and Care for the Land.

Show Responsibility for Something (A, D, M)

Elementary teachers know the power of “job charts.” I once knew a veteran teacher who used a colorful, cardboard wheel with student names and classroom jobs. She had about nine wheels in her closet, to pull from depending on how many kids she had in a given year. Teachers are resourceful!

Teens like responsibility, too. Knowing that a living things depends on them increases that sense of responsibility. Having the living thing be a plant instead of a class pet makes it a little more risk-free. Having a set time for gardening each day or week, and a job chart that rotates tasks among kids, gives kids a chance to get outside in a purposeful way, gives them a creative outlet, and gives them parameters to work within.

Use Collaboration and Cooperation to Accomplish a Task (M, R, S)

Anyone who has ever been involved in hiring or sports teams knows the importance of having an individual who can work with others. In basketball, you don’t need five people fighting to shoot the ball. Being able to contribute by fulfilling a role that is in harmony with the roles of others is a “soft skill” that is important for adult living.

Having a variety of jobs for students to do individually (planting an area, watering, weeding, sign creation) or with a peer (moving bags of soil/mulch. making a plan) gives kids a chance to work in harmony with others, either directly or through parallel, yet connected, tasks.

Demonstrate kindness toward people and other living things (A, M, S, R)

I work with teens with social-emotional, behavioral and mental health issues. Being kind is something that sometimes is difficult for them, as is relating to others in a healthy way. We often ask our students to reflect on whether they prefer to work with people, technology or other living things. People is often their last choice, because working with other people is hard. For ALL of us!

Working with plants provides students a chance to practice kindness toward other living things in a more risk-free scenario. It might seem silly, but students DO develop an affection for the plants they plant, tend and observe. These skills can then be transferred to other living things, as they develop.

In addition, caring for something else often enables students to look outside themselves for a moment, and be relieved of their inner stressors.

Make decisions based on evidence (D)

I was once gifted a chrysanthemum as a plant for my classroom, for my birthday. One of my students took on the responsibility of watering it daily. He was terribly dismayed when the blossoms turned brown and dried up, scolded me about watering the plant with cold coffee (something I confess to – and which doesn’t hurt plants), and proceeded to overwater the plant because “it’s DYING, Miss!” I had to explain to him that blossoms don’t last forever. The plant blooms, the flowers do what they do, then they fade. I showed him that the leaves and stem still looked green and healthy. We hunted until we found a withered flower with seeds forming, so I could show him the natural order of things.

Getting students to observe, ask questions, do research then make good decisions is one of those overarching skills that can be used in all aspects of daily living.

Reflect, set goals and work toward them (A, M, D)

As fall turns to winter, as plants give up their harvest and die for the season, students have the opportunity to contemplate what went well, what the possibilities are for continued gardening, and what they want to and need to do as next steps. This organized, strategic thinking extends into all aspects of life, and helps kids begin to practice some forward thinking, choosing their actions now in anticipation of the goal they are working toward.

Getting that Garden Going…

In the previous post, I shared some ideas for fall gardening. If vegetables aren’t your think, you can scatter wildflower seed, plant a fall flower garden, or decorate with a harvest theme, using decorative gourds, mums and a scarecrow. There really are so many possibilities – and all of them a good way to foster social emotional learning in your students, get them outside and active, and give them a break from screen time during a distance learning day.

Share your photos! As for me, I’m heading to Home Depot right now…

gardening and social emotional skills http://allkidscanlearn.school.blog
Gardening helps kids learn how to regulate their behavior, make decisions based on evidence, and work collaboratively. {Image Credit: (c) 2020, Kim M. Bennett
Posted in general education, homeschool, more seeds, parents, special education

Nurturing Your Own Soul

Teacher-Friends: We Live in a Strange, Scary Time

Teacher-friends, I wanted to check in on you. How are you? Are you well? If you are struggling, I hear you.

Between the end of summer school and the beginning of the school year, my whole family came down with something horrible.

It started with a bad headache and sore throat. Then moved on to a fever. My 16-year-old had a fever for 11 days straight. With the fever came body aches, a runny nose, diarrhea, stomachaches, brain fog and extraordinary fatigue – the kind that had us sleeping for days and wondering if we were ever going to feel well. And that cough. The everywhere, anytime kind of cough that wears you out.

Two of us got COVID tested. The results were negative, but our caregivers and employers were suspicious, and required us to quarantine, anyway. I missed the first day of school, sitting at home, doing my lesson plans and worrying about my husband, who had a heart transplant in January, and had the highest fever of all of us. I moved an air mattress into our home office. My son holed up in his room (not a huge disadvantage for a teen – it’s their natural habitat). My husband would occasionally stand outside my door and look forlornly in, or bring me a cup of coffee to set on the corner of my desk before he retreated.

At this writing, I am back at work, documenting my daily symptoms. My son is still quarantining until he feels better (24 hours without a fever, so far). The one we worried about the most seemed to bounce back the quickest – thank God! I know that many people had it far worse than us, health wise. Many of you have, no doubt, had to change your work schedules to accommodate your own children’s return to school. Some people are still wondering if they will ever go back to work. Some of you may have lost loved ones, and are grieving as you get ready to return to work. There are so many things uncertain, and we teachers crave having the right answer!

The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers

This COVID-19 / not COVID-19 thingy that we all had in my home has given me pause to consider how well (or not) I fill my own cup, being a natural cup-filler. For those of us who are also in a helping profession, filling others’ cups is part of our day-to-day existence, so much so, that we will come to school sick rather than disrupt the kids’ learning with a sub, or stay up all night to create something wonderful or catch up with household tasks after spending all the daylight hours on work-related things. Add small children, being a chauffeur for sports, or caring for an ill family member, and we have a recipe for physical and mental collapse.

Self-care is probably not something that comes naturally for many of us. I know I have developed the habit, since we closed our physical school last March, of putting a 3-hr block in my planner that says “SELF-CARE.” In that block, I put things that fill my cup, restore my energy (mental and physical) and nurture my soul and spirit.

Is your cup filled? What’s emptying it? What do you use to re-fill it?

What do you do for self-care? Click to visit my Pinterest board on Nurturing Your Soul. {Image Credit: “2015-03-25a Learning about taking care of myself — index card #self-care” by sachac is licensed under CC BY 2.0}

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup – So Fill It

Start today. Block your planner into 3-hr segments with a “theme” for each. Put one major task in each block – don’t pack the block full – that’s not realistic. Make sure one of the blocks says, “Self-Care.” Guard it selfishly. Fill it with things that refresh you and bring you back to your peaceful center.

During August, I focused on the following cup-filling activities:

  • Spending time with my family. We binge-watched six seasons of Vikings. Now I feel the desperate need to cover my body with Norse tattoos. Or fight with swords and giant hammers. And drink mead. Skål.
  • Doing lesson “planny” things. Those are lesson planning tasks without the pressure of HAVING to do them. I love lesson planning. I’m playing around with Google Classroom, Google Slides (I found this AWESOME filing cabinet for organizing my digital lesson plans!), and the Conferring Notebook from the Daily CAFE.
  • Cooking. I put Pandora on shuffle, and get to getting. I’m into soup and cooking with herbs from my garden these days.
  • Puttering in the garden. I don’t have a big garden. It’s more like a kitchen garden. I had salad greens, cherry tomatoes, lots of fresh herbs, and the best radishes. It was just too hot to be out there this summer. But there’s something soul-satisfying about grabbing a handful of something I grew and throwing it in what I’m cooking. It’s like kitchen magick.
  • Reading. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about ancient ways, especially in the British Isles. I’m of Italian-Irish descent, so I love going WAY back and finding my cultural and spiritual roots. For example, did you know that we just passed out of the Coll Moon? In Gaelic, coll means “the spirit/power within.” A fitting theme for a post on self-care. I’m also…
  • Buying books. Just window shopping and making wish lists is peaceful. One book on my short list is Soul Nourishment, by Deborah Haddix.
  • Praying and meditating. I created a prayer and meditation corner in my office. I start and end my day there every day. I also have discovered the joys of washi tape and journal embellishment. For me, there’s nothing more centering than using art materials along with my writing tools, when I journal daily during meditation.
  • Writing. I write. And write. And write. I try to aim for 2000 words at a time, and do this many times a day. A full post is intimidating, but I can bang it out in small chunks.

Set a Goal for Daily Self-Care

What will you do to keep yourself in that peaceful center in September? Share your best self-care tips – sharing IS caring! And check out the link, above, to see my Pinterest board on “Finding the Peaceful Center.”

Be well,

Kim

Posted in faith, general education, homeschool, more seeds, parents, social-emotional, special education, spirit

Living a Life of Gratitude

Ungratefulness: The Price of a Hectic Life

The world we live in can be a real doozie…

Right now, my desk is littered with planning materials for summer school and the fall, a pile of mail to sort (most of it junk), bills to pay, to-do lists, my partially completed journal for the day, a coffee cup that wants more coffee, and several cans with markers and colored pencils for my Bible journaling that never seems to get done…

It is easy to become overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life. Sometimes, the brain can be so full of things to do, worries and anxieties, appointments, and past conversations that there is no quiet, not even on the inside. The availability of information on a myriad of electronic devices only makes this worse.

Our kids feel the same pressure. And, in a paradox that hurts the hearts of people in my generation, they eschew the very things that ease the heart of a small child: sunshine, unstructured play, face-to-face time with friends, family outings.

It is not surprising that, in all that busy-ness, people of all ages become bitter and negative about things. We miss the good things that we have, because we are so focused on what we need to do and what we don’t have.

Building Gratitude

Fortunately, it is never too late to teach ourselves and our kids how to be grateful. Building gratitude starts with small steps, just like learning to read. These small steps cause us to pause in a hectic life, and consider the goodness that we already have. By simply changing the way we think about events, we can learn to be content in all things, as the Apostle Paul taught us.

Ten Ways to Practice Gratitude

Learning to be grateful is a process. Here are ten simple things anyone can do to begin a lifetime practice of gratitude.

  1. Say “thank you,” and say it often. Saying “thank you” isn’t just good manners. It lets the other person know that you appreciate him and what he’s done for you. My husband and children always says thank you to me after a meal, and we always say thank you to my husband when he cooks – we give thanks to God, and then honor the cook! Thank the postal carrier, thank the cashier at Stop and Shop… just say, “Thank you!”
  2. Recognize “stinking thinking” – and eliminate it. I once worked with an excellent teacher at a correctional facility.She had a poster in the front of the room entitled, “Accountable Speech.” On one side, she wrote negative self-statements her students made: “I’m so stupid” – “We’ll never get jobs” – “I can’t do that” – “That’s just how it is.” Next to each statement, she re-wrote it with a positive mindset: “I don’t understand that – can you explain it to me?” – “I need help finding a good job” – “I can’t do that YET” – “That’s how it was – but things can change.” Re-think the words you speak over yourself. Build yourself up with your own words.
  3. Share 3 good things that happen to you each day. When my kids were little, it was like pulling teeth to find out how their days were. So, during our afterschool snack, I asked them to tell me three good things and one not-so-good thing. This helped them focus on the good (even if it was “Jacob’s mom brought in cupcakes for his birthday”) and still honors thThee bumps in the road – in a balanced way. Try it with your kids.
  4. Make a “100 list.” I had a class once that included quite a few teens with depression and anxiety. I started this task when one of them was going through a rough patch. They grew to like it so much that they asked to be able to do it on days that weren’t going so well for the class – instead of the scheduled task. Simply start a list of things that you are thankful for. The idea is that the first 25 are rather concrete and often materialistic (new jewelry, a vacation, payday…). As you get to 75 and above, however, you get to the real things to be thankful for: still being alive, being clean and sober, being reunited with family…
  5. Start a gratitude journal. It can be devoting one day a week (maybe Sunday) to a gratitude entry in the journal or planner you already use. Or you can challenge yourself, for 30 days, to write down one thing you’re grateful for, each day. Just write it down!
  6. Complete a Gratitude Challenge. There are so many 30-day challenges online these days. Pick one and dedicate yourself to it for a month. If you’re really dedicated and committed, try working through Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy for an entire year.
  7. Think of the upside of things. My pastor used to say, “Don’t complain about the light bill. Thank God you have electricity. Some don’t.” For almost any trouble you have, you can take the “glass half full” viewpoint. When you catch yourself (or your kids) looking at a half-empty glass, rephrase the statement.
  8. Give up something you love for a week. A friend of mine used to have her kids each pick out 2-3 toys to keep in their rooms. The rest would be lovingly packed and put in the attic. Every month or so, they’d “shop” in the attic, swapping out their toys for ones they stored. They grew to better appreciate the ones they kept in their rooms, as well as the ones in storage. Try doing without something for a time – you’ll be more grateful for it when you return to it!
  9. Start and end your day with gratitude. My journal has space for me to write down 3 things that I am grateful for upon awaking, and 3 things I am grateful for before retiring for the evening. I made a word cloud of June’s entries – the bigger the word, the more times I mentioned it. This was a good reminder for me about what really matters.
  10. Read one prayer of thanksgiving from the Bible, each day. King David wrote many songs of thanksgiving in the book of Psalms. If you’re not sure what a prayer of thanksgiving is, All About Prayer has a good article to read.
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gratitude word cloud
My June gratitude word cloud… The bigger the word, the more times I mentioned it in the month.

Find Peace in Gratitude

As a parting thought, I want to share with you a gospel song that gets me in the tear ducts and heart every time I sing it. Blessings to you, and God bless your journey toward a life of gratitude.

Posted in homeschool, more seeds, outdoor education, parents, spirit

Getting Outside with Children

The Benefits of Outdoor Time

It seems like I never quite get my garden in when other folks do. By the time the school year wraps up, it’s almost the 4th of July. I recently spent a rainy day planning a small kitchen garden that I’m going to install this weekend…

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outdoor education
A small garden can afford time to refresh oneself outside… and provides learning opportunities for children, too. {Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2019}

When I get outside, even to sweep the sidewalk, pull a few weeds, or just sit and drink my coffee on the patio, I feel peaceful. My mind and heart empty of all the stresses of the day, and I can hear God talking.

Nature Study and Outdoor Learning

The outdoors is an excellent classroom, not only for “summer school,” but for any time of year. Don’t worry about structuring the time – 15 minutes a day, with an opportunity to talk, write or draw about the time, is all that is needed to spark creativity and connect a child to the world. Of course, once they’re hooked, they will want to be outside for hours (see this post about Charlotte Mason’s view on children and the outdoors).

See my Nature Study and Outdoor Classrooms board for some ideas on how to use your outdoor space as a peaceful learning place.

Summer Outdoor Learning

Whether you’re homeschooling all year, looking for enrichment for kiddos home from a brick-and-mortar school, or just wanting some fun things to do with your children during the summer, check out some of our favorite summer nature activities:

  1. The Mathematics of Nature: Fractals
  2. Beaches, Beaches, Everywhere!
  3. Summer Bird Study: Blue Jays
  4. Nature Study Notebooks and Literacy
  5. A Little Fun with our Feathered Friends
  6. The Nightshade Family (and a Little Surprise)

What are you doing with your kids this summer? Let me know in the comments section! Share a link…


{ This blog is featured in Top 100 Special Education Blogs}

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Free Summer Meals in Your Area

For many of my students (and, perhaps, yours, too), the only reliable meals they might get are the free breakfast and lunch served while they are at school. This has been so for as long as I’ve been a teacher.

Currently, the Annie E. Casey Foundation estimated that, in 2018, approximately 14 million children (that’s 19% of the children under age 18 in our country), lived in a food insecure setting. In Louisiana and New Mexico, the numbers were the highest: as many as 28% of the children there lived without reliable meals at least some part of the year.

As a summer school teacher, I always worked in high-need areas, where my summer school site was also a summer feeding site. We served a lot of kids. As a classroom teacher, I always had food in a desk drawer, ready for someone who hadn’t eaten that day. And my schools always sent home extra food with a few students whose living situations merited an extra hand.

Children cannot learn if they do not have enough to eat. {Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2019}

Did you know there are free summer meal programs all over the United States?

Below are links to tools for states that have local summer meal programs. Please click on your state to find where kids in your area can get food for the summer. Most sites offer food to any child under the age of 18 who visits the site. Some states have eligibility requirements.

Alabama : Break for a Plate
Alaska: Summer Food Service Program
Arizona: Summer Food Service Program
Arkansas: Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance 
California: Summer Meal Service Sites 
Colorado: Summer Food Service Program 
Connecticut: End Hunger Connecticut! 
Delaware: Summer Food Service Program
Florida: Summer Breakspot 
Georgia: Bright from the Start 
Hawaii: Summer Food Service Program
Idaho: Summer Food Service Program 
Illinois: Rise and Shine Illinois

Indiana: Summer Food Service Program 
Iowa: Summer Food Service Program
Kansas: Summer Food Service Program 
Kentucky: Summer Food Service Program 
Louisiana: No Kid Hungry 
Maine: Summer Food Service Program 
Maryland; Maryland Summer Meals Sites 
Massachusetts: Summer Food Service Program 
Michigan: Summer Food Service Program 
Minnesota: Summer Food Service 
Mississippi: Summer Food Service Program
Missouri: Summer Food Service Program 
Montana: Find Summer Meals in Your Community

Nebraska: Summer Food Service Program 
Nevada: Three Square 
New Hampshire : Find Summer Meals in Your Community
New Jersey: Summer Food Service Program 
New Mexico: Meal Site Locator 
New York: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
North Carolina: No Kid Hungry NC 
North Dakota: Summer Meal Sites Information 
Ohio: Summer Food Service Program Clickable Map 
Oklahoma: Meals for Kids OK! 
Oregon: Summer Meals Map 
Pennsylvania: Find Summer Meals in Your Community

Rhode Island:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community
South Carolina: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
South Dakota: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Tennessee: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Texas: Summer Feeding Interactive Map 
Utah:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Vermont:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Virginia: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Washington: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
West Virginia: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Wisconsin:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community
Wyoming: Find Summer Meals in Your Community



{ This blog is featured in Top 100 Special Education Blogs}