Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

8 Series to Get Your Middle Grade Child Excited about Reading

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

8 Middle School Series Books to Get Your Child Excited About Reading from MomAdvice.com

Are you looking for the next great middle school book series? Check out these incredible middle school reading series recommendations from a teacher. These great books will get your middle grade child reading again. I can’t wait to check out these books for my own daughter from this teacher-approved book list for young readers.

One of the things I love about reading is getting to know a character and then following along with their lives. In my years of teaching I have noticed that kids are exactly the same! Once kids connect with a character, or group of characters, they want to keep on reading all about their favorite new fictional friend. After talking with many of my students I have put together a list of eight high interest series that will help your middle grade child get excited about reading. 

From our monthly contributor, Julie!

8 Series for Your Middle Grade Child

Realistic Fiction

Hank Zipzer

Hank Zipzer– Written by Henry Winkler, this hilarious series is inspired by his experiences growing up with dyslexia. Since Hank has learning differences, this series can be a great one for students who struggle in school. As a bonus, if your younger kids want to join in on Hank’s adventures, they can start with the Here’s Hank< prequel series.

My Life Series

My Life– Encourage kids to put down their devices and pick up a book that lets kids experience the chance of a lifetime to be a stunt double, gamer, ninja, meme and more. Derek, the main character, has been labeled a “reluctant reader” so this is another great series for struggling readers.

Graphic Novels

HiLo Series

HiLo– Fun series about friendship and adventure with a few wacky robot-fighting escapades. This series will hook kids from book one!

The Last Kids on Earth– There’s zombies. And monsters. And epic adventures. Need I say more?!?

Historical Fiction

Ranger in Time Series

Ranger in Time– For kids that love animals, this series is perfect. Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever who travels to the Oregon Trail, Ancient Rome, the South Pole, the beaches of Normandy, and many more important places in history. 

I Survived Series

I Survived– Another series that takes kids to important events in history to let them vividly experience these events. With books dedicated to the sinking of the Titanic, Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg, Pompeii and more, this series brings terrifying historical events to life.

Fiction

Mysterious Benedict Society

Mysterious Benedict Society– Join four children on a secret, undercover mission at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. Filled with lots of puzzles and mysteries this is the perfect series for a higher-level middle-grade reader.

Treehouse Series

Treehouse– Who wouldn’t want to live in a 13-storey, or 26-storey, or even 117-storey treehouse?!? Follow along with Andy and Terry as they write stories and live in a treehouse with a bowling alley, secret rooms, swinging vines and more.

About Julie

Having taught in both California and Pennsylvania and everything from 3rd to 8th grade, this year Julie is teaching 3rd grade at an elementary school in Southern California. She enjoys helping her students fall in love with reading and reading during the school day is a big priority. Julie loves traveling in her free time and always makes time to pop into local bookshops when she travels. When she’s not reading or teaching, she loves running, cupcakes and Christmas.  You can find her blogging too over on her blog, Girl On the Move.

Note from Amy:

Isn’t this middle school series list amazing? My kids have loved so many of these along with their favorite Harry Potter novels and the oh-so-reliable James Patterson series books. 

Recently, my daughter was lucky enough to hear Kwame Alexander speak and she was SO inspired by his visit that she couldn’t stop talking about him (or his writing). 

In many ways, middle school is the worst, but there are also still those amazing little glimmers that I love to catch, especially when we are talking about middle schoolers reading books. I hope you can check out these middle grade books for your child and I’m really grateful to have Julie guiding us through her real life experience with teaching and teaching kids to love reading. Now I will have to patiently wait for her high school recommendation list! 

This post contains affiliate links

Looking for more great parenting reads? Here are three others that I think you will love!

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter book series for kids who love harry potter

The Best Back to School Books for Kids the best back to school books for kids (from kindergarten to middle school)

How to Homeschool Child with Special Needs from MomAdvice.com homeschooling a child with special needs

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7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

 

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

 

Back to school is the perfect time to work on your family’s good habits. Set a goal of getting your kids’ great new habits to stick and make their school mornings a little easier. Just a few minutes a day and some creative thinking can make the school year start off right!

 

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

How’s your fall going so far?

It’s felt a little chaotic at my house.

For weeks now, I’ve been saying, “We’re still getting into our school year routine.” But guys? We’ve been back to school for a while. If I can’t get my people into a routine soon, I’m going to have to change my excuse to, “Well, the holidays are just messing us up.” And then it’s winter break and the new year and the flu and spring break and end of school and summer. 

Because the truth is, we’re constantly entering or leaving one busy season or another.

During this stage, with two busy kids and two busy adults, we just don’t have a long stretch of “normal” to look forward to. There’s no sense in waiting to get back to normal before getting organized, finding routines, or learning how to live — because I’ll be waiting forever. 

The number one thing I’ve found that makes a difference in how my kids — and I — deal with busy seasons?

Sleep.

Our quantity and quality of sleep makes an enormous difference in everything — in our health, our attitudes, our discipline in the other things that make life easier or otherwise better. Sleep kind of makes our world go ‘round.

And sleep is a funny thing. Everyone needs it, but everyone needs a different amount. And everyone seems to need different conditions to get good sleep. So it’s a universal need but also a personal one.

Therefore, rather than tell you one, laser-focused solution that works for my family, today I’m sharing several things that seem to make a difference for at least one person in my house. Hopefully something I share will work for someone in your family, and together we can stop needing excuses for being so out of sorts as we move from season to season.

 

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

Know the facts

When we get busy with evening activities and homework and movie nights and one more story at bedtime, we can easily cut our kids’ nights short without realizing it.

That’s why it’s good to know — and then keep in mind — how much sleep is recommended for each child, based on their age. This article from the American Academy of Pediatrics lists the recommended sleep times that studies have shown are the best for each age range from four months to 18 years. 

This chart was helpful for my family as it showed me that it’s not weird for my 11-year-old to need more sleep than my 4-year-old. Last year I let my older daughter stay up later than her little sister, because I assumed she could handle it. But over the past few months I’ve realized that just isn’t true. They need different amounts of sleep, and what I assumed was wrong. Now they go to bed at the same time, which feels weird — but the AAP says is acceptable and not that weird after all.

Bathe at unusual times

Sometimes it feels like I have to choose between hygiene and sleep — for my kids and for myself! But what I’ve finally realized (it only took me how long?!) is that we don’t have to bathe (or shower) at the “usual” times. I can shower before bed instead of in the morning if I have to. My kids can bathe right after school instead of getting to bedtime and realizing we’ve run out of time and skipping it…again. It seems like a little thing, but it’s made a big difference for us. (And this tip goes for any bedtime or morning task. You can have story time right after dinner, and you can make lunches at night instead of after breakfast.)

Brain dump before bed

While I don’t often struggle with insomnia, I’ve certainly spent many nights staring at the ceiling as my worries or ideas or to-do list run through my brain on a loop. I’ve learned it’s better to just turn on my lamp, grab a notebook, and write it all down. That way, my brain can rest, knowing that I’ve captured all the things and I can tackle them the next day.

Sometimes my kids need that, too. I try to make sure I don’t shut them down if they bring up a tough subject or start telling a long story at bedtime, but when possible, I will ask if it’s something we can talk about the next day. And then, to make sure they know I’m serious, I’ll let them see me make an actual note so we don’t forget to come back to that topic or story.

 

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

Set alarms!

I use the alarms on my phone to keep me on track all day long, all week long. This is especially important for making sure we all get the sleep we need without being late for school or work. I set alarms for —

  • When we need to go upstairs to start the bedtime routineWhen my oldest daughter needs to bring her book out to the hallway (so she doesn’t stay up super late reading…like her mama!)
  • When I need to turn off the TV and start my own bedtime routineWhen I need to get up, at the very least a few minutes before the kids
  • When I need to wake up the kids (I need to get back to setting my 11-year-old’s alarm in her room; that helped her morning attitude a lot when we did it before.)
  • When we need to go downstairs to start packing lunches and eating breakfastWhen my oldest needs to go to the bus stop

Without those alarms, we would be lost!

Make expectations clear 

Nearly every argument my girls and I have in the morning is about whether or not they’ve completed their morning routines: making their beds, brushing teeth, brushing hair, putting on clean clothes.

It doesn’t seem hard to me, but they struggle — so writing down the morning routine and sticking it on the bathroom wall has helped.

I also included what times we do things, so they know if it’s close to 7:30 and they aren’t close to ready for breakfast, they’d better get a move on!


7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

Have your own morning routine

What makes you feel awake?

Do you need coffee before you can deal with people?

Or perhaps it’s a tall glass of ice water or a few minutes of stretching that gets your blood moving?

For me, it’s turning on all the lights, brushing my teeth, and putting on a bra. Without those things, I am a slug — and not a very nice one either. We all win when I make sure to complete my own morning routine!

Take a moment 

Look, nobody in my house likes mornings.

So I’m not about to tell you to take hours of your morning to connect with your people. But! If you can take even a few seconds to look them in the face and wish them well (on a test, with a friend, in general) or perhaps play their favorite song in the car and share a smile in the rearview mirror as you do your best car dance, I guarantee it will make a world of difference.

And if you have more than a few seconds? Five-minute family devotions, love notes in the lunchbox, or a blessing prayer in the carpool line will take little time and effort, but leave you feeling like you’ve got this morning thing mastered.

Those are just a few things that help us have better mornings.

We aren’t perfect, and don’t do every thing every day. But when we do our best to check most these boxes? We are more rested and less frazzled, and mornings don’t seem so bad (even to my house full of night owls).

 

What helps your family have a great morning? Be sure to scroll down for more great parenting articles!

7 Habits for Better Mornings With Your Kids from MomAdvice.com

 

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Like this article? You might find these other parenting articles helpful too!

 

How to Handle Lying from MomAdvice.com how to handle lying

 


A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes from MomAdvice.com a new way to teach your child how to tie their shoes (my kids learned in 5 minutes flat!!)

 


Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure from MomAdvice.com teaching kids the importance of failure

Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs from MomAdvice.com homeschooling a child with special needs

 

How to Find & Write Pen Pals from MomAdvice.com how to find & write pen pals

 

DIY Tween Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com diy tween self-confidence kit

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter from MomAdvice.com 5 book series for kids who love harry potter

This post contains affiliate links.

 

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The Best Back To School Books For Kids

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Looking for books to help your child as they start school? These teacher-approved books are perfect for young readers. This book list is for parents and teachers to share these beautiful back to school stories with their kids. Whether you are looking for a read aloud book to get your kid ready for kindergarten (and all those new school rules), or you have an anxiety-filled middle school student on your hands, this book list has you covered! 

From our new parenting contributor,  Julie DenOuden

Freshly sharpened pencils. New school shoes. Sparkly clean lunchbox.

It’s that time of year for back to school and while we might not want summer to end, these back to school titles can help your family get ready for the new school year.

These books are also a great way to ease back into the routine of reading if your child hasn’t read very much over the summer.

The Best Back to School Books for Kids

General Books

One thing I learned during my years as an upper elementary and middle school teacher is that kids of all ages enjoy picture books. So just because the back of the books says it’s suitable for ages 4-7, doesn’t mean older kids won’t connect with these books. These back to school books help calm nerves about the first day, provide excitement for a new school year, and emphasize the importance of showing kindness to the people around us.

First Day Jitters

First Day Jitters

This book has a fun twist at the end and is great paired with some of your very own Jitter Juice (1 part 7up + 1 part Hawaiian Punch + sprinkles)

The Day You Begin

The Day You Begin

A wonderfully illustrated book about having the courage to connect with other people even when you feel like you don’t fit in with everyone around you.

The Exceptionally Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School

The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School 

An excellent book for kids who will be going to a new school and kids with a big imagination. 

If I Built a School

If I Built a School 

Help kids imagine what their dream school looks like to help create excitement for the new school year. And if they really like this book, there are two others in the series to continue the fun.

We're All Wonders

We’re All Wonders 

A gorgeous picture book that pairs with bestselling book Wonder to help kids understand the importance of always choosing kindness.

Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree 

A chapter book designed to help kids realize that everyone is smart in different ways so it’s okay to ask for help and embrace who you are.

Grade Specific Back to School Books

I love general back to school kids to help build excitement for the new year but it’s also helpful for kids to identify with book characters their very own age. Each grade comes with a unique set of worries and milestones and reading these books is a fun way to prepare for the year.

The King of Kindergarten

The King of Kindergarten 

Help build excitement for this milestone day of the first day of kindergarten.

Junie B. Jones First Grade

Junie B Jones 

First grade is synonymous with Junie B. Jones and this series will accompany your budding reader all year along.

 

Second Grade, Here I Come!

First Day, Here I Come!

A book of poems to create excitement for the upcoming year in second grade.

Third Grade Angels

Third Grade Angels 

Navigating life as a third grade can be challenging but this is a fun look at this transitional year of school when kids really switch from learning to read, to reading to learn.

Fourth Grade Rats

Fourth Grade Rats 

Continuing from Third Grade Angels, now it’s time for these students to become the Fourth Grade Rats.

Tales of a Fifth Grade Night

Tales of a Fifth-Grade Knight

A wildly imaginative book about an average fifth grader whose life takes a turn from ordinary to extraordinary.

Diary of a Sixth Grade Ninja

Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja

Another excellent book about transitioning to a new school and making new friends. As a bonus, this is a series, so if they get hooked kids can keep on reading!

Middle School The Worst Years of My Life

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life 

A graphic novel that tackles the issues of middle schoolers…buillies, crushes, and fitting in. Another book that is the beginning of a series so kids can continue reading if they get hooked.

About Julie- 

Having taught in both California and Pennsylvania and everything from 3rd to 8th grade, this year Julie is teaching 3rd grade at an elementary school in Southern California. She enjoys helping her students fall in love with reading and reading during the school day is a big priority. Julie loves traveling in her free time and always makes time to pop into local bookshops when she travels. When she’s not reading or teaching, she loves running, cupcakes and Christmas.  You can find her blogging too over on her blog, Girl On the Move.

This post contains affiliate links

Like these parenting tips? Here are 3 other posts you might find helpful today! 

How to Homeschool Child with Special Needs from MomAdvice.com how to homeschool a child with special needs

7 Habits for Better Mornings With Kids from MomAdvice.com 7 habits for better mornings with your kids

teaching kids the importance of failure teaching kids the importance of failure

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter book series for kids who love harry potter

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com diy tween self-confidence kit

 

 

 

Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs

Monday, August 27th, 2018

How to Homeschool Child with Special Needs from MomAdvice.com

From our guest contributor, Jackie Nunes, of Wondermoms.org

For parents, few things are more heartbreaking than seeing your child unhappy. While you know there will be times when they’ll struggle – especially if they have a disability – you want to minimize those hardships. There are a lot of challenging situations you can’t control, but schooling doesn’t have to be one of them.

If your child isn’t enjoying school or isn’t getting the support and attention they need, homeschooling could be a solution. It’s a weighty decision that requires a lot of planning and a big leap of faith. As you consider homeschooling your child, it’s important to make sure you have all the information you need and understand both the benefits and drawbacks. While every family’s experience is different, here are the pros and cons my family has encountered homeschooling a child with special needs.

child playing outside unsplash-logoHugues de BUYER-MIMEURE

The Benefits of Homeschooling

There are many advantages to homeschooling, but they all have one thing in common: flexibility. When your child has special needs, the routines, rituals, and educational strategies that work for most kids don’t always fit. Benefits include:

  • Ability to focus on your child’s strengths and interests. When teaching your child at home, you can tailor the learning experience to their needs. This means that you’re able to focus on your child’s strengths and interests when deciding how to approach their lessons. If your child is obsessed with dinosaurs or loves the color red, you can work that into your curriculum. You can follow their lead and do things that make them feel proud and accomplished.
  • Ability to focus on your child’s weaknesses. If there’s something that’s difficult for your child, you can take the time you need to patiently practice and reinforce it. You might need to try a dozen different approaches before you find one that works, but you set the pace.
  • The classroom becomes a relaxing environment. Homeschooling often helps reduce anxiety among children. Because your child is no longer expected to handle the stresses that often accompany traditional schooling, they can focus more on learning and having fun.
  • You can better monitor your child’s social encounters. When you homeschool your child, it takes a bit more effort to arrange group activities and get-togethers with other children. But you get to see how your child reacts and is treated in different situations and focus on social experiences that are positive and encouraging. Homeschooling greatly reduces the risk of bullying.
  • Homeschooling provides schedule flexibility. You can schedule your day around doctor or therapy appointments, if necessary. You can take as many breaks as your child needs during the day, which helps them feel better and learn better. If you wake up late or your child is having a bad morning, you can move your lessons to the afternoon.
  • Learning at home is less overwhelming. Many children with special needs also have sensory processing issues. Although you can’t entirely tune out things like lawnmowers, garbage trucks, and rainstorms, home is almost always a calmer and less chaotic environment than a public school. It has fewer sights, sounds, smells, and crowds that can overwhelm children with special needs. By homeschooling, you have much more control over your child’s learning environment and exposure to external stimuli.
  • Field trips are more fun and more relaxing. Your child isn’t pressured to keep up with the rest of his or her class, which means they can take all the time they need to read plaques in museums or look at the animals at the zoo. You can also integrate learning and field trips more due to the much lower number of students.
  • Homeschooled children learn constantly. Many families turn to homeschooling to keep their child’s love of learning alive and to kindle that flame that can be at risk of burning out when a child is unhappy in school. Homeschooling enables you to nurture your child’s sense of curiosity and wonder. Learning takes place all the time, not just during the school day. You can follow your child’s lead and let them explore whatever strikes their interest.

tired mom unsplash-logoVladislav Muslakov

Some Drawbacks of Homeschooling (and Solutions)

As with anything, there are downsides to pulling a child with special needs out of a traditional school. Here are a few things to consider before making your final decision.

  • Less structure. Many kids thrive on routines and no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to replicate the daily rhythms and predictability of a traditional school. For some kids, it can be confusing to have the line between home and school be blurry. Consider setting aside part of your home and creating a dedicated space for homeschooling to create a clear separation between play time and school time. You can also create a daily schedule, post it in a prominent place, and stick to it as closely as possible.
    • Access to facilities for art, music, and sports. While homeschooling, you may miss out on a few things that a traditional schooling experience would offer your child, like a gymnasium, sports fields, music program, auditorium, and art room. Enrolling your child in after-school art or music enrichment classes and signing up for a Little League or Special Olympics sports team can help fill the gap.
  • Less social interaction. There is a risk of becoming socially isolated when you homeschool a child with special needs because outings generally take more effort and planning. But it’s important for children to interact with peers of the same age to develop friendships and social skills. It is also helpful for neurotypical kids to be around people with disabilities to develop awareness, compassion, and understanding of special needs. Be sure to network with other homeschoolers and make the effort to expose your child to others kids both with and without special needs.
  • Finding specialists and outside professionals. Most school districts employ professionals including speech therapists, guidance counselors, and special education experts. If your child needs therapies, support, or assessments, your child might still be entitled to them even though you homeschool. It could take some extra research and outreach to access these resources, but in many cases specialists will come to your home. Start with your local school district and your health insurance plan. If you run into difficulties and think you’re being denied services unfairly, contact a lawyer who specializes in disability law to find out what your rights are.
  • No school nurse. Since your child won’t have access to a nurse throughout the day like they would in a traditional school, it’s always a good idea for homeschooling parents to have a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR.
  • Exhaustion and burnout. Homeschooling is a huge undertaking. It can be exhausting to serve as teacher, parent, companion, and therapist 7 days a week, 365 days a year, It’s important to pace yourself and schedule kid-free time to maintain your sanity. Be sure to get a sitter from time to time and have date nights with your spouse or significant other. Maintain adult friendships. You will be more helpful to your child if you take care of your own needs.

DIY Homework Study Station diy homework station tutorial

Creating an At-Home Learning Space

When children are first getting used to being homeschooled, it’s important to set clear boundaries between time meant for school and time meant for play. In an effort to decrease confusion, many parents set up a classroom space meant only for schooling. When setting up this space, there are some things parents should keep in mind.

  • Choose your room carefully. It needs to be big enough to hold a desk for your child as well as one for yourself with space left to walk around. Spill-proof flooring is also a great idea for the classroom.
  • Get adventurous with your seating. If you have a child who’s particularly restless, try fun seats like bean bag chairs or yoga balls to keep them seated and focused on their schooling. For many kids, a sensory-rich environment is beneficial.
  • Set up lighting. Think about picking a room that has natural lighting, which is proven to be better for learning. In addition to natural light, make sure you have artificial lights as they will be necessary on rainy days or if homeschooling in the evenings.
  • Decorate your classroom. When decorating, it’s a good idea paint your walls a calming color. Add pops of color throughout the room to keep the environment fun and exciting. Hang posters, and chalk or dry erase boards on your classroom walls.
  • Think about making an outdoor learning area. Working in nature is a great incentive for your children to behave during class and allows them to discover new things about their environment.
  • Furnish your classroom. Make sure you keep it clean at all times, as cleanliness is important when it comes to productivity. Consider making a game for you and your child that involves cleaning your classroom at the end of the day.
  • Place a couple of bookcases in the room. Make sure anything that your child will need to have access to is on lower shelves.
  • Make storage space. To create the best experience for you and your child, be sure to establish routines and keep clutter at bay. Buy containers of many different sizes and shapes. Label them with pictures based on what you store in them.

To Sum It All Up

Though it does come with its fair share of bumps in the road, homeschooling is a path that many parents choose to go down. If you’ve properly prepared yourself, your home, and your child for homeschooling, you can not only help your child learn better, but you can strengthen your relationship with them. Studies have found that homeschooling can be a great benefit to both children with special needs and the parents who love them.

Jackie Nunes is a former pediatric nurse who is now a full-time homeschool educator and co-founder of Wondermoms.org. She and her husband have three children, all of whom are taught at home. Their middle child, an 11-year-old daughter, is hearing impaired, developmentally disabled, and uses a wheelchair.

 

Looking for more parenting advice? These articles might help too!

teaching-kids-importance-of-failure (2) teaching kids the importance of failure

HOW-TO-HANDLE-LYING how to handle lying

The Real Santa Story from MomAdvice.com the real santa story

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year 5 ways to calm the chaos this school year

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Bringing Back the Art of Storytelling: Circle Round

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Circle Round Storytelling Podcast from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by WBUR’s Circle Round.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

It’s been no secret that I have a mad love affair with my record player. Although I have many beautiful and distinct memories of listening to music on it, my plastic record player was my original love.

record player

record player

The reason it held my heart was simple…it read me stories.

I had piles of books, complete with matching records, that I would flip through and listen to over and over again. The magical chime to turn the page conjures up so many memories of sprawling on my shag carpet and closing my eyes to imagine those stories coming to life. Even before I was able to master reading, I knew a good story when I heard one.

As you know, MomAdvice is ALL about books and storytelling. This is why it brings me immense pleasure to share with you about a new storytelling podcast that your kids will flip for.

In fact, I listened to a few when I heard about it because of the captivating storytellers that they secured to read these beautiful stories.

Have I intrigued you yet?

3 Wishes source: Circle Round

Circle Round is a storytelling podcast for kids ages 4-10, and comes from the WBUR producing team behind the popular podcasts Modern Love, Dear Sugars, and Kind World. 

These episodes are narrated by Rebecca Sheir and the original music is composed and performed by Eric Shimelonis (he introduces a different instrument for each episode!). This dynamic duo also happen to be a husband and wife creative team and the two partnered together to share their storytelling gifts with the world.

I know, as a parent on-the-go, it can be difficult to squeeze in a story hour, but these stories have been tailored to a length that works for a busy family’s lifestyle. Each episode is around 10-20 minutes in length, with a strong focus on offering global perspective by using voices that represent cultures from all over the world.

It’s such a fun way to share a different part of the world with them.

Even as an adult, I am thankful for books and their ability to transport and expose me to different parts of the world or cultures that I didn’t know about!

I also love that these podcasts focus on topics like kindness, persistence, and generosity.

In today’s world, I can’t imagine better themes for our kids.

lion source: Circle Round

The reason I was so intrigued to hear these stories for myself though are because of the amazing talent that they were able to secure for their shows. Circle Round stars some of today’s most exciting theater, film, and TV actors (e.g., Jason Alexander from Seinfeld, Kathryn Hahn from Transparent and Bad Moms!).  These familiar voices make these stories even more fun and a joy to listen to as a parent.

Seriously, share this fun storytelling podcast with your kids and be sure to subscribe to get the updates. Circle Round already happens to be wrapping up its first season, offering thirty stories for you to share with your kids, so there is PLENTY to listen to!

Circle Round Storytelling Podcast from MomAdvice.com

Subscribe to Circle Round via iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app and download episodes!

This blog was sponsored by WBUR’s Circle Round.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

My daughter loves to read. I mean, the girl LOVES reading.

I mean she refuses to leave the house without a book. I’m talking about a kid who stays up way past her bedtime reading, every night, unless I remove all books from her room. I’m saying she burns through books like…I don’t know, but something that doesn’t last a long time. Even all the resources of both her school library and our city library cannot keep this kid in books.

Please know I don’t say this as a criticism. I’m not mocking her. Oh no. Because my book-obsessed child is basically a mini-me in this regard. The bookworm does not fall far from the bookworm tree.

She’s also a teensy bit obsessed with Harry Potter. She was Hermione for Halloween. She began planning her Hogwarts-letter 11th birthday party the day after she turned 10. She has a Harry Potter-themed shirt for every day of the week. And last week? I registered her for a Harry Potter day camp coming up this summer. She’s a big fan.

But my daughter is also sensitive. And innocent. And, much to her great dismay (and the fantastic combination of tween attitude and gnashing of teeth), she was not ready to read the fifth Harry Potter book after devouring the first four.

Despite her protests that she was the only kid in the fourth grade who hadn’t read all the Harry Potter books, I know I’m not alone in navigating the challenge of a tween who loves books and can read at a higher grade level than she’s in – or ready for. So just in case you have a kid who loves Harry Potter (but has already read them all or isn’t ready for the next book in the series) in your life, I’ve got a few other series that might keep your bookworm busy.

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer – Twins are transported to a fairytale land through a mysterious book. The stories are more Grimm than Disney, but still suitable for my fourth-grader who is reading the fifth book in this series (and loves giving me a play-by-play WHILE SHE READS. It’s fine. It’s great. It’s FINE.).

Reportedly, a movie based on this series is in development. But since no cast, release date, or other news has been announced yet, you and your kids still have plenty of time to read the books first.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – It may be sacrilegious to Harry Potter fans, but this is my favorite middle grade series of all time. So when my daughter finally showed interest in this book about a boy who learns his father is Poseidon, an actual Greek god, I was super excited! And nervous. Would she love them as much as I do?

Well, I won’t keep you hanging – she did. Because it’s the best series ever, said the totally unbiased and definitely cool mom. It really is a great series, though, with funny, complex characters who go on incredible adventures. And readers learn a whole lot about Greek mythology along the way.

Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley – This nine-book series about two sisters whose parents have disappeared and who learn that fairy tales are true begins light and gradually grows darker. Like with Harry Potter, parents may want to set the pace for their kids’ progress through these books. But also like Harry Potter and the other series I’m recommending, parents may enjoy them just as much as their kids! So reading them together may be a great option, as the messages of girl power and the strong bond between sisters enhance the clever nature of these fractured fairy tales.

Story Thieves by James Riley – Life was pretty boring for Owen until he discovered his classmate Bethany could jump inside books and interact with the characters. The two students go on adventures in different types of books over what is so far a five-book series, and while reviews call these books more simplistic and clichéd, my daughter loves them. I legitimately just requested the fourth book in the series for her from the library.

 My 10-year-old still enjoys these books but they are geared toward a younger audience than these other series (which makes them a great alternative for kids who aren’t quite ready to advance to the next Harry Potter book!).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – It may be experiencing a resurgence in popularity because of Disney’s recent movie release, but this series has been captivating and inspiring kids for decades. I wasn’t sure how my daughter would respond to this book, with its old-fashioned roots and sometimes complicated syntax and vocabulary. I shouldn’t have underestimated either my daughter or this series. She was hooked from the beginning, as I read to her, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Significantly different than the 2018 movie, this book captures readers and encourages them as well. I’m thrilled that my daughter wasn’t content to wait for me to read another chapter each night and has finished the first book on her own and begun the second.

I looked up each of these books on CommonSenseMedia.org, and they are all suggested for readers ages 9 and above (except for Story Thieves, which is appropriate for kids 8 and up). This site also has a great guide for both the Harry Potter books and movies, if you’re unsure about what age is best for each of the installments in this series. You can watch a quick video here and read a more detailed guide here.

It can be hard to hold our kids back from books that may be too intense for them, but it’s worth it. Reading the books when they can truly comprehend the storylines and handle difficult situations emotionally will protect their love of these books so they can enjoy them for years to come.

And if taking a break from one series leads to interest in reading another, well, that’s just an added bonus as our kids grow into great readers who love all sorts of stories.

reading harry potter

Harry Potter Illustrated

Isn’t Mary so great?

As I was titling these images, I ran across these photos of our Harry Potter fans.  They look so little, don’t they?

The days are long, but the years are short.

I can’t believe how quickly time has been passing.

Savor these reading moments with your kids because they, truly, are gone in a blink of an eye.

What to Read After Harry Potter Book Series from MomAdvice.com

If you want to explore a couple more authors and where to go next, check out these two posts from Mary:

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest Kasie West Novel

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest John Green Book

Do you have any recommendations for a great kid series after Harry Potter? Feel free to drop your suggestions in this comments below!

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

 

The Real Santa Story

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The Real Santa Story from MomAdvice.com

From our Parenting Contributor, Kristina Grum, from Thriving Parents.

This past December it finally happened.

All 3 kids asked the question every parent dreads during this time of year.

“Is Santa real?”

Over the years, they had occasionally asked this question.  It had always been easy to pacify them with a question in return.  I always asked them the infamous questions every parent uses:

“What do you think?”

Except it was no longer working.

It was late afternoon while I was getting dinner ready and all 3 kids came and sat at the kitchen island. Our 9-year-old led the conversation.

“Mommy, we have something important to ask you.”

Our 6-year-old followed her.

“Is Santa real?”

Before I could respond, our 8-year-old said, “We know you’re going to ask us what we think, but we want to know the truth.  The real truth.”

The 6-year-old then started in with questions:

“How can one person get around the entire earth AND deliver presents in one night?”

“Reindeer are real but can they really fly?”

“If elves make toys, why do they look like the Lego company’s toys?”

“How can a fat man get down a skinny chimney?”

“Why would it be okay with you to have a stranger come in our house in the middle of the night?”

Ouch.

Are we here already? Weren’t they just babies and we decided what Christmas traditions we wanted to have as a family?

We never put a lot of focus on Santa around the holidays.  We tried to focus more on Jesus since he was the reason we celebrate Christmas.  Most of what they know was learned from friends at school, books, and Christmas movies.

I wasn’t prepared.  I had no plan.  

I thought I’d feel cornered when this moment came but honestly, I felt relief.

“No,” I said. “Santa, the person who wears a red suit and has a white beard isn’t real.  At one time there was a man who delivered presents to children on Christmas but this was hundreds of years ago.”

I told the girls the story of St. Nick and how its earliest origins were of a man who brought presents to children on Christmas and how his story has evolved over the years.

The Real Santa Story from MomAdvice.com

I explained how we all have the spirit of Santa in us and told them it was our responsibility to continue giving presents and doing Random Acts of Kindness for others.  As a family, we do Random Acts of Kindness once a month.  It’s really taught them the importance of giving to others and being more selfless.  Because of this, it was easier for them to see the correlation between giving gifts to celebrate Jesus and being a light in someone else’s day.  

I asked the girls if they could think of some of our Christmas traditions that resemble the spirit of giving.  

They needed some prompting but were able to list a few.  

  • We sponsor a family each year
  • We give the kids Advent boxes at the beginning of the season
  • We bake cookies and deliver them to other people’s mailboxes
  • We pay for the car behind us when we go look at our local light show
  • We donate toys
  • We collect coats and hats and gloves to donate

I was worried our kids would be devastated with this news.  I was especially worried they feel betrayed and lied to.  They didn’t – thank goodness!

I’ll be totally honest, I always felt a little icky about not being truthful with our kids about Santa.  We loved how much fun it was for them but it never sat well with me.  I was more than happy to finally come clean with them and felt Christmas became, even more fun, for them this year.  We did more special surprises and when they wrapped everyone’s gifts, they signed Santa’s name to them.

I think every parent gets to the point where they know they can’t continue to avoid answering questions.

Here are some tips for finally having the real Santa discussion:

  1. Don’t avoid the topic if they’re directly asking about it.
  2. Answer their questions honestly.  
  3. Talk about the importance of gift giving: finding the perfect gift for someone, making people feel special and important, etc.
  4. Ask them if they have any questions.
  5. Be empathetic if they get upset with you.  
  6. Try to find things you can do as a family to make others feel special and to embody the spirit of Santa.
  7. Ask them to not discuss this topic with their friends.

I asked our kids to not discuss this topic with friends at school.  Our kids know children from different cultural and religious backgrounds so it was easy to explain to them.  “Different families have different beliefs and it’s not our responsibility to talk about it with friends.  They can discuss it with their own parents.  If anyone asks you, tell them to talk to their own parents.”

Ending the belief in Santa almost feels like it will be the end of childhood.

I assure you, it isn’t.

Our kids still wake up and crawl into our bed in the middle of the night, still get scared by bad dreams, and still need us to help reach things in the kitchen cabinets.  They still cry when they fall and still want us near by when they’re upset.

There’s plenty of childhood left in them.  

xoxo

–k

Kristina Grum is a Certified Parent Educator who has over a decade of experience working with children, including being a classroom teacher. She took the (very) long route to loving motherhood. These days she strives for ways to connect with her kids, while using shortcuts to manage and organize her home. She is a postpartum mood disorder survivor who thrives on helping others find the joy in parenthood that is just lurking around the corner. She currently teaches positive discipline parenting classes in her local area and she believes that every parent can shift from barely surviving to thriving in Parenthood. Visit her on Thriving Parents today! 

 

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Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure from MomAdvice.com

From our Parenting Contributor, Kristina Grum, from Thriving Parents.

Failure is a funny thing.  As adults, we hate to fail.  

Our mistakes look bigger than they really are.  

We think about our mistakes much longer than necessary.  

We replay situations and think about what we should have done instead.

When it comes to our children, however, we should approach failure in a completely different way.

We should want our kids to make as many mistakes as possible.  

I’ve always encouraged learning from mistakes.  Recently, our family began celebrating them.  Yes, you read correctly – we CELEBRATE mistakes.

It all started with a book.

We go to Barnes and Noble often.  We love to sit and read books and look at the games they have for sale.  I never walk out of there without buying a book for someone.  The girls in our house (me, included!) have an addiction to books – which is a good problem to have.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

A few weeks ago, we met our close friends there and their daughter pointed out the book, Rosie Revere, Engineer.  A few people had already mentioned it to me and said we would love it.  Our girls love to build and create and often use the most random things to do so.  Once, Caroline used a knitted afghan and had it suspended from her bedroom ceiling with paperclips, yarn, and packing tape.

We read the book in the store and loved it so much we bought it immediately.  I love how the story reinforces the importance of failure and how failure is the best way to get on the path to success.

This passage reinforced for me how important it is for kids to experience failure over and over again:

She turned round to leave, but then Great-Great-Aunt Rosie

grabbed hold of young Rosie and pulled her in close

and hugged her and kissed her and started to cry.

“You did it! Hooray! It’s the perfect first try!

This great flop is over.  It’s time for the next!”

Young Rosie was baffled, embarrassed, perplexed.

“I failed,” said dear Rosie.  “It’s just made of trash.

Didn’t you see it? The cheese-copter crashed.”

“Yes!” said her great aunt.  “It crashed.  That is true.

But first it did just what it needed to do.

Before it crashed, Rosie…

before that…

it flew!”

We celebrate failure every day.

Every day, sometime after school, I ask the girls what mistake they made during the day.  It can be as simple as not paying attention in class, saying something mean to their sisters, or throwing their backpacks in the middle of the living room floor.  Sometimes it’s more serious as not speaking up for someone, being disrespectful, or hitting a sibling.

The best thing we can do is to teach our child that everyone makes mistakes.  It’s important to own up to those mistakes and try to do better the next time.  

What this looks like:

Read the book Rosie, Revere, Engineer to your child.  Talk about the feelings Rosie has throughout the book.  In the beginning, she feels embarrassed by her failure because her uncle laughs.  Her great aunt embraces the failure and shows Rosie how it will lead to finding success with her inventions.

Talk about a time you and your child has failed at something.  Talk about something in which you failed as a child or an adult.  Then the next day ask your child, “What did you fail at today?” or “What mistakes did you make today?”  They may be perplexed and not remember what you are talking about at first.  Remind them.

“Remember when we read Rosie Revere, Engineer and she became excited about making mistakes because it meant she was learning? What mistakes did you make today?”

At first, they’re going to have a hard time thinking of one.  That’s okay.  Instead, you tell your child what mistakes you made during the day.  It’s really important for adults to participate in this activity too.  We need to be modeling that it’s okay to make mistakes.

The most important part of talking about failure is…

We talk about what we’ve learned from these mistakes and how we can work to change them for the next time.  It’s important to acknowledge there’s a high chance the same mistake will be made again.  That’s okay.  People are flawed and we make a lot of mistakes, some of them over and over again.  We hope each time the mistake is a little less so we can begin to learn from it.

We should want our kids to make as many mistakes as possible.  

During these formative years, we’re available to help guide them on how to pick up the pieces and repair their mistakes, if they need it.  When they’re old enough to go out into the world on their own, they’ll be better equipped to handle mistakes and uncomfortable situations.

Here are some great books that help reinforce the importance of making mistakes.  They go in age from youngest to oldest audience.  I hope you find them helpful.

xoxo

–k

Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere, Engineer

rosie-reveres-project-book-engineers

You can pre-order Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book For Bold Engineers, which will have projects your child can work on.  I know our kids are going to love it!

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure from MomAdvice.com

Other books to check out on teaching the importance of failure:

The Most Magnificent Thing

What Do You Do With a Problem?

What to do When Mistakes Make You Quake

Feats and Failures

How They Choked

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure

What are some ways you have taught your children the importance of failure? Please share!

Kristina Grum is a Certified Parent Educator who has over a decade of experience working with children, including being a classroom teacher. She took the (very) long route to loving motherhood. These days she strives for ways to connect with her kids, while using shortcuts to manage and organize her home. She is a postpartum mood disorder survivor who thrives on helping others find the joy in parenthood that is just lurking around the corner. She currently teaches positive discipline parenting classes in her local area and she believes that every parent can shift from barely surviving to thriving in Parenthood. Visit her on Thriving Parents today! 

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo

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6 Happiness Strategies for a More Creative and Interesting Life

Friday, March 17th, 2017

happiness-techniques-for-creative-interesting-life
I invited my parents over for dinner one evening and my mom asked what our family had been up to that week. I shared a bit about a show that we caught at the local theater, how we attended an art gallery event for a friend, the adventure of taking our kids out (with success) to try a new cuisine they hadn’t before, and a documentary on design that we caught together.

My mom said something that really struck me.

She said, “Your family has such an interesting life. You know that?”

This is not a brag session at all because there are many, many moments in our life that are very uninteresting and basic. I have moments where I rant about having to run my children everywhere, where I find my focus is far too centered on my my health situation, I’ve often thought too much about what other people think of me, there are times where I fixate too much on keeping the perfect home, I’ve had periods where I have invested too much time on Facebook, there are moments where I am unkind and judgy to others, and MANY times where I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other like everyone else.

Those moments don’t necessarily make for an interesting conversation, but they do make us human.

At times, I had thought the only thing that made me interesting was blogging. Blogging is certainly interesting when you are doing it as a profession and has brought interesting people and moments in my life, but I don’t think that makes me very interesting anymore. It’s just an interesting way to make money.

The thing is, as my kids get older I feel like they need me in different ways, but not in necessarily those needy toddler ways that gave me purpose. As they transitioned to middle school, I found that I needed interesting things in my life to fill my cup so that I could survive these days at home alone without boredom.  I began to seek a more interesting life than the one I had before and it has been through this that I am finding happiness and my people.

I hesitated to write these words to you today because I am far from anyone’s life coach.

I’m often a mess.

That said, I also wished for a mentor mom as I transitioned into this new role that can, at times, feel a little lonely. Building a new creative life for yourself really enables you to attract others to you because you bring something new to the table.

It makes conversations fun, it can make you feel young, and it makes you feel valued by others because you have your own things.

I don’t need to tell you it, but one day these incredible kids are hopefully going to be out there carving their own life paths. If our entire identities are just caring for them, what will we do with ourselves when they are gone? What will be our new identity?

Cue the foundation of interesting life moments you have been working on and the transition to the next chapter might feel a tad less bumpy.

Here are six happiness strategies I’m doing to live a more creative and interesting life…

food-pantry

Find an Interesting Volunteer Opportunity

Volunteering can be an incredible way to add interesting moments to your life. I started by volunteering in our school system and connected my love of reading with reading to kids who struggle with this skill. This year, I have found my place working at our church food pantry weekly, doing the behind-the-scenes work of getting the food sorted and organized for people to shop. I also am putting in my application to mentor refugee youth because I love welcoming people to our town and know they would have so much to teach me.

Volunteer Match is a great site to visit to find unique volunteering opportunities that you may not have even known existed. I never even knew about the mentor program for refugees until I went on their website. For example, some of the listings in our town include crafting with hospice patients, being a museum tour guide, working the gardens of a local museum,  becoming a crisis counselor, being a small business mentor, or caring for animals at the shelter.

Can you imagine how different your life might look if you invested in one of these things?

Not only are you helping a local cause, but you also just might be putting your foot in the door for a potential job opportunity someday.

around-the-house-2

Read Interesting Books

What a boring life I would be leading if I didn’t have such a variety of books in my book stack. Since most of you are regulars here, I know that most of you are also embracing a good stack of books in your life too. If you need a fresh one, check out the books section for ideas!

For many years, I got stuck in one or two genres of books and I wouldn’t branch outside of my comfort zone. My reading and life felt a lot more interesting though when I began to read books that were outside of my comfort zone, particularly nonfiction reading. Reading helped me understand and show compassion for people and parts of the world that I would have never known about.

Three good starter books that really helped challenge and shape me are Just Mercy, Hillbilly Elegyand Evicted

Interesting books have certainly lead to interesting conversations and created empathy in me for things I don’t always understand. If you are looking to branch out your reading this year, consider taking our MomAdvice Reading Challenge or joining our online book club!

Online Weaving Class take an  online weaving class!

Find an Interesting Class to Take

Some of the most interesting people I know take classes and embrace new hobbies in their life regularly. Your interesting class may only be interesting to you, but that does not matter one bit. This is a great time to do the things you have always talked about especially since online coursework, in particular, can be done on your own schedule.

This year I got myself a loom and found a great course on Etsy to start teaching myself to weave. I’m also taking a food photography course through Craftsy to help me to expand my food photography skills. I regularly ask for things like this for Christmas so I have a gift that can keep on giving.

I don’t always take just creative courses though, I’m trying to branch out into other terrains. Next week I’m starting a free course through our local library and college to learn about civics so that I can understand the way our government works and understand the world of politics better. I don’t want to be a person who sits and watches the news, I want to be the person that goes out and learns WHY things are happening and what my particular role could be to change them.

Now I realize that these things may be only interesting to me, but I couldn’t be more excited to learn more.

For free learning, check your library and see what they have to offer and to connect quickly with locals. This month, for example, our library is offering a papercrafting class, a brunch & book discussion, a gardening class, a genealogy course, and a musical concert. They also have a great center where people can learn technology skills to benefit their business.

If you prefer learning online, YouTube is a great free resource where you can start learning a new skill and it won’t even cost you a penny. Granted, many are teaser courses to get you to sign up for more, but even teaser courses can teach you a lot.

Rising Tide Society

Join an Interesting Organization

My early days of motherhood survival were often spent seated in a circle as we shared a cup of coffee with a side of whine. For a couple of years after, I floundered and didn’t know where I fit in. I still went to playgroups, clinging to coffee, but feeling a bit of place. I didn’t want to start over again and have to find a new group, but I’m finding that this girl thrives in clubs and organizations. I am meant to be in organized activities and it feeds that social part of me.

I discovered we have a local chapter of Rising Tide Society and I’m hopping into my first meeting next week. I love and am inspired by other creatives so I’m excited to see if this will fill that mom’s group void I’ve been missing.

Some people enjoy finding ways to assist charity through group formats like Junior League. Others can find their people in business and networking groups through their city. Churches can also offer great opportunities to become involved in helping the community and it’s members. Interesting groups, of course, bring interesting people into your life and often build new skillsets.

Embrace Something Interesting That Fosters Conversations

I love to have fun things to bring to conversations and some of my favorite parts of the day are good conversations I’ve had just with my own little family. My best conversations are when I read or listen to something interesting that I can share with others.

theSkimm

I subscribe to theSkimm and love it so much that I am a Skimmbassador which gives me access to a community of Skimm-loving folks that can talk politics and life in respectful ways. This 5-minute nonpartisan newsletter is something that I read daily so I have a clear idea of what is happening in the world each day. I read it over the morning coffee and I start the day feeling informed.

You might be surprised to know that many blog writers aren’t actually blog readers. It’s a challenge to keep up with fresh content and read blogs, but I try to keep up with what everyone is creating as best that I can and share the nuggets with you each week. These are often posts that help to fuel great conversations with others.

We try to watch a documentary each week that gives us a chance to learn about a topic or a part of the world that we know little about. Many of these are watched together as a family and we have great discussions about them after. Many evenings though are spent after the kids are gone to bed with a glass of wine in hand and a documentary ready to go for our evening.

When my eyes are feeling too tired to read, I find  I get so much out of these instead.

Source: Grant Beachy Photography

Seek Interesting People

I’m not saying to give up on your old friends, but we all evolve as human beings and, as I have aged, I am looking for different things in my friendships. Broadening your circle can sometimes bring new and interesting experiences to your life.

For example, we started a record collection and spend many weekends shuffling through stacks at antique stores or sharing a stack of our music with friends on their record players. A bit hipster, perhaps, but music has always been such a big part of my life, and I find sharing that hobby with others is a fun one.

Board games are also a fun thing to collect and share with people. Perfectly portable and pairs well with wine, it’s a party in a box. We love discovering new games through Tabletop (and figuring out these crazy complex ones we purchased!). A few that we have found to be easy to share are Ticket to Ride, Really Bad Art, Pandemic, and our friends recently taught us Settlers of Catan and we loved it!

We try to seek out our town’s local events, gallery showings, festivals, theater performances, concerts, and town celebrations because they add variation to our week and give us the chance to connect with really interesting people. Living in a smaller town, you would think we wouldn’t have much, but I’m finding that it is RICH with stuff to do and it is rare that we can’t find a local event happening to make our days in Indiana a bit more interesting.

Amy Clark-web-23

I hope you find something new to connect with today and that it brings a bit of happiness in your life too.

This stage has been a tricky one to figure out, but what a privilege it is to grow older and find that you are still learning and growing!

What do you find feeds your happiness at this stage in your life?

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

The Truth About Disney’s Beauty & the Beast

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

I’m so thankful that Mary screened this movie for our readers and could give us her perspective on the highly anticipated Beauty & the Beast film. I ask the commentary today be kind and respectful, as always! 

Before I walked into the theater to watch an early screening of Beauty and the Beast last week, a man in a suit took my cell phone and put it in a brown paper bag. He frowned and reminded me that phones were not allowed in the theater for our special preview. Before I handed it over I took one last look at the screen to make sure my oldest daughter’s school or my youngest daughter’s babysitter hadn’t called. Satisfied I wasn’t missing anything vital, I stepped into the dark theater and found my seat.

Giddy to see the live-action version of my absolute favorite Disney movie, I had no idea that my phone was blowing up with concerns and controversy about the very film I was watching.

After retrieving my phone I immediately checked all the places I might have messages and was surprised to find notifications in nearly every one of them. As I listened to and read messages, I learned that Disney had announced that the new movie featured scenes with a gay character – and the world reacted strongly.

beauty-and-the-beast-3

I’ve read lots of rants but few reviews because, well, this is a movie that has not been released yet. Since I have actually seen the film in question, I thought I’d share with you the truth about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

You might be wondering how to weigh my opinion or what perspective I have about this topic. That’s a fair question, so I’ll start with those facts.

• I am a Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christian.
• I am more conservative than some, more liberal than others; an objective evaluation might label me moderate.
• My husband and I have two daughters, ages three and nine. I am careful about what media they consume, sticking exclusively to programs and materials rated PG or G.
• I love Disney movies, though I’m not a Disney super-fan by any means. I do, however, unabashedly adore Beauty and the Beast, and I could probably recite most the of the 1991 movie and sing every word of the songs for you at any given time.

Now that you understand where I’m coming from, I’d love to answer your questions! Keep in mind that this post will include SPOILERS for the movie, but I’m assuming that if you are interested in this film, you’re familiar with the story.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

Does the new movie include a gay character?

Maybe. Lefou, played brilliantly by Josh Gad, is a silly character. He’s over the top in his adoration of Gaston and cracks jokes throughout the movie. Is it behavior based in hero worship? Is it a romantic crush? I think you could take it either way. To me, it seemed like hero worship and extreme devotion, just like it was in the animated version. Yes, he is exuberant in his affection for Gaston, but no more than in the cartoon and no more than the adoring sidekick typically is in this kind of story.

In the Gaston song, where Lefou sings verse after verse about how no one can compare to Gaston, he has a short scene with three villagers. The men are standing at the bar, and Lefou sings to and/or near them about Gaston, eventually physically turning their heads. I interpreted that as him making sure they paid attention to the main event (Gaston), and nothing more.

Later on when the villagers attack the Beast’s castle, those same three men are caught by the wardrobe. Her defense is to throw clothing at them, leaving them wearing dresses and wigs (and possibly make-up, but I don’t remember for sure). Two of the men are embarrassed, while one lights up with a grin. As he runs away after his friends, the wardrobe sings, “Be free!”

In the final scene all the characters are seen dancing in the castle’s ballroom. The focus is on Belle and the Beast-turned-back-to-prince, but we also see Mr. and Mrs. Potts, Mr. and Mrs. Cogworth, Lumiere and Plumette, and other couples dance. The style of dance involves a lot of turning and twirling and some switching of partners, and Lefou ends up dancing with the villager who didn’t mind wearing a dress. They both look surprised but happy.

Each of those three scenes are only a few seconds long and take place in full, fast-moving acts that include stunning (even overwhelming) visual details and spirited, full-volume songs.

Will my kids notice the implications that a character is gay?

It depends on your kids. But if they’re early elementary or younger, I doubt it. As I mentioned, the scenes that imply Lefou or the villager might be gay are brief and, in my opinion, subtle. Nothing is explicit or spelled-out, and if your kids haven’t been introduced to homosexuality before, they probably won’t think about it now.

Obviously I don’t know your kids, how observant they are or what they’ve already been exposed to. I can’t guarantee they won’t ask any questions. But I am confident that when my girls (ages 3 and 9) watch this movie, they will not notice any character’s sexuality.

Should I take my kids to see this movie?

Maybe. (I know, you’re loving my definitive answers, aren’t you?!)

I can’t wait for my girls to watch the new Beauty and the Beast, but I won’t be taking them to see it in the theater. My oldest is sensitive to intense scenes, and the wolves and the attacking villagers would scare her on the big screen. My youngest is only three, and I’m afraid those same scenes would be too much for her in the theater as well. When we’re at home I can distract them, remind them that it’s make-believe, or simply hit fast-forward.

Nothing is gory or graphic in this movie, by the way. My kids are just sensitive. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to take them to this the day it opens.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

Should I go see this movie?

I think so. It’s fantastic! I shared a full review of the movie on my blog, but the short answer is that this version is incredible and I’m already plotting ways to see it in the theater again. The music, the costumes, the acting – it’s all beautiful, and I was delighted by every part of it.

If you’re concerned about a character being written as gay, this might not be the movie for you. I personally was not offended by any of the characters. But even if you believe differently about homosexuality than I do, I believe you could still love this movie. Nothing about it was in your face with any kind of agenda; honestly, Zootopia was more political than this. And as with many things, you often find what you’re looking for. If you watch Beauty and the Beast for the wonder, the magic, the truth that beauty lies within and girls should be allowed to read books and dishes should be allowed to dance and sing, then that is what you’ll find. And you will be as enchanted as I was.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

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