School’s out. The temperature is soaring. What’s a Woodlands mom to do? Read a great book! After checking out Great New Writers at Barnes and Noble and talking with my favorite Borders bookseller, I am sharing my list of new authors and one classic book worth reading this summer. These books entertain and transport you to other eras, countries and worlds. I’ve included a mouth-watering biography written by a chef, a vampire series, a trilogy of suspense novels with a strong female character, women’s poetry and a classic novel every woman should read once. Happy summer reading!
The card said it all. In bright orange letters, my seven year old son, Thomas, wrote, “Mom you are the BEST mom! P.S. Thanks for cutting my hair mom!” He ran down the stairs with a big grin and presented his card to me. After a big hug, he happily ran off, ready to finish his Lego game. These are the moments I never anticipated. Mothering is a lifetime of these small moments that fill the heart with such joy. After struggling with infertility treatment and raising twin babies, I have discovered a few truths about motherhood on my journey. These are the truths my mother never told me.
Becoming a mother is a unique, life altering experience.
The razor-sharp labor pangs signaled a change in my body, but big changes in my life were also underway with the birth of my twins. When I arrived at the hospital at 37 weeks of pregnancy, I imagined that my birth experience would be like the one I had seen in my Lamaze class. The baby would crown after a short labor and I would cry with joy. Wrong! Instead, I discovered that one of my unborn sons was in fetal distress and an emergency c-section was needed. Protecting the health of my unborn sons was my very first act as a mother, the act of merging “me” into “we.” My sons thrived, and in the years that followed, I learned to strike a balance between my new role as a mom and the woman I used to be.
There are ups and downs.
My sons’ toddler years were like riding the Colossus roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain. One minute we were happily cresting the top of the mountain, the next I was hanging onto the crash bar during a meltdown. I have learned to slow down and appreciate the rhythm of each day, knowing that life can change in an instant. Nothing is permanent.
Mothers are consummate multi-taskers, playing many different roles each day.
Counselor. Mediator. Teacher. Chef. Personal Shopper. Secretary. Taxi driver. These are all roles that mothers fulfill, sometimes all in one day!
Mothering is a work of the heart. By nurturing the spirit, mind and body, a child will grow in love.
After my grandmother Birdie passed away in 2008, I reread some of her letters. They were filled with heartfelt advice and expressions of love. As a new mother, I could see that my grandmother had nurtured and loved me all the way through my adult years. She devoted her cherished retirement years to grandchildren. Her meals nourished my body, her advice guided me, and her faith in God nurtured my spirit. For her, every act of mothering was a work of the heart and an example for me.
In the essay, “My Mother Never Worked,” a woman tries to collect Social Security death benefits after her mother’s death, only to be told that her mother “never worked.” Some mothers may never collect a Social Security pension at 65. Others may collect a hefty pension after a long career in the workforce. The truth is that all mothers work. Diapers are changed and meals prepared. Childhood boo boos are kissed. Counseling and advice are given. This is the work of mothers. When our children are grown, we get a promotion! Mothers become grandmothers, those wise women who dispense advice and treats. If we live long enough, we receive the ultimate promotion: great-grandmother.
Daycations are the new vacations! With higher gas prices, busy family schedules and work, a trip with your best girlfriends may seem like a dream. With bluebonnets in bloom, now’s the time to take a daycation in our own hometown. Here are three excursions you can take, right here in the Woodlands!
Here are a few basics to get started in America’s fastest growing hobby.
I adore Rachel Ray. She’s peppy. She’s funny. She can cook a fantastic meal in 30 minutes.
As much as I aspire to Rachel’s culinary success in my own kitchen, there are days when thirty minutes just won’t do. I peer into the pantry, mentally cataloguing the ingredients for the evening meal. Then I peruse my favorite cookbooks or the latest Women’s Day Magazine monthly meal calendar searching for inspiration. By this time, my sons are devouring flavor blasted Goldfish, wondering when dinner will be ready. At this point, I desperately need just ten minutes to prepare a kid-friendly, husband approved meal.
Delaying Kindergarten aka “Academic Redshirting”: What the Experts Say
In Lillian Katz’s article, “ Academic Redshirting and Young Children (ERIC Clearninghouse), she states that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports just 9% of kindergarten-age children are redshirted. Katz also states it is more common in affluent communities, where many children attend private schools. Boys are more likely to be held back that girls. The NCES report indicates that white, non-hispanic children are more than twice as likely as black, non-hispanic children to have entered kindergarten later than birthdays allowed (Katz; U.S Dept. of Education). According to Katz, delayed entry is usually in response to higher curriculum demands placed on children.
Long Term and Short Term Effects. Observe any first grade classroom and the disparity in children’s ages is obvious. In my son’s first grade classroom, one first grade student was eight years old. Others were seven. Some were six years of age. Scholars have studied the effects of academic redshirting and many studies have been inconclusive on its impact. West, et al conclude that in the short term, children do raise academic achievement at the same level as younger classmates and exhibit more confidence, but they may feel alienated from younger classmates. I personally observed this first hand at the tetherball pole when I casually overheard a boy teasing my son’s eight year old classmate about being “smart enough” to pass kindergarten. There is also some evidence that those children who were held back required greater use of special education services than those who were not held back. (Graue & DiPerna, in press; May et al., 1995). The experts conclude that the effects of delayed entry seem to be short lived.
In another study Katz cites, the long-term effects of holding a child back were observed. Byrd, et al conclude that those who are held back exhibit more social and behavioral problems than other classmates. (Byrd, et al 1997) It has led to speculation among some educators that behaviors tagged as “immaturity” required another treatment or intervention other than delayed entry. Lastly, Katz concludes that the evidence of its long -term effects is inconclusive. The benefits are short-term and may be disadvantageous in the long term (Spitzer, et al, 1995; Graue & Diperna, in press).
Making the Decision
The minimum age to enter kindergarten is five years of age (Conroe ISD). Since school districts allow delayed entry, parents must make the final determination on holding back a child for an additional year. You may consider the following suggestions when deciding on your child’s readiness:
· Conference with your child’s preschool teacher. A preschool teacher can provide valuable feedback on your child’s kindergarten readiness.
· Visit the school and speak with a kindergarten teacher. Ask to see kindergarten screening tests, if possible.
· Inquire about a typical day in a kindergarten class. Are the children required to sit at a desk and work on worksheets? Or, are there interactive learning centers where children learn by doing? Boys, in particular, are not “wired” for rote learning practices such as ticking off answers on worksheets for several hours at a time.
· Handpick your child’s teacher, if possible. Talk with the principal. Talk with other parents of first and second grade children to get unbiased teacher reviews. Express your views to the principal to ensure the best possible match with your child.
· Check greatschools.org to get unbiased parent reviews of schools and teachers.
· Advocate for your child. Stay in close contact with teachers and administrators concerning your child’s progress. Volunteer at the school, if possible.
· Be confident about your decision. This will help your child adjust to kindergarten or kindergarten transition class.
Kindergarten is one of the most formative years in a child’s education. Whether entry is delayed or children are sent at the designated age, an informed decision will help parents and children cope with the transition from preschool to kindergarten.
Byrd, R. S., Weitzman, M., & Auinger, P. (1997). Increased behavior problems associated with delayed school entry and delayed school progress. PEDIATRICS, 100(4), 654-661.
Graue, M. E., & DiPerna, J. (in press). Redshirting and early retention: Who gets the "gift of time" and what are its outcomes? AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL.
Katz, Lillian G.  Academic Redshirting and Young Children. ERIC CLEARINGHOUSE ON ELEMENTARY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCTION. 2000.
Kundert, D. K., May, D. C., & Brent, D. (1995). A comparison of students who delay kindergarten entry and those who are retained in grades K-5. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS, 32(3), 202-209. EJ 517 406.
May, D. C., Kundert, D. K., & Brent, D. (1995). Does delayed school entry reduce later grade retentions and use of special education services? REMEDIAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION, 16(5), 288-294. EJ 510 039.
Spitzer, S., Cupp, R., & Parke, R. D. (1995). School entrance age, social acceptance, and self-perception in kindergarten and 1st grade. EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY, 10(4), 433-450. EJ 516 737.
West, J., Meek, A., & Hurst, D. (2000). CHILDREN WHO ENTER KINDERGARTEN LATE OR REPEAT KINDERGARTEN: THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AND LATER SCHOOL PERFORMANCE. (NCES No. 2000-039). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Keep a summer reading journal. A school aged child can keep a simple composition notebook to write about the books he or she reads. Writing a few sentences in a notebook can greatly improve comprehension and give a child the place to explore his or her emotions. It is helpful to start with a reading prompt, such as “My favorite part of the story is……”
Rediscover the classics. The Montgomery County library offers a wide selection of classics, such as Swiss Family Robinson, Gulliver’s Travels, Old Yeller or Tom Sawyer. My sons and I recently checked out the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson, which chronicles the adventures of the Robinson Family after they are shipwrecked on a deserted island. There are no special 3D effects, just great storytelling. My son asked to see this movie three times and is very excited to read the book over the summer.
Check out books on tape or cd with the hardcover books. Many books include an accompanying cd or tape. For the audio-visual learner, this is a wonderful way to hear it and see it at the same time. The Magic Tree House series, for example, includes cds of books read by the author. Hearing the text read aloud provides a model of fluent reading to an emerging reader. My son was so enthused that he read three Magic Tree House books in one weekend.
Join the Montgomery County Library summer reading program. The summer reading program begins the first week in June. Children must sign up to participate in this program. Preschool aged children can participate as well. Children keep a log of books they have read. They receive a beautiful certificate, Astros tickets and coupons for various restaurants when the reading requirement has been met. Children may also select one new book. Our family has participated in this program for three years, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our weekly outings to the library.
Form a summer reading club with friends. The Montgomery County library offers reading clubs for readers of all ages. Why not form a reading club with other elementary school aged children?
Most important, keep reading fun! Allow children to select books that interest them. Encourage reading early and often. Encouraging good reading practices is one of the best and most lasting gifts we can give our children.
I confess I am not a fan of making New Year’s Resolutions. After the brisk winter chill of January subsides, I still haven’t lost the weight, started my exercise program or organized my closets. As Bridget Jones rightly points out, “Dieting on New Year’s day isn’t a good idea because you simply can’t eat rationally.” But March is a different story. The clusters of rainbow wildflowers and bluebonnets popping up alongside the roads inspire me. Mother Nature’s burst of spring color reminds me to stop and smell the roses, wildflowers, and the bluebonnets. I suddenly feel the urge to rethink, retool and yes, make new resolutions. These are my spring resolutions for busy moms, loosely adapted from the Al-Anon group’s “Just for Today” program: