Tag Archives: education


Let’s Talk About Homeschooling

There are a lot of reasons to consider when thinking about homeschooling your child(ren). Education budget cuts are sweeping our nation and many have concerns about the effectiveness of public education in their area and can’t afford private school or to move into a different school district.

Or, your child might have specific issues like a previous bullying problem or a medical diagnosis that make homeschooling a more attractive option.

Whatever your rationale, here are some things to think about homeschooling before making the leap.

Time commitment

Taking on homeschooling for one or more children, especially if they are at different educational levels, is a big time commitment. You may not be teaching 8 hours a day like traditional teachers (some homeschooling moms report that they are able to streamline their days without the extra time that schools require), but you need to research curriculums, plan lessons over time and figure out outside activities that your children can participate in to fill any gaps in your knowledge, such as museum tours or a science club.

Are you able to teach for weeks and months at a time? Do you manage your time well? Are you ok with losing a significant amount of free time that you would have if your children were in school? Take an honest look at your habits before embarking on homeschooling. On the other hand, some mothers that homeschool revel in the freedom that comes from being able to teach on their own schedule, go on learning excursions when museums and planetariums, etc. are not busy, take a day off when the weather is nice and take vacations in the off season.

Relationship between you and your child

Can you be your child’s teacher as well as their parent? Some parents find it is difficult to play both roles. I have a friend that hires a tutor for her child to improve in math because she tried to tutor him herself and found that they did not do well with her as his teacher. Does your child have a learning disability? Do you have the tools and resources to address this issue? As the teacher, principal and parent, it is up to you to figure out how to get your child any help they might need. If your teaching style is a good fit for your child, homeschooling can be very successful.

Responsible for own supplies

You will be responsible for supplying all of your child’s learning materials. Some schools are so strapped that many parents donate lots of classroom materials already, but if you homeschool, you will have to factor books and other materials into your budget and still fulfill your tax requirement that goes to the schools you aren’t attending. However, depending on your budget, you could enable your child to try science experiments and art projects that may not be possible in a school setting.

Extracurricular activities

In addition to researching any additional outside learning activities that might benefit your child(ren), they will miss out on organized activities that schools sponsor like sports, clubs and dances. As young children, clubs and sports and just being around other children is important for developing socialization skills. As older children, they might feel excluded when they can’t be a part of these activities. There are many activities outside schools that you can involve your child in, but it is important to consider how much it will impact your child to not be able to take part, or if they will be just as happy playing on a city sports team or organizing their own dance.

So, now that you have taken these things into consideration, you can decide if homeschooling is right for your family. Homeschooling can result in a lot of flexibility, and attending school can work well for many children, as well. Only you know what will work best for your family.

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.

Parenting a Child with Autism - SmartMom

When Your Friend is Parenting a Child with Autism

We’ve all heard what the media says about the diets, the vaccines, and the swarm of attention that autism has gained. And it’s not surprising, considering that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (commonly known as ASD).

As a SmartMom, you will encounter friends, co-workers, or fellow volunteers who are parenting a child with autism. Or, perhaps you yourself are parenting a child with autism.

Either way, here’s what’s important to know about ASD (and how to talk to friends who are parenting a child with autism).

When you’ve met a child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.

There is no perfectly accurate profile of a child with ASD because they are all so different. Autism entails diagnostic criteria of impaired social interaction, disturbed communication, and stereotypical behavior, interests, and activities. However, autism is a spectrum disorder, and these criteria can greatly differ from child to child.

For this reason, it’s important not to pretend that you understand a child simply by knowing their diagnosis.

Avoid saying: “Yeah, I know all autistic kids love Thomas the Train.
Instead say: “How can I help? How are you doing?

It’s especially critical that you listen to those parenting a child with autism, because they know the most about their child. Therefore, avoid comparing their child to other children with (or without) ASD. Your friend is likely already highly aware of the typical developmental norms in which their child doesn’t fall, and they don’t really need your reminders. Letting your friend know that you are there to listen helps her feel less isolated in her parenting.

You may be asking, “I know what not to say, but what can I say?” Many parents of children with autism are overwhelmed. Can you offer a couple of hours to help them with laundry or meals? Letting your friend know that you desire to help and come alongside her in this journey may be the greatest gift you can offer (and then actually follow through).

If you’re a researcher, be an informed one.

Believe me, your friend is doing everything she can to stay informed and to take care of her child in the best way. Many people will give her suggestions, advice, and tips–most of which will be taken from non- reliable or non-credible sources. If you’re interested in autism, it’s not wrong to do research, but be selective about what you choose to believe. Remember that the Internet is an open forum, and autism is a highly publicized topic.

If you have the research bug, I’ve found Google Scholar to be a great place to easily find credible research articles. I choose to read articles that are peer-reviewed and published within the past 10 years. Now, just because you’ve done your research, it doesn’t mean that you need to prepare a presentation for those parenting a child with autism. Likely, your friend works with a team of therapists and doctors who are informed with the latest research. You have the unique opportunity to be a supportive friend; don’t trade that awesome role for being the worried Internet researcher.

Avoid saying:I read on a blog that you should…
Instead say: Nothing–unless your friend has huge respect for your Google Scholar researching skills.

When you’re referring to a child with autism, use people-first language.

You may not notice the subtle difference, but the parents of children with autism likely will. When you use people-first language, the diagnosed condition doesn’t describe their child. Instead, ASD is something about their child, but not the identifying component.

Even though your intentions may be admirable, it’s important to know how what you say can be perceived. Here’s an example:

Avoid saying: “My friend has an autistic child.”
Instead say: “My friend has a child with autism.”

It’s important to keep this in mind with any child that you talk about. Ultimately, a diagnosis doesn’t define us, but it does affect us. Most parents don’t appreciate when their child is defined by autism, but also don’t appreciate when their child’s differences are ignored.

As a friend, valuing their child may mean recognizing their differences and caring for them despite these differences. Be open to hearing her experiences, and be willing to offer help and continual friendship.

For more information about ASD visit:
Autism Speaks for a great overview and introduction to ASD, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for information about
geared towards the speech and language component of ASD or National Autism Center for those interested in the research behind ASD treatments.


Parents also have a role in a child’s development, read this post to see what you can do.



My son is 2 years old. He is not talking yet..psychologist told us that he has mild autism. What should I do?

I just found out my daughter has autism and I want to cry. I just don’t want life to be hard for her. Any advice?

My 10 year old son has an autism disorder, a mood disorder and ADHD, and is bullied..

My 2 year old was diagnosed with autism. On different sites people recommend camel milk for improvement. Anyone have experience with camel milk?

My son sometimes freaks out when he is off his routine..he has been tested before and there’s no sign. My sister insists I need to get a second opinion. Any advice?

Moms of children with autism: Prior to your child being diagnosed, did you have any inklings that something wasn’t right?

My 6.5 month is so fidgety. My BF keeps saying that he has autism or some developmental problem causing him to do this..

I am currently convinced my daughter has mild autism. Any moms of autistic children with tips, advise, etc.?

My daughter was recently assessed as having a language delay..she is also being evaluated for any other developmental delays.. can having such a label negatively impact her?

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.

SmartMom - Why I Never Tell My Child "Good Job"

Why I Never Tell My Child “Good Job”: the Case of Praise versus Encouragement

Photo by Casey Leigh Wiegand

And no, I never tell my child “bad job!” either. Save your gasps for Jerry Springer, SmartMoms. It’s simply a matter of praise versus encouragement.

The first time I ever considered this idea of encouraging instead of praising a child was when I took a job at a preschool. In fact, in the interview, they told me, we don’t say, “good job!” I was shocked. I had learned about the benefits of providing a positive learning environment, and that comment didn’t strike me as something the school should advertise to young, ambitious, happy, new teachers.

However, I grew to appreciate their ideas, which were based off of the Reggio Emilia approach to childcare (ages 3 months-6 years). This approach was born out of Northern Italy in the 1960’s, when the municipality was increasingly concerned with their children’s education. They designed schools that focused on providing a self-directed environment for students with holistic learning that encouraged all sorts of expression. All that to say, the city wasn’t satisfied with their preschoolers coloring in the lines or singing their ABC’s. They wanted their children to thrive as they grew in curiosity, creativity, and expression.

For this bunch of preschool teachers, they saw, “good job!” as the end of an opportunity for learning. The Reggio Emilia approach prefers to offer encouragement as a way of extending the child’s learning experience and challenging them to wonder all along the way.

Here’s how you, too, can implement this approach in your home as a means of providing rich encouragement to your child:

  1. Extend, Don’t End: When your child creates a painted masterpiece, or designs a brilliant train track, you’ve got two options. You can extend their learning experience, or you can end it. By saying “good job” you are acknowledging their work, but not extending or challenging them further. Try thinking of positive way of encouraging them to continue their work Try: “Wow, I like the way you used your paintbrush to add details to your tree. Do you think you could add that kind of detail to other parts of your painting?” Now, you’ve let your child know you like their work, while also challenging him/her to continue!
  2. Challenge, Don’t Coddle: My favorite example of this happened at a nature center. I was watching a dad and his 4-year old daughter interact.  The girl was playing by a small creek and couldn’t figure out how to get across. She whimpered, “Daddy, come get me!”  He was on the other side of the creek and easily could have slipped her over his shoulder and across the creek. But he didn’t. He said, “I know you can do this.  I’m right here.  How can you get across?” This dad knew he could come in and fix his four year old’s problem. He also knew he had an opportunity to challenge her, and he seized that opportunity. She made it across the creek by walking across a log, she also gained the confidence that she is capable of developing solutions and fixing problems.
  3. Wonder, Don’t Wander: Sometimes the best way to encourage your child is to wonder with them. As your child is putting together a train track, ask: “I wonder how far you could make that train track go?” or at the zoo: “I wonder how much food they have to prepare for all these animals?”  Perhaps there’s a sibling conflict in your home.  Once things have cooled, try asking, “I wonder how we can get along better?” These questions facilitate problem solving skills and cognition. Encourage your child to think of ‘wonder’ questions as well. It’s tempting to wander off to reply to an email, clean the kitchen, or attend to any number of pressing household issues.  Try challenging yourself to connect with your child several times a day and wonder with them. By wondering with your child, you are sending them the message that you are engaged in their world and that their play is important.

Encouragement makes an impact. When you use your words to encourage your child, think of words that accurately reflect the way you want to encourage them. We were all brought to tears during the movie The Help when Aibileen Clark says, “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important”. When encouraging your child, be specific. Telling your child “good job!” for the thirtieth time after they color in their coloring book is a little different than, “you are a truly talented artist and I love watching you enjoy your painting!”

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.

Teaching Manners to Children - SmartMom

Teaching Manners to Children: When Should You Start?

Manners are an important social tool that children need to learn in order to be successful in school and life. No time is too early to start teaching manners to children, even if only by example.

Even as infants and toddlers, children pick up on how people in your family treat each other and whether there is courtesy and respect shown daily. When my daughter was three, I was trying to reinforce good behavior by thanking her when she did something well and “tank oo” became one of my son’s first words. No matter that he didn’t know what context to use it in yet, he learned, in time.

The time to be a good role model is inside the house, and out. Grumbling at other drivers or people in public is also noticed, and unfortunately, sometimes copied, too, to great embarrassment.

As toddlers and preschoolers, there a number of ways you can begin teaching manners to children.

Say Please

If you make a habit of using please when you ask your kids to do something, they will become more accustomed to hearing it and using it.

Say Thank You/You’re Welcome

Ditto. The more you use them, the more they will. This good behavior will help in disciplining your little ones as well.

Do Not Interrupt

Kids are pretty self-absorbed at early ages and expect you to respond to their needs immediately. When you are in a conversation with another adult, remind them not to interrupt (unless it is an emergency).

Then, when there is a break in the conversation (this shouldn’t be too long, if they are young, but long enough to get the point across) give them your attention and respond to them.

Do Not Touch Things that Don’t Belong to You

This can go for stores as well as other people’s houses. Teaching children to only handle what you have established belongs to you can save you some embarrassing moments and set some ground rules for purchases. I avoided many requests at the store and merchandise dragged off shelves by teaching my kids that those things didn’t belong to us and they needed to stay where they were.

Share and Take Turns

These skills are very important when your child enters social settings with other children. Preschool-age children notice, and complain, when other kids in their classes don’t take turns or share.


There are consequences when your child strays outside the guidelines that you are trying to enforce. Teaching your children to apologize when they make a mistake gives them pause to think about it and let’s the other person know that your child realizes they should have acted differently.

Stay calm and be prepared to repeat these lessons over and over again. It can be frustrating, but I have found that losing my temper negates the lesson and nothing is learned. Manners will come if you are diligent, but it takes time.

Once it becomes second nature to your kids, it is nice to see their interactions with people outside your home and even with you. The other night, before we even sat down to dinner, my son sang out, “thanks Mom for the great dinner!” It can kind of make your day.

Check out our roundup on the benefits of house chores for your little ones!

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.

5 Ways to Avoid the Summer Slide

If the idea of workbooks fills you with dread and the words “the summer slide” make you want to slide into a corner and hide, don’t worry. Your kids can have a mentally engaging summer — without resorting to formalized school work style learning.

Hit the Beach

Wait, what? How can a trip to the beach help avoid the summer slide? Well, it’s all in what you make of it. Before you go, read up on tide pools, creatures that live in your local body of water and other info about the ecosystem. Then, while building sandcastles and jumping waves, point out the snails, hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs and share little facts with the kids.

They’ll love hearing what exactly the snails eat and why clams squirt water through airholes when they bury themselves beneath the sand. Or focus on tides and teach them how the moon impacts the tide, as well as where the water goes when it “goes away.” And you’ll love continuing to help your kids learn in a total no-pressure way.

Take a Hike

Like the beach, hiking can provide infinite opportunities for learning. You can teach about rocks, plants, animals and so much more. Choose your trail wisely – some nature centers have self-guided tours that can help with the learning on the go. Or try geocaching, which is a sort-of scavenger hunt that requires you to use GPS coordinates to find special spots where geocaches are hidden.

Another option? Hike a waterfall – then you can talk about water flow, erosion and more. Again, this is a fun and active way to enjoy summer without falling into the Summer Slide trap.

Visit the Library

It’s no secret that instilling a love of reading in kids is important. Stories let children explore new worlds, discover creativity and linger in their imagination – all good things. So, if you haven’t already, join your local library and go weekly.

The kids will love choosing stories, and you can tap into all the resources that libraries offer for families – like story hours for kids, author visits and more. And just the act of going to the library will help prevent the Summer Slide since the kids will be inspired to learn.

Also, check to see if your library has any summer reading incentives for kids – they can range from prizes to cold, hard cash just for reading a certain number of books. Pretty sweet, right?

Get Cooking

When it comes to practicing math, cooking is an awesome way to do it without even thinking about it. Between number recognition, fractions and time (this takes 15 minutes to cook – when will it be done?), numbers are part and parcel with everything done in the kitchen.

Better yet, if you are working from a recipe, kids can practice their reading skills and their direction-following skills too.

Plus, the help in the kitchen is a priceless way to bond too (it’s not just about avoiding the Summer Slide!).

Garden Together

Psst! There’s a lot of learning that can happen just by doing – like by planting and maintaining a garden. It’s not too late to get pretty flowers in the ground and cultivate them.

Have the kids help with the planning, planting and care-taking of the garden. They will learn first-hand about what makes plants grow, garden pests and so much more.


Here are some ideas on fun summer activities!

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.

SmartMom: Enrichment vs. Education

Enrichment over Entertainment: How to Fill your Home with Opportunity

Photo by Design Mom

It’s so very alluring: the iPad app that entertains your child while you take a shower or make another phone call, the battery operated toy that’s a must have for every American toddler, or maybe it’s that next episode of ‘educational’ television.

Let’s admit it: we like to be entertained. And the convenience of entertainment in our generation makes it even more enticing.  But I want you to ask yourself a question: What kind of home do you want to create for your child?  I propose that choosing Enrichment over Entertainment will be exponentially more rewarding in the long run.

Some days it will seem like you have no choice in the matter. The kids are screaming, the phone is ringing, and you have dozens of e-mails in your inbox. But take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself, “Do you want your home to be a place of entertainment or enrichment?” If you chose the latter, excellent. But what does it look like to have a home focused on ‘enrichment’?

During my years in early childhood education and research, I discovered several ways you can implement critical and creative thinking skills right in your own home. I searched for households that sought to give children opportunities. I found places that weren’t a break from education, but promoted discovery.

Here are a few ideas on how you can transition your home from a place of entertainment to a place of enrichment:

Set up an art table. This can be a child-sized garage sale find or something like this one from Pottery Barn Kids. Tucked in the corner of your dining room or living room, this is a place for messes. Encourage creation here, not coloring sheets. Your child is capable of new ideas and will get comfortable with their creativity when given the opportunity to create. Supplies for your art table need not be magnificent. In fact, save things like paper towel rolls, bottle caps, and yogurt cups for moments of childhood inspiration. Have a basket you devote to such items and another basket for markers, paper, tape, and paint if you’re daring. Oversized t-shirts make great art smocks. Providing opportunity inside boundaries is perfect for young artists. Perhaps, each day you provide your child with a different medium to explore: chalk, crayon, marker, paint, clay or Play-Doh. All of these provide wonderful opportunities for fine motor skill development and creativity. If your child takes up a particular interest in painting, perhaps think about investing in an easel as an upcoming birthday gift. I suggest this one by Melissa & Doug. 

Play in the kitchen. Whether you let your child ‘wash’ the dishes in the sink with soap and water, or you venture to bake with your toddler, they will inevitably engage in the task and gain knowledge of various properties of ingredients and how things work. For a toddler, the kitchen is a glorified science lab. Allowing your child to play with water is a simple activity that is common in many popular preschool approaches.  Many schools invest in tables specifically designed for water play. However, if you have a large kitchen sink and a sturdy kitchen chair, you can create your own at home. Try saving water bottles, funnels and plastic cups for your child to experiment with in the water. Check out the SmartMom Pinterest page for more water play ideas.

Engage in dramatic play. Your house has the capability of transforming into a rocket ship, a grocery store, and a library: perhaps all in the same day! When your child is encouraged to engage with household items, the sky is the limit! Early on, this may take some encouragement from you as the parent. However, you will be surprised to watch your child come up with their own ideas when they are encouraged to utilize the materials around them. To stimulate this dramatic play, try questions like, “I wonder what we could make out of this table and these blankets?” or “How could we turn our living room into a Gas Station?” This encourages child-directed play and it will excite your child to see their ideas come to life. Dramatic play is critical to early childhood development because it helps engage children in various roles that will be demanded of them in later life. They develop language, social, and critical thinking skills, all while building an airplane out of pillows on the carpet in the hallway.

And, of course, don’t forget to read. With these methods of enrichment over entertaining, you aren’t likely to hear your child complain of boredom. After all, discovery happens in the mind of your toddler. Find ways to engage their creativity and enrich their minds!

If you’re wondering how to shop for enriching toys, look no further – we’ve got your back.

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.