Friday, September 28, 2012

7 Tips for Helping Your Child with Homework

By Marni McNiff

With Back-to-School in full force, so begins the struggle of completing homework. Whether it’s time management, concentration issues, or just lack of interest, many kids struggle at the end of their school day to get homework done in a timely and stress-free fashion.

Below you’ll find some helpful tips to help your children complete homework with minimum stress for everyone. 

Give Your Child a Break. It’s not easy for kids to spend eight hours in school and then be expected to come home and immediately begin homework assignments and studying. It’s a good idea to let your child unwind or do something physical to release some of the pent up energy they have after sitting at a desk all day. The physical activity will also help your child better prepare to focus on their homework.

Time Management. Parents should set aside a specific time each day for homework. Most children work well with a consistent schedule. It’s also important for your child to have a quiet place, away from the distraction of television and other electronics to complete their assignments. If your child is taking an unreasonable amount of time to complete an assignment, it’s best to let the teacher know. Most teachers (of young children) aren’t assigning hours of homework each night.

Keep the School Supplies Handy. Knowing where the pencils, erasers, rulers, and calculators are can minimize the stress of getting homework done. If your children are anything like mine, they’ll leave the room to get a pencil and come back 20 minutes later without one in hand. I keep a basket of homework supplies in my cabinet with everything handy. 

Provide Guidance, Not Answers. It may be shocking to know that your child’s teacher is not interested on how well you understand line segments and polygons. Homework should be done by your child. It’s important to let your child try to finish the homework on their own. You can provide help as needed, but if your child truly isn’t understanding the material, it’s best to let his or her teacher know.  Encourage your child to divide their homework into categories like: What I can do myself; and What I need help with.

Be Aware of the Assignments. Rather than waiting until the night before a project is due to begin working on it, it’s best to stay on top of everything that is assigned. Save some of the larger project work for the weekends so as not to pressure your child to complete everything after a long day of school. It also helps to keep track of when your child has a test coming up so you can break down studying into smaller segments. Most young kids aren’t pulling all-nighters to study for a math or science test, but it’s always better to go over the information a bit at a time, rather than cramming the night before an exam.

Use Praise. Don’t forget to praise your child for their hard work. As the mother of three children, one of whom has a learning disability, I can’t stress enough the importance of positive feedback and praise. When I go over my son’s completed homework with him, I always begin with everything he did right. When I get to a place where he has an incorrect answer, I try and make it a fun problem to solve. Pointing out a child’s errors over and over can make the child feel insecure in that subject area.

Take an Active Interest. It’s a fact that children do better in school if parents take an active interest in their work. Show your child that you are interested by being available and attentive while they are completing their assignments.

The most important advice I can give is to maintain open communication with your child’s teacher. If assignments are taking longer than expected to complete, or if your child doesn’t understand the main concepts of an assignment, it’s time to call or email the teacher. Not only will your child’s teacher have a better understanding of how your child is learning, but they may also be able to provide some tips to help you during homework time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Families Matter Show 09/26 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Join the hosts of the Families Matter Show on September 26, 2012 at 6pm EST, 5pm CDT, 4pm MST and 3pm PST.
This show only airs live once a month on the 4th Wed. of the month.
The idea of this show is to have the hosts, guests and listeners (adults or kids) share information to help empower children and their families.

Our September show topic is Formal Dances for Teens. What parents and teens need to know, watch out for and understand from dressing for these events to activities before and after the dance.
Host Kecia Burcham works as a middle school counselor and holds a masters degree in education/school counseling as well as being a certified trainer in the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" curriculum.
Host VS Grenier is a mom of three beautiful children ranging in age from Teenager to a toddler. She writes in the children's genre and has been doing so for over 6 years. She is also a retired Fashion Buyer and Marketing Specialist.

Host Irene Roth is a freelance writer for teens, tweens and kids. Roth is also the co-host on blog talk radio's shows SFC Magazine News and Stories for Children. She has published over 150 Ezine articles on different topics that are relevant to self-esteem and self-confidence for girls.

Learn more about us at

Listen to the show at
Families Matter Show 09/26 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

10 Family-Friendly Apple Themed Ideas

Fall has finally arrived, and that means its apple season! There’s no better way to enjoy this time of the year then to do things that honor this seasonably delicious fruit. Whether you’re looking to go on an apple themed adventure or do an apple themed activity with the kids, here are 10 family-friendly ideas that revolve around apples and are definitely worth checking out.
  1. Go apple picking- What better way to get in the fall spirit then by apple picking? Round up the kids and take them to a nearby farm or orchard so that they can experience apple picking firsthand.  The best apple picking is typically in the northern states, but apple picking is even possible in a state like Texas.  Visit to find a pick-your-own-apple orchard near you.
  2. Head to grandma’s to make apple pie- Baking apple pie with grandma is an annual tradition for a lot of people, and many families have special apple pie recipes that have been handed down for generations.  If you’re just starting your own tradition and need a simple apple recipe, this one will do the trick: Bring 2 refrigerated pie crusts to room temperature according to package directions.  Line a pie plate with one crust.  Peel, core and slice enough apples to fill a pie plate (about 6 cups).  Toss the apples with ¾ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of flour, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of salt.  Pile the apples into a premade pie crust and dot with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Top with 2nd crust and crimp edges together with fork.  Cut slits in the top to vent steam.  Bake at 425 degrees F until apples are tender and the crust is brown (45 to 50 min).  If the edges seem to be getting too brown cover them with foil.
  3. Make applesauce- There are many ways to make applesauce, but the easiest is to peel, core, and chop 4 lbs. of apples and put them into a slow cooker.  Add ½ cup of sugar, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 cup of water, and a tablespoon of lemon juice.  Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.
  4. Bake apple bread-  Combine together 4 eggs, 2 cups of sugar, 1 ½ cups of oil, 2 cups of sliced and peeled apples, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 3 cups of flour.  Mix after each ingredient in the order that is listed.  Spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick spray and divide the batter between the pans.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 60 minutes.
  5. Bob for apples- This time honored game is often played at fall festivals or Halloween parties.  To set up your own apple bobbing station at a party you’ll need to get a big barrel or tub and fill it full of water.  Float clean apples in the tub.  Using nothing except your mouth, try to grab an apple out of the tub.  This game is fun for both the bobber and those watching.  Expect to get wet.
  6. Make caramel apples- A sticky, but traditional, fall activity is making caramel apples.  Unwrap all candies in a 14 ounce bag of caramels and add to a medium saucepan.  Add 2 tablespoons of water and heat over low heat.  Stir occasionally until the caramels melt.  In the meantime, wash and dry 6 granny smith apples and put a wooden stick into each apple.  Once the caramels are melted add ½ teaspoon of vanilla and stir.  Remove from the heat and dip the apples into the caramel.  Allow some of the caramel to drip off before placing the coated apples on foil.  Finish dipping the remaining apples, then transfer the apples and foil into the refrigerator to cool.
  7. Do apple art- Cut an apple in half exposing the ‘star’ shape in the middle.  Allow kids to dip the apple halves into tempera paint and stamp it on some paper.  Use one apple half per paint color so as not to mix up the paints.  Allow stamped art to dry overnight.
  8. Make shrunken apple head people- Peel a large apple.  Using a plastic knife or spoon remove chunks of apple to make it look like a face.  Create a space for eyes and a forehead.  Press in 2 whole cloves for the eyes.  Then make the nose, mouth, and chin.  Soak the carved apple in a bowl of water containing 2 tablespoons of salt and the juice of 2 lemon wedges for 10 minutes.  Set these creations aside until they are completely dried or hang them by the stem if you have one.  A dry, dark place is best for drying.  It could take up to 2 weeks for them to dry completely.
  9. Create your own apple air freshener- Press whole cloves into a fresh apple until you have used 10 to 20 cloves.  Set the apple on a saucer wherever you’d like to have an air freshener.
  10. Read the book Ten Apples Up on Top - This Dr. Seuss classic is a funny story about balancing apples on your head.  By the end of the story everyone is trying to balance 10 apples on top of their head.  As an activity related to the story you could allow everyone to try to balance apples on top of their head.

1st posting at: ( by Carrie Dotson.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Back to School, Welcome Fall

It is well into the back to school routine and kids are feeling the fall nip in the air as they head off to the classroom this September. It can be difficult to keep kids motivated to do well in school when the sun is shining and there is so much to do including homework, dinner, sports, and playing with friends. Here are a few ideas to help balance the beautiful fall weather, school, and helping your child to excel.

1. Don't over schedule them. Let kids pick one or two activities that are age appropriate but avoid letting them do everything possible. Over scheduling kids puts them at risk for fatigue, poor school performance, and not enjoying the activity at all.

2. Plan for family time. During the busy week it sometimes feels impossible to have family time so schedule it on the calendar like every other activity. Avoid waiting for the weekend because weekends can be overly busy too.

3. Encourage regular outside exercise and recreation. Children do better with school work if they also get to do something fun and relaxing.

4. Encourage regular meal times including breakfast. A good breakfast helps to start the day off with the fuel that kids need to do well in school.

5. Help kids to have a regular bedtime. Children need more sleep than they think they do so it is important for parents to encourage regular bedtimes and the correct amount of sleep.

These tips are suggestions to keep kids feeling their best and to offer a balance between work and play. When kids feel good and have activities that they enjoy without being stressed or over-scheduled, they will perform better in school. Balance is the key  to health and learning and can lead to a more peaceful and successful start to the fall semester no matter what grade your child is in.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bombs, Bananas, and Beckham: An Interview with Maggie Lyons

Vin and the Dorky Duet is a middle-grade adventure story about magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths, and other disasters that erupt when Vin, an inventive seventh-grader, takes up his sister Meg’s challenge. To wriggle out of playing trumpet in a duet with Meg, he must befriend an unsociable nerd and persuade the nerd’s trumpet-playing brother, Brad, to take his place. If Vin’s Operation BS—as he calls it—succeeds, Meg will meet the hunky Brad, whom she has a crush on, and Vin will win an autographed  David Beckham soccer jersey.

Vin has agreed to take a few moments out of his busy day to interview Maggie.

Vin: This will be a short interview because I’ve got soccer practice in an hour.

Maggie: That’s fine. I told your mom to pick you up in ten minutes. Now, I know you want to know why I saddled you with the Welsh name of Bevyn. At the time I had a perfectly logical reason: I gave you a Welsh mom, an immigrant like me. I realized there was a good chance you wouldn’t like the name Bevyn, at least not while you were young because most kids don’t want to be different. They want to be just like other kids and that includes having names that are not unusual. So I had everyone call you Vin, spelled with the letter i instead of a y.

Vin: Everyone except Meg, you mean.

Maggie: Siblings can be a pain.

Vin: Tell me about it. Does my name mean anything in Welsh?

Maggie: It means “youthful.” You’ll be forever youthful, Vin.

Vin: Cool. Did you grow up in Wales?

Maggie: I was born in a small coal-mining town in South Wales but brought up in the county of Surrey in England. That was during and after World War II when rationing and neighborhood bombsites were part of everyday life. My mom told me the government allowed families one banana a week, which my dad was awarded because he loved bananas and because he deserved a treat. He was an air-raid warden. He had to patrol the streets at night to make sure people drew their black-out drapes to stop their lights from being visible and to help people when bombs were dropped. I used to play on a bombsite across the street from my house. It had plenty of dirt to make mud pies and some good concrete to roll marbles.

Vin: Why couldn’t you let any light shine out of windows?

Maggie: To make it difficult for German bomber crews to identify urban areas.

Vin: The worst thing that ever dropped on me was from a bird. My friend Eyeballs’s brother went on a student exchange to Germany. He made a lot of friends there.

Maggie: That’s the way the world works, Vin. Enemies sometimes become friends.

Vin: Wouldn’t that be a bit difficult after your enemy killed you? Just kidding. I think I know what you mean. I couldn’t imagine a nerdy person like Eyeballs becoming my friend, but he did, even though he’s not interested in soccer like me. Did you play soccer when you were a kid?

Maggie: I played field hockey in the winter on frozen ground and hated it. I was terrified of the whirling hockey sticks. I wasn’t any good at sports, maybe because my eyesight was poor. I wore thick glasses like Eyeballs.

Vin: The Welsh like sports, though, don’t they? Aren’t they famous for rugby?

Maggie: Yes. Football, as Brits call soccer, is very popular in Wales. Rugby is the national sport of Wales and plays a major role in Welsh culture.

Vin: Talking of sports, sorry, but I gotta go. Soccer practice. Oh yeah! Meg got me the David Beckham autographed soccer jersey. I framed it. Looks real cool. Thanks for putting that idea in her head. She’d never have thought of it without you.

Maggie: You’re welcome, Vin. I enjoyed chatting with you.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Maggie Lyons is a writer and editor who was born in Wales and crossed the pond to Virginia. With no regard for the well-being of her family and neighbors, she trained as a classical pianist. Then came a career of putting rear ends on seats—that is, orchestral management, marked by reams of marketing and fundraising writing and program note scribbling for audiences many of whose first priority was to find their names in the donors’ lists. Editing for academic publishers also brought plenty of satisfaction—she admits she has a fondness for nerds—but nothing like the magic she discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Several of her articles, poetry, and a chapter book miraculously appeared in Stories for Children Magazine and knowonder! magazine. She hopes her stories encourage reluctant young readers to turn a page or two.

Her middle-grade adventure story Vin and the Dorky Duet is available as an e-book at MuseItUp Publishing’s bookstore (MuseItYoung section), on Amazon at, and as a paperback at Halo Publishing International at and on Amazon at

Her middle-grade adventure story Dewi and the Seeds of Doom will be released by as an e-book by MuseItUp Publishing and as a paperback by Halo Publishing International in October. More information at:, and

You can find out more about Maggie Lyons and her book through her World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: Banished

Banished:The Riddled Stone, Book One
By: Teresa Gaskins 
Publisher: Tabletop Academy Press;date: 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-892083-16-6
Reading level: Ages 10-15
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Synopsis: Christopher Fredrico is the nineteen-year-old son of a nobleman, Earl Diard Fredrico, in the kingdom of North Raec, ruled over by King Miles. Chris’s oldest brother Anthony is a knight in service with the Duke of Grith, and his twin sister Trillory seems to have some magical abilities. Formerly a united realm, the kingdom of Raecwas divided into North Raec and South Raec following the Great Reac War. During the war King Miles had followed a series of cryptic clues that led him to the magical Riddled Stone, surrounded by hard, black rock which split into five Shards. This enabled him to make peace. For the past four years, Chris, who is planning to become a scholar, has been in school with his three friends:Arnold, who is training to become a knight; Nora, from the city of North Yorc;and Terrin, of the forest people of Xell.
At a party for Crown Prince Tyler Coric, a man named Darwin, who is the caretaker for one of the Shards, announces that it has been stolen and shows a brooch marked with the seal of Earl Diard’s house which was found at thescene. Chris’s brother Anthony then comes forward to accuse Chris of the crime. Because of the evidence and Chris’s inability to prove his innocence, he is banished by Prince Tyler fromNorth Raec and given one month to get out of the country or forfeit his life. Arnold, Nora, and Terrin decide to go with him, but on the way to the Diamond Isles, Chris changes his mind and decides to start looking for evidence that might prove him innocent. But before they get very far, they are attacked and captured by a group of savage Harpies. Will they survive the attack and be able to escape? Will Chris ever find anything that will help to show his innocence? And what is his brother Anthony’s motive for accusing him?

Overall impressions: Banished is a captivating fantasy story with a well-thought-out plot that would be a credit to any writer. But it is especially remarkable coming from a thirteen-year-old student who has been homeschooled all her life. Teresa Gaskins actually wrote this book as a project for the National Novel Writing Month program. One noteworthy thing about the book is that there is no sexuality or bad language (the euphemistic interjection “Blasted”is used once), so, other than those who object to the presence of any kind of magic in books, parents can let their kids read the novel with no reservations. However, be forewarned. When you reach the final page and find the words, “Not the End…,” you will cry, “Oh! No!” The story does not resolve itself at the end and then pick up in a sequel. Rather,the plot is left hanging at the end and will continue in another book. I for one feel as if I simply can’t wait to read the next installment to find out what happens to Chris and his friends. It’s that good!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Importance of September

September is an important month and we are almost half way through another September season. Every year it marks the beginning of somethings and the ending of all things related to summer. Here are the reasons that September is so special.
  • The new school year has begun and it gives every student the opportunity to make a fresh start with their education. September is the best time to start getting more organized and to put more effort into grades and school work. It can be the time to start a new sport and make new friends. September and the beginning of the school year is the best time to begin the year with a new slate and make it your best school year ever.
  • September is Childhood Cancer awareness month. This is a good opportunity to learn about the variety of diseases that affect children and those that could benefit from more research and fund raising efforts. It can be a good time to get involved with the cause and to  make a contribution to help someone dealing with this disease.
  • September is the month that we celebrate Labor Day. We praise and acknowledge those who work so hard to support their families and to those whose efforts have made the work place a safer place.
  • September is the beginning of fall. Crisp sunny days, cool nights, bright fall colors, sweet smells of apples, pumpkins, and burning leaves. September and October are the best months to soak up the last of the warm weather and prepare for the oncoming winter season.
  • September brings with it a peaceful feeling for most. It is the end of the extreme heat and more comfortable temperatures that allow us to walk, run, hike, and bike while enjoying the beauty of nature during the changing of the leaves.
  • September brings the last of the garden veggies, herbs, and blasts of summer flowers before the winter settles into it's new dormant state of winter. Baking cookies, apple crisp, and pumpkin pie along with carmel apples, cider, and visits to the orchards all stir up family memories to warm the heart.
September offers new beginnings, great photo opportunities because of the natural beauty at this time of year, and a time to relax and rejuvenate in preparation for the soon to be upon us Holiday Season. Take time to enjoy September this year.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: Good People Everywhere

Good People Everywhere
By: Lynea Gillen and Kristina Swarner
Publisher: Three Pebble Pres LLC
Date: 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-9799289-8-7
Reading level: Ages 3 and up
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Synopsis: What do children see when they watch the news? They learn about bad deeds by people who shoot others in a crowded theater or a public school. It could almost make them wonder if there are any good people left! Yet,we know that there are many good people like carpenters who build the houses in which we live, farmers who grow and cooks who make the food we eat, doctors and midwives who deliver babies, teachers, musicians, and millions and millions of others who help us in various ways by doing very good things, including our moms,dads, sisters, and brothers. What good things can you and I do to help someone else?

Overall impressions: It is important for children to be reminded that there are still caring people in their world. Author Lynea Gillen, who was a school teacher and counselor for over thirty years and is now in private practice, tells a gentle, soothing story,illustrated with warm, full-color images by Kristina Swarner, that will help to ease youngsters’ fears and develop a sense of gratitude. In the back there are two bonus activities that teachers, parents, counselors, and therapists can use to reinforce and extend the learning into daily life by giving children an opportunity to practice the skills that will enable them to grow into thankful and giving people. Good People Everywhere will encourage children to recognize the good people in their lives and would make an excellent bedtime story. 

Related link: (publisher)


*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive.