7 Tips for Back-To-School Success

We are a two-teacher household, and we do not “work” in the summer. We keep busy with summer rehearsals for school-year ensembles, curriculum writing, prepping classrooms for the next school year, I’m taking courses towards my Master’s, blah blah blah…Oh yeah and we do have the kids. So yes, “It must be nice to have all summer off.” You know what? It truly is.  It’s reparative and rejuvenating.  Without summer, most teachers would burn out twice as fast, do half as good a job with their students, and quit. Everybody knows that, right? Good. 

In teacher world, the last week of summer means one thing: DO ALL THE THINGS.  It’s an understandably huge checklist of Must Do This Before September, so as to delay the inevitable transformation into a tired, crazy person once the year starts throwing its punches.

Being an immature and slightly irresponsible person (my husband patiently calls it “spontaneous”), I get a different urge that last week: Go places and do fun stuff, because life is for the living and the tired crazy person thing is gonna happen anyway.  It’s like Jekyll and Hyde for educators.  We rode the train and ate and drank in Philly, went to playgrounds, went out, had friends over, swam, slept in, did absolutely nothing, went on a pirate ship

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(Did you think I was kidding? This is my new mental happy place to go to when in-service meetings run long…)

So here we have this, From Parent Further, Back-to-School: A Parent’s Checklist. Isn’t it great?

“One month before school starts, do this…Three weeks before school starts, do this….”  Yeah. “Great”, as in, “Haaaaa, I laughed so hard, that was ‘great’!”

I have my own special check list for you, guaranteed to bring you back-to-school happiness. Feel free to print and post on the fridge for your own convenience, as we return to school this week in New Jersey. If you’re already back… my condolences.

  • Children who watch a maximum of 2 hours of TV and eat a balanced diet including 5-7 fruits and vegetables a day do better in school. Encourage your child to sit near one of those kids.



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That 70’s Mom


Of all the compliments that I’ve believed received, one of my favorites was:

 “You’re like a 70’s mom.”

The fields of child psychology and parenting have come a long way since 1970, so this could sound less than complimentary. And I have way better hair than Kitty Foreman.


A friend said this to me at a little gathering at my place.  I had off-handedly ‘suggested’ that all the darling but LOUD children there be banished outside until dinnertime. Or until someone was bleeding, whatever came first.

This favorable comparison came to mind again when I found this post by the fun blogger at Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds, called “If 70’s Moms had Blogs.”  I highly recommend you go read it, it’s a good time. Enjoy it with a cup of Sanka, I’ll wait. 

Welcome back. It worth the click, right?  I love where she’s all pleased with herself for warning the kids against combine Pop Rocks and Pepsi. Later the kids play until they fall asleep, unsupervised! Because it’s “Grown-Up Time” downstairs. It’s like she’s in my head and knows my wildest dreams…

Now, her hyperbolic post was intended for entertainment purposes only. So naturally I’m going to take it way too far, and decide that when I grow up, I’d like to be: *cue superhero music*


(I told you I like messing with graphics.)

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I Love Louis

A (smart) relative told me years ago that I’d love Louis C. K.

She was wrong at the time. I hated him.

At her suggestion, I checked out his TV special called “Hilarious” on Netflix, which was supposed to be pretty good. Hilarious, in fact.  It started out with a pudgier, red-haired guy ranting about the word “faggot”. When he was younger it didn’t mean what it means today. Why is it such an insult now? “Faggot” had nothing to do with a judgement of one’s sexual orientation; it meant your social behavior was annoying and you were being, well, a “faggot”.  And he went on like that.

Already I feel like apologizing for this ugly word, and I’m just quoting someone else.  I got tired of hearing that word pretty quickly then, too, and turned off the TV. I wouldn’t blame you if you already clicked off this post. You didn’t, did you? Still here? Well you did better than me. At the time, I completely missed the point in his opening bit: Though societal factors affect their connotation, words have only the power that we give them. I know, deep, right? I still turned it off. I just didn’t hear the message over voice expressing it; swearing like a sailor. Or a crabby, balding, 8th grade boy.

I recently gave him another chance when he came up on a comedy radio channel on Spotify (more about this addiction another day). I was driving through several states to see my sister, and there was Louis. He was explaining both sides of the spanking issue. Kids are tiny, barely-formed people who trust wholeheartedly and whose behavior is mostly our fault, and we’re BIGGER than them, yet we hit them as punishment…but on the other hand, parenting is a high pressure job that sucks you dry and he can completely understand life’s stressors contributing to someone lashing out – because he’s wanted to a billion times. Me too, buddy. Me too.

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Now Hear This: “All About That Bass” and Other Self-Esteem Anthems

As one of those rare music teachers who doesn’t yet hate music, I’m kind of into analyzing some songs. Very little of that material would count towards my graduate credits, sadly. I’ll be doing a recurring series here called “Now Hear This”.  Here’s #1, a little summer earworm. You’re welcome.

First, a head’s up: this video and song are not exactly suitable for younger children. Neither is anything else on this blog, because of slightly colorful language and the revealing too many secrets. The song uses a little language, some visual Katy Perry tributes.  Just a warning, in case you’re not into that kind of thing. Or if you are.

By the time this post is published, this song will be close to three months old and therefore, Jurassic news. But we haven’t had a good Fat Chick Anthem in a while. And we fat chicks need all the anthems we can get. In the footsteps of other self-esteem songs, like “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilara and “Video” by India Arie, we have here a celebration of one’s own body and self-image. If you have never played “Video” for your daughters, do it today. And sons.  The song was released on June 2, 2014. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 list on July 26, 2014 and has been doing quite well since, peaking at #4.  The video is adorable, and to me seems reminiscent of the cover of Dionne Warwick’s”Wishin’ and Hopin’ that opened the film “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, in 1997. Remember that? Here you go.

Side note about “Wishin’ and Hopin”: In its original 1963 form, the song sweetly told us to “Wear your hair just for him”, and other submissive pre-feminist garbage. Remember this song now? I have no idea how that was to be interpreted in 1963. However, the fact that the covering artist in the ’97 version is Ani DiFranco, in all her feminist-icon and therefore beautifully ironic glory, makes this version a self-esteem anthem as well. And fun video to watch. 

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The 4 Year-Old Curriculum

The 4 year old starts Pre-K this year. In our public school district, Pre-K is free and lasts half the day, much like Kindergarten in days gone by. This is because Pre-K is the new Kindergarten. Kindergarten is the new First Grade. First is the new Second, and after that you’d better be ready to take the SAT’s, kid, cause it’s about that time.  Hopefully somewhere in there you find time to learn to tie your shoes.

Actually? When I was in Kindergarten I was the dead-last kid to learn to tie my shoes. This was humiliating. Nowadays, motor skills like these develop later. I presume this because it is not a standard skill among my first graders.  I have even had 8 year olds asking me to tie their shoes. Spoiler: I did not.  Now ask me if my 7 1/2 year-old is all that good at it…

This past summer I ran across a great blog post from the blog A Magical Childhood, and loved it. “What Should a 4 Year Old Know” was a calming reminder that, though my little one is not reading or writing like my big one was at this age, there are far more important things than a knowledge of the two sounds “G” makes.   I will admit to buying a Pre-K workbook for us to use when we ‘played school’ in the summer.  We cracked it once. Again, we had stuff to do.

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Posto Numero Uno

That sounds about right.  So here we have post #1.

Don’t worry, I’ve been writing through most of August. There’s more than this.  Maybe even today, if you’re good. This pathetic little paragraph punctuated by dinosaur cartoons is not all I’ve got, so my vast audience of devoted readers need not fear.  The first post on a blog is always a kind of the book dedication, that’s all. Because all bloggers secretly wish for a book deal. And wine. We like wine too.

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