Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Gift of Time

The Gift of Time

Earlier this month we gained an hour of daylight with the change over to Daylight Savings Time. I love this change and the fact that it's still light out after dinner when my kids and I take our dog for a walk.  While it is still dark in the morning when we wake up, the later sunset in the evening is truly a blessing as our family can play outside take advantage of that extra time together.

Image result for timeLater in the month, we all received an unexpected gift of time, courtesy of the virus that is changing our world as we know it.  We now have this abundance of time.  The exterior factors that once governed the time and influenced many of our day-to-day decisions are no longer in effect for many of us.  Time isn't dictating when we need to get up in the morning, the time we needed to spend at work and school, the time we had to be at practices or events.  All of that has somehow been pushed aside.  Without the constraints of time, we now have choices to make on how we are going to use this gift.

Think about that.  How many times have you said, "If only I had more time."

I need more time to finish my work.  
There's never enough time to . . . 
If only there was an extra hour in the day.
If I had more time, I could . . .

Well, now you can.  We've all been given this gift of time.  

You can start that project that you've been putting off.  You can reach out to that person you've been missing.  You can spend the time doing whatever it is that you need to.  It's your time.

You can clean out that closet that you've been saying you would.  You can watch that old movie with your spouse.  You can read that extra chapter at night with the kids.  You can play that extra-long board game as a family.  Because there's time. 

There's time to do something for yourself--to take that bubble bath or read that trashy novel.  There's time to try a new recipe or take a long walk.  There's time to take extra good care of yourself and those around you.

Even though we are separated by distance, take the time to connect with those who matter most.  Take the time to reach out to a neighbor in need, to a former student, to a colleague.  Send a personal note to your best friend in another state.  Call your favorite aunt to say hello.  Set up a regular time for your kids to FaceTime their grandparents.  

Be intentional about making time to connect with others in whatever way works best for you--but take the time.

We can use our time to make a difference.  What are you doing with this gift of time?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


I had to have a very difficult conversation with my mom yesterday.  She's 71.  She's a retail worker in a neighborhood store.  She's a friend, a wife, a mom, and probably her most beloved role, she's a grammy.

Most weeks, she drives out to our house (about 20 minutes away) and spends time with my sons, ages 5 and 7.  She plays WWE wrestlers with them.  She chases them around in our yard.  She walks them to the park.  She learns the names on all their Pokemon cards.  She reads books with them.  

She sneaks them extra treats like most grandparents do.  She lets them stay up later than they should.  She doesn't get mad when they break the rules.  

Together, they make slime with them and play board games.  They build Lego creations and have impromptu dance parties in the living room.  They have cereal for dinner.

My children cherish this time and can't wait to know when Grammy is coming to visit.  In turn, I know my mom looks forward to this time more than anything.  

My mom is active, but she is not always the picture of health.  She's in that over 70 age bracket that puts her in a vulnerable position, especially when it comes to my children and COVID19.  If it is possible that my kids could carry the virus and pass it onto her, then we could be putting her in danger.  

I can't do that.

I had to tell my mom that it was not a good idea for her to come out and see the kids for a little while.  I had to deny her the complete joy that I know she gets when she sees my boys.  While we believe that is the best way to proceed right now, it felt horrible, to say the least.

Since that conversation, I have been reflecting a lot about the grammies, nanas, paps, and poppas of the world.  While they are worried about their own health and wellness, they are also being separated from some of the people that they love the most.  Being with their grandkids brings them so much joy and often keeps them motivated to stay healthy.

How are you staying connected to grandparents and relatives in your family?  Here are some of the things that you can do while your kids are at home and separated from loved ones.

1. Facetime-- As you are figuring out your schedule for the "new normal" add in time to Facetime a grandparent or loved one each day.  Make that connection.  Revel in the smiles and check in with the people that matter.

Make this time meaningful for your kids and your family.  My boys are generating questions that they are going to ask Grammy when then talk to her today:

  • What do you like to do when you get bored at home?
  • Was school ever closed like this when you were little?
  • Do you have a favorite movie or TV show?
  • If you could safely travel anywhere right now, where would you go?
I'm planning to extend this idea as the days go on and have my kids interview my mom.  I'm thinking about all the generational things that my kids can learn from her, while also building a sense of family history.

  • Where did you go to school when you were my age?
  • Did you have a favorite subject? favorite teacher?
  • What activities did you like to do when you were little?
  • Did your family go on vacation when you were in elementary school? Where did you go?
  • What things do you remember doing with your grandparents? 

2.  Pen Pals--Keep your kids' minds sharp (and their older loved ones too) by writing letters to family members.  This can certainly be an email, but the idea of traditional letter writing allows kids to practice some academic skills at home, too.

Here are some things my boys are going to write (and draw):

  • My favorite thing to do with Grammy
  • The funniest thing Grammy ever did
  • What Grammy would do if she hit the lottery

3. "Play" Together--This is a challenge to do from a distance, but think creatively.  Create videos to share with one another.  Can grandparents share a magic trick or cooking tip with the kids?  Can the kids tell jokes or teach their grandparents how to code a robot? Send videos back and forth as another way to stay connected. 

I'm sure there are lots of other ideas that we can try, but my family is going to start here.  I will continue to post more ideas on how to stay connected.  We are going to do one thing each day to connect with the loved ones who feel so far away right now.  I know this will help my kids during this time of uncertainty, but it will also help my mom.  It will help all of the grandparents out there who are craving time with the little people in their lives.  What will you do stay safe and stay connected?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Cool Tech for Creative Learners

*This post includes affiliate links.

Do your students love creating videos? In this YouTube generation, many creative young minds in our classrooms crave the chance to make their own videos. Some might have the imagination but not the interest in being in front of the camera. Others might want to design the background or do the sound effects. In creative classrooms, students are embracing these challenges and turning them into opportunities to communicate with peers, think critically about new ideas and collaborate with others.

Ask a group of elementary students if they want to try out a new creative technology tool and chances are, they are going to jump at the chance. Add to the experience that they get to connect with the designers of the game and provide feedback after playing it. This was an opportunity posed to some of our students this year.

With their curiosity piqued, a group of third-grade students in our district had the chance to try out Toaster Pets. This is a new classroom tool that pairs digital creation through a simple-to-use app with the hands-on manipulation of character blocks. With a tabletop green screen and small animal characters, Toaster Pets provides a variety of options for students looking to design and create. This collaborative tool turns students into script-writers and movie makers.

What can students create in the classroom?

When students use their device to open the Toaster Pets app and try out their characters, they can use their imaginations to create just about anything. Your students might create:

  • Animated movies
  • Music videos 
  • Educational videos 
  • Video messages 
  • Cartoons 
How did our students respond?

Our 3rd graders absolutely loved the app and hands-on characters. With very little direction at all, the students were quick to figure out features like adding music and adding their own voice recording for each character. Working in small groups of 2-4 students, groups accessed virtual props and colorful backgrounds to tell their stories and create their videos. Students adjusted images and added different effects as they enhanced their scenes and developed interactions with their characters.


Students explored the app for about 45 minutes and could’ve kept going, but paused to reflect on the experiences and share some feedback with the design team. Students wanted access to more props and characters. They had ideas for different scenes and types of music to add.  Some were even ready to design their own! Each group was thoroughly engaged in the discussion and had meaningful feedback to share with the Toaster Pets team.

At the conclusion of the experience, students were asked to leave a compliment on a sticky note for the team to take back with them. Here are a few things the students shared:

“I liked that you could unlock multiple characters.”

“I made a racing scene and another scene with soccer.”

“I loved it! It was so much fun.”

Ready to try it?

You will be amazed at the imaginative thinking that happens when students are given the freedom to create using this tool. Toaster Pets can be used with Apple or Android devices. Use this link to check out all that Toaster Pets has to offer!