Knee Deep in Notoriously Busy November

Now that November is in full swing, I'm sure that you are starting to feel that all-too familiar whirlwind of school + holiday + family activities that seems to kick into warp speed during this time of year. My mind is already awash with holiday plans (what to buy? what to cook? where to go? who to see? what to do?), so it is easy to get carried away with the hustle and bustle of things to come and sometimes miss the many teachable moments that present themselves to us every day.

November 8 is Parents as Teachers Day! You (YOU!) are your child's first and foremost teacher. Who else knows your children as well as you? To actually point out something as obvious as this may make you feel a bit overwhelmed (especially on top of all the other hats that you already wear as a parent and person), but don't fret. The little routines and experiences that happen everyday already provide a multitude of learning opportunities for you to capitalize on with your kids.
Here are a few easy things that you can do to turn everyday activities into educational experiences with your kids:
1. Think aloud- your reasoning skills and mental dialogue can be helpful to kids as they tackle their own problems and tasks.
2. Answer and ask questions- although some questions might seem small, your child may soak up a piece of information that could couple with other bits of information to provide a sudden revelation or fuel new insights.
3. Talk, sing, or play games in the car- you have a captive audience plus auxiliary audio to help you introduce or reiterate information.
To learn more about strategies for parents as teachers, visit PBS Parents for excellent resources and ideas.

November 5-9 is Kids' Goal Setting Week. What a wonderful reason to talk with your kids about setting some short term and long term goals. A child's goal might be as simple as playing more cooperatively with their siblings (I know, you would love for them to set this goal) or as complex as figuring out some steps to help achieve what they want to be when they grow up. Regardless of age or interests, setting goals can be a great way to provide focus and encouragement for activities. Have an older child that needs some help managing or determining their goals? Check out an interactive website from MSN called The LeBron Challenge where NBA player LeBron James shares his story and encourages others to identify and pursue their dreams. Visit LeBron's Brickwall and click on "challenge" to learn more.

November 8 is Guiness World Record Day! I have found that even the most reluctant reader will be fascinated almost to the point of obsession by something in the Guiness World Book of Records. There really, truly is a record of interest for everyone plus the specific records' statistics and details provide an excellent opportunity for math, geography and science extensions. What are the newest records and who are the record breakers? Go to The Guiness World Book of Records Online to find out who and what made it onto the acclaimed list.

Veterans Day is next week. Sunday, November 11, is Veterans Day (with many organizations officially observing on Monday, November 12 ) and November 9 is Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day. What will you do to observe Veteran's Day??? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a wealth of information on the history of Veterans Day and listings of national and state activities planned to mark the holiday. The site has a kids section that is information-rich while being easily understandable. Here are a few quality children's books that can help you reflect with your children about the meaning of Veterans Day.
The Wall by Eve Bunting (ages 4 and up)
Veterans Day by Jacqueline S. Cotton (ages 4 and up)
Scholastic Encyclopedia of the United States at War by June A. English and Thomas D. Jones (ages 8 and up)

Did you think I would forget to leave you with a few interesting facts? Brace they are:

November 7, 1731- Birth date of Benjamin Banneker, acclaimed African-American mathematician and scientist.
November 7, 1805- Lewis and Clark first sight the Pacific Ocean
November 9, 1904- First successful airplane flight for longer than 5 minutes completed by Wilbur and Orville Wright.
November 8 is Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day! Stink up the house in the name of culinary exploration!

Have a wonderful upcoming week!