Getting the Most Out of Your “Staycation”

Top Ideas for Spring Break at Home

Spring Break can be a fabulous time to travel and see new things, to refresh and rejuvenate, experience new things at home, or even get ahead for the coming months. These four ideas really resonated as ways to get the most from a Spring Break Staycation.

#1  Play!
Recreation is one of the best ways to make new memories, recover from stress, and feed creative thinking and growth mindsets. Whether it’s bicycling, jump roping, swimming, running, skating, playing tag or getting really creative with a water balloon war or even making your own field day plan, go out and play.

Play, Education, Student Engagement and LivingTree

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” – Dale Carnegie


#2  Help Your High Schooler Find the Fun Jobs & Internships
Think how good it would feel to for them to get ahead on the summer job search and find something seriously fun to work at or an inspiring place to intern. The truly fun jobs and internship spots will be taken up first, and March is the time that many employers begin searching for candidates to fill positions. Get ahead of the rush and grab your seat in the “fun section”!

Here are a few ideas to get you going:
→  How to Find an Internship You’ll Value
→  Search for Internships Across the US
→  Types of Internships for High School Students


#3  Do Volunteer Work and Make Someone’s Day!
When you help someone it pays you and those around you in kind. Volunteer work is the best cure for being sad about missing out on the expensive vacation the neighbors got to take. Making someone else’s day is priceless and feeds the heart and mind. Whether it’s helping the elderly neighbors with yard work or joining in on a Habitat for Humanity project, any form of volunteer work that interests you or your children is sure to bring smiles as well as great lessons and stories.


#4  Organize and Clear Your Mind and Worries Away
It is absolutely true that a clear house lends to a clear mind. Prepare to more fully enjoy the weeks ahead by organizing. The more organized you are in your closet, kitchen, supplies and files, the more successful you will be because every day life will just feel easier. Instead of rummaging around for whatever you need at every other moment, you can move through your day with ease and grace when you are organized. The entire household can breathe easier every day when you are and remain organized along the way.

Need more convincing?
→  About The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
→  Creative Ways to Declutter by

Teaching Your Child Healthy Friendship Skills

Written by Guest Blogger: Lisa Montierth

Summer is just over the horizon!

It’s coming at us fast, and it’s bringing all sorts of wonderful things with it: long hours spent under the sun, barbecues, family vacations, and, of course, a break from all the routines of the school year. With all that free time sprawling ahead of you, you’re probably thinking about how to keep your kids happy and adequately occupied for three months.

Summer blows your child’s regular schedule wide open, paving the way for much more self-directed activity – time that is often spent with their friends. With so much more time for play dates and activities, this is the perfect time to talk to your kids about friendship skills.

Friendship is important at any age, and it can be especially critical for kids. Kids are still learning about social skills, and relationships will always have their ups and downs. The best thing to do is to stay calm and gently offer guidance when your kids need you. Here are some ways you can help your child be a better friend:

Encourage team building. Activities where kids can work together toward a common goal are great for developing friendships. Things like building forts, playing games with teams, and making an obstacle course encourage negotiation, communication, and problem solving.

Give positive feedback. If you see your children doing something pro-social, like sharing a treat or helping in a game, let them know how that action shows their friends that they care. Making note of these kind and thoughtful actions will help your child understand what sort of behavior makes a good friend.

Put the ball in their court. If your children come to you about a problem with a friend, take the opportunity to work through the situation with them instead of just trying to fix it. Ask them what happened, how they felt about it, and what they could try next. Ask how they tried to make the situation better, compliment them for trying, and let them know you support them. Don’t dwell on the situation. Just address it and then move on.

Role-play social skills. Have conversations with your child about how to handle important social interactions, like:
– Being a good listener
– Having a group discussion
– Following rules
– Asking questions
– Having a conversation
– Apologizing
– Being a good sport

Get to know the parents of your child’s friends. Especially if your kids are shy around new people, modeling friendship with the parents of your child’s friends is key. Connecting with other parents is also a great way to build community, and stay updated about what’s happening in other areas of your child’s life.

Friendships are important for kids, and learning how to be a good friend is a skill that will serve them through their lives. With a little guidance and support from you, your child can be a better friend – and your whole family will have a great summer!

How to Successfully Engage with Your Child’s Classroom

Written by Guest Blogger:  Lisa Montierth

As parents, there’s nothing that we wouldn’t do to help our kids succeed. All week we tow them to and from school, lessons, and clubs, happily trading in our valuable time to help enrich theirs, all without blinking an eye.

So if you knew there was a way to help your child dream bigger, have better self-esteem, and enjoy school more, you’d probably do it in a heartbeat. Luckily, these benefits can easily be achieved – just by getting involved at your child’s school.

Being more involved in the classroom has so many benefits, and not just for your child; parental involvement benefits the whole class, the teachers, the school… it even benefits you!

Research has shown that when parents participate in the classroom, children are more likely to achieve more, get better grades, complete their homework, increase their self-discipline, and have a more positive attitude about school. Parental involvement boosts school morale and teacher satisfaction, leading to improved communication and more respect between teachers and parents. And the benefits extend to parents as well.

Parents gain confidence, become more responsive, and positively interact with their children more when they become involved in the classroom. They are more in tune with their child’s development, and their relationships with their children often become more affectionate, leading to the use of positive reinforcement rather than punishment in the home.

So: Parent engagement in the class leads to happier kids, more satisfied teachers, and better schools. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But it gets a little trickier when you remember that sometimes just finding the time to get dinner on the table every night is a major accomplishment!

The secret to successful and sustainable classroom involvement is being honest about what you can take on. It’s okay to make it easy on yourself. Sign up for things that you will genuinely enjoy, and don’t give in to any nagging doubts about what you “should” be doing at school. The National Parent-Teacher Association says that even three hours of school volunteer work per year can make an impact.

Being realistic about what you can do sets you up for success, and makes the experience much more enjoyable for everyone. Try one of these ways to get involved at school:

– Love reading and books? Offer to be a class reader or volunteer at the school library.

– Are you a secret drama or music star? Assist with an extracurricular club for the arts.

– Did you grow up playing soccer? Help out with a school sports program.

– Have a love of learning? Volunteer to tutor or work in the computer lab.

– Still don’t know have the slightest idea where to start? Just ask! Teachers will likely have plenty of ways that you can help out, from a bit of classroom organization to a big project like planning and attending a field trip. (Don’t forget, LivingTree makes parent/teacher communication a breeze!)

Family, Inc.

Make technology work for you – instead of letting technology simply make more work!

Family, Inc…  Family, Inc.  What’s that?

No, Family, Inc. isn’t the latest family focused start-up aimed at toppling Disney or Pixar.  It’s also not the pre-quel or sequel for Monsters, Inc. Family, Inc. is one of the latest trends in parenting.

If you’re like me, it’s actually hard to keep up with all of them.  The trends mash with the descriptors:  helicopter parents, mindful parenting. We’re told only tummy sleeping for safety, then no tummy sleeping for safety…swaddling for comfort…No, just kidding, no swaddling……NO SWADDLING?? WHAT???  How do I keep up?  How do I make sure my house is one of harmony, health, and happy memories for all?  It seems like the age of technology has given us so much information and so many trends that we don’t know where to turn.  So, why should I try to understand one more trend?  What is this Family, Inc.?

In a nutshell, Family, Inc. is the trend towards using work tools to manage your family.  The basic premise is that corporations have spent decades of research improving and perfecting group dynamics for optimal output.  Why shouldn’t we, as parents and families, reap the benefits of the findings, methodologies and tools to improve our family’s daily chaos?  There’s a lot of chatter on this topic. This Wall Street Journal article offers a great summary and describes it in these terms: “A new generation of parents is taking solutions from the workplace and transferring them to the home. From accountability checklists to branding sessions, the result is a bold new blueprint for happy families.”

A summary so that you don’t have more to read:

Family Inc. = Using the best of the business world to help manage family life (mission statements, team meetings, accountability checklists, tools, etc.).

I have to admit, as a working mom, I like the idea of utilizing what I know works in managing teams.  After all, my family is a team, right?   And a blueprint for a happy family sounds like a huge win.  This said, the last thing I want to use when I’m at home are cold, corporate tools that are often difficult to decipher and quite frankly, painful to use.

Then I read the entire article (and a few more) and told my inner skeptic to park it.  There were really good ideas there.  After all, I want harmony, health, and happiness, right?

It hit me then.  It was time to make technology work for us instead of letting technology simply make more work.  It was time to utilize the “skills” I’d practiced in the workforce to lay the harmonious foundation I so desired for my family.  The next big question was: Where. To. Start.  Yikes.

Family branding, empowerment, etc. sounded fantastic on paper, but how and where were we going to stay aligned on the basic day to day family functions?  Honestly, I couldn’t even dream of branding my family team before I solved some of the coordination stress.  What we needed before the full incorporation of the family was the startup phase…a simple dabbling in staying on the same page and reconnecting.  Was there something simple I could break off first for my very busy family?

Identifying primary causes of family dysfunction and stress resulted in three main buckets for us:

1)      Internal family coordination (who’s running carpool, what’s for dinner, etc.)

2)      External coordination (all those organizations and people that help us raise our kiddos…boy, do they generate a lot of ‘stuff’ for us to deal with)

3)      Capturing and sharing the joy that is our family (oh the stress of being the family historian and realizing a year has passed without organizing ANY precious mementos or memories…I actually feel the stress rising as I admit that).

Given that these were/are our three main areas of chaos, it seemed like it would be simple enough (yeah, right) to pick one and get moving.

First step:  Internal family coordination = Mom and Dad on the same page.  No more schedule mishaps + clearer check-ins BEFORE 9 PM when the kids were finally down for the night…a pulse throughout the day as needed to maintain the family conversation.  Why wait until we’re past the point of weary to share the anecdotes of the day and the things that made us giggle?  Why not share them as they happen, and allow each other to participate in the conversation and moment when we can?

Yes, a lofty goal.  One that used to be forever out of reach and take multiple applications and devices, one that used to result in lost e-mails, forgotten texts, buried photos in a smartphone, dates scattered between paper calendars and multiple online calendar apps, a goal that used to go unrealized.  To truly move forward, it was critical for us to have a tool that could combine all our needs (sharing, remembering, and coordination) in one place that we could utilize either on our laptops or mobiles.

I’m happy to say that we’ve progressed; we’re not perfect, but it’s much better.  We’re now working on sharing those snippets and thoughts that happen throughout the day in addition to sharing a private calendar that either of us can update wherever we are.  We share fun and important moments and photos as they happen, not only with each other, but with our extended families too.  Even more, we’re sharing and scheduling in the context of each of our children so that we can quickly identify what’s happening in each of their lives.  Our conversations are no longer lost in e-mails or split between different accounts or handled in tired voices when the house is finally winding down.  Conversations happen throughout the day as the memories or thoughts occur and are there when we want to look back at them.  All the information we need to realize our step one goal of Mom and Dad on the same page is right there.  We’re aligned (mostly…we are still human!) on expectations and reactions and able to laugh at more of the funny moments family life inevitably delivers.

This is what technology working for me looks like.  I like it.

Chime in with what’s working for you and stay tuned for what step two in the Family, Inc. journey will bring….

Engagement & Fundraising

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