“Some of the boys at this school are, like, really ratchet.”

 If your idea of a perfect date is going to Starbucks or Chipotle, then you might be Skellie or you might be a middle schooler. A group of 12ish year olds sat down to answer the hard-hitting questions of relationships like, “What is dating like?”.

Now, if you’re an experienced dater (and older than 12) your answer would probably be something like “Dating sucks balls because you have to remember to shave your legs”. Am I right? But if you’re still testing out the ‘dating’ waters like these kiddos there are some things to be learned. However, we do like the idea of taking a date to CVS; cheap candy and boxed wine?

These youngsters might be onto something.

Dear Rachel,

Next week you start middle school. Since you are the oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, you are excited about meeting new people, having new experiences, and gaining more independence. I am excited, too. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching you grow and bloom.

I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. You see, I have heard lots of stories about kids – adolescents – making bad decisions, succumbing to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriate purposes, and trying to do grown up things like sexting and drugs far too soon. I’m sure you have heard some of these stories, too.

Part of me wants to think you are too smart and too good to fall into those traps. However, there is another part of me that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

We are currently standing at the bottom of a mountain – a mountain called adolescence and puberty and middle school and high school. We are preparing for the climb that will lead us to a peak with the most wonderful views and a fantastic sense of accomplishment. On our way there, though, as we climb to the top, I want you to remember these pieces of advice. I will do all that I can to remember them as well.

1. Work hard. Remember that school work comes first and everything else is secondary. That includes sports and friends and other hobbies. I don’t expect you to be perfect, but I do expect you to try your hardest every time. If you do, I will be proud, but you will be prouder.

2. Be brave. You are going to have so many new experiences. Some will be good. Some will not. When you face these challenges, be brave. Stand up for what you believe even if it makes you “uncool.” That will fade, but your courage will make a lasting impression.

3. Be yourself. You are unique and wonderful and just the way God intended you to be. Don’t ever change in an effort to “fit in.” If others cannot see how fantastic and remarkable you are, that is their loss – not yours.

4. Do what you know is right. When others are pressuring you to do something and your gut tells you not to – LISTEN! We have tried our best to teach you what is right and what is wrong. You will know it in your heart. You just have to follow your instincts.

5. Get organized. School and life are only going to get harder and busier and more complicated from here on out. Get organized now. Learn how to manage your time. Don’t procrastinate. These are habits that will help you in middle school, in high school, in whatever career you choose, and in life for a long time to come.

6. Be kind. Adolescence can be tough and awkward and uncomfortable. Remember that everyone is struggling with something. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Even when it’s not popular, be compassionate and courteous.

7. Be confident. You are awesome. Don’t ever forget that. You can do anything you set your mind to. You will change the world – I’m sure of it.
Surround yourself with the right kind of people. There is an old saying (that I heard many times from Memaw and Paw) that says something like “you are no better than the company you keep.” If others are mean or deceitful or immoral or if they try to change you, then they are not the kind of people with whom you should spend time. Rise above them.

8. Remember that we will always love you. Daddy and I are here for you anytime you need us and there is nothing you can say or do that will make us stop loving you. If you have questions, we will find answers. If you are unsure how to handle a situation, we will gladly give you guidance. If your heart is breaking, we will dry your tears. If you have made a mistake, we will help you amend it. If you are about to explode with joy, we will share your happiness. All you have to do is come to us. We are NEVER too busy for you and your “problems” are NEVER too small or too big. All you have to do is talk. We will listen. I promise.

9. Have fun. You are on the brink of learning so much and experiencing so much. It won’t all be easy going – there will be bumps in the road. But, despite the bumps, there will also be lots to enjoy. Smile. Laugh. Make new friends. Soak it in. Enjoy this stage in your life. Believe me, it will go by faster than you can believe!

This post was originally featured on Lisa’s blog, The Golden Spoons. Photo via

Can you believe it’s already August? This month marks the beginning of the school year in most parents’ calendars, and we’re celebrating with a little flashback. Remember middle school? No? It’s okay, neither do we. See what knowledge you’ve retained with this entertainingly DIFFICULT test, then pass it onto your kids and see how they stack up!

Photo via.

1. Waking up to get your kids ready, beginning of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

End of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

2. Packed lunches, beginning of year:

Packed lunches, beginning of year:

End of year:
End of year:

3. The school newsletter, beginning of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

End of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

4. How you look at drop-off, beginning of year:

How you look at drop-off, beginning of year:

End of year:

End of year:

5. Your child’s artwork, beginning of year:

Your child's artwork, beginning of year:

End of year:

End of year:

6. Running into other parents, beginning of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

End of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

7. Helping with homework, beginning of year:

Helping with homework, beginning of year:

End of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

8. Carpool, beginning of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

End of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

9. How you send your kids to school, beginning of year:

How you send your kids to school, beginning of year:

End of year:

End of year:

10. School performances, beginning of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

End of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

11. Homework folder signature, beginning of year:

Homework folder signature, beginning of year:

End of year:

End of year:

12. Costumes for school, beginning of year:

Costumes for school, beginning of year:End of year:

End of year:

13. Bake sale, beginning of year:

Bake sale, beginning of year:

End of year:

End of year:

14. How you feel about summer, beginning of the year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

End of year:

Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year Vs. The End

This post was originally featured on Buzzfeed

When I began my home schooling journey I was overwhelmed by the incredible number of curricula available.  I had no idea where to start.  If you are there, please check out this book by Cathy Duffy.

Choosing a curriculum is risky business.  I initially chose a full curriculum that I absolutely hated once we began to use it.  It was an unfortunate waste of nearly $1000 as I had gone hook, line and sinker and purchased it for two different grade levels because I was so certain that we’d love it.  I haven’t made that same mistake again.

We stopped using that curriculum about a month into home schooling and I began to piece together my own home school curriculum.  I have come across many valuable resources in the process (which I will add to the home school tab as I have time.)

I consider five different books (or sets of books) to be critical in helping me plan and create my own curriculum each year.  Here they are:

The What Your Nth Grader Needs to Know series.  These books span from Preschool to 6th grade and are a valuable resource for any parent–home schooling or not, but are especially for those who want to create their own curriculum.  

Home Learning Year by Year:  How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum.  Another must-have for me.  It’s a small book, but within its pages is a wealth of information and ideas for each level from Preschool all the way through Grade 12.  

Homeschool Your Child For Free.  This book gives an incredible number of resources–FREE resources–for lesson planning, teaching and even essentials like printables.

Story of the World My favorite history curriculum, hands-down.  Story of the World is a series of volumes from 1-4 which take you and your child through history beginning in ancient times.  The accompanying activity bookoffers worksheets, lesson ideas and a teaching guide. There is also a tests/answers book, but we’ve never used it.

Books from American Education Publishing. From Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills for each elementary grade level to specific elementary school subject such as Maps and Geography and Grammar and Punctuation, these books have been a valuable resource for worksheets that go along with the lessons I create.  You can’t beat the prices.  Especially if you have more than one child.  Make copies of the pages and continue to use the book for years.

Most pre-packaged curricula are expensive.  It is entirely possible to design an inexpensive, thorough, well-planned curriculum.  It can be time consuming at first, but if you have multiple children be sure to save your plans for each grade level to make for easier planning in the future.

Remember to copy consumables so that the books will be usable for as long as you are home schooling.

Happy Planning!

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours

At the end of the day, if they don’t starve or get scurvy, you’re doing fine.

1. Make a big batch of PB&J sandwiches in advance and freeze them.

Make a big batch of PB&J sandwiches in advance and freeze them.

A great idea from Money-Saving Mom: These will keep just fine for about 4-6 weeks. Just take one out of the freezer in the morning, pack it, and it will be thawed and ready to go by lunch time.

2. You can also freeze individual portions of rice or pasta and reheat them before you pack lunch.

You can also freeze individual portions of rice or pasta and reheat them before you pack lunch.

3. Put a rubber band around a sliced apple to keep it from turning brown.

Put a rubber band around a sliced apple to keep it from turning brown.

Alternatively: Don’t slice the apple. But this trick is pretty neat!

4. Freeze drinks the night before and they’ll double as ice packs.

Freeze drinks the night before and they'll double as ice packs.

The rest of the lunch will stay nice and cool, and the drink should thaw by lunch time.

5. You can also freeze a clean, wet sponge to use as an icepack.

You can also freeze a clean, wet sponge to use as an icepack.

When it defrosts, it’ll come in very handy for cleanup. Instructions here.

6. Have your kids pack their own lunches.

ThinkStock

You can stick a note to the fridge to remind your kids what should go in their lunch every day, and maybe lend a hand with trickier parts (like sandwich-making). But it’s easy to have them do their own assembly before bedtime every night. You’ll save time, and they won’t be able to complain about what’s in their lunchbox, because they put it there!

7. Make a snack station for your kids to choose from.

You can keep dry goods on the counter and perishables in the fridge. This tip from Real Simple saves time, helps eliminates the same-thing-every-day problem, and gives your kids some (but not TOO many) options to choose from.

8. Fill up reusable food pouches with homemade smoothies.

 

Try some of these easy smoothie recipes or just mix up whatever fruit, yogurt and juice you have around. Fill up a bunch at once and fridge or freeze until you’re ready to use.

9. Hard-boil a bunch of eggs at the beginning of the week.

Hard-boil a bunch of eggs at the beginning of the week.

They’re an easy, prep-free way to add protein to your kid’s lunch, and will keep fine in the fridge. Pack with a little container of salt and pepper for dipping.

10. Make lunches at night, not in the morning.

Make lunches at night, not in the morning.

It’s gotta get done one way or the other, but you’re a lot less likely to be frazzled (and thus pack a better, healthier lunch) when you’re not rushing to get out the door. You can also kill two birds by packing up leftovers from dinner.

11. Heat up soup or pasta in the morning and pack it in a thermos to stay warm.

Heat up soup or pasta in the morning and pack it in a thermos to stay warm.

No waiting in line to microwave it later. Just keep in mind that you may want to preheat the thermos and heat the food hotter than you normally would so that it stays warm until lunch time. Here are some helpful tips.

12. Mix homemade food with pre-packaged snacks.

 
Forget feeling guilty that you didn’t grind your own peanut butter and bake your own homemade pretzels, okay? That’s not a chill sitch, and there are plenty of individually packaged snacks you can buy that are perfectly healthy. Here are a few good suggestions.

13. Organize snacks for each day ahead of time.

Organize snacks for each day ahead of time.

You can buy divided plastic trays for a few bucks and set up snack stations in the fridge, with some variations day-to-day, at the beginning of the week. Then just grab and pack (with a sandwich) each morning. Get more info here.

14. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes (and get rid of crusts).

Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes (and get rid of crusts).

Before you start with the “ain’t nobody got time for that,” let’s be clear: This takes literally five seconds. And it will drastically increase the odds of your kid actually EATING the sandwich you pack.

15. Cookie cutters are also a great way to jazz up fruit or cheese.

 

FACT: Food shaped like tiny hearts is considered 250% more delicious by children.

16. A lunch box with divided compartments cuts down on packaging and helps you remember all the components.

A lunch box with divided compartments cuts down on packaging and helps you remember all the components.

This one, shown over at Dinner: A Love Story, is called the PlanetBox.

17. On birthdays and holidays, wrap each part of the lunch in gift wrap
On birthdays and holidays, wrap each part of the lunch in gift wrap.

This obviously isn’t going to happen every day, but it’s well worth doing a few times a year.

18. Make your own healthier Lunchables.

Make your own healthier Lunchables.

Are your kids furious that you won’t send them to school with Lunchables, aka pretty much the worst thing you could possibly feed them? Address the terrible injustice by packing up cute divided tupperware with real versions of all the same foods (plus some actual fruit or veggies, for good measure).

Check out how this homemade DIY pizza lunch stacks up to the storebought version here.

19. Most kids love peanut butter, so just send them to school with a bunch of different things to dip in it.

Most kids love peanut butter, so just send them to school with a bunch of different things to dip in it.

Here are some good ideas for what to include. You can pack everything up individually or use a handy divided container.

20. Same goes for hummus. EVERYTHING is better with hummus.

Same goes for hummus. EVERYTHING is better with hummus.

Tips for how to make this tray here.

21. Use up leftovers from breakfast.

Use up leftovers from breakfast.

Most kids will be pretty thrilled to have pancakes for lunch, so don’t throw those extras out. Get more smart ideas here.

22. Give food cute faces with stickers

Give food cute faces with stickers.

A great trick for people who don’t have hours to spend on an elaborate bento box. Just wrap tightly in plastic wrap and stick ‘em on.

23. Always slice diagonally.

27 School Lunch Tips That Will Keep You Sane

Science says. Don’t question it.

24. If your kids aren’t into sandwiches, try skewers.

If your kids aren't into sandwiches, try skewers.

Get some easy ideas here. Who doesn’t love food on a stick?

25. You can use tortillas for almost anything — from quesadilla pinwheels to DIY mini pizzas.

You can use tortillas for almost anything — from quesadilla pinwheels to DIY mini pizzas.

Lots of good suggestions here.

26. If you want to add a cute note but don’t have time to draw something, use free printables.

If you want to add a cute note but don't have time to draw something, use free printables.

Listen, we can’t all be this guy. Print a bunch of cute notes or jokes and have a stack on hand to throw in. Here are lots of options.

27. Print out this list of ideas and keep it on the fridge to stay inspired.

Print out this list of ideas and keep it on the fridge to stay inspired.

But remember: Sometimes the most important thing is packing the lunch your kids will actually eat, rather than the one you WANT them to eat. (We can’t all be Amanda Hesser’s children.) And if that’s PB&J every day, you may just have to roll with it. They’ll survive!

This post was originally featured on Buzzfeed