Posts Tagged ‘education’

If your kids have ever dreamed of pirates, knights, princesses or fairies…then you need to pack up these little dreamers and take them to the place where these dreams can be real! My family and I have found a place where these characters come to life…at the Arizona Renaissance Festival! The Arizona Renaissance Festival is a medieval amusement park, a 13-stage theater, a 30-acre circus, an arts and crafts fair, a jousting tournament and a feast — all rolled into one non-stop, day-long family adventure! The Faire runs from 10am to 6pm (rain or shine) on Saturdays and Sundays from February 6 to March 27, including President’s Day on February 15th. The Festival is seven miles east of Apache Junction on US Highway 60.

The Renaissance Festival is a place where you and your family can experience over 200 handcrafted items, have a sword fight with a pirate, watch knights joust to the death, dance to the reed pipes of a fairy, laugh with the village fool or even gain audience with the King and his courtisans! Hop on a “man-powered” merry-go-round, ride a giant rocking horse, have a go at the crossbow or just take a load off on the lawn and catch the Bird of Prey show to see how traditional falconry was done! Even the booths are hand-crafted works of art. There are hair weavers, face painters, candle makers, pottery artists, leather and metal workers…the list goes on!

My family of 5 have been attending for several years and we wouldn’t miss it! There has been something for all of my ages to experience, learn from and participate in every year we have attended. We love mixing in with the villagers dressed in our renaissance finest and talking with the various artisans about their unique skills. I have brought my princesses, my fairies, my warlocks, my pirates, my knights and even my robin hood and we fit in perfectly in this fully immersive renaissance experience. Plan to spend the entire day! Munch on traditional turkey legs, steaks on sticks or take a sweet trip to heaven as you pass by any number of amazing chocolate covered treasures to be found all over the faire.

Some of the entertainment can be quite a mixed bag of joyful and inappropriate (this is, after all, the renaissance!). I have attended without incident with all my children on a variety of days (just avoiding the shows with more adult-oriented humor). But if you would like to avoid the “bawdy” all together,  I highly recommend attending on “Student Days” on March 1st and 3rd. This is a very special day when the more rambunctious crowd is toned down to make way for the likes of Galileo, Medicis, Shakespeare, Magellan and so much more! These two days cater especially to teachers and students to help bring to life the language, science, arts, engineering and overall ambiance of the 16th Century.

Tickets are $23 for adults and $11 for kids (ages 5-12). Discount tickets are available  here or check their website for a coupon partner near you. You can also hook up with their facebook page and join in the 16th century fun to win one of their daily giveaways!

Want to come with your teacher and all your classroom friends?? Then you need to enter their “Renaissance in the Southwest 2016 Essay Contest”! Teachers, this is a spectacular way to help your kids get excited about history!

A couple of tips when attending the faire…

  • Traffic can be a problem getting there…plan to leave at least an hour or two early if you can. But once you get there, parking is free and very well organized.
  • They do not allow outside food and drink but when I have come with children under the age of 5, they have allowed me to bring small snacks, bottles and drinks specifically and only for these little ones. But I would try to pack light…they won’t let you bring coolers or any large items.
  • It’s dusty! If you have allergies or are otherwise affected by the dust, be prepared.
  • It can be very warm! Wear sunscreen…a hat…bring a fan…you will be much more comfortable! Bring water…you can refill at drinking fountains throughout the park.
  • There are bathrooms throughout the faire but the lines can be long…try to get your little ones to go before you get there.
  • Leave your pets at home…they will not be allowed into the park.
  • Costumes are super fun and usually will win the attention of the street performers for an even more interactive and fun experience!
  • There are 8 ATM’s located across the Festival grounds but I would recommend having cash on hand. The food can be a bit pricey but well worth the experience and you won’t want to miss out on purchasing some one-of-a-kind souvenirs from your time traveling adventures!

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Ok, you thought all the summer fun was over but we’ve got one more big science event for you and your kids to enjoy a late night together! The Perseids Meteor shower will be making it’s big annual appearance in the western skies August 11-13th this year! You can challenge your kids with a little astronomy by having them find the Perseus constellation…that’s where the show is supposed to start. But according to experts, it will be visible in various parts of the sky so keep a watchful eye!

One of my favorite astronomy apps is called SkySafari. It has been a source of great excitement for my kids on our star gazing nights because it uses your phone/tablet’s compass/gyroscope to be able to view the sky in real time and identify constellations just by pointing your tablets/phones camera towards the sky! It scrolls across the sky as you move it, labeling every celestial body you see! It will not destroy your night vision either, using the special night vision setting. Check it out in App Store. They are currently running a sale on their full version but the “lite” version really works just awesome and is what we have used for quite some time.

Have fun on your meteor watch! Ask your kids teachers about extra credit they might be able to earn by describing the event in class!

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Summertime = WATER VIGILANCE!!

June 5th, 2013 12:54am

It is never a thought we want to entertain for long…a childs young and innocent life cut short by a drowning accident. But living in a climate where swimming happens nearly all year, it is constantly on our minds. We stumbled across a wonderful article on Slate.com written by that brought our attention to the fact that while most of us are insanely vigilant with our kids around water, it might not save our children if we don’t know what to look for. They have offered up some very helpful tips to assist us in knowing what drowning really looks like…

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs—vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

Notice there is no mention of “flailing madly in the water” or “loud splashing” noises. That is because if someone is truly drowning, they will not make a sound. As a witness to a child slipping under the water literally right by my side, I can attest to the shocking truth that no sound is made and most of their panicking will happen under the water where we are least likely to notice. Luckily, we had fast acting help all around and this particular child was rescued quickly without trauma. But it is frightening to realize how quickly and quietly drowning happens. Vigilance is necessary but please be sure you know what it is EXACTLY that you are supposed to be vigilantly looking for!

Keep your kids safe by being informed. You can also look into getting CPR certified or other water safety classes. Check your local hospitals for information or visit the Red Cross “Take a Class”  to find out about classes being offerred near you. CPR training can be a valuable tool in protecting our kids around water but wouldn’t it be better to never have to need it??…STAY VIGILANT!

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Internet security for your kids

April 2nd, 2013 8:09pm

As our world speedily seeks to replace books with technology, our good old paperback friends have a little advice before they disappear into the background of our lives!

I know it’s on every parents mind. This is the new world of technology we live in. The internet in all it’s glory, amazement and horror are so easily accessible for our children at all times and seemingly in all places. It is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor, police, educate and generally protect our children as best we can from some of the onslaughts that await them in the interactive world we live in. But does that mean we give up?? NO! We have some amazing tools to tell you about!

First, for those of you with kids either using their own cell phones/tablets or using yours, you might wonder how can you get some control over interactive content on these devices. Our first tip is to download the Mobicip app! It is a free browser available through the app store or through their website at http://www.mobicip.com/. Once you have this browser on your device, you want to disable the safari browser or whatever browser came standard on your device. We are iphone users so we also have enabled all the security restrictions in our settings where we can control whether to allow app purchases, what apps are visible, etc. which is all password protected. At that point, the only browser available will be the Mobicip browser. Within the browser settings, you can set restrictions that are age appropriate for each user. Very handy when you have various ages using the same devices!

Now on to the computer issue. We HIGHLY recommend a program called NetNanny which can be purchased and downloaded at http://www.netnanny.com/. This program allows you to customize your settings for family members, customize your filter settings, receive reports regarding user accessed content, immediate text/email should one of your users attempt to access restricted material, and a log of every page visited by each user. This has become an invaluable tool for my family and I hope you will take a moment to review all the amazing features available through this program.

We hope you will continue to be vigilant on your children’s behalf in helping to protect them from the dangers of the internet while teaching them responsible habits in using their technology. Please weigh in on this issue with any suggestions you have found to work well in your own families and together we can help protect our families!

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Posted in Family and Home, free stuff, General, Parenting Tips, product reviews, Safety/Health Awareness, Teacher Tips | No Comments »

23rd Annual Celebration of Fine Art...come see the artists at work!

Yes, spring break is upon us and if you are anything like me, you are scrambling to keep kids busy with things other than video games and movies! In my hunt for the affordable (and hopefully sneaking in that somewhat educational!) entertainment in the Valley of the Sun, I have discovered a real gem! Today I took my five children (ages 2 through 12) to the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ.

The show highlights work from over 100 artists, some local and some traveling from out of state to attend. What’s fun about a glorified outdoor art museum you might ask? Well, the coolest thing about this art exhibit is the artists are actually on site WORKING on their art! You can ask questions, see demonstrations of their technique, or just shoot the breeze about the latest trends. My kids LOVE that they can actually see the artists at work and ask questions! My youngest loved all the colors and because many of the artists enjoy bringing their pets on site, he LOVED playing with the friendly little pups resting at the foot of several of the artists. One particular artist today painted birds and could mimic a bird call so convincingly that we had to look around for a minute for the bird before we realized it was her!

Whitney Peckman was one of our favorite artists! Here she displays some of her hand sculpted and painted gourds. Amazing!

Rather than learn from art teachers who are bound by certain techniques they are required to teach, these artists have no such restrictions and they truly let their imaginations go wild with the off-the-wall techniques they’ve invented, the customized processes they’ve had to discover and the media they have developed to answer that creative call!

When we arrived home this afternoon from over 3 hours there, my kids all rushed to our art cabinet and immediately took to making their own wildly creative pieces with all their new ideas!

Looking to get inspired? This is your chance! When we arrived home this afternoon from over 3 hours there, my kids all rushed to our art cabinet and immediately took to making their own wildly creative pieces with all their new ideas!

The event runs through March 24th and is open daily from 10am to 6pm. It’s located on the SW corner of Hayden Rd. and Loop 101 (Exit 35 from the 101). Just look for the big white tents! The best part?? It’s FREE for kids under 12!!! Yes, that’s right…FREE! Adults are $10 but if you go to the 23rd Annual Celebration of Fine Art website, you can download a 2 for 1 coupon for adult tickets.

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Encouraging Goal Setting

January 21st, 2013 1:45am
New Years Resolutions

It's time to remind ourselves as well as our children about the importance of goal setting and achieving!

Yes, it is once again that magical time of year when we sit down with ourselves, evaluate our progress over the last year and recommit to (or redefine) our goals for the new year. This is challenging task for us adults and even more so for out children. Oftentimes we put ourselves and our families on autopilot and miss out on the importance of goal setting in our lives. Leading by example and teaching our kids to set their own goals helps give them focus in their work and play. It helps them, as well as us parents, make decisions about the use of their time. And being in sync with our children’s goals can help us guide them to making better choices throughout each day.

Here are a few suggestions that I have opted to try out on my own family this year. Sometimes the greatest challenge to goal setting is knowing where to start. Here are a few prompts to get you going!…

• Set goals that build spiritual strength
Whatever your religious beliefs, seek after goals that bring you closer to your spiritual self. Pray and teach your children to pray. Freely forgive others. Read to your children from scriptures or stories that teach good principles and values. Develop a habit of study (help your kids learn to give over a part of their day to some kind of practice or study). Participate in your religious meetings with your children.

• Set goals that increase knowledge
Select a subject of interest to study (a great way to discover some of your childs hidden intersts!). Learn another language (kids love learning even a few words of a different language…make it a secret way to communicate between you!). Develop or learn about a new skill or interest (a great way to start identifying your child’s abilities). Improve your ability to communicate with others (teach your children manners in…how do we talk to one another?).

• Set Goals that increase personal well-being and health
Develop healthy eating habits (make a game of the pantry…what is good, better, best to eat?). Learn to prepare healthy foods (kids especially love this one! Use a cookie cutter to cut those healthy bites down to a more manageable and fun size!). Develop a program of regular exercise (dancing in the family room with your toddler definitely counts!). Create opportunities to be active with family and friends (bike riding is very popular in our household).

• Set Goals that increase your ability to serve others
Give service to your family (what jobs can we do for each other?). Volunteer to help a neighbor or friend (have your child ask themselves “who needs me today”). Write (or draw for younger kids) a letter/picture to send to someone special. Commit to finding someone to help each day.

• Set goals that increase moral strength
Overcome a bad habit (any thumb suckers out there? How about interrupters? Waiting your turn to speak is a tough one for kids). Learn to be grateful and express your appreciation (teaching kids the value of thank you notes after the holidays is a great way to accomplish this!). Improve your ability to manage time (print your calendars!). Learn to enjoy hard work (chore charts, anyone?). Cultivate patience and tolerance for others (helping them identify ways to get along with a sibling). Identify ways to recognize in yourself when you are doing your best.

We hope these guidelines will help you shape some wonderful goals for yourselves and your  family this year! Remember, “Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement!” (Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog). Good luck stoking those little furnaces this year!

We hope you will sound off in our “Inspiration for Parents” forum about the ways you have found success in your own families with goal setting.

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Laveen is having their Laveen Art League and 2nd Friday Community Market This Friday, December 14th from 6:00pm-9:00pm in the South Mountain Community College – Laveen Campus courtyard.

The Laveen Art League will have their on campus gallery open for viewing of art from the majority of Laveen Art League members. The artists that will be hanging in two rooms work in a variety of mediums, such as papercrafting, jewelry, photography, mixed media, painting, drawing and more. On Friday December 14th, there will also be children’s activities and crafts, like a “Seek and Find” activity as well as an “Art Petting Zoo”, Music and Puppetry performances, Paint and Take and a visit from Santa Himself!

Fantasy Face will be face painting at this event so come join us for some holiday glitter!

Fantasy Faces (courtesy of yours truly!) will also be hanging out with Santa to paint faces and bring some holiday glitter to your smile! So stop by and get a unique work of art you can wear all night long!

Some other vendors you might recognize are Kettlecorn, Native American Frybread, It’s a Divine Bakery, Double L Originals, The Spirit Box, Native American Jewelry (Rosina), Rider’s Ranch, Maricopa County Stormworks and City of Phoenix, Hot Dog cart, 4 Elements, Fantasy Faces, Joyce, Bethany and Capiz by the Sea!

Outside the gallery will be a wonderful selection of food and craft vendors, with beautiful handmade crafts and delicious food. While some do take debit/credit, you may want to bring some cash with you for when you find something you love!

This is a not to be missed holiday event! The location is South Mountain Community College Campus at 5001 W Dobbins Road, Laveen, AZ 85339.

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Need some geography help?

August 28th, 2012 10:18am

Are your kids working on their geography in school this year? Do they just have an insatiable curiosity for how the world is laid out? Check out www.mapsofworld.com. You can find world political maps, terrain maps, Thematic maps (like the richest countries or the countries with the highest crime rates), maps of individual countries and even maps in different languages! The site is easy to navigate and very user friendly for young kids. check it out and if your little ones are as curious as mine, be prepared to navigate this site for quite awhile with them!

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“NO! Not flashcards, mom! They’re BORING!”…

You know what? My daughter was RIGHT! Being more along the artistic and music side myself, flashcards did nothing more than frustrate and bore me as a kid too and I have to admit, they’re not any more interesting as an adult! While they do still have their place in education, we have stumbled across some wonderful activities that can not only be fun, but of equal educational benefit. And even better, YOU can make these at home! And in most cases, for less than a dollar!

Pool Noodle Learning Game

The first is a number game. Take a rope of about two feet and knot it at one end. Insert this knotted end into a whiffle ball. Take a couple of pool noodles of varying colors (ours were blue, yellow, white and pink) and cut from the end 2 three inch cylinders from each color plus one extra from the color of your choice. Write a number on each cylinder, 1-9. Now you can create any number of combinations of colors or numbers for your child to try to duplicate. Your child can then string the appropriate color or number in order onto the string that you attached to the whiffle ball. This not only works on dexterity but on color and number recognition as well as pattern association…and it’s lots of fun!

The second activity we have for you is called a Tangram. For those of you unfamiliar with Tangrams, they are a puzzle brought out of China. Using several predetermined shapes (click here to check out a site devoted to Tangram printouts), your child can move the shapes around until they create a recognizable shape. They can either try to duplicate shapes already created, or make up their own. The catch is that all the shapes must be used and none of them can overlap! It’s quite a challenge!

Now we don’t want to leave out those early readers! So here’s one more activity that’s great to help them with their phonograms as they start to learn how to blend sounds and recognize letter combinations. Take a plastic easter egg. On one side of the seam where the egg comes together, write the letter combination “at”. One the other side of the seam write “h”, “r”, “c” and “b”…one above the other along the seam. Now when you twist the egg, the “at” will align with one of the other letters to form a word. You can print small pictures of a “hat”, a “rat”, a “cat” and a “bat” and cut them out to fit inside the egg. As your child twists the egg and discovers the new letter combinations, they can try to guess what’s inside the egg!

Word Family Eggs

We hope you enjoy some of these learning crafts with your children! Happy “back-to-school” month! If you have any fun learning crafts that you have found helpful, please share them in the comments! We’d love to hear what has worked for you and your family!

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It’s back to school time!

July 12th, 2012 12:41am

Yes, we know…you’re not ready! That’s where we can help! Summer is fast coming to a close as we gear up for another exciting school year full of class activities, programs, sports events and about a million other fun activities that we love to help our kiddos excel in! One of the hardest things for young children to understand is time management. They just don’t recognize the passing of time as acutely as we adults do. One of the best ways to help them learn this concept is to give them a visual! Our calendars can help your children understand the order of the days, weeks and even months and how this passage of time affects them in preparing for upcoming activities, whether it be practicing for a piano recital or working on a project for school. So visit our calendars page and get started now! You can make a different calendar for each one of your children so only the events specific to them are represented and print it out for them to track.

Create your very own "Mom, I'm bored" box!

We also recognize that as summer is winding down, it becomes more and more difficult to find activities that can keep your kiddos busy. You begin to hear those dreaded words, “mom, I’m BORED!”. One of the ideas that has worked wonders at our house this summer is to create a “mom, I’m bored box” and fill it with chores, fun activities the kids complained all year that they never had time to do (think crafts, reading, games, sports, etc.), learning activities (math worksheets, reading passages, etc.)…let the kids help you write them all out on separate scraps of paper so they can contribute their own ideas as well. My kids and I made a game out of it so that anytime they came to me with the “mom, I’m bored” comment, I would point their little tooshes to the box. They would have to pick an activity and the deal was, whatever they picked, they HAD to do (whether it was fun or work)! Since they helped get all the ideas in the box, they all made a competition out of it to see who got the “luck of the draw”! It has been quite comical and made our summer so much fun!

If you have some summer boredom buster ideas that have worked for your family, please share them in our forum!

We wish you luck in your back-to-school preparations and hope you share our excitement for another great year of learning and growing!

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