(847) 485-0000
Find a





Homemade Gifts for Teachers

Many children want to give their teacher a gift for the holidays. While this is a great idea and one that should be encouraged, a “World’s Best Teacher” mug or glass is not always the best choice. Just about every teacher will tell you that they already have several of these. So, what should you give them to show your appreciation for all their hard work? The options may be a little closer to the heart for most.

Gift cards

Starbucks Gift Card

It's hard to go wrong with a gift card. These can be purchased at local grocery stores for just about dollar amount imaginable. And getting one from their favorite stores, coffee shops, or teacher supply outlets will go a long way to show that you care.

Homemade gifts and cards

We have found that many teachers love to receive anything homemade or crafted by their students. Your child’s artwork, a handwritten card, or a crafted Christmas ornament with your child’s name and the year on it are items that teachers can keep year after year to remember their students and all the lives they have touched along the way.

School supplies for all

Another great idea is to get them much-needed school supplies. Many teachers pay for classroom materials like lined paper, pencils, sticky notes, pens, erasers, and much more themselves. So, gifts of this nature are often much needed and will always be appreciated. If you don’t know what to get exactly a gift card to bookstores and teacher supply stores is a great place to start.

Donations in their name

For schools or teachers who aren’t in need of such items for their classrooms, they often suggest giving donations in their name instead. Find out what causes your teacher supports or cares about and donate either time, money, or specific items to that cause using your teacher’s name. This will show your teacher that you care and are willing to help others who may be less fortunate and also gives that teacher an opportunity to be a part of that giving.

Thank you letters or notes

Sometimes the simplest of gifts can be the most precious. The job of a teacher can often be a thankless one that is taken for granted. Writing a letter or short note can be just the thing to brighten their day and make all their hard work this year worth it. A heartfelt “thank you” can say much more even the most expensive gift.

Ask just about any experienced teacher what their favorite gifts over the years have been and they will tell you about ones that came from the heart. The ones that really mean something are ones that were well thought out, painstakingly constructed by little hands, and given out of honor and a heart of appreciation, not from obligation. This year, instead of another coffee mug, give your teacher something that matters a little more.

Read More


Wright Flyer Aircraft model

On this day, December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took their first or maiden flight in an aircraft they had designed together. And while it is unknown if this was the first actual flight ever made in history, it was done in the first ever patented aircraft, the Wright Flyer. The brothers went on to make further inventions and additions to aviation technology, leading the way for all future aviators.

History of Wright Brothers’ Day

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is the one responsible for creating this codified holiday. As such, it is commemorated each year and marked on government calendars but is not classified an actual government holiday. President Eisenhower declared on September 24, 1959, that December 17th should forevermore be celebrated, honoring the experiments of the Wright brothers and all others who have contributed to aviation history and technology.

How to Celebrate Wright Brothers’ Day

Wright Brother’s inventions

Since that time, every U. S. President has made an annual proclamation, honoring the Wright brothers and their endeavors in flight as well as inviting all Americans to do the same. Furthermore, Washington D. C. holds the Wright Brothers Dinner each year where the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy is awarded

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where that maiden flight was taken also celebrates the day with similar festivities, as does Dayton, Ohio, the brothers’ hometown. Many schools are known are to hold special activities that focus on aviation and its history, some even take field trips to the closest aviation museums. Other institutions or programs hold various luncheons and dinners to honor these pioneers of flight.

Individually, many decide to celebrate in their own way by going to museums that focus on aviation, going to the airport, attending air shows, taking a flight, or even taking flight lessons. It may seem to you that this old looking plane the Wright brothers flew wasn’t all that great, especially compared to what airplanes and crafts that are flown nowadays. However, you have to remember that at the time, there was nothing else like this. This was the cutting edge of technology, a dream of the future at the time.

Can you imagine what aviation would look like today if these two brothers hadn’t created the Wright Flyer and made that flight? While their craft is not the only kind that was manufactured, nor were they the only ones experimenting with such technology, their efforts led the way for inventions and aviation leaders all over the globe. This day is meant to remember and honor those efforts, understanding that actions and discoveries made today will someday be a part of history.

Read More


Baby Saying No

As parents, we always want our children to be happy. This can make it difficult to say No when necessary. However, teaching children to tolerate not getting their way is one of the most important lessons we teach as parents. Though it can be a struggle, there are some simple strategies that can make it easier to set boundaries with young children.

Give Them Clear Options

When children are learning to communicate, it’s natural to ask them questions and let them formulate their own answers. However, this can make it more difficult to say No when children express a desire for something they shouldn’t have. For instance, if you ask your son what he wants for dinner, and he says ice cream, then you have to say No and explain that ice cream isn’t an option.

An alternative is to start out by giving children a choice between the available options. Instead of saying, “What do you want for dinner,” you can say “Would you rather have potatoes or spaghetti?” This gives your child control over what he eats, but sets reasonable boundaries about what he can choose.

Set a Clear Time Limit

Anyone who’s ever argued with a child knows that children can go on forever trying to get their way. A five year-old can give you 73 reasons why he should be allowed to wear his superhero pajamas to school. If you don’t set limits, the arguments will never end. This is why it’s important to communicate when decisions have to be made and stick to your deadlines.

If you’re in the store picking out clothes, and your daughter asks for something she can’t have, make clear that you only have a certain amount of time to shop. Whatever you agree on in the next ten minutes is what you’ll buy. If you can’t agree on anything, then you’re going home with nothing. Don’t let children’s protests hold you hostage. It’s okay to walk away.

Enforce Consequences

Perhaps the hardest part of saying No is sticking with it when children insist on getting their way. Even when our children behave poorly, we ultimately want them to be happy. But it’s important to set expectations, and let young children know that there are consequences for their behavior. So if you tell your son that he has to behave or he doesn’t get to watch TV, be sure to stick to it. Don’t back down when you see how bored he is. No matter our age, we all learn from the consequences of our decisions. Even when it makes them unhappy, children learn valuable lessons from the small privileges they lose for misbehaving.

While saying No to our children may always be a challenge, it is vital to teach children to respect the boundaries that we set for them. By having a plan for how to approach this difficult lesson, we can make it much easier to impart the values we want our children to have.

Read More


Girl says thank you

In this age of entitlement and materialism, it can be difficult to feel that your child appreciates or is grateful for anything. However, there are some ways to try and curb this unattractive fad in your home and raise children that not only say thank you but also mean it.

Be a Model of Gratitude

It’s a proven fact that children learn from experiences. The same is true when it comes to their attitudes. If you as a parent are continually showing an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness, your children are likely to do the same. However, if you spend a lot of time talking about or making money, shopping, watching TV, etc., you are showing them that you value materials more than thankfulness. They are likely to follow your example.

Reduce Exposure to Contrasting Models

You are not the only person who your child learns from. Materialistic models are found by the multitudes on TV and online. If your child is exposed to these models on a regular basis, they will begin to emulate their ideas and values, ones that you may not want in your home. It is suggested that children 2 and up have no more than two hours of screen time per day (TV, computer, video game, and smartphone included).

And when they do come into contact with those values be there to talk about the intentions of the ad and how unrealistic many of them are. This will help to discourage your child’s desire to be that way or want a certain product.

Encourage Intrinsic Values

Happy Family

Research has shown that intrinsic values starkly contrast those that are taught by materialism. This means that if you teach your child to understand and appreciate ideas like having good and healthy relationships, trying to leave the world a better place, and following your own interests and curiosity for personal growth they will be less likely to think selfishly about themselves and what they want and do not have.

Expose them to Suffering and Beauty

When your children are allowed to see true suffering and beauty, they begin to see what they have in comparison and be grateful. Take your child to the local soup kitchen and serve a meal, volunteer your family for mission projects where your children will see others in need. You will be amazed at what they learn from those experiences.

True and deep beauty can have much of the same effect. Museums and nature are great places to start when looking for beauty. This can open their eyes to some of the vastness of the world and life. Typically, this sense of awe and wonder can start a conversation about gratefulness and contentment.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the many advertisements screaming for our attention and that of our children. However, we must remember that the impact of those may have a resounding effect on our youngsters, one that isn’t very desirous. Try at least one of these tips in your home and see how your child is affected. Start small and work your way up. You may just find that your child is genuinely more appreciative.

Read More


How To Teach Persistence

At some point, every student finds a subject, an activity, or a situation that they no longer want to continue. It could be the new book they have been assigned in class or maybe the algebra problems they were sent home with. Maybe it’s a sport or musical activity. But we can’t let them simply quit. This is their education and it's too important. A little persistence can go a long way, but how you can get your middle or high school student to understand that and put it to good use?

Don’t Rush to the Rescue

As parents, it is difficult to see our children struggling, no matter what it is. And often times we find it tempting to come to their rescue and make it all better. However, that doesn’t teach them persistence. We all learn by trial and error. That means we have to give them a chance to fail and succeed on their own.

So instead of doing it for them, work through it together and ask them to do the thinking. If they never learn to do it on their own, they will never be able to solve their own problems. Life, in general, isn’t always fair or easy. Letting them work through these situations will teach them to persevere even if life isn’t being gentle.

Don’t Rush to the Rescue

Talk About it

Sometimes the best way to help them understand is to just talk about it with them. Hearing about the importance of persistence often can greatly benefit your child. If they are constantly hearing phrases such as, “I can do it,” “I won’t quit,” or “It’s always hardest the first time,” it’s much easier for them face problems with your positive voice in their heads. You might think of a family persistence mantra to say often, such as “Mistakes won’t get us down.”

Give them a Gentle Nudge

Pushing your child can be difficult for both parents and children, but it can make a world of difference. As creatures of habit, many of us, including our students, tend to stay in our comfort zone without straying too far. However, you can help your child by pushing them to try just a little harder, practice a little longer, and make it a little more challenging.

The key is to not push too hard or make expectations too great. A child will easily get discouraged and the lesson will be lost to them if are never able to reach your goals. A simple kitchen timer can work wonders here. For example, instead of only practicing their band instrument for 10 minutes, add another five minutes. And when they complain or grumble about it, remind them of their past achievements and give them encouragement.

When your child is feeling defeated and begins to say he can’t, make sure to remind him of all the times that he has. Use your family persistence mantra and give her a little nudge in the right direction. Your child needs to hear this from you and will benefit greatly from these persistence lessons that will last a lifetime.

Read More


Pouring Water into Cup

Not many children or teens actually enjoy doing chores, in fact neither do many adults. However, these are activities are a must and so we do them. For teens, they can be an invaluable way to teach some very crucial life lessons, as well as prepare them for life as an adult. Below are a few common household chores most teens are very capable of completing on a daily or weekly basis.

Do Their Own Laundry

This is fairly simple. Teach them load and use the washer and dryer in your home. Washing their own laundry, including towels and sheets will help them to prepare for college life. This should also include folding and/or putting away the laundry, and even using an iron.

Sweep and Vacuum

They aren’t too young to walk behind the vacuum in the living room or sweep the kitchen with a broom. Depending on your teen and your typical cleaning schedule, you could have them do one room at a time or make it a larger project.

Take Out the Trash

Most families have a weekly trash pick up day. Your teen is old enough to go room to room emptying trash baskets and collecting them to be taken out each week. While this helps keep the house tidy, it also serves to teach your child some responsibility about making sure tasks are completed before a specific due date.

Tidy the Bathroom

You know that toothpaste residue that the sink always seems to be caked in? Your teen is now old enough to scrub it out himself. This is part of teaching them to pick up after themselves. They can also clean counters, mirrors, and even the toilet.

Take Care of Pets

If your family includes a few four-legged members, having your teen clean the litter box or feed and water them are simple tasks they can handle. You might even allow them to take them for walks or give them a batch occasionally.

Washing Dishes

Washing Dishes

Now is the perfect age for your teen to learn how to load, run, and unload the dishwasher. You can help them out by completing part of that task or give them the entire daily task, depending on your teen. They can also learn to scrub pots, pans, and items that might not be dishwasher appropriate.

Making Dinner

At this age, your teen should be perfectly able to prepare some simple and well-balanced meals. This does not mean mac-n-cheese out of a box. This will ensure that your teen doesn’t starve when he moves out of your home for college. Spaghetti is a good starting point and is easy to master.

Start instilling these life lessons in your teen today and soon you will find that not only do you have a shorter to-do list but your child will have learned some responsibility and be well on their way to a successful adulthood.

Read More


Math Practice

When we talk about teaching math concepts and ideas, repetition is the most common method used. Children are given sheets of the same type of problem to figure out, having them repeat the same actions over and over again. But is this the best way to learn such things?

Repetition and Simplest Form Learning

It’s a proven fact that learning happens as synapses fire. The brain does change structurally when we revisit ideas and learn deeply but repetition is not the only way to learn. Recent studies show that practicing the same functions over and over is, in fact, not helping you to learn the concept as a whole.

Those who are taught primarily this way learn to apply those concepts to one situation type only and it typically causes students to dislike the subject altogether. They learn to produce mindless and impractical answers and relationships, instead of being able to connect and reason as a whole.

This is further complicated by the fact that many teachers and/or text books only offer the most simplified version of the concept in isolation to anything else. These simplified versions are then practiced and drilled, causing boredom in most students as they learn to just accept the concept and repeat it, instead of learning the why behind it and where it might actually be used in the real world.

This can be seen when we look at how simple shapes are taught as well as mathematical equations and more complex ideas.

For example, students were asked to name the following shape.


It is a hexagon (a six-sided polygon), but most students couldn’t give this answer because they were taught that the proper shape of a hexagon looks like this.

Regular Hexagon

They were taught the simplest form of this concept and not to relate it to any other form. Over half of all students who took part in this study couldn’t give the correct response to this and other questions about similar shapes and concepts. When students only learn these simplest versions, they are not given the opportunity to really learn what the concept or idea is all about and easily form misconceptions about it.

Non-Example Learning

Teaching a variety of situations and definitions is important to learn and master each concept. So is the teaching of “non-examples.” These are definitions of what a concept is not. For example, when teaching the concept of the above-mentioned hexagon, teachers should also include examples of other polygons or shapes that are not hexagons. When teaching about mammals, giving examples such as a sparrow and teaching why it is not can be much more efficient than simply showing many examples of dogs and cats.

Giving students a more comprehensive and comparative learning method teaches them to differentiate between what is and what isn’t in a realistic way. They can then learn to apply that method to multiple situations and not just the simplest form or a perfect model.

Let’s make sure to teach in a way that gives children realistic expectations of what they can apply these important math concepts and ideas to. To learn more about Math help click here.

Read More


Student-Led Conferences

Most of us are familiar with parent-teacher conferences. It’s a time when teachers meet with the parents of their students to discuss performance and how the child is progressing. However, in recent years, many schools are trying a new approach.

They are called student-led conferences and they seek to understand the why behind your child’s academic endeavors. While typical parent-teacher conferences can be very informative and helpful for the parent and teacher, this new method includes the student and gives them more responsibility for their education.

How Does It Work?

Student-led conferences are designed to have the student sit down with the parents, show them some of their work, and explain their grades. Teachers are nearby to assist the students and to also add their own opinion or report of the child’s progress. Some also allow for separate teacher-only conferences to be held later.

The format can differ by teacher or teacher team. Some are structured a bit like an open house where parents and students visit each classroom separately, while other teacher teams decide to hold the conference as a whole in the same room.


Preparation for these conferences is handled primarily by the student themselves. Typically, at the beginning of the school year, teachers will give each student a folder to put together a portfolio of their progress and graded work.

As the time for conferences draw near, students get their folders neatly arranged and prepared for their parents, including a prepared script of sorts. This helps the child to put their thoughts on their classroom behavior, grades, and learning achievements into words, as well as to keep them on task during the conference as nervousness may set in.

Many teachers also role play with their students during the week before conferences are held, giving the students an example of what they should say and how to respond to questions. This also gives them a bit of practice, which helps to calm their nerves.

Pros and Cons

Students, teachers, and parents across the nation agree that one of the biggest advantages to this type of conference is that it makes the student take more responsibility for their education. They begin to understand that they are in charge of their own efforts and they alone can change the outcome.

Most students enjoy being able to share their side of the story and thoughts. And most parents agree that both themselves and their child come away with a better understanding of their child’s learning process, strengths, and weaknesses.

However, for students whose parents aren’t as involved, their preparation leads to disappointment when parents do not attend. Other parents have reservations on hearing from primarily just their child and still like to talk to the teacher more.

With so many new ideas entering school on a daily basis, it’s easy to become skeptical. But keep an open mind about this one for sure. You just might find that student-led conferences benefit your child far better than the more common parent-teacher conferences.

Read More


Boy Doing Homework

We can all recognize the benefits of homework, even though we do not like it. We know it can help teach children about time management and give them a good foundation of study skills, as well as give them continued practice on subjects they are learning in class. But is there a point where we say it is too much? Or a child is too young?

Parents around the country are asking the same question. It comes as a response to seeing their students come home with what seems like mountains of homework and some of them are only just beginning their academic careers. Many parents and teachers alike are seeing some pretty negative results to this.

Some parents have reported their kindergartners coming home with up to 25 minutes of homework every day, their first graders seeing about 28 minutes of daily homework, and some second graders spending approximately 29 minutes a night on school work. It may not seem a like a lot of time compared to what some middle school and high schoolers see. But for a five-year-old who doesn’t have the capability to sit still for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, this can be overwhelming.

And studies are proving it. Kids who report having over the recommended amount of homework on a regular basis tend to have more of a dislike for school, more behavioral problems, and more physical health issues as well, such as migraines, sleep deprivation, ulcers, and weight loss. Homework is literally stressing them out and making them sick.

Early education children should be spending far more time with their families, playing outdoors, and learning about life in general than stuck in a chair being drilled on math concepts. A healthy early childhood needs a balance of the two, proving that more is not always better.

How Much Homework Should They Have?

Homework doing by school student

The National Parent-Teacher Association or PTA and the National Education Association or NEA both agree on what is called the “10-minute rule.” This suggests that children should have no more than 10 minutes of homework each night per grade. So, first graders should have no more than 10 minutes of homework time, second graders should have less than 20 minutes of homework, and so on up to 120 minutes of homework time for high school seniors.

Luckily, we are not seeing an overabundance of schools giving too much homework yet. Recent studies show that only about 20% of schools report an average homework time over the recommended amount. These schools are most generally those in affluent communities, where parents and teachers are more likely to push students into the top schools in the country.

If you find that your child has what seems to be too much homework, there are ways to help them out without doing the work for them. Check out some ideas to help your child succeed here.

Read More