Sunday, July 18, 2010

A fun trip, school-prep tips and a Kleenex giveaway



I am not the type of mom who carries tissues in her purse. I am lucky if I remember to take the house keys. So I was thrilled to get invited, with Sabrina, to Bowling Green, Kentucky for a "Hands-On-Learning Event" courtesy of Kleenex Sneeze Shield tissues and The Motherhood. My mission: Meet up with other bloggers and their five-year-olds, and hang out with award-winning kindergarten teacher Patrice McCrary. Together time with Sabrina, guidance on how to make the transition to kindergarten easier, info on battling germs, a sponsored trip—what could be bad? Also, I figured I could maybe get tips on remembering to keep tissues in my bag.


Sabrina's ears were bothering her during the flight, so William the flight attendant told her to blow into two cups until they were warm and then put them over her ears, to equalize the pressure. Sabrina said it worked, but I still think he was pulling our leg.


The fun started with a ride in a white stretch limo (which Sabrina called "the long-long car"). She BYO'd ice-cream.

Kentucky readers, I would have loved to meet up but the only time I veered out from the lovely Holiday Inn we stayed in was to go to William H. Natcher Elementary School.


That said, I did stand in the parking lot a few times checking out the Corvettes—this weekend was the 29th Annual Corvette Homecoming (Corvettes are exclusively made in Bowling Green).

In our hotel room, a gift bag awaited us with packs of tissues. Now I had no excuse to not have tissues in my purse. And I had something to give to Dave, because I couldn't bring him home a Corvette.

At dinner on Thursday night, I picked Mrs. McCrary's brain for a persistent problem I have: Sabrina interrupting me when I'm talking with other people. Mrs. McCrary's solution: Teach her that when I silently hold up one finger, it means I will be with her in one minute and she has to wait. Genius because it means I don't have to interrupt my conversation to tell Sabrina to hold her horses.

As Sabrina was running around with the other kids, she somehow hurt her thumb and started wailing. Mrs. McCrary stooped down, held her hand and said, "This is what I would say if I were a doctor: That your thumb needs four and a half rubs. So let's do that, and you count the rubs with me." And as Mrs. McCrary stroked her thumb, Sabrina counted "One, two, three, four." By then, she was totally calm.


I thought it was a fantastic trick, but I thought it would be even better if I could take Mrs. McCrary home with me.

Friday morning, we headed to school. On the bus, a kid needed a tissue. Oopsie. I had left them at the hotel. Still not A Mom Who Carries Tissues In Her Purse.


The fantastic bloggers (and their cute kids!) on the trip included, from left, Becky from Nickels -n-Dimes (a total sweetheart who brought classroom supplies to donate); Niri from Mommy Niri (SO funny); the fabulous Mrs. McCrary; Tara from Deal Seeking Mom (I was in awe of her before I met her, the woman has five kids ages 2 to 8 and, wow, is she calm); and the very cool Jamie from Blonde Mom Blog


The classroom was really well set up. I haven't been in a kindergarten class since I was five, and memories flooded back. I loved my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Goodman. I loved her so much I'd poke her hip all time to get her attention. At the parent-teacher conference she told my mom, "Ellen's a great kid, but she makes me black and blue."

Everyone sang a cute "Hello Neighbor" song to kick things off and Mrs. McCrary read "Germs Make Me Sick!" Then we got a little lesson on germs. Research shows you're more likely to attract the buggers if you don't completely dry your hands. We did a little experiment in which the kids all washed their hands but the boys didn't dry theirs completely ("Because they don't do it anyway," noted one dad). Mrs. McCrary had a special light thingie that made germs glow in the dark; the boys had more. All this is why the Kleenex people put a coating on their tissues, Sneeze Shield, which helps prevent gunk from getting on kids' hands when they wipe their noses. I'm hoping it also protects you when your kids shove their used tissues into your hands because they think you are a human garbage pail.


The kids made crafts, including Play-doh germs. Sabrina gave hers hair.


Then they played this cool game, Don't Catch A Cold, where you got to zap germs. Later, we had a chance to ask Mrs. McCrary questions while the kids ate lunch. I wanted to know how to better connect with Sabrina when she starts kindergarten and I'm at work and can't greet her. Mrs. McCrary suggested she talk into a computer cam or tape recorder about her day when she gets home, and we could listen it together at night. Loved that.

I had to laugh at Mrs. McCrary's tactic for dealing with tattletales. She has a photo of President Obama hanging in her class and when kids want to tell on someone, she says "Go tell President Obama." After recess, she says, there's a line at Obama's photo.

One total eye-opener was Mrs. McCrary's thoughts on what happens when you go around saying, "I can't believe my baby is starting kindergarten!" (GUILTY!)

"And if they worry you're having more fun than they are?" asked Niri. "Don't tell them!" said Mrs. McCrary.

Her advice on getting kids prepped for kindergarten—and keeping them happy in school—works for kids of all ages:
• Two weeks before school starts, ease kids back into a routine by having them go to bed and wake up ten minutes earlier than the previous day. For kids who won't go to bed on certain nights, she had this negotiation tool: "I'll give you 15 extra minutes to stay awake, but you have to have a book in your hand. If you don't, we're turning out the lights."
• Plan out a weekday's worth of outfits with the kids on weekends (check The Weather Channe, a good teaching opportunity), and place shoes and backpacks by the door every night.
• Create a reading basket. A lot of the fun of learning is anticipation. So every night, have your child pick out several books she'd like to read when she comes home from school. It's also a good way to give kids chill-out time.
• Instead of asking your child, "What did you do at school today?" and getting that shoulder shrug, ask specific questions. And request a schedule from the teacher, so you know how to gear your questions. For example, you can ask "What did you do at reading today?" "Who did you play with at recess?" and "What did you do in PE?"
• The best gift for teachers: Send occasional thank-you notes throughout the year. As Mrs. McCrary said, "They will go 100 miles out of their way for you."

Someone else asked Mrs. McCrary about her best advice for bringing up kids, based on her own experiences. This is her moving answer:



On the flight headed home, Sabrina kept talking about the trip (she still is). Then she grabbed my hands, looked at them and said, "Mommy, you have germs on your hands." Charming. But at least I had a whole bunch of tissues in my purse.

Now, a giveaway: Kleenex is offering up a one-month supply of tissues. To enter, just leave a comment below with any questions you have for Mrs. McCrary about getting children ready for school (she has experience with kids who have special needs, FYI). Or share your own tips about easing kids into school; a bunch of the best will be chosen to run on Kleenex's site. This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada and especially moms who don't carry tissues in their purse; I'll pick a winner on Monday, July 26, announce it on this post, and alert you by e-mail.

Update: The winner is Nikki of Faithfully Frugal, who wisely puts her kids to sleep earlier a few weeks before school starts and also makes them get up earlier. I hope your family stays healthy and won't actually need the tissues anytime soon!


73 comments:

  1. How crazy is it that Mrs. McCrary made me cry? I AM excited for him to go to Kindergarten, but it does make me realize how fast time is going. Bittersweet.

    My questions for her:
    1. How many hours of sleep does my 5 year old need?
    2. He'll be attending the school I teach at...any tips for us?
    3. How do you foster a love of reading?

    (I have my versions of answers, but would like her ideas!)

    I wish I was hooked up enough to go to something like that. I bet it was a wonderful trip for the 2 of you!

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  2. We loved meeting you and Sabrina!! This was one of the best blog trips I've been on...it was so nice to be able to share this experience with our kiddos. Mrs. McCrary made me laugh until I cried AND cry.

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  3. What a great bonding and learning experience for you and Sabrina!! I love the pictures!! Also, this is a very informative post - I will print it and put it away until Margo reaches that age and then refer to it.

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  4. my daughter has spd and she has not started school yet but the idea is a little scary...we don't even take her out to eat very often because she can't handle them very well yet

    ykatrina at hotmail dot com

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  5. Sounds like a great trip! What a great opportunity to bond with Sabrina and get some good advice about starting school.

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  6. Mrs. Mcrary should be called Queen McCrary. She is mom royalty to me. Oh, and Ellen, is there any doubt you are the most excellent blogger of all moms? How do u manage to make germs and Kleenex fascinating? YOU ARE THAT GOOD. Seriously, thanks for all the wise advice gleaned from what looks like an amazing trip! xo's to Sabrina. She gets cuter every day

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  7. Wow, what a great recap! It was so fun meeting you and Sabrina and all the other moms and kiddos. Mrs. McCrary was such a wealth of information. I feel so inspired now!

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  8. Lot of good info here! I learned a lot even though I don't have a child yet ready to go to kindergarten. I just hope I remember it all.

    One question I thought of is how do you know when your child is having a rough time socially at school? I'm worried that when my son goes he won't have enough communication skills to tell me if he's having a hard time.

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  9. What a great trip and what wonderful tips! Such fun! Sabrina will remember this all her life--the focus was entirely on HER, how delicious for her!

    I can get all the kleenex I need at work, and I DO keep 'em in my apron pocket, so if in the unlikely event my name comes up, give them to the nearest battered women's shelter to your house; I'm guessing they'd go through a year's supply in a month or three, poor dears.

    My question for Mrs. McC is this: How do Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers keep their sanity and patience, particularly when dealing with fidgety, loud children who enjoy more than their share of attention? How do you deal with a persistent loudmouth, to put it plainly? I like that "finger" thing, but I think it would take a lot of repeating before my two got the drill (though they DO understand "Enough, that's IT, we're going home" because I have done that enough...lather, rinse, repeat I guess!).

    I also like nhnoblitt's question--even when kids are verbal, they sometimes don't speak up and "tell" if they're being bullied or simply having trouble being accepted due to social awkwardness or other reasons like, let's be blunt, disability prejudice. I know a lot of schools are working on this issue in a big way, but it would be interesting to hear her views.

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  10. I think it is so great that you went on a trip alone with Sabrina. I have my three kids staggered this summer so that two are at camp and one is always home with me. I am having such a good time bc it is soooo much easier to be with one at a time and it is such a pleasure to focus on one at a time. I realize how valuable alone time is with each child and I applaud you for making sure you have that with Sabrina. It's not always easy to share your mom with your sibling and I am sure she will remember this trip forever!

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  11. My son is only two but he has never been around other children and he is very shy and scared when he sees other little kids.He will not try to play with them, he just plays by himself even when other kids try to play with him,he will walk away.What can I do or do I need to do anything??
    jacksoncrisman@yahoo.com

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  12. my questions have to do with making friends..how do you handle that- how do you teach them mrs.mommyyatgmail

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  13. too bad max did not do kindergaten

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  14. I like to bring my elementary school kids into class a week or two before school starts to meet the teacher and get a feel for the classroom so the first day is not so tramatic.

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  15. HORTON111@AOL.COM

    IT ALWAYS HELP IF THEY A FRIEND IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHO IS GOING TO SCHOOL WITH THEM...OTHERWISE A BIGGER BROTHER OR SISTER TO TALK TO THEM ABOUT SCHOOL

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  16. My question would be, what's the best way of sending a child off to kingergarden when they are shy?

    teenytig@sbcglobal.net

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  17. With four kids successfully through Kindergarten, I think my approach worked well. I started building up the enthusiasm for school a few months before school started, and took the kids for school supplies and new clothes individually.

    I also used the open time in the summer to take the kids on weekly pilgrimages to the library, where they each got a short stack of books.

    If mom and dad are enthused, it becomes natural for the child to feel good about going to school.




    cdziuba@aol.com

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  18. Great article! I felt like I was there with you.

    My tip is something my mom did for us--she had some small cat sculptures (around an inch tall) in different colors--I think they were "counters" from a teacher store. When one of us (me, Mom, or my sister) had an important event such as spelling bee, big exam, or just back to school, Mom had us all three carry our little cats with us to remind us of the others and their cats on the same day. We didn't take them every day, so that made them special.

    Thanks for the chance to win!

    --Liza

    ejm6x (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  19. my son is only 2 so my question is how do I deal with my son going off to school! right now i spend all day with him so its scary for me!
    ohhhfire@hotmail.com

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  20. What time should a kid be going to bed at night once they start school?

    couponboss at gmail dot com

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  21. How can I prepare him for the anxiety of separation? He is attached to both me and my husband. And also how do I prepare myself. I get upset thinking how old he is getting and growing up way to fast

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  22. Gunner has down's and I'm concerned about putting him in a regular classroom. I know he will have an aid, but I don't see how he is going to keep up and I worry about him keeping the class behind.

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  23. My concern is that our child will be the oldest in his class, since we don't want him to be the youngest. We're worried he might not make as many friends.

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  24. how long to let them lay a bed after you first tell them to get up mverno@roadrunner.com

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  25. My question:

    My little one (5yrs old) is such a picky eater. Do you have any brilliant tips for me?

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  26. What are the best ways to cure first day jitters? tracietrump@yahoo.com

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  27. I find it is helpful to have all lunches packed the night before, so you are not worrying about it in the morning

    trippyjanet at hotmail dot com

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  28. A tip I have is to check with your school, my daughter's school had a day before kindergarten started where the bus ran it's route and picked up the kids. The parents were allowed to go too. The bus went to the school and then brought us all back home again. This helped get my daughter ready for bus trips and she wasn't scared at all on the first day of school.

    sphinxcw at aol dot com

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  29. My child wakes up very early every morning but needs her mid-morning nap. Any suggestions on how to change this habit?

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  30. Need some good ideas to take the first day nerves away.
    mintstatesportswear(at)juno(dot)com

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  31. My sons 3 so I don't have questions... yet! But I do need tissues! lol
    sandy
    slblog@post.com

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  32. I know this is specific advice but I think some of it could apply to older kids too! We all need to ease into a change in routine.

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  33. My son and I have a Back To School Day the weekend before school starts! I take him to get a new haircut, backpack and take a drive by the school to prepare for our morning drives. At least a week before we start "practicing" waking up and getting out the door on time (this is more for my benefit). Normally by the time school starts he is excited and ready to go!
    kerriekg@yahoo.com

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  34. Hi! I recently found your blog through other blogs I read. My 5 year old daughter has CP and I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts as I can relate to so much that you share. Yesterday I had my daughter at aquatherapy and the therapist started yelling to me "Mom, we need a tissue, we have a no boogers in the pool rule!" I chuckled as I went to my purse and got the tissue and I immediately thought of this post!

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  35. Mrs. McCrary is a saint- she sounds like a wonderful woman. I would have to say the best thing I have done, is to try and not overwhelm your kid with too much information all at once. Gradually introduce one new thing about going to school (i.e- for a week or so, focus on getting new school supplies, the next week get new school clothes, the next week take a visit to the school, etc..)
    I think as adults, we often forget that a child needs exposure to something multiple times before they come to accept it as 'reality.' It takes alot longer for some than for others, do what you feel most comfortable with your own child.

    emsfsemsfs(at)gmail.com

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  36. Question for Mrs. McCrary:

    My daughter is getting ready to start Kindergarten in a little over a week. I am worried because she just turned 5 and will be one of the youngest in her class. There will be kids in Kindergarten who have been 5 for almost a year and some who will turn 6 right after school begins. Is there anything I can do to help her fit in with older kids? In your experience, can you tell a difference between the older kindergartners and the ones that turned 5 just a couple of weeks before school began?

    Thanks,
    Amanda (worried Mom)
    macd9900 at gmail dot com

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  37. how do you prep for your kid to start a grade where he may be the oldest?

    hockiemack at hotmail.com

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  38. If you have a child who is hyperactive, how do you prepare them for the structure of a classroom?
    bebemiqui82(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  39. Do you feel these is a specific order or routine that works best depending on their sex?
    abrennan09@hotmail.com

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  40. Should an older child be put in responsibility of his younger sibling as a monitor etc. when the younger child begins kindergarten? That's my question.
    coreybrennan26@hotmail.com

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  41. crazyred61@yaoo.com
    I work as a lunchlady. Is there any special way to get special needs kids to try new foods in the line

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  42. Cute and Creative website!! :)Thanks for the giveaway!! Look forward to following you in the future!!!
    gailpisani777@gmail.com

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  43. What a great post! Mrs. MCrary is just wonderful! We need some many more like her to teach our kids.

    I'm wondering how I begin preparing mine socially for school? We're in the country and there are no other kids around.

    Thanks

    trinitygsd at yahoo dot com

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  44. How do you encourage kids about school when they sometimes say "I hate school" when a task was a little difficult to accomplish?

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  45. Is it OK to let a kindergartener wait for the bus on the corner with the "big kids" (I can see from the window) or should I insist I want to wait for the bus, too (and how to do that while respecting that "I'm not a baby any more"?). asthenight at gmail dot com

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  46. My questions are, How do i know the teacher and school my child will be attending are Safe? How can i start helping my child adjust to the new sounds they will hear in school like the fire alarm?

    waitressdani (at) hotmail (dot) com

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  47. Is it a good idea for kids to have that anti-bac lotion? So many of the girls in my daughter's class have them -They use them just for the scent. I wonder if they are not drying out their skin.

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  48. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your wonderful trip. I work as a secretary in an elementary school and even though it's hard to leave a crying child, they really do stop crying as soon as you leave! I love to see the progress of all the kindergarten students as the year goes by.

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  49. My grandson isn't even ready for pre-school yet, so we haven't really started worrying about his first days of school, but it is to be hoped that his love of meeting new people will help him through those first days.

    cgclynsg0 @ gmail dot com

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  50. If there were more teachers like Mrs McCrary, I'd put my daughter into public school. what a wonderful teacher!

    My tip has already been used - to make sure that you lay out clothes at the very least the night before. I hang lots of our clothes as outfits, so they can be easily grabbed and we can be on our way in the morning.

    stormraven at gmail dot com

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  51. I think the best way to ease kids back into school is to get them used to the non summer routine a week ahead of time by waking them up and having them get dressed just as if they were going to school.

    madamerkf at aol dot com

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  52. What do you do with a child who is afraid to get on the school bus?
    wombatspurple[at]yahoo.com

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  53. I teach preschool and love for parents to bring their child in a few weeks early so that I can have one on one with them and show them around the classroom.

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  54. my son started k last year,a tip read with them everyday!
    ardelong2(at)gmail(dot)com

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  55. i always loved being able to pick out your own school supplies and making them your "own." that way you were excited to use them when you started school! =) great giveaway!

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  56. My children love school and get very excited about starting back in the fall. They love school shopping. However, to make sure they adjust well to the schedule, we start a few weeks slowly getting up earlier and going to bed earlier. It keeps there sleeping schedule on track.

    Thank you for the entry, Great giveaway!


    Nikki
    nikkidavissells(at)gmail(dot)com

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  57. A fews before school starts the kids go on a school bed schedule which means going to be early and getting up early do their bodies get adjusted to the schedule.

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  58. How much sleep does a pre-teen actually need to be active/functional during the school day? My daughter and I have different ideas about bed time.

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  59. Tip:

    Strike up a friendship with the other parents. My son is heading to fifth grade, but I made a lot of friends when he started kindergarten. We really learned to lean on each other.


    charisscharity at yahoo dot com

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  60. my son has ADHD and bi-polar.hes not into reading.how can i get him to read more ?
    amy16323(at)gmail(dot)com

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  61. Many, many years ago, one way to ease into school was to play school at home. Thanks for the contest

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  62. My 8th grader really struggles in school, but the school doesn't really listen. What can I do to help her learn to be more organized? I think if she learns to be a bit more organized, it will help her grades where the learning part is lacking.

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  63. Wow... My 3yo will be starting preschool in 7 wks... She is a great little girl, but she has some very strong opinions and will not let up on them. Ie, everyone must wear a shirt. She will literally follow the person around badgering them until they put a shirt on (daddy, uncle Johnnie, people at the church picnic). How do I stave off this behaviour so that this does not affect her class time?

    bevwhip@yahoo.com

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  64. Mrs. McCrary sounds like a wonderful wise woman. I agree on going to bed two weeks before school starts. Also I would say to practice getting up when you would for school and seeing how long it takes to get ready.

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  65. What do you say to your students when you talk about bullying?

    Leigh Bright
    robandleighbright@suddenlink.net

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  66. My kids are still young so we have not had to deal with Kindy fears yet. Those will probably be all mine! We play school, talk about the fun of school, read "The Kissing Hand. I call everything school and call everyone teachers, even if it's just the playroom at the Rec Center. Every "school" has its own name to reduce confusion. The kids think school = fun!

    at gmail: a midg rn

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  67. How do you get them to stop crying over having to go?

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  68. I would like to ask Mrs. McCrary how to you prepare a five year old for the transition into Kindergarten; interacting with new kids, sharing, eating and being more independent.

    morenhinds at hotmail dot com

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  69. Wonderful tips for getting kids ready to go back to school!

    My only concern is getting the kids to actually go to SLEEP when they go to bed. They tend to just lay there, awake, some nights for over an hour.

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  70. I would ask how to get my son to interact more or feel more comfortable with strangers when he starts kindergarten.

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  71. Thank you so much!

    I am so excited!!!

    Nikki

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Thanks for sharing!



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