Category Archives: Education

Kids and Bikes

As my children have developed a passion for bike riding at an early age, I’ve been asked a few times what the secrets been to success. While I would love to give my husband and I some credit, or maybe my children rather, I really am convinced it comes down to introducing the right bike at the right time and getting out and using it as often as possible. While certainly no two children are the same, I do think there are a few key tips that have helped us get started and maybe can help you too:

-Strider Balance Bikes (http://www.striderbikes.com): Great friends of ours introduced us and we fell in LOVE. We’ve often said that the balance bike has been one of the greatest tools we’ve utilized as parents. It really is brilliant and simple… learn balance before proceeding to pedals and brakes. Once balance is learned all that’s needed is a little confidence to make the transition to pedals without ever having to introduce training wheels. We’ve been advocates of the Strider brand since they make the lightest balance bikes in their category (less than 7 lbs.) and have the lowest seat height for the youngest starting age. Kids as young as 18 months are learning to ride!              (NOTE: If you have a child that just stands and walks on the balance bike, adjust the seat height.  I see a lot of people struggle with that.  There is a “magic” seat height that they will sit down on.)

 

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This is our little Ellie on her balance bike at the Rocky Knob pump track. Photo courtesy of Boone Area Cyclists

-Keep it light: When transitioning to a pedal bike, we’ve found that the lighter weight bikes make it easier for the child to manage by themselves. After the Strider we transitioned our kids to a 12” Specialized Hotrock, and then the 16” Hotrock. While these might be more expensive than others on the market, they will still have great resell value after holding up to the abuse of young children. (NOTE: The advice we have been given is to keep them on a pedal brake until a 20″.  Both gears and hand brakes will be introduced then.)

-Carry your own weight:  This next tip really offers no clear benefit to a child, but rather sanity for the parent. From the beginning, we’ve had a “no carry” parenting policy. If they decided to take their bike on a walk, it’s been their responsibility to get it home. It may seem harsh but since that was the rule from the beginning they never new any different.

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-SNACKS: Just like anything else with kids, a good ride can be summed up by the quality of snacks and water readily available. Both of our kids have the children’s version of the Camelbak hydration backpack. They carry their own water and snacks and they LOVE it.

So….looking to get your little one excited about biking?? There are a couple great events coming up for the family you should check out. Cyclovia is this next Sunday (July 27th) from 11am-4pm in downtown Boone. (http://boonecyclovia.com ) We will be stationed at the High Country Recreation booth having relay races and obstacle courses if you want to come play!  Cyclovia is this next Sunday (July 27th) from 11am-4pm

Also coming soon is Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day at Rocky Knob Park. It will be on Saturday, October 4th. More details will be coming as we get closer to the date!

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This was last years crew of kids from Take a Kid Mtn Biking Day. Photo courtesy of Boone Area Cyclists.

 

 

Starting Responsibilities and Chores

We have really found a great stride with our oldest child in having a responsibility and chore chart. With school starting back in 2 months, this would be a great time to start if you haven’t already! Here are some of the BIG questions that I worked through in the beginning:

How do you start and how consistent do you have to be?
It all started for us one night about 9 months ago when my son began complaining that he didn’t like bedtime because we would get short and snippy and tell him to “do this” and “do that”. We were happy to oblige him the next morning with his own checklist of morning and nighttime responsibilities. (This later paved the way to adding the option of chores to earn spending money). He is about 5 ½ now so I guess we started somewhere between 4 and 5.

IMG_4549See the X on the “eat breakfast” on the picture? I asked him about it when I saw it, and he said I had given him Cream of Wheat one morning for breakfast which he didn’t like.

With his responsibilities, we are pretty well consistent. But as you can see from the picture of his list (posted on the mirror at his desk in his room), most of these things usually have to get done regardless. In the mornings, he does not get breakfast until his responsibilities are done. He starts kindergarten next month (EEK!!), and we will have to adapt to this system then. I will probably use an alarm clock and if he gets his responsibilities done in time, he can then have the option of doing his chores in the afternoon after school.

We are NOT as consistent with chores (separate concept from his responsibilities). Some days he asks to earn money–other days I could really use his help and will bring it up, and some days both of us just ignore the idea altogether.

When should you start doing chores with your child?
Chores were introduced as soon as we saw that his responsibilities were in a strong enough pattern. We decided for us that chores would be optional. One day work would not be optional for him, but right now it would be. Let me tell you though, he ALWAYS chooses to do them. The only condition we put on chores is that his responsibilities always have to be done first.

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(NOTE: If your child is not reading yet, it would be easy to draw pictures next to the words)

A hiccup I had for a long time in introducing chores was I saw all these fancy/crazy organized charts that locked me into doing laundry every Tuesday and vacuuming every Friday. I don’t really structure my house cleaning that firmly and wanted the flexibility to decide day by day what activity would work best. So…. as you can see from the picture, it is a simple list posted on the refrigerator that has a small black magnet that I put next to the task each morning. By the time he has finished his responsibilities, I have figured out what housework needs to be completed.

How much do you pay them?
We pay him .50 cents a chore and give him that option 6 days a week. That totals about $3/week. We liked that amount because he could go spend it on something right away if he wanted to, but if he wanted something of quality, he would have to learn to save.

Do you let them spend it on whatever they want?
We really do. But that being said, I have never been one to walk him around a toy store in my leisure time. To give you a couple of ideas, his last purchase was from Mast General Store. He had just seen the LEGO movie and became mesmerized by growing his very own crystal.

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I would show a picture of the final product, but it is still materializing in the solution and should be another 7 days or so before finished. Clearly, he is VERY excited.

He also has fallen in love with taking things apart. For awhile, this was a BIG problem in the house and severely hampered my level of peace during “quiet time”. I have since learned to give him different projects of MY choosing for him to take apart and he is also welcome to spend his money at the thrift store purchasing (preferably broken) electronics. Spending all his money at Menchie’s for frozen yogurt isn’t a rough way to spend the evening either!

If you are thinking of beginning this journey of chores, I hope it blesses you as much as it has us!  It might take a couple of weeks to establish a new routine in the mornings and evenings, but the payoff is worth it!

 

 

 

Riverfest: Valle Crucis Park

This past weekend was the 14th annual Riverfest at Valle Crucis Park. It was our first time attending this event but will now be adding it to our list of annual festivities!  Typically, when people inform me of family festivals or grand openings it translates to me as AVOID that location on that day. That being said, Valle Crucis is an incredible host sight for an event. There is so much room to spread out that you never feel claustrophobic or worry about losing sight of your kids.

            The festival was filled with hands-on activities and information for both youth and adults about the benefits of keeping our rivers clean and healthy as a community. Presented by Watauga River Partners, it was great to see the wide variety of non-profit organizations and local businesses come together to teach and advocate on behalf of the natural resources we are blessed with in the High Country. In the hopes of raising my children to be passionate about the outdoors, it is important for me to then extend that passion to preserving it.

            Some favorite take-away moments included the children’s watermelon eating contest for children 12 and under.

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One of my favorite parts of this picture is the “I Love Mountains” temporary tattoo on his arm they gave him at the festival.

 On the other side of the park, River and Earth Adventures (www.raftcavehike.com) provided free tubes for those who wanted to float down the section of the river within the park. I became friends with the owner of the company (Grant Seldomridge) back when I worked with Appalachian State Outdoor Programs in my college years. He and his wife run a stellar business if you are looking for a guided adventure!

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Not sure what YOUR preferences are in a park, but Valle Crucis is at the top of my list.

Well, Valle Crucis and Price Park…

And Wildcat Lake…

And Rocky Knob.

If you haven’t discovered these places yet, I will be happy to introduce you in my future blog posts. I don’t know about you, but I was a little overcome when Summer Solstice came and went the other day. It serves as a reminder to utilize and make the most of our incredible summers and be outside as much as we possibly can!!!

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A special shout out to my awesome friend and local photographer Alicia Greene who took the amazing shots included in this post.   She specializes in outdoor/action photography and is AWESOME with kids!

Her website is aliciaverde.tumblr.com and her email is alicia.verde.photography@gmail.com if you want to contact her for a family session in your favorite outdoor place!

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“Real life is the good stuff, photographically and realistically. When I am given the opportunity to photograph families, I really love being able to find the real moments and bring those to the light. Watching kids navigate the world is one of the great gifts of adulthood. It is also rich to them. It adds richness to our lives. Photography doesn’t have to be complicated to be powerful or professional. My hope is to use my camera to find the real stuff in life and let others know it’s out there. I would love to have the chance to tell your real life story. ”  Alicia Greene

Internet Safety

Child safety (little ones and teenagers) is important to me (and you). It is something I hold very near to my heart.  I will try to keep it light(-:  Please share some of these tips with your family and friends.  You might save a life and a fragile soul.  After you read, I encourage you to share your safety tips.

 More than 550 victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation have been identified by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in the first eight months of fiscal year 2014.  These are a few tips they have shared with us:

TIPS FOR PARENTS:

  • Talk to children about Internet predators and whether they have ever been approached online. Visit Netsmartz.org for conversation starters on a variety of topics.
  • Keep the computer in a common area of the house, but don’t forget that online technology is also available on cell phones, laptops, tablets and gaming devices.
  • Set limits for what sites can be visited and have your children show you what sites they are frequently visiting.
  • Recognize signs of victimization and grooming. If your child has become withdrawn and isolated from friends and family, you find inappropriate material on the computer or mobile device, or if your child is communicating or receiving money or gifts from an unknown person.
  • Ask them to tell you if anything makes them feel scared, confused or uncomfortable. Let them know that online sexual exploitation of children is a crime and that it should be reported to law enforcement.
  • Encourage them to report cyber bulling, not just when it happens to them but when they see others being bullied as well.

TIPS FOR KIDS:

  1. Never share pictures of yourself online that you wouldn’t want seen by your family, teachers or a total stranger.
  2. Don’t respond to offensive content and don’t forward images or info that might hurt or embarrass someone.
  3. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Change your passwords regularly so strangers can’t find you.
  4. Set user profile to private so only real friends can get access. Know who you’re chatting with – a “friend” is not always a friend.
  5. Don’t share personal information online like your full name, school, address or phone number, or user passwords.
  6. Remember that anything posted online lives on forever and can be shared with anyone anywhere in the world.
  7. Stop the harassment. Treat people online as you would in person and don’t be mean or rude. Report cyber bullying to a trusted adult.
  8. Tell an adult if someone makes you feel uncomfortable by their actions or words. If you suspect online “stalking,” sexual exploitation, or other suspicious behavior, report it to law enforcement.
  9. Don’t meet up in person with anyone you met online.
  10. Check your privacy settings on social media sites frequently, as they can reset due to site updates.

Family Time on the New River

Our most recent camping trip was at the New River State Park the weekend of the New River Canoe Race. We have owned a canoe for the past two years and have enjoyed introducing the kids to moving water. We joined two other families at a group campsite at the New River State Park take-out and all got on the river the following day

.New River State Park Group Campsite

Between our three families, there were 10 children all under the age of 13. The group site worked out great because it provided A LOT of room for the kids to play and run around. (Group camping reservation has a minimum of 14 people and a maximum of 45 people) Which is awesome. They slept HARD that night but Ellie still needed to catch up on her sleep during the canoe ride down the river the next day.

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This was our first river trip in which our son, Caleb, would be paddling solo in his own kayak. He had attended roll clinics in a pool before but we knew the first time in moving water would be telling whether he would take a liking to the sport or not. The New River stretch from Zaloo’s to the New River State Park takeout is about a 5 mile stretch with nothing over class 1 rapids. It’s shallow clean water that is great for families. There are also other great stretches of the New River that are great for exploring too and outfitters that can provide all the gear and shuttle assistance you need.
Like anything else with young children, the key to success is a lot of snacks. There is a lot of relaxing and listening /watching wildlife and jumping in and out of the canoe for swim breaks. Caleb did great in his kayak but still needed to take breathers in the canoe and have snacks as well. In that case, we just used a line to attach the kayak to float behind the canoe.
On this stretch of river, we have found a great little lunch island just a bit up from the take-out.

 

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The kids get obsessed with this island because they (sadly) find lots of broken glass pieces from bottles that have been sanded down by the water.  They spend very little time eating and most time collecting their favorite glass pieces and convincing butterflies not to fly away from them.  We used the glass pieces from this last trip to contribute to a Fathers Day craft project.

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It was another great weekend spending time as a family! The next event we are looking forward is Riverfest being hosted in Valle Crucis from 11am-3pm this coming Saturday June 21st. Check out all the fun activities planned for this event on the HighCountryMom.com website!

Outfitters for New River float trips: Zaloo’s Canoes in Jefferson, NC; River Girl Fishing in Todd, NC. Checkout camping and river information on the New River State Park website!

The Mystery Behind Tweetsie and Moses Cone Manor

Our family loves Tweetsie and Moses Cone Manor.  Our first year at Tweetsie Railroad, we were in the Gift Shop and noticed they were selling the movies: Mandie and the Secret Tunnel,and Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure.  We decided to check them out on Amazon. Neat fact for kids of all ages, Mandie and the Secret Tunnel was filmed in part at Tweetsie Railroad and Moses Cone Manor.  What kid does not love looking for “secret tunnels?”  During June, July and August, you and your explorers can take a “behind the scenes” tour of the Manor!!! After you all watch the movies, let me know if a hike at Moses Cone or Trout Lake looks a little different.  It is excited to think you are walking in the same footsteps as Mandie did many years ago. Both movies are also Dove Approved.

Mystery Hill Giveaway

Mystifying visitors to the High Country since 1948 Mystery Hill features a fascinating collection of hands on activities related to Optical Illusions, Natural Phenomena, and Puzzles. See your friends grow and shrink before your eyes on the Mystery Platform, experience the “gravitational” pull of The Mystery House, Lose your shadow on the Shadow Wall, learn to fly on the Flying Mirror, stand inside a giant soap bubble at Bubblerama. Tickets also include free admission to the Native American Artifacts Museum and The Appalachian Heritage Museum housed in the 1903 home of the founder of Appalachian State University.

Open 7 days a week year round, rain or shine. Four miles from Blowing Rock on Hwy 321.

Now until May 31, 2014, a family of 4 can purchase a Family Season Pass for $25.  Click here for full details:  Mystery Hill Facebook Offer

HighCountryMom.com will be giving two lucky families a Season Pass.  Enter to win by signing up to receive our e-news.   We will draw our winners June 6, 2014.

Our family is excited to enjoy all the new science events Mystery Hill will be introducing in the 2014-2015 season.  Let them know HighCountryMom sent you.

Becoming Conference Highlights

I just returned from the Becoming Conference, where I learned so many tips about saving money, preparing food and party planning, not to mention hospitality and organization.  It was such a fun girls’ weekend with my mom and my sweet babe in tow.  The decorations were lovely (using the thrifty skills that we were taught), as well as the cake, cheesecake and cake.  Did I mention there was cake?

I thought I’d take a few minutes and share the highlights from the weekend, along with a few of my favorite tips that I learned.

  • I thought this year’s sponsors were particularly AWESOME!  Although I’m not a coffee drinker, International Delight provided gallons and gallons of free iced coffee, with plenty of their new creamers for tasting.  We received some awesome coupons and goodies from sponsors, as well as a handbag and set of greeting cards from DaySpringCents of Style provided a beautiful “Becoming” necklace and a ten percent off coupon.  This is a great company for purchasing inexpensive accessories and they host really great sales on Fridays.  De Wafelbakkers provided some fun water bottles and a coupon to try out their pancakes.
  • I decided to go to Jenny Martin’s (Southern Savers) session on cutting your grocery budget in half.  I have already been to her longer workshop but I thought I could use a refresher since I recently decided to get back into couponing since I had taken a break after giving birth.
  • Best tips:
    • It’s important to learn what a “good/rock bottom price” is for a product.
    • Grocery stores cycle most products on sale every six weeks.  Buy enough to last six weeks, until it is on sale again.
    • Wal-Mart will price match grocery store ads for stores within a fifty mile radius (you must take the ads with you to Wal-Mart).  This helps save on produce.
    • You’ll save more money by not having brand loyalties.
    • To save on meat, buy local and buy in bulk.
    • To save on produce, buy from the farmer’s market or local farms for the best price.  You can check out this website for some help with pricing questions.
  • Barbara Hemphill presented a very helpful session about organization and clutter.  One major statement that I took away was “You can keep everything you want if you’re willing to pay the price in time, energy, etc.”  That gave me a new way to think about the things I keep and the reasons why.  Perhaps another blog post for another day!
  • My favorite session was by Edie of Life in Grace and Ruth of Living Well Spending LessHospitality and Party Planning on a Budget.  These two gals were such a dynamic duo in a very subtle way.  It’s really hard to explain but they contributed equal amounts of “heart” and practical ideas.  I was reminded why it is important to make people feel welcome and to extend a heart of love toward others.  I learned some great tips about planning a lovely party on a small budget, such as using scrapbook paper for pennants and party hats (which can be reused).  I’m going to use all of this information to plan my little nugget’s first birthday party in a few months.

  • Miss Mustard Seed presented a session on DIY around the home, which is her specialty.  I admit I went to this session as a dreamer because I feel that I lack a lot of skills to “do it MYself”.  I was encouraged because she said it’s okay if you don’t take a fancy to every type of DIY.  I think I’m going to focus on crafts/decorations for parties and my sewing lessons; I’ll leave the upholstering to expert gals like Miss Mustard Seed!
  • Although I had attended Jen Schmidt’s (of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) 80% Off Lifestyle and Loving It session the past two years, my mom wanted to attend so I tagged along with her.  I was reminded how much I have been wanting to learn to make my own cake stands and decorate with them for parties/events and I was reinspired to shop my favorite thrift stores for some fall clothing.
  • The last session included Jen’s Ten Minute Dinners and a special presentation by Jackie Brown of Mom on a Mission and the Freezer Fairy.  I loved this one because I am learning more and more about freezer cooking and she had so many great tips on how to freezer cook with more wholesome and less processed ingredients.  I have yet to really dig into her blogs but here are a few things I learned from her last weekend:
    • Fresh eggs can be frozen, without the shells.
    • Place a cooling rack (can be found in your local dollar store) in between freezer casseroles so that they don’t fold in on each other with the aluminum foil covers.  You can remove the cooling rack once the casserole is frozen.
    • I learned the proper way to freeze (cool food to room temperature, avoid air in the freezer baggies, use quality baggies, etc.)
    • She uses a plastic shoe box to freeze food in baggies, as well as another to defrost in the fridge (to avoid messes).
    • Keep a freezer inventory sheet.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference and I hope you’ll join me on August 8-9, 2014 at Ridgecrest so we can enjoy some girl time and learn lots of new things together!

DisclaimerThe above sponsors did not pay me to mention them in this post.  I have expressed solely my opinions regarding this conference and sponsors.

Summer Learning Series – Part 3 – Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

Chicken Sunday is a meaningful, multicultural story that I used to read to my third grade students during the first part of the year.  The story involves forgiveness, love and honesty as three children find themselves in a bit of unmerited trouble while trying to purchase a gift for Gramma Eula.  On their way to purchase a hat from Mr. Kodinski, they are blamed for throwing eggs at his back door.  They cannot tell Eula why they were near his hat shop but she encourages them to find a way to earn his trust and show that they are not guilty of throwing the eggs.  Pick up the book at your local library to find out exactly what they did to earn Mr. Kodinski’s trust.

Ideas for sharing this story with your children:

  • Read the story together with your children.
  • Discuss the questions found here or add your own.
  • You can also take this opportunity to learn about other cultures.
  • Create Pysanky eggs with a tutorial like this one.
  • Take this opportunity to learn about or review measurements by creating your own “Honesty Soup”.  For example, one cup of truth, two tablespoons of integrity, etc.

No matter the day of the week, I hope you enjoy reading Chicken Sunday!

Adapted from the Heartwood Ethics Curriculum.

Summer Learning Series – Part 2 – Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Today we’re continuing our Summer Learning Series, lessons I previously taught, based on The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum.

One of our trademark Boone weather patterns is a good ole summer rain storm.  When these usually arrive after a “hot” day (hot being a relative term for our area), I am reminded of a book that I loved to read to my first grade students when I was teaching classroom guidance as a school counselor. I will never forget a particular first grade class where I brought the book, Thunder Cake.  In this story a little girl is afraid of the approaching storm and the accompanying thunder.  Her babushka (Russian for grandmother) helps her overcome her fear by taking a fun journey to collect ingredients for making “thunder cake.” 

Materials Needed:

Character Trait:  Courage

Lesson:

  • Read the story together and discuss the following questions (or any other questions you may think of):
  • What is the meaning of courage?
    • How did the little girl show courage in the story?
    • How did the girl’s babushka help her face her fear of storms?
    • What are some of your fears and how can we work together to help you work through those?
    • Have you or your child ever helped someone find courage in a fearful situation?
    • Share with your child how someone helped you overcome a fear.
    • Collect all ingredients for the thunder cake and make the cake together.  Enjoy!

I recall one particular class where a little girl asked for a copy of the recipe and went home and made the cake with her mother.  She brought a piece to me the next day!  I’ll never forget that sweet gift and how great it must have been for her to do something fun with her mom, based on a story from school.

My husband recently rode his bike in the Blood, Sweat and Gears event in Valle Crucis, NC and we hosted a “carb load” dinner at our home for some of his pals that were riding, as well.  I took the opportunity to make Thunder Cake and it was particularly a huge hit with my husband.  Who knows, maybe it was because of the special ingredient?  What’s that, you ask?  Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out!