Friday, August 29, 2014

Let's Ask The Teacher! Welcome to The Mom Squad Blog, Mr. Boyle!!

Hello Ladies!!  The school year has begun!!  This time of year can bring a whole lot of emotion: anxiety, stress, joy, nervousness, sadness, relief, excitement and so much more!  My kids, Courteney and Kevin, just started 7th grade and 5th grade this past Monday.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that at 8:20 Monday morning, after Courteney left on the bus, and Kevin had already been gone for an hour - I wiped a tear from my eye, posted some pics on Facebook, AND, get this, climbed back into my comfy bed and closed my eyes!!!!  Come on!!...I am sure I wasn't the only one!!! Summer time is hard work, and my husband and I try to keep our kids busy and having fun!  So, the school year brings me some feelings of relief and freedom, but it also brings more responsibility and attentiveness as I work with the many teachers, aids, therapists, bus drivers, and special ed supervisors who work with both of my children.

He is crazy, silly, and loves to make his
students laugh!  
I am blessed to be married to a teacher...a GREAT teacher!  My husband, Dan, is hands down, the most caring, relational, dedicated teacher who I know.  He loves what he does and gives it his all.  He has an awesome balance of believing in his job but also knowing there is so much more to why he does what he does.

Whether our kids are preschoolers or teenagers, gifted or special needs, etc, teachers are a part of our lives, so I thought how great would it be for Dan to answer some questions from real moms??

Let's hear from Mr. Boyle!!

What Back to School tips can you share to start the year off right?
There are so many tips I’ve gathered and valued over the years and would love to share, but here are some of the ones I feel are most important:
  • Review all information.  Review the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives.  
  • Check the calendar.  Make a note of important dates.  This is especially important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations.
  • Have a plan for homework.  Having a predictable routine for homework will take the homework stress off or your child.  (See below for some more specifics!)
  • Re-establish the bedtime and dinner time routines Prepare your child for this change by talking with your child about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities.
  • Turn off the TV.  Encourage your child to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, or read as early morning activities instead of watching television. This will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine. Television is distracting for many children, and your child will arrive at school better prepared to learn each morning if he or she has engaged in less passive activities.
  • Select a spot to keep backpacks and lunch boxes Designate a spot for your children to place their school items as well as a place to put important notices and information sent home for you to see. Explain that emptying their backpack each evening is part of their responsibility, even for young children.
  • Make lunches the night before school. 
  • Set alarm clocks Have school-age children set their own alarm clocks to get up in the morning. Praise them for prompt response to morning schedules and bus pickups.
  • Leave plenty of extra time.  Make sure your child has plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school.
  • Review your child’s schoolbooks.  Talk about what your child will be learning during the year.  Share your enthusiasm for the subjects and your confidence in your child’s ability to master the content. Reinforce the natural progression of the learning process that occurs over the school year. Learning skills take time and repetition.  Encourage your child to be patient, attentive, and positive.
  • Send a brief note to your child’s teacher.  Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school. Be sure to attend back-to-school night and introduce yourself to the teachers.  Find out how they like to communicate with parents (see below).  Convey a sincere desire to be a partner with your children’s teachers to enhance their learning experience.
  • Familiarize yourself with the other school professionals.  Make an effort to find out who it is in the school or district who can be a resource for you and your child.  Learn their roles and how best to access their help if you need them.  This can include the principal and front office personnel; school psychologist, counselor, and social worker; the reading specialist, speech therapist, and school nurse; and the after-school activities coordinator.

How do I best support my child with their homework? 
There are many great suggestions for parents who desire to support their child with homework completion.  One such is to designate and clear a place to do homework.  Older children should have the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Younger children usually need an area set aside in the family room or kitchen to facilitate adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement.  Or, in some family situations it may even be best to have all children in a central location easily monitored by a parent.  Another idea is to keep your child’s homework work area stocked with school supplies for the house.  Having pencils, paper, etc. readily available will cut down on time wasted while working.  Organizing homework and setting a timetable should be considered too.  Help your child list out assignments needing to be done.  Sometimes starting with assignments that will take the shortest amount of time to complete is a good idea because then the child will experience satisfaction of completion more quickly!  Also, make sure they have their needed materials from school before getting started (math book, Language Arts notebook, etc.).  If a child knows that they have everything needed to complete the homework right at their fingertips, getting started will take less time.  Then finally, I would encourage the use of a time system.  Sometimes students need homework broken down into fixed amounts of time so that they do not feel so overwhelmed with the tasks.  Set a timer (out of their view otherwise they focus only on that) and give breaks to help maintain focus and to encourage completion in a timely manner.

Can you elaborate on parents asking teacher for preferred method of communication, as well as when they can expect to hear back from the teacher? 
I believe that there is nothing wrong in asking how a teacher would like to best communicate.  The common methods include email, phone call, handwritten note, or even face-to-face and knowing what works best and most efficient for both the teacher and parent will make their relationship that much stronger for the school year.  Also, be sure to ask the teacher in what time-frame you can expect their response to your question/concern.  This simple question will give you both realistic expectations as you begin to work together. I stress to families the importance of open communication.  If the teacher and parent are on the same page, it can only help the student be more successful!  It takes positive collaboration between teacher AND parent AND student (think of a triangular relationship) to move the student in a forward direction!

What is the biggest challenge you see with the current culture in our schools?     Unfortunately, I see the instant satisfaction or instant gratification mentality to be the biggest challenge in school.  With the exponentially fast changes in technology, we all (students, teachers, parents included) have the ability to have any information needed readily available at our fingertips.  While I probably wouldn’t trade that for anything, what I see happening is a decrease in students’ desire to think both critically and abstractly, and to reason through situations.  I so often dislike seeing the “just give me the answer” or the “let’s hurry up and just get this done” thought processes that have increased because students want instant information.  I know in my class, we do use calculators, and of course that speeds things up.  But, I cannot stress enough to them the “how” and “why”… something a calculator cannot answer!  In wanting it “now,” the “how” and “why” often can be overlooked and so with that, so too then is that ability to think on a deeper level.  We have to bring back the importance of understanding, not just possessing information.  After all, in some way or shape, we are lifelong learners.

Since you teach in the public schools and can’t openly share your faith, what are other ways that you try to be a light in your school?
Not being able to openly share is a bummer for sure, so I have to compensate for that and make it a point to be different in a way that I hope points to Jesus!  I strive to be extremely relational… so much so that a child will, I hope, wonder, “Why is this guy so different” and I hope that they ask!!!  I make it a point to know each in every student in ways that go beyond 6th grade math.  I want them to know that I care about their whole self.  I want attend some of their extracurricular activities, I want to go to phys. ed. class or recess with them often to play with them or against them (it's great getting those 6th graders riled up!).  I want to ask them about their siblings I formerly had.  I want to go the extra mile and make calls or send emails to families to praise the great things their child is doing in school.  I even like to run errands and shop in my district, hoping to see students, past and present, and families, just so that I get the chance to talk to them outside of the school environment.   These are all fun and positive; but, also just as important, I want to know the struggles my students may be going through too.  I want to meet them and help them wherever they may be at.  Of course, with a professional balance, I want to be more than a teacher.  I want to be teacher, mentor, and most importantly, someone that one day they can call “friend,” someone they can always turn to.  Coming back and visiting is expected!!

I suspect that my child may have a learning disability, where do I start to seek support for my child? 
Great question!  First, I would encourage you to meet with teacher of the particular subject (typically math or language arts) and share your concerns.  With your concerns validated, the teacher should introduce a tier one intervention - something that can be done with any student in the class.  During this intervention, the teacher should be collecting measurable data on your child’s progress.    Then based on that info, either the data will show that the intervention is working, thus, showing that is all the support your child will continue to need, or it will show that it is not working well enough and that a tier two intervention should be put in place.  This tier two intervention should be specific to your child’s needs and more in depth.  After further data at this level is collected, a school intervention team, along with you the parent, should review it.  If now progress is occurring, continue that intervention.  But, if no progress is being made, at this point a suspicion of a disability meeting should happen and testing may begin. 

Being an advocate for my child is challenging, do you have any words of encouragement for parents who find themselves needing to advocate for their child?   
This one is easy!  I have an answer to this thanks to my wife’s relentless spirit in advocating for our two special needs children.  My answer is to be diligent!   Ultimately you know your child best so therefore you do what is best for your child!  As a parent of special needs children, I have been on both sides of this situation.  I understand how challenging being an advocate can be.  As an educator I have learned to be grateful for parents who advocate for their child.  Speaking up shows that you care!  I would much rather have a classroom of 30 students with 30 engaged parents than 30 students with 30 disengaged parents!  Yes it may be more work for me (e-mails, meetings, paperwork, etc.); but, ultimately, when parents and teachers collaborate, the students benefit.  

Many thanks to my wonderful, amazing, gifted, caring, compassionate husband, Mr. Dan Boyle! Have a blessed 2014-15 school year, my love!  I am so incredibly proud and humbled to be your wife!    XOXO!!

Moms, have a blessed school year too!  Don't forget to pray with your children before school and bless them before they walk out of the door!   We need to believe that they are missionaries cleverly disguised as students...AMEN!!! 

Many Blessings, 

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Many days after school my kids need to get rid of some ENERGY.  (I know I can't sit for 7 hours!)  Sometimes I tell them to go run around the house 5-10 times.  Another great way to get your kids to move and you also is to have a jump rope contest.  See how many times you can jump rope without stopping or how many jumps you can get in 1 minute. 

Then it's always fun to make a snack together.  Below is a recipe I found at Kids Eat Smart Foundation and LOVE the idea.  All ages can help and it's HEALTHY!

Watermelon Pizza 
    • Watermelon
    • Strawberry Jam
    • Slices of banana, kiwi and strawberries
    • Other berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
    • Shredded coconut (optional)
Slice watermelon into thick pizza shaped slices. Add a very thin layer of strawberry jam to the watermelon so that the fruit will stick. Add slices of banana, kiwi and strawberries. Add the other berries to the top of the watermelon slices. Sprinkle with some shredded coconut (optional). Please keep any allergies in mind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Musings from an Empty Nest Mama

Good morning daughters of grace!  My son left for college last week and to answer your first question, no I haven't cried yet.  LOL!  I have not, however, been able to sleep well since he left.  It's tough.  I'm not used to all this quiet.  It's hard when your job has been "mom" for 18 years and now you feel like it's over.  It's really hard.  That's when I have to remember that I'm not defined by my job as mother but as my position as daughter of the King.  I am the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8).  I am His possession (Mal 3:18).  I am loved (Jer 31:3)!  I have to remind myself of what His Word says.  As I said before, I'm going to try to hold it together and do the things I didn't have time to do.  Maybe I'll take that ballroom dancing class that I've always wanted to take.  :-)

As I was running errands today I saw kids coming home from school.  I'm going to miss those days.  Waiting for him to walk home or for waiting for the school bus to pull up.  He's not my baby anymore.  He's an adult, out on his own.  Following the Lord and allowing Him to make his path.  One of the hardest parts of being a mom is letting go.  However, we must remember that our children were only given to us for a season.  They belong to God and not us.  They will make mistakes, big ones!  They will have successes, big ones!  Through it all the Lord will take care of them.  He loves them more than we do!  Trust the Lord ladies - He will direct their paths and yours!

To help relieve your stress and make preparing dinner that much easier today I'd like to give you recipes for a full meal!  An easy, healthy and delicious three recipe surprise just for you.  My mini BBQ Meatloaves are so fun for the kids and easy for you.  Making them smaller cuts the cooking time down tremendously plus they freeze well!  Add to that mashed sweet potatoes and my famous broccoli slaw and you have dinner!  I do hope this makes your evenings a little easier!  Enjoy moms.  

 Mini BBQ Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup barbecue sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tbsp milk (only if mixture is dry, optional)

  • To make breadcrumbs - toast bread and crumble into small pieces
  • Mix together beef, crumbs, onion, egg, salt, pepper, milk and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.
  • Form into small balls and place in a muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes.
  • Brush with more barbecue sauce.
  • Makes 6 servings.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 pounds sweet potatoes
3 tbsp butter

  • Peel, dice and boil sweet potatoes
  • In a mixer mix potatoes with butter, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg
  • Serve hot

Broccoli Slaw

4 cups broccoli slaw
1 small red onion, sliced
1 cup light mayo
¼ tbsp vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

  • Mix mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper
  • Stir into slaw mixed with onions
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes and then serve.