PRINTABLE | A Quick & Easy Summer Reading Challenge

Our summer vacation is coming to a close – two more weeks until my kiddos go back to school. I was looking over the summer reading bingo sheets today and thinking about what’s working and what isn’t working.

I love a lot of things about this set up – my kids didn’t seem to get much use out of the coupons that you can win at our library’s summer reading program and keeping track of reading minutes or titles all summer sounded a lot like homework. Thus my bingo sheets were born.

Fast forward two years though and I feel like the bingo sheets are met with enthusiasm for the first week or so and then mostly forgotten. Every so often I’d go over the sheet, asking them questions like “Did you read any books about animals?” or “Did you start reading a new series this summer?” and even though the answer might have been yes, they were often unsure having forgotten exact titles.

My kids have been reading a ton this summer – quantity has not been an issue. If anything, our system just seems to be unnecessarily complicated. And we’ve been busy enough to not have time for unnecessarily complicated systems. So I decided to make a pared down reading challenge that highlights our favorite aspects of the current system.

Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy does an annual reading challenge that I love and this year’s challenge included a handy bookmark to keep tucked in your current read. I loved this idea and decided to incorporate it into a new reading challenge for next year.

I know a lot of you still have several weeks of summer left and thought I’d share this here in case you want to motivate your kids to squeeze in some extra reading time before school starts.

BEHOLD: The Summer Reading Challenge For People With No Time For Summer Reading Challenges

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Print it as a bookmark or open up your favorite photo editing site and make your own – I use picmonkey.com to make all my graphics and highly recommend it. It’s all online and has tons of graphics and fonts and flexibility. / Plug

Summer Reading B-I-N-G-O!

We have no shortage of summer reading programs here, some better than others (Barnes and Noble’s took roughly twelve minutes; a local used bookstore is strictly keeping track of minutes read which sounds like homework). We’re rolling deep in reading lists but when I saw this post at Mom’s Radius I couldn’t help myself. I dove headfirst into Picmonkey and created this:

summerreadingbingoYou can steal mine or you can make your own – it was really pretty easy. The hardest part was coming up with ideas to fill all the spaces. I changed them up a little bit for each kid to suit their age and interests. And of course there is a chance that my kids will say, “oh cool” and then forget all about it. That’s okay, too. Summertime and the livin’s easy, right?

2016 New Years Interviews (Free Printable)

I’m feeling slackerly late in sharing this year’s Family Interviews, which the kids filled out New Years Eve weekend and I then proceeded to take eleventy million pictures of said interviews to share them but was all meh about the quality and I really wanted to scan them but I wanted a new scanner because #firstworldproblems and I somehow got it in my mind that I absolutely had to have the new scanner before sharing these because god forbid I scan them with my old scanner that I don’t like but is technically functional. But then I GOT the new scanner and did so many happy dances because it’s all the things. So now I’m sharing the interviews. Short story long.

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DSC_7327BB’s handwriting is getting good enough that I didn’t mind letting her do this herself. Also it’s adorable to read the words they spell incorrectly and swoon over the ones that they totally nail. She says she liked learning to stay in the lines last year and she’s looking forward to playing Little Big Planet more this year. She likes that her parents love her and thinks we should visit grammy for vacation this year. Her favorite gift for Christmas was “all of them” which she says she explained clearly in her interview. When she grows up she wants to be a rock star. Because of course she does.

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DSC_7299MM wrote his interview mostly in cursive in handwriting so tiny that it made me question whether it might be time for me to get bifocals (let’s not think about that right now). Basically we can gleam from this interview that he’s super tight best buds with Caleb, he’s really into the Old Testament, he likes the idea of changing his name to James, he also likes Little Big Planet, he wants to go to England for vacation because apparently we are independently wealthy (awesome), he wants to be a robot creator when he grows up and is good at creating his own fun fonts. He likes wolves and has no opinion on clothing.

Like my interview template? You can totes steal it here:newyearsinterview

Here are last year’s interviews if you are feeling nostalgic.

Pack Your Lunch! (Free Printable)

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My Secret #4582 to Parenting is : Make the Kids Do it.

It can be applied to anything from helping with laundry, taking care of the pets, cleaning their rooms, getting their own cups of water to packing lunch for school. That’s right, I said: your kids can pack their own lunch. Maybe not the kindergartners, but with a little prodding and instruction my fourth grader is totally capable of making sandwiches and filling his lunch box (and sometimes he helps his sister pack hers, too). Somehow that extra 10 minutes in the morning has the power to totally save my whole day – or at least gives me time to drink a cup of coffee.

But what if they just fill their lunch box with sugary snacks?! You ask. This is where today’s free printable comes in. If you have been blessed with children who generally follow instruction, this printable can be your saving grace. My kids really do stand at the fridge and read through my instructions, making sure they have checked off each category. They especially love that last category. And although I am not packing the lunch, I am typically milling around the kitchen keeping an eye on things so giant packages of Oreos don’t go stowing away into their lunch bags.

Aside from saving me a little time each morning, the thing I like about this genius method of mine is that the kids can’t complain about not liking their lunch if they packed it themselves. They still get all the food groups I want them to get, but it’s on their terms. I am seeing a lot less food coming back home uneaten since implementing this beautiful little game changer and that is validation enough for me. Also, more time for coffee. 

Here’s the little list of rules for packing lunch that I made for my kids:

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Feel free to use my printable and trick your own kids into doing chores for you, too. If you are looking at my list and thinking, “That’s not MY definition of a healthy school lunch!” or “Those fonts are horrible Jen!” – no worries, you can make your own list at Picmonkey.com or even by opening up Microsoft Word (or LibreOffice if you are an open source daredevil like me) or heck, get out some crayons and a sheet of paper and go nuts. There are no rules here except the ones you want your kids to follow.

So what are you going to do with that extra 10 minutes in the morning?

DIY Weekly Dry Erase Calendar (Free Printable)

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So backstory first:

I’ve been using a variety of dry erase or rip-off page calendars for a few years now to keep track of our daily schedules, meal planning, etc. It might seem redundant in a world of online calendars that sync to our phones (I use and couldn’t breathe without those also) but having something hanging in my kitchen means that the whole family knows what our week looks like and I feel more organized and capable of planning our week when I have it visually hanging.

I tried printed ones first that I’d simply tear off each week and I liked them but felt super wasteful using them both economically and environmentally so eventually I moved to a dry erase board with a monthly template that I’d fill in but having to look at my monthly schedule and feeling compelled to be on top of an entire month’s worth of goings on felt exhausting and stressful. I was menu planning on this thing and I learned awhile ago that monthly menu planning doesn’t work well for my schedule which is too fluid and unpredictable. Weekly just works better for me (sometimes every three or four days-ly even).

So several months ago I replaced the big monthly board with a weekly one and was all “Hallelujah!” Except…. it turns out the board I bought wasn’t actually magnetic for hanging on a fridge, it was magnetic for sticking notes to it. What? How is that useful???

But I was determined to make it work and tried sticking my own magnets on the back of it, but they weren’t strong enough and the board was constantly falling down. At one point my husband may or may not have super glued it to the refrigerator in a fit of irritation. That should have been the end of my story but somehow it fell down again when we were repairing a problem with the fridge and the board had just had it – despite my efforts, I could not revive it into compliance and I decided that clearly this calendar and I just were not meant to be. So I started shopping for it’s replacement.

…..

And found nothing. Seriously. I searched several stores and didn’t find anything I liked. Nothing. I was pretty bent until somehow I had a eureka moment and went home, pulled up Picmonkey and designed my own calendar template. It was fun and easy – once I worked out printable dimensions and figured out how to make all the squares fit in a way that was useful and not hideous. Then all I had to do was pick pretty fonts and add some cute images. I have a premium paid Picmonkey account so there were plenty to choose from, but even the free version of Picmonkey is still pretty darn useful for stuff like this.

Once I was satisfied with my design, I printed it off and laminated it. I bought a desktop laminator many moons ago and it seems to get used in fits and spurts here and there, but I’m always grateful to have it in moments like these. My calendar printed up perfectly on plain old printer paper which fit the laminating sheet perfectly and the best news is : laminated pages work really well with dry erase markers. Over time, it will probably get harder to clean but they make products to give it a good spit shine and when it finally taps out, I can just print a new one.

Don’t have a laminating machine at home? Companies like Staples will do it for you for a pretty reasonable price, especially for quick one off jobs.

Here’s how my weekly calendar turned out:

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My husband was massively impressed with the fact that it was FREE and takes up very little space and does not need to be magically glued to the fridge. You could totally stick some magnets on the back, but I’m just hanging mine up with little magnetic clips for now because I’m totally planning to make some seasonal ones for funsies at some point.

Want to borrow / steal mine for yourself? Here’s the JPG image which should print very nicely in landscape mode:

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So, now that you have something pretty to plan your week on, let’s fill in the blanks!

What’s for dinner at your house tomorrow?

First Day of School: First Grade and Fourth Grade (Free Printable)

It’s the first day of school here. I’m a little misty eyed. Or was that rejoicing with freedom? One of those for sure.

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The kids were totally ready. BB was up, dressed and bushy tail / bright eyed before either of her parents, MM not far behind.

When we got to school, she was so excited to see all of her friends and pretty much ready for me to leave immediately, but in a nice way.

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This kid was like a blink and you’ll miss him blur of readiness. He was downstairs and in his classroom, flocked by all of his friends before I had a chance to embarrass him with motherly affection.

This is why I get my kicks in at home before we get to school – here in the comfort of my brick wall background, I have their full attention. For a few minutes anyway.

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Want to use my printable? You can grab a download at my Facebook page 🙂 That’s right – I’m bribing you to follow me on Facebook – it’s where all the cool kids are!

When do your kiddos go back to school?

Are you excited or sad or feeling all bipolar about it like me?