BTS 2018: School boys and other stuff

BTS 2018: School boys and other stuff

My three desert-dwelling grandsons started school on Tuesday. Declan delighted in taking part in first-day photos for the first time as he began half-day preschool the same morning his brothers headed to big-boy school. This year Camden is a first-grader, and Brayden—believe it or not …

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BTS 2017: Grandsons and good teachers

From the look of their first-day-of-school photos (which I nabbed from my daughter's Facebook page), my grandsons lucked out with caring and personable teachers for the new school year.

brothers first day of school 2017

Camden kicked off kindergarten with a super-sized grin — sporting the empty spots...

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Practicing what I preach, plus GRAND Social No. 267 link party for grandparents

Practicing what I preach

I do my best to practice what I preach here on Grandma's Briefs. Last week I preached all about ways grandparents can help school-bound grandkiddos. One of the suggestions in the post is to give grandkids a BTS care package of sorts (with an outfit or pajamas) before school begins.

It just so happens that the day that post was published, I received a text message from Megan with a picture of my grandsons thanking me for the BTS care package i had sent them, which included a few school supplies plus an outfit for each boy. (Shorts and tees that I thought were cute as can be for school but would work just fine as jammies if the boys considered my selections not cool for school.) Declan — who's only three and spends his days with Mommy, not at school — got a package just like his brothers, too, because, well, how could the cutie not?

grandson heading back to school
Declan, Camden, and Brayden grinning big for Gramma!

The package arrived just in time! Today Camden starts...

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BTS tradition: 10 ways to support school-bound grandchildren (plus a few extra)

Ah, back-to-school time. The past few years at this time, I've shared the following post from my archives. It's always gotten a great response — because grandparents are awesome and want to be involved in the education of their grandkiddos — so I hereby pronounce this post an annual BTS tradition.

This time around I've updated it in a few ways, including adding suggestions from other grandmas who shared tips in comments on the post in the past. (Thank you, ladies!)

Originally published August 6, 2013

My daughter Megan is not only the mother of my awesome grandsons, she was also an elementary school teacher for several years before MOM became her full-time job. Here are a few suggestions she and I came up with for supporting school-bound grandchildren in ways that will garner an A+ not only from the kids, but from their parents and teachers, too.

back to school ideas for grandparents

1. Send a care package to be opened the night before school starts. Consider adding new cozy jammies to help ease...

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Back-to-school books for all ages, including grandmas

I've always resisted any hoopla about "summer reads" and such, as summer has always been the time I'm least likely to read. Unless I'm sitting in a car or plane while traveling, there's far too much to do and see and enjoy outdoors during the summer, so reading gets put on hold. As far as I recall, reading was similarly shelved, for the most part, by my daughters during the summers of their childhoods.

Whether you're a summer reader or not though, once the school bells ring, it's time to return to the books — for enjoyment as well as edification. Following are a few books I recently received free for review, with something sure to entertain and enlighten readers of all ages.


FOR AGES 2 to 5

Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig and the Busy Day at School by Candlewick Press, illustrated by Ladybird ($12.99 hardcover) Many a youngster — and parent — knows and loves Peppa Pig, the Nick Jr. star. In this new adventure, Peppa hems and haws about which special talent of hers she should share during Special Talent Day at school. She and her classmates first have lessons in counting, the alphabet, painting, playing store and more, followed by Special Talent time. Lo and behold, other classmates show off the very same talents Peppa had hoped to share. What is she to do? Madame Gazelle offers guidance to the perky little pig — and readers, too.


FOR AGES 4 to 7

Blue is Happy

My Blue Is Happy by Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien ($15.99 hardcover) Ever since I had a boss who painted his entire office blood red, I've been intrigued by how colors have different meanings (and feelings) for each individual. This book made my heart sing as I read about a little girl's journey of discovering what others think of some of her favorite and least favorite colors. I was especially pleased the little girl saw pink a little different than most girls, stating that to her, "pink is annoying, like an itchy bug bite." An unexpectedly delightful read with adorable illustrations.


FOR AGES 5 to 8


How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti ($7.99 paperback) Sometimes the best part of the school day is lunch time. But where does all that food in one's lunchbox come from? No, not the grocery store. This book — named Book of the Year by the American Farm Bureau — educates hungry kiddos on where everything from their sandwich bread and cheese to tomatoes, carrots, apple juice, clementines and even chocolate chip cookies come from. You might want to pack a lunch before setting out to read it, for you will end up hungry.


FOR AGES 7 to 12

Electrical Wizard

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez ($16.99 hardcover) Nikola Tesla is a former and much beloved resident of my city. Until a year or so ago, in fact, my city boasted a Tesla Historical Museum dedicated to honoring the man who pioneered modern electrical engineering. Tesla changed not only the course of local history, though, he rivaled Thomas Edison in his contributions to lighting up our world at large. This intriguing book tells of Tesla's seemingly magical powers that lit up not only the Chicago World's Fair and New York City of yesteryear, but that impact modern inventions used today.




Bluefish by Pat Schmatz ($6.99 paperback) Travis is 13, a difficult age for any kid. Making matters worse, he's stuck living with Grandpa in a new town where he must attend a new school. Worst of all? Travis has a secret, something that makes him consider himself a Bluefish — stupid, angry and alone. Until, that is, an unorthodox girl nicknamed Velveeta offers blunt honesty and plenty of humor that shows Travis he is so much more. Though meant for middle readers, this coming-of-age story — winner of numerous awards and honors — will resonate with anyone who was 13 years old once upon a time.



Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole ($25 hardcover) Like I said, back-to-school time is great for grownups. As the kids toil away at school during the day and on homework come evening, grandmothers and others have more uninterrupted time to dedicate to good books of their choosing. I recommend Letters from Skye next time you're choosing. I was captivated by the love story played out in letters shared across continents between a Scottish poet and a feisty American college student, beginning in 1912 and spanning decades. The trailer:


Disclosure: I received the books above free for review, though that did not influence my opinions nor my desire to share them with you.

Today's question:

What book(s) are you currently reading?

10 ways to support school-bound grandchildren

Kids of all ages will soon head back to school — if they haven't already. Though Mom and Dad play the starring role in supporting their children's educational efforts, grandparents have plenty of opportunities to make their mark, too.

My daughter Megan is not only the mother of my two awesome grandsons, she's also a teacher. Here are a few suggestions she and I came up with for supporting school-bound grandchildren in ways that will garner an A+ not only from the kids, but from their parents and teachers, too.

back to school ideas for grandparents

1. Send a care package to be opened the night before school starts. Consider adding new cozy jammies to help ease pre-first-day jitters (or to cuddle in after a rough first day), new pencils emblazoned with favorite characters, and a greeting card expressing best wishes for a fabulous start to the school year.

2. Ask Mom or Dad for a copy of the school supply list as well as suggestions on what you can purchase to check off the list.

3. Offer to buy the all-important backpack or lunch box — but only if the child goes with you to pick it out. Fads and styles come and go in an instant, and if your grandchild doesn't get a box or bag donning her favorite character or what's hot among her peers, chances are she won't be lugging either to school.

4. Speaking of backpacks, recruit your grandchild to help you purchase and fill a backpack for a less-fortunate child. Most schools will gladly accept such donations for their students in need, plus a handful of charitable organizations conduct backpack drives. Check around in your city for such opportunities or do a Google search for "backpack donations" to find an organization near you.

5. Request a copy of the school calendar so you can mark important dates and events you may be able to attend, such as the back-to-school open house, fall programs, field days, sporting events and more. The calendar should show Grandparents Day events, too — which, given enough notice, even long-distance grandparents may be able to attend.

6. Sign up for email newsletters and blog updates from the teacher. Every school should have a website with reams of information of interest to parents and grandparents, and many teachers are now required to keep a blog for those who want to stay on top of what's happening in the classroom.

7. Email the child's teacher to introduce yourself. This first seemed a tad stalkerish to me, but Megan assured me she and most teachers are delighted when grandparents want to be involved. Parents are given the teacher's email address at the start of the year, so ask Mom or Dad if they mind sharing it with you.

8. Go beyond simply introducing yourself to your grandchild's teacher and offer to volunteer in the classroom. One of the most active and admirable grandma volunteers I've come across is Grandma Kc from Amaraland. Check out her posts on the topic to see what a difference grandparent volunteers make. Long-distance grandparents who can't help at their grandchild's school can make a difference by volunteering to be a grandparent helper at a nearby school. Just as your grandchild is far away, there are many grandchildren whose grandparents are far away — kids who would be thrilled to have a stand-in for their Grandma or Grandpa (their teacher would, too).

9. Stock up on postcards or gift cards to send to your grandchild throughout the year to show your support for their hard efforts and your wish for their educational success. Adults often take it for granted children just know we want them to do well in school, but having our wishes in writing to hold in their hands and re-read when studies — and peer pressure — overwhelm can bouy kids in tough times we adults may not even realize they're having.

10. Show genuine interest in their lessons and encourage further learning outside the classroom. Have an open and ongoing dialogue about what you most enjoyed about classes at the child's age, ask what he's excited to learn or most challenged by, find out what he wants to know more about. Then plan outings related to subjects they're especially interested in. Grandma Judy from GrandparentsPlus2 can teach us all a thing or two about doing exactly that, as she and her husband regularly supplement her grandchildren's lessons with fun and educational activities, road trips and more.

Back-to-school time can be scary and challenging for all students, from those just entering kindergarten on up to those who've been at it for years. No matter their age, be sure your grandchildren know they can count on you to cheer them on as they hit the books this fall.

Today's question:

What was your favorite new school supply when you were a student?

Off to school and home again

This past week was a big one for Megan, Bubby, and Mac.

First off, Megan and Bubby headed off to school for the new school year. I have no photos of Megan's first day of class—adult children are goofy that way, not sharing first-day photos with their mothers. I do, though, have pictures of Bubby's first day of Pre-K and with his new teacher, stolen borrowed from Megan's Facebook page:  

The smile's a pretty darn good sign things are off to a good start.

That's the "off to school" portion of this post.

The "home again" part? Well, that belongs to Mac. Mac who really did not like going to daycare. Mac who, apparently for most of his time at daycare, looked much like he did when he'd had enough of riding in his carseat on their recent California visit:

And much like he looks when he's just plain had enough of anything and everything:

During his first week at daycare, Mac didn't act happy and Mac didn't look happy. He had given  daycare a try, but he'd had enough. And he had no qualms about letting one and all know things just weren't working for him.

Megan searched high and low for a solution to Mac's daily unhappiness. She checked out other childcare centers, she interviewed several home-based care providers. None felt right.

Then she considered nannies. A nanny for Mac did feel right. Especially when the nanny would be Aunt Katie—Preston's aunt and Mac and Bubby's great aunt. A great aunt not only by virtue of her place on the family tree, but great because she does awesome stuff like this:

That's Bubby flying high on the trampoline, thanks to a boost from Aunt Katie.

So Mac is back home again instead of at a daycare center. And happy. With Aunt Katie playing the role of nanny.

Aunt Katie's first day on the job, Mac didn't cry when Daddy left for work. He didn't cry when Mommy left for work, either. He did cry, though, when Aunt Katie left to go home at the end of the day.

That's a good sign, Megan says. A very good sign.

School bells have officially rung. After a wee bit of tweaking and making the best of the challenges, so far, so good—for the back-to-working-mommy Megan, the Pre-K Bubby, and especially for the happily home again Mac.

Today's question:

How smoothly has the summer-to-school-time transition gone for you and yours?