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Inside New Guidelines for How Districts Will Judge Social-Emotional Learning Products

inside new guidelines for how districts will judge social emotional learning products
MB Anayst View Mar 4

Guidelines released by the influential group CASEL place an emphasis on programs and products supporting equity, and whether materials are developmentally appropriate for students.

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Juki TL2000Qi Sewing Machine Review

juki tl2000qi sewing machine review

Hi friends and happy Tutorial Thursday! Today I’m reviewing the Juki TL2000 Qi Sewing Machine. I’m also showing you how to thread, clean, and maintain the machine and a few little features I’ve discovered along the way!

jukitl 2000qi review
Juki TL2000Qi Sewing Machine Review 5

I’ve gotten so many questions about my Juki TL2000 Qi Sewing Machine, and what I think about it. So today I’m taking an in-depth look at this machine! I’ll show you all of it’s features, and show you how to thread it, wind the bobbin, clean it, and discuss whether or not it’s been worth the money!

Watch the Juki TL2000 Qi Sewing Machine Review here:

Supplies mentioned in this video:

So those are my thoughts on the Juki TL2000 Qi Sewing Machine. Overall I’ve been very happy with this machine! It’s been a great workhorse for me and has required very little maintenance.

Actually I have been cleaning and oiling it regularly since I purchased it, and…gasp…haven’t ever taken it in to be professionally serviced! That’s not to say that you shouldn’t get your machine serviced, but they always say it will be out for a few weeks and I just haven’t been able to let it go for that long. So I’ve been bad and just been cleaning it myself. But I also haven’t had any issues with it so…?

If you have any additional questions I didn’t cover in the video, please make sure to leave them in the comments below!

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Why Self-Care Is Important For Our Children Too

why self care is important for our children too

Self-care has become an increasingly popular topic in recent years, and for good reason. As parents, we simply must take care of ourselves in order to take care of our children. But what about our kids, especially those who are gifted and twice exceptional? How do we help them learn coping skills and emotional regulation? How do we help them identify what they need to take care of their own bodies and souls?

self-care for kids


Self-Care For Parents Of Gifted Children

I am not sure there is any doubt at this point, that self-care is a necessity in our lives as parents. (If I hear the “put your oxygen mask on first” analogy one more time, I may scream.)

The reality is that practical self-care often looks a lot different than how self-care is portrayed on social media. Add the complex set of issues associated with neurodiverse, gifted children, and self-care can often feel like an overwhelming, yet another-thing-to-do task.

The good news is, self-care is not always bubble baths and vacations. Most of the time, it’s small, practical, and intentional choices that help us maintain balance.

Here are some small, realistic examples of practical self-care for parents of gifted children.

  • Going on a walk
  • Listening to a podcast while doing the dishes
  • Reading a book
  • Going to bed early
  • Hiding in the closet and eating chocolate
  • Watching a show with your husband

Now, if we can just stop feeling guilty for  doing them!

self care is important for children too


Why Self-Care Is Important For Our Children Too

We have an opportunity to teach our children how to develop self-care and coping skills the same way we teach almost any other topic.

It’s worth it! These skills benefit our children in a variety of ways. Decreased anxiety, increased self-confidence, and more comfortable social interactions are just a few of the benefits of self-care for our children.

self care is important for children too


Helping Our Children Develop Self-Care Strategies

These are just a few suggestions for incorporating this type of learning into our everyday lives with our children. 

Modeling Self-Care Skills For Our Children

One of the best ways to help our children develop healthy self-care habits, is to model them. 

This means being intentional about how we employ our own self-care and being overt in bringing their attention to it. For example, saying “I am feeling a bit low today. I am going to take a walk in the sunshine,” is far more effective than any lecture about the benefits of the sun on our moods.

Have A Plan For Your Child’s Self-Care

Whether or not your child struggles with executive functioning, they will likely need you to help them develop a plan for their own self-care.

For years, I have helped my kids pack a bag filled with items and activities to help them feel calm and centered when we are out and about. Because I helped them create this plan initially, as they have gotten older, they’ve learned to do it on their own.

Self-Care Practice Makes Perfect

It takes time for self-care and overall coping skills to develop. Please know, none of us are immune to the frustration that comes from trying to help our child, only to see them continue to struggle.

As with all social and emotional skills, our children need time, often years, to begin to feel a sense of understanding and control. Consider it practice, not a failure, when your child is not able to employ even the most well thought out plan for self-care.

Given time and practice, self-care can become an essential component of our children’s lives. 


A Conversation with Colleen and Shawna All About Realistic, Real Life Self-Care

self-care for kids


Colleen and Shawna take this episode to talk through the practical realities associated with self-care for ourselves and for our children. (Don’t miss Colleen’s story about meeting her husband in the driveway and Shawna’s son thinking her doing the dishes is somehow self-care!)

self care


Links And Resources From Today’s Episode


Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!

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March 2021 Printable Monthly Calendars

march 2021 printable monthly calendars

Happy MARCH 2021 friends! I have another freebie for you today, it’s time for my monthly printable calendars! Download the March 2021 FREE Printable Calendars here and add a little fun into your homeschool day. 

mar2021calendar coah2
March 2021 Printable Monthly Calendars 16

For kiddos who need more handwriting and number writing practice, I’ve created a traceable version where they can practice number formation and counting.

I’ve also created one with numbers already printed for students not ready for handwriting, or for students who already know how to write numbers well.

To use the traceable calendar: Have students use a marker or pencil to trace each number, then have student count up to today’s number.

To use the dot calendar: Have students a bingo dabber or small stickers to mark each day as it passes. Have students start back at one and count up to today’s number for counting practice. If they’re ready you might also encourage them to count only odd or even numbers.

Alternate advanced ideas:

Have students create a pattern as they write/mark their dates!

For example write odd numbers in red and even numbers in blue (ABA pattern). For more advanced patterns, use multiple colors to create more patterns.

You can also use stickers to create patterns, for example on day 1 put a star sticker, day 2 a smiley face, day 3 a star, and so on. See below for more pattern ideas.

mar2021calendar coah1
March 2021 Printable Monthly Calendars 17

Here are a few patterns you can encourage your kiddos to use when working with daily calendars:

  • AAB (i.e.: red, red, blue)
  • ABBA (i.e.: red, blue, blue, red)
  • ABAB (i.e.: red, blue, red, blue)
  • ABC (i.e.: red, blue, green)

There are lots of ways to create patterns, so feel free to get creative with your calendars!

Weather: I’ve also included a small weather graph at the bottom of the monthly calendar as well. Have students either color one square or put an “x” in one square for the appropriate weather each day. At the end of the month compare each weather type to see which type of weather was most/least common.

–>> Download the March 2021 Printable Calendar pages here!

Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you enjoy these monthly calendars and that they make your homeschool days a little more fun and engaging!

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10 Tips for Making Dinner Easier for Busy Moms

10 tips for making dinner easier for busy moms

Dream Dinners Logo

Written by LeAnne Varenkamp of Dream Dinners – The Original Meal Kit Company

Yesterday, was one of those days. Laundry on the couch for the second (or third…) day, a sick toddler, trying to help with high school algebra… Add in the ongoing effects of the seemingly never-ending pandemic, and I pretty much felt like I wasn’t getting anything accomplished! Then, I snapped at my fourth grader. I was feeling “mom guilt” all the way.

So I needed to stop, take a breath, and remind myself about what’s important. As a homeschool mom with eight kids, I believe it is more important to be a parent and to connect with my children rather than get everything on my to-do list done.

Dream Dinners Family Pic

Our job is to guide our children on their journey to becoming adults and to teach them how to navigate life when it doesn’t go as expected. We don’t get to choose our circumstances, but we do choose how to manage them.

Right now, we may see our kids all day long, yet we still need to pause and connect as a family, remembering who we are as a family unit. The family dinner is the perfect place to do that. There is something special about sharing a meal. It’s where everyone belongs and participates. It’s where we find joy.

Getting the family together at the same time and getting a meal on the table can be challenging in the best of times, let alone right now. As the owner of a Dream Dinners meal kit franchise, I’ve learned a great deal over the years about the importance of family meals. I’ve also picked up a lot of tips on how to make meals easier and more enjoyable to prepare.

Dream Dinners Meal

Here are 10 tips to help you through the pandemic and in the future.

  1. Prioritize family mealtimes. Choose the ideal number of weekly family meals that makes sense for your family. Every family is different. The important thing is that you are being intentional. If work and school schedules make dinners hard, have family breakfasts or lunches.
  2. Avoid “food court chaos” and the temptation to make multiple dishes to keep everyone happy. Teach your kids to be concerned about others, not themselves. Each meal may not be their favorite, but they need to learn they don’t always get what they want. This also helps reduce “picky eater” problems.
  3. Engage the entire family in creating the menu and preparing the meal. As moms, we’re teachers and trainers, not servants. Involving the kids in the whole process, even budgeting, teaches them life skills. Start by having them with you in the kitchen during pre-school. At first, they help, but use the opportunity to train them. Soon enough, they can take the lead. With practice, junior high schoolers can make dinner on their own.
  4. Fix and freeze dinners in advance. Dream Dinners pioneered the fix-and-freeze meal kit concept nearly 20 years ago. Customers visit one of Dream Dinners’ 70 local kitchens where in about an hour they prepare a month of meal kits that are then frozen. (Due to COVID restrictions, kits currently are being made for customers by Dream Dinners’ staff and picked up or delivered.) You can use the same process to save a huge amount of time, especially if you involve the kids in the prep. Once they are old enough, they can thaw and cook the meals themselves.
  5. Coordinate meals with unit studies, especially unit studies covering history, world cultures, math, and life skills. For example, when studying the history and culture of Italy, create different meals from each region of the country. And look for meals with lots of measurements when your children are learning about fractions.
  6. Make meals fun! Eating breakfast foods for dinner while dressed in PJs or creating theme dinners complete with costumes and table decorations are great examples of turning mealtime into an enjoyable event.
  7. Enforce a “no device rule.” The average American right now is streaming eight hours of media content every day! In our house, all devices have to go into a basket and be turned off before everyone sits down. This way, everyone is fully present, and we are not allowing our devices to control us.
  8. Master the art of table talk. Good conversation begins not with speaking but with listening. The key to connecting with your kids is empathy. Work at eliciting their feelings. Show you care, and the conversation will flow.
  9. Curb the conflict. Choose your battles, focusing on what’s really important while avoiding defensiveness. Be respectful of your kids, no matter their ages, and encourage them to do the same. Teach them the power of saying, “I’m sorry,” and don’t be afraid to apologize yourself. Last, set – and enforce – a no yelling policy.
  10. Instill manners. Teaching kids to behave well is one of our most important – and difficult – challenges, especially at the end of a long day when we’re tired. Dinnertime, nonetheless, is a great time to reinforce kindness and respect and demonstrate good manners. A few suggestions: set limits on acceptable conversation topics and establish house rules, such as washing hands before dinner and asking to be excused before leaving.

Homeschooling is all about teaching children to run on their own batteries. Too often, moms try to do it all when we should be teaching kids how to be self-sufficient and how to contribute to family life. Involving them in dinner, from planning through clean-up, is a wonderful way to accomplish this. It also creates opportunities for older children to grow by guiding younger siblings through the meal preparation process.

Perhaps even more important is the role dinner plays in building up each family member and helping each one find a place of belonging and security, especially during such a difficult time.

I strongly recommend The Hour that Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal, co-authored by my dear friend Tina Kuna, who founded Dream Dinners with Stephanie Allen. It’s available here on Amazon.

Stay well and bon appétit!

Dream Dinners author infoHi, I’m LeAnne Varenkamp! I’m married to my kindergarten sweetheart, and I am mom to eight awesome kids. I also work outside the home for a great company whose mission is to help families gather around the dinner table. As a family, we have a heart for community and serving others, and we are always on the lookout for ways to encourage people to thrive. Right now, our homeschooling adventure includes restoring our 100+ year old farmhouse. For more information about Dream Dinners, please visit my website.

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Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

why unit studies are ideal for gifted learners

When my daughter finds a topic she loves she latches on like a dog to a bone. She wants more and can’t seem to get enough. Maybe you can relate? This is where unit studies come in.

Unit studies are the perfect way to engage an intense kiddo.

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

When we began homeschooling I tried to rush through her interests to get back to my homeschool plans. I never stopped to realize the damage I was doing by squashing her curiosity. I slowly saw her love for learning fading a little more each day. 

One day, that little girl looked at me with so much passion in her eyes I thought they would burst and said, “Mom, wouldn’t it be fun to do school with Jack and Annie?”. Jack and Annie are characters from the Magic Tree House book series. They were her favorite books and had become friends to her through their stories.

I immediately dismissed her like I always do. But later I started thinking about the passionate look in her eyes and how quickly it faded upon my dismissal. So, I did what any mom would do. I reread all of the books and wrote out a plan. A plan that would allow us to study the Magic Tree House books as unit studies.

I will never forget the joy she had when I told her that for first grade we would be doing Jack and Annie school. I had reignited her love for learning.

Related: 8 Ways To Foster A Love of Learning In Your Children

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners


Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

The following school year we did nothing but unit studies. We studied things like dinosaurs, medieval times, Ancient Egypt, pirates, and more. I could have never planned the rabbit trails we went down or the immense learning that took place. It was at that moment that I realized unit studies were the perfect way to homeschool her.

In the years that followed unit studies became our main form of learning. Unit studies focus on topics or themes my daughter is truly interested in. That way, she is more likely to remember the things she learns. It’s also a great way to satisfy her desire to know all the things on a specific topic.

This has made such a significant difference in her learning. It really is an ideal way to support a gifted learner. 

So, what does this really look like in our day to day homeschooling?

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners


My first step is always a plan. Some of them are much more involved than others, but my unit study plans usually follow the same basic process. 

How To Plan A Unit Study

Choose a Topic

I think it’s really important to focus on my child’s interests if at all possible. However, I think you can also pick something relevant such as a field trip you know you have coming up or maybe a holiday. 

Search Your Home

Collect all the things you already have that match the topic or theme of your study. I usually walk around my house searching for applicable resources such as books, games, hands-on activities, and manipulatives.

Don’t Forget Technology

Search all of your streaming services (Curiosity Stream, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+) for documentaries that would compliment the topic you are studying about. Make a YouTube playlist. And look in the app store for a new app too. 

Getting it All Done

I like to place all of my unit study materials in a basket or bin and let my daughter pick and choose. I mean it is her education she should have some say in it. And because I am the one gathering the material I know it is all appropriate. 

I know chances are we won’t get to everything I have planned for us to do. But, that’s okay! We just work through the materials answering all of her questions and diving in as deep as she wants. When she is ready to move on, we do.

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners


The Incredible Advantages of Unit Studies

Love of Learning

Unit studies help an intense child love learning. Especially if you choose a topic they are interested in. It is like saying that you hear them and value their opinions and interests. You are helping them learn about things they love and in return they develop a love for learning in general.


The frustration that came when I tried to force my plans was ruining our relationship. Many times our homeschool days ended in tears. Since incorporating unit studies as our main method of homeschooling the tears happen less frequently. That has allowed our relationship to flourish. Our relationship has taken such a big turn that she now knows she can say “Hey Mom, let’s spend a year at Hogwarts” and I will totally oblige!

Why Unit Studies Are Ideal For Gifted Learners

Beautiful, Engaging Unit Studies To Save You Time

A Note From Colleen:

Isn’t Jessica an absolute natural in creating this type of learning? We have been using her unit studies off and on over the years and I am constantly amazed at what she comes up with and the professionalism of her products. 

She is a true friend in writing this for me here at Raising Lifelong Learners, but I also want to make sure you know that she is THE SOURCE for beautiful engaging unit studies on her own site, The Waldock Way. 

Jessica Waldock is a writer, photographer, and homeschool mom of one living in sunny Florida. She founded The Waldock Way as a way to give back to the homeschool community that she loves so much. At The Waldock Way Jessica shares tips, tricks, inspiration, and unique resources that help ignite a love of learning in children that will last a lifetime. She inspires families to engage in homeschooling as a lifestyle where relationships come first and interested led learning prevails. Jessica also has a fabulous collection of unit studies on her website and shares generously on her YouTube channel.

unit studies for gifted kids

You can find Jessica and The Waldock Way online at all the following sites:


Take a look at all she has to offer. I know you will be as impressed as I am! ~ Colleen

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How Districts Plan to Address Pandemic ‘Learning Loss’ in the Coming Year

how districts plan to address pandemic learning loss in the coming year
Illustration of a brain made up of gears.

An EdWeek Market Brief survey asked district officials what kinds of strategies they anticipate using to take on student academic losses during the pandemic — the so-called “COVID slide.”

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