Homework Tips


It’s that time of year again! Your child is receiving her first homework assignments.  Who’s more apprehensive, you or your child? For many parents, homework is a struggle. It’s up to parents to help build good HW habits, and you will be rewarded in the long run for effort put in early on. Here are some tips for setting your child up for HW success.

  • Prepare a tidy, quiet, and comfortable workstation for your child. A desk in his room may seem ideal, but the workstation should be near where you hang out so you can monitor his work. A tidy dining room or kitchen table may be better, as long as you keep the TV off nearby.
  • When the kids come home from school, let them have a little downtime before starting their work. A game of catch or even the walk home are perfect ways to decompress and get the blood moving after school. Skip the TV and video games until the HW is finished.
  • Help your child as needed, by keeping him on task, clarifying directions, and answering questions. Just don’t micromanage or do the work for him. HW is for reinforcing skills and measuring progress, not impressing the teacher with your ability. Aim for your child to complete her homework independently, with a check over from you when it’s complete.
  • Create a centrally located calendar for all the kids’ long term assignments. Yes, your children should be accountable for managing their time, but this is a learned skill you have to model. Plus, you know you are going to be the one rushing to the craft store the night before the diorama is due, so keep an assignment calendar to limit surprises.
  • When a long term assignment is given, continue to teach time management skills by helping your child plan out the steps toward completing the work. Break a large assignment into smaller ones and put them on the calendar. For example, schedule a time to read a chapter a night, create an outline, shop for supplies, write the first draft, etc.
  • Keep the computer in a public place and keep it off during HW, even the news, Mom! If your child needs to use the word-processor for HW, you can turn off the router to avoid social media distractions.
  • Praise for hard work is worth more than praise for correct answers and intelligence.

How long should HW take? According to the National Education Association, HW in 1st grade should take 10-20 minutes and and additional 10 minutes per grade.  So, HW in 5th grade should take about 50 minutes. If HW takes longer than the recommended time, let your child’s teacher know and ask if he/she thinks there may be a problem.

Review: UppaBaby Vista Stroller


UppaBaby Vista
UppaBaby Vista

When my second child was on the way, I knew I wanted a “tank” stroller, as we called it. We stuck with our Maclaren Quest for the duration of my first child’s stroller years, yearning for a full-service stroller system. So, for the second baby, I researched stroller systems for the best bang for the (big) bucks. I focused on the Uppababy Vista because of positive reviews in the Baby Bargains book. Long story short, I love our Vista. A good “tank” stroller is going to be a smooth ride because of its big wheels and it’s going to be a nice big cocoon for your baby or toddler to sleep soundly.  Retails at $729.99, but you can get an earlier  edition for less if you shop around, as I did.

UppaBaby Vista Bassinet Mode
UppaBaby Vista Bassinet Mode


  • Includes bassinet, toddler seat and rain covers
  • Can attach most carseats to the base
  • Giant basket
  • Giant sun shade that extends from the canopy
  • Reversible seat
  • Has the popular modern black and steel look
  • Simple smooth fold and unfold; although its big and requires two hands
  • Great add-ons: We have the snack tray, cup holder, and piggy back ride on board.


  • Expensive (but a good buy for all that’s included)
  • Big wheel base in the back; but still just the right size for getting through doorways and store aisles.
  • Heavy, although not so heavy relative to other big strollers
  • Requires two hands to fold
Sunshade and little foot sticking out.  The foot rest can fold all the way down.
Sunshade and little foot sticking out. The foot rest can fold all the way down.

M&M Pancakes


My kids’ favorite weekend pancake recipe has evolved from various recipes I’ve read. I feel good about making them because I know exactly the quality of the ingredients I put in them, including the sneaky sweet potato puree! My son always helps me, which is not only fun, but educational; over time, he’s learned about measurement and fractions. These pancakes seem like a treat because I put 1-2 chocolate chips or M&Ms in each pancake and serve them as is, without syrup. Today, I made them with Unreal candy coated chocolates.


Dry Ingredients

  • 3/4 c white flour
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 oz jar sweet potato baby food (optional)
  • 2 tbs honey

Non-stick spray or butter

1/2 cup chocolate chips or candies

Wait for the bubbles before you flip!
Wait for the bubbles before you flip!

In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gradually, breaking up any lumps. Fire up the griddle to medium and grease it with non-stick spray or butter. When the griddle is hot, pour the mix into 2 inch circles for “silver dollars.” I use the Tovolo Pancake Pen to dispense the mix because it’s so easy and clean. When the edges begin to cook and bubbles appear on the pancakes, flip them. Makes about 26 silver dollars. Serve warm and as is!