Children’s Books Can Help Kids’ Back-to-School Jitters

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Most everyone gets nervous when they start something new. This is often true for children returning to school. One way parents can be proactive is reading stories about going back to school. This feels safer for children because someone else is facing challenges. Here are some books you may enjoy reading to your child. A Tiger Tale

Two new books for 2016 look good. For children entering kindergarten, check out On the First Day of Kindergarten by Tish Rave. Another new fun story is A Tiger Tail: (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School) by Mike Boldt.

First Day JittersOne of my favorite stories is First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenburg & Judy Love (2000). The character has endless excuses why she can’t go to school. The end has a fun twist. The character is the teacher, not the child. Great story for new teachers too.

If you haven’t read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (1993) you’re missing a great story. Mrs. Racoon shares a family secret that helps raccoon Chester adjust to being away from Mom. The Kissing Hand

This School Year Will Be the BEST! by Kay Winters (2013) puts a positive spin on the school year. I like the upbeat ideas and positive outlook on school. Another book with a positive slant is Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis (2008).

Many familiar characters are featured in back-to-school books. Stories with familiar characters include:

  • Clifford Goes to Kindergarten by Norman Bridwell (2015);
  • Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotten (2011);
  • The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain (Deluxe edition, 2016);
  • Curious George’s First Day of School by H. A. Rey (2005); and
  • Curious George Goes to School by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey (1989).

What are your favorite back-to-schools books? How do they help your children adjust to this fall event?


Exploring God’s World: Nature Smart


Kylie (2 1/2) brushing goat at Oakland Zoo, March 2015

It’s already the middle of summer. Your kids have seen all the summer hit movies. Maybe it’s time to turn off the TV and electronics and spend some time outdoors.

Being outdoors is a great way to develop another one of the multiple intelligences: nature smart. This is my favorite intelligence. In this blog, you’ll find many activities to do with your children and grandchildren.

Nature Smart Characteristics

    • Strong connection to outdoors 1
    • Exhibits outdoor imaginative play using environment (dirt, sand, plants) 2
    • Likes to spend time outdoors observing plants/animals, collecting nature items, catching insects, butterflies 1
    • Collects nature items & sorts them 3

Activities to Develop Nature Smart

  • Turn off TV/electronics & go outside; 3 the natural world becomes part of play 4
  • Take walks and hikes
  • Explore nature items (shells, pinecones, branches, seeds, feathers, tree stumps, rocks, dirt)
  • Point out intricacies of God’s creations
  • Grow something or take care of small animal; learn about life cycle/seasons 3
  • Choose nature friendly day trips & vacations 3
  • Visit pet stores, aquariums, zoos & museums
  • Make a family nature journal that everyone contributes to 4
  • Nature journal ideas: record facts, identify plants/animals, draw, collect nature items & glue in journal 4
  • “Vacationing with the Bears” – Pitch a tent & camp in your backyard
  • In the backyard – identify local plants; animals; insects; count birds; build a bird feeder, look for dead items 1
  • Take a nature walk and collect seasonal items
  • Then create nature art: make collage, pine cone animals, leaf-people, feather poster 4
  • Use photos & books about animals and the natural world to explain topics that are interesting 5


Book of Stuff to Do.

Parent Guide.



  1. Multiple Intelligences: Understanding Your Child’s Learning Style. Sue Douglass Fliess on March 5, 2009. Accessed April 4, 2016.
  2. Multiple Intelligencers Summary Wheel. Kathleen Rowlands. January 8, 2005. Accessed April 4, 2016.
  3. 6 Activities To Strengthen Children’s Nature-Smarts. January 5, 2013 by Maureen (Mo) Weinhardt, MS. Accessed April 1, 2016.
  4. Smart Parenting: Using the Multiple Intelligences at Home. December 23, 203 by Julie Lemming.… Accessed April 1, 2016.
  5. How Is Your Child Smart? Accessed 4/1/2016.
  6. Multiple Intelligences in Early Childhood. University of South Florida, Education Department Accessed 2/11/2003.



Pushing Students Out of School: How Did We Get Here?

by Dr. Marian Fritzemeier Ed.D. © 2016

Why did laws intended to make schools safer backfire?

Zero Tolerance. In 1994 schools across the United States implemented Zero Tolerance policies chid handcuffed []after federal legislation required expulsion for one year when students brought a weapon to school. Many schools expanded this policy to reduce possession or use of illicit and prevent violence.

A multitude of “misbehaviors” escalated to more than 3 million students suspended from schools in 2010. This is double the number of suspensions in the 1970s. Traditional punishment is not working in schools across the country.

Why are American schools pushing students out of school?

Downward Spiral. The increase in suspensions has created a downward spiral for countless students. Students are suspended, often unsupervised which allows opportunities to get into further trouble. Students return to school but their behavior is not only unchanged, they often return angry and resentful. These students typically continue inappropriate behaviors which results in more suspensions.

Why do American schools suspend so many students?

School-to-Prison Pipeline. Every day that students miss school, they fall further behind. The more class they miss, the less likely they are to graduate. Those who miss too much school often end up dropping out and find themselves in trouble with the law. This practice of pushing students out of schools towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems is referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Is there any hope for students?

Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices (RP) has its roots in Restorative Justice. This is a newer field of study that is being used in schools to improve student’s accountability, repair harm, and restore relationships. Many schools are effectively using RP to address the school-to-prison pipeline. RP is used with all students, beginning with building community amongst students and staff.

What can reverse this trend?

Innovative Success. We need to explore alternatives to traditional discipline that increase student responsibility, and decrease classroom disruptions, suspensions and expulsions. To find out more about these innovating strategies that are positively changing the lives of students on my web page

To view your U.S. school district’s suspension rates visit

Image source: child handcuffed []


5 Reasons I Believe in Public Schools

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Are you trying to decide where your children or perhaps grandchildren will attend school this fall? Are you considering a school change? Years ago parents had limited school options.

But today’s education options abound: home school, charter school, online education, private school, and public school. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. However, as a long time public school educator there are 5 reasons I believe in public Sadiya Durrani []

  1. All children are given the opportunity for a free education where children’s uniqueness, beliefs, and values are respected.
  2. Children experience diversity in public schools which prepares them for our diverse and rapidly changing society. Children learn alongside children who are like them as well as those who are different from them whether it is language, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, and/or religion.
  3. Children learn in an inclusive environment: from special needs children to typically developing children to gifted children. Children are not denied admission based on their abilities.
  4. Children get exercise by walking or riding their bikes to school or parents can meet neighborhood parents and carpool.
  5. Children can play after school with friends because they live close by. Parents can easily create occasions to know their children’s friends and their parents/caregivers.

Bickering kids? Try People Smart Activities

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.

Are your kids arguing with one another? Are they grouchy and hard to get along with? Try one of the eight Multiple Intelligences: People Smart. In this blog, you’ll find characteristics of people smart and activities to do with your kids to foster People Smart.

People Smart Characteristics

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Verbal, non-verbal communication
  • Understands others’ feelings; empathizes
  • Works /plays cooperatively in a group
  • Understands feelings from facial expressions, gestures & voice

Activities to Develop People Smart

First time 2 year-old Kylie plays Hungry, Hungry Hippo with cousins Parker 6, and Khloe 4.

First time 2 year-old Kylie plays Hungry, Hungry Hippo with cousins Parker 6, and Khloe 4

  • Play old-fashioned board games
  • Make up words & play body language charades (whisper word for pre-readers)
  • Read Bible stories that feature character traits. For example, Daniel in the lion’s den and courage. Focus on ways the family can demonstrate the selected trait this week. At the end of the day, ask how each person used the trait.
  • Serve God by helping others. Ask your kids for ideas or give them choices, such as: make a card of encouragement & mail/deliver it; visit an elderly person; bake cookies for a busy neighbor; serve the homeless; bring a meal to a widow or invite a widow for a meal; mow the lawn for someone who’s sick or an elderly neighbor
  • “What would you do if . . . ?” Create age-appropriate stories where school-age kids face a dilemma. Ask, “What would you do if . . . ?” Great discussion starters. (School-Age)

What can you do this week? Please share what you tried.

Additional Resources

Celebrate 4th of July with Music Smart Activities

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.

Ahhhh, summer vacation. Your kids have only been out of school for a few weeks. You had great hopes that this summer would be different. But somehow, the kids are already bickering and complaining, “I’m bored.” Thank goodness the 4th of July is coming soon.American Flag []

Multiple Intelligences: Music Smart

Lucky for you, there are many fun activities that you can do with your children that enhance Multiple Intelligences. One of the eight multiple intelligences is Music Smart. With the 4th of July coming soon, Music Smart can add fun to your 4th of July celebrations.

Characteristics of Music Smart

  • Loves to listen to music, sing, hum, whistle, move to rhythm, create & replicate tunes
  • May show sensitivity to surrounding noise
  • Speaks or moves in rhythmic way
  • Awareness of melody
  • Creates melody & rhythm

Activities to Develop Music Smart

Kylie's new rain stick

Kylie’s New Rain Stick

  • Let’s get patriotic. Sing-a-long with patriotic songs on YouTube. You and your kids may be unfamiliar with old traditional songs that your parents and grandparents learned in school. Try America the Beautiful; My Country ‘Tis of Thee; God Bless America; Halls of Montezuma; and Yankee Doodle.
  • Don’t forget the popular country song God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood. One of my favorites is Coming to America by Neil Diamond played at full blast.
  • Create songs to remember new things (or use familiar tune with new words)
  • Perform sound and vibration experiments: i.e. fill glasses with different amounts of water (school age)
  • Expose to different kinds of music & instruments. A rain stick is one of my favorites (photo)
  • Play nature “music.” I buy souvenir CDs of places I visit, such as The Sounds of Yosemite; The Living Desert; The Sounds of the Grand Canyon

    2016 La Quinta Jan

    Khloe and Kylie Dancing

  • Dance with music; make up a dance, dance silly, do the Macarena, the Twist, Chicken Dance, and Electric Slide
  • Provide long ribbons or scarves for children to use while dancing (photo)
  • In the car, sing along to a wide variety of music via radio/satellite/CDs
  • Use pots and pans to teach rhythm and tones
  • Make homemade musical instruments
  • Have a parade with homemade instruments and/or rhythm band instruments

Additional Resource



Image source: American flag []

World Giraffe Day (June 21, 2016)

C DSC_0505 - Copy - CopyB 10 DSC_0518 - Copy - Copy (2)A 9 DSC_0523 - CopyBy Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.

I’ve loved giraffes since I was a little girl. My mom would ask me, “What sound does the giraffe make?”

“No noise,” I answered while shaking my head no.

I was excited to learn that there’s a World Giraffe Day. Every time I visit the Palm Springs area, I visit The Living Desert. The first exhibit I visit is the giraffes.

I go see “my baby” giraffe. I enjoy watching him grow up. I’m including some of my favorite photos.

Another baby giraffe was born this spring but I don’t have any photos yet. When I visit in July, you can bet that I’ll go directly to the giraffes to see “my babies.”

Do Giraffes Make Noise?

Giraffes don’t usually make any sounds although they do have a developed larynx. 1 The larynx is located up at the head end of the neck.

Raymond Nakamura states, “Giraffes have narrower trachea than other big mammals which reduces the amount of dead air. They breathe slowly and have disproportionately large lungs to accommodate this dead air.” 1

Because of this, giraffes can only run for short periods of time. They also don’t have a lot of extra air for making sounds. So now you know.


What does a giraffe sound like? By Raymond Nakamura. March 24, 2011. Accessed 6/21/20

Day 9 Asheville Adventures: Conference Beginnings


I get up earlier today for the final Writing with Children workshop with Nancy Lohr, Acquisitions Editor of journeyforth. I actually arrive on time. Nancy’s an amazing person and teacher.

Afterwards, I drag my luggage to the shuttle area. The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is over.

I expect few conferees will stay for lunch, but the cafeteria is filled with chatter. I choose a quiet table with two ladies. After a few minutes, we add to the chatter. The conference is not over. Some people may call it coincidence, but I believe God arranged for me to sit at this table.

“What do you write,” I ask. Her answer surprises me.

I write about sustainability and Christianity,” replies Ros.

I’m immediately engaged. “That’s amazing. . . I’m writing about nature and children. I never thought about including sustainability for kids. Maybe I could interview you for an article.”

A forty-five minute conversation ensues with countless resources and ideas. We connect on some unusual “Christian” topics. I learn there’s a Poverty and Justice Bible. Homelessness and restorative justice are two more of my passions.

But the highlights of our time together are her references to early childhood guidelines and six components of environmental literacy. The first component is reverence; sensitivity to nature. Sounds like God’s amazing creation . . . my topic.

Two former college professors chat away about sustainability curriculum and content. The conference isn’t over, it’s just beginning.


Day 8 Asheville Adventures: Life Guidance


Note taking in writing class

Nancy Lohr’s a former children’s librarian; she may even like children’s books more than I do. Her passion for children, especially reluctant readers, and writing books that are developmentally appropriate align with mine. Today is day 3 of her workshops Writing for Children.

Later, I met with Nancy to discuss my book idea. She provided thoughts and slants on how I could combine nature, children, and parents/caregivers. Her feedback on a simple book idea became many possibilities. Time spent with her is one way God directs my future writing path.

I never delete Mary Denman’s Photo Tip Friday post until I’ve read it Every Friday she posts photography tips on a topic. She usually gives 3 to 4 examples with well written instructions and corresponding photos. I’ve been following her blog since I met her last year. What fun to learn more in her workshop. If you like photography, you will like her blog.

After a powerful workshop the day before with Lucinda Secrest McDowell, I attend Word Power in Everyday Life. Words have power; words can hurt; words can heal; and words offer hope. When she says, “You need to forgive yourself,” her eyes meet mine as my eyes fill with tears.

On my afternoon Prayer Garden walk the Lord whispers, “You need to forgive yourself for losing your job.”

As I pray, the domino pieces fall. I lost my job, which reduced my income, which resulted in losing our Atwater house. We moved back to Modesto. I lost most of my work friends. My disability is permanent. I lost my career.

Tears and grief flow. That’s a lot of loss and guilt to carry. The Lord can carry this; I cannot.

What a precious day. I felt God’s presence moving me forward and not feeling stuck. I thank God for words. Especially the words of others.