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Teaching Kids to Code: You Can Do It

Hi, there. I’m back on my soapbox today to talk to you about how you can help your kids learn about computer science.

“But Brandy, I don’t know ANYTHING about computer science!”

Pish posh, I say! You are on the internet all day. You interact with so much technology. You know more than you think…and learning even more isn’t hard. You don’t have to learn to program nuclear power plants. The simple action of understanding how Facebook serves you ads is important. We need to be aware of the basics of how things work. Not to mention Code.org predicts there will be 1 million more jobs than computer science students in 2020 (it’s growing at twice the rate of any other field). Get some skills, yo!

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This week has been officially Computer Science Education Week around the world. Schools worldwide are taking an hour to of class time to teach kids coding. It seems so little but let me tell you, it’s powerful what that 60 minutes can do.

I started doing this annual push 2 years ago (then I ranted last year). This year my Facebook feed is filled with smiling kids with their certificates and parents sending me messages that their child came home with new life goals. I’m not kidding. LIFE GOALS. A simple hour to open their minds to a new concept and they have changed what they want to be when they grow up. It’s that powerful.code_learn

For the past year, I have been volunteering once a week at Landon’s school teaching coding to different classes (I do second grade this year and I adore them). The school’s tech coordinator (Hi, Barb!) is such a huge advocate for coding for kids that she has been trying to teach as many kids as possible. Kids pop out of classrooms when they see us and yell “WHEN DO WE GET TO CODE?!?!” It’s like being a celebrity…or a drug dealer :). Over the last year we have learned even more about what kids can do. We have seen very shy kids open up. Academically deficient kids have excelled at coding when other concepts seem so hard for them. And even just yesterday in my last Hour of Code, students who sat beside each other all year finally started talking to one another…and not just talking but helping and encouraging each other. I’ve seen hyper classes calm down and all simultaneously focus on the task (any teacher can attest that is akin to some kind of witchcraft!). While my goal is just to introduce concepts of computer science and have kids realize the potential, their excelling is beyond my wildest dreams.

What You Can Do

Inspire Your Kids

Part of my training in teaching kids about STEM and programming over the years, a big piece is just giving them exposure to the possibilities of careers. In this video, some famous folks talk about how they got started from Tic Tac Toe to drawing shapes. We have all started out SO SIMPLE and learned from there. You can too.

In School

You might be saying “But Brandy my school doesn’t do this!!! WHY?!”

Having the right advocates in a school is the key. Talking with staff (tech and administrative) is a first step. Even your child’s teacher may be open to trying it. It’s an hour. Just sharing some literature around how to do that simple hour can make a huge step. Code.org also has canned emails you can send! You can even start as young as 3 or 4 with some simple apps to introduce concepts of logic and spatial recognition. Even teach kids to write out steps to making paper airplanes can build the fundamentals.

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At Home

But say you can’t get through to your school. You can still do this at home. You AND your child can learn together. This can be a huge confidence boost to kids (trust…when Landon has to help me with my Spanish, that kid gets cocky). Go to Hour Of Code and just pick up. There are great videos and instructions to help them along. They rate them by age and are full of pop culture to get your kid pumped. Star Wars, Frozen, Minecraft, Angry Birds…all of em!

Star Wars Game

My Star Wars Game I Made (click to play!)

 

 

Then once you see how easy it is, offer to do it for a class. It’s not scary. I promise. These units are designed for self learning and kids catch on quick. Anyone can. Our CIO Keith Collins even found an hour to teach at a local high school this week. You can too.

Want more resources beyond your hour?

Recently, my old team at work put our a series of posts to help

Join Everyone (Well, 150 million) in the Hour of Code and CSEdWeek <- Great video to share with teachers to get them interested

Our Favorite #HourofCode Resources <- Great for parents and teachers to see the TONS of options. Apps, web apps, lessons…you name it!

Need Weekend Plans? Code with your Kids! <- How to teach (and learn!) to code as a parents

Computer Science is Everywhere: Coding in Your Art/Music/PE Classroom <- Computer science really is everywhere. Maybe your special teachers would be open!

A (CSEd)Week in the Life <- Computer scientist aren’t just nerds playing Warcraft and drinking Mtn. Dew. Jen shows a week in her life.

What an Hour of Code Looks Like 

For even MORE reading, I posted this on LinkedIn months ago about how I teach kids to find unicorns.

This coding infographic is a really big picture about programming languages.

Get Coding

Now you are stocked with info and stats (want a Powerpoint?…I even have that if you want…just ask). Get out there. Learn some skills. Teach some skills. Change a mindset. I know you can.

 

 

Holiday Decor: Family Photo Bonanza 101

Tis the season, y’all. The holidays are upon us and ya know what that means? Brandy be searching Pinterest for decor ideas. Ya see, I’m not the Christmas village and chunky garland type. I like our decor to reflect our personality as a family and to me that means homemade. Paper banners made from cardstock and fishing line. Chalkboards with snarky phrases. Kid art. And most certainly, lots of family photos. Since the holidays are about spending time with family, to me, they are part of my decor.  As you may have seen your Facebook feed fill up recently with perfectly matched outfits and fall leaves, know I am right there with them. I try to get at least one official family photo shoot in a year with sessions where I bribe reward my kids in fruit snacks sprinkled throughout the year. It’s not an addiction. I CAN STOP WHEN I WANT. Anyhoo with all these family photos, I try not to let them just sit on my computer to make pretty screensavers. I frequently get prints for my office and around the house but in the past few years I find myself hunting for deals on canvases. I like to have varying sizes in my holiday displays and canvases are perfect for that bigger WOW factor. After I was cleaning up the Halloween mantle decor recently, I started pondering on a massive family related Christmas look. Lo and behold, the lovely people at Walmart let me know about their deals on canvases. Not only that, they would let me try one out! 11 x 14 Mounted Canvas from Walmart 11 x 14 Same Day Canvas from Walmart11 x 14 Mounted Canvas from Walmart 11 x 14 Same Day Canvas from Walmart.

I actually have always loved this photo. Our first Christmas as a family of 4. I was sleep deprived and probably cranky but this day sticks in my mind because Ollie was so fascinated with Landon. Watching him get so excited. I even got this shot that is etched in my memory. christmasday-36 (1) So I decided it was time to make the memory a permanent part of my Christmas decor. Since one picture wasn’t really representative of our life together, I decided to decorate our buffet area with a hodge podge of family photos and Christmas elements. I added a large 8 x 10 print (same day pick up!) from our recent photo shoot, a 5 x 7 from our 2013 photo shoot, some tiny skis from the $1 spot and, of course, their Santa photo from last year. DSC_4631 I initially had that up and realized I needed more. MUHAHAHAHAHA. So I threw together a few other standard elements that I rotate for the mantle (vases from our wedding full of stuff, chevron painted canvas board, a giant M from my bestie) and one of my favorite family drawings from Landon when he was 4. DSC_4623 I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I am probably going to be getting a few more canvases to really flesh out this whole concept. Good news for me, same day canvases are even on sale until 1/5! Now you may be thinking, “But Brandy, I’m not a decorator type and how will this ever go with my Christmas village?!”. Fear not, my friend. I have 2 words for you: Grandparent Gifts. The last couple of years I have given canvases and other photo gifts (books, coffee cups, christmas ornaments) and they are just great. Walmart has tons of options for this as well as online ordering and free same day pick-up in store for select products. Pair it with a homemade kid card and BOOOOOM. Don’t go just yet, there’s more! 

Be sure to visit Walmart Photo’s brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts.

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PPD & The Working Mom

PPDHeads up, this is an old post I wrote years ago when Ollie was an infant. It is no longer online so I am reposting it to help new moms. 

Hi. I’m Brandy and I have suffered from postpartum depression/anxiety…twice. I had no idea how to start this post so lets just shine light on the elephant in the room right off the bat (holy cliche sentence, Batman).

Being a mom is hard…working or not. We can all agree there. I can gladly state that the newborn phase of my children is the hardest (so far). While I don’t doubt my ability to mom or how good a mom I am, I know I have struggled with both Landon and Oliver as new babies. I also had great support to help me…and I know not everyone has that. As I stated in other posts, life at home isn’t for me. The colic. The crying. The long days of getting nothing done. The second time around was a little better knowing that it was a finite thing until I went back to work but still very isolating and scary at times. It wore me down.

I am willing to admit all this but I think some moms struggle with that. Sometimes that struggle is just a small nagging but sometimes it is more. Sometimes the long days with little sleep and so much frustration build and build. As hard as you want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is really faint. You get angry over little things and no amount of deep breaths help. You break one day and scream at your kid and then bawl your eyes out at what you did. People telling you “it gets better” mean nothing because while you know they are right, you want it better NOW.

What made it better for me? Going back to work.

As insane as that sounds, it has done so twice. With 6 years of self reflection, I know this is because of how I am wired. I thrive on achievement, if not over-achievement, and meeting goals. I have my dream job where I get to create and discover every day. So to go from that to a shower being my biggest accomplishment for the day? SUCKS! I thrive at work. I get to do what I love…create and help people. I get to work with amazing people. And? I GET TO SIT DOWN. I get to go to the bathroom without someone crying. I don’t have to put some one to nap and then wait to see if they actually will. There is routine that HAS to happen. We have to be at work at X…so crying or not, it will happen. Once we get home, I have X amount of time until I can drink relax. Everything is calculated out and predictable(ish). Yes, I have more on my plate with a full time job but I can think about something other than sleep schedules and poop colors. It gives me balance.

A few weeks after I went back to work, I went to see my therapist. She could see the difference when I walked in the door. She was pretty amazed. I no longer needed my anxiety meds.There are still the calls from daycare you dread but it is part of the gig. The next day brings something new…not just more of the same.

This post was spurred by this post on Huffington Post that I related to instantly. Another mom who found relief in the working world. I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone. I write this to show it is possible, as crazy as it sounds, to add more to your plate to make it better.

Have you dealt with PPD/PPA? If so, how did going back to work affect you? Better? Worse?

PSA: If you are struggling after your baby is born, even later on, please talk to your doctor. It is nothing to be ashamed of and completely normal. You may just have a case of baby blues but it could be more. Take care of yourself.  If you want to read other stores, please check out Postpartum Progress. I am also happy to answer any emails, tweets, etc if you need help. – Brandy

Sweetest Day

Throughout our days with these kids growing like weeds, we feel like we need to do more. We need to enrich their lives with experiences. Sports, camps, the zoo, theme parks (Tweetsie photos soon, btw), trips to the beach and the fair are just a few that come to mind as I type. We plan out all these things with precision and care. We want to give them happy memories..I get it. But then sometimes you are 3 activities deep and just going “what the hell was I thinking?”. Sometimes the memories are perfect. Happy smiles. No tantrums. No low blood sugar rage.
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Kid Sleep without the PTSD {Giveaway}!

Monday night, Ollie was up at least 6 times. At first it was he needed to be wrapped in his blanket like a burrito, then water, then I have no idea. I blacked out from rage and exhaustion. It was an atypical night for us, so my body was thrown. I pretty much struggled all morning. I whined. I Facebooked about it. I basically threw an adult tempter tantrum.

Later that day I went to the gym and got talking to a dad who I was relaying my lag from lack of sleep. He went on to “commiserate” with me. Ya see his son didn’t stop waking up multiple times until he was 2.5. He was now pretty consistent at once a night…and he is almost 4.

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Why Daycare is More Than OK

It is no secret I love daycare. They have taken great care of my boys. They teach them tons of things in ways I couldn’t dream of. They teach sharing where I can’t really do the same peer to peer lessons at home. They make best friends and I have even made mom friends myself. I could, of course, go on but that’s not my point here. My point is that I don’t view daycare as something I had to settle for. Sometimes readers will ask “how did you make the decision to go back to work and send them to daycare?” or the more abrasive “How do you send your kids to get looked after by a stranger?”And after I flip a table at the later, I say, “I never really considered the other, honestly.”

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The 2 Wheeler

2wheelerLearning to ride a “2 wheeler” has been looming over us for years. I recall playing sometime last year and Landon saying “well I can learn to ride a 2 wheeler when I am 6.” as he watched the little neighborhood girl whip around on her bike in the cul de sac. That longing statement of “I want to be big…just not yet” was inspiring and at the same time ominous. So when his brother clearly was too big for his tricycle and needed the next bike up, we told him “you aren’t getting training wheels” like true cheap mean parents. I mean…he was turning 6, we recalled for him. Time to buck up, kiddo.

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Welcome to Brandy’s House of Medical Mysteries!

rp_IMG_2213-1024x768.jpegHi. New here? Yesterday Ollie and I appeared on ABC 11 here in Raleigh to talk about his bout with Periorbital Cellulitis . Also in the story, the anchor teased that this blog chronicled my parenting adventures and how this isn’t my first weird medical diagnosis. She was right. For whatever reason, I seem to be the resident “oh my friend had that” spokesperson. I choose to write about these thing because a)I cope by laughing at myself and b) I figure I might as well calm people down in their Google searches. So I thought I would take the time to highlight all the wonderful things that I have experienced.

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Formula AND Pumping, Not OR

formulaHappy World Breastfeeding Week, everyone! With the celebration this year, the healthcare center at SAS asked me to participate. I went on camera and talked about my journey a little. When I was contacted about doing it, I jumped at it and asked if I could speak to a specific issue: formula and pumping. I did both with both my kids and while I don’t regret a thing, I always felt kind of alone. I felt like I was forging my own journey. There was little out there for support.  You are usually sifting through info from 2 vastly different sides. Either you exclusively breastfeed or just give formula and while neither is bad, it isn’t your only choice. The biggest group of moms this seems to effect is working moms. You go down a VERY common path. You start work and quickly see how hard it is to make those bottles. You pump and pump. You take from your maternity leave stash. You are living pump to pump. Then? Daycare says “he could use bigger bottles” and you heart sinks. How?

So a few years ago, while I was in the throws of this for the second time, I wrote a post I am reviving below. It is still relevant for new moms struggling to figure out that magical machine in a bag. Here ya go, mama…

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4 Ways to Finding Your Mommy Soul Mate

IMG_0096Or at least some mommy friends. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of questions via Twitter and e-mail about how to find new mom friends. How to start a conversation at the park, how to get people to not think you are crazy and how to find that parent (and kid) that you can just relax around. Basically how to date again…but this time you are trying to find new friends in a new landscape.

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