Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fun Superhero Style

My Superheroes
Back in March Cole Elementary hosted a Mother/Son superheroes party. Brilliant was my first thought on the idea. As a mother of only sons we miss out on getting daughters ready for Father/Daughter dances. When it comes to special events, often times the relationship between mothers and sons gets overlooked. I mean after all, boys are not too keen on taking their moms to a dance or tea party. I think the problem much of the time is a lack of ideas with alternative options for the boys. However, I think that Cole Elementary figured it out with the Superheroes. I am sure it’s probably not the first one ever done and the idea might not have originated at the school. It was however, the first one that I had heard of and, more importantly, participated in. It was so much fun! We all dress up like superheroes and head to the school in costume. The gym was spilling over with all kinds of superheroes like Batmen, Hulks, Captain Americas, Supermen and of course Supermoms! The music was loud, the rock climbing wall filled with heroes, and the food was hotdogs and pizza. The boys had a marvelous time and as mom it was really pretty special to get to share the moments and the memories with my sons! Yay for the Superheroes Party!!!

Super Fun!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We Don't Argue, We Debate!!!

My Son Carter and One of  His Debate Teammate
Yesterday, I had an interview blog with Ms. Hawthorne about the pilot debate program that was started the 2011-2012 school year in Cole Elementary a Nashville, TN public school. Today, I want to share just a few more details about this new 4th grade debate program and what exactly are the students taking on when they sign up for the rookie Cole program. In this blog you will also hear what the students themselves have to say about debating.
Twenty-two 4th grade students participated in this year's debate program and twenty-two students walked away with a new experience and a better understanding of debate. The team's motto was “We don’t argue, we debate” and under the watchful eye of the teams three coaches Ms. Hawthorne, Mrs. Buchanan, and Ms. Stuible that is just what these students learned to do. The students debated such topics as the Celebration of Christopher Columbus Day, Daily Television Viewing and Parents Legal Responsibility When It Comes to a Child’s Actions. The students not only learned the mechanics of the debating art, they also learned how to research, how to speak in public and how to ask the right questions. While an impressive amount of knowledge for fourth grade students to absorb, this group of 4th grades were up for the challenge. With the guidance and direction of their three exceptional coaches, the students proved that 4th graders are capable and I would say even eager to learn through debate. The Cole and the Kirkpatrick team have really set the standards high for other schools to follow suit with debate teams. I have really been impressed with both student and teachers alike for giving up after school hours for a passionate dedication to the program and overall teamwork. All of these things where key to this program's successful first year in our school district.
School Display of the Debate Students!!!

Here is what some of students from the Cole Elementary Debate Warriors team had to say when asked about debate.

Debate has helped me to learn that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.Hemmerson

I think other schools should have debate teams because it teaches kids how to handle an argument.Jannely

Other schools should have debate teams because it is good practice for things that come later in life. It also helps with all other subjects. Those subjects included: reading, writing, language, math, social studies and science. – John

I have learned that it takes a lot of work to get everything ready to debate. – Lesly

The hardest part of debate is listening to the other team – Doris

I will continue to debate because debating is fun, challenging, and educational. – Kayla

The conclusion is my favorite part of debate because it’s when we get to wrap up all the loose ends.Tyria

Debate has taught me to speak louder and write better.Alandos

Debate has taught me to express what I think without letting my emotions explode. – Kathleen

As a student on the debate team I learned to speak louder, and I learned many facts. – Carter

The debate team helped me learn you don’t have to be scared to speak in public. –Marlin

I have learned what debate is and how to use critical thinking skills. – Christina

Other elementary schools should have debate teams because it helps with fluency. – Kaitlyn

I will keep debating because it’s fun. – Carson

My favorite part of debating is when I get to be the opener. – Karla

The hardest part of debate is when you have to find strong detailed sentences and true facts about the subject. - Daniel

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview with a 4th Grade Debate Coach

Ms. Kenisha Hawthorne, the fierce and energetic 4th grade teacher at Cole Elementary has been truly gifted with the ability to teach. If asked to describe her in one word, it would be "passionate"! I would say that she has a sixth sense when it comes to teaching. She has the remarkable ability to get her students to not only absorb knowledge, but to also believe in themselves. This young teacher is not just feeding America’s next generation important academic lessons, but she is building leaders in her classroom. Her students absolutely believe they can change their lives, communities and world. Why do they believe this? These students believe because Ms. Hawthorne pours into them, believes in them and pushes them. There is no such thing as a lost cause in Ms. Hawthorne’s class. She, beyond a question, wants her students to not only succeed in the classroom, but in life. That is why I believe she has devoted extra time into helping develop one of the Metro school districts first ever 4th grade debate teams.

The Debate team has allowed students to gain access to an array of skills for example: healthy study habits, confidence building, public speaking, social development, research skills, and so much more. Thanks to Ms. Hawthorne and her team of debate coaches, the students have without a doubt benefited from this new elementary school debate program.

4th Grade Cole Elementary Debate Team 2012
Stay tuned tomorrow for more specifics about the Cole Elementary debate program and read firsthand what some of the 4th students in the program had to say about it. In the mean time, Ms. Hawthorne was kind enough to take the time for an interview, where she tells us a little about the birth and the expectations of the elementary debate program!

Interview with 4th Grade Teacher and Debate Coach Ms. Kenisha Hawthorne

Q: Why start a 4th grade debate team?
A: After watching The Great Debaters, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t had the opportunity to do something like this as a child or teenager.  As a child I remembered being a very inquisitive, as well as somewhat talkative and some might even say I had a “smart mouth”.  I particularly noticed the skills they worked on while training for a debate….critical thinking, note taking, fluency, public speaking, writing, etc. All skills we attempt to teach our students on a daily basis during our 90 minute reading block.  What I noticed is when the debaters were immersed in the thinking, processing, and literature learning and thinking had no other choice but to happen. They found a connection to the topic in their real life rather they agreed on the topic or not. During this time I knew I would start a debate team for 4th graders.  I went to Mr. High and told him I wanted to start a team, however, I wasn’t able to get it up and running in 2010-2011.  I did however teach a lot of the strategies for debate in my own classroom.  That year my students were able to participate in a mock trial, where Goldilocks was put on trial for breaking and entering, property damage, and theft.  During this preparation of this the student were taught persuasive writing, and how to formulate questions to prove your point.  Not only did the students enjoy themselves, my ultimate goal of critical thinking, public speaking, and research was proven to be something 4th graders could do and actually enjoy it. After seeing these students excel in this activity, I knew it was time to attempt my vision of starting a debate team.  Again, in 2011 I presented a proposition to my principal, he gave me the go ahead and today we have 22 4th graders participating in this pilot program.

Q: What do you believe the students take away from the debate program? 
A: I believe each child has walked away with something very different based on their need.  Some of the children were chosen to build confidence, because they were inquisitive, and many other reasons.  However, my goal as a fourth grade teacher was for them to walk away with better writing skills, critical thinking skills, improved public speaking skills, and just more confidence in their abilities.  I truly believe all of them have improved in all these areas.

Q: Do you believe this first year of 4th grade debate club students have performed or succeed expectations?
A: They have truly exceeded my expectations.  I have seen so many individual miracles that it makes me even more excited to work with the next group of 4th graders.

Q: Do you think more schools should offer such programs as debate?
A: Absolutely!  I believe that every child should have the opportunity to experience debate.  If not on a debate team, teachers can even use these skills in a classroom setting.

Q: As a teacher was it worth all the extra work?
A:  It was worth every minute.  I got to see my students have fun learning, be challenged, and “get it”.  That’s exactly what I do in my class daily.

Q: Tell us about your team of coaches? 
A: The other two coaches on the team are awesome!  Shewanna Buchanan is also a 4th grade teacher at Cole.  She has taught over 10 years.  She has not only been a coach on the team, she is a friend and mentor.  She is known as the “nice one”.  Shewanna has been so supportive with this vision that I know I could not have done it without her.  Mykah Stuible is a speech therapist at Cole.  What better person to have as a coach than a speech therapist.  She was very helpful with making the children aware of their voice.  Through her coaching the students learned to use their volume, enunciation, and listening skills.  This was my first year working with “Mrs. S.”, and I sure hope it isn’t the last.  She was truly phenomenal.

Q: How can parents, schools, and the community better support such programs as debate?
A: We had a great group of parents this year.  Even when they could not come to practice, I could tell through conversation with my students that they openly talked about debate and their topics at home.  This was the best things for the students.  It allowed them to see that their parents and school had a partnership in their learning.  I would love to see other 4th and 5th grade classes from other schools get involved in this movement. This can easily be done by simply contacting me at  There are so many people who could assist in the community…lawyers, teachers, news reporters, store owners, parents, grandparents, neighbors, etc.  I’m sure we can find a place for their talents and/or influence to be used to help these students. They can do this through volunteering their time to practice with the students or even debate against them. They can donate funds and snacks for the students.

Q: Have you been impressed by the level of research that 4th grades have been able achieved on their debate topics this year? 
A: I have been.  The most challenging part has been teaching them how to decipher through information that is not needed and information that would benefit the point they are trying to prove, which is exactly why we are learning to debate.

Q: All in all do you think the students benefit from having a debate team?
A:  I do believe they have.  Most of them have visited their middle schools for next year and one of the first things they asked is “Do you all have a debate team here?”.  The ones that do not should be prepared for them to try and start one because they definitely want one and believe it or not I think they need one.

Q: I just have to say these groups of students on this year’s debate team seem like a close knit group.
A: They look out for each other and help one another. Do you think that is a benefit of being on a team?  That exactly what being a team is all about.  Everyone on this team has a special gift and talent. Even as individuals, they have to know they will always be able to benefit from each other. This is a lifelong lesson, that even I am continuing to learn. 

Q: The final debate was May 10th what were your expectations that day?
A:  I was expecting my students to walk away from the debate knowing they had done their absolute best…win or lose.  They did exactly that.  Along with 14 Top Speaker Awards and 1 team winner both rounds.  I must say they have encouraged me to do it another year…bigger and better!

To view Ms. Hawthorne's own blog and online resume you may click HERE or on her name anywhere throughout the blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Reading Fun

Cat in the Hat Tree Topper for the Dr. Suess 1st Grade Tree
One of my favorite weeks at my children’s school is Read to me Week. They do all kinds of fun activities the whole week and have special guests come in and read to the children. In my oldest son’s class, they even had a special guest read to them over Skype from a different country. How cool is that? The kids get appearances from Mother Goose, news anchors and other fun characters and people throughout the whole week. The kids get to wear crazy socks one day, and mix-match outfits another, and the last day they all dress up like book characters. All the kids seem to really enjoy the week and it focuses on making reading fun. I love how the week uses all realms of learning from visuals to interactive storytelling. It is truly such a fun week with an academic focus!

Crazy Mismatched Beautiful Reading Day!

This year my children chose characters Waldo and The Cat in The Hat and little brother got in on the action as Woody! I can’t wait until next year’s Read to me Week.
What a Bunch of  Characters!!!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Albert Einstein

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 ING Kid Marathon (Cole Elementary)

Cole Elementary 4th Grade Student Runners
on April 27, 2012 over 7,100 kids met up at LP field, home of the Titans, to complete the last mile of a 26.2 mile training program. They call it the ING Kids ROCK Marathon and with this year’s number of participants, it became one of largest kids running events in the country. I am proud of all the boys and girls that participated in this year’s marathon from our very own Cole Elementary. I am particularly proud of one of the 4th grade runners, my eldest son Carter who was waking up at 5:30 in the morning to put in some extra training time with his Dad. I am very proud of you for accomplishing this goal for the second year in row. A special thank you to the physical education teachers at Cole for helping to get the children ready to run the race and do their best to meet the goal of 25 miles during the training period.

Here is a special message of congratulations for this year’s runners from the First Lady:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

AntinaArt "handmade creations that matter"

Recently I attended a ladies craft night hosted by a sweet friend. Crafting at my table was the lovely Christina Ryan, a Nashville 3rd grade teacher and owner of AntinaArt. Christina runs the company as a team with her husband Anthony, who takes care of all the computer related elements to the business. Christina handcrafts beautiful and charming family jewelry that easily has all the qualities to become heirloom pieces known as AntinaArt. What I found most appealing about these homespun family nest necklaces are that each piece is uniquely crafted to fit your own little treasured family. The necklaces are custom designed and lovingly made to celebrate you and what you hold dear. AntinaArt has a large selection of budget friendly, handcrafted jewelry on their Etsy shop that opened in March of 2012. The family nest necklaces make the perfect gift for so many celebrated occasions Mothers Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, baby showers or just a simple I love gift! I love a personalized handcrafted piece of jewelry. Actually, I loved Christina’s Jewelry so much that I ordered my very own with five little family eggs surrounded perfecting by a copper nest. So, I can vouch for the suburb customer service, speedy delivery, and products that are now one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.

A Small Selection Of AntinaArt Bird Nest Jewelry
Christina was sweet enough to let me interview her about her jewelry and inspirations behind the business. Take a peek inside AntinaArt with the answers that Christina delivers. Oh and a little tip before we get started with the interview if you visit her etsy shop there is a free shipping code if you order before Mothers Day! Hint Hint!!! Better Hurry! Just click AntinaArt anywhere in the blog for a direct link to her shop.
My Sweet Family Nest Christina Custom Made for Me in the Copper
Interview with AntinaArt’s Christina Ryan
Q: First off you are obliviously very talented. How did you discover the art of jewelry making?
A: I have always loved doing crafty type things, but honestly, always kind of stunk at creating things but tried none the less. So, one day I had some teacher friends over for a craft night and we decided to try to make a pendant “nest” from wire and I kind of had a knack for it. While we sat there messing with wire and drinking wine I actually said “wouldn’t it be so fun to just sit at home and make jewelry all day” (and drink wine, of course) and they all thought I was crazy.  So the next day I went out and bought a bunch of supplies and practiced making anything I could from the wire. After about 20 tries and several “how to” YOUTUBE videos, I created the perfect little “nest” necklace. I made one for my sister and several friends and realized that they were a hit.
Q: You and your husband run the business as a team correct? What roles does each of you play?
A: When we started our little business a few months ago, we knew we wanted to do it together. We are a team in all that we do and this was no different. We are VERY different in almost every aspect. Anthony is a computer nerd so he takes care of all the shipping details, website design and any other computer or number related thing. I make jewelry. J
Q: I noticed have several unique jewelry pieces in your shop. Is the bird nest jewelry the most popular?
A: I have always loved birds. I have a little birdie (peace dove) tattoo on my foot and love the freedom they represent. One of my favorite verses in the bible is Matthew 6:26 "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? This just reminds me of the trust they have and free spirited, worry free lives they lead. I try to remember to live my life the same way.
Q: The name of your Etsy shop is AntinaArt tell us about the name and where it originated from?
A: Well, my husbands name is Anthony and mine is Christina, so we married the two to get Antina then we just thought Art sounded cool at the end of it.
Q: What or where do you draw the most inspiration from?
A: My obsession with birds really helps. Haha.
Q: Have you been surprised by the response to your jewelry?
A: YES! I had no idea that so many people would love the jewelry as much as I do. Our long term goal is to use the proceeds from our jewelry business to adopt or conceive a baby. We have prayed that God would make a way for us in this area, and I think AntinaArt is a part of His answer. J
Q: What do you want your costumers to know more than anything else?
A: One thing that I want our customers to know is that the piece of jewelry that they order is all about them and their family so we want them to be a part of the whole process and any special requests or ideas they have we will create on their behalf.
Q: I personally love your shops motto “handmade creations that matter”. Can you explain a little more about that and what it means to you?
A: I feel like our jewelry isn’t just something pretty that you throw on to match your outfit that day. Instead it represents your family or grandchildren or something sentimental and symbolic to you. Almost all of our customers order our jewelry for a deeper meaning, whether it is for a wedding gift, a mommy gift or something special they can keep on them throughout the day to represent their children and family.
Q: What is your favorite jewelry creation to date?
A: My favorite piece would have to be the nest necklace that has the mommy, daddy and babies all wrapped up in a nest. I love that it represents the whole family (even the daddy)!
Q: How are some of the ways people are can order or find jewelry?
A: All of our jewelry is displayed on our etsy store just click here on AntinaArt
You can also click here to  find AntinaArt on facebook!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Flowers Flowers Everywhere

I have never in my life had a green thumb, but it has never really stop me from trying. I have skipped a few years of gardening, but this year I am in love. I couldn't help myself from giving it another go. I also couldn't help showing you a few of my favorites this year.

My first project was inspired by pinterest of course. Who isn't inspired by that website. Anyways I tried to trace back the original origin of the pin to give the creator created, but I had no such luck. So if you know shoot me a message and I will create them. In the mean time....well done person with the idea!!!

The Idea Pin From Pinterest

The One That Now Lives On My Front Porch

Of course my flowers aren't as big yet fingers are crossed that they do actually grow. I also think that I choose smaller pots. My little corner was not that huge so I am glad for that.  All in all I am happy with the little project. 

Meet the Beast....So I cheated and bought this one!

Okay so I didn't actually grow the Beast, but I loved it so much when I laid eyes on it at the Nashville Flee market. I blame this plant and pinterest for the desire to gain a green thumb this year. Isn't she lovely!!!  Last of the flower picture show today is Ms. Ivy Geranium below these are one of my favorites to have. I love the leaves on this plant. What is your favorite flowers this season?

Ivy Geranium

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”
Walt Disney Company, Mulan

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Family Rules and Behavior Chart

It's the start of a new season when it comes to our approach on discipline in the Garrett household. Everyone who knows me is aware that I am a pretty relaxed parent. When I am honest with myself, consistency is really not my thing. I am horrible at sticking to my action plan. So this new plan is to help me and them know just what is expected and what will happen if they break the family rules. The inspiration for this plan of action came from two places. First was my children’s school where the behavior chart works very well with my children and the second was a parenting conference that was held at my church, NewSong Woodbine.

First I wrote out family rules that I thought covered all heart issues that lead to behavior issues. After all, I am a firm believer that even in adults all behavior is linked to the heart. I didn’t want the family rules to become overwhelming so I tried to keep it simple enough that even my four year old will be able to learn the ropes. I  also included biblical scriptures  for each of the heart issues for reference. I find this helpful as a Christian parent in explaining the rules to my children.  So, there ended up being six Family Rules:  

Be Obedient Always, which covers most everything when it comes to not listening to your parents. If I have to tell you to put your shoes away 2 times, you are not being obedient and you pull your clip. (Ephesians 6: 1-3) (Colossians 3:20) (Proverbs 1: 8-9) 

Be Respectful. If you put your shoes away the first time, but you are sassing AKA back talking the whole time, you being disrespectful and you will pull a clip.   (Matthew 7:12) (Hebrews 13:17)

Be Honest. If you told me you put your shoes away, but actually you did not, you will pull a clip. No lying or storytelling.  (Proverbs 19:5) (Romans 9:1)

Be Kind. Fighting over a toy or eating the last cookie that your brother wanted is not showing kindness towards one another and is reflects a selfish heart. Your clip will get pulled for those actions. Actually with the example of fighting over the toy both clips will get pull because both are not showing kindness in that example. I do not care who had it first.   (Philippians 2:3) (Ephesians 4:32) (Romans 12:10-13)

Be Helpful. If you are lazy, unproductive, sloppy then your clips can be pulled. Picking up after yourself and even other family members is helpful and expected.   (Philippians 2:4) (Matthew 5: 13-16) (Galatians 6:10)

Show Big Love. This one is very simple, put others before yourself, forgive quickly and apply all the other family rules and this one should fall into place very easily! (John 15:17 (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

Family Rules and Chore Jar on Display for Reminders

Okay you heard me reference above that if you don’t follow the rules your clip will be pulled. This is pertaining to the new behavior chart that hangs in our kitchen. This is the part of the idea that works so well with my two older boys at school. Our family chart has 8 possible destinations for your clip to land depending on your behavior and choices. Everyday the boys clips(which are clothes pins) start on Good Choices. There is the possibility to move up and get the reward of an extra 30 minutes added to their day if they have gone above and beyond for that day. Good Choices and the starting point means that you have had a good day, and followed all the rules. However you don’t get rewarded for just doing what is expected of you and your bedtime stays at it’s normal time. Next on the chart is OOPS and WARNING these are mom’s forgiveness and grace and your two chances to get it right without disciplinary action, but you will be expected to have a little talk with at least one parent about your actions and why you did them. An apology will also be expected. THINK ABOUT IT is next you have broken the rules 3 times now and you will spend 30 minutes at the end of your day thinking about the rules you have broken. In other words you will go to bed 30 minutes early. MAKE BETTER CHOICES you have now broken the family rules 4 times and will lose an hour of your day to examine your heart. LOSE PRIVILEGE you have now broken the rules 5 times and will lose a privilege of parents choice for 24 hours. This could be ipad, TV, favorite toy, etc…. Last on the chart is CHORE JAR in this case you have now broken the rules 6 times and will have to draw a chore out to the chore jar and perform that chore as soon as you draw it. A special little note all previous disciplinary actions on the chart still apply if you get you clip pulled to another section of the chart. For example if you break the rules 6 times you do a chore, go to bed at 7:00pm, and still lose a privilege. Your clip can not move back up for the day once it has moved down. The good news each day is a new day and fresh start.

The Garrett Family Behavior Chart
There you have it folks a layout of the new plan in the Garrett household. I will let you know how well it works out for us. Happy Parenting!!!!