Category Archives: Podcast

Episode 4 – Early Math skills

Welcome to the second episode in the Distance Learning Opportunity Series!

This second episode is diving into Math. Last time we briefly talked about how to know if your child really is falling behind. I hear this over and over again, that parents are worried their kids are falling behind. They are worried that their kids aren’t learning as much this school year and last spring as they would have if it had been a normal school year. And this may be true for some kids, and for others it isn’t true.

I think it is empowering for parents to understand just what their child should know at any given point during their educational career. So today, we are focusing on math, early math skills. I will primarily be talking about kids that are in Kindergarten through second grade; however, if you are listening and thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t have a child in those grades, and you are going to stop listening – I think that is a mistake. Because in my years of experience teaching math; these core concepts that I am going to be diving into are missing in even fifth and sixth graders. I have worked with some kids that don’t know these skills because it is skipped over, or maybe not highlighted in curriculums as much as it should be. But this stuff is important baseline, foundational math understanding that really needs to be there to make future math topics and skills easier for kids to comprehend and learn. That is what we see a lot and that is why I am starting with math. I am starting with math because kids get really frustrated really easily with math and that is probably because of our pre-disposed narratives around math. A lot of us have heard from our parents, teachers, or even other adults close to us as a child saying things like,

“You know what? It is okay that you aren’t good at math! I wasn’t good at math either, so don’t worry about it. Math is hard.”

messages we get as children

These types of narratives happen so much around math. I am trying really hard to shift that, because math doesn’t have to be hard. Especially these concepts that we are going to be talking about within the episode today. Some people think I am ridiculous, but I love math. And I am excited about math, excited about teaching math. It is important for kids not to be afraid of math. This can change their entire trajectory through their schooling career. Just think about when you were in high school and you were walking to your math class. You weren’t excited. More likely than not you were dreading it because it was Math, and no one likes math class. Right?

I think that can shift and change because math can be incredible. We can see and understand the world around us in such wonderful and concrete ways. So if we can shift our own thinking and encourage our children to love math, then that is what will happen.

I can speak from experience. (It is harder to shift the thinking and narrative around math with older students. They have already been hearing these negative narratives and it will take more time to change their thinking). I have taught kindergarten for many years and my stance has always been one of excitement. I would try and schedule math first in the day and really emphasize how much I love math. How much I love teaching math. And how these different concepts are just so cool. Look what our brains can do! Look how we can explain our world using numbers. And I really make it fun. I have to tell you, when I started doing that, and I would assess my kids (I would do a self-assessment) where I would ask the kids what their favorite subject was and I would get a lot of answers like: gym, music, recess, lunch. But then I would say, “OK, what is your favorite class in the classroom? Is it math, reading, phonics, groups?” And a lot of the time, maybe 90% or more of my kids would say Math.

Math can be fun. We can make it fun as teachers, it isn’t that difficult to do – we just need to take the time to learn how to do it. Right? And I mean, that is the same with anything.

I just have so many stories with kids and math. We could be here forever, so instead let’s move into comments from parents and educators.

A lot is going well, including discovering just how important left handed scissors are and reversing the directions on cutting projects.

Homeschool Parent answering: What is going well with learning right now?

She still doesn’t like to sit down and read. We found a game for her to read just individual words, and I’m insisting she read little parts of the dialog in a computer game we play together.

Homeschool parent answering: What isn’t going as well as you would like? And if possible, what is one small step you can take to make that thing better?

Today’s topic! Early Numeracy Skills – and how to know if your child is behind.

I am very excited to dive into today’s topic of early numeracy skills. These skills should be learned, solidified, mastered in preschool, kindergarten, first, and second grade. However, older kids who are struggling in math should go through this checklist as well. Their struggles may be because they haven’t mastered the skills we are about to talk about. And they really need to.

So for all of you who are worried that your child is behind, or a teacher worried that your class is behind, maybe your third, fourth, or fifth graders are just not understanding the current math. I highly suggest you go back to these early numeracy skills to make sure they are there. And if not – provide opportunities for those kids to practice. They may need explicit instruction. But a lot of kids already have that introduction, they just haven’t mastered the skill yet. And that can cause frustration and difficulty in learning math, so practice practice practice these early skills!

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has a progression that I did research on and put into a checklist that I have used for many years in teaching intervention and teaching math. It really helped guide my instruction and I use this progression all the way through fifth grade, even though – like I have said before – the teaching of these concepts stop at second grade. But the mastery needs to continue to be there.

This math progression talks primarily about counting, so that is the first thing in my checklist. I have students count out loud as far as they can. I write down the number they say correctly before they make an error.

For example: in kindergarten we want them to be able to count to 31 without error. In first grade, we want them to count to 120. And in second grade we want them to be able to count fluently within 1000. Now I am not saying you should just sit there and make a student count from 1 to 1000. That would be incredibly time consuming and not really appropriate. So, what I have done is stop them at 50 if they haven’t made any errors. Because we are going to talk more about counting in higher numbers later in the progression checklist. But again, kindergarten is only 31. The reason it is to 31 is because in kindergarten we are learning about calendar. We are learning about the days of the week and those types of things. They are really important and part of the kindergarten curriculum, so it just makes sense that they should be able to count to 31.

Of course that doesn’t mean they can’t count higher, they certainly can, but the standard is to 31. So typically I stop if they can get to 31 because I know they are on grade level. First and above I stop at 50.

Next on the progression I want to make sure they actually understand counting. So the next level is being able to count correctly when counting objects. Do they have 1:1 correspondence? If I were to put some counting bears in front of them, do they have one to one correspondence? Do they point to one object at a time when the are counting a set?

If not, this is a really good indicator that you really have to start at the beginning and they are still pretty low on the math progression. They need a lot of concrete experience with counting and probably counting first just to 5 or 10. Counting objects and manipulating those objects. So I could give them hot wheels cars and ask, “show me how many hot wheels cars do you have?” I am making sure they move the object and touch the object as they are saying the number one and moving the car. And then touching the next car and saying two as they move the car. A lot of the time we see kids counting too fast and either skipping an object or they are counting the same object more than once because they aren’t really paying attention to what they are touching. And this is an indication that they don’t yet have an understanding of counting.

OK, so then my favorite on the progression is subitizing. Subitizing is the third step on our progression. What in the world is subitizing? Well subitizing is when you look at a set of objects or set of dots and you know how many there are without actually counting every single one. So the best example I can give that would reach the most amount of people listening would be when you look at a domino. And you see those 5 dots. The two on the left, the two on the right, and the one in the middle. You know that it’s five without counting each dot. That is subitizing.

Photo by Pixabay on

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics says we should be able to subitize numbers 0-20 in certain situations: dominos, or tens fames, or dice. So in kindergarten I focus first on numbers 0 through 5. There are a lot of really awesome YouTube video’s for subitizing 0-5 and 0-10. For kindergarten I typically start with fingers. So if I hold up 3 fingers can you tell me it is three without counting each finger? Then you get more and more complicated or complex. Maybe you don’t hold up the three fingers right next to each other, instead hold up one finger on one hand and two fingers on the other hand. They should still be able to tell you that it is three without counting each finger.

Then it gets more and more complicated. We move on from fingers to other visual representations like using a tens frame. If you are not familiar with what a tens frame is I will add a picture of it to my transcript.

It is exactly what it sounds like. A frame with 10 squares. 5 on the top and 5 on the bottom. If I filled in four of those squares with red circles they should be able to tell me that the number is four without counting every single dot.

After mastering subitizing numbers 0-5 we move to numbers 0-10 and then to 0-20 once that is mastered. I always make sure to introduce subitizing 0-20 by the end of kindergarten. But it should be a mastered skill by the end of second grade.

Example of subitizing numbers 0-20 using tens frames

OK, next on my list again is counting. It’s being able to count to 100 skip counting by ones and tens. So can they count from 1 to 100. If earlier in the assessment (on my checklist) they were able to count to 50 then I would maybe ask them, “OK let’s start at 50 and let’s count to 100”. I then ask them to skip count by tens. Skip counting is really important. It is a foundational skill for multiplication, addition – all of these higher level math skills. Without these foundational skills it’s going to be much more challenging when moving on to more complex math.

After counting by ones and tens to one-hundred we look at the ability to count on, starting at any given number. If I were to give them a number could they continue counting to whenever I tell him to stop. For kindergarten (beginning early in the year) I should be able to say, “all right start at four and count to 10”. They should be able to go 4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

What I do see and why this is important is kids that don’t understand counting on you’ll know it because they won’t start at four as in my example. Or you can see them mouthing 1234 and saying out loud 56789. They can’t just start at four they have to go back to the beginning and that’s important for so many reasons. Then you know by the end of the year I want to be able to give them any number 0-31 and have them continue to count.

In first grade I am looking at being able to count within 120. So if I cam them the number 23 they continue to count on from 23. Then I give them the number 94 and I did choose 94 very intentionally because that’s when it switches from two digits to three digits. I want to know that they can make that transition when they’re counting from 2 to 3 digits correctly. Then I don’t stop them until they count to 120, because I want to know they can count correctly from 100-120.

In second grade we are looking to see that students can count within 0-1000. I give them two different numbers to start at and then I stop them at a certain number. One number I give them is 768 and then I have them count for a while. If they’re doing really well I stop them earlier but if they’re kind of stumbling I want to see how far they can get (but I stop them for sure at 850). The second number I give them is 970. It doesn’t have to be 970 but it should be something below 1000. it’s the same as why I chose 94 for the first graders because I wanna make sure they make the transition from three digits to four digits effortlessly.

Next on my list is writing the numeral for the set. I have sets of objects. Typically I use counting bears or Legos or little dinosaurs. I want to make sure that they can write the number correctly. This is also one of the ways for me to make sure they do have that one to one correspondence we talked about earlier. I was very intentional with the numbers I chose.

  • 12 – to make sure they understand place value
  • 25 – kids often mix-up the writing of 2 and 5, so I want to make sure they are able to write these two numbers correctly
  • 7 – the number 7 is often written backwards
  • 14 – fourteen is a number that is often missed when counting before students have a true understanding of counting and 1:1 correspondence. So this is a really good indication of whether or not the student understands counting.

The final item on the list is skip counting within 1000. In kindergarten we want them to be able to skip count by 10’s to 100. In First grade they should be able to skip count by 5’s to 100. In Second Grade they should be able to count by 100’s to 1000.


Episode 3 – Intro to the Distance learning opportunity series

Episode 3.

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Today we are kicking off an entire series focusing on what I am calling the Distance Learning Opportunity. The title of the series may be a little deceiving; but I’ll also be talking about the other learning models occurring right now as well. I am calling this series the Distance Learning Opportunity Series because when we all shifted gears to distance learning last spring, so much was going on. But for every negative, I choose to find a positive – an opportunity. And an opportunity we truly do have. My entire first episode of this podcast was about my opinion on distance learning. So feel free to go back and listen to that episode.

We have the opportunity to work together as a community of parents, caregivers, teachers, students, and other educators to help our children learn at their highest potential, and give them opportunities to become all we hope and dream for them. Their future starts now. It starts with learning the alphabet, learning to read, learning basic math facts, learning to question and reflect. This podcast series will be devoted to ways parents, caregivers, and educators can take advantage of whichever learning model you find yourselves in right now to encourage the greatest growth in your children. 

This episode will be the introduction to the series. Laying the foundation. Each episode will have comments from you responding to these questions. 

  1. What learning model is your child in currently? Hybrid, In-Person, Distance, Homeschooling or Other
  2. What is going well with learning? Or maybe the learning model itself?
  3. What isn’t going as well as you would like? AND if possible, what is one small step you can take to make that thing better? 

The link for adding your own comments can be found on The Teacher Mama FB page and in the transcript of this episode. Each episode following this introductory episode will focus on a specific topic. So, like, an entire episode on math and learning, or literacy. But literacy is broken into a lot of different area’s like learning the alphabet, comprehension, phonics, etc.

Comments Section

Let’s kick off this episode with some comments from you! A teacher facilitating distance learning send in some comments. Q. What is going well with learning? A.  Students explain their thoughts and process of answering questions on flipgrid.

5:50 – 8:03  My rant about flipgrid; which turned out NOT to be brief. Lol

Now comments from a parent whose child is learning through distance learning. Q. What isn’t going we well as you would like? A. Schedules. The teacher sent a daily routine and schedule with a list of times. At a specific time is a daily check-in. Twice a week meet with the teacher in a video chat. Ok. I chose to do distant learning for my son this year. But really wasn’t given that much of an option. So I’ve set everything aside to become the best teacher that I possibly can. However, we are then handed a piece of paper with how the schedule should go. 8:30 check in. 9:45 seesaw. 10:20 classes. Work until 3:30. Ok. I’m a single mom of two boys. All I do is worry about time. I’m sorry, but this wasn’t my choice. I didn’t choose for a virus to sweep through the state and close schools. Parents are busy cooking, cleaning, paying bills. Some times these times are unrealistic. 

I hear you mama! A schedule for distance learning just doesn’t make sense to me in most cases. Life is going on and sometimes distance learning needs to happen in the evenings. Or power through in the mornings.  Or to be honest I have done two days of work in one day, because a kid was sick or something happened. Life happened. And learning needed to be put off. It still happened. Just not in our normal schedule. 

I also think it is inappropriate to expect a child working by themselves from home to work on school work all day. And teachers have to be flexible during the day in the classroom, things come up. Life happens in the classroom too. In my experience one-on-one learning can increase student productivity and speed up the amount of time an activity takes. For example, let’s say we spend an hour going through four centers in the classroom. Those same four center activities when done with one-on-one attention could be completed in as little as 15 minutes. That is a 45 minute difference. There is less transition, more accountability, less chances for getting distracted, and constant support from an adult when questions arise. 

Here is my advice for all of you mama’s, daddy’s, and caregivers out there dealing with this or a similar issue. 

  1. Talk to your child’s teacher. Lay it all out there, explaining why the schedule provided is unrealistic for your family. Ask for flexibility. Propose a solution that would work for your family. 
  2. 2. Some states are requiring so many hours a day of learning even for distance learners. So I suggest sending a message to your state education department. Explain why expecting a child to be learning from 8:30-3:30 every day is unrealistic, and suggest change. Suggest an alternative. Don’t just complain, this is really important. For change to happen, we need to offer do-able suggestions. Find your state education department website, the contact information is typically listed at the very top or very bottom of the webpage.  

Good luck mama! I hear you. I feel your frustration with you. You are doing a great job mama. 

Today I am going to focus on the basics of the learning models available right now in the US. Some state’s have chosen to only use distance learning, while other state’s, like my own, flow between the three learning models. 

What are the models used right now in education? There is Distance, Hybrid, In-Person. Distance learning is when the child is learning from home either virtually, or paper/pencil. Distance learning looks very different in different states and even different schools within a district. Those of you in the distance learning model right now, we would love to hear from you and learn how your school or district is defining distance learning. What is expected from you and your child? Add your comments to the form mentioned earlier. 

In-Person learning is mostly the same as it has always been. The child goes to the physical classroom, learns, goes home, and may or may not have homework. The classroom itself may look very different though. Desks are 6 feet apart. Everyone is wearing a mask and/or face shield. Some places don’t have transitions to different classrooms. Instead the students stay in the classroom and the teachers are the ones to move between rooms. This could even include classes like gym, music, art, and media. Classrooms right now are also using a lot of the same virtual learning strategies to minimize contact and potential spread of the virus. 

Hybrid learning is simply a combination of the above two models. Half of the students come on days A and B, the other half come on days C and D, and day E are deep cleaning or intervention days. The days students are in-person learning, they are expected to learn through distance learning. 

In a lot of places, parents have the choice of what model they want their child to participate. My state of MN required all public schools to offer distance learning as a choice for families. A lot of families took up on that offer and did choose distance learning.

I mentioned earlier some states have fluid movement between the three learning models. This is due to the number of active COVID-19 cases in the immediate area surrounding the school district. There is a specific formula the school district, health department, and department of education use to determine which learning model is the safest option for students. In some places, the learning model could change every two weeks. This doesn’t even take into account the students or staff needing to quarantine due to symptoms or close contact with a positive case. 

With all of these different learning models, and the abrupt switch to distance learning this past spring I have heard from many many families they are worried their child is falling behind. Or are worried they already are behind. 

So, let’s unpack this a little bit. What does it mean for a student to be falling behind? Some school districts sent out final report cards, and some didn’t this past spring. So without a report card to look at, you may be wondering just how your child did last school year. It can be difficult to know how much your child should know at any given grade level or age. Two of the biggest things I can say though, is this. 

* Do they get easily frustrated with the current work they are being assigned? 

* Questions to ask your child’s teacher


  1. How is my child doing in relation to grade level norms? 

2.    What assessments have been done so far this year? And. How did my child do on those assessments? 

– Were there any distractions during the assessment? Do you think my child’s performance on the assessment accurately reflects their knowledge to date? 

3. What is one area on the report card – or What is one topic my child is currently struggling with that I could help them learn and practice at home? 

4. How is my child’s behavior during class? 

5. How is my child’s focus and attention during class? 

6. Is there anything you would like to see my child improve or change? 

7. What is one thing my child does well consistently and we can help them tune into and support peers in that area/topic?


What can we do to support you – the teacher – right now? 

Alright, so we are wrapping up this first episode. There was kind of a lot there. Surface level stuff. There are mainly three different learning model’s happening in public education right now: in-person, distance, and hybrid. And you can find out or figure out if your child has fallen behind their peers by asking questions, observing your child, and listening to the rest of this podcast series. Each episode will dive deeper into how you can know if your child has fallen behind in a specific topic, and some simple action steps that can be taken to help your child continue their learning. 

Your action step, or homework if you will, is to download the list of questions. Parent-Teacher conferences would be a great time to review these questions and help make planning decisions for the next weeks. 

Episode 2 – The first week of school

Welcome to The Teacher Mama Podcast. I am your host, Roberta Kightlinger, and I am an educator, a wife, and a mama. Welcome. Explore. Like. Comment. And reach out with questions. You can reach us at

Welcome to episode number two of The Teacher Mama Podcast. I am so excited you are here!

This week, on The Teacher Mama Podcast, I am going to talk about the first week of school. The first week of school looks very different this year for many of us. I’ll start off by providing a narrative around the first week of school here in this household. 

I am the mama of two beautiful children: Izzy, a kindergartener, and Zander, a 1.5 year old. They have drastically different learning styles and personalities. Some things went really well this week. And other things didn’t go quite as well as I had expected. 

What went well? The lessons and activities went really well. Izzy was engaged, and excited to share her learning with the other adults in the household. There was even a day when she asked if she even did her learning, because she just didn’t think she had done enough.

Another thing that went well was our brain break times. I know when my kids start getting crabby and needing breaks. I am sure you can tell when your kids need breaks too. These are the times I turned the TV on and utilized the multitude of amazing educational videos available on youtube. I’ll share some of our favorite youtube channels at the bottom of the transcript on my webpage.

What didn’t go as well as I had expected? I figured Zander would play nicely while I facilitated his sister’s learning. Boy was I ever long. I quickly realized I needed to be intentional about the activities he was doing during learning times as well. He wanted 1:1 attention, just like his sister was getting. 

Funny story about this. Tuesday was our first day of school. Izzy was sitting at our shared desk working on writing her numbers. We had already done a few other things, and Zander had just had enough. During learning time he wasn’t playing on his own anymore, so I tried setting him up with a puzzle. That didn’t work. Set him up with dolls at the dollhouse. Not having it. Pulled his hotwheels cars and accessories down. Nope. He just wanted to be held, and do what his sister was doing. He wanted to climb up onto the desk and play with markers. (which is not what she was doing, but it was what he wanted to do) Zander and markers are not a good idea right now. I continued trying to distract him with other things, all at the same time as trying to teach a sleep deprived kindergartener. As you can expect, that was really stressful for me. And made the morning, just, not pleasant. 

 By the time Izzy was practicing writing her numbers, Zander had figured out his own plan to get 1:1 attention from me. He pointed to his diaper and made his noises that told me he needs a diaper change. So I picked him up. Cuddled him. Carried him into the bathroom and set him down on his changing table. The entire time I am talking with him and making him giggle by playing peek-a-boo. I get to the point when I am taking the diaper off, when I realize he didn’t need a diaper change!! He was completely dry! I said, “Baby boy, you don’t even need a diaper change!” And. He. Laughed. Laughed! Oh he knew he didn’t need a diaper change, he just wanted some 1:1 attention from his mama. And he knew how to get it. It wasn’t fair that his sissy was hogging all of my time!

This was my clue that I had to up my game. So day two through four: when Izzy had a writing activity, he had a writing activity. When Izzy was doing independent work, I was facilitating Zanders preschool level learning. I scheduled Izzy’s direct instruction times around Zanders nap time and the time I let him play his learning games on my tablet. This made a huge difference.  For a more detailed example; Izzy was working on writing the letters we had been working on, and Zander had a piece of paper with letters printed on the paper. They each sat at the desk, and they each had an erasable pen.

To Zander, it seemed like they were doing the same activity, but really Izzy was practicing writing her letters and he was practicing his fine motor skills. 

Lesson learned. I have to facilitate learning for both of my kids at the same time. And figure out a way to make that work. Otherwise, Zander just wants in. He wants to be included. And that 100% makes sense. 

I would love to hear your first week of school stories. Comment on this podcast by going to   Everyone who comments will be added to a drawing for 3 free tutoring sessions with me! Drawing will be done Friday, September 18, 2020. 

Let’s move into today’s topic. The first week of school. I am going to focus on routine. 

Back to school week typically means a new schedule and a new set of routines. For a lot of families, mornings are challenging. Someone doesn’t want to wake up on time, inevitably someone is crabby, someone can’t find their shoes, maybe someone woke up late and didn’t get breakfast. The list could continue on pretty much forever. And now we have some scenarios to add to our list: the internet doesn’t work, the computer isn’t loading the way it should, woke up late for virtual lesson time, or maybe someone forgot their mask. This list could continue on for a while too. 

I know mornings are stressful. So let’s talk tips and tricks for making our mornings less stressful and more productive. 

My first tip for you is to prepare as much as possible the night before. Set out clothes or workout clothes in an easily accessible location for yourself and each member of the family. Make sure backpacks, purses, lunches, shoes, are all packed and ready to be used. Set an intention for your morning. I will be happy. Or I will wake up feeling refreshed. I will sleep well and wake up calm and ready for the day. These are just a few examples. 

Also, Set a glass of water next to your bed to drink right away when you wake up in the morning. And maybe the most important tip that I can give you to prepare you for your morning is to is write down your morning routine.

I want to talk about this morning routine for a little bit. There are some really great resources for creating the best morning routine for you that I will link in the transcript of this podcast. These resources helped me create my own morning routine which I will share in just a minute. 

Those of you that know me can pretty safely say you know I am not a morning person. I would much rather stay up late into the night and sleep late into the morning. This way of life just isn’t possible with two kids and a job. I have had to train myself to go to bed at a good time and wake up earlier than I want. For a long time I would wake up with just enough time to get what I needed done before needing to leave for the day. This would cause me a lot of stress, especially when I lost track of time, or hit snooze one too many times, or I had a crabby kid in the morning who didn’t want to put on their shoes… The rest of my day felt rushed and I felt anxious and frazzled. 

I knew we needed a change.  Enter research mode. I listened to podcasts, read books, and searched the internet. After trying a lot of other people’s morning routines I decided to jot down a list of the things that worked for me. What did I want to make sure to get done before my kids woke up? 

My list included quiet time where I meditate or read scripture. I wanted to set my intention for the day and work on shifting my mindset towards positivity by writing an affirmation or two for the day. This affirmation I frequently re-read throughout my day as a reminder to be positive. I needed time to email my husband and go over our families schedule for the day. I needed time for exercise, personal development, and journaling in my gratitude journal. And then if there is time before my kids wake up I can start work for the day by checking messages and writing my daily to-do list. 

These things are important for me to get done in the morning. And it is important that they get done before my kids wake up. Because if they are awake, I am not able to focus on the things I have just listed off. Because they are needing my attention. Maybe it would be different when they are a bit older and more independent. But right now in this season of our life, I have to get these things done when they are sleeping.

So I had a list of things. Great. It seemed overwhelming just looking at my long list. But then I decided to add how long I thought each activity would take. 

Quiet time: 10-15 minutes

Affirmations: 5 minutes

Email husband: 5 minutes

Exercise: 30 minutes

Personal Development: 15-30 minutes

Journaling in my gratitude journal: 5-15 minutes

Work: 10 minutes to infinite minutes

Okay, so at the very least I needed 80 minutes to myself before my kids woke up, plus a few minutes to eat yogurt and get my work-out clothes on. So let’s say 1 hour 30 minutes minimum and 2 hours at a sort of maximum. My kids wake up around 6:30 daily, so if I want to get everything done and start my day off by filling my tank up with the things I enjoy and want to accomplish I need to get up at 4:30am. 

Just what my night owl brain wanted to hear. But here is what surprises me. I don’t mind waking up early when I get to do my routine. My morning. My things. I am happiest when I get to set a calm and productive tone to our day. 

Forcing myself to wake up before my kids and getting some quiet “me time” before the chaos of the day has honestly been a game changer for my family. I am calmer and ready to tackle our morning when I wake up early and follow my routine. 

This all got me to thinking. If it is important for adults to wake up and do all the things to help our brains be more productive and positive, how am I letting my kids start their morning? What kind of routine should they have to ensure a more productive and happier day? Being the life-longer learner that I am, I decided to run some experiments on my kids. 

Some days I let them just sort of do their usual thing. Turn on cartoons in the kitchen and eat breakfast. Other days I tried various other activities to kick start their morning. Like: exercise, or meditating, or reading books After some trial and error, this is what we have found works at this stage of their lives.

We start with some family snuggles on the couch. Which has been incredibly important for my babies. They love that cuddle time. Izzy could cuddle with me all day, any time of the day, it doesn’t matter – she loves to cuddle. Zander: we either cuddle right away in the morning, or I have lost my opportunity because he is too busy the rest of the day. He doesn’t want to slow down enough for cuddling. It is right away in the morning. Or not at all. So I take that. And I cuddle him in the morning because those baby snuggles are the best and I know they won’t last forever. So for right now, that is an important part of our morning routine. We take that time to snuggle in the morning.

Izzy repeats an affirmation for the day and we take some time to sit in silence and breathe. Practice our calming breathing. We then go over the mornings schedule. We then go into the kitchen and listen to audiobooks as they eat their breakfast. There are so many read-alouds of pictures books available out there we will never run out. And both of my kids absolutely love reading books in the morning. While they are eating breakfast and reading or listening to books, I am doing the dishes, or starting laundry, or whatever else needs to get done. 

After breakfast the kids do some sort of exercise or movement activity. Sometimes the exercise is timing them as they run from one end of the house to the other and back a few times. Other times we are outside going on a walk. Some of their favorites are when I incorporate locomotor skills such as: running, jumping, walking backwards, skipping, hopping, crawling, etc. We clear an area indoors or outdoors and they spend some time doing whichever locomotor activity I shout out. So we could spend as little as one minute on exercise, or to as long as I can hold their attention. And of course it depends upon how much time you have. How much time do you have before the day begins? But there is a lot of flexibility there.

They have a blast. We get to spend some time together. Quality time together. And the rest of our day has less crabbies, whining, and sibling fights. 

I think the most important take-away from this podcast is every family’s morning routine will look different. My routine may not work for literally anyone else. But it works for us. I highly encourage you to do some reading up on morning routines yourself. Write down what is important for you to get done in the morning and find a way to make it happen. Your routine won’t be perfect over-night, it will take practice. And that is okay. Practice. Make your mornings your mornings. Take control of your day right away when you wake up. 

I will be completely honest, I recorded this podcast and I am adding this little snippet later, before posting. I woke up this morning-well-tried to wake up this morning at my 4:30am alarm, and decided “you know what I am not getting up because I didn’t sleep most of the night”. I am going to sleep. I didn’t get to sleep because my kids struggled. I was hoping my kids would sleep in, and they did, which is unusual. But they slept in. I slept in. And then we started our morning routine. Yes I lost out on my morning routine. But I needed that sleep. Tomorrow I will get back on the morning routine train and continue on. It is okay to miss every once in a while. That is something I had to learn. I had to learn not to feel guilty when I don’t follow my plan. When I miss a day of my routine. Or I miss a day of exercise. Those are all things that would make me feel guilty and I have really had to work learning that it is okay. It is okay. Just try again tomorrow. 

Follow the Teacher Mama’s website to get exclusive access to printables. The printables available from today’s podcast will include simple daily schedules for both adults and children. Feel free to print them out and try these out for yourselves. The printable intended for adults includes: a weekly blank planner page, a daily schedule, spot to write out your morning and evening routines, and a spot for to-do lists. The printable intended for children includes visual cues for morning and evening routines, and a daily blank schedule with blank clocks you can fill in to add an element of learning. I have found when my daughter knows what time things are happening, even if she doesn’t fully understand time yet, she handles the transitions far better.

To get your printables go to After you subscribe to The Teacher Mama, you will get exclusive access to these printable schedules.

Find this image and click “Follow” You will then be prompted to add your email. If you have already subscribed, the printable will show up in your inbox soon!

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Thanks so much for listening! Happy learning!

Morning Routine Resources

  • “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. This book is a fantastic personal development choice if you are looking to level up your mornings!
  • Listen to “the Do Your Crap” podcast by Micah Folsom
    • Micah’s episode called Master Your Morning Routine is one I have listened to over and over again. Thanks Micah for helping me master my morning!

Our Favorite YouTube Channels for Brain Breaks

Cosmic Kids Super Yoga! A fast paced yoga sequence set up like a video game. Kids absolutely love the set of Super Yoga videos!

Jack Hartmann has so many learning video’s available. He has just about every topic. This particular is one of my past kindergarteners favorites.

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