Grade School Mom

Are My Kids Too Young to see the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Movie?

At home my kids have read the Harry Potter books so my 11-year-old son definitely wants to see the The Deathly Hallows Movie (part one) coming out this week. My seven-year-old daughter (who will be eight next month) also says she wants to see the latest Harry Potter film. My main concern is that the film may be too scary for her... and borderline scary for him. When my daughter finished books one through three, she decided to "take a break" and switch to something else. I suspect this was because the books were becoming a bit dark for her. Just the same, she hears all the buzz about the new Harry film and wants to see what it's all about. My son, on the other hand, plowed through all seven books and enjoyed every moment. He read the Harry Potter books in 5th grade and I think it was the perfect age to dive into this series, at least for him.

This brings me to the films and the question I raised. Remember, when Hogwarts was all in the imagination of the reader, no two versions were quite alike, and each new reader who entered Rowling’s world of wizardry could make the story that suited their tastes. That all changed when the movie versions were produced. Moviemakers leave nothing to the imagination and they need to draw an audience to see the films. How exactly does that house on Grimmauld Place make itself visible? What does Diagon Alley look like? How about Dumbledore’s office? And what do Harry, Ron, and Hermione really look like? Now we know; or, at least, we’ve been handed a pre-packaged version that most people connect to the books. Nothing is left to the imagination.

Here is the preview of The Deathly Hallows Movie (part one). Share your thoughts about when it is (or isn't) appropriate to see the movie version of a cherished book.

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Finding the Right Books for My Child's Reading Level

Each fall my kids start a new reading log for school. The teacher usually gives her students a lot of freedom to pick their books as long as the titles are at the appropriate reading level. Many parents (me included) are confused by all the leveling systems and would not know how to find a level Q book if their life depended on it. So what's a mom to do? Well, I learned about the Teacher Book Wizard from my daughter's first grade teacher and have been a fan ever since. Don't be fooled by the name, parents can use the Wizard too.

The Book Wizard will help parents find:

  • Book and author information
  • Reading levels
  • Book-based lesson plans, booktalks and discussion guides
  • Series lists

There is even a little widget you can add to your personal or school blog that let's you search on the spot:


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The Magic School Bus is Back in Action!

Today's younger parents may remember The Magic School Bus from their own TV watching days, or from their younger siblings' love of the series. This show has really stood the test of time, entertaining and educating children (and their parents) more than a decade after its TV premier. If you are not familiar with the The Magic School Bus, it is an award-winning television series that was based on the children’s books of the same name by former elementary school teacher and librarian, Joanna Cole. The show originally aired from 1994 to 1997 on PBS and was the first fully animated series on PBS Kids.

This fall television series is being introduced to a new generation of viewers on Qubo. While it’s geared towards children between the ages of five and eight, younger children are sure to enjoy the scientific adventures lead by Mrs. Frizzle, the children’s eccentric teacher. The Magic School Bus teaches children to love science and launches them on an exciting exploration of the world around them.

The episodes are well-written, teaching important facts while taking children on imaginative adventures that would be impossible in real life. Kids agree that Magic School Bus is "funny” and they “learn stuff” when watching. The Magic School Bus website also has a lot of fun activities. Lily Tomlin speaks the role of Mrs. Frizzle and introduces her students to science with a fun factor and is often heard saying, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!“ The Magic School Bus takes children on fantastic “field trips” into the middle of a volcano or even inside the human body.

My son was given his first Magic School Bus books as a preschooler. We discovered the DVDs while he was in Kindergarten. He was a budding scientist the show (and the books) were an early favorite. The website has recently been redesigned to entertain new fans of the Magic School Bus. Hop on board and enjoy the ride at



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New Scholastic Summer Reading World Record

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is officially over and we have set a new Scholastic World Record!

The Summer Reading program logged a total of 52,710,368 minutes by over 110,800 users from every state in the United States and 120 different countries. Kids around the world worked together, reading and logging minutes to officially break the Scholastic Reading World Record of 35,846,094 minutes, which was set in 2009. Check back to the Summer Challenge site on September 10th to see the final results. Great reading!

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A Reading Record is at Stake!

Looking for ways to keep your kids on track this summer? Check out Summer Reading Challenge for some fun activities that will keep your kids tuned in to reading this summer! The Summer Reading Challenge can help kids to find books they want to read, play games, connect with other kids who want to talk about their favorite books. The Challenge is set to break the Reading World Record... but we need your kids to help!

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Earth Day Fun: Pennies for the Planet

Looking for a great way to help the planet?

There is also an online game for Earth Day from the National Audubon Society. It is called the Pennies for the Planet Game and it is part of the Together Green program. Kids can learn how even small actions can make their yard more wildlife-friendly. It is an engaging way to learn about some Audubon conservation projects helping panthers, plovers and turtles.
Check it out at:

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Build Vocabulary Skills with Wordgirl

Sure, spelling bees are fun, but this upcoming Wordgirl webcast will help students build "super" word powers! I have already shared this Wordgirl webcast info with my kids' teachers. It looks like it will be an entertaining way to enhance vocabulary and improve word usage skills.

Classrooms and home schoolers can register at

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A Word about Service

A couple weeks ago my children's school in Brooklyn participated in their first school-wide community service day. The purpose of this day of service was to give kids some hands-on experience with community service. Students and parents were encouraged to bring in $1 to fund the many wonderful projects they made reality. Students, staff, teachers, administration and parents all pitched in to give back to local organizations.

Over $600 was raised by the program and the service projects included:
  • Baking dog treats for animals at BARC
  • Making "Adopt Me" bandanas for the ASPCA
  • Planting bulbs in front of the school and at the local public library branch
  • Raking leaves in Cooper and McCarren Park
  • Reading to younger students at local day cares
  • Volunteering at local food pantries
As a parent I am thrilled to see our public schools giving back to the community. Today our children are learning about social values at school and (hopefully) at home.

Nice work kids!

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Cold Season is Back

Why is it I love Indian summer? Right now my whole family is in various stages of a cold. I feel like we have been through this whole thing before, but here we are sick again.

Colds are extremely contagious (through sneezes, touches or coughs from another person), your child will most likely get one when in contact with other infected kids or family members.


  • Runny nose that lasts 5 to 7 days
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Wet or dry cough that lasts about a week
  • Possible low-grade fever
  • Scratchy throat
  • Symptoms usually last for one to two weeks

Treatment: Medication can’t cure a cold, but it can help your child feel better. Try an over-the-counter cough suppressant, decongestant, antihistamine or other children’s cold medication. Have the whole family wash their hands frequently to avoid spreading germs. Be sure your children drink lots of water and juice to keep hydrated.

Remember to check with your doctor before giving a child any type of medication. If the symptoms are getting worse, interfere with daily activities, are accompanied by a fever, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or last longer than two weeks, it’s time to have the doctor take a closer look.

But most of all, make some soup! Need a good soup recipe?

Try this chicken soup and rice recipe inspired by Maurice Sendak or if you have no time, then buy some soup and serve it up in her favorite bowl.

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The Back-to-school Grind

Ok, so now the new clothes have been worn (possibly torn) and the school supplies are already starting to get lost. Your family is really back to school when your kids finally are into the routine of waking up early enough to arrive at school on time. On difficult mornings I may resort to coaxing them out of bed with hot cocoa...whatever it takes to start the day with a good mood.

After school the time crunch doesn't stop, especially if you are signed up for a few activities like my kids. There are some evenings when we barely manage to finish the homework before it's time to go to bed. We are trying to keep our schedule manageable so we are more inclined to schedule play dates on a Friday or weekend. Looking for a few pointers on how to manage homework? Check out's Gradeschool Homework Guide.

Triumph How did we make it to October without losing our marbles? Well, we found that it was helpful to establish a routine where clothes are picked out the night before, complete with shoes, socks and jackets. Any choosing should be done before bed. You can also check out the forecast to plan an outfit that matches the weather. The days are getting crisp so be sure to throw an extra layer into the backpack.

My mother-in-law used to even set her breakfast table the night before. I find that a little too ambitious but it may help your kids get started on breakfast while you finish getting dressed. You may want to have your kids tell you before bedtime what they will want for breakfast, and then stick with it. For kids who need lunches packed, have those ready (or mostly ready) the evening before as well, so all that needs to be done is a few last-minute touches before you dash out the door.

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