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Parent-Teacher Conferences

PT_Meeting2We're out at meetings this week so we'll be taking a break from creating our fabulous Blog content. Luckily, Grete DeAngelo, a mom, women's fiction author, and history teacher, wrote a thoughtful piece for the Huffington Post that we thought we'd share. It's definitely that time of year when parent-teacher conferences are happening, so we hope you find her perspective useful. Comment below and let us know what you think. Do you have any advice to add?

How to Have a Meaningful Parent-Teacher Conference

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As a teacher and parent, I've been on both sides of the desk for conferences. Some have been more successful than others, and I've come to the conclusion that it's the preparation beforehand that makes the difference. I'd like to offer a few tips on how you, as a parent, can get the most helpful information from your child's teachers on parent-teacher conference day. Read more... 
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Posted on: October 28, 2014 by Andie Markijohn in

Quick Tips in Education


Apple Crunch Day!

apple-20tree-20clipart-apple_treeDid you know that tomorrow is Apple Crunch Day? According to the Penn State Hershey PRO Wellness Center, it is celebrated during National Apple Month and promotes healthy snacking.

Here are some fun ideas about how you can celebrate Apple Crunch Day and National Apple Month!

  1. Watch this video for “The Apple Song” and get it stuck in your head all day.
  2. Learn about Johnny Appleseed.
  3. Make “Inside-Out Caramel Apples” or one of the other great recipes found on
  4. Read a book about apples. For the younger set, we like Ten Apples Up On Top! By Dr. Seuss. For older readers, try The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff.
  5. Have an apple tasting party! Buy a variety of apples and taste each one, comparing their look, smell, texture, and taste. Declare the best tasting apple the winner!
  6. Go apple picking. Many local orchards allow customers to pick their own apples, so find your local orchard and go!
  7. Play Apples to Apples. This fun game asks participants to match an adjective card from their hand to the noun card for the round. You’ll definitely giggle at some of the combinations players come up with! (A junior version is available.)
  8. Print with apples. Did you know that when you cut an apple in half horizontally you find a star inside? Apple halves work great for making apple-print pictures, wrapping paper, and more. Stick a fork in the uncut side of each apple half, dip in paint, and then press on.
  9. Play “Hot Apple.”Just like hot potato, pass the apple around and when the leader shouts, "Hot Apple!" whoever is holding the apple is it. That person gets to be the leader and calls "Hot Apple" in the next game.
  10. Read and think about the poem “After Apple Picking” by Robert Frost.

What ideas do you have about how to celebrate? Tell us here! Or post it on our Facebook page!

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Posted on: October 23, 2014 by Andie Markijohn in

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My Favorite Book

9a90e6c792ee724d5dc52b93dad2f4c0When asked to tell us about their favorite book, the PA Virtual Staff was eager to share! From the whimsical to the wordly, our staff shares with you their favorite books. If you’re looking for a new read for your child—or yourself—be sure to check out some of these wonderful titles.

What’s your favorite book? Let us know in the comments section below.

Multi-Vote Favorites

Three books in particular (well, two are series) were mentioned by multiple staff members. Here’s what they had to say about these two timeless favorites.

917FQerThOLMy favorite book of all time is Charlotte’s Web By E.B White. This book is about a little pig who becomes famous with the help of his clever friend Charlotte. Wilber really is “some pig”.
Melissa Burns, Third Grade Teacher

My favorite book is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Every child wants to live on a farm after reading this book!
Jennifer Brodhag, Director of Parent Education and Engagement

My favorite book is actually a series. I loved all of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. It was amazing how detailed she made this magical fictional world and I love how she was able to make a millions of people and children all over the world fall in love and get excited about reading.
Heather Schaffer, Family Support Coordinator

I love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. She does a great job of letting the writing age as the characters age. I love the imagery used in the book. Reading the series was even more fun for me because I read most the series while riding the Tube & trains when I lived in the UK. I even got to read a few chapters in The Elephant House coffee shop, where she sat looking at the back of Edinburgh Castle for inspiration for the first book. I also took a walk on Charing Cross to see if I could find The Leaky Caldron!
Meredith Regul, Operations Coordinator

My favorite books are the Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are 8 books in the series and I got them as a Christmas gift when I was 10 years old. I still have the set along with a doll who I call Laura. I remember after finishing the last book in the series, I cried because I was going to miss reading about Laura Ingalls. I felt like I had lost my best friend. Reading this series of books created my love of reading and influenced my career choice—an English Teacher!
Diana Perney, 11th-12th grade Principal

My favorite books as a child were the Laura Ingalls Wilder series including Little House on the Prairie. The author, born in 1867 in Wisconsin (where I was also born and raised) shares here memories of growing up during the late 19th century. I can’t wait to share Laura’s many adventures with my daughters when they get older.
Dana Marra, Director of Operations

For Little Ones (and Big Ones, too!)

My favorite book to read to my kids is Love You Foreverby Robert Munsch. It reminds me of my relationship with my mother and how she would always say that I would always be her baby. I was able to pass that same message on to my kids. It tugs at your heartstrings and reminds us that we are never too old to be loved.
Jackie Sieber, Fourth Grade Teacher

Sada (6) and I just finished Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. I read it for the first time for a "Reading for Elementary Teachers" course and have read it at least half a dozen times since. Rated at 2nd grade and up, but a great read for any age.
Corbin Anderson, Director of Instructional Technology (A.K.A. “The Video Guy”)

My son and I loved reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst when he was a child. Even today, we will refer to a particularly bad day in terms of the misadventures of Alexander. I have seen this story as a play, and we are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see the movie…but nothing will be as precious to me as snuggling up at bedtime with my son and hearing his laughter at the silly escapades of Alexander.
Toni Kauffmann, Director of Community Relations and Service Learning

Oh,_the_Places_You'll_GoA favorite book of mine is Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, by Dr. Seuss. Not only is it a fun book to read to young children, it is also such an inspirational message at any age. I love reading this book to my children and just absorbing the message for myself!
Katie Daily, High School Special Education Teacher

My favorite book as a child was The Monster at the End of this Book, a Little Golden Book by Jon Stone that featured my favorite Sesame Street Muppet, Grover. My mom used to read it to me with such gusto, and it always made me laugh. I won't give away the surprise ending, but I highly recommend this book!
Andie Markijohn, Project Manager

My Favorite book as a child was Alpha and the Dirty Baby, by Brock Cole. My mom used to read it to me every night before bed with a charming theatrical voice that would always make me laugh. After reading I would always be so thankful to be fresh and clean, snuggled up in my bed.
Kellie O’Heron, Operations Coordinator

My favorite book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Although this book is designated as a 1st-2nd grade book, I think I have read and re-read it a thousand times as an adult, especially after having my own kids. To me, it accentuated the realization of a loving parent’s sacrifices and their unconditional love for their children.  The tree represents my own mother and all that she has sacrificed in her lifetime for us. It is impossible to understand or appreciate until we are older and wiser.
Dana Ciccotti, Family Support Coordinator

For Older Readers and Adults

My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love this story because of the relationship between Scout and Boo Radley and how perfectly Atticus handles the racial tension during the trial of Tom Robinson. Harper Lee is excellent at character development and timelessly relevant quotations!
Melissa Alcaro, High School English Teacher

My favorite book is The Victorian, by Daria Cyr. Best for adult readers, the book allows you to travel from the 1800’s to present day on a journey of determination and hope. You follow the individual paths of a man and a woman and their journeys through time. This book is especially dear to my heart, as the author is my older sister.
Jessica Dorneman, Enrollment Placement Teacher

If I had to choose just one, I would pick Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m an avid reader, so the narrowing format of Gladwell’s investigations, where the question under investigation is introduced as a story, then numbers are crunched, and then he finishes the story, really works for me. I ended up incorporating the first half of the book into my LAC 2 class; getting honors students to consider what makes people successful has been a fascinating journey!
Tammy Bacon, High School Academic Support Teacher

furbo_1I’ve always loved Franky Furbo by William Wharton. Like most of Wharton’s novels, it’s based during and after World War II.  However, the main character Franky is a fox, and it’s fascinating to watch him learn about the world and interact with very real characters.  Franky narrates the story in a way that is high-level enough for an adult, but approachable enough for a young adult. It’s such a good read, you’ll feel obligated to pass it on once you finish it.
Jamie Shedd, Senior Enrollment Manager

My favorite author is Sue Taylor Grafton. She is a contemporary American author of detective novels. She is best known as the author of the "alphabet series" ("A" Is for Alibi, etc.); I am currently reading “C” is for Corpse. I started reading the series when I lived in California. When she describes landscapes, she always mentions something related to Los Angeles. The author writes as though you were sitting across the room talking to her or listening to her as she reads her stories, and each series is connected.
Vicki Andrews-Gilmore, Executive Project Manager

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz was the only book in the series I really liked. It’s a slightly creepy, good vs. evil scenario in an interesting setting, best for high school readers and adults.
Rich Costa, Operations Coordinator, Reclamations and Facilities

My favorite book is The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Although this book is geared towards students in intermediate and middle school grades, I enjoy it every time I read it. I also enjoy The Giver’s companion books by Lowry: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son because they continue the story in different settings. These books allow me some extra time with the characters!
Stacey Nichols, Academic Support Teacher

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Posted on: October 20, 2014 by Andie Markijohn in

Getting To Know You


The Age Gap:

Keeping pre-school aged children engaged while their siblings learn

familyIt's not uncommon for cyber-schooling families to have pre-kindergarten children at home with their school-aged students. Keeping younger children engaged while making sure students have interactive, educational time with their Learning Coach is critically important. In order to achieve that with babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers  involved, a little planning can go a long way.  Here are a few tips that might help you keep your little ones busy learning and playing all day long.

Keep goals in mind

Create goals focused on purposeful learning activities for the younger children. Are you working on learning to tie shoes? Reading alone for 15 minutes a day? Cleaning up after playtime? Try making a lesson plan and setting your goals in writing.  The plan can help you stay focused on educational activities and provide a clear roadmap for teaching patience and long-term rewards.

Establish rules and good habits

Little ones benefit from rules. Establishing a few ground rules for conduct during school time can go a long way in developing good behavior in the future. Remember to have patience and to be consistent! Check out this blog for some great ideas.

Include the younger ones whenever possible

Depending on their age, the little ones may be able to take part in some of the older sibling’s school work.  Sensory tubs can be a great way for little ones to get an introduction to a basic concept, practice those all-important motor skills, and play with their new ideas. While they explore, learning coaches can move on to more in-depth concepts with their students. Try one on weather or snow, or look at some ideas for really young learnersRead more on why sensory play so important.

Keep activities fresh

Young minds are very active, and they need a regular flow of new ideas to remain stimulated. Keep some educational toys stashed in the closet, and make them special by only bringing them out during classtime.  Rotate toys and games regularly to keep the little ones interested and excited about their learning time. Check out this blog for more ideas.

Utilize that naptime!

If the little ones still take naps, use that time to focus on older children and their more in-depth academic content.

Do you have some thoughts to share with other families on how to keep younger kids engaged during the day?  Share your ideas in the comments here!

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Posted on: October 16, 2014 by Andie Markijohn in

Quick Tips in Education


Exploring is Good.

With Columbus Day often comes attention to the bravery, determination, and daring demonstrated by Christopher Columbus and other intrepid explorers who helped discover new continents. Where would we be had these men been meek, timid, and easily deterred?

While there may not be many uncharted territories for us to conquer today, and certainly little time to do so amongst our hectic daily lives, there is still value in the concept of exploration, and we can accomplish it in ways other than sailing the high seas to unknown lands.

Many of us feel comfortable encouraging our children to explore, but how comfortable are we in allowing ourselves to engage in exploration? How often do we seek out new experiences for ourselves? Adults benefit from exploration, too. For example, trying new things can increase self-confidence, help us learn a new skill, allow us to meet new people, and encourage us to grow.

Here’s a list of 5 simple ways we can bring a sense of exploration into our lives:

  1. BUNGLED-PERSONAL-FLIGHT-ATTEMPT-1Take a different route to work, the store, etc. We may discover a place we hadn’t known about, find a new “favorite house,” or see a flower we'd like to have in our own yard.
  2. Take a class. Many Community Colleges offer non-credit “Community Education” courses for reasonable fees. Some last only one session, while others may last several weeks. Topics span from crafts to computers, so there’s likely to be something that piques our interest.
  3. Try a new food. If we've always wanted to try kimchi, there’s no time like the present. And we should treat ourselves—make sure that whatever we are trying, we find the best version we can. Whether it’s a restaurant or our culinarily gifted neighbor, we need to make sure our first taste is the good stuff.
  4. Take a social step. We can join a local group we have always wanted to learn more about. It could be an environmental group, charity group, or even and adult sports league.
  5. Start a “bucket list.” List everything we'd like to do, big and small, and start crossing those items off!

As we try new things, we might experience a little trepidation, and that’s normal! But we should approach our new experiences with openness and curiosity, and see them as an experiment. We may learn that something doesn’t work for us, but that’s okay—we’ve learned and grown because of it. We can give ourselves credit for putting ourselves out there, and be proud that we have now joined the ranks of those brave enough to call themselves “Explorers.”

For additional reading on trying new things, check out these sites:

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Posted on: October 09, 2014 by Andie Markijohn in

Did You Know?


A Columbus Day Name Game

christopher-columbus-clipart-black-and-white-4We are just one week away from celebrating Columbus Day! While many celebrations of this day include parades, festivals, and other activities that celebrate exploration, Italian heritage, or just a day off from school and work, we’re going to celebrate Mr. Columbus’ alliterative name by playing a little name game right here on the blog.

Below is a list of famous people who have the same letter for their first and last name. Can you figure out who they are? If you get all of the answers, email your completed game to One winner will be drawn from all of the correct entries and will win a prize! Winner will be drawn on Wednesday, October 15, so be sure to get your entry in!

The Columbus Day Alliterative Name Game

Can you guess who these famous people are? Remember, their first and last names begin with the same letter! We’ll post a link to the answers next week!

  1. Swedish film actress known for her roles in Anna Karenina (1935) and Camille (1936)
  2. 28th US President
  3. A Disney favorite who wears a sailor shirt and hat…but no pants!
  4. A Wascally Wabbit
  5. Actor/Director/Screenwriter perhaps best known for his starring role on the TV show “M*A*S*H
  6. American MLB centerfielder and first baseman for the New York Yankees for 18 seasons, and perhaps the greatest switch hitter of all time
  7. An American female country music artist who had her first hit, "Delta Dawn", in 1972 at the age of 13
  8. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving since August 2009; the first justice of Hispanic heritage, and its third female justice
  9. Come on baby, let's do the Twist!
  10. Country singer whose life was the basis for the movie Coal Miner's Daughter
  11. American actor known for his portrayal of Major Frank Burns on t he TV series “M*A*S*H
  12. Diminutive actor who first gained prominence as Louie di Palma on "Taxi"
  13. American actress known for her role as Chrissy Snow on the 1970's comedy “Three's Company” and as spokeswoman for The Thighmaster in the 1980's
  14. Dim-witted but cheerful Canadian Mountie, nemesis of Snidely Whiplash
  15. American country music singer, songwriter, musician, and film actor, known for writing such hits as "Me and Bobby McGee"
  16. Dutch post-Impressionist painter, known for works such as "The Starry Night"
  17. Eccentric millionaire, subject of the Matt Damon film The Aviator
  18. Elvis Presley's widow
  19. English punk rocker who sang "Goody Two Shoes"
  20. American actor, director, producer who first became known to audiences with the role of Michael Stivic, son-in-law of Archie and Edith Bunker
  21. Famous silent film actor, "The Tramp"
  22. Former NFL player with the Cincinnati Bengals, now a television sports analyst
  23. German tennis pro who is a six-time Grand Slam singles champion, an Olympic gold medalist in doubles, and the youngest-ever winner of the men's singles title at Wimbledon at the age of 17
  24. He owned an amazing Chocolate Factory
  25. American actor known for his work on Saturday Night Live and the "Austin Powers" films
  26. Irish novelist and poet best known for his 1922 novel Ulysses
  27. Jazz singer and bandleader famous for singing "Minnie the Moocher"
  28. Late American actress best known for her role on the TV show "Charlie's Angels"
  29. American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer in the late 1800's
  30. Lazy comic strip private created by Mort Walker
  31. American author, best known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
  32. Legendary American actress and singer; Pillow Talk was one of her best-known films
  33. Long time NFL coach, currently with the New England Patriots
  34. American actor who played one half of the duo in the TV show "CHIPS"
  35. Long-time host of the game show "The Price is Right"
  36. Lucy's husband on "I Love Lucy"
  37. MLB outfielder from the early 20th century, associated with the Black Sox Scandal.
  38. Muhammad Ali
  39. American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black and white landscape photos of the American West
  40. Reporter for the Daily Planet and Superman's love interest
  41. American singer-songwriter of the late 1960's, known for songs such as "Mercedes Benz" and "Me and Bobby McGee"
  42. Saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band
  43. South African Professional Golfer, also known as "The Big Easy"
  44. Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright; one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, known for co-founding the Cubist movement
  45. Spider-Man's alter ego
  46. American singer whose tumultuous relationship with husband Ike was the subject of the film What's Love Got To Do With It?
  47. The 31st US President
  48. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  49. Yabba-Dabba-Doo!
  50. American actress, model, and singer who married Joe DiMaggio

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Posted on: October 06, 2014 by Andie Markijohn in

Did You Know?


Is My Child Ready To Babysit?

9iRd5KLieWhile the lives of today’s teenagers may be very different than the teenage lives many of us led, there is still one part of the experience that is likely at the top of any teen’s list: the quest for spending money. While most teens eventually get jobs in retail, fast food, or restaurants, the employment many of them often begin with is babysitting.

Whether it is for siblings, family, or neighbors, babysitting can be a great first step towards gaining the independence that employment requires and experiencing the feeling of earning money for one’s work.

However, caring for an infant, toddler, or child also brings with it a great deal of responsibility. How do you know if your child is ready to take on such responsibility?

The web site offers a list of questions to consider when determining if your child is ready to babysit. First and foremost, the site wisely advises that readiness is not based on your child’s age, but rather on developmental factors. These factors can explored by asking such questions as “Does my child enjoy younger children?”, “Is my child able to practice safe habits for the younger child and himself?”, and “Is my child able to listen to and follow instructions?” also has a great article on babysitting readiness, offering both a little humor and some great advice. “How can a child who consistently forgets to clear her place from the table possibly be responsible enough to watch someone else's children?” author Abbi Perets ponders. “It's a legitimate question,” she continues, “but give your kid a little credit.” She offers some great pointers on assessing responsibility, the value of on-the-job training, and other concerns.

Once you’ve decided that your child is ready to babysit, it’s important to prepare them for the new experience. has a great list of recommendations for preparing your child, including having him or her start out by being a mother’s helper or volunteering at a church nursery, registering him or her for a babysitting class, or engaging in some role-playing with him or her.

In the end, you know your child best and will be the best resource in determining his or her readiness for babysitting. Allow the tools mentioned here to help you, and don’t be afraid to seek out even more resources. Before you know it, your child will ready to participate in the long tradition of babysitting.

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Posted on: October 02, 2014 by Andie Markijohn in

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