A Checklist for Fall Magic

Guest Blog by Sara Sophia

“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
– L. M. Montgomery

I don’t know if you’ve felt it in the morning breeze yet; if it has you tugging a flannel shirt from the back of your closet, lingering near the aisle of pumpkin scented candles, or if your eye has caught the slight flutter of leaves from trees – but fall is definitely tip toeing into Georgia.

I know it is because I have the same butterflies of excitement I find myself with every year come late September. I have been breathing deeply as we hop into the car each morning, searching for the hint of autumn in the air. Perhaps I over-romanticize but, quite simply, I live for this time of year.

The time of year when we’ve just left the season of pencil bouquets and crisp notebook pages and are far from the flurry of summer’s end. It seems to me October is full of ample room to celebrate family and tradition; to dive headfirst into the sensory explosion that comes with the change of seasons.

Here is my checklist for fall magic:

1. Pumpkin Shaped Cookies

Making your own is a wonderful tradition but so is stopping by our local Panera for a whimsical after school snack. (And it keeps the kitchen a lot cleaner)

Pumpkin Shaped Cookioes
©Sara Sophia, 2015, Used with Permission.

2. Plan a Family Fall Movie Night

In our house the first of October means watching Harry Potter and old reruns of The Munsters, courtesy of Netflix.
Choose something that is special for you and your little ones.

3. Halloween Socks

Cheesy I know, but you can’t beat the family-wide solidarity of holiday themed socks. (Especially when they range from $1-$3 a pair at Target.)

Halloween Socks
©Sara Sophia, 2015, Used with Permission.

4. Flannel, Plaid and More Flannel and Plaid

Well, flannel and plaid and boots. It will be what everyone else is wearing to the pumpkin patch but who cares, its cute. (and homey and festive… the list goes on)

5. Substitute Your Usual Seasonings with Fall Spice

Whether shaking a little cinnamon into barbeque sauce for pork chops, or stirring pumpkin and nutmeg into your pancake batter… get adventurous with your spice cabinet. Small hands will be happy to help with the sprinkling.

6. Take a Family Hike

Enjoying our beautiful Georgia fall is as easy as a quick weekend drive to Pine Mountain. My little ones love stopping for candy sticks and Harry Potter chocolate frogs at The Country Store (not always in stock, but when they are there we snap them up!).

7. Add Edible Googly Eyes to Baked Treats

Whether you make homemade muffins or a quick batch of rolls — adding these will have little ones thinking you are the most magical cook in the land. We found some cute edible eyes in the Hobby Lobby baking section right beside the sprinkles.

8. Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

If going crazy with fall décor is not your thing, it can still be fun to place a pumpkin someplace unexpected. Sitting one next to your dining room bouquet or on a bookshelf has been known to result in contagious smiles from the entire family.

Pumpkins everywhere
©Sara Sophia, 2015, Used with Permission.

This is such a magical time of year and I can’t wait for the cooler weather and all the holidays headed our way. So whether you choose to pick from this short list of my favorite things to do at the cusp of autumn, or simply read a fairytale while wrapped in a cozy blanket, I hope you have the best fall ever.

Sara Sophia works as the creative lead for handmade gatherings around the country. You can find her locally consulting for independent businesses; assisting artisans and boutiques in the art of whimsical marketing. She spends her days off searching for faeries in her herb garden and blogging her life as a mother of four and renegade poet. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.


Brainfuse Review: Free online homework help

Brainfuse ad

Brainfuse Review – Accessing live homework help free of charge

By Carrice Quinnie

The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries (CVL) have done it!  They’re offering LIVE online homework assistance.  Yes, it’s true! I tried it out with my middle daughter and it works!

Powered by Brainfuse, the live online homework assistance, gives students the opportunity to interact with real tutors.  Students interact with tutors via chat sessions, while utilizing computerizes virtual whiteboards.

Many have already taken advantage of this FREE online gift from the CVL.  Tiffany Wilson, Marketing/Fund Development Coordinator for the libraries shares, “For the fiscal year, we’ve had over 2,336 unique users and 30,011 live homework help sessions.”  Many are finding this site very useful and to date, surveys are reporting an 86-100% customer satisfaction rate.

The CVL’s live homework help can be accessed from all mobile devices with a Wi-Fi or an internet connection, just download the Brainfuse application from Google Play or the iTunes Application Store.  Brainfuse can help with just about every subject from grades K-12; it also has Spanish and writing labs.  In the writing lab, students can upload their original papers and receive academic feedback within 24 hours.  But Moms and Dads can use it too!  There is an Adult Learning Center!

Housed in the Adult Learning Center are GED preparation exams, U.S. citizenship test preparations, resume building assistance and many other career and skill resources.  So when the kids are done, we can work on professional advancement.  Big plus for the entire family!

I put Brainfuse to the test with my most opinionated child, my middle daughter.  My middle daughter has recently started middle school and needs a little help here and there, but is doing well this year with her new transition. (Hi-five, Lady B!)  So, I made Lady B unplug from her Australian movie time and reluctantly come to the computer.  She logged on with her library barcode number.

I had to guide her through the opening steps, by creating an account and password. If you don’t have a library card, don’t worry! Local students can log on with their MCSD Chattahoochee Libraries United with Education (CLUE) accounts.  Simply log on to www.cvlga.org/clue using your Georgia testing identification number and password.

Later we selected her grade and particular subject we wanted assistance with, math.  Within 45 seconds, a live tutor responded with, “Hi, how may I help you?”  Lady B chatted with tutor back and forth, giving background on her math class.  The tutor then asked for a specific example and Lady B got her math review out…then it was on and popping!

using brainfuse online homework help

The tutor went step by step on the virtual whiteboard showing Lady B all the steps needed to solve her math problems.  Lady B could ask questions if she didn’t understand.  Later after a few examples, the tutor gave Lady B a couple of problems to do on her own.  It was a little difficult for her to write on the whiteboard with the tool, but it was finally successful.

After Lady B was finished with math she wanted to do another subject. So if Lady B likes it, it’s an approved educational tool!   And did I mention it is FREE!  Some local tutors charge from $20 per hour and up, for one-on-one tutoring sessions, but Brainfuse is FREE.

Overall I give the site 4.5 stars, only because of the multiple clicks needed to finally get to the actual Brainfuse Live Tutor site and the difficulty trying to learn how to use the whiteboard on our end.  Nevertheless, overall, connecting with an expert tutor the experience is a total A+!

Lady B will be using site daily for homework assistance and for free play.  Hopefully this will be great motivation to unplug her from those Australian soap operas!

How to access Brainfuse:

  1. Go to the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries’ website (www.cvlga.org).  Under the Kids tab, click Live Tutors and Homework Help. Or click here.
  2. On the left-hand side of your screen, click Brain fuse Live Online Homework Help, and then select Get Started with Brainfuse. (Note: If you are outside of a CVLS branch library, you will be asked to enter your library card information. You’ll need to enter your library card barcode number with no spaces.)
  3. Create your username and password, then select the grade and subject to begin your virtual education.


Fostering Healthy Self-esteem in Children

family bonding healthy self-esteem

By Ariel Reynolds, ACES Extension Daily

In a world filled with cyber bullying, instant access to any picture, video or comment, parents’ role to build healthy self-esteem in their children is more vital than ever.

Shannon Kish, a regional family and child development agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, explains why parents need to foster healthy self-esteem in their children and provides strategies for parents to utilize.

What is self-esteem and why is it important?

“Self-esteem is best described as a feeling of self-worth,” Kish explains. “Children who have a high self-esteem tend to have protective factors that create resiliency. These protective factors help children avoid peer pressure, like drugs and alcohol.”

Although peer pressure tends to be more prevalent during adolescence, it is important that parents begin creating these positive attitudes in their children from a very early age.

“Building a strong sense of self-worth begins early in a child’s development,” Kish said. “Fostering self-esteem, self-worth and self-awareness should begin immediately. When children are infants, they need to feel loved, safe and secure. Parents do this by ensuring the child’s needs are met and as the child gets older, they begin to explore the world outside of the protective womb of mom and dad.”

Kish explained that children need to get to know themselves. They need to explore and understand what they are good at, what they are not so good at, what interests them and what goals they have for themselves. Parents play a critical role in building a child’s self-awareness.

“Healthy self-esteem is like a child’s armor against the challenges of the world,” Kish explained. “Children who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures.”

Strategies to build healthy esteem in children

Kish provided five helpful strategies to foster healthy esteem in children.

Tip 1.

Meet children’s needs from infancy. Children begin learning and developing their understanding of the world from the first day they are born. When an infant cries, the parent soothes the child and meets the need at that time which builds trust and ultimately affects how children view themselves.

Tip 2.

Encourage children to try new things. Encouraging a child to continue at things they are really good at and to continue trying at things they might struggle with are just some of the ways parents can help children get to know themselves and develop an “I can do this” attitude.

Tip 3.

Reinforce positive aspects of the child and maintain an overall positive attitude. Providing positive support through pro-social activities (sports, clubs, church, etc.) can help boost self-esteem.

Tip 4.

Have honest discussions about the influences of the media. For older children who are beginning to face the world of media, it is important to be open in discussing these influences with children.

Tip 5.

Watch how you correct. Parents want to help their children be their best. They also want to ensure their children’s safety. Sometimes, however, these strong desires to protect children from failure and embarrassment can hinder the development of self-esteem or self-awareness. For example, if a child is painting a picture of an apple and chooses to paint the apple purple instead of red, it is easy for the parents to want to correct the child. Correcting the child in this manner can hinder creativity and actually cause the child to doubt their abilities.

family bonding self-esteem

Additionally, The University of Missouri Extension Office suggests the following strategies to build self-esteem and self-awareness.

  • Listen and Acknowledge: Listen to your child. What are the thoughts and feelings behind the words?
  • Structure for Success: Set up your child for success, not failure.
  • Reinforce: Let your child know he or she is lovable and capable.
  • Reasonable Control: Allow your child to have some control.
  • Model: Build your own self-esteem.

For more information, visit the ACES website.

Extension Daily is the official blog of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). ACES operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Reprinted with permission.

Photo credit: family.lovetoknow.com

Preparing for a Career You’ll Love (while you’re in high school)

preparing for a career

By Kristin Barker, CSU Continuing Education

Most people need to put some time into research and preparation before they’re ready to select a career track, and this planning should begin long before it’s time to start a career. High school is a great time to begin thinking about careers as students prepare for college and beyond.

Deciding on a career path that makes sense for you may include investing in a focused certification or other training. Taking technical courses during high school or learning something new at Columbus State University, Continuing Education can be good options for students. Selecting the right senior project can help too.

Knowing what type of career preparation you need begins with thinking about what type of career you want.

If you’re a student, you’ve likely been asked many times what you want to do when you “grow up”. High school is the optimal time to begin making some career decisions and working towards making that desired career achievable.

Planning for a senior project can give you the perfect opportunity to begin or continue this research. Whether you’re thinking formally or informally about the best career path for you, it can help to keep the following ideas in mind.

Learn about  yourself:

hsgirlUnderstanding what you enjoy—and what you’re good at—is the first step in exploring careers. If you don’t know what you want to do, ask yourself, “What would I like to learn about?” Once you answer this question, it’s easier to identify potential careers that you will enjoy.

It is also helpful to identify subjects and tasks that you do not enjoy. Consider creating a running list of “what I love” vs. “what I dislike,” and fill in the columns as you are exposed to new subjects.

Identify possible careers:

Now that you’re thinking about the subjects and activities you most enjoy, begin looking for careers that will put those interests to use.  Look for adults who can give you clear guidance. Mentors, counselors, teachers and parents can help point you in the direction of occupations that match your interests and skills.

Do your research and get experience:

After identifying possible occupations, you’ll want to learn more about them. You can use resources like the courses in this catalog, career-day programs, internships, summer jobs, mentoring, and volunteer opportunities to learn more about your career interest. Activities like these can help you narrow your interests to include those that inspire you most.

Finally, keep your plans flexible.

Everyone’s career path is different, and there is no “right” way to start a career. Whatever path you choose, remember that you can change your mind at any time, and a change in direction can be good as long as you are learning and growing along the way. You are never locked in to one career for life!

For more information on courses available through Columbus State University, Continuing Education, call 706-507-8070 or visit csucontinuinged.com.

Helping Kids Deal with Dyslexia


By Linda Ligon, “Family & Kids” of the Chattahoochee Valley

Dyslexia is a language processing disorder that interferes with reading fluency and comprehension.  Though it is commonly thought of as a disorder which causes trouble distinguishing left from right, this is not the best description.

Instead, dyslexia is more accurately described as a disorder that prevents the linking of written letters and words to the way they sound. Studies of dyslexia have shown it to be genetic and that it tends to run in families.

To find out what causes dyslexia, researchers studied the neurological structure of the brain of people with dyslexia. Their study revealed that the network connections between the different parts of the brain responsible for the complex tasks of reading and writing are weaker than those in a brain of a person without dyslexia.

Dyslexia varies in severity and can affect people differently. Some have trouble with reading fluency and comprehension while others may have trouble with understanding complex concepts expressed in spoken words. Spelling and grammar can also be a challenge for those with dyslexia, making expressing words in writing difficult.

There is no cure for dyslexia, so those diagnosed with it face a lifelong challenge. Children with dyslexia are of normal intelligence, and when placed in special intervention programs that teach alternate learning methods for reading and writing, they are able to reach their full potential in school and later in adulthood. The earlier dyslexia is diagnosed, the sooner your child receives the special help he needs get past the roadblock to reading and writing success that dyslexia presents. Here are some warning signs to watch for.

Early childhood/preschool years:

Dyslexia can be harder to spot at this age, but it pays to be vigilant if there is a family history of dyslexia. The warning signs during the preschool years include a delay in beginning to speak, having trouble matching letters with the way the letters sounds, having trouble remembering the alphabet, and struggling to identify words that rhyme.  A preschooler with dyslexia may have difficulty with pre-reading exercises that require the blending the letter sounds together into words.

School age children:

dyslexiaDyslexia is easier to spot once your child enters school and not only begins to learn how to read, but is also expected to be able to follow spoken instructions. If your child’s reading fluency and comprehension test scores are well below that expected for his grade level, this may be a warning sign. Most children learn to read in kindergarten or first grade. If your child also has trouble following instructions, don’t assume that this is because he is not paying attention or lacks motivation. It may be that dyslexia is interfering with his comprehension of complex instructions. A child with dyslexia may also struggle with writing and learning new vocabulary words.


Even though there is no cure for dyslexia, it is never too late to seek treatment. The warning signs of dyslexia in teens and adults are similar to those of children. Teens may have trouble reading, with math problems, and with memorizing information. In addition, there may be difficulty with understanding jokes or idioms.

If you suspect your child is displaying symptoms of dyslexia, make an appointment to see his pediatrician. Dyslexia is diagnosed with a formal test. If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, the next step is to arrange for him to receive the support he needs. Children with dyslexia needs special tutoring as well as plenty of emotional support. Ask his tutor or special education teacher what you can do at home to help him practice his reading skills.