10 Traveling Sleeping Tips for Tots in Tow

(and their parents)

Our relationship with sleep is as complicated as some of its idioms we use to describe this covetous pastime: Catching some zzzz’s, grabbing a little shut-eye, siesta time, crashing out, out like a light, hitting the sack/hay, catch 40 winks, a cat nap, zonked out, etc.  I think it is obvious our obsession with sleep runs deep.  I have yet to meet a parent that isn’t sleep deprived or doesn’t longing talk about to the time before their precious dreaming state was interrupted.

When the Sandman is no where in sight, what do you do?  Especially when you are away from home or suffering from a killer case of family jet lag.  Being a seasoned traveler with a tot in tow, I have come up with a few tricks for kid’s bedtime that will keep you sane on your family vacation.

#1 Try to book a suite, connecting room, or rent a home/condo for your vacation.  More space, various bedrooms and closing doors are crucial for night-night time.

#2 If staying in a single room is the only option, bring a book light and headphones (with a splitter) for post-bedtime moments (reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to music).

#3 Keep your sanity and arrange for a room with a balcony or patio to avoid nap-time or bedtime cabin fever (even a large window with an unobstructed view can help).

#4 Recreate at-home nap or bedtime rituals while away.  Make your new digs feel familiar with your kiddos favorite bedtime stories, sleeping music, beloved ‘stuffies’ and/or special blanket.

#5 At bedtime, talk about the day’s traveling adventures and your family’s plans for tomorrow.  Remind your little ones that they will need their rest to have the energy for the next day’s adventure.

#6 If you are jet lagged, go to sleep with your little ones.  Catch those zzzz’s when you can, especially since they will most likely wake with devilish energy.

#7 Use the Do Not Disturb sign!  The worst is when your tiny traveler is awakened by the doorbell or knocking of housekeeping or mini-bar attendant.

#8 Naps-on-wheels.  During naptime, do some sightseeing or get some exercise.  Use your vacation time wisely by planning strategically timed scenic drives, walks or jogs that will induce nap-on wheels.

#9 Keep your kiddos nap and bedtime schedule intact as much as possible!  Plan your day with nap in mind.  When it just doesn’t work out, don’t stress out.  Hey Budda, live in the moment.  Simply adjust your expectations, adjust your schedule and adjust your attitude!

#10 Take advantage of your child’s shut-eye and add some romance to your vacation.  Take your mom and dad hats off, pour some wine, and slip into husband and wife again.

On that note, enjoy your vacation and….

“Good Night, Sleep tight;

Don’t let the bed bugs bite;

If they do, hit them with a shoe,

Until they turn all black and blue.”


At Last, My Book Title!

The Ultimate Field Trip!

I am currently writing my book, but have been struggling with the title for sometime now….until recently.

I have been trying to distanced myself from ‘what I do’ and the evolution of my own career as a teacher to see my writing with new insight.  I no longer teach 150 students a day within the walls of my classroom, but travel the world with one inquisitive tot in tow who experiences the world with the eyes of a veteran traveler.

The truth is… I love my job and opportunities of learning that happens during travel and that is why I started writing this book.  Being a former public school teacher, travel education has forced me to break away from the traditional, fixed model of the four-walled-classroom and embrace knowledge uniquely gained through experience.  Instead of teaching from books in a fixed position, I now find myself on the beach in the Seychelles learning about the reproductive cycle of sea turtles hand in hand with my student.

Then it hit me….I have simply extended the model of a school field trip.  As a travel teacher, I am fortunate enough to have the world as my classroom and extend learning beyond the borders of the classroom.  Through Charles’ untraditional and mobile lifestyle, I have witnessed the advantages of a traveling, ever-changing ‘classroom.’  I have left my chalk, overhead, and bulky textbooks behind and embraced the idea of an ultimate field trip.

And, thus, my title was born: Layovers, Laptops and Little Ones:  The Ultimate Field Trip

Hooray for personal epiphanies!


The Beach at the Guanahani Hotel

Our trip to St. Barths (Saint Barthelemy) has come and gone.  10 days in paradise wasn’t a bad life at all.  Travel school in the morning and after lunch the island was ours!  We usually stay in the Hotel Guanahani and Spa, but it was under construction, so Le Sereno Beach Hotel became our home.  Both hotels share the same intimate cove (the Grand Cul-de-Sac) great for windsurfing, kite surfing, paddleboating or getting on that jet ski and exploring the rest of St. Barth’s coast.

St Barths Grand Cul-de-Sac

Le Sereno was beautifully elegant in it’s decor, designed by famed Parisian designer Christian Liaigre, with dark stained wood and white linens.  The food (unbelievably fresh as the local fishermen would pull the boat right up on the shore with their daily catch) never missed the mark, especially the kitchen’s specialty, the fish en croute de sel (whole fish baked in a sea-salt crust), which would be chiseled out of it’s crusty shell right at your table.  Yum!


Minutes Off the Boat: the Local Fisherman's Daily Catch

The question is….which hotel do I prefer on St. Barths Grand Cul-de-Sac?   Hands down…the Guanahani!  For a few reasons…

Although I preferred the white simplicity of Le Sereno’s cottage decor to the Guanahani’s ‘colored cottages’ (from yellow to indigo or purple to bright green), I liked the overall property of the Guanahani better.  The Guanahani’s ‘shared space’ seems bigger, giving you more opportunities for intimacy.  The pool was bigger, the beach was longer, more sand, and simply more space.  There is something great about walking up to a beach bar and ordering a smoothie or margarita with your feet still in the sand.  The hotel has a tennis court and the gym faces the beach, instead of having no view (like the one at Le Sereno).

Guanahani's Swimming Pool

Needless to say, I am anxious to return to the Guanahani Hotel and see what changes the construction brought to the property.  Although, I may still walk down the way to the Sereno Hotel and dive into a plate of the baked fish en croute de sel.

My shot of the Le Sereno's Infinity Pool Overlooking the Grand Cul-de-Sac

My View From My Room at Le Sereno


Charles' Cinquain Poem Completed on the 6th of March

In school (located in NYC), Charles’ classmates learned about cinquain poems this week and created their own.  Even though our ‘classroom’ is being held in Paris for the next 10 days, we learned about these five lined poems as well.  There are technically are 3 versions of cinquain poems, but we only focused on two of them:


Line 1: One Word

Line 2: Two Words

Line 3: Three Words

Line 4: Four Words

Line 5: One Word


Line 1: A Noun

Line 2: Two Adjectives

Line 3: Three ‘-ing’ Words

Line 4: A Phrase

Line 5: Another Word for the Noun

As Charles’ travel teacher, I try to incorporate location-inspired material and themes with Charles’ classroom curriculum.  This lesson was easily adapted to our travel experience, since the content of the poem was up to the writer.  We simply inserted the travel theme.  During lunch, we brain-stormed some ideas and came up with our first poem together.  Of course, food was the topic and Laduree macaroons were our inspiration.


J’adore you

chocolate, pistachio, caramel

Come to my mouth


2 days later, 3 poems, a rough draft and an illustrated final draft, Charles came up with his own cinquain poem about travel.  If you are having trouble reading the photo above, this is Charles’ poem completed on March 6, 2011:


fun, adventure

exciting, flying, learning

in the forest, city or log cabin

Planet Earth

Simply put, I love what I do.


For your viewing pleasure....the infamous Laduree Macaroons

Joseph's Picture of His Traveling Circus Story- written in Polish

I know it has been awhile since I posted another kid interview.  Fortunately for you, this one was worth waiting for.

Charles and I met young Joseph in NYC (his mom is a model and had a job in the city with Charles’ parents).  I was struck by how mature Joseph seemed and how easily he took to both Charles and I.  The boys hit it off and we planned to meet up in Paris (his home) when we were in France.  Today, the boys were elbow deep in Lego, and during a lull, I snagged Joseph for a brief chat.

Joseph is 6 1/2 years old.  He was very concerned that I included the half, since he is no longer simply six.  He lives in Paris with his mom.  He speaks French, Polish and English fluently.  Oozing with confidence and never short on words, he loved our little ‘research’ moment and was pleased that we had something in common: we both were writing books about travel.

Do you like to travel?

We travel a lot since my mom is a model.  It is very cool to see new places and I get to visit my dog and dad in Poland and my friends when we go to Los Angeles.

Where is your favorite place that you have traveled to?

The Grand Canyon!  It was so beautiful.  We went up in the biggest helicopter I have ever been on–it had 8 seats, not just 4!  We also went up to see it in a hot air balloon.  It is the most interesting place I have ever been to.

What kinds of things do you learn when you travel?

When I fly by myself, I get to meet the captain and ask what all of the buttons are for in the cockpit and how the computers fly the plane.  I learn a lot about airplanes this way.  Also, when I wait, I look out the window at the airport and watch the people put the bags in the planes and driving around important things.

What advice do you have for other kids who are traveling?

Pack light.  Do not try to put too many toys or things to do in your bag.  The problem is: it is too heavy and you spend more time playing with the things that you already have at home and can’t enjoy the place where you are.  Spend less time on your computer or iPad and learn about the place you traveled to.

What advice do you have for parents who plan to take their kids traveling with them?

Don’t lose your kid.

How is traveling similar or different to a school field trip?

On a field trip, you can’t do anything you want or go to another museum if you don’t like the one you are in, so it is less fun than traveling.  But a field trip is more fun in some ways because you are with all of your friends.

What has traveling taught you?

Travel has given me an idea for a book my dad and I are writing.  I want to show it to you, but it is on my dad’s computer in Poland.  (Joseph runs to his room to find his sketchpad/journal to show me pictures of his characters.) It is about a boy named Nulils.  He and his parents work at a traveling circus.  His dad is a clown and his mom is a tightrope-walker.  Nulils has a trick.  A matchbox full of lice (not sure with the translation if he means fleas, but it is his story, so I say nothing) that he uses a magnifying glass and a projector to show the audience on a big screen the lice doing their tricks (Joseph laughs at this thought). There is also a cat named Madame Miau Miau and then the nasty Maestro Abra Kadabra.  (Joseph goes on and on about his story and shows me so many sketches of lice and characters.  He is so proud of his work.  And, honestly, I’m impressed.)

The Matchbook of Lice and Magnifying Glass

Madame Miau Miau and the Cat Pyramid


From the NY Times Article on Reading in Private Schools

On February 14, Sarah Maslin Nir wrote a New York Times article entitled, “Reading at Some Private Schools Is Delayed,” which hasn’t left me all week (of course it doesn’t help that I have been at an Orton-Gillingham Reading Training Conference in NJ since Monday).  Reading philosophy and approaches has been my lingo for 5 days now, so this article really resonated with me.

In my opinion, Steve Nelson says it perfectly: “Those who get anxious think that education is like a race and you’ve got to get running fast, and if you don’t you’re going to fall behind and then you’re going to lose the race…That’s not the right way to look at education.”

Pushing a child early academically could be really wonderful for some kids but not ALL.  We are all uniquely different and so are our brains.  The process of how we learn is unique for every child, who has various strengths in specific learning styles and multiple intelligences.  The trick is to know your child and not project your own apprehensions, insecurities and failures onto them academically.  It’s great your child can read chapter books at age 3, but it says nothing about his intellectual curiosity or social-emotional development.

If you have chosen to put your child in a private school who emphasizes process versus product, fostering a joy of learning through child-centered, emergent curriculum, you must sit back and see the whole picture.  For most, this kind of education is new to them and differs greatly from their own educational experiences.  Trust the process.

It is hard not to worry as a parent. Worry that you are doing the right thing for your children.  Worried that you are giving them the right opportunities.  Worried that they will flourish in the academic environment you choose for them.  But the simple fact that you are a concerned, involved, and supportive parent, ensures that your child WILL learn how to read.  Reading is simply 1 component that your child learns K-3 and the speed at which they pick this up is not directly connected to the success of your child in future academic endeavors.

As educators and parents, we want the best for our children and feel learning should be a positive, inspiring and motivating force in their lives, unlocking their intrinsic desire for knowledge.  I was a drill and kill, whole-language taught child, but I would choose a more unconventional approach for my own future children.  Any approach that emphasizes the process rather than the product sounds like a winner to me.  Education isn’t a sprint….it is a marathon.

Happy Brain! Angry Storm!

As the snow and freezing rain pummel the East Coast, I am wearing a t-shirt and jeans sitting in a conference room at a Hilton in Hartford, CT ‘talking shop’ with other educators.  Some of us (like myself) were drawn to the Lindamood-Bell Reading Program for one particular child, while others of us came here for whole classes full of kids who need to strengthen their sensory-cognitive processing for language and literacy skills (strengthening reading, spelling and comprehension skills).

Charles has had difficulty being able to read independently.  His phonemic awareness and word attack is weak.  It became clear that he needed additional help outside of the classroom.  A couple of weeks ago, we found a Reading and Literacy Specialist in the city trained in Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes who is now working with Charles 3 days a week.  Happily, Charles likes the program and we are already seeing improvements in his decoding.  I thought…I want to learn to do what she does!

Flash forward to now–Mirroring the falling frozen flakes outside the window, my brain is swirling with new procedures and reading techniques that I want to use with Charles.  Every night I return to my room on the 21st floor to read and review the manual and my notes.  To be honest, I’m amped.  I can see how this program can work and I’m excited to integrate the process into my lesson plans and other ‘teachable moments’ on our travels.

I was impressed that the workshops are available for PARENTS as well.  How wonderful!  If your child is having difficulty reading, check out the Lindamood-Bell website and see if any of the workshops are in your area.  Highly recommended!

Before I can even try to implement these new reading procedures–I must make it back to NYC.  My focus now is to escape the clutches of this icy storm and make it back to Charles unscathed.