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February 26th

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Education | Upbring

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How to Celebrate Diversity with Infants and Toddlers

This fall your family may be navigating changes in childcare, school attendance or homeschool connections, but even in these radically different times children are still growing and learningMany of our blog posts this season will focus on learning, so you have additional resources to support the children in your life as they learn more about the world each day, growing up as they go.  

Did you know that children can begin noticing differences in skin color and hair texture as young as three months old? 

As the Director of Admissions and Family Engagement at two Upbring preschools, I know that early childhood sets up a foundation for lifelong learning and values. Exploring diverse children’s books, toys and activities together as a family means that children can begin to celebrate similarities and differences in groups of people, giving them the opportunity to grow in awareness, sensitivity, and empathy, while nurturing their natural curiosity.   Read More

USAS teacher with two students

22 Stellar STEAM Activities for Your Family

This fall your family may be navigating changes in childcare, school attendance or homeschool connections, but even in these radically different times children are still growing and learningMany of our blog posts this season will focus on learning, so you have additional resources to support the children in your life as they learn more about the world each day, growing up as they go.  

Are you searching for ways to spark joy in learning for your childTry an interactive STEAM activity with your family. STEAM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Why STEAM? STEAM sparks curiosity. The goal of STEAM is to create inquisitive and empowered explorers who seek to learn new things and rethink existing concepts throughout their lifeYoung people learn how to collaborate, communicate, plan, solve problems and create.   Read More


18 Books To Read With Your Child As Summer Comes To An End

As summer begins to fade and the school year quickly approaches, now is the time to begin refreshing the skills your child learned in the classroom last year. Chances are, the summers days were filled with picnics, trips to the water park, cookouts and memories to last a lifetime, but as fewer days stand between now and the first day of school, it’s important to exercise the brain and get your child back into “school mode” little by little. An engaging and creative way to prepare your little one for another year of learning is to simply read! Reading a book allows your child to go on an adventure, explore new lands, learn about new people and create worlds beyond anything he or she could imagine. You can keep your child engaged and make reading even more fun by using voices, acting out the scenes or watching a movie based on the book you’ve just read. There are millions of books out there for your child to discover, but to make it a bit easier we’ve created this list of recommendations, separated by age group, that we think you should add to their reading list:

(BONUS: Books in bold italics are recommendations for children in foster care from our Foster In Texas team.)



  • Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
    • Beautiful illustrations in Vashti Harrison’s book showcase women of color who changed the world and accomplished extraordinary things
  • Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
    • This comedic picture book features a grumpy little bird who learns to how to giggle his grumpies away
  • Giraffe Problems by Jory John
    • Edward the giraffe discovers how to accept and celebrate one of the physical features he previously tried so hard to hide, his extremely long neck
  • I Need A Hug by Aaron Blabey
    • This sweet story about a tiny porcupine who is looking for a cuddle is sure to warm your heart
  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
    • Alexandra Penfold’s story follows a diverse group of children during an average school day who, although they are very different from one another, are welcomed with open arms
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
    • The Kissing Hand tells the story of a young raccoon who is hesitant to leave his mother as he attends his first day of school. His mother shares a family secret that helps the raccoon feel loved even when they’re apart


Elementary School

  • The Sun Is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
    • Nick Seluk’s comic-style artwork demonstrates all the amazing things that the sun does for our solar system
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
    • Originally published in 1970, this classic story features best friends Frog and Toad who learn vital lessons about friendship
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
    • This imaginative classic follows Stuart, a little mouse on a big quest to find a lost friend. The story would be an excellent choice for readers somewhere between chapter books and full-length novels
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
    • In this collection of hilarious poems, Shel Silverstein provides a charming introduction to poetry with detailed drawings that will captivate your child
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    • If your young reader is looking for a fantasy series, this would be a great choice as it is the first of seven novels in Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia collection
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
    • Love You Forever is a beloved children’s book that shares the story of a mother’s love for her child as he grows each and every day


Middle School

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
    • Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake to serve his juvenile detention sentence after he is mistakenly accused of stealing. He soon finds that his job of digging holes each day may not actually be for “building character”
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    • This story of resilience features Karana, who learns to survive on her own when she is left on a deserted island off the coast of California for eighteen years
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
    • Auggie, about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, has never attended a mainstream school before due to a facial deformity. In addition to the hardships that come with being “the new kid,” Auggie must also learn how to make friends and show others that even though he looks a little different, he is just like them
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
    • Leo, the main character in this novel, struggles with peer pressure and must decide whether he will shun Stargirl like the rest of the students at his high school
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
    • Naima, a Bangladeshi girl whose family has fallen on hard times, challenges the traditional role of women in her village and uses her artistic talents to help provide for her family
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
    • Far from the Tree tells the heartwarming story of three siblings separated within the foster care system and their journey to discovering the true meaning of family


By crossing a few of these books off your child’s list, he or she will surely be ready to dive back into learning and all the excitement the new school year will bring. Reading is a great way to spend time together, encourage learning all year long and have fun. Providing opportunities for your child to learn and grow will build a firm foundation of success for years to come. What are some of your favorite books to read with your child? Let us know below in the comments!


Dr. DeGarmo’s Classroom Tips

Education is one of five key markers of every child’s success. Sadly, only 50 percent of children in foster care graduate high school, and a mere 3 percent earn a college degree.

As a doctor in education, former teacher and longtime foster parent, Dr. John DeGarmo, director of The Foster Care Institute, knows that the trauma associated with abuse and neglect compromises children’s classroom success. He also knows foster parents can serve as powerful advocates for the children in their care, ensuring they get the best education possible.

As a primer for this week’s free Foster from the Heart conference, Dr. DeGarmo offers these five tips foster parents can follow to help their children build brighter futures through education.


Build positive relationships with school staff

It is essential that you remain up-to-date on your child’s progress, academically and behaviorally. Nowadays, there are so many ways to stay in touch, including phone calls, text messages, email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Make sure counselors, teachers and administrators know they can always contact you to discuss your child’s education. Similarly, reach out to them and ask for as much information and as many updates as possible.

Advocate for your child

The more interested and involved you are in your child’s academic life, the more likely they are to thrive. Consider volunteering as a classroom assistant, playground monitor or field trip chaperone. Or, perhaps you could leverage your talents by leading an art project, building theatrical production sets or speaking during career day.

At home, help your child complete their homework and study for tests

Remember that children in foster care, like all children, can never read too much. Take time every day to read to younger children or listen to older children read to you from a book they choose. Quite simply, be an advocate for your child’s education.

Encourage participation outside the classroom

You can help foster your child’s growth by encouraging her to participate in activities outside the classroom such as sports, music and clubs. Studies show that children who participate in extracurricular activities make better grades, maintain more positive attitudes toward school and aspire to greater academic heights. In addition, your child will have the opportunity to build self-esteem, make friends, discover new interests and develop life skills such as teamwork and time management.

Set goals, celebrate success

School work typically does not come easily for children in foster care, who tend to perform below grade-level behaviorally and academically, particularly in math and reading. Work with your child’s teachers to identify accommodations that need to be made and to set realistic goals for your child. In addition, talk to your child about setting their own goals. Perhaps most importantly, celebrate every success, no matter how small.


You’re invited!

Upbring invites you to meet Dr. DeGarmo and hear more about his experiences during the Foster from the Heart Conference in San Antonio on October 20. The conference is open to foster and adoptive parents, social workers, counselors, child protection staff, educators and anyone else interested in child welfare. Limited seats for the free event are still available, so register today. We hope to see you there!


7 Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy Reading

As a reader, I have traveled the world, met famous artists, explored space and solved mysteries – without ever leaving my living room. As an author, I have used stories to encourage and inspire women around the world. Books can take us on amazing adventures, teach us about new people and ways of life, and encourage us through some of life’s hardest moments.


Although I’ve always loved reading (and almost always had a book with me as a child), my daughter prefers math because it comes more easily to her. There is something about two plus two always equaling four that gives her confidence, and she spends as much time figuring out math facts as she does creating art projects.


So, we’ve been creating fun (and sometimes funny) math word problems for her to read and solve. As she draws silly pictures to figure out the equations, she’s learning how reading, math and art can all work together.


If you have a reluctant reader in your home, try these ideas to encourage him or her to become a lifelong lover of the written word.


Read aloud to your child every day. Whether you read together at bedtime or do story time in the morning, reading to your child, no matter their age, can help them enjoy reading.


When children listen to great stories, they’re exposed to new vocabulary and grammar principles. But even more importantly, they begin to see how words construct meaning in the world around us. Whether students arrive in the classroom unable to read the alphabet or already reading chapter books, reading aloud offers the opportunity to capture their imaginations and introduce them to quality fiction and nonfiction. – We Are Teachers


BONUS: Borrow audiobooks from the library to listen to in the car instead of watching shows on a mobile device. Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Library is one the whole family can enjoy – and it’s about books!


Think outside the book. Pick a kid-friendly cookbook or find a recipe online and work with your child to make the dish. They can practice reading (and math!) as they give you instructions and enjoy the delicious results. Traveling somewhere new on vacation? Why not head to the library or your local travel agency and find some books about your destination. Consider allowing your child to plan a small part of your trip so they can see how reading and planning can result in an amazing adventure.


Show them their progress. Create a fun sticker chart that shows your child how many minutes they’ve spent reading. Consider adding an incentive, like seeing the movie version of the book they’re reading, going to the park or taking a special trip to the bookstore.


Play games to encourage reading. I learned how to read by doing word searches with my grandfather. He read the word to me, and I matched the letters. Play games like “Swat a Sight Word” or “Sight Word Bingo” with younger readers to make learning to read fun. For older readers, consider “Boggle,” “Scrabble” or “Googly Eyes” to challenge their spelling, reading and creative skills.


Visit your local library. Librarians are incredible resources for communities, and they’re great at recommending the perfect books for young readers. Tell your librarian about the activities, books and movies your child enjoys. From graphic novels to non-fiction books and everything in between, your librarian can help readers fall in love with books by connecting reading with things they already love.


BONUS: If your reader enjoys non-fiction books, try the “Who Was” series. Then, go to Netflix and watch the episodes that match each book in the series when they’re done! Amelia Earhart is a favorite in our house.


Make screen time work for you. With more access to technology than any generation before them, today’s children are easily able to navigate computers, tablets and smartphones. Using apps like Epic, Bob Books, Mad Libs and Word Bingo gives parents a chance to connect reading with a tool their kids already love. Check out this list of other reading apps for kids of all ages.


Start a kid-friendly book club. Adults know how fun it can be to read a book with friends and then meet to talk about it. Why not include the kids? Invite 3 or 4 families with children of similar ages to read a book together and meet twice a month for a “Book Brunch.” Kids can snack on donut holes and fruit while they chat about their favorite parts of the book and their favorite characters. If a parent in the group enjoys crafts, consider doing a themed art project together. At the end of each meeting, choose a new book and decide on the next day/time/place to meet.


Finally, don’t forget to offer encouragement! Whether your child reads one page or an entire book, make sure they know you see the effort they’ve made and that you’re proud of them. A teacher’s praise gave me the dream to become an author. Your words today might offer the hope of a bright, exciting future your child has only just started to dream about.


Our mission at work

Upbring’s research has identified education as one of five key markers of every child’s well-being, and it is woven into all our programs.

Whether they are preparing to start kindergarten, making up lost ground in the classroom or taking their first steps toward independence, we believe in every child, and we give them every opportunity to shine.



About the Author: Crystal Stine has lived almost her entire life in a small town in PA and is married to her high school sweetheart. Her passion is encouraging, equipping and inspiring women of all ages to embrace a work hard, rest well lifestyle that honors God – so they can work without shame and rest without guilt. An author and speaker, her first book, “Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work Hard, Rest Well Lifestyle” released June 5, and her message has reached more than 20,000 people through her 10 Day devotional on YouVersion and countless others through podcasts, radio interviews, and national and international magazines. Crystal and Matt have a 6-year-old daughter, Madison, and when she’s not working as the communications director at her church, Crystal enjoys being a soccer mom – who only occasionally gets shushed for her sideline enthusiasm.


10 Easy, Nutritious School Lunches for Busy Parents

Back-to-school means back to early morning alarms, scrambling to find missing shoes, making sure all the homework and important papers are back in their folders and hurrying to drink a cup of coffee while asking your kids for the eighth time if they’ve brushed their teeth.


That doesn’t leave much time for packing a nutritious lunch your kids will love. If you want to make mornings run more smoothly and prepare your kids to tackle the day with plenty of energy and focus, try these 10 easy, nutritious, kid-friendly lunches.


1. Tortilla roll-ups

Fill a wheat tortilla with peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese or any filling your kids love. From there, roll the tortilla, slice it into pinwheels and secure it with toothpicks, and you have an easy lunch on-the-go. Grab some spinach or tomato wraps to add color – and to sneak a bit of veggie in there, too!


2. Pizza pieces

Instead of a foil-wrapped slice of leftover pizza, go the deconstructed route. Put turkey pepperoni, reduced-fat cheese slices and crackers into a container. Add a little sauce in a small, plastic to-go cup for dipping, and you have a fun, interactive lunch.


3. Simple sandwiches

Sometimes, simple is best, which means your child’s favorite sandwich might be exactly what they like best. Put a twist on it by cutting it into a fun shape like a star or butterfly for a surprise in your little one’s lunchbox. Add apple slices, a string cheese and a small bottle of water for a lunch that is sure to satisfy.


4. Turkey, apple and cheese roll-ups

Looking for an alternative to the simple sandwich? Take a piece of thick turkey and place a slice of apple and a slice of cheese in the middle. Fold it over like a burrito, and you’re ready to go!


5. Hummus & pita plate

Slice pita bread into triangles, add your child’s favorite veggies and some hummus (which comes in a huge variety of flavors) for a filling lunch that is packed full of protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins.


6. Chicken noodle soup

This classic, easy-to-make soup is a crowd favorite. Whether canned or homemade, it’s sure to be a hit with your little one. Pour it in a thermos so it’s served up warm at lunchtime. Include saltine crackers for extra flavor.


7. Apple & peanut butter sandwiches

Spread peanut butter on apple slices and stick them together for a yummy snack that’s high in protein and provides a serving of fruit.


8. Tortilla soup

A simple crock-pot recipe can provide lunch for the entire week. Add chicken, chicken broth, corn, black beans, salsa and seasoning, and you’ve got a tasty lunch alternative. Pour soup into a thermos to ensure it stays warm until lunchtime.


9. Veggie taco salad

Shred some lettuce, slice a tomato, add corn, black beans and avocado, and you’ve got a bold and delicious lunch that fits easily in a Tupperware container. Add corn chips and a cup of dressing for a touch of Southwestern flavor!


10. Don’t forget the snacks

A nutritious snack can be the best defense against the dreaded mid-afternoon slump. Stock up on pretzels, fruit, trail mix and small treats for kids’ lunchboxes.


Our mission at work

Upbring believes every child deserves the chance to shine through the power of education. We also know that children, like adults, have a difficult time concentrating when they’re not getting enough nourishment.

Through Upbring education programs, we ensure the children we serve receive nutritious meals every day. Without worrying about their growling stomachs, children can focus on learning English, math and science, as well as building important life skills.

Through our continuum of care, we surround children with services that meet their needs in five key areas.


5 Tips for a Smooth Start to the School Year

As a child, I wasn’t thrilled when the end of summer vacation ushered in earlier bedtimes, earlier wake-up times and, of course, homework. I also remember experiencing anxiety over who my teachers would be and whether I would know anyone in my classes.

But a new school year also meant the chance to catch up with friends and do one of my favorite things: shopping for school supplies, which I enjoyed doing with my own children when they were in school. Your child might have the same mixed feelings about the start of the school year.


Here are five simple tips to help your child easily transition back to school.


1. Get excited!

You are your child’s most important teacher. If you’re not excited about school, they probably won’t be either. Share fun memories from your teachers and classmates. Talk about one of your family’s back-to-school traditions. Maybe you can share this tradition or start a new one.


2. Ease their nerves.

It is completely normal for your child to have jumbled-up emotions about going back to school. You can ease their nerves by arranging a visit to the school. Show them their new classroom and let them meet their teacher.


3. Go shopping together.

Allow your child to choose some school supplies on their own. A Disney backpack or a superhero lunch box can go a long way toward making them feel comfortable and confident.


4. Establish a routine.

Inclement weather. Traffic jams. Faulty alarm clocks. A solid routine is your best defense against the stress that comes with running behind. Figure out what time everyone needs to get up, eat breakfast, brush their teeth and get dressed. Identify the most efficient route to school, and consider alternate routes in case you need them.


5. Make the first morning memorable.

If you’ve followed the first four tips, you can rest easy knowing your child is prepared to start the school year. All that’s left now is to make that first morning memorable. Have breakfast together. Chat. Smile. Pray together about the year, for the friends they’ll make and for their teachers. Speak encouragement over your child, reminding them that they are brave, kind and loved. If this is your child’s first year in school, it’s okay to cry. Just save the tears until you get back in your car!


About the Author

Brenda Burdick has 33 years’ education experience. She spent 15 years molding young minds as a teacher for grades one through eight and as a lead English teacher in middle school. She also brings 22 years’ administrative experience as an assistant principal, principal, director of curriculum and director of admissions. Today, Brenda serves as Director of Christian School Expansion and Ops at Upbring. She and her teams at Upbring School of Arts and Sciences Central Austin and Upbring School of Discovery and Leadership are excited to welcome students back to school!


Five Ways to Support a Recent Graduate

Recent graduates are entering an exciting time in their lives. Graduation and the months after open doors to so many new opportunities. Some graduates head off to college, some go to trade school and some enter the workforce.

At Upbring, we’re so proud of all the young adults in our programs who have graduated. Whether they attend high school while in our Foster In Texas Program or attend one of our Trinity Charter Schools through our RTCs, they are given support by staff, mentors and peers that, when ready, allows them to leave our program prepared to take on the task of independent living.

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