January brings reboot possibilities at school,  MLK Day offers many lessons to build on

As an “Arctic outbreak,” to use the Weather Channel’s term, ushers in the new year with record low temperatures and heavy snow in many parts of the U.S., most kids are heading back to school. January, a virtual halfway point in the K-12 academic year, is an excellent time to make a plan for improvement. And MLK Jr. Day, midway through the month, can help kids warm up to the idea of just how much one person can change the world.

In terms of School Year: Part 2, Andrew M.I. Lee, writing for Understood, a website “for learning and attention issues,” suggested “7 Tips for Jump-Starting the Second Half of the School Year.” Though some of the particulars, such as re-examining IEPs (individualized education programs), are specific to kids with attention deficit and other learning disorders, portions have enormous value for all kids, for example, his advice to “Take stock of how the first half went,” including academic, social, and behavioral. Also, to look at how to build on successes as well as change what went less-well, “Treat [the second half] like a new beginning,” and “Get a roadmap for the rest of the year.”

Coming off a two-week vacation, tools such as flash cards can definitely help refresh and reinforce math and language lessons. For example, Multiplication 0-12 Flash Cards and Math War Multiplication Game Cards can playfully sharpen “times table” skills. Younger kids will get a boost with with Addition 0-12 Flash Cards, Subtraction 0-12 Cards, or Math War Addition & Subtraction Game Cards. Or get a whole 10-pack Flash Card & Game Card Collection Ages 6-Up!

Try firing up kids’ imaginations (and vocabularies) by thinking up all the “wintery words” possible. Here’s a new one for most: frore. According to dictionary.com it’s an archaic terms for “frosty” or “frozen.” But even shouting out more mundane words like chill—with its old and new meanings—and nippy can get everyone laughing and happily competing.

In addition to the traditional back-to-school 3 Rs, this month brings a federal holiday packed full of “teachable moments”: Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15 (his birthday). Long before becoming a pastor and civil rights leader, King was an excellent student, skipping grades in both elementary school and high school, and entering Morehouse College at just 15. At a young age, he was able to beautifully articulate some of the primary benefits of learning. Writing in his campus newspaper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947, Dr. King said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically,” adding that “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

Explore how MLK Day is being recognized at school and in your community and build on those lessons at home. For example, on the King Center website, words from Dr. King’s widow Coretta Scott King resonate in today’s times: “The…holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example—the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined [his] character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.”

Discuss those words and what they mean to your family. Can your kids give examples of courage, justice, and compassion? Do they understand the definitions of dignity, humility, and character? Such conversations, themselves, help clarify what you, as a family, value and identify with.

Celebrating an inspiring life of service can be both simple and inexpensive. Melissa Batai posted “8 Frugal & Fun Martin Luther King Day Activities for Kids” on Forbes’ personal finance website Money Crashers. Among “meaningful and affordable ways to celebrate” she includes reading to kids—listing specific books on MLK for toddlers through age 8—watching movies about social injustice, watching YouTube clips of Dr. King’s speeches, visiting local commemorative events at libraries and other sites, and discussing tolerance and acceptance. Batai also mentions/links MLK-themed coloring pages available on The Color website.

Despite subzero temperatures, let this be the month to melt boredom and complacency and spark creative thinking.