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Aspen's Blog

daughter washing dishes

by Nicole Kruse, Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute Coach

A common misconception among parents is linking allowance to chores. Of course chores are good for kids- they teach responsibility and the importance of doing your part within a family unit. Every person in the family has chores, including parents, and they should simply be part of everyday family life.

The problem occurs when we link an allowance to the specific chores our kids do. You may end up negotiating every time you want your child to do something. "I'll pay you $10.00 to shovel the driveway or $5.00 to clean the bathroom." Sound familiar? What happens when $5.00 isn't good enough? Or when you really need that bed made because you have company and your daughter doesn't care about earning a $1.00? Chores and allowance are separate entities.

Implementing an allowance begins with a family conversation about everyone chipping in for the betterment of the family. Every person in the family should have some responsibilities; even your two year old can walk his plate to the sink. When you shift the way you think about chores in relation to the family unit, you shift the purpose of the chores.

Next, be clear with your kids about what allowance money can be used for, and with younger kids, keep it pretty basic: parents supply the needs (food, clothes, and things like gifts for friends) and any extras, like an app or a new toy, comes out of the allowance. Come up with your own guidelines that work for you and your family values. It can be as simple as 40% to savings, 30% to spend and 30% to donate.

Finally, be consistent and use cash. If you've decided to give a $5.00 allowance every week, give the $5.00 allowance every week. Find another way to discipline that doesn't correspond with allowance. By using cash, you are instilling the essential habits of budgeting, saving and spending in a more concrete way. Yes, having a bank account is great, but pay in cash and allow your children to deposit the money into their accounts.

Giving an allowance now will help your children to become financially responsible adults in the future.

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8th grader presents her business plan to her class

by Nicole Kruse, AEI Coach

There are over 27 million entrepreneurs in the United States and over 70% of the Aspen Academy parent population are entrepreneurs. And now we can add another 46 people to that list- 46 8th graders to be specific.

Part of the mission of the AEI program is to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in young learners. This week this mission came to fruition. Each of the 8th graders generated a business idea, wrote a business plan, and pitched his or her idea to a group of sharks. Not a small feat for anyone, let alone a 14 year old. Student innovation surrounding this project has been incredible. From a travel ballet barre to a swim bag to an app for an online tutor to a travel bag filled with health needs, the eighth graders produced services, products and ideas beyond our wildest imagination.

Thirteen students made it to Round 2 of Shark Tank and Round 3 will be held on Tuesday where the top 5 students will pitch their ideas to Kristina Scala and parent entrepreneurs. Success is not only found in finishing first in Shark Tank. Some students have developed lifelong relationships with their mentors, others are celebrating that they've create something from nothing while others are already generating income. Regardless of where the 8th graders finished in Shark Tank, they've all already found success.

If you are interested in learning more about the AEI program, please email Nicole Kruse: nicole.kruse@aspenacademy.org

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by Gabby B., Aspen Academy Student

We are now approaching the last few months of school and this means that the eighth graders will head to high school soon, but not without leaving a gift behind. All eighth grade classes leave a legacy gift and as the class of 2021, our legacy gift is a coffee cart as an addition to the Bear's Student Enterprise and particularly the Café. To me, legacy is something that you leave behind to make a lasting impact on your school and to have a part of the class always remembered at Aspen Academy. To have been a part of something that many other schools don't do was such a privilege and it has made my experience at Aspen Academy end on an amazing note as I know that it will make a huge difference for the school.

As we picked our legacy gift, we had four options to choose from. The eighth grade class voted and it was an almost unanimous vote on the coffee cart. The first semester innovation class began the work on the cart. We split the Café cohort into two groups, while other cohorts worked on filming the process and creating improvements for the store. I was able to take part in the group designing the actual cart. We designed this cart with several improvements such as a fridge, sink and storage space. Mr. Lazartic was a huge help in this process as he got us a demo sink to test and a field trip to Gallery Carts. On this field trip they showed us the details of other carts they had made and talked about the process of making a cart. I have had the privilege of being in the Café cohort and having Mrs. Steedly has my teacher. It has been an amazing experience. I have learned so much and gained many life skills. This work experience, where you are in charge and responsible for everything, good or bad, had us taking inventory and doing financials. Mrs. Steedly has helped us through this process as well. We have turned over the cohorts to the seventh grades to give us time to focus on our business plans. I am so excited to share this cart with the seventh graders because it will be a huge help for the cohorts and I am hoping that they learn how to work in different environments and how to run a business. I would like to thank all of the eighth grade families and parents that supported all of us and the creation of the coffee cart as well as James Park for giving us many of the supplies we are using for the cart. Overall, this has been an experience that has been so valuable and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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hands touching as a community

by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

As you know, Investing in Excellence, our annual fund, supports academic programs and technology for our students, professional development for our faculty and staff, and financial aid for our deserving families in need.

But do you realize the impact of the dollars you donate? 11% of our families receive financial assistance. We asked one of our financial aid recipients to share their experience and here's what they had to say:

My family thinks a good education is very important and I do too. I have been at Aspen Academy since I was 3. With the help of Aspen Academy's financial aid program it has been possible for me to attend school at Aspen Academy.

I have learned a lot through the years. They have taught me how to be a kind person and how to make a difference in the world.

Aspen Academy makes time for the students because our classes are small. So we have more time to spend with the teachers to make the learning process worthwhile.

Because of financial aid I have the opportunity every day to take classes like digital music, dance, and art. I get to learn Spanish using technology and make computer programs in innovation class.

I am so grateful to be able to go to school at Aspen Academy.

Without the support of our entire community, we would not be able to offer such enriching opportunities for our students. One third of each dollar donated to the Annual Fund goes directly to our financial aid program and the more we raise the more financial assistance we are able to offer. If you have made a contribution to our annual fund, we thank you!

If you have not yet had the opportunity to donate, please consider doing so today online by clicking here. Our financial aid awards will be announced on Friday, February 17 and we hope to be able to demonstrate our community strength by supporting as many families as possible!

Every dollar counts. And don't forget, every dollar is tax deductible, too!

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the tangible benefits of giving

by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

Making a charitable contribution has many significant benefits for both the donor and the recipient of the gift. Contributions to:

  • Investing in Excellence, Aspen Academy's Annual Fund, support enhancements in academic programs and technology for our students, opportunities for our teachers to participate in professional development trainings and scholarships for our students in need.
  • Reinvesting in Enterprise, the Class of 2017's legacy gift, will grow our eighth grade entrepreneurship programs by renovating our student run café and store, and creating new business and learning opportunities as our eight grade class walks through the design, manufacturing and installation of a brand new mobile coffee cart.
  • Building the Future, our Capital Campaign, will help unlock the potential of our Auditorium as a convening space, a place where our students can express themselves, find their voices and be heard, with the installation of new individual theatre seats and acoustic treatments.

All of these opportunities offer incredible benefits for our students and broader community, and enable us to continue to be relentless in our pursuit of excellence.

What's more; charitable giving often begets more charitable giving. Take Colorado Gives Day for example – as we rallied our Aspen family to raise over $28,350 dollars on Colorado Gives Day we were able to unlock critical dollars from the First Bank $1 million incentive fund to support the incredible initiatives above. And some of these gifts, were made by individuals and families who had already made generous contributions to our Annual Fund.

In our blog post, Aspen Gives, we discussed how aside from doing good; making charitable contributions can also lead to feeling good – both mentally and physically. Those who commit to engaging in philanthropy show higher levels of happiness, creativity, resilience, and longevity.

These results are extraordinary, but the benefits of giving don't end there. Giving also offers tangible opportunities that can have a significant impact on a family's finances. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, charitable contributions to Aspen Academy can be deducted on a 2016 tax return if a donor elects to utilize an itemized tax deduction. This 501(c)3 status is critical when considering charitable contributions – donors cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals or nonqualified organizations.

It's important to review these opportunities with your tax attorney as some restrictions may apply. For example, according to the Internal Revenue Service's Publication 526 on Charitable Contributions, a "deduction for charitable contributions generally can't be more than 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but in some cases 20% and 30% limits may apply."

And remember, in order to take advantage of these benefits on your 2016 taxes, contributions must be made by December 31,2016.

To make your contribution today please visit www.aspenacademy.org/support-aspen.

For more information please read, "6 Things to Know About Charitable Giving this Tax Season" or contact Mallory Sussman, Development Manager at Mallory.sussman@aspenacademy.org.

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growing passionate readers

by Kathleen Harper, Kindergarten Instructor

What is a confident reader?

Confident readers are just taking off on the route to becoming independent readers. They have learned the basics of reading and are now beginning to enjoy reading for pleasure.

Before becoming confident readers, children rely on phonic skills (letters) and blending them together, to decode or read words. Once they are confident readers, children will continue to learn to sound out more and more difficult words, but they will recognize lots of words without having to sound them out.

Confident readers are able to:

  • Recognize lots of words, without having to sound them out
  • Try to sound out more difficult words
  • Read a story they have read before with some expression.

Confident readers are beginning to:

  • Talk about what happens in the book
  • Express opinions about the book, characters and the plot.

How can I support my child's reading?

Children at this confident reading stage still need to read aloud to practice their reading skills. And they still need you to read to them as often as possible.

Reading to your child

Bedtime stories are magical moments for a child.

  • Sharing the joy of books, stories, poems and information. Your enthusiasm for books will rub off on your child.
  • Sharing and creating a story world that you can enjoy together. This story world is a safe and reassuring place which develops a bond between the two of you.
  • Demonstrating what good reading aloud sounds like.

Reading with your child

Try to make time in your busy day to sit and read with your child. This will show them that spending time reading is important.

  • First and foremost, be enthusiastic about your child's attempts at reading!
  • Encourage them to self-correct and make meaning as they read.
  • Give them time to work out tricky words by trying to sound them out. However, if they are really stuck, tell them the word before they lose the meaning of the sentence.
  • Ask them to express their opinions about what's happening in the book. Allow them to tell you if they don't like a book and why. Explain that it's OK not to like some books if they don't get pleasure out of them.
  • Help them to make links between events that happen in books and their own experiences, or other books they have read.

How can I keep my child motivated?

All children are different: they learn at different rates and like different things. This includes confident readers. If you feel that your child is beginning to lose interest:

  • Take your child to visit the local library. Libraries are fun and interesting places and have a wide variety of good books.
  • Make sure your child sees you reading.
  • Teach your child how to begin to choose books on any topic that they are interested in. If the books are too hard for your child to read, you can read them aloud.
  • Find a younger child who your confident reader can read to.
  • Help your child to start reading examples of writing from around them: TV guides, newspapers and magazines, toy catalogues. The Book People catalogue, internet websites, food packets, menus and so on.
  • Talk to their teacher. The teacher will want to know if your child is losing interest and may be able to suggest things that will inspire your child.

What do I do if my child stops making progress?

Don't Panic!!

Confident readers have times when they seem to be making progress and other times when they seem to be standing still. If you are anxious about your child's reading, ask their teacher for help.


  • Try not to let your child see you are worried or they will become more anxious.
  • Keep positive about what they are doing successfully. Offer lots of praise when they get things right,
  • Suggest re-reading books they have already read and enjoyed. Challenge them to start using more expression when they re-read them.
  • Talk about books, look carefully at pictures for details you might have missed last time round.

What if my child lacks confidence in reading?

All children go through stages where they lack confidence – the most important thing is that you don't lack confidence in them too! If this is a new thing, work with your child's teacher to sort out what might have shaken your child's confidence. If your child has never had much confidence, try some of these tips to develop their reading abilities.

Top tips to help your child increase their reading confidence:

  • Look at the pictures and talk about what happens before you ask your child to read.
  • Read aloud together. Let your child set the pace, and try to read the words at the same time. Hearing the book read confidently, even if it's by you, will increase your child's confidence.
  • To help your child recognize the words on blank cards and play games like 'Snap" and "Lotto" with the words.

When and where?

Find time for reading

Your child is tired when they get home from school. They're not in the mood for reading. You have chores to do and a meal to prepare. Then, before you know it, it's bedtime and the evening is gone.

You may need to be creative, but here's a plan...

  • 20 minutes is long enough for a confident reader to read aloud. Add 5 minutes to talk about the book. You're only looking for 15 minutes.
  • On days when your child has swimming or club activities, don't push them to read as well. If you read together 4 – 5 times a week, you can afford the odd evening off.
  • Organize a timetable so that you both know which days you a going to read. You are more likely to remember if it's something you do regularly.

Finding space for reading

Bed is a wonderful place for you to read to your child, but not so good for your child to read to you. Try to choose a room without too many people, TV's, computers, telephones and other distractions. If possible, make this the room in which you always read together.

The ideal place for reading together is somewhere:

  • Quiet, so you can be together without interruptions for your reading session.
  • Comfortable, so that your child feels secure and happy while the read.
  • Big enough, so that you can sit side by side. If you are both looking at the text, your child will feel that you are both readers so you are doing something co-operatively.
  • Familiar, so that your child doesn't feel under pressure.

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by Guest Blogger Melissa Taylor from http://imaginationsoup.net

We all love handmade gifts from our kids, almost as much as they love to make the gifts. Because there is such a wonderful sense of accomplishment and pride when kids put time, energy, and love into a gift. Here are gifts that children can make for parents, relatives, siblings, or friends.

Ages 4 - 6

Marbled Clay Jewelry Dish (adult help required)

Marbled Clay Jewelry Dish

From The Rhythms of Play comes a beautiful keepsake gift that will be a lasting special memory, especially as your little one's hand grows bigger. Directions here.

Drawings into Jewelry (adult help required)

Drawings into Jewelry

Adventure in a Box turns kids drawings into beautiful jewelry! Go here to see more.

Washi Tape Bookmarks (adult help required)

Washi Tape Bookmarks

The Kohls Corner shares this easy bookmark idea -- decorate with Washi tape. (Or just color and that would be fun, too.)

Ages 7 - 13

Perler Bead Bowl (depending on age, some adult help may be required)

Perler Bead Bowl

Aren't these beautiful? If you're like us and have a kazillion Perler beads at home, you'll be thrilled to see them go to such good use -- a colorful gift bowl. Meaningful Mama shares how to do this craft here.

Finger Knit Scarf

Finger Knit Scarf

You'll be amazed at how fast kids catch on to this! Hello Glow explains here or you can watch a how to video here. These scarves make easy, warm holiday gifts.

Nail Varnish Marbled Coaster (adult help required)

Nail Varnish Marbled Coaster

These varnished coasters don't take too long to make and look like modern art masterpieces. Directions here on Mum in the Mad House.



String beads with names or a phrase to make a memorable keychain keepsake. Directions on Hello Bee.

LEGO Brick Picture Frame

LEGO Brick Picture Frame

The directions aren't great on Dad vs. Wild here but you'll get the gist -- and hopefully improve on this cool idea. Make a frame, add a photo, and you've got a totally rad gift.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

From Love Grows Wild, this is a yummy friend gift kids can make and give. Directions here.

Sharpie Flower Pots

Sharpie Flower Pots

Design your own beautiful flower pots using Sharpies and stickers. Directions on DIY Candy.

Read more of Melissa Taylor's blogs at http://imaginationsoup.net

Simple Christmas Zentangle for Kids

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children using K'NEX pieces

by Guest Blogger Melissa Taylor from http://imaginationsoup.net

Make a Simple Machine

It started with a lever. Yesterday.

Today, it's a wheel and axel.

The kids sit on the floor or stand at tables, totally focused on the project at hand -- building a simple machine using K'NEX. Their teacher, Mrs. Kelsey Sullivan, observes the engaged kids saying, "They love it. They're learning, cooperating, and can't wait to do this."

Each cooperative group of students has a sheet of instructions. Together they gather the K'NEX materials and follow the assembly directions. But in this scenario, Mrs. Sullivan won't help them, at least not for anything other than to snap in tricky K'NEX pieces. This means students are forced to persevere and problem solve, something Mrs. Sullivan loves to see. "They're learning how to problem solve," she explains.

First, the groups work together to build a handcart. After that, kids stay in the groups and get to choose what to build next: a Ferris wheel, a wheel barrow, or their own invention that also uses the wheel and axel.

So many fun options, right!?

This is learning at its best: fun, engaging, purposeful, hands-on, and cooperative.

At home, the kids are building their own inventions. Their projects must have at least two simple machines and solve a problem. For example, one student is making something to help old people tie their shoes without bending over. (Because knees.)

Mrs. Sullivan tells me that she loves how this activity is inspiring girls, too.

So what are simple machines?

If you're like me and it's been a few years since you were in 2nd grade, here are the basics . . . Simple machines are:

  • Levers
  • Pulleys
  • Wheel & Axles
  • Inclined Planes, including Wedge and Screw
  • Gears

These multiply force, making work easier.

And what about K'NEX?

K'NEX is a toy system of parts and pieces that snap together to create practically anything. From vehicles to tall buildings, this is a valuable STEM tool (aka. toy) that not only improves hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem solving, spatial awareness, and imagination, but can be used in the classroom for many educational purposes like the one happening in Mrs. Sullivan's classroom.

Pairing science with K'NEX is something you won't just see in 2nd grade but also in Aspen's new STEAM Lab. Stay tuned for more exciting possibilities for learning!

Read more of Melissa Taylor's blogs at http://imaginationsoup.net

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start money conversation with children

by Nicole Kruse, 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher and AEI Coach

For many of us, it's a little uncomfortable to discuss money, particularly with our children. There's many reasons for this: it's too personal for us; we don't want our children to worry about money; we don't know enough about our finances to discuss it with our children; our spouse takes care of the finances; we're too busy; there's never a good time; our kids are easily distracted; we don't know how to even bring the subject up and the list goes on and on.

There really is an easy, painless way to bring up the topic of money. And there are some simple questions to get you started. When you're driving in the car or at the dinner table or walking the dog, ask your child one of these questions:

1. Do you know where money comes from?

Listen to their answers. Oftentimes they truly have no idea where it actually comes from. And then begin a discussion about how you earn money. Discuss what you do at your job and why you get paid to do what you do. You don't have to get into the nitty gritty details of your personal finances, in fact, that may be too overwhelming and you may lose them. And you might not want to share how much you make unless you want that number shared with all of their friends at lunch or in the classroom.

2. Why do you think we don't buy you everything that you want?

Listen to their answers. They may know, but they may just think you're being mean or cruel or unfair, or any of the other choice words our kids call us when they don't get what they want. Having this conversation when our children are calm and level-headed may help diffuse some future conversations when our children are being irrational because they need that toy, or those boots, or that coat right now! This can be a great opportunity to begin the discussion of a budget. Better yet, bring your child to the grocery store with you (when you have an extra hour or two!). Let them know how much you have budgeted to spend at the store and how you came up with that number. Let them help you choose what your family needs from the store.

It really can be this simple to get the conversation going. The important part is to let your kids talk. Once you ask them the question, wait for their response. They may not have an answer, and that's ok, but let them talk first. Really listen to what they have to say. And go from there. Now, more than ever, we need to start these conversations.

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Co-chairs of Grand Day 2016 Aspen Academy

Grand Day 2016 Co-Chairs, Linda Chain and Mike and Nancy Connell

by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

Each Thanksgiving we have the opportunity to join our friends, family and loved ones to share a meal and pose the question, "What are you grateful for?"

Here at Aspen Academy, it is our Thanksgiving tradition to invite our Grandparents and Special Friends to join us for a fun-filled day of learning, love and gratitude.

The practice of expressing gratitude – of acknowledging the people, moments and memories we are grateful for – has an incredibly powerful impact, paritcularly in a school setting. Psychologist Jeffrey Froh studied how the practice of expressing gratitude in middle school transformed students' lives and found: "expressing gratitude was not only associated with appreciating close relationships, it was also related to feeling better about life and school... the results were clear: higher levels of optimism, increased life satisfaction, and decreased negative feelings."

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough have also found physical benefits to the condition of gratitude suggesting, "gratitude strenghthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health."

When our grandparents and special friends gather together in our auditorium next week, our students will proudly show them what we at are grateful for here at Aspen Academy - opportunities to learn and grow, to convene with our community, to find our voices, express ourselves, and to celebrate our accomplishments with our loved ones.

Our auditorium is the perfect venue to demonstrate our gratitude, and together we can transform this space into something even greater by installing:

  • Individual theater seats, increasing our capacity and creating an authentic theater experience
  • Curtains and acoustic treatments to transform our stage into a state-of-the-art performance venue where every student can be seen and heard

We are so grateful for the generosity of our community – you make it possible for us to continue to improve the expereince of our students, faculty and staff, and families each time they set foot on our campus.

To express your gratitude by supporting our auditorium renovation, please click here (and direct your gift to "Building the Future") or contact Mallory Sussman, Development Manager at Mallory.sussman@aspenacademy.org.

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