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Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!

by Andrea Elston

2020 is officially history and it’s hard to imagine that makes too many people sad. It was a tough one, in many ways, but there were also some great things that happened. For example, while we formed this company in the second half of 2019, it really started ramping up in early 2020. The first author we brought into the fold signed with us in April and we are thrilled to now have 14 members of the Shine-A-Light family with several others currently under consideration. We also published 14 manuscripts (not including the 4-6 freebies per month we have been putting on our site since September) this year and are excited about the 24 that are in the editing/formatting phases right now. Within our family, we are aware of 48 additional projects that are currently in the writing and/or development phases, too.

All of that makes the prospect of 2021 very exciting to us and we are intent on it being the year we build the support element of the family atmosphere. To aid in this process, we have reserved a private Facebook group and a new YouTube channel. We are hoping that the “members only” Facebook group can be a place where we are all able to communicate with one another and share ideas about how to promote our work. The YouTube channel will be a place to help us gain exposure. We would like to produce material that both private schools can use in chapels and educators in the classroom.

Speaking (or, writing) of exposure, we wanted to attend private school and homeschool conventions in 2020 but they all got cancelled due to COVID-19. We are currently signed up for an event here in Arizona scheduled for July, one in Tennessee scheduled for March and a third in April that will hopefully happen in Texas. There are others we also plan to attend in Florida, Colorado and New York. These conferences would be great exposure for Shine-A-Light as a company as well as for the whole family and their individual works. Please join us in praying that these opportunities are not taken away from us again this year. Especially now that we have built up a bigger inventory of great material and have so much more to offer.

Goodbye, 2020. You weren’t all bad. Cheers to 2021!

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Here We Go Again!

by Andrea Elston


Well, ready or not, the time has come for school…in some fashion…to begin. Whether you are setting your child up with a laptop at your kitchen table, or checking their temperature and making sure they have their lunch and their mask before sending them off to their socially-distanced classroom, school has started. I thought I’d share some of my favorite tricks of the trade and products that helped make my year a little smoother. These work in any learning situation…not just the traditional classroom.

Set a schedule and stick to it (as much as possible). Students of all ages depend of consistency. There is comfort in knowing what to expect…even if it’s just the fact that math comes first, or that the day will end with reading a chapter from Indian in the Cupboard . Of course, life happens, and kids learn they have to adjust…but in a world with so much uncertainty, a little stability goes a long way.

Set expectations at the beginning! Please do not take this to mean, go over the rules and then move on to the first lesson in your daunting curriculum syllabus! Take the time to teach the students (or your own child) what a successful year will look like in your “classroom.” I usually spent 2-3 days going over procedures before I ever even cracked a book with my students. This sounds like a ridiculous amount of time, but I found it was much easier to teach the kiddos how to avoid striking the match rather than try to put out the blazing fire 3 weeks into the year. I taught everything from when to sharpen a pencil to how a respectful conversation sounds with a fellow classmate or even an adult! (I am astounded at how some students speak to each other let alone adults!)

Finally, don’t get stuck on any one curriculum or program. If your school or learning environment allows for it, explore and supplement! There are SO many great resources out there! Also remember, teachers and parents ARE the curriculum. It is not the books.  My advice is don’t let the curriculum drive your teaching…let the curriculum support YOU in teaching. Students of all ages need to be nurtured and validated. Students are at school to grow not only academically, but socially and (depending on your institution) spiritually as well. It’s easy to skip over this in effort to “get through the book”. Your students will most likely not remember what grade they learned cursive, multiplication, or where to put a comma, but they will remember YOU. I never bought into the “Don’t smile until November” philosophy. I wanted my students to feel comfortable with me, trust me, and hopefully learn something from me! I was on their side from day one, and if I didn’t smile at them, how would they know that? Plus when you teach first grade, it is impossible to avoid smiling, or if I’m being honest…laughing out loud! Six year old students are just plain hilarious!

Having said that…here are a few of my favorite resources. Because the majority of my career was with the littles, the resources here are mainly for primary grades, but the sentiments above apply to any level.

National Geographic: You Read/I Read books
You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: MaryAnn Hoberman (also the author of A House is a House for Me…super fun creative writing activity)
Choral Reading-Dr. Seuss (or any rhyming book), Frog and Toad, Amelia Bedelia, George and Martha.

*I cannot stress enough the importance of reading WITH your child, not just to your child. And not even listening to your child read to you. Find books to read with them so they can match your pacing and inflection.

Teaching numbers/counting patterns:

Students learn those mundane counting patterns the best if they are set to a rhythm or a song.

And as far as those pesky addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, sorry to say…flashcards are the best way to learn! I know it’s boring, but I found that repetition and memorization was the most sure-fire way to assure a strong foundation. Please don’t skip this step!!

Phonics/Reading Curriculum
The method I found to be the most effective was the Slingerland/Spalding program. If you don’t already use it, I would strongly suggest researching how you can implement it into your phonics program. I also really found value in the Reading A to Z-online-program (Or RAZ-Kids) as a supplemental resource!

Writing:  The Institute for Excellence in Writing is the best writing curriculum I worked with. This is a full-service curriculum…teaching kids to write starting at the Kindergarten level all the way through high school.

Websites I’ve used: (physical movement/coordination) (language arts) (language arts) (math)
khan Academy for Kids (math) (short-term, long-term, working memory support)

I sincerely hope these tips and resources are helpful, and many blessings as you educate the next generation in whatever capacity/role you find yourself in!

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My Thoughts on these “Unprecedented Times” in Education

by Andrea Elston


I really struggled with how to start this blog post. I wanted it to be encouraging and informational, but to be honest, I am so tired of “we’re all in this together,” and “we’ll get through this.” Quite frankly, if I hear the words “these unprecedented times” on one more commercial, I may actually throw the remote at the TV. I did not want it to be yet another piece of media pushing an agenda and telling parents what they should  do about their child’s education, or telling teachers what amazingly helpful tips I have for distance learning, should that be the case in the fall. To be honest, I am currently neither!

 I am not a parent, and although I spent 20 years in the classroom and will always be a teacher at heart, I did not have to endure the abrupt switch to remote learning and all the logistics that accompanied it this year. I also did not want to send a bunch of links to multiple online resources! From what I can tell, parents and teachers are already getting inundated with those from countless other company websites, forums, organizations, etc. I figured you are all “linked out” by now! I would be! So for my first blog post, I am going to just share my thoughts from the heart.

Parents, whether you choose for your child(ren) to be educated through traditional or non-traditional methods next year, it will be the right choice. You know your child, you know your circumstances, and you know what’s best for your family. Fortunately, we live in a country where we are free to make that choice and, as has been proven by these unprecedented times (I couldn’t help myself), there are a plethora of resources out there to support your decision.  When it comes right down to it, all children are homeschooled. It doesn’t matter whether they attend a public school, private school, charter school, online school, co-op, or an actual homeschool program, education begins in the household. Parents are the teachers and life is the curriculum. My encouragement to you this summer is to continue homeschooling your children. Use resources if you wish, but the bottom line is, if you have created your “classroom” as a place that operates on  love, standards, boundaries, consequences, follow-through, safety, trust, and respect, your “students” will flourish no matter what school looks like for them in the coming months.

Teachers, I don’t know how you did it! I am so impressed by what I saw and heard from my friends and colleagues that were in the trenches every day, trying to figure out what to do just to survive, first of all, but then how to improve as the year went on. I know teachers are innovative, but this event took everything to a whole new level! My encouragement to you this summer is to relax and revel in your accomplishments! Again, there is much uncertainty about the next school year, more or less depending on where you live, but as a whole, teachers and administrators have shown that they can handle whatever comes their way to create an educational environment, whether physical or virtual, for students to thrive!

Bottom line, the mission of Shine-A-Light Press will always be to provide supportive and supplemental resources to help educate the next generation…in whatever capacity and from whatever location! Whether you are an administrator looking to give your staff all the resources you can to help them succeed, a teacher looking for another fun and creative way to reach your students, or a parent wanting to take advantage of any and all educational materials out there, Shine-A-Light Press is committed to providing products that give you those options!

Don’t ever hesitate to contact me directly with questions, comments, suggestions, and thoughts. And rest assured, I have plenty of favorite resources and links to share in the future!

Andrea Elston