Teaching My Baby To Read

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I can’t believe I have never read Dinotopia by James Gurney before now! What type of former elementary school teacher am I? Really, I am truly appalled at myself. 🙂

Bruce(6.5) and I spent a whole week reading Dinotopia as part of my SLE Inspired Reading List part 2. I chose Dinotopia as homage to Sir Thomas Moore’s famous work Utopia. Here are the learning goals from my SLE Inspired Reading List:

Learning Goals for Children

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

Learning Goals from Dinotopia

  • “Utopian” is a word that describes a specific genre of literature.
  • In utopian societies, individuals give up certain liberties, and are willing to live in a unique way, in order to be part of a community that is peaceful and prosperous.
  • Thinking question: “Would you be willing to _________ in order to live in a community like Dinotopia where ___________?”

Dinotopia is unusual in that it is a giant, 159 page picture book written at a fourth or fifth grade level. Reading it with Bruce made me realize that early, advanced readers like him can really miss out on the “picture book experience” with their mom and dad. Of course we read tons of picture books with him when he was littler, but now we usually concentrate on chapter books. Dinotopia was the best of both worlds, in that it was advanced content combined with stunning illustrations.

In addition to the beautiful pictures, my two other favorite parts of Dinotopia were the Dinotopian greeting “Breathe deep. Seek Peace”, and the Code of Dinotopia on page 77:

Survival of all or none.

One raindrop raises the sea.

Weapons are enemies even to their owners.

Give more, take less.

Others first, self last.

Observe, listen, and learn.

Do one thing at a time.

Sing every day.

Excercise imagination.

Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

Don’t p…(remaining text missing.)

In case you didn’t catch that, the first letters spell “Sow Good Seeds”. I thought this was a wonderful code of ethics to discuss with my young son. Not to sound too sacrilegious, but the Code of Dinotopia is a lot more relatable to a six year old than the Ten Commandments, although of course Bruce is familiar with that too.

Some of the reviews I have read about Dinotopia really bash George Lucas for supposedly ripping-off James Gurney for a lot of his ideas. No kidding! When you are looking at Waterfall City of pages 62-63 it is like looking at a much more beautiful version of Naboo, from Start Wars Episode 1.  There are some other similarities as well, that lead me to believe George Lucas was seriously inspired by Dinotopia.  Apparently, James Gurney has been very gracious about the whole thing.

There are at least two sequels to Dinotopia, that I am very anxious to read and will definitely be purchasing in the future. James Gurney has created a meaningful and magical world that is exciting for adults to share with children.

The Sequels:

All About Reading Level 1

 As most of my readers know, I signed up a while to ago to be an All About Learning Affiliate because I have been so impressed by the All About Spelling curriculum, which I use with Bruce(6.5) and will someday use with Jenna(2) as well.

I’ve been getting some news in my inbox that All About Learning is launching their Level 1 reading kit today.  I have never tried it, so I cannot recommend whether or not it is worth purchasing or not.  (For all of my free ideas on how to teach young children to read, please see my Where to Start page.)

However, if a packaged kit sounds like a good idea to you, be sure to check All About Reading out. All of the Level 1 products are 10% off until midnight of December 6, plus you get free astronaut ice cream.


One Mouthful

I’m veering off track tonight from my usual theme of early childhood education and Afterschooling, to share with you a fun blog that I have recently started reading called One Mouthful.  It is the very amusing account of a Work at Home Mom who from day one, tried to introduce creative, nutritious and healthy foods into her son’s diet.  Now as a preschooler, her son is very adorable and endearing, but will often only eat Nutella and Fluffernut sandwiches!  I’m laughing with you One Mouthful, not at you.  Boy can I relate!

I’m one of those former Californians who gets a farm fresh, organic produce box delivered each week, who grows her own garden each summer, who shops at the organic coop, who only buys cage free eggs, shade grown coffee, grass fed beef, etc.  I nursed both of my kids for 14 months, pureed their own homemade baby food, and introduced vegetables, not fruit first into their diet at exactly 6 months.  I own Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious, and have been known to serve raw vegan chocolate fudge made with avocados to guests. (It’s actually quite good.)

What exactly do my children subsist on?  Whole milk, crackers and Jo Jos!  Okay, so that’s a bit of hyperbole.  Suffice to say, both of my kids go through phases of eating everything, and then eating nothing.  Right now they are in a very picky-eater phase.

A month or two ago my husband was on a week-long business trip and I made macaroni and cheese from a box, canned soup, frozen pizza, and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.  Bruce(6) complimented me on my cooking every single night and kept going on and on about how he never knew I was such a good cook before. 🙂

Last week I was feeling a sick, and hadn’t been to the grocery store in a while, so I made my favorite comfort food from items on hand; tuna casserole with crumbled potato chip toppings, canned peas and canned peaches.  My kids ate every last bite!  This led me to think about dinner time rules and expectations from the 1950s, and how that might relate to menus from the 1950s.

If I was feeding my kids mashed potatoes, creamed corn, Jell-O, and meatloaf for dinner, with chocolate pudding for dessert, they would probably sit at the table and eat it with no complaints.  I don’t know if you have ever seen the Duggar family on “19 Kids and Counting” and watched what they eat, but it is a very low fiber, high sodium, high fat diet.  If you don’t believe me, check out their recipe for Tater Tot Casserole.  In my mind, that’s the type of food I would think of my grandma serving sixty years ago.

Our family sits down at the dinner table together almost every single night, but I am certainly not getting 1950s style eating-compliance out of my kids, even though both my husband and I try really hard to teacher our kids good manners. But maybe it’s unrealistic to expect 1950s behavior without the 1950s food.  Whole grains, lean meat, and lots and lots of vegetables just doesn’t get the same results.  Or maybe (as Bruce has been known to say), I am truly just the worst cook ever!

Wordless Wednesday

Hands on Equations


For those of you who have not heard of Hands On Equations before, this is going to be one of those posts that is going to make you think Man, I wish I had learned math that way! for the rest of the day. I first heard about HOE on the blog Homeschool Ninjas. I have no affiliation with HOE whatsoever, and have dutifully shelled out my money like everyone else. Bruce(6.5) and I have only done one lesson so far, but I’m definitely thinking this was money well spent.

When our box of materials arrived from UPS, Bruce was of course curious about what was in the box. When he found out it was a math game, he immediately lost interest. Later that night when my husband was putting Jenna to bed, I told Bruce that he could eat a bowl of ice cream if he played the math game with me. He immediately agreed. Then, when we were getting the game set up I told him: “There’s good news, and bad news. The good news is that this game is really fun. The bad news is that we only get to play it for 27 nights.” That instantly peaked his interest! (I said 27 nights because there are initially just 27 lessons. Later on we will do the verbal problem solving book, but by then hopefully Bruce will be hooked.)

As soon as we started playing Bruce became super excited, because this is actually really fun. There is a lot of logic involved, as well as adding, subtracting, and basic division. Bruce kept hooting and hollering every time he got a problem right, and my husband had to come down and tell us to be quiet because we kept waking Jenna up!

I don’t know if you can tell from the ice cream picture, but the one mistake I made is that I did not have Bruce right down his answers correctly. We’ll have to fix that in the next lesson.  I also should have been using the red die instead of the green die.  It would have been better if I had the lesson plans in front of me, but I chose not to this time because I wanted Bruce to think of this as a game and not a math activity.

All through the activity I kept thinking to myself, I can’t believe I’m teaching algebra. The highest math level I have ever taught before was fight grade math in my 3rd/4th grade classroom. Although I got through college level Calculus in the 12th grade, I’m not a natural “mathy” person. But HOE seems really easy to teach and understand. It is the kind of math instruction that makes you think: Gee, if had learned algebra this way when I was little maybe I would be “mathy” person!

 On a final note, I chose to purchase the basic kit and the verbal problems book. Beth from Homeschool Ninjas bought the package with the video instructions. I’m not sure if I chose the best combination of materials or not, but will keep you updated.

Well Trained Mind: Thoughts From Chapter 14

This is a series of posts I am writing about The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Although the WTM has a decidedly homeschooling bent, it is an excellent reference book for any parent who is interested in taking an active role in their child’s education.

I am reading the WTM again for the second time and blogging about my thoughts chapter by chapter. I invite you to read along with me, and chime in your own thoughts in the comment section below.

Chapter 14 General Thoughts: 

I never studied formal logic in school, although I had about as close to a Classical Education as you could get in public school.  (For reflections on this please see here.)  We did do occasional logic type games such as Roses and Thorns, and a game called Johnny Oops.   My son Bruce(6.5) is attending a public school for gifted children and they are doing logic type activities as early as first grade.  There is no consistent logic program yet, but I do see logic worksheets come home from time to time. 

I’ve been asking around causally to my friends from various school experiences, and nobody I know has formally studied logic either, even friends who have graduated from prestigious law schools.  However, if you put this in context of: Did you play with toys that teach logic? such as Mastermind, Rubik’s Cubes, Stratego, Backgammon, and Battleship, then the numbers of my friends who had early experiences with logic go way up.  This has prompted me to put some of those games on Bruce’s Christmas list, as well as another game called Perplixus which he has asked Santa for.

As Afterschoolers, I’m not sure if I’ll have my kids do a formal logic curriculum or not.  I’m sure it will be a lot harder to get 7th graders to do extra work over the summer than it is now!  Both my husband and I do want our kids to learn beginning computer programing though.  Bruce has already started with Scratch and another game called Light Bot 2.0. Computer programing seems like it would teach a lot of the same skills, and have more real life applications.  But feel free to refute me!

Story of the World III

We are now on disc 8 out of the 9 disc audio version of Story of the World Volume III by Susan Wise Bauer.  Bruce(6.5) and I continue to love this series.  Jenna(2) alternates between yelling “No Story of the World!  Music CD!” from the back seat, or paradoxically, sometimes asking for it.  I’m not deluding myself into thinking my two year old has learned anything from thirty plus hours of listening to SOTW volumes 1-3, but I think it hasn’t hurt her language development at all to listen to speaking, stories, and big vocabulary words.

For his part, Bruce told me recently:

“Mom, I’ll tell you what history is about.  It’s about Christians fighting Muslims, Muslims fighting Christians, Catholics fighting Protestants, and Protestants fighting Catholics.  Every once in a while a real powerful guy comes along and builds up a great empire.  But then after a while the empire gets all messed up.”

I found this reflection to be both wise and poignant, especially since it was coming from my six year old.  This is not to say that I found SOTW III very dark or depressing, because it was not.  There were a lot of wonderful stories of historical heroes, heroines, brave explorers, and noble defenders. 

SOTW III is also the only book for children that I have been able to find that discusses John Locke specifically.  There is a good, five minute section about Locke and his theory that in a natural state all men are equal and have the right to pursue life, liberty and possessions.  I mention this because Bruce and I are currently plugging through my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2, which by design, needed to include a child’s introduction to John Locke.

The theories created by John Locke of course flow straight into the creation of America, and so SOTW III also includes some early American history.  In fact, it goes into more detail about certain parts of American history than the AP US History text I had in 11th grade.  The history of Manhattan for example, was all new to me and very intriguing. 

In fact, I was shocked at how much history I learned from Volume III myself.  I had never studied the liberation of South America, nor the Mongol empire in India.  These are the hardest parts for me to learn, because I don’t have any tracks laid down in my brain from childhood for the information to stick to.  This won’t be a problem for Bruce or Jenna!

Does Your Two Year Old Know the Quantity 3?

In case you are wondering, I’d offer a hesitant yes to this question regarding Jenna(29 months). She correctly identifies quantities of three about 80% of the time. There is no way she is ready to move on to four yet, despite her ability to “count”, i.e. rattle off numbers without correspondence. I got a pretty accurate understanding of where my daughter’s thinking currently resides, by trying out lesson 1 from Right Start Level A. You can download the first few lesson plans yourself for free and give it a try with your own two year old.

I wish I had known to try this experiment with Bruce (6.5) when he was two, because of course I’m now uber-curious what his thinking was back then. When did the quantities three and four really solidify for Bruce? When will they solidify for Jenna? The Psychology major in me is going to be periodically checking to figure this out. Looking forward in lessons 2 and 3 of Right Start Level A, the other two abilities to monitor are A-B-A patterns, and sorting.

The reason why I decided to investigate all of this to begin with, was that I have just finished reading Keith Devlin’s wonderful book The Math Instinct: Why You’re a Mathematical Genius (Along with Lobsters, Birds, Cats, and Dogs). This book was well written, meticulously researched, and thought provoking. The final chapters reaffirmed everything I learned about Constructivist math in my professional development as a teacher. The research he presented about young infants understanding the quantity of two was especially fascinating. I had previously been proud of Jenna understanding the quantity two. Now I realize that’s no big deal!

I’m going to continue on reading more of Keith Devlin’s books. I’m not a “mathy” person myself, but he writes in a way that is easy to understand… even for someone who hasn’t studied Calculus since 12th grade.  🙂

“Raising a Left- Brain Child in a Right-Brain World” Review

A few days ago I checked out Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World: Strategies for Helping Bright, Quirky, Socially Awkward Children to Thrive at Home and at School by Katharine Beals from the library.  If you have previously read my post: It’s the Teacher Not the Curriculum that Makes a Difference then you know that I very strongly believe that Dr. Beals is misrepresenting the Balanced Literacy movement, and is unfairly bashing Constructivist math.  I checked out her book from the library out of idle curiosity. 

As a personal philosophy, I do not believe in “flaming” people or ideas over the internet.  So I have deleted the original review I wrote about this book yesterday and today am going to try again!

My heart goes out to all parents whose children are struggling in school, both academically or socially, but blaming the current pedagogy in today’s public school system is not the answer.  Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World unfairly portrays teachers as being loyal to dogma instead of the children they have dedicated their careers to.  I say all of this as a person who has a family history of ASD.  I’m also a former teacher who worked her butt off to make sure that the Aspie children in my classroom received every special accommodation and service that could possibly help them. 

Yes, maybe children with social issues would do better in traditional classrooms from the 1940s, but those teaching models would not prepare students for the modern world.  Despite what Dr. Beals claims, STEM careers require communication and collaboration.  Do engineers create digital cameras in isolation?  Do cancer researches conduct private experiments and then keep mum about their findings?  In my opinion, gently encouraging students to become better about sharing their ideas and thinking can only help them in the long run.

Finally, I’d like to point out this book’s lack of footnotes or a bibliography.  If Dr. Beals is going to repeatedly criticize current educational theories (that I support because they are research based), she should at least have the academic discipline to back up her claims to the contrary. 

Cabeza de Vaca for Kids

Bruce(6.5) and I recently read We Asked for Nothing, The Remarkable Journey of Cabeza de Vaca by Stuart Waldman, as part of my Inspired by SLE Reading List Part 2. It is an adaption for children of Cabeza de Vaca’s memoir: Adventures in Unknown Interior of America. I’m not sure if this was on the SLE reading list back when I was in college or not. I don’t remember any of this story at all, but I do have a visceral memory of hearing and saying “Cabeza de Vaca” over and over again. So perhaps I did read this almost fifteen years ago, and none of it sank in.

We Asked for Nothing is a picture book written at a fifth grade reading level or above. It deals with serious issues such as racism, prejudice, slavery, starvation, religious faith and survival. I felt very comfortable reading it side by side with my first grade son in a Guided Reading context, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to just hand this book over to an advanced six year old and say “Have at it.” Discussing the material is key. A nice feature of the book is that quotes from Cabeza de Vaca’s original text are inserted throughout the story, so that children get a chance to experience the primary source.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful, and I can’t help but wonder if I would have remembered what I read back in college better if I had also had access to the children’s version of Cabeza de Vaca’s story!

If you are from Texas or the Gulf Coast We Asked for Nothing would be even more meaningful for you because it talks extensively about the Native American tribes who lived in that area. All of those peoples were unfamiliar to me: the Karankawa, the Queuene, the Chorruco, the Deaguane, the Mendica etc., I had never learning anything about them before. Neither had the Spanish Conquistadors, until Cabeza de Vaca had the courage to find out.

Unfortunately, I believe that We Asked for Nothing is now out of print. I had to order my copy as a discarded library book. It’s worth taking the effort to acquire this book either through borrowing it from your own library or ordering it used if you are at all interested in the history of Explorers or Native Americans. We Asked for Nothing really solidified a lot Bruce learned from listening to Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World series.

Here are my Learning Goals for my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2:

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

Jenna at 29 Months

Jenna is not quite 2 and a half yet, and is definitely keeping busy.  Here are some of the learning milestones she has reached so far:

  • For the most part, she knows all of her uppercase letters and sounds.  She knows most of her lower case letters too.
  • Just in the past month, she has learned most of her colors.
  • She can count from 1-13 without correspondence, and then keep counting up to 20 with varying irregularity.
  • She can count to three with correspondence.
  • Jenna is highly verbal.  Yesterday she asked me: “Mommy can I hold your special earrings?  I’ll be extra gentle.”  She says complicated sentences like these all the time.
  • She also exhibits a burgeoning sense of humor and a big imagination.  Yesterday she told me we couldn’t go to the library because there was a tiger there eating all of the fish.  (There is an aquarium in the children’s section.)
  • Jenna is very clearly left-handed, and this can be seen when she paints, plays with play-dough, eats, or colors.
  • She also sits in a chair, uses a cup, is off the bottle/sippy cup/pacifier etc., is potty trained (for the most part), and can put some articles of clothing on including pants, socks, shoes, and sometimes dresses.

Here are some of the things Jenna is still working on:

  • A-B-A-B patterns.  We’ve played with these a lot but she still needs a lot of assistance to complete a simple pattern.
  • Puzzles.  Jenna can figure out which piece goes where, but she can’t quite fit the pieces together herself.
  • Taking naps.  (sigh!)
  • Blending sounds together, and sounding out vowel-consonant-vowel words.  She just can’t do that yet, so I don’t push it.  Every once in a while I check again to see if she’s ready.
  • Getting dressed all by herself without any help from me.
  • Wearing hair-bows.

Every child is different and learns at a different rate.  I’ve mainly written this all out for those of you who are curious about what other kids can do at this age.  Probably your own child will be able to do some things that are more advanced than Jenna at this age, and some things that are less so. 

However, it’s never a bad idea to check in once in a while with the developmental milestones children should be hitting to make sure that they do not have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Lunchbox Notes

I picked up this pack of president flashcards in the Dollar Spot at Target a couple of months ago, but haven’t found an effective way to use them until now… Lunchbox Notes!

I’m putting the cards into Bruce(6)’s lunch one president at a time. The unexpected outcome of this is that not only Bruce, but the other kids at his table are learning from the notes I put in his lunch, because he shows them to other kids. I know this because he told me once that his friend A—- knew who King Henry VIII was. That was the day that I had put a note that said “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded Survived…. what happened to King Henry VIII’s wives” in Bruce’s lunchbox. (We had just listened to that part of history in Story of the World III.)

Imagine what would happen if every parent was putting random bits of information in their children’s lunches. The kids probably wouldn’t have time to eat!

Beeswax Candle Kit

Looking for a fun activity to do with your kids that can double as homemade holiday presents for relatives that they will actually use? Beeswax Candles! Our kit just arrived last week and I’m putting it aside to do this Thanksgiving vacation. We bought the same kit last year and Bruce(6) really had fun with it. This year Jenna(2) will be able to participate as well. The kit costs about $20 but has enough supplies to make candles for all the grandmas, teachers, and coaches you know. Here are the candles that Bruce made for me last year when he was five:

I like the idea of Bruce and Jenna participating in the creation of presents we give to teachers at the holidays because it gives them the chance to express their appreciation through their own labor. That being said, I usually contribute a gift card as well, from Nordstrom, Coldwater Creek, or Target. (Last year I totally flaked on Jenna’s preschool teachers, so I need to make up for it this year!) I try to be generous because I appreciate all of the hard work my children’s teachers dedicate to Bruce and Jenna’s education, and also because when I was a teacher students were very generous with me.

When I was teaching in Ravenswood, children would bring me fresh tamales, flowers from their garden, pictures, and little trinkets you could buy at Las Pulgas, the flea market in San Jose. When I was teaching in a wealthier neighborhood in California, students would give me almost $300 worth of gift cards, coffee and chocolates every Christmas. Each December, I was overwhelmed by the generosity from both communities. So now that my children have teachers of their own, I enjoy gifting them in all the ways that I was gifted myself.

741st Tank Battalion and K.V. Williams

Regular Teachingmybabytoread readers, please excuse today’s veer off the subject of early childhood education. In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m writing a post about my Grandfather, K.V. Williams, and his service with the 741st Tank Battalion. An unexpected outcome of working so hard on my blog is that I now have a platform to share things that really matter to me, education related or otherwise. Hopefully as a result of this post, descendants and history buffs all across the globes will be able to type in “741st Tank Battalion”, and I’ll be able to share the research I compiled several years ago.

Once when I was little my Grandma Gerry told me the story of my Grandpa’s service in WW II and I didn’t believe her. I knew that my Grandpa was considered a hero, and had a purple splotch across his hand, (because he had received the Purple Heart, duh!), but the story my Grandma told was truly unbelievable. She was a well-known embellisher of ideas, and even thought I was only nine or ten, I was wise enough to be skeptical. It turns out; every word my Grandma told me was true.

The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7th, 1941 my Grandfather enlisted in the army. He was older than your average recruit (I’ll spare the exact date to preserve family privacy) and had been working for many years. The Depression had been hard on his family, forcing him to start earning a living at a young age to help his siblings. But my Grandfather was fairly well educated for the time. His letters show a man with beautiful, regular handwriting, good spelling and grammar, and well thought-out phrases. My Grandfather had options. His choice of enlisting was a choice to serve.

Grandpa’s eventual landing place in the army was as a sergeant in Company B of the 741st Tank Battalion. The best information I have ever found about their story is in the out of print book 741st Tank Battalion D-Day to V-E Day and The Story of Vitamin Baker “We’ll Never Go Over Seas”. I feel very lucky to own a copy of this book, because I do not know if they are still available.

Perhaps the most famous thing about the 741st Tank Battalion is the part of their story that I didn’t believe was true when my Grandma told me. On June 4, 1944, 32 Duplex Drive Tanks from Company B were released into the waters of the English Channel, meant to swim across to the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach and invade Normandy as part of D Day. The tanks were “30 tons of steel in a canvas bucket” (Vitamin Baker, p 13) and had never before practiced in waters so choppy, or weather conditions so poor. When the tanks hit the rough water, the inflatable attachments were ripped off. Tragically, all but three of those tanks sank. My Grandpa’s tank was one of the only three to make it onto the beach! The two others were led by Maddock and Ragan.

My Grandpa’s tank was critical in taking out pillboxes and other anti-aircraft artillery. At some point my Grandfather was shot in the hand when he climbed out of the tank to reload, but he kept on fighting anyway. For my Grandfather’s service that day he received both the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Here is what his Silver Star citation says:

“Sargent Kenneth V. Williams, for gallantry in action against the enemy in France, on June 6, 1944. Sargent Williams landed his tank on an enemy beach. While engaging an anti-tank gun position his vehicle was hit and Sargent Williams was wounded. Disregarding his wound, he continued the attack destroying the emplacement. He then advanced, destroying numerous machine gun positions which were holding up advance of the infantry. When his tank hit a mine, Sargent Williams, still ignoring his wound, continued to fight on with his company, refusing evacuation until the following day. His courage and devotion beyond the call of duty reflect great credit on himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.”

The 741st Tank Battalion went on to be part of several significant events in World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge and Krinkelt/Rocherath. This is what page 66 of The Story of Vitamin Baker says about the fighting at Krinkelt/Rocherath from December 17 to 19th:

“The most hotly contested place in all Rocherath was the church, the high point of the town. The battle swayed back and forth, one time the enemy held it, then we would take over. Several tanks were knocked out right in the church yard.”

Here is what The Story of Vitamin Baker, as described by Cpt Kelly Laymen, says about the fighting at Krinkelt, including my Grandpa’s participation as one of the last men in the area, holed up in the church, but continuing to defend the town:

“When somebody says that Krinkelt was really a Hot Spot, they aren’t kidding a bit! ’cause it really was hot enough to make us really sweat. The tank I was in, Stokowski’s tank, didn’t have any generator on the first day and we were back some little distance, where we waited all day. At about four o’clock in the afternoon, the Battalion Commander led us back into town and tried to set us up as road blocks. But every time we started out, such a barrage came in that we were forced back . Having had our motor running all day, we were just about out of gas, so we left our tank and tried to make contact with he CP. But we –Stokowski, Cheek, Williams, McCormick and I didn’t have any luck. So we sat in a big church which was nearby and waited. There were two tanks sitting outside from A Company, and they were lost too.

“We lay in the church all night listening to the guns firing, and the krauts hollering, and all that stuff just raising Cain. it started to quiet down about five in the morning, and at seven or eight I found K.V., and we started to look for the CP. We had gone about fifty yards, and were talking with some doughboys, asking if they knew where our CP was. They didn’t know and just then it started again. Somebody shouted, ‘Here comes some Panther tanks!’ We headed for a house and tried to find a cellar but couldn’t, so we just sat there and waited.

“In the same house there were some anti-tank boys from the 23rd Regiment, and they loaded up three bazookas and were waiting. As the tanks came by, the doughs let go with a round. It hit the Panther’s right side and bounced off. As the second one came by, he fired again, it too bounced off. The doughboy only had one more loaded bazooka, and when the third tank came alongside he fired, and you should have seen him go –bazooka, projectile, doughboy and all went right out into the street!”

For their service during the violent counter-attack in the Krinkelt-Rocherath area of Belgium, the 741st Tank Battalion received another Presidential Citation which stated:

“Again and again the infuriated enemy threw armor and infantry against the dauntless defenders but for three days and nights these assaults were turned back by the unwavering fortitude of the inspired position. The tank men covered the withdrawal and were the last to leave the scene of battle. During the bitter three day engagement they had destroyed twenty seven enemy tanks, five armored vehicles and two trucks. Their indomitable fighting spirit and unflinching devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces.”

Less than ten days later on Christmas Day 1944, my Grandpa wrote the following letter to my Grandma in the midst of the Battle of the Bulge:

“Hiya Honey, Merry Christmas. It’s cold enough to snow on the ground and it could be like Christmas but instead it’s more like the fourth of July. This finds me well and going along pretty good. Last year at this time we were thinking that maybe we would be home for this Christmas but here we are still going.”

My Grandpa wrote this in the middle of terrible fighting, with bombs and artillery exploding everywhere. Did you ever see Band of Brothers? The 741st Tank Battalion were the men coming to the rescue!

The 741st Tank battalion was also responsible for the liberation of Flossenburg Concentration Camp. Here is a description from page 33 of The Story of Vitamin Baker about Flossenberg:

“The large German concentration camp of Hasag is near Flossberg. As such, members of the Battalion had the chance to see with their own eyes the brutal results of Nazi domination. Here huge amounts of political prisoners were kept. These were made to work the munitions factories and given the very minimum of food and care. The weak either died or were shot; the strong held on only to become sick, starving broken. Full evidence of these inhumanities was found all about the camp. The sights were horrible and unbelievable.”

I love this letter that my Grandpa sent my Grandma. His feelings about Hitler were pretty clear.

Of the original men in Company B of the 471st Tank Battalion, 29 were killed in action, 5 went missing in action, and 3 became prisoners of war. 56 soldiers were wounded or hospitalized in the line of duty. Only 46 of the original members came home. I am very lucky that my Grandpa was one of them. As you can probably have guessed by now, I have made an album of all of my Grandpa’s letters and pictures from his service in World War II. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

Inspired by Stanford’s SLE Program Part 2: A Reading List for Children

(Please note that this post has no official affiliation in any way shape or form with Stanford University. I am however, a Stanford and SLE alumna.)

In college I spent my first year at Stanford in the Structured Liberal Education program, which is perhaps the most rigorous curriculum in Classical Education a freshman can take. At 9 units a quarter, SLE is a year-long course where students immerse themselves in literature, philosophy, art, and the humanities. Ninety freshmen live in the same residence hall, eat dinner three times a week with their professors, write a ten page paper a week, and have a private SLE writing tutor to critique their work. There is even a resident SLE tutor to assist in the evening hours. At Stanford, “SLEeezers” are nerds among nerds!

This is the “SLE Inspired” reading list I’ve created for Bruce (age 6.5) that is inspired by the Winter syllabus from my freshman year in SLE. (For the Fall List, please see here.)  I plan to read the books one by one with Bruce at bedtime, so that we can thoroughly discuss them over the next six months. In the future, I will review each book separately, so that I can share my thoughts on whether or not it is worthwhile checking out for your little one too. Some of these books I have purchased, and some we will check out from the library.  I’d like to create a movie list too, but haven’t thought of any titles yet.  I welcome your suggestions!

Learning Goals for Children

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

Texts for Children:

(An incomplete picture because they haven’t all arrived in the mail yet.)

The Actual 2012 SLE Booklist for Stanford Students:

  • Utopia, Moore
  • Prince, Machiavelli
  • Adventures in Unknown Interior of America, Devaca
  • Rameau’s Nephew & Other Works, Diderot
  • Don Quixote (New Trans Grossman), Cervantes
  • Confessions (Trans Pine-Coffin), Augustine
  • Rumi: Swallowing the Sun, Lewis
  • Discourse on Method & Meditations etc., Descartes
  • Divine Comedy (V1:Inferno), Dante
  • Freedom of a Christian, Luther
  • Interesting Narrative etc., Equiano
  • Second Treatise of Government, Locke

Additional Winter Quarter Texts from When I was in SLE:

  • The Decameron, Boccaccio
  • The Koran
  • The Analects of Confucius

Initial Thoughts 11/10/11:

The Winter SLE book list is very challenging to begin with, but finding kiddie versions of all of the texts took me a lot of effort and thought. Machiavelli for children? —Artemis Fowl. John Locke for children? —- Disc 4 of Story of the World #3. I was unable to think of anything that could recreate Dante for children. Thinking about nine circles of Hell really isn’t appropriate for kids, although I often think about the concept of purgatory while I’m at Chucky Cheese’s. The Candlewick edition of Cervantes looks amazing. I’m holding this one back for a Christmas present.

Looking at this picture brings to mind the question, What the heck am I thinking? Even though all of these books are for kids it seems like a motley and bizarre grouping of children’s literature. These are not your average books from a Scholastic book order. But maybe, just maybe therein lays the magic. This is a group of thoughts and ideas that is going to take regular bedtime read aloud to a whole new level of conversation. Let the reading begin!