Teaching My Baby To Read

Home » 2011 (Page 2)

Yearly Archives: 2011

Afterschooling Over Christmas Break

Do I want Bruce(6.5) to have fun over Christmas break? YES! Do I want him to have time to chill-out and relax? OF COURSE! But do I also want to keep him occupied so he doesn’t tear the house apart and drive me crazy YOU BET!

I’ve taken a possibly contentious issue between the two of us; screen time, and have attempted to make it a non-issue. Everything Bruce has to do to earn screen time is already up on this board, nicely taped to the wall. With any lucky, he will be able to manage it all himself. He can have as much screen time as he wants over the next two weeks, so long as he earns it. If he completes the whole chart, I’ll make a new one.

What is not on this chart is playing outside. But that is a given in my household, and not something that I felt the need to include.

This next idea I ripped off from Bruce’s elementary school! The great thing is that I can use it for both Bruce and Jenna(2.5). The idea is to “catch” my children exhibiting one of the five PRIDE traits: politeness, responsibility, integrity, diligence, or empathy. The positive reinforcement is that they get a “hoof print” for the chart. 10 hoof prints will win a night out alone with my husband or me. (Regrettably, not a night out for me and my husband. 🙂 ) I used brown paper grocery bags to cut out the hoof prints.

Here are the charts side by side on our family room wall. With a little advanced planning, I have hopefully set us up for success this winter break. But if things get too crazy, I can always blow up the bouncy house.

The Kidnapped Prince

Bruce(6.5) and I are nearing the end of my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2. The last book we are slated to read is a children’s version of Don Quixote, which is going to be one of Bruce’s Christmas presents. I have a big back-log of books to review, so I’ll start with the most recently read first

In my mind, The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano, adapted by Ann Cameron, is a must read for British and American elementary school students. It tells Olaudah Equiano’s story of capture, the Middle Passage, enslavement, betrayal, and his life long quest for education and independence. A more sensitive first grader than Bruce might have been too upset by parts of this book to read, but my son just listened with a very serious face. Here’s a passage from page 32 about the separation of families in slave auctions that is especially sad:

“We had already lost our homes, our countries, and almost everyone we loved. The people who did the selling and buying could have done it without separating us from our very last relatives and friends. They already could live in riches from our misery and toil. What possible advantage did they gain from this refinement of cruelty? But they practiced it–and went to church on Sunday, and said that they were Christian.”

I had read the primary source book written by Equiano in college, but did not remember his story until I started reading The Kidnapped Prince with Bruce. The detail that triggered my memory was when Equiano sees flying fish off deck during the Middle Passage. I don’t know why I remembered the flying fish, but had blocked out the rest of the story.

If go back to my original goals for my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2, the juxtaposition between enslavement of thoughts and actual slavery is really intense.

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.

People didn’t just all of a sudden go out and capture slaves. There was a system of ideas they believed that made them think it was okay. Thinking patterns, (in this case evil thinking patterns), led to actual evil. No matter what your religious belief is, reading the story of how Equiano and his fellow slaves were treated makes you want those slave traders to be held accountable in a big way!

P.S. When Bruce is older I’d like him to watch the movie “Amazing Grace“. I don’t know if you have seen it or not, but it tells the story of William Wilberforce had his fight to make England abolish slavery. That movie made a very big impact on me, and I highly recommend it for people 13 years old and above.

Kindle Fire for Kids

For Christmas this year my in-laws have very generously purchased Bruce(6.5) a Kindle Fire. My husband and I have been staying up late loading it up with books, music and educational aps for him, and are then going to give it back to my MIL to wrap. That way it will be all ready to go Christmas morning. It’s like the classic story of mom and dad staying up to put toys together the night before Christmas, but in the digital age. 🙂

I’ve read some reviews of the Kindle Fire criticizing it for not having any parental controls. This is a big issue for sure, but one that is easy to overcome. We are simply going to turn off the Wi-Fi before we hand the Kindle over to our son. That way, he can only access the media that we have loaded for him. So for me, the lack of a parental control setting is not a big deal. I am the parent, and I am in control!!!

Amazon has a large selection of classic books for children which are free to download: Black Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer, etc. The same goes for Classical Music. There are also a number of free games such as chess, Sudoku, backgammon and more to load, as well as lots of educational games that only cost 99 cents. The one big splurge I added was the video Little Pims Spanish, which cost me $14.99. Yes, I have still got a little flicker of hope in me that Bruce will learn Spanish!

Our local library allows you to download ten children’s books for Kindle at a time, but only for 14 day periods. So when Bruce is ready for more titles, I’ll take the Kindle back, turn on the Wi-Fi, download some books that he chooses off of our library webpage, turn off the Wi-Fi, and give it back to him. Pretty cool, hunh?

Morning Message Update

I  am still plugging away at writing and reading a Morning Message each day with Jenna(2.5).  You can see from today’s example that I highlighted the words “We are going”.  This is an example of a Whole Language type of activity.  While normally I lean towards the phonics end of the Balanced Literacy spectrum, Morning Message is a good example of how you can do something really simple, every days to help build up reading skills such as word to print correspondence, name recognition, and sentence structure.

For a child like Jenna who knows all of her letters and sounds but is not yet ready to blend vowel consonant vowel word yet, Morning Message is a great way to keep working on her reading skills in a way that is developmentally appropriate for Jenna.  I could keep sounding out C-A-T with her until I was blue in the face, but she’s just not going to read it yet.  Bruce however, could sound out words at this age.  Every child is different, and that’s okay.

Sometimes you will hear educators say that children are not developmentally ready to read until four or five.  I disagree, because I agree with Maria Montessori’s philosophy that there are early windows of readiness where it is actually easier to teach reading skills than it would be later on.  I’ve also heard this same idea applied to potty-training.  “You’ve got to catch them when they’re interested; otherwise you’re going to have to wait until they are much older.”

So long as you are not putting any pressure on your child to learn, and so long as you keep things really up-beat and positive, then teaching early literacy skills to young children is a great way to spend quality one-on-one time with them.  What child does not love 100% of their mom’s attention?

GF/CF Cakes that 2 Year Olds Can Bake

Jenna(2.5) and I had fun today baking this yummy orange marmalade cake from Michael Cox’s book Gluten Free, More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Your Family Will Love.

Cooking is a fabulous learning activity to do with children. This was a really good recipe to try with a two year old, because it only called for four different ingredients: eggs, oranges, sugar, and almonds (plus marmalade for the top). I simplified the instructions a bit by using my Vitamix, which meant that it took less than ten minutes to prepare even with Jenna’s help.

The math skills we worked on were: counting, adding, and following directions.

I’ve checked out a bunch of gluten free cookbooks from the library and Gluten Free is the first one I’ve found that doesn’t use a lot of “freaky” ingredients. The author developed most of the recipes for his bed and breakfast in Spain, where he didn’t have access to Xanthan Gum and other unusual items I’m finding in most GF products.

Michael Cox’s recipes use whole foods that you would find at any grocery store.

Last night I made the chocolate walnut cake, and added a raspberry strawberry sauce on top. It was so delicious that my kids were licking the plates, and my husband had three servings! Again, I used my Vitamix, which meant that I could just dump in eggs, cocoa powder, sugar and whole walnuts, and…Voila! GF/CF cake batter in under five minutes. My only problem was that I got a bit, er..um… “distracted” during the baking process and ended up burning the edges. Otherwise my Marianne pan would have made a really pretty well for the raspberry sauce. I had to cut away the burnt sides, but the inside was still delicious.


I emailed Michael Cox and he said to go ahead and share the recipes!  He also said that he has a third book ready to go, but is in the process of looking for a publisher.  I hope he finds one.

Chocolate Walnut Cake:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup superfine sugar (I just used regular sugar)
  • 2 1/2 cups ground walnuts (I used whole walnuts)

I put everything in my Vitamix, but you might be able to do this in a food processor, or just buy ground walnut flour if you can find it.  You pour it into a greased cake pan and bake at 3:75 for an hour.  But I would check it after 25 minutes.

For the raspberry sauce I just microwaved frozen raspberries and strawberries for two minutes, and then blended them in my Vitamix.  Again, a blender or food processor might work too.

Orange and Almond Cake

(The real recipe calls for boiling two oranges for two hours.  With my Vitamix, I could just use one raw whole orange instead. So here’s my version:)

  • 1 peeled orange
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 cup almond flour (I used whole almonds)

Same instructions as before, except for this time he had you bake it at 350 for 50-60 minutes.  I watched the oven really carefully this time, and at the 40 minute mark it was ready to come out.

I Am Utterly Unique

If you need Christmas gift ideas for a family with a child who has Asperger’s Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism, I am Utterly Unique by Elaine Marie Larson could be a good choice.  It is an ABC book with a very positive spin about the attributes and abilities of high functioning ASD children. It includes everything from being detailed oriented to having “precise pronunciation”. 

This is also a good book for families with children of all ability levels to read, in order to promote understanding and empathy for the ASD people who are, or will someday be, in our lives.  Our local library happened to have it on the features shelf this past week, and I was very happy to check it out.

Two Year Olds, Affluence, and The Advent Conspiracy

I love this photo of my two-year-old Grandma Gerry at Christmas, holding a brand new doll. Accidentally (but ironically), it is placed right below the Hearst Castle ornament on our tree this year. With so much English in my blood it’s sometimes hard to remember that I am a quarter Swedish. My Grandma Gerry’s father was a first generation immigrant, and his wife was a second generation immigrant. They always insisted that English be the only language their daughters ever heard, so sadly my Grandma never learned to speak Swedish.

My Great Grandfather was a highly successful commercial artist who created the original picture on the Quaker Oats box, the art for Marvel Mystery Oil, the logo for Florsheim shoes, and other endeavors. He also did a good business painting the multi-story advertisements at movie theaters, which necessitated his own warehouse/studio with a hole cut in the second story floor so that he could paint from the top of the canvas to the bottom. He was also a passionate gardener, and their double lot house and garden provided all of the flowers for the local children to decorate graves with during Armistice Day.

My Great Grandmother was a well-known cook, and noted for her generosity. Their house was on the “hobo-trail”, meaning it had some sort of notch on the fence that signaled to vagrants that it was safe to stop at the back door and ask for a meal. My Great Grandmother never turned anyone away, and my Grandma Gerry would often sit next to the men while they ate and listen to the stories they had to tell of their adventures.

Both of her parents loved to spoil my Grandma Gerry and her sister at Christmas time, whether it be with the beautiful doll pictured, or a baby grand piano. We have pictures of their living room with the wall to wall shelving my Great Grandfather built, stuffed to the brim with a giant Christmas tree, baby furniture and presents. But then the Great Depression hit, and you can probably guess where this story is going. Work for commercial artists like my Great Grandfather quickly dried up and Christmases of abundance became a thing of the past. Like so many families then and now, my Great Grandparents lost their house.

One of the greatest presents my Grandma Gerry every received was from her mother, who sold the very rings off her fingers in order to afford for my Grandma to stay in school and finish high school, instead of drop out and get a job. My Great Grandmother believed that education could still be the ticket for her daughters to achieve the American Dream. This is a big legacy in my family, because my Grandma Gerry not only graduated from high school, but was enormously proud that all three of her children became college graduates someday.

When I was growing up, my Grandma always ensured that Christmas was a time of abundance and over-the-top present giving. I think she wanted to make sure that each and every one of her grandchildren left Christmas morning knowing that there was Plenty with a capital P, and nothing to worry about. This probably also explains why when we moved my Grandma out of her house and into a retirement home we found almost 100 lbs. of macaroni stockpiled in the garage. 🙂

I want my children to feel safe and secure Christmas morning too, just like my Grandma did. But I also want my kids to understand my Great Grandmother’s example; that you make every personal sacrifice necessary to make sure your children get the best education possible, and that you give generously to those less fortunate than you up until the very last minute when you too are bringing home bags of dry beans from the bread line, that you have no idea how to cook.

There is a movement afoot that you may or may not have heard of called The Advent Conspiracy. The idea is simple. Instead of spending a bunch of money that we may or may not have on things that the people in our lives may or may not want, what if we gave our time and our attention instead? What if we used some of our Christmas money to help those less fortunate then ourselves?

I think if my Grandma Gerry was here today she would LOVE the idea of the Advent Conspiracy. That wouldn’t stop her form shopping till she dropped and spending 12 hours tying enormous bows the size of your head on every Christmas present she delivered, but she would love the idea of using Christmas as a way to give generously to those less fortunate than herself.

At her very core, my Grandmother was one of the most generous persons you have ever met. I’d like to close this post with another famous family story from our archive. One day when my Grandma was visiting Mt. Soledad in San Diego, she came across a couple of San Diego tourists, struck up a conversation, and invited these people to my parents’ house for dinner that night. It was your typical family get together with total strangers! Flash forward to about twenty years later and my own family was vacationing in Yellow Stone National Park. My dad met a couple of Australian tourists and invited them to come stay at my parents’ house in California a few weeks later! I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Veritas Press Catalogue Review

Last week the2011-2012 Veritas Press catalogue came in the mail and I’ve been spending some serious time perusing it while sitting on the bathroom floor next to the tub during Jenna’s bath times.  For those of you unfamiliar with VP, it is an ultra-conservative Classical Christian homeschooling publishing company.

Okay, so since my family is middle of the road Methodists who don’t homeschool, why would I care about this???  Good question, especially since there are a lot of (in my mind) bizarre things about VP that as an educator I think are totally ridiculous and borderline detrimental to children.  

For starters, VP doesn’t advocate teaching science to Grammar stage children at all, meaning no science until grade seven!  On page 12 of the catalogue they write “We don’t teach science in grammar school–meaningful science requires certain language and mathematical mastery.  Yet scientific memorization is important…”  That’s why they have kids memorize science songs instead.  I haven’t heard the songs, so I don’t know how scientific they are.  But kick me now, because I’m thinking about ordering them out of sheer curiosity.

The “science” that VP does introduce starting in grade seven includes such titles as: Exploring Creation with General Science, Exploring Creation with BiologyScientists of Faith, Understanding Creation, and Exploring Creation with Chemistry.  There is a lot I could say about this but I won’t.  In my mind as a former public school teacher, this is the type of curriculum that gives homeschoolers a bad name!

Combine that “science” with VP’s suggestion that you have seventh graders read and study the Vulgate Bible (which is in Latin of course), and you have the kind of situation that gives Classical Homeschoolers a bad name. Okay, now I’m offended! 

I can wrap my brain around why you might have kids learn Latin, even though that would not be my choice, but why on Earth would you have 12 year olds spend an inordinate amount of time translating the Bible into English, after it had been translated in to Latin? 

Couldn’t those seventh graders be doing something more meaningful with their time, like I don’t know… learning science?  Or learning a language they could actually speak?  Or reading primary source documents that were originally written in Latin?  Or reading a reputable translation of the Bible in English? 

If you have read this far you are probably thinking that I think my hours spent reading the Veritas Press catalogue have been a complete waste of my time since I’m so dead set against a lot of their educational philosophy  Not so!  Some of their ideas are really intriguing to me. 

Take math for example.  VP thinks that with math instruction you should “drill, drill, and drill the way math needs to be taught.”  (p62)  As a Constructivist, I believe the exact opposite of course.  But I think it is really interesting that VP advocates teaching math a grade ahead.  They have Kindergarteners start first grade Saxon, first graders start second grade Saxon etc.  Intriguing…. I like it!

Finally, the thing I absolutely 100% love about the VP catalogue is its wonderful list of historical fiction and history books, by time, theme, and grade level.   Okay, maybe I just 90% love it because there is a dearth of titles that include stories of people of color.  In fact, am I missing something or are there not any?  I mean nada, zilch.  I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they include the history of non-white people in the textbook portion of their program.  Still, this catalogue could really benefit from The Kidnapped Prince by Ann Cameron or Lupita Manana by Patricia Beatty. 

We are just finishing off reading Story of the World Volume Three with my six and a half year old, so I turned to page 45 in the VP catalogue where it begins the fifth grade American history selections.  Not all of the books are at the 5th grade reading level.  In fact, there is a huge range.  But since my 6.5year old can read at the fifth grade reading level anyway, I wasn’t too concerned about any of the books being too hard.  Then I opened up our local library’s online webpage, and ordered every single book I could from the VP catalogue for free from the library!  Christmas vacation starts in a few weeks, and I’ll now have a big bag of themed books for Bruce to choose from.  Sweet!

Now I’m left hemming and hawing.  Should I order the history memory song CDs from VP which are very reasonably priced at under $7?  Should I (gasp) order the musical science CDs?  I might be crazy, but I can feel my credit card burning right now.  🙂


Update: 12/27/2011

Before I wrote this post I did not know that Veritas Press promotes the author Douglas Wilson who is on the record for being pro-slavery  This is from Wikipedia:

Wilson’s most controversial work is probably his pamphlet Southern Slavery, As It Was (ISBN 1-885767-17-X), which he wrote along with League of the South co-founder and fellow Christian minister Steve Wilkins. The pamphlet stated that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since.”

This explains the dearth of children’s books in the Veritas Press catalogue that describe the American experience of non-whites. I cannot understand how anyone could purchase products from a company that in associated with a pro-slavery author. That’s a major deal-breaker for me, and I have indeed thrown the Veritas Press catalogue in the trash.

For further information, please see:

Southern Slavery as it Wasn’t by Sean M. Quinlan, Ph.D., and William L. Ramsey, Ph.D.

3-4-5 Triangles

This weekend Bruce(6.5) and I had fun building real life triangles. I was inspired to try this activity after reading Keith Devlin’s thought provoking book, The Language of Mathematics. Unlike The Math Instinct, The Language of Mathematics focuses more on the history of mathematics rather than best practices in teaching mathematics.

Dr. Devlin wrote The Language of Mathematics for the general reader, but I found it quite challenging even though I was an A- student in mathematics all the way through college level Calculus. I wish I had read this book back in high school, because it might have helped me knock off those minuses!  On page 44, he discusses 3-4-5 triangles and ancient builders.

A 3-4-5 triangle is also mentioned in a children’s book Bruce and I read recently by Avi called The Barn. That too, was an excellent book although I would not recommend it for children under ten (oops) because it dealt with a really depressing storyline. In The Barn, the children use 3-4-5 triangles to create the right angle of the barn they are building for their father who is dying after suffering from a stroke. Here is how we built our own 3-4-5 triangle:

First, Bruce measured out 12 segments on masking tape that was folded on itself so it wasn’t sticky. He used Legos as his nonstandard unit of measurement. It would have been better to tie knots in rope or yarn at 12 equal lengths, but I knew that tying knots with a six year old would have added about ten minutes of utter frustration to the activity, and fine motor skill improvement was not my learning objective. Plus, I couldn’t find any rope. 🙂

At the 3 and 7 marks, we pulled the triangle tight. This picture doesn’t do the triangle justice, because I was also trying to hold the camera, but we did end up forming a right triangle with sides that were equal to 3-4-5 Legos. This triangle was also scalene because all three sides were different lengths.

After building our right triangle, we built a giant Isosolese triangle on the ground for fun. We also got out our protractor and measured angles, but as you can probably tell from the picture, since we had built our triangle with masking tape instead of rope, the angles were off by a few degrees. Bruce had previously had trouble remembering what an Isosclese triangle was, so hopefully this helps him remember. You can fit an “I” in an Isosceles triangle. Hopefully he also remembers what a right triangle is too.

Howling Frog’s Greek Classics Challenge

Are you game for a little Mommy and Daddy Ed? Jean over at Howlingfrog.blogspot is hosting a 2012 Greek Challenge. I’m signing up for the Sophocles level, with the goal of reading 1-4 Greek Classics next year. You don’t need to be a blogger to sign up, so be sure to check it out.

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next year, but I might go back and read the primary sources for my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 1.

Gluten Free Children?

My regular readers already know this, but we have a very strong family history of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Thankfully, neither Bruce nor Jenna has ASD, but that doesn’t stop me from constantly thinking about the families I know who are dealing with Autism in its many forms.  My husband calls Autism “the black hole of conversation”, because every single person in our extended family can perseverate on the topic for hours.

When Bruce and Jenna were little, we started them on Baby Signs at 9 months, in the hopes of hard-wiring language into their brains at an early age.  By 12 months, each of them knew about 2 dozen signs, and was beginning to talk.  I don’t know if this helped or not. 

The other unusual thing we did, and again, I don’t know if this helped either, was to keep them on a Gluten Free Cassin Free diet until they were one year old.  My MIL and mother both thought we were nuts, but I didn’t care.  My rationale was that if there was a higher percentage that our children would develop Autism, then I wanted to make sure they were on the so-called Autism diet while their language was still developing, on the off chance that it would help.

Fast forward to now.  I don’t have Autism, but in the past ten days have realized that I myself am extremely gluten sensitive.  To make a long story short, I’ve been in and out of the doctor’s office about a million times this past year, trying to figure out what was wrong with my health.  Finally, I got the big referral to the GI doctor to see about “scoping me” from one end or the other to see whether or not I had IBS.  In the meantime, I’ve been keeping a careful food journal; exercising, taking probiotics… you name it. 

A friend of mine who has Crohn’s disease suggested I try going gluten free.  I started a GF diet the day before Thanksgiving.  Within two days I was radically better, and almost pain free.  Now it’s been about ten days, and the farther away the gluten gets from my diet the better I am feeling.  I’ve been back to the doctor and tested for Celiac disease, which has come back as negative.  But that doesn’t counter the fact that as soon as I stopped eating gluten, my health improved.

All this leaves me thinking, What the heck???  How did I develop gluten sensitivity as an adult?  I’m uber-careful organic girl.  It’s not like I’ve been eating GMO Wonder Bread and Twinkies.  What has caused this?

And think about this… if gluten could make such a dramatic difference in me in just a few days, than think about the Autism diet.  No wonder people report it making a big difference. 

You know, if I had a toddler right now who wasn’t talking or who had delayed language, I’d go GFCF in a heartbeat.  In fact, I don’t think I would introduce gluten or casein in a child’s diet until they were stringing a couple of words together, just as a precaution.  It means eating a lot of veggies, chicken, rice, pears, and quinoa, but it is doable and can be healthful too.  Full disclaimer though, I’m not a doctor or nutritionist.  I’m just a major worry-wart!

Hands On Equations Lesson 3

Bruce(6.5) and I are now on lesson 3 of Hands On Equations, the incredible hands-on approach to learning algebra at a young age. I sound like an advertisement, but I don’t have any affiliation with the company, I promise! 🙂 From the above picture you can see what type of problems Bruce is currently working on.

As his mother, I have to point out that his handwriting is a lot better than this example shows. It was 8pm last night when we “played” this, and since it was “a game” I let him be sloppy. Bruce was also eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the same time.

Here is how you set up the board for problem #3: x + 3x = x + x + 10

Two of the x’s cancel each other out. So the leagal move is to take them away.

At this point, it is really easy to see that x = 5. Then you put the pieces back on the board so that you can manualy verify that 20 = 20.

I was talking with my friend Ari of Discipuli Speak fame, who was a math whiz himself at a very young age and who is now a teacher, and he was telling me how important it is for kids to understand that what’s on the left side of “=” has to balance what’s on the right side. It’s important that kids don’t just think of “=” as a signal to write the answer afterwards. Well, we are only on lesson #3 of Hands On Equations, and I’m pretty sure Bruce understands this concept pretty well now, and he’s only six and a half. That’s pretty darn cool!

The Voice, Review

Over a month ago I received The Voice New Testament free from Booksneeze, in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

The subtitle for The Voice is “Step into the Story of Scripture”. That denotes the layout and organization of the book, which is somewhat like a play. Colloquial additions are put in italics, and occasionally there is an insert with information you might find useful. Here’s an example of what that would look like if I was telling you the story of Little Red Riding Hood:

Little Red Riding Hood was on her way to Grandma’s house. She was going through the woods at a leisurely pace when all of a sudden she met the wolf.

(Enter Wolf)

Wolf: “Why hello Little Red Riding Hood. What are you doing?”

—Interesting fact about wolves. A big, bad wolf also appears in The Three Little Pigs. —-

Little Red: “I’m on my way to Grandma’s house to bring her some cakes and pies because she is sick in bed.”  etc.

To someone who has the NIV or NRSV road mapped into my mind, it is really quite jarring to read familiar passages from the New Testament in an unfamiliar translation. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading a new translation, it just wasn’t particularly easy. It would be akin to driving to work one morning in a rental car. You know how to drive and where you are going, but you really have to pay attention because the turn signal and windshield wipers are in a different place than you are used to. It took me a really long time to just get through the book of Matthew. Now I’m reading the suggested selections for the season of Advent.

I don’t really know what rating to give this book in my Amazon review. A three? A four? I think I’m going to give it a four. I’m happy to live in a country and a point of time where it is safe to read any religious text you like, and where you have the freedom to choose from many different translations.

Fine Motor Fun

Today Jenna(2) had some fun with Montessori style practical life activities, that I totally stole from Postapocalyptichomeschool.blogspot.

Incidentally, two of Bruce’s favorite activities from Montessori were picking kernels off of Indian corn with tweezers, and grinding cloves with a mortar and pestle. Alas, I didn’t have the materials for either of those activities today.


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: