Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Love and Logic in “The Hunger Games”

Fairy Tale Mama over at the Enchanted School House has me hooked on Suzanne Collins’s dystopian Hunger Games trilogy. Concurrently, I’ve also been reading and rereading Foster Cline and Jim Fay’s Parenting Teens with Love and Logic.  This makes for a very odd mash-up!

Without giving away any spoilers, the Hunger Games centers around the fatherless Katniss Evergreen and her quest to keep those she loves alive. A secondary character in the series is Haymitch, who is supposed to be her mentor, but who spends most of his time drunk. But through the course of the three books it becomes clearer and clearer that Haymitch does care for Katniss, he’s willing to make personal sacrifices to help her, and that he is the closest thing Katniss has to a fatherly figure.

In chapter 8 of the third book, MockingJay, there is a scene that could be the crazy, sci-fi version of Love and Logic in action. Katniss has disobeyed orders and taken her earpiece out while in combat, meaning that she couldn’t listen to Hatmitch’s commands from the hovercraft. When she gets back home, injured and hospitalized, she knows that Haymitch is really angry about this, but he doesn’t show it. Instead, he waits until the next day, once the situation has calmed down, to talk to Katniss about her actions.

Katniss wakes up in her hospital bed knowing that Haymitch has been by her side for several hours (That’s the LOVE.) In a very neutral tone Haymitch dangles the white earpiece in front of Katniss and says that the next time she goes into battle she can choose to wear it…or she can wear a metal head-clamp earpiece that locks around her neck, or she can have a communication chip surgically implanted into her ear. Those are her choices, and the natural consequences of choosing to take the white earpiece out while in the field. (That’s the LOGIC.)

From a Love and Logic perspective, Haymitch is doing several things:

  • He doesn’t mete out consequences in the heat of the moment.
  • There isn’t any punishment, only natural consequences.
  • The natural consequences are doing the teaching.
  • He expresses love through eye contact and physical presence.
  • He shows what the expectations and limits are, through the offering of choices.
  • He avoids power struggles and arguing.

Of course, I’m not a Love and Logic expert by any means, I’m just a reader and parent. But it is interesting to me that after reading Cline and Foster’s books (especially the teen book), I keep viewing other parenting situations I encounter in literature on or TV from a Love and Logic perspective. It’s also a lot easier to evaluate an outside situation, as opposed to analyzing my own parenting style inside my own home (although I’m trying to do that too).

May the odds be ever in my favor…. 🙂

Here’s the link to the official Love and Logic Webpage.

Putting Preschoolers to “Work”

My husband is home sick, so last night I got to take Jenna(32m) to “Daddy Preschool”, a play-based Daddy and Me class that our local community college sponsors.  One of Jenna’s favorite things to do at Daddy Preschool is work at the pretend office. So today, I set one up in our living room.

I really should have made Jenna an office a long time ago, because my friend Katie at ModCloth also gave me this idea last October. Katie said that it was really important for her daughter to view mommy “going to the office” as a positive experience. I think that’s important for daughters of working moms like Katie, and almost doubly important for daughters of stay-at-home-mom’s like me. I want Jenna to know that she can do anything she wants someday!

On a funny side note, Jenna is really obsessed with my husband’s boss’s boss Tom for some reason, even though she has never met him. She often draws pictures for Tom which she is assuming that my husband delivers. So today when Jenna was playing in her office we pretended that Tom was sending her important messages and work to do.

Preschool Self Portraits

Jenna has been shocking my husband and me with her drawing in the past 24 hours. She is drawing faces with actual features, and bodies with the beginnings of limbs.

I’m not sure if this type of work is common at 32 months or not. Art has never been my son Bruce’s strong suit. So the only work I have to compare this to is my own preschool self-portraits from age 3.5:

Yes, I know what you are thinking: “Why does Jenny still have artwork she drew when she was 3?” Maybe I need to revisit my post about hoarding! But it is interesting to have this work for comparison purposes. Jenna is now drawing a face with features a full year before I did. Here are another two drawings Jenna did last night that include bodies:

To compare, here’s what I was drawing when I was four:

Keeping a record of your preschooler’s self-portraits is a really neat idea. I’m glad Ms. Ella did this with me when I was 3! As for Jenna’s ability level, I’m not sure if she is a normal two and a half year old artist, and I was really awful, or if this is something that is special about her. I think I might ask Jenna’s preschool teacher the next time we have class.

My Thoughts on Play-Based Preschools

Between my two kids I am entering my fourth year of parent participation in a play-based preschool. I am familiar with the research that supports play-based learning, and think it is fine—for children coming from middle class and beyond homes.

But if you have ever faced down a classroom of third graders living in poverty, where some of them didn’t even know their ABCs, you might reconsider the research saying play-based preschools are best, just like I did.

Looking back at my experience as a Psychology student at Stanford’s Bing Nursery school, a play-based preschool where a lot of early childhood research is conducted, I can remember that even though the professors strongly encouraged the parents not to “teach” their children at home, many of the families were doing this anyway. One three year old girl in my class even had a reading tutor.

The English Language Learner kids from East Palo Alto who were at Bing to help “normalize” the data pool? Well, their parents were savvy enough to get them into Bing, right? How typical is that? Most of the parents I knew in the Ravenswood School District loved their children deeply, but none of them knew how to “work the system”.

The East Palo Alto students I taught spent their preschool years playing in the front yard with their cousins, pit bulls, a garden hose and their pet squirrel. They had play-based formative years, but that didn’t mean they entered Kindergarten ready to learn. Some of them didn’t even go to Kindergarten at all, because Kindergarten wasn’t mandatory in the state of California at that time.

So fine academia… Keep telling me how wonderful play-based education is for all learners. I’ll view all of your research with the wisdom of my own personal experience.

For the record, I think Montessori preschools would be a much better choice. They are a hybrid of choice, exploration, reading, counting, painting, real-life skills, and cultural compassion and understanding. Maria Montessori’s very first classroom in the slums of Italy proved that her methods could help all children learn, regardless of socio-economic level. I’d be happy to pay more taxes to fund that.

Early Literacy on the Cheap

Even if your kids don’t have a Grandma who likes to shop, you can still give your kids a great head-start on learning an stay on budget.  If you have paper, markers, tape, and a library card, you can put some of my favorite ideas into action and start teaching your little ones how to read.   I start teaching my kids at about 18 months using the fun, interactive methods I share on my Where to Start page.  Most of these ideas don’t take any money to implement; just creativity and love.

If you have paper and markers:

If you have paper, markers, tape, and some random things from your house:

If you have a library card:

If you have a limited amount of money to spend buy:

P.S. I aso have ideas for Cheap Math.

Grandma Buy This!


Every birthday and Christmas my mother-in-law and mom graciously ask me what they should get my kids for gifts.  Inwardly, I’m usually thinking “Please not another light saber or stuffed animal!”  But the items that would actually be most helpful for the grandmas to fund, are a lot harder to describe without sounding like an educational freak-show.

So make me sound like the crazy one, and send this page to your own mother or mother-in-law this Christmas.

(Full disclaimer: These are all Affiliate links from Amazon which support the work I do on this blog.  Thanks for helping me out!)

Click on the shopping cart…

…Or shop by age.



1st Birthday

2nd Birthday

3rd Birthday



4th Birthday




5th Birthday




6th Birthday



7th Birthday


8th Birthday


Another idea for Grandma and Grandpa… Build your grandchildren a dream library!

Famous Women:

American Presidents:


Famous Artists, Musicians and Performers:

Teaching My Baby to Video

This weekend my husband and I made our first attempt at teaching our kids Bruce(6.5) and Jenna(2.5) how to make their own movies. With Jenna, the focus was on the basics of storytelling; including a beginning, middle, and end in her movie. With Bruce, we worked on scene set-up (i.e. keeping your hand out of the shot), and basic film editing skills on Windows Movie Maker. This ended up being a fun way to spend a Saturday night!

Jenna’s First Movie:

Bruce’s First Movie:

We did originally have music running over the credits, but I wasn’t sure about copyright infringement, so I took it off. Any tips on this?

Antigone from a Love and Logic Perspective

For my February contribution to Jean’s Greek Classics Challenge over at Howling Frog Books I have re-read Sophocles’ Antigone.  I read Antigone for the first time in the fifth grade when my teacher, Mr. Gray, had the whole class (parents included) participate in a socratic seminar about the play for open house.  Pretty awesome, hunh?

Of course, since my mind is still swirling after reading Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, I kept thinking about Antigone in those terms.  In all likelihood, both Antigone and her fiancé Haemon were teenagers who thought they knew everything.  Creon, was probably a drill-sergeant type parent who wanted his word to be law.  Throw in a family history of incest, rebellion, blindness and tragedy and kaboom— you’ve got a really bad situation on your hands that is going to have life and death consequences. 

Try reading these excerpts from Antigone while thinking about her being a teenager:

Antigone: They see, and do not say.  You have them cowed.

Creon: And you are not ashamed to think alone?

Antigone: No, I am not ashamed.  When was it shame to serve the children of my mother’s womb?

Really, this could be a scene from a teen soap-opera on the CW!  Now think about this scene between Haemon and his father: 

Creon: At my age I’m to school my mind by his?  This boy instructor is my master, then?

Haemon: I urge no wrong.  I’m young, but you should watch my actions, not my years, to judge of me.

Creon: A loyal action, to respect disorder?

Hameon: I wouldn’t urge respect for wickedness.

Creon: You don’t think she is sick with that disease?

Haemon: Your fellow-citizens maintain she’s not.

Creon: Is the town to tell me how I ought to rule?

Haemon: Now there you speak just like a boy yourself.

Creon: Am I to rule by other mind than mine?

Reading Antigone as a parent, I was struck with how much I did not want her to disobey Creon and bury her brother Polyneices.  As a mother, I wanted Antigone to stay alive.  As an adult, I completely sided with her sister’s Ismene’s argument.  But when I read Antigone as a fifth grader, I identified with Antigone.  I thought she was really brave and noble to face death in order to do (in her mind) the right thing.

To me, this play is  a clear lesson about how issuing ultimatums does not work, and power struggles should be avoided at all costs.  If Creon had chosen his parenting approach differently, then his future daughter in law, his son, and his wife might all still be alive.

Here’s the link to the official Love and Logic Webpage.