Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Happy Mother’s Day

Gifts to Yourself for the Week:

  1. Drink coffee in the living room.
  2. Go to the bathroom alone.
  3. Pick a bouquet of flowers and put it on your nightstand. (Dandelions are okay if necessary.)
  4. Clear away the bath toys and take a bath.
  5. Memorize a poem.

Are you with me?

“This is hard. This is fun.” — Carol Dweck

I am in the middle of a mommy-ed reading list to help me be better at fostering resiliency in my kids. Why resiliency? Well, I want both of my kids to be happy, but happiness can be fleeting. Being able to tackle whatever challenge life throws at them with grace and resiliency is so much more useful.

The first book I checked out from the library was Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck’s research is about fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets. Do you view intelligence as static or as something that can be increased through hard work? If you got a C on a chemistry test does that me you aren’t very smart at science or that you didn’t study hard enough? If your two-year-old refuses to eat your dinner does that mean you are a bad cook, or that you weren’t sneaky enough about how you presented those green beans? Do you approach life’s challenges with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? Dr. Dweck argues that a growth mindset will help you become more successful in the long run.

When I was a teacher at a very wonderful charter school, our entire population of parents, teachers and kids went through a 2 year reform effort on Social Emotional Learning. Part of this involved learning to be mindful of offering children encouragement instead of praise. It’s better to say “Wow, you are really working hard on that,” instead of “You are really smart at that”. Another example would be to say “You must really like to explore with oil pastels,” instead of “That picture is so pretty”.

In Mindset Dr. Dweck offers the quote “This is hard. This is fun.” which I absolutely love! I used that just the other day when Jenna was learning to use scissors. I’m also going to try to model using that phrase myself, so that my kids watch me work on something difficult and hear me say: “This is hard. This is fun.”

On a personal note, I was really excited to see the Olympic wrestler Patricia Miranda mentioned on page 21. She was a college friend and teammate of my husband, and truly is an inspiration. I think that wrestlers in general embody a growth mindset because unless you live in the Midwest, nobody enters wrestling hoping to get huge scholarships or lots of fame. Wrestlers work hard because they love wrestling, and are constantly trying to improve their skills no matter what the cost. They don’t call them “meatheads” for nothing.

This summer I am going to sign my son Bruce(7) up for the two week free trial of Dr. Dweck’s Brainology program on the computer.  But the way Bruce is already cranking through Harry Potter 7 is making me think there is already “meathead” in his blood.

Scissors and Kids

I’m still practicing my relaxation breathing, because I just spent the past forty minutes helping Jeanna(2.5) learn to use scissors. This is the third time this week that she has practiced, and she LOVES it. Me? Not so much. 🙂

I almost had a major oops our first day when I didn’t know enough to put Jenna’s hair in a ponytail first. When Jenna looked down to cut out her first page, she almost gave herself an impromptu haircut.  That was never an issue with her brother Bruce!

It took me until day two to realize that Jenna moves her mouth up and down like she’s chewing gum every time she works the scissors. There must be some sort of brain connection in there that hasn’t matured yet.

We have been using an old I Can Cut book from when Bruce was little, but at this point Jenna is just butchering it. She’s just as happy to cut up our latest Zoo membership magazine. I’ll happy when I can someday trust her not to cut her own hair.  The stress is worth it though, because I know this is an important skill for my soon to be preschooler to learn.

A Very V Vacuum

Here’s a fun activity to do with your 2, 3, or 4 year old that is free, builds fine motor skills, and works on phonics all at the same time. Draw a letter V on a piece of paper. Then have your child cover the V with old stickers that have been floating around your house for a while.

When you are finished, tape the V to your vacuum. Don’t forget to make a lot of “Vroom-Vroom” sounds; the more histrionics the better. Very Pretty!  Very loud!  Vroooooooooom!

You could do this type of activity with any letter your child is currently working on. I chose the letter V because it’s one of the letters Jenna(2.5) still needs to check off her chart for All About Spelling Level 1, Step one.

This is what her chart looks like right now at 34 months. AAS has children learn multiple sounds for certain letters like A, E, I, O, U, Y, S etc. so that’s why it’s taking Jenna a while to complete the chart. By Leap Frog standards, she has known all of her letters and sounds for a while. If this chart was in upper case, and I was just asking for one sound per letter, it would have been completed months ago.

Another problem with our progress is that I’ve been a total slacker. We haven’t done our four cards a day in weeks! So, to help Jenna finish off these last sounds, I’m going to concentrate on one letter every few days. At least that’s the plan. 😉

Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery

One of the easiest ways to promote learning at home is through Carschooling. In the car you’ve got a captive audience, you’ve got time, and if you have library card, then you have access to a whole curriculum of CDs to choose from.

Some of my favorite educational CDs for children are the Classical Kids series: Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Mozart’s Magic Fantasy, and Tchaikovsky Discovers America. Right now we are listening to the newest addition to our collection, Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery.

This CD is by far the weakest of the entire series because the writing is so abysmal. “What a bunch of spaghetti heads” is actually uttered at one point! On the plus side, my kids are becoming extremely familiar with Vivaldi’s music, are learning a lot about the city of Venice, and now know as much as I do (which isn’t much) about the life and times of Antonio Vivaldi.

Vivaldi was a priest with red hair who was unable to lead Holy Mass because he had asthma. Instead, he taught at an orphanage in Venice called The Pieta, that had one of the most famous all-girl orchestras in the world. Much of Vivaldi’s music was composed for these orphans to perform.

What’s interesting to me is that at the same time we started listening to Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery I was also reading Adoption Nation by Adam Pertman, which describes the history of adoption and foster care in America. It broke my heart to read about kids who exit the foster care system at 18 being dumped into society with little to no safety net. My mom volunteers with the Orphan Foundation of America’s Foster Care to Success program, which provides mentoring, care packages and advice to these college aged kids.

I’m sure that the authors of Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery made The Pieta orphanage sound a lot better than it really was, but I was really impressed that people 300 years ago figured out how to house, educate and care for abandoned girls in such a way that many would leave the orphanage as teenagers equipped with desirable job skills and training. That really makes me think that our current foster care system should be better.  We owe kids better.

Food Bank Family Challenge

Yesterday at church the Sunday school children were passing out bags for the food bank. What a great reminder for teaching my own kids about the value of sharing with our neighbors in need!  As a goal for our whole family this week, we are going to keep this brown grocery bag on our kitchen counter and fill it up by next Sunday.  This also dovetails perfectly with the Money Savvy Kids program my son Bruce(7) is doing at school.

One of the things I have learned about food banks in the past, is that personal care products such as shampoo and soap are some important things to donate too. That’s because you can’t use food stamps to buy things like toilet paper. Since my two year old loves anything to do with toilet paper, sending Jenna to the upstairs bathroom to collect a few extra rolls for the bag is a good way for her to help out too. Hopefully Jenna doesn’t unroll anything by the time she comes back.

Money Savvy Pig

My son’s teacher is totally amazing!!! She somehow gathered the funds to bring the Money Savvy Kids curriculum to Bruce’s first grade classroom. They are doing level C which involves 6 hours of instruction covering everything from the history of money, to investing. At the end of the unit, each kid will take home a Money Savvy Pig.  The MSP is different that an ordinary piggy bank because it has four slots for saving, spending, donating and investing.

I had given Bruce his own Money Savvy Pig for Christmas a couple of years ago, and it has seen some hard use. I also gave pigs to each of my nieces and nephews. I love the idea of teaching kids to really think about money starting from an early age.

I’m trying to support the learning experience at home by sharing with Bruce some limited details about how our own family spends money each week. To do this, I’m making a chart in the kitchen about the cash I have in my wallet each week, and where it goes. To a kid, $300 sounds like a lot of money, but a chart like this shows how quickly that number dwindles. There’s still a co-pay at the doctor’s office to pay for in the next few days, and Mother’s day presents to purchase.

Another way I’m trying to support the Money Savvy unit at home is by checking out Betty Maestro’s The Story of Money from the library. I found Bruce reading it at the breakfast table this morning, but haven’t had the chance to discuss it with him yet.

Jenna(2.5) is  too young for serious lessons about money yet, but I am trying to lay tracks for understanding later on. Every time we go to the ATM machine together, I tell her over and over again that Mommy and Daddy put money into the ATM a while ago. The machine doesn’t just give you free money; it is giving us our money back. Hopefully that makes cents. 😉

How do you eat an elephant?

A friend and teacher I know from church shared with me the following question: “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer is: “One bite at a time.”

Bruce(7) has a book report due in a month. His teacher has challenged the kids to choose a “just right” book that will take a week to finish, and then to write about it. Bruce (entirely of his own accord) chose to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There was no talking him out of it.

Different faith backgrounds have different opinions on whether the Harry Potter series as a whole is appropriate for children. My opinion is that J.K. Rowling has made the basic tenants of Christianity approachable to children in the same way that C.S. Lewis did with Narnia. I love this article from Christianity Today by Bob Smietana, which expounds on this comparison.

Back to the issue at hand with my issue, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is at a Guided Reading Level W, which means it is a the seventh grade reading level. The last time I assessed Bruce’s reading ability was a few months ago at Christmas and he was at a level S/5th grade. Level W is a bit of a stretch for him.

But if all Bruce ever does is read multiple Goosebumps books (level P/3.7) every afternoon, he’s not learning a lot about resilience or sticking with something big because it is worth reading. So together, we looked at the calendar and mapped out a plan. He chose to read 55 pages a day for two weeks, and then spend a week writing up his report. We wrote everything down on our family calendar, and then I helped him out by putting little post-it flags in the book. Now the rest is really up to Bruce.

Adoption Nation by Adam Pertman

I’m a sucker for any book I see on adoption, because my parents adopted my own sister as an infant through an open, public adoption in the US. I was nine years old. 

Adoption Nation by Adam Pertman is the definitive book on adoption as far as I’m concerned. It is well written, meticulously researched, and tells balanced stories about all of the potential blessings and heartache that come with adoption for the major parties involved: adopted child, adoptive parents, and birth parents. If you were ever considering adoption in any form, this would be the first book to read. 

I’m a sucker for any book I see on adoption, because my parents adopted my own I do have a pretty serious critique of Adoption Nation that comes from my own myopic view of adoption. This books does not devote any time whatsoever to the effects adoption have on the minor parties involved; namely the biological children of adoptive parents.

My parents bonded with my sister and knew 100% she was their daughter before they even met her. I however, looked at my newborn sister for the first time with the nine-year-old equivalent of “You must be joking!” In retrospect, I could probably have benefited from counseling! Thankfully my sister and I are very close now.  It turns out that my Mom was right and I did end up being thankful to have a sister.

Most children have nine months to watch their mom’s bellies grow; all the while learning that the baby that comes out will be their flesh-and-blood sibling. Biological children of adoptive parents do not have this same preparation. Suddenly they just have a sibling.

I think that in adoptive parents’ eagerness to protect the feelings of the adoptive child, there can be unintended consequences to the biological children. The adopted child might unintentionally be portrayed as “special”, while the biological child feels just “ordinary”. Of course, if you asked my sister about this she would probably say the exact opposite!

Adoption marks everyone who is involved. In my case it was for the better, but it would be nice to have seen a little bit of my own experience in Pertman’s book.

May is Maternal Depression Awareness Month

I’ve been following along Jen-tilla The Mom’s C-Section countdown. Best wishes Jen!!! Hopefully there is only smooth sailing ahead for you.

Childbirth in general takes a huge toll on a mom in so many ways. I think it is very honest and brave of moms like Nicol from A Better Life For My Family when they share about their own past battles with Post-Partum Depression. I had “Baby Blues” with Bruce for about three days, but then it rapidly got better. I can’t imagine how hard it would be as a new mom if those feelings did not go away quickly.

In honor of Maternal Depression Awareness Month, I’d like to share the following message about recognizing the signs for Post-Partum Depression. Feel free to pass it along. Right now it has 230 views. It would benefit all women if that number was a lot higher.

Madame Tussaud by Michellel Moran

Madame T

 

I feel like a wreck today because I stayed up late last night reading Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud which I picked up from the library. Oh my gosh! I had no idea it was going to be so good!!!

I’ve studied European history, been to France, and read other fictional and nonfictional accounts of the French Revolution, but I’ve never felt like I had such a clear grasp of the timeline and major players of Reign of Terror until now. I wouldn’t say that Michelle Moran has made learning about the French Revolution fun, because that sounds horrible, but she has my attention hooked and I can’t wait to finish the last 100 pages.

Madame Tussaud was friends with people like Maximilien Robespierre, the Duc d’Orleans, Jean-Paul Marat, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Jacques-Louis David. She was also a wax tutor to Princesse Elisabeth, sister of King Louis XVI. This meant that she traveled in both circles, and somehow survived. She was known for being able to look at a face and make remarkable wax models of all of the famous people of her time.

After the French Revolution, she traveled around England for 30 years before establishing her museum on Baker Street. It must have been especially horrible for the English aristocracy who paid to see her exhibit, because they would have personally known many of the executed aristocrats she had portrayed in her collection.

I’ve had the opportunity to go to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in various cities that I have visited, but never chose to go because I have zero interest in seeing wax models of famous celebrities. But after reading this book, I’m really kicking myself. I did not know that these museums also contain historical figures, some of which Madame Tussaud herself created off the actual corpses. There is also a figure called Sleeping Beauty that was a replica of Madame du Barry.

I think this book could definitely help a highschooler prepare for the AP European history test, because it so clearly explains the issues and major events of the French Revolution. But parents would need to use their own judgment as to whether or not they considered it acceptable reading for teenagers. There is a scene for example, where Marie goes to the Bastille and meets the Marquis de Sade. Nothing bad happens to her of course, but it does explain the horrible reasons he is there.

On Moran’s website it says that Madame Tussaud is going to be made into a mini-series on Showtime. Here’s hoping they don’t ruin it!