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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Art on Mondays, Day 4

Egads! It was Monday again and time to paint. My kids have been asking me every day to “do art” and I kept holding them off until Monday because I’m pathetic, and start hyperventilating when I think about the mess it’s going to create. But at least with Irene Luxbacher’s 123 I Can Paint, I have a plan.

Lesson #4 (pp 12-13) is called “Busy and Bright” and it teaches the vocabulary word complimentary colors. It also uses a technique where you squirt blobs of paint on your background color, and then use scraps of cardboard to pull down the paint and make them look like buildings.

In retrospect, I can see what I did wrong as the art teacher this time. (That’s an improvement, because normally I can’t even figure out what I did wrong as an art teacher, even though I clearly messed up.) This time, I didn’t squirt big enough blobs of paint on the background. So when Bruce tried to pull down the skyscrapers, they were really sparse. He of course freaked out, and then I had to cajole him back to the table with a lot of Mindset coaching. “Well of course it will look awful if you give up half way through. Stick it out and it will look better. I think this is hard too, but that’s what makes it so fun”. etc.

Bruce did make it back to the table, and I think his end was result was pretty good. All of the drama meant that I never actually introduced the concept of complimentary colors and we also never put the finishing touches on our paintings which were supposed to include a road, people and cars. Whatever. Don’t’ blame Irene Luxbacher. This was all my fault!

This is Jenna’s. She’s 3.

Here is Bruce’s work.  He’s 7.

Here are my results. I would appear that I am an 8-year-old painting, but really I’m in my 30s. 🙂

Princess Pat Books

I have always said that Bob Books are boring but brilliant. They worked like a charm with my son Bruce when he was three and four years old. While attempting to introduce set 1, book 1 of the Bob Books to Jenna(3) however, I just felt like I needed something more “princess-y” to grab her attention. So I got out some paper and crayons while she was taking a nap the other day, and tried to see if I could come up with something pinker.  Princess Pat books were born.

Admittedly I am THE WORST ARTIST EVER! By sharing this, I’m exposing myself to PUBLIC HUMILIATION! But since the mission of my blog is to help you ensure that your child is academically advantaged regardless of age, ability, or socio-economic level, I figured that I ought to post this latest endeavor. When I’m done with my Princess Pat books, I’ll have created a free set of easy phonics readers for you to print out on cardstock.

Of course, if anyone would like to take pity on me and actually draw some real pictures for this project, please email me jpgegs at: teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com. 🙂

Princess Pat Book #1

Princess Pat Book #2

Princess Pat Book #3

Princess Pat Book #4

Learning about Maritime Engineering at the Hiram M. Crittenden Locks in Ballard

For Week 1 of my A STEM Summer plans, my kids and I went to Ballard to visit the Hiram M. Crittenden Locks. This was a great chance to see engineering in action.  We got to see boaters go through the locks and salmon swim up the fish ladder.

Our trip to the Ballard Locks was also a chance for Bruce(7) to learn about technology. He took a bunch of pictures with our digital camera, and then a few days later I helped him create a 2 minute movie using Windows Live Movie Maker. You can tell which pictures Bruce took, because they have the railing going across them, or else are shot from the ground looking up at the signs!

If your family gets the chance to visit the locks, see if you can plan to go during summer when the salmon are making their way through the fish ladder. It’s pretty cool!

Remember my “dream library”?

A while back my son Bruce(7) read the “Classic Starts” version of Frakenstein. I was so impressed by the series that I wrote a post about how I wished we could own the entire set. (Unfortunately, our public library doesn’t have any of them.) But since the books are written at about a 3rd grade reading level, they only take my son about an hour to read. At $6 a book, it was hard to justify spending the money. I did however, add the “Classic Starts” series to my Grandma Please Buy This page, and sat tight. Realistically, we need more chapter books like we need a hole in our head.

Flash forward to right now in the middle of summer vacation. Bruce has just finished his one and only week of summer camp, and the break did us both some good. That got me to thinking. Summer camp came out to be $4.66 an hour and was totally worth it. So why not spend $60 on ten new books that would keep Bruce out of my hair for at least ten hours?

Can anyone say “creative justification for spending more money”? 🙂 But really, if I get a second round out of these books with Jenna(3) someday, then that would work out to $3 an hour which will be cheaper than camp. Uh… yeah…  Well, that’s how I explained this purchase to my husband at least.

Here are links to some we own and some we still want:


Pretty Darn Proud of Uncle Mike…

Since I’m a former teacher you would probably think that I have a pretty strong opinion about unions, either for or against. The truth is, my position on teachers unions is one of hopeless confusion. I have seen teachers unions do students and educators irreparable harm, but I have also witnessed unions be the heroic champions of children and adults. If you sat down with me for a cup of coffee one day, I could yammer on for hours about unions and public schools, and at the end of our conversation you would probably be just as confused as I.

But right now there is a union struggle going on in my neighborhood that seems really black and white. My brother-in-law, a recycling truck driver, is on strike against Waste Management because the recycling and yard waste drivers want to be paid the same amount as the garbage collectors. (Please see Garbage haulers join walkout.)

The PR people from Waste Management keep making it appear that my brother-in-law and his coworkers are making $98,000 a year, but really that isn’t true. The number is closer to $60K ish with the rest of the sum going into benefits and retirement.

Uncle Mike is one of the hardest working members of our entire extended family. He gets up every morning at 3AM when the rest of Puget Sound is asleep, and heads off into (almost) any type of weather, no matter how miserable. His job is really dangerous and psychically demanding too. There have been many gray days when my children and I have looked out the window at icy roads and said a prayer for Uncle Mike’s safety.

Now, Uncle Mike and his coworkers are on strike, asking for pay that puts them closer to the $9 and hour increase that the garbage haulers receive. The garbage truck drivers have joined them in solidarity.

The one thing I do not understand is how in a state that prides itself on the environment and natural wonders, there could have been a discrepancy between the pay a recycling truck driver and a garbage truck driver received for so long.

It seems pretty clear to me who the heroes are in this battle.  It’s the guys who always take a moment to wave back at the little kids staring out their living room windows, excited when the “trash truck” comes each week.  Three-year-olds don’t care what type of waste is being picked up.  They just know that they are watching brave men, driving giant trucks, and doing a darn fine job.

The Blessing of Wendy Mogel

A few months ago I began a mommy-ed reading list suggested by Dr. Chris McCurry of Seattle that was designed to help educate parents about raising resilient children. My favorite books on the list were The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus by Wendy Mogel, and I made my regular Teaching My Baby to Read readers a promise that I would be blogging several posts about them soon.

Flash forward almost two months later, and the original posts I had written about Wendy Mogel have mysteriously disappeared. On my desktop? On my hard drive? On a scrap of spiral notebook paper somewhere? I have no idea, although the hardcopy theory is likely. There are future “I Brake for Mom” column ideas all over our house and it’s driving my husband nuts. There are bound to be some blog ideas floating around too.

Okay, so neither book is as fresh in my head as I would have preferred. But in some ways, that will make this review even better because you’ll be able to see the essential things I have learned from Wendy Mogel that have stuck with me.

Both books are written from a Jewish perspective, primarily for a Jewish audience. As a United Methodist, I found this refreshing. Dr. Mogel also seemed to be writing for an extremely affluent audience; the type of people who can afford $30,000 a year for private school and still afford to send their teenager on a humanitarian trip to Africa. I am clearly not in that socio-economic circumstance but am familiar with those types of neighborhoods through my own personal life experience.

Even if you were not interested in learning any new parenting tips at all, it would be really interesting to read The Blessing of a B Minus just to hear Dr. Mogel describe how wealthy, educated parents try to “game the system” and coach their teenagers into elite colleges. Can anyone say “Modern Day Castrati?” Since I somehow managed to go to Stanford through my own determination, with my public university educated parents not knowing any of those tricks, it was fascinating to hear about the advantages some of my wealthier classmates might have had. I never had a tutor nor did it ever occur to my parents to start grooming my extracurriculars for future glory starting at age 6.

It’s really thought provoking to think about all of those high-achieving parents spending oodles and oodles of money on their children’s private school educations and extracurricular in the hopes of them going to elite universities, and then sending their kids off to college without knowing how to do laundry. This explains half of my freshman dorm, and I’m not even joking.

I don’t think you could “make” your kid get into Stanford anyways, unless you were an extremely famous politician. My husband and I have talked about this extensively. By around 8th or 9th grade (at the latest), a teenager has to decide for himself that he really wants it. When I was in high school I remember having enough time to watch The Nanny each week with my mom and little sister, and that was it. Those thirty minutes of recreation were my big treat to myself because the rest of the time I was studying or running various school clubs. Parents can’t “make” a kid have that type of drive.

My husband and I can’t “make” our kids get into our alma mater, and that’s okay. If they really want to go to a school like Stanford then they will have to put in the effort to get there on their own. If they don’t want to work hard enough for that, then Stanford isn’t the right place for them. I’m saying “Stanford”, but you could fill in the blank there for any competitive college of your choice.

Dr. Mogel’s book for parenting younger children, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, spoke a lot more about her own personal recommitment to Judaism, and what drove that decision. Again, I found that really interesting. I’ve read the Christian Bible cover to cover at least half a dozen times, but I have never read the Talmud. I had a basic knowledge of how Talmudic teaching effects women and children that I had previously gleaned from reading Maggie Anton’s fictional series Rashi’s Daughters, but that was it! I was especially inspired by how Dr. Mogel talked about the dinner table as the altar of a family, and weekly Shabbat meals as a religious experience.

Okay all you Wendy Mogel readers out there… I think the comments on my blog are working again. What are your thoughts about either book? I’m dying to hear!

Still Learning

My “I Brake for Moms” column in The Weekly Herald this week.

Pizza Wanted Signs, Part 3

Teaching my son Bruce(7) how to use technology this summer is backfiring on me. He is now using the camera, color printer, and sometimes even the scanner to make high-tech “Pizza Wanted Signs” and post them all over the house! (This is what they looked like a year ago.)

(This is what they look like now.)

On the plus side, we just finished a lesson on suffixes in All About Spelling Level 3, so at least Bruce is no longer writing “wantid”. He’s also branching out into ice-cream, which I am also choosing to view as a positive sign of growth. 🙂

Keeping Preschoolers Busy at Home

Remnants of the Sunday paper + 1 roll of tape + scissors + 1 preschooler = 1 hour of fun + a lot of fine motor skills practice!

I do wonder… Is it normal for a three-year-old to be able to concentrate on one activity for so long? Yay, or nay?

Art on Mondays, Day 3

Once again my usual disclaimer: I AM SO NOT AN ART MOM!!!! Irene Luxbacher’s 123 I Can Paint is helping me change this (hopefully) and give my kids a chance to get messy. (Here are my Week 3 plans for A STEM Summer.)

Lesson #3 (pp 10-11) is called “Warm and Friendly” and it teaches the concepts warm colors vs. cool colors . I don’t know what went wrong with this activity. Things were going okay, but then we all ended up with way too much paint on our paper.  When it dried, Bruce’s flowers all melted together. Clearly I do not know what I am doing as an art teacher! On the plus side, we are learning about blending colors and the different shapes and brush strokes you can make with different brushes.

This is Bruce’s final product. He’s 7.

This is Jenna’s work. She’s 3.

Here are my results. I would appear that I am an 8-year-old painting, but really I’m in my 30s.  🙂

Blogging About Blogging: Monetizing your Blog

The mission of my blog is “Helping you ensure that your child is academically advantaged, regardless of age, ability, or socio-economic level.” The full explanation of why I started Teaching My Baby to Read can be found here. I also have a Privacy Policy, and Disclaimer. But do I actually make any money at blogging? The truthful answer is sort-of, but not enough to make a profit. I want to share actual numbers with my readers because I believe in being transparent about my intentions, and also because I thought it would be helpful information for my fellow mommy-bloggers.

When tax season comes around, I still feel very comfortable claiming this blog as a hobby that occasionally makes a little bit of money, but not enough money to actually cover the cost of my hobby. Here’s why:

1) I have two affiliate accounts set up. The first is through Amazon. Here is a look at my Amazon Affiliate profits from January 2012 to July 2012:

  • Quarter 1 Profits: $33.94
  • Quarter 2 Profits: $79.42

Great right? Uh, not really. I hope my husband doesn’t read this next part, because here are all of the book and curriculum purchases I’ve made on Amazon this past year that I have blogged about:

  • Quarters 1 and 2 Expenses: ($27.95), ($65.13), ($12.64), ($4.82), ($35.45), ($5.99), ($22.78), ($58.62), ($76.58), ($73.34) = ($383.30)


2) Okay, now for a look at my All About Learning Press affiliate account:

  • Quarters 1 and 2 Profits: $101.98, $101.71, $35.35 = $239.04
  • Expenses (Level 3 AAS kit as well as a couple of items from Level 1 AAR that I will be blogging about soon) = ($76.85)

3) I also need to add my Blog.com expenses for the year:

  • Taking the advertisements off: ($30)
  • Getting extra storage space: ($20)

4) The Final Total?

  • Gross Profits: $33.94+ $79.42 +$239.04 = $353.40
  • Total Expenses: ($383.30) + (76.85) + ($30) +($20) = ($510.15)
  • $510.15-$353.40 = (156.75)

Ahhhhh! I didn’t think the number would say that at all! My blog has ended up costing me money? Yikes!

It’s okay though, because all of the things I have spent money on are books, CDs, spelling, and learning games for my kids. Since I’m a really mean and sneaky mom, some of those “learning games” also doubled as birthday presents. So it’s all good.

5) One last point of useful information is what has my blogging traffic been like? Here are the numbers from January 1, 2012 to July 21, 2012:

Visits: 26,409
Unique Visitors: 16,573

Page views: 63,727

I don’t have the daily rate up there, but I usually get between 100-200 unique visits a day. What I have heard is that your blog really needs to be receiving upwards of 500 visits a day to make any meaningful money. Of course, judging from the information I have I would really question the description “meaningful”.

I hope this post explains why I do indeed have an Amazon Affiliate and an All About Learning Press Affiliate account set up on my blog. I’m not out to make money off of my readers, but it would be nice to break even on all of our chapter book purchases. 🙂

Science on Tuesdays, Day 2

Okay, I’m almost embarrassed to write up what happened on Ecology/Science day of Week #2 of my A STEM Summer plans. We were supposed to build a soda bottle terrarium. I had all of the supplies and good intentions; really! But I also have some personal difficulties with spatial reckoning skills. Meaning, I purchased ficus plants that were way too big for our soda bottles. Oops!

So we ended up having to scrap the terrariums and use pots instead.

So much for science! I think maybe we could turn this into a measurement experiment later on though. Perhaps I can still salvage this…

Jenna’s Summer Book

It’s been a long time since I’ve made a homemade book for my daughter Jenna(3), and I really need to get back in action.  (For more on the why and how of homemade books, please click here.)  Blogging helps keep me honest, so let’s see if I can’t make five books for her by the start of September…  Btw, the real version of this book I have printed out at home includes more pictures of her face.  🙂

Jenna’s Summer Book

Jenna did art.

Jenna went to the Zoo.

Jenna pet a goat.

Jenna had a birthday.

Jenna got Marie Grace.

Jenna got a new apron.

Jenna helped make cherries.

Jenna built a solar oven.

Jenna wrote on her I Pad.

Jenna wore lots of headbands.

Jenna read lots of books!

Welcome to “Cruising”

In the 1987 classic essay Welcome to Holland, Emily Perl Kingsley wrote brilliantly about what it is like parenting a child with developmental disabilities.  She compares it to having your plane unexpectedly land in Holland, when for your whole life you had planned to travel to Italy instead.

I think this might be hard for parents of neurotypcial children to understand, but I have always felt a strong kinship with parents of developmentally disabled children, and not just because I am the aunt of a child with Autism.

As the parent of a gifted child, I deal with special learning needs and behavioral differences too, which often makes life difficult for our entire family.  Intellectual capability (either high or low), does not determine a child’s future, but it does make their journey different.  But try explaining that at your next playgroup…

All the moms at the park have just come back from Italy.  They have pictures and postcards, and are passing around home movies on their I Pads.  All of them are wearing designer leather shoes straight from the master craftsman in Milan.  Everyone is joking about gaining a few extra pounds from eating so much pasta.

You have just come back from Italy too, only instead of staying at the Marriott you were on a cruise ship, and not the Costa Concordia.

The other moms are including you in their conversation, but there is a palatable whiff of envy.  How much did the cruise cost?  How did you talk your husband into it? How did you afford a suite?  It must have been easy traveling without having to ever unpack at a different hotel each night, or put up with a smelly tour bus.

How can you explain what the cruise was really like?  Oh yes, a lot of things were easier.  There were unlimited English movies on TV and you had round-the-clock room service.  But keeping up with all of your shore excursions ran you ragged, and you  hadn’t planned for all of the extra expenses in your budget.

You were just starting to recover from being seasick when you came down with Norovirus.  While you sat on your balcony trying to hold down a cracker, you watched Venice pass by and thought “When can I enjoy this? When can I relax?”

Nobody at the park wants to hear about what really happened on your trip.  It’s easier to just slip on your Italian sunglasses that you picked up at the airport and pretend to fit in.  But before you disappear behind those shades you catch a glance from the mom who just came back from Holland.  Maybe it was nothing, or maybe it was a glimpse of recognition.

Our guest post fell through, so this essay is by Jennifer Bardsley


The Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2012 continues!

Don’t forget to check out the next stops on our tour:

On July 18th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about A Broader Definition of Success for Gifted Children.

On July 19th A Tree House Education will feature Why Homeschooling 2E Kids Makes Sense. Homeschool in Florida will share Get Out of Your Own Way: How to Listen to the Needs of Your Gifted Child.

On July 20th Making Music With Kids will discuss Getting Teachers on Your Side. Finding the Right Fit for Gifted Young Children. Barely Educational will offer Worrying , Over-Analysis and Parenting your Gifted Child.

On July 21st Teaching my Baby to Read will feature Welcome to Cruising.  Dancing with Dragons will write about Teaching the Visual Spatial Learner: When Your Child Thinks in Pictures.

…and here’s my latest “I Brake for Moms” column in The Weekly Herald this week.  I have to give a shout-out to Jen from Post-Apocalyptic Homeschool who suggested the last line.  Thank you!

Okay, now I’m really supposed to be on blogging vacation this week, so let’s see if I can stick to that.  🙂