Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: September 2012

One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler

Can we be as organized as Tsh?

There are lots of great things about Tsh Oxenreider’s new book One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler, but the best is that it makes you look at your own life under a microscope. There is no way you can read about Oxenreider’s 52 projects for bringing organization and simplicity to your life, without reconsidering the processes (or lack thereof) that you already have in place.

You might already be familiar with Oxenreider as the creator of Simple Mom. She is very upfront that roughly half of the content of One Bite at a Time can be found on her blog already, if you really hunt down some old posts. But who has time to do that? It was much easier to have all of those ideas organized on my Kindle. Brilliant!

Create a Family Mission Statement

I don’t consider myself a master of organization, but it was gratifying to recognize that some of Oxenreider’s suggestions I had already put into place. Check out the Bardsley Family Rules we had made this summer from Petunia Fitzgerald Creations on Etsy. That was our version of creating a family mission statement.

What are your Most Important Tasks?

I also already have a plan for keeping my house clean.  Here’s what is supposed to be happening:

  • Monday: Change sheets, water plants, vacuum upstairs
  • Tuesday: Clean bathrooms, clean out refrigerator
  • Wednesday: Dust, cleans desk and other “vertical filing surfaces”, clean kitchen chairs and cabinets
  • Thursday: Vacuum downstairs, mop kitchen floor
  • Friday: Laundry
  • Saturday: Ironing, bleach out washer (we have a front loader).

The problem of course is, ahem… I slack off! Things got really bad when the kids were home from school this summer. But the very first idea in Oxenreider’s book is already helping to make a difference. She suggests picking the task that you most dislike, and getting it done almost first thing in the morning. So if it was Tuesday, I should be cleaning the bathrooms right off the bat.  She also suggests designating three Most Important Tasks for every day.

Eat Real Food and Try Growing a Garden

One Bite at a Time also has a ton of ideas for meal planning, healthy eating, and whole foods living. When I got to the part about making homemade yogurt, I had to laugh. My husband was obsessed with making homemade yogurt for a while there. It really is pretty easy to make. I of course, am already on the “preserve food when it’s cheapest“, meal planning, and gardening bandwagon.

Go Off the Poo?

Now for the ick part. When Oxenreider suggests going shampoo free, or cleaning your face with EVOO, I had to really fight to be open minded. 🙂 On the one hand, I would much rather use baking soda and apple cider vinegar on my hair than a product loaded with phthalates and sulfates. On the other, I’ve spend about ten gazillion hours on the Environmental Working Group’s website Skin Deep, and am pretty confident in the personal detergent products we already use. I’m sorry Tsh, but you’ll have to pry my Aubrey Organics Sensitive Skin bottles out of my grasp with a crow bar.

More Books by Pacific Northwest Writers

Finally, I wanted to kick off my 2012 Salute to Pacific Northwest Writers with One Bite at a Time, because I am super impressed by Tsh Oxenreider and all she has accomplished. Also, because (full disclaimer) I owe her a debt of gratitude. Last May Tsh surprised me by giving Teaching My Baby to Read a really nice shout-out on Simple Mom. That was a darn cool thing to do.

This is me saying “Thank you”.

(This post is from my 2012 Salute to Pacific Northwest Writers.)

I would camp out to vote!

I wouldn’t line up for an iPhone, but I would camp out to vote!

A few generations back ordinary moms like me were willing to risk it all, just for the chance of voting. They went to jail. They went on hunger strikes. They took to the streets, just so that I could have a voice.

I take my right to vote very seriously and exercise it at every election. I’m not going to forget how hard those women fought for me.

I want my children to have that same passion.

That’s why I’m jazzing them up about voting, through books. Our Afterschooling reading list for October is all about the right to vote.

Books about the electoral process can be hard to find in your local library. Hopefully your local branch has a bigger selection than mine!

Here are my favorites that I purchased from Amazon:

  • Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote, by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Election Day (Ready to Read Level 1), by Margaret McNamara
  • If you Lived When Women Won Their Rights, by Anne Kamma
  • I Could Do That! Ester Morris Gets Women the Vote, by Linda Arms White
  • Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women’s Rights, by Deborah Hopkinson
  • If I Ran for President, by Catherine Stier
  • Vote, by Eileen Christelow
  • Grace for President, by Kelly DiPucchio

Not to go all Mary Poppins on you, but I would totally sing “Well done! Sister Suffragette!” if anyone ever asked.

Afterschooling Plans for Second Grade

If my son wants to watch “Johnny Test” on the weekend, I’m going to make him earn it!

This is how we prioritize:

  1. School
  2. Homework
  3. Playtime/Free time/Outside time
  4. Limited extras like soccer or piano lessons
  5. Afterschooling
  6. Screen time

Here are our Afterschooling Plans for 2nd Grade:

Language Arts and Social Studies

We are doing a yearlong look at diversity in America, including an appreciation of our political system. This will be accomplished through carefully planned read alouds at bedtime. Hyperlinks coming soon! Here’s what’s on board:



Do you want to read about my failed attempt to teach Bruce Spanish in the past? Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment; maybe I’m just crazy. But Ann Cameron told me about this great Spanish program created right here in Seattle by All Bilingual Press.

Bruce and I are slowly working our way through the Espanol para chicos y grandes Level 1 textbook, and Jenna is following along too. It’s amazing how quickly Bruce is remembering vocabulary that he learned three years ago. There could be hope for him yet!


What are your Afterschooling plans? Feel free to leave a link or your comments below.

What is Jenny Doing?

I’m planning Math Boot Camp for Moms!

Not only will I share all of my cool teacher tricks, but I’ll also be explaining why the heck I have a number licked to my forehead.

Boot Camp begins on Sunday October 7th, so get ready!

P.S.  Dads are of course welcome too.

How to Teach Young Children to Read

The bottom line is you can teach your child a tremendous amount before Kindergarten, especially if you know where to start!

My methods are child-centered, child-directed, and based on my own experience. I am sharing them with you so that you can have a teacher-created road map of how to teach your son or daughter to read before Kindergarten.

All children are unique and learn at different rates. Please be patient with yourself and your children. These activities are meant to be practical and fun; not stressful. Not every child will developmentally be able to learn to read by five years old, but every child is capable of learning.

First give yourself and education. Find out about:

Then try out some age-based ideas that worked for me:

0-18 Months

  • Baby Signs
  • Lots of Reading with Mommy and Daddy!

18 Months on up (The Beginning)

To teach phonemic awareness and phonics, I suggest starting kids out on a really old-school video called “Rusty and Rosy ABC Sounds and Such”. Then move on to “Leap Frog”.

Yes, yes, I know TV can be evil! Please don’t blast me about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that children under two shouldn’t watch television.

It’s not like I’m sitting my toddler in from of “Star Wars the Clone Wars” and then going off into the living room to drink a margarita. What I do, is I snuggle down with my daughter and watch as much of the video as she has the attention span at this point to get through. At first it is just two or three minutes, but I build her up to twenty. Each time a new letter or sound comes on, I make a big deal about. “Oh, that’s the letter S! Sssssssssss.”

More on the order of videos I suggest here.

24 Months on up (The Middle)

There is definitely a fuzzy gray area after a child has learned his letters and sounds, but before he is ready to actively start putting them together in CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words. This stage might take a long time.

36 months on up (Sealing the Deal)

Special Note:

Of course, we do lots of other things too, like play outside, play dress up, engage in imaginative play, sing songs, attend a play group etc. But I do believe in actively teaching toddlers letters and sounds.

At 21 months my daughter  knew almost all of her upper case letters, close to half of her lower case letters, and could put sounds together with letters if you prompted her. At 3 years old my son was reading level 1 Bob Books.

Every child will learn at a different rate, so be patient.

You can do it Moms and Dads! You can teach your children to read.

I’m a Pinterest Newbie

I figure I better get my butt in gear and join the Pinterest craze.

I’ve set up my Pinterest boards and I invite you all to follow me!

I want to follow you too, but I’m a little pathetic at the moment, and am just figuring out how to do this.  I’m hoping that Michele from Morning Hugs and Goodnight Kisses is going to help hold my hand through this.  Be sure to check out her boards too.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below and give me lots of bossy advice.  I need it!  Please also leave a link with your boards below so I can follow all of your pins.  (If that’s how this works.  Honestly, I’m still really confused.)

A last minute addition to my 2012 Salute to Pacific Northwest Writers

Check out my 2012 Salute to Pacific Northwest Writers starting this Sunday, September 30th!

Do I have time to read one more book? Only if it’s really good… And if I allow my daughter to dump out an entire bottle of shampoo during bath time, while I’m sitting on the toilet (lid down!) reading frantically.

But The Atlas if Love by Seattle author Laurie Frankel is worth it.

Check out my review on Friday, October 5th.

P.S. to Jean from Howling Frog Books. I think you are going to want to read this one too. How can you beat the line “She was a Victorianist and a Mormon”?

Pleasant Rowland still has an open invitation at my house

My “I Brake for Moms” column in the Good Life section of The Daily Herald this week.

African American Literature for Children

One of the primary ways I Afterschool Bruce(7) is through carefully selected read-alouds at bedtime. Sometimes we just randomly pick books to read from the shelves, but normally there is a master plan in the works.

Here are 3 Classical Reading Lists to get you started:

  1. The Ancients
  2. The Middle Ages
  3. The Modern Era

Now we are moving on to a yearlong look at diversity.

We live in a neighborhood that (insert awkward cough) lacks in diversity. I’m going to make up for this with books. Our first list will be about the African American experience. Our second list with be about Asian Americans, and our third with be  Chicano literature for children.

I’m including the Amazon Affiliate links below, but hopefully most of these titles will be available at the library. I will keep you posted on our progress.

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales

Dear Benjamin Banneker

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards))

Just the Two of Us (Scholastic Bookshelf)

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963

Peeny Butter Fudge

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Why I Love my Vitamix

When I told my husband that I wanted to buy a $400 Vitamix he thought I was crazy. It took me two years to talk him into it. That was a year and a half ago. Now my husband is addicted to green smoothies and has convinced his friends to buy a Vitamix too. This is why they are awesome:

In the hopper for today: Frozen cherries, purple kale, carrots, a plum, a pear, purple grapes and ice.

Purple smoothie into my three year old in less than five minutes! Just like at Jamba Juice, only better.

Then I add a bunch of cilantro and kale to the purple smoothie leftovers.

Now I’ve got two green smoothies. One for me to drink now, and one for my husband when he gets home.

A few points to consider:

  1. I almost never follow a recipe. I just use whatever organic fruits and vegetables are in season.
  2. For the kids, I use 80% fruit, 20% vegetables. Kale and spinach can usually be hidden by blueberries or cherries.
  3. For my husband and me, I try to do 70% vegetables, 30% fruit.
  4. I also use my Vitamix to make soup, but primarily it is a green smoothie workhorse. You just can’t pulverize carrots and kale in a normal blender.

So the next time the Vitamix people come to Costco, take a look. (And no, they are not paying me to say any of this, but I wish they would!)

Ziggy Game Book

Full disclaimer: I am an All About Learning Press Affiliate. You can find out more about how much money my blog makes (yes I share real numbers) here.

For the past week Jenna(3) and I have been playing games from Adventures in Reading with the Zigzag Zebra, a Ziggy Game Book. This is a supplement to the All About Reading program published by the same company as All About Spelling.

I LOVE All About Spelling, and need to get going with it again with Bruce(7) now that school has started again. It is so much better than weekly spelling tests, and really makes a difference. So I’m sure that the complete All About Reading program would be really good too.

I’ve opted not to purchase AAR however, because I have my own free methods which I share on my Where to Start Page. However, if I had a first or second grader who wasn’t reading at grade level, I would probably take a lot of comfort in a program like AAR. Or if I felt unsteady as a teacher to begin with, then a systematic program like AAR would really help hold my hand.

But back to the Ziggy Game Book, it was under $20 and looked like it might be a good fit with what I already do. As a teacher, I was already familiar with the concept of “file folder games”. This means that ahead of time, you rip out the pages from the book and paste them onto file folders. Laminating is optional, but not necessary. I chose not to since I’m just working with one child. In a classroom setting however, laminating would be a must.

The Ziggy Game Book includes 9 games. Almost all of them use the Phonogram Cards, Word Cards, or letter tiles from the AAR kit. These pieces are not included with the activity book and must be purchased separately. But since we already own all of the AAS spelling materials, we were pretty much good to go. We have just been using the AAS cards and tiles instead.

Jenna has been asking to “play Siggy games” every single day since I first brought them out. They are not magically teaching her to read. But they are encouraging her to practice a little bit each day. She still isn’t blending, although she knows all of her letters and sounds. She also definitely understands the difference between vowels and consonants. That’s not bad for a three year old, if I do say so myself. And I do! 🙂

Preschool Art and Self Portraits

Do you keep track of how your preschooler sees herself?  In March I did a post about Preschool Self Portraits.  Here it is six months later and you can already see a lot of progress.  Now Jenna is drawing head shapes, hair and two people on one page!

1 in 88 Can’t Wait!

Autism Speaks is working to make autism an unavoidable topic this fall for those who are seeking office. Please help by watching this video below then registering for Autism Votes. Learn how you can make a difference for those living with autism today! Autism Votes – 11.6.12 because our 1 in 88 Can’t Wait!

My column this week

Nuts!  This is the one where I spell “Mt. Rainier” wrong.

My I Brake for Moms column this week.

The Money Smart Family System by Steve and Annette Economides

It is rare that any new book I read prompts me to fire up the word processor, and start making charts. But if you are familiar with “Teaching My Baby To Read” then you know that I love a good token economy system. That’s why The Money Smart Family System by Steve and Annette Economides really sparked my interest.

The bulk of the book is about priorities, prudence, and conveying your own financial values to your children. But the book kicks off with a complicated (but not that complicated) allowance system that goes beyond a mere chore chart. (Hence our new wall decor.) We are going to give this plan a trial run in the Bardsley household starting on Monday.  I’ll keep you posted on the results.

I really liked how this book did not come across as holier-than-thou. So many other financial planning entities out there tout themselves as the end-all, be-all of budgeting. Steven and Annette however, sprinkled their book with lots of shout-outs to other big names in the financial planning world. They even mentioned one of our favorite piggy banks, the Money Saving Pig.

The only criticism I had of the book would be that I think teenagers should have more money to spend on clothes (if you can afford it) than what the Economides suggest. Other than that, I was in almost complete agreement with everything they advised.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinions and review.