Teaching My Baby To Read

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Yearly Archives: 2013

I’ll pass on GoldieBlox


I really wanted to love Goldie Blox and The Spinning Machine, but I don’t.

When it comes to teaching girls about STEM, I’m 110% on board. I’m also a Stanford graduate, just like the CEO of GlodieBlox. So if anyone should be writing a rave revue about GoldieBlox, the engineering toy for girls, it should be me.

But it isn’t.

The truth is that I don’t find Goldie Blox that different from classic toys like Gears Go Round.

In terms of learning and skills, it’s on-par with the LEGO Friends series for girls.

Honestly, after reading all of the hype, I thought GoldieBlox was going to be something mind blowing, like Snap Circuits.

So I was really disappointed. In my opinion, GoldieBlox isn’t amazing, it’s just another toy. 


Also, the pieces have a really hard time sticking together. See those little animals in the picture? My daughter had a lot of trouble putting them on. They don’t “click” like Legos or Snap Circuits. This is big problem!

Another issue I have is the YouTube controversy. Like a lot of moms, I watched the GoldieBlox promo video featuring a rewritten song by the Beastie Boys. I thought this video was inspiring and immediately whipped out my credit card.

What I didn’t know, is that GoldieBlox did not have the copyright authorization to use the song in the first place.

As a writer, this really bothers me because I’ve had my own work stolen.

And hello? Engineers follow rules about not stealing or misappropriating people’s patents too. What type of lesson is this for girls?

So sorry Debbie Sterling. This will be the only GoldieBlox product I buy.


A blogging holiday

Merry Christmas from Edmonds!

Merry Christmas from Edmonds!

Merry Christmas! Tomorrow afternoon my kids are officially on winter break and I’d like to spend as much time with them as possible. We also have twenty people coming to our house for Christmas dinner and our house is, ahem, not as clean as it could be.

So I thought it was high time for a blogging holiday. I’ll be back in two weeks with new posts.

In the meantime, I’m going to experiment (starting tomorrow) with putting up a static page. I’m still debating if I should go with Where to Start, or Afterschooling. If you have a strong opinion on the subject, please feel free to leave your two cents!

See you in 2014!!!

A Gift Idea Kids Can Make for Grandparents

Hello readers! I’m very excited to share a guest post today from Darlene Beck Jacobson. 

You can find more of Darlene’s crafts, recipes and activities for children by visiting her Blog: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com  Website: www.darlenebeckjacobson.com or on Twitter @dustbunnymaven .

Darlene’s Middle Grade Historical book WHEELS OF CHANGE is coming out in 2014 with Creston Books.

(Photo curtsey of Darlene Beck Jacobson)

(Photo curtsey of Darlene Beck Jacobson)

Here is a great last minute gift idea your kids can make for grandparents:


Take 1 cup of cinnamon, 1 cup of applesauce and 3 tablespoons of white glue. Mix it into a dough . Roll it out and cut into festive shapes with cookie cutters. Poke a hole in the top with a straw to put a ribbon through. Let them dry over night. When dry, you can wrap them as is (they smell heavenly) or paint the front with glue and sprinkle with glitter for a “sparkly” touch.

I made these with my children years ago and they still smell great every Christmas when I hang them on the tree.

Food for thought: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song. ” Lou Holtz

During this holiday season, tap your “inner bird” and sing!

Cinnamon star ornaments are a fun craft to make.

Third Graders Have a Lot to Learn…


…and sometimes they describe the process in really funny ways. Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131215/BLOG5205/712159971/Life-only-follows-Plan-A-in-books

The final five


You’re looking at the final five books my daughter Jenna needed to read to complete her reading challenge and earn an American Girl doll.

In the five months it took for Jenna to master three complete sets of Bob Books, she learned to read.

(Meanwhile, I’ve now watched three full seasons of Battle Star Galatica on Netflix, so if you came to this post because of the title, I’m winking at you!)

It took a lot of patience and creativity to get Jenna to this point, but wow! Yesterday morning when she saw those five books and knew that we could possibly go to the American Girl Store that afternoon, Jenna sat at the kitchen table and cranked through them.


Then we got to the mall where we were volunteering for two hours at the holiday giving tree, and Jenna read through the books again.

You know what that means!


By the time we left the AG store with Saige, a matching outfit for Jenna, and Saige’s accessories, I had spent $200.

It was worth it.

Not only is Jenna reading, but she also has the satisfaction of accomplishing something that took months of work to earn. That’s a great lesson to learn at four-years-old.

So please excuse the mommy-brag, but– Hurrah!

This Christmas, Level 3 Bob Books; next Christmas, Magic Treehouse.

I’m pretty sure it’s possible!






Seeing the Nutcracker? Go prepared!


Is a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” on your calendar this December? If so, you can make the experience even more meaningful for you kids with a little advanced planning. Check out Tchaikovsky Discovers America by Classical Kids.

Tchaikovsky Discovers America tells the fictional story of real-life composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky running away from reporters with help from two children. The trio takes the train to Niagra Falls. Along the way, they learn about Tchaikovsky’s greatest musical accomplishments, as well as life in Russia.

This production is from Classical Kids, the same company that created Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Mr. Bach Comes To Call. Most of their CDs are available at your local library. But my family owns the entire Classical Kids collection because of  Carschooling. I consider it money well spent!

Raising girls in the internet age


Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131208/BLOG5205/712089969/Online-cruelty-can-inflict-harm-far-past-the-teen-years

Create a Cozy Reading Nook


Don’t get your hopes up. This isn’t one of those fabulous ideas you find on Pinterest where people have turned a closet into an amazing, built-in bookshelf bonanza.

This post is about a $30 chair from IKEA, an old baby blanket and a box.

That’s all you need to create a special area in your house that’s just for kids, and just for reading.


Here are the four essentials:

  1. Something to sit on (chair, beanbag, pillow, sleeping bag)
  2. A warm blanket
  3. A listening audience of stuffed animals
  4. A box with super easy books

How easy should the books be? That depends on your child. You want the books to be ones that your son or daughter can easily read independently. In my daughter’s case, we add Homemade Books and Bob Books that she’s already mastered.

On a personal note, this is the first time in four years that our reading nook has had a chair in it, instead of only a pillow. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but our nook is up in a landing, which would be otherwise unusable space. For years I’ve been afraid of kids falling over the banister. I didn’t want anything up there they could climb.

But (knock on wood), I think it’s safe now. Jenna’s almost four-and-a-half years old. It’s hard to believe! Time goes by so fast…

Killing time becomes “learning time”

This purse is packed for action!

This purse is packed for action!

The curse of the younger sibling: always being dragged along to something. Soccer, baseball, guitar, talent show rehearsals; you name it, it’s boring.

As an Afterschooling mom on the go, I try to be prepared. Killing time can become learning time with the proper materials.


Right now our kit is stocked with Bob Books, money, an abacus, tally sticks, counters, a pad of paper and a pencil. This is enough equipment to do lots of fun things.

I know December can be crazy. It’s easy for us all to feel stressed…

But sometimes the thing that you really want (your child’s mind to be enriched) can also be the thing that makes life easier (keep your kid busy).

All you need is a Ziplock bag!

Our backyard earthquake kit

Not perfect, but better than nothing.

Not perfect, but better than nothing.

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Herald.

I didn’t have enough page space to say it, but restocking our  earthquake kit from two years ago was like opening up a time capsule. The outfit I put in there for myself? There was a nursing shirt! Whoa!

Part of what was inside.

Part of what was inside.

The major improvement I added this year was I bought a Mountain House Just In Case Essential Assortment Bucket from Amazon. It has a shelf-life of eight years.

I can’t help but thinking I could still be doing this all better. I bet if you’re an LDS mom reading this, you’re having a good chuckle about how pathetic I am. If so, feel free to share tips and links.  🙂

DIY Advent Candles and Wreath

Light the way to Christmas!

Light the way to Christmas!

Have you ever heard of Advent candles? The idea is to light one new candle every Sunday all the way to Christmas. Different Christian traditions use Advent candles differently. Sometimes the candles are blue and white, sometimes purple and pink, or sometimes red and green. This is what the candles mean:

  1. Hope/Prophecy
  2. Love/Bethlehem/Preparation
  3. Joy/Shepherds (This candle is usually pink)
  4. Peace/Angels
  5. Christmas Eve/Christmas/Christ (this candle is optional, and is usually white)

I really wanted to create a traditional Advent wreath for my family to use at the dinner table this December, but I didn’t want to spend any money. The whole point of The Advent Conspiracy is to spend time with your family making memories, instead of spending dollars on cheap junk from China.

So I decided to be creative and see what we had laying around the house.

What I came up with was jam jars, beans, and brown paper bags. You probably have those things at your house too!  If you’ve got twenty minutes (and the vacuum handy), this is a fun project with kids. You can be as secular or religious as you want. Unleash your creativity and have fun.

Simply fill the jars with pasta, beans or lentils. Then cut out a symbol for each week out of your brown grocery bags, and tape the paper labels to the outside of the jars. I wrapped my jars with clear packing tape to make sure the labels stayed put.

A layer of glue on the top will help prevent spills.

A layer of glue on the top will help prevent spills.

The candles on their own are really pretty. If this is as far as you want to go with this project, that’s dandy.


But if you want to create an actual wreath, that’s easy to do too (if you’ve got the greenery). Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have every type of Christmas tree imaginable growing in our backyard. All I had to do was head to outside.

A $2.30 wreathe frame and some backyard greenery

A $2.30 wreathe frame and some backyard greenery.

Winding cedar into the frame.

Winding cedar into the frame. (Note: I should have bought florist wire but I forgot.)

Add a tray for the bottom so my dining room table doesn't get scratched.

A tray for the bottom so my dining room table doesn’t get scratched.

Last step, add the Advent candles!

Last step, add the Advent candles!

My plan is to eat dinner in our dining room every Sunday night, all the way to Christmas. Each Sunday we will light a new candle and talk about what they mean to us. We are using Hope, Love, Joy, Peace, and Christmas Eve as our themes.

A last thought is to not get hung up on the candle colors. If you don’t have the “right” colors, don’t worry about it. This can be a special family tradition no matter what.

Conspire for something better than a Black Friday Deal


Happy November 29th! Did you survive Thanksgiving? Good, now brace yourself for Christmas.

Hmmm… That doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe we all (me included) need to think bigger.

Here’s one of my all-time favorite YouTube videos and it’s about The Advent Conspiracy. Regardless of your religious persuasion, I hope you’ll find something meaningful in its message.

The season of Advent is about preparing for new beginnings. It’s about preparing for the transforming power of love. It’s about having hope, joy, peace and love in the middle of the darkest time of the year.

You don’t need to be in the mall today. You could be baking cookies with your kids, going for a walk with your husband, or caring for yourself and taking a nap.

December 1st is when Advent starts, and it doesn’t need to start with your wallet.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now, especially since I’m as guilty as anyone! But this December, I’m going to strive to do better. I hope you’ll join me.

Stay tuned, for fun ideas to come!

DIY Turkey Name-cards


My daughter brought home a super cute turkey name-card from preschool. As soon as I saw it, I immediately wanted to make my own flock.


Now that I’ve recreated one of these squawkers, I realize that this project involves a lot of patience. The pieces are so small that it’s probably best suited for Kindergarten on up. But the end result is awesome. You can write a name on the back of the paper, and then the turkeys serve as functional table decorations for Thanksgiving.

Here’s what you do:


  • Tootsie Roll Pops
  • fall leaves (fake or real)
  • yellow felt
  • eyes
  • paper
  • glue
  • wood hearts
  • wood circular beads


The Tootsie Roll Pop goes head down on the wooden heart.

The Tootsie Roll Pops go head down on the wooden hearts.

Let the faces dry flat before you but them on their home bird.

Let the faces dry flat before you put them on their home bird.

The leaf becomes the turkey's tail feathers.

The leaves become the turkeys’ tail feathers. You can also use artificial flowers.

The head threads through the sucker stick. Then you add the paper and you're done!

The heads thread through the sucker sticks. The paper goes on top, and you’re done!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Hanukkah Vacation


Okay, it’s not quite time for all of those candles yet! (My stock-Hanukka picture needs updating.) Anyhow, here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Herald.

The Psychology of Bob Books

Keeping track of Bob Book progress

Keeping track of Bob Book progress

I have no research or data to back this theory up, but I think that 17 is the magic number for Bob Books.

The 17th book was when it all started coming together for my four-year-old daughter Jenna.  Before that, she needed a lot of scaffolding.

The first set of Book Books was the hardest. Then she started set 2 and stalled right around “Up Pup”.  At that point we purchased the Bob Books Sight Words set from Costco, along with a Princess Book for motivation.

Bribery works!

Bribery works!

Each Bob Book “unlocked” a Princess story. Jenna was incredibly determined to make this happens. She white-knuckled it through the first 5 books of the new set.

Then something magic happened.

After reading her 17th Bob Book, three times each, it became easier for her. Independent reading became enjoyable. Most importantly, Jenna started seeing herself as a reader. She started pointing out words everywhere and sounding them out.

Does this mean she’s polishing off the rest of the Bob Books yet? No, not at the moment. But Jenna’s reading the books she’s already mastered over and over and over again.

We have Bob Books floating around all over the house. It’s actually getting kind of annoying.

Two sizes of Bob Books

Two sizes of Bob Books

A funny thing is that Jenna is convinced that the bigger Bob Books are easier than the smaller ones, which isn’t necessarily true. The Bob Books Sight Words: Kindergarten set is on par with Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners. The larger format is from Costco, the smaller format is from Amazon.

But since things started “clicking” for Jenna with the bigger, Sight Words set, she thinks the larger format is easier. I bet if I went back to Costco and bought the larger version of Set 2, Jenna would think they were super easy too!

The take-home message here, is that if you’ve been using Bob Books at home, be patient, be creative, and be persistent.

Hold on until the 17th book! Then drop me a line and share your story. Was #17 magic for your child too?