Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Three Year Olds Can Do Math

In the above picture you see my daughter Jenna learning the greater than/less than symbol, at age two.  She thought she was playing “Hungry Guy”, but really she was learning a first and second grade skill.

I believe that children as young as two and three can do real math.   The trick is to teach them mathematical concepts in a way that makes sense to them. 

Play-based math will get results!

(Click here for some free activities to try.)

Jenna is three and a half now, and I felt like she was ready for something more formal.  So three weeks ago, we begin using Right Start Mathematics Level A I have no affiliation whatsoever with Right Start.  I’m just a die-hard Joan Cotter fan.

We are on lesson 7 now, and I am thrilled.  All of the activities are easy to set up, play-based, and conceptually very deep.

Jenna does between 5 -10 minutes of math every day, but only if she wants to.

Here is a sample of what we have done so far:

We made triangles and quadrilaterals out of craft sticks.

We learned about comparison words like long and longest.

We did ordering work of longest to shortest. (This is the before picture.)

We began to explore the abacus.

This is exciting.  This is fun.  This is easy.

The teacher in me wishes every child in America was benefiting from Dr. Joan Cotter’s wisdom.  The mom in me wishes I had know about Right Start when Bruce was this age!

Do you have a resolution for 2013?

My “I Brake for Moms” column from the Sunday Herald.

In other column related news, “I Brake for Moms” has finally inspired a letter to the editor.  Unless my reading comprehension skills are really lousy, I think I unintentionally offended the letter writer!  For this, I am sincerely sorry.

The point of my ASD column a couple of weeks ago was to reiterate that there is no link whatsoever between Asperger’s Syndrome and violence.  Also, we as a society need to start preparing for a future where 1 out of 88 adults have ASD and those people outlive their parents.

I have had people with ASD in my life for over twenty years.  I was trained in the Llovas method and worked with two children doing ABA therapy.  That was my first part-time job at Stanford.

Later on in my teaching career, I continued to work with children with ASD.  I worked my butt off to help make sure their mainstream experience in my classroom was successful for everyone.

I still care about all of these children very dearly.  I want to make sure that their futures are secure even when their mothers and fathers are no longer there to support them in financial or practical ways.

I wish that more people were talking about this.

The true bias in “Waiting for Superman”

Have you seen “Waiting for Superman“?  It’s on Netflix right now, so I watched it last night.  The film has been criticized as being biased against teacher unions and accused of pushing a charter school agenda.

In case you are new to Teaching My Baby to Read, let me tell you my ten second bio: I’m a Stanford graduate and former charter school teacher.  I am on record as being strongly in favor of charter schools.  But that doesn’t mean I’m joining the chorus saying that “Waiting for Superman” is the best educational documentary ever.  In fact, I have a huge problem with it.

I feel that “Waiting for Superman” ignores the key role parents play in educating their children.

I’m not talking about Homeschooling; I’m talking about Afterschooling.

The closing scenes of the documentary show parents in tears when their children do not get chosen for charter school lotteries.  It is implied that their children are doomed to crummy public schools and low quality education.

It’s all the teachers’ fault.  It’s all the school districts’ fault.  It’s all the union’s fault.  It’s everyone’s responsibility but the parents!

I’ve taught at a low performing school and a high performing school.  The low performing school could have been the poster child for “Waiting for Superman”.  So I really get what the filmakers were trying to say.  I just wish they had chosen to spend fifteen minutes giving parents direction about what they could do at home to help encourage their children’s educations.

Massive parental involvement could be the key to solving all of our problems with public education in America.

Education begets education.  But you don’t have to have a fancy college degrees to make a difference.  All you need is a library card, and little direction.  

A really great place for parents to start, would be to read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers.

(Here’s the link to Amazon, but this book is most likely available at your local library.)

What’s important about Outliers is it shows how highly educated parents really “get in their kids’ business”.  There’s constant dialogue.  There’s constant attention and feedback.  There’s relatively little unsupervised play.  (Okay, maybe that part is bad.)   

Upper-middle class kids are groomed for college almost every day of their lives.  That’s happening at home, as well as at school.

Let’s teach all parents how to do that too.

If we can empower parents, we can change schools.  I really believe that!

My Blog Redesign

Okay folks, lay it on me!  I’ve been wanting to redesign my blog for a while now, ever since my son asked me to remove “the picture of his elbow”.  Other goals include:

  • Making Teaching My Baby to Read look more like a website, and less like a blog
  • Moving to an “archive” format, so that readers can quickly scan post titles and decide what looks interesting
  • Decreasing an emphasis on my family to ensure my children’s privacy
  • Increasing traffic overall

Basically, I’ve hit a plateau. I get between 100-200 unique visitors every day, but that number has been static for a while.  It’s kind of frustrating, because I feel like I have a lot of good content to offer.

But enough with the whining!

What do you think of the changes I’ve made?  Is there something that is bugging you?  Something you miss?  Please tell me the good, the bad and the ugly.

P.S.  I know I need to bring the blogroll back.  I just haven’t figured out how…

The Monster Game

Here’s a game three-year-old Jenna has enjoyed playing this past week.  The monster asks her for a word.  She hands him a word and he eats it.  Then at the end, the monster up-chucks all of the words back.  (The key is to be very dramatic with this last part.)

On the back of the words are bones.  Right now we are playing bones-down, but eventually we will play bones-up.  Meaning right now I say “Give me the word that says rat.”  But eventually I’ll say “Turn the bone over.  What is that word?”

I got this idea from the All About Reading Level 1 Blast off to Reading Activity Book.  I don’t have the teacher’s guide, so I’m not sure if we are playing “The Monster Game” the way AAR wants us to or not.  But it doesn’t really matter, because Jenna LOVES this game and is learning a ton.  For us, it has been a good supplement.

For a road-map of free ideas to help teach young children to read, be sure to check out my Where to Start page.