Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Using Incentivites (aka bribes)

At the end of the third box of Bob Books, we are going to the AG store!

At the end of the third box of Bob Books, we are going to the AG store!

Sometimes early readers just need a little push.  No, that doesn’t make you a tiger mom.  I know from experience that this happens with teachers in Kindergarten classrooms too.  Sometimes early readers need a push.

They’ve got the skills.  They know phonics.  They can sound out words.  But it’s still a bit hard.

That’s why it’s helpful to make it worth their while.  The more practice kids get, the easier it will be to read.  The easier it will be to read, the more they will enjoy reading.  The more they enjoy reading, the faster they will develop advanced skills.

Incentives, bribery, whatever.  I don’t care what you want to call it.  But I know it works.

With my son Bruce I offered a new Star Wars book for every 6 Bob Books he read.  But it’s been harder to find an equally attractive book incentive for Jenna(4).  So finally we paged through the American Girl catalogue and looked for something exciting.  Hence our new chart featuring Rebecca Rubin.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I used a dot stamper to represent each Bob Book twice.  The chart includes all of the books from sets one, two and three.  So once Jenna has read every Bob Book in sets one, two and three twice, she’ll earn Rebecca. I’m crossing them out as we go along.

Getting through the third set of Bob Books would mean having first grade reading skills.  To me, that’s worth $110!

Hands on Equations with Chocolate

Algebra and chocolate... yum!

Algebra and chocolate… yum!

Move over pawns, we have a new way of doing Hands on Equations to help jazz up the last five lessons.  Instead of using the blue and white pawns, we are using chocolate and yogurt covered raisins.

My son Bruce started doing Hands On Equations a year and a half ago.  (For more info, click here.)  We very steadily worked on one lesson a week all through first grade.  But in second grade, Bruce’s normal school work was doing a better job of “filling up his brain”, so we moved Hands On Equations to the back burner. This summer we’ve been cooking it up again, and are almost done.

Here’s an example of the problems he is working on now:

3(-x) + 2 = -10 + x

I can’t say enough good things about Hands on Equations.  I’m still really impressed.  If you’ve got a kid who can handle third grade math, be sure to look into it.   The website is: http://www.borenson.com/



Part-Whole Circle Math

Part-Whole Circle Math

Part-Whole Circle Math

Right now Jenna(4) and I are doing a new Part-Whole Circle problem every day.  Focusing on word problems helps teach reading and math at the same time.  It also compliments what Jenna is doing in Right Start Level A.

But you don’t need a formal math program to try this idea with your preschooler at home.  Here’s how it works.

First we read and discussed the word problem.  I had Jenna write a "B" and a "G" in the part circles, for boys and girls.

First we read and discuss the word problem. Jenna writes a “B” and a “G” in the part circles, for boys and girls.

Next Jenna moves three markers to the boy circle.

Next Jenna moves three markers to the boy circle.

Jenna moves the remaining  pieces to the girl circle.  Now the problem is solved.

Jenna moves the remaining pieces to the girl circle. Now the problem is solved.

Here are some other problems we will be working this week:



For more ideas for math with your preschooler, please click here.

Driving Around the Bickersons

20 stamps per day = "a positive day".  10 positive days earns a fun trip with Daddy.

20 stamps per day = “a positive day”. 10 positive days earns a fun trip with Daddy.

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130825/BLOG5205/708259976/Summer-vacation-is-turning-this-family-into-wild-things

It’s on page two of The Good Life section in The Everett Daily Herald.

Not sure what to do and need advice

Blog.com sucks (pardon my French)

Blog.com sucks (pardon my French)

Here’s the situation.  I started Teaching My Baby to Read on Blog.com, back in February 2011.  The Blog.com platform was always unstable and problematic.  Then earlier this year, all of Blog.com went down for almost a month! That’s when I made the official switch over to Word Press.

But what should I do now?  Should I leave the Blog.com site up? It’s really sad because my stats over at Blog.com were something like 69,000 unique visitors, and 250,000 page views. If you’re a blogger, you’ll understand the sadness of leaving that behind.

Does it hurt this new site to still have the blog.com version up, or would it hurt more to disable it completely?

I still haven’t fixed all of the links.  Sometimes you’ll be reading here and click on something, and it will accidentally take you back to the blog.com site.  There’re also bloggers and people out there who have my old blog.com site referenced and linked on their pages.

I really don’t know what to do and this is all very frustrating.  If any of my readers have advice, I’m all ears!

Getting Nerdy at Breakfast

Surreptitious learning at breakfast

Surreptitious learning at breakfast

Our local food co-op has been selling these Konitz Mugs that have really captured my attention. So each month when my 10% off coupon comes in the mail, I’ve been splurging and buying a new mug.

They are kind of like the periodic table of the elements placemat I had when I was little, only for grown-ups.

…Which makes me realize that I’ve never bothered to buy placemats like that for my own kids, even though it is a really good idea.

I can’t believe I’m thinking about Christmas already, but now I am!

The grandmas are always asking me for present ideas for the kids, and I never know what to say. So I’m adding some very cool placemats to the Grandma Please Buy This page for my blog.

Feel free to pass that link along to the grandmas in your life, in case it helps.

Grandma Please Buy This!


Infomercial Dreamer

My “I Brake for Moms” column in the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily Herald yesterday: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130818/BLOG5205/708189984/-1/blog5205#Even-faith-in-infomercials-is-rewarded-eventually

Why I No Longer Share Pics of my Kids Online


When I first started Teaching My Baby to Read two and a half years ago I was a blogging newbie.  My first few months of blogging, I shared pictures of my children just like every other blogger I followed.  I thought this was safe, because I had changed my children’s names.

Then, something happened that made me rethink everything I knew about Mommy Blogs.

The one and only week I ever posted on a certain unmentioned forum for gifted children, another poster viciously attacked me.  I still don’t know what his/her problem was, but it was ugly.  Really, really awful thing were said about me personally, and the moderators did not step up in time.

That was my first introduction to total strangers hating on me online, and it was enough to make me seriously reconsider what I was sharing about myself and my children.

The first thing I did was I stopped showing my children’s faces on my blog.  I’d include a hand, foot, or elbow, but never a full image.

Once my “I Brake for Moms” column in The Herald started, I decided to pull back further.  Now that I’m sharing anecdotes about my children with all of Snohomish County every Sunday morning, I feel the need to be extra careful about my children’s privacy.  I have my husband double-check what I write each week to make sure my children won’t hate me later when they’re grown adults.  I’ve also stopped including our address in school directories.

The biggest change is that I no longer share any pictures of my children on Facebook.  I don’t even mention them by their true names. But I do send out a traditional Christmas card every year to family and friends, which includes a family picture.

Other Mommy Bloggers are making different choices than I, and I don’t judge them whatsoever.

We are parenting in a brave new world.  The line between public and private is getting blurred, and blogging is still brand new.  Twenty years from now, none of us know what our own children will think about any of this.

What I do know is that one more hit, one more post, and the elusive chance of a page going viral, isn’t worth risking my children’s esteem and affection.

So blog readers?  You’ll just have to trust me on this one.  My kids are super cute, even though you won’t being seeing their pictures.

Learning to add with a math balance

A math balance is a fun way for kids to develop number sense.

A math balance is a fun way for kids to develop number sense.

My daughter Jenna is 4, and is in the middle of completing Right Start Level A.

Here’s some fun we had this morning “playing math”, using our math balance.  This isn’t from a specific Level A lesson; it’s just the two of us making things up. But this will give you the idea of how you can use a math balance to help kids develop number sense and computation skills.


First, your child puts weights on the numbers you are adding.

First, your child puts weights on the numbers she is adding.

Next, your child counts on fingers to get her answer.

Next, your child counts on fingers to get her answer.

Finally, check your answer on the balance.

Finally, she checks her answer on the balance.

Fun, right? Our balance is from our Right Start kit, but you can also purchase a Number Balance on Amazon.

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

Rules of Murder (A Drew Farthering Mystery) by Julianna Deering is a highly entertaining mystery set in 1930’s England.  It feels like you are reading a film noir movie, from the golden age of Hollywood.

I won’t describe any of the plot because there’s too much risk of giving clues away. But I will say that one thing I especially appreciated about this book was how clever it was.

I’m not a mystery buff so I didn’t understand at first, but Derering was playing around with Father Knox’s Decalogue, the “Ten Commandments for Mystery writers“, the entire book.  She intentionally broke as many rules as possible, just for sport.

Now that I know that, it makes me want to read the book again, start to finish, so I can look for the broken Decalogue.  Very cool!

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Whole Language at Home

Have you ever hit a wall with phonics?

Have you ever hit a wall with phonics?

My teacher credentialing program was grounded in Balanced Literacy Instruction.  That means taking the best of Whole Language and Phonics, smashing them together, and teaching kids to read. (If you’re interested in more info about Balanced Literacy Instruction, click here.)

I like Balanced Literacy Instruction because I’m a big believer in flexibility.  Yes, I love phonics.  Yes, my kids have known their letters and sounds since they were two.  But that doesn’t mean that Whole Language doesn’t have some tricks to offer.


One of those ideas from the Whole Language world is to label everything (and I mean everything!) in your classroom.


So I was thinking, why not try this at home?


My daughter Jenna is 4 years old now and can read Bob Books #1-3 on her own independently.  But by book #4, she’s bored. 

I don’t push her.  Jenna will tell me when she’s ready to read.


But in the meantime, I can be as sneaky as I want.  She might come home from a Grandma day and find the whole house labeled for her!

Even the steamer on our wood stove gets a label.

Even the steamer on our wood stove gets a label.

So come on baby girl!  I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve that might pique your interest in becoming an independent reader.  It’s a long way to Kindergarten and I’ve got a whole bunch of fun things planned.

Why Safecar.gov has thoroughly freaked me out


Have you looked up your car’s safety rating on Safecar.gov?  Take a deep breath and knock on wood before you do.

My “I Brake for Moms” column in today’s paper explains what’s happened in our family once I looked up our Major Japanese Brand sedan: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130811/BLOG5205/708119981/-1/blog5205#A-mothers-car-has-to-be-able-to-take-a-beating

Why Ian Morgan Cron will knock your socks off

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts by Ian Morgan Cron had me laughing, crying and thinking for days. The only thing that’s bugging me is I can’t decide which of Cron’s books I like better.  A couple of weeks ago, I read and reviewed Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale, and it has stuck with me too.

“Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts” tells the story of what it was like for Cron to grow up the son of an alcoholic.  It’s also a look back at life Greenwich, Connecticut a generation ago, and how times have changed.

Cron’s remembrances of life as an altar boy had me in stiches.  The kindness and wisdom of Father Durcan had me in tears.

In many ways, Cron reminds me John Shelby Spong, (but I hope I don’t tick anyone off by saying that.)  Cron isn’t afraid to ask deep questions.  He’s not afraid to think.  He’s not intent on pegging God down and boxing God up into a neat and tidy definition.  (But I might be wrong…)

I got this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinions and review.  I look forward to reading many more books by Cron in the future.

I review for BookSneeze®

“Be Nice to your Sister/Brother” books

"Be Nice to Your Sibling" books

“Be Nice to Your Sibling” books

I’m a big believer in behavior modification through token economies.  I find that it’s really easy to catch my kids being bad, but it’s much harder to remember to catch them being good.  A token system helps me be a better Mom.

So when my kids started squabbling like cats and dogs this past week, I decided to get creative.  I made each kid their own stamp book to help us all identify and acknowledge positive sibling interactions, as opposed to negative ones.

Here’s how it works.  Everybody gets their own color stamp.  Bruce can stamp in Jenna’s book, Jenna can stamp in Bruce’s book, and my husband and I can stamp in both.

When we catch somebody being an extra nice brother or sister, we give that person a stamp.

20 stamps per day = "a positive day".  10 positive days earns a fun trip with Daddy.

20 stamps per day = “a positive day”. 10 positive days earns a fun trip with Daddy.

The boxes on the right are for kid stamps.  The page on the left is for mom and dad stamps.

Kids can give each other up to 8 stamps a day.

Kids can give each other up to 8 stamps a day.

An interesting note is that the first day we did this it took my kids until 9 PM to realize that they could seriously cooperate and give each other stamps.  By day two, the kid stamp section was already filled in by lunch!

We’re not going to do this system forever; just until September.  But boy, has it made a big difference already.

What about you?  Are sibling squabbles and issue in your house?

Someone Else’s Shoes


A while back I reviewed Gratitude Attitude, a new CD coming out in August that I think is a great way to help kids develop Emotional Intelligence.

Now I’ve got a new CD to add to our playlist.  Someone Else’s Shoes – The Best Foot Forward Children’s Music Series from Recess Music is my latest complimentary CD to review in exchange for my honest opinion and review.  It’s from the same people who produced Gratitude Attitude.

There were a lot of songs on “Someone Else’s Shoes” that I absolutely loved: “There’s No Such Thing As Normal!” by Dan Dan Doodlebug, “Be Nice To Old People” by Jamie Broza , and  “Just the Way You Are”, by  Kelsey Friday & The Rest of the Week are all top favorites.

A couple of the songs near the beginning of the CD struck me as being best suited for the under 5 years-old-set.  I’m pretty sure that if you played “You Hurt My Feelings” by Troubador to a third grade classroom the eight-year-olds would mock you.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a good song, it’s just very earnest.

But the fact that I was thinking about using this CD in a classroom setting at all, is one of the reasons I really liked it.  Yes, it’s great for home use, but it could also be good for school.

When I was a teacher in California my district did not provide Para educators to supervise recess. This meant that the teachers had to take turns for yard duty. If it rained, everyone was stuck indoors, teachers too.

Probably any CD in the “Best Foot Forward” series would be a really great soundtrack to rainy day recess.  You could also play this music when kids were practicing cursive.

Both “Someone Else’s Shoes” and “Gratitude Attitude” offer really positive messages to kids and family.  That’s a shot in the arm that we can all use.