Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Making “5 Flowers”

Organizing 5 in "flowers"; girly but effective.

Organizing 5 into “flowers”; girly but effective.

Teaching kids to visualize numbers instead of just counting is one of the hallmarks of Dr. Joan Cotter’s Right Start method, which is what I’m using to introduce math to my four year old daughter Jenna.

One of my goals right now is for Jenna to be able to look at a pile of objects:


…and be able to organize them into a pattern that makes them easier to quantify:


There are many ways a child could choose to organize objects: by color, tens, twos, triangles, etc.

A very old (and bad) picture.

A very old (and bad) picture.

A classic idea from Right Start Level A would be to be to give a child a bunch of tally sticks, and ask him to create fives and tens.

Unfortunately, Jenna could care less about tally sticks, unless there’s an actual popsicle involved!

Jenna’s a girly girl, and so I was hoping colorful square tiles would capture her attention more.  That worked, for a little bit.  Then I came up with the idea of organizing the tiles into flowers.  Now all of a sudden, Jenna’s really into it!

Organizing 5 in "flowers"; girly but effective.

We’re using square tiles, but you could use crackers.


The 4 + 1 combination looks the prettiest (imo), but all of the other combinations work too.  Jenna likes to experiment with all of them.  So by making “flowers” she’s learning about 5 + 0 = 5, 3 + 1 = 5, 2 + 3 = 5, etc.

One final thought, don’t be intimidated by our fancy math manipulatives.  Crackers would work too!

Trying to make cleaning your kid’s room more fun

A clean bedroom is a whole new world.

A clean bedroom is a whole new world.

My “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Daily Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130929/BLOG5205/709299973/It-takes-an-archaeologist-to-find-a-kid%26%238217s-bedroom-floor

MyPlate on My Budget, EASY DINNER

Cheap and Easy

Cheap and Easy

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a MyPlate on My Budget post.  For readers new to my blog, that was an experiment I did in March with help from food blogger Rose McAvoy.  My goal was to figure out if I could follow the USDA Choose My Plate requirements, but also stick to the USDA Cost of Food at Home “Thrifty” budget.  Here were the results.

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about MyPlate on My Budget a lot these days because of the prospective changes to SNAP benefits in our country, and how they might effect families.

Today when I was at Trader Joes, the food demo was a dinner I thought was cheap, easy, and something kids would like.  The downside, was that it’ll only serve three, and contains gluten (which means I can’t eat it).

Anyhow, I thought I’d pin this to the MyPlate on My Budget board for future reference:

  • 1 bag Ggnocci with sauce – $2.99
  • 1 bag frozen peas – $1.29
  • left over cheese (I’m figuring $1s worth)

Total $5. 28 for three people. 

* Includes 5 servings of veggies (peas)!

* Only $1.76 per person!


5th Grade Algebra and Candy


If you’ve read the recent article My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me, then you know that parents all over our country are scratching their heads, wondering when homework got so dang hard. 

I think that part of the reason is that complex concepts (like algebra) are being introduced  in earlier grades.

In an ideal world, an early introduction to algebra would help prepare students to master advanced math in middle school and high school.  It’s scaffolding for the future.

In the meantime, parents look at their kids’ homework and go “Whoa.”

Here’s a trick that might make homework easier.  Add candy to the equation!

To show how this can work, I’m using an example similar to what you would find in the 5th grade Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions textbook, which the Edmonds School District uses.

Problem: Mrs. Garcia’s neighborhood has 28 pets.  There are twice as many cats as hamsters and four times as many dogs as hamsters.  How many of each pet are there?

You could use guess and check to figure this out, which would take forever.  Or you could use algebra.  Or you could use algebra and candy…even better!


One piece of candy corn equals the number of hamsters.  Two pieces of candy corn equals the number of cats, which is twice the number of hamsters.  Four pieces of candy corn equals the number of dogs, which is four times the number of hamsters.  In all, the total number of pets is 28.  That would mean 4 hamsters, 8 cats, and 16 dogs in the neighborhood.


Once you introduce candy into the equation, math homework becomes more fun.  Just don’t forget to have toothbrushes on the ready.

Building Sight Words

Building words you can't sound out.

Building words you can’t sound out.

Sight words, Dolch words, Outlaw words; whatever you want to call them they are all pretty much the same thing, high frequency words in the English language that may, or may not adhere to phonetic rules.  “The” is the perfect example.

I remember reading a loooooooong time ago in The Gift of Dyslexia, Revised and Expanded: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read…and How They Can Learn, that building words like “the” out of play-dough was a great way to master them.  At the time I read this, I thought “If  this works for children with learning disabilities, why doesn’t everyone do it?  It sounds like a great idea!”

So yesterday, my four-year-old daughter Jenna gave this idea a try building the word “the” out of beans.

(Unfortunately, I have an unexplained horrible aversion to play-dough, even the homemade stuff.  The smell makes me want to throw up.)


An added bonus to building “the” out of beans is that it is a fabulous fine motor activity.  Squeezing the bottle and picking up beans works the same muscles needed for good handwriting.


The downside?  Beans all over the kitchen floor.  You have been warned!  😉

Why I eat Gluten Free

Paleo Lemon Bars

Here’s my “I Brake For Moms” column from today’s Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130922/BLOG5205/709229991/Going-gluten-free-ended-two-years-of-agony–  Feel free to ask questions!

Afterschooling with Story of the World v4

The deep, dark, SOTW IV

The deep, dark, SOTW IV

Third grade has started and our schedule is packed.  More importantly, my son’s classroom teacher is keeping his brain very full.  That’s not just good, that’s great.

So how can we meet our 1 hour and 45 minutes a week goal of Afterschooling without me being a mean mom?

Easy.  I’ve got two words for you: Carschooling and Kindle.

For the past month, Bruce(8) has been listening to Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria’s Empire to the End of the USSR.  (I couldn’t find the audio version of SOTW Volume 4 on Amazon anymore, but here’s the link to Peace Hill Press.)

SOTW v4 is a marked change from the previous three volumes which I have also reviewed on my blog: SOTW v1, SOTW v2, and SOTW v3.  It’s deeper, darker, and not meant for young children.  In the introduction, SWB gives a sober advisement to parents that this book is four fourth grade and up.

Bruce is still a year shy of that mark, but he has learned so much history, religion, and philosophy already, that I felt he could handle it.  But we are being very careful to listen to SOTW v4 when Jenna(4) isn’t in the car with us, or else asleep.

There are 11 discs in the volume, and we got through the first four before school ever began.

We’ve heard about the Second Reich, the Russo-Japanese War, the internment of Afrikaans in the Boer War, and the beginnings of World War I.  See what I mean about this volume being dark?

But we also learned a lot that ties in with our own Russo-German family history. That’s been interesting to hear, because it provides a more global understanding of why my ancestors came to America.

To supplement the audio discs, we also own the book version.  On the weekends when Bruce wants to earn extra time on his Kindle, I have him read a few chapters.  The new Angry Birds Star War edition is a great motivator!

Chasing Hope, by Kathryn Cushman

This past week I read a book which I absolutely love called Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman.  It’s a very clean read for teens or adults, and one that would make for a great mother-daughter book club from church.

The hook is:  After being diagnosed with a debilitating illness, college senior Sabrina thinks her competitive running days are over.  Then Sabrina meets Brandy, a running prodigy with a troubled past who really needs help.

Okay, now I’m totally veering away from a normal book review here, but the debilitating illness Sabrina has is something that my cousin-in-laws deals with.  I don’t want to name it, because that would be a spoiler.

But my cousin-in-law has been tremendously helped by sticking to a vegan diet.  He’s even been able to go off of a lot of his meds! There are even research studies proving that  veganism helps this particular disease.

So when I was reading “Chasing Hope” and came across scenes where Sabrina was eating pizza, I kept wanting to shake the book and tell her about my cousin!  “There’s still hope!  There’s still hope!”

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

Reverse Popcorn Jars

What's in the jar?

What’s in the jar?

Does anyone remember my popcorn experiment from earlier this year?  My goal was to catch my kids being good, and it worked.  But after a month, the novelty wore off and we moved on to stamp books.

Now we’re back to popcorn again, but this time I’ve added a new twist that is buried in each jar.


Instead of putting kernels into the jars, we will be taking them out.  Popcorn removal will be based on three qualities:

  1. Showing genuine appreciation.
  2. Thinking about somebody else’s point of view.
  3. Being kind.


The reward? Junky candy that I don’t usually buy!

Worried about teens oversharing on the net?

If you’ve ever been freaked out about what your teenagers might be getting into on the Internet, then “Nerve” by Seattle author Jeanne Ryan is the book for you.

Written for a young adult (YA) audience, it tells the story of a teenager named Vee who gets chosen to play a game about dares called Nerve, watched by people all over the world.

But this story is really about how teenagers can unintentionally head down the wrong path in baby steps. 

First you do X, and X doesn’t seem that bad.  Then you do Y, which is a little bit worse.  Then before you know it, you’re involved in Z, and Z is extremely bad.  By then it’s too late!  You’ve done X, Y and Z and you’re in serious trouble.

Another core component of this book is about privacy in the Internet age.  Vee “likes” and “shares” things on her ThisIsMe page, and then that data gets collected by the people who run Nerve, and used against her.

A ThisIsMe page gone bad is a plot-line that can scare almost anybody.  It’s the perfect jumping off board for a serious conversation with teens about Facebook, Twitter and social media in general.

FYI parents, Nerve contains mature content comparable to your teen’s favorite soap on the CW.


Teaching My Baby to Read is now on FB!


Kicking and screaming, dragging myself to the computer, and whining at the top of my lungs… I’ve finally made a Facebook page for Teaching My Baby to Read

Will you “like” me?

This is going to be a very low-key Facebook page, because I can’t manage anything else on my plate right now.  But the internet age beckons…

Conversations I don’t want to have right now

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column for this week: The birds and the bees are hovering, waiting to be sighted.

“Nutella” in my Vitamix

A yummy treat.

A yummy treat.

For the past six months I’ve been cooking off of Nicole’s Whole Family Kitchen Meal Plans, which include 5 dinners, two snacks, and a grocery list. It cost me $80, but has been well worth it.  You can download a free sample week right here.  Did I mention everything is gluten free?

At this point, I sound like I’m being paid to write all of this, but I’m just an ordinary satisfied customer.

Think about this, I never have to plan for what to make for dinner, and I never have to labor over my grocery shopping list.

Kind of blows your mind, right?

The downside is, my whole family has to be courageous about trying new foods, for example, bison burgers.

This week’s brave new adventure included making “Nutella”.


I didn’t follow Nicole’s recipe exactly, because I used my Vitamix.  If you have a food processor, that might work too.


First I toasted 1.5 cups of hazelnuts in the over at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Then I put them in a clean kitchen towel and rubbed the skin off.

The other ingredients were:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 T cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 can coconut cream from Trader Joes

Just like Nicole promised, this spread was excellent on g-free zucchini bread.  Yum!

Show me a picture of 10

My four-year-old's explanation of "10".

My four-year-old’s explanation of “10”.

Here’s an easy math activity to do with your preschooler.  Ask them to draw you a picture of what the number 10 looks like.  (A smaller number would also work.)

My daughter needed help tracing her hands and feet, and I helped her draw the first set of tally marks, but the thinking was all her own work.  Her picture shows five different ways to represent ten: with words, numbers, tally marks, toes and fingers.

So really, is this a picture of 50? 🙂

Repetition would make this activity boring.  (The last thing I want is for my daughter to think math is boring.)  So it’s a good thing there are infinite ways to experience numbers.

A ten triangle.

A ten triangle.

For example, check out the 10 triangle Jenna made last week with Right Start Level A!

Bob Books with Cookies

Bob Books with cookies.

Bob Books with cookies.

Here’s a not-so-perfect idea to make Bob Books, Set 1 more exciting.  Pick up a tub of Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies from Trader Joe’s, and practice making words with cookies before your child even opens the book.

Why is this idea not-so-perfect? There’re several reasons:

  1. The cookies are uppercase.
  2. They’re not enough vowels.
  3. You have to be very careful with cookie management.


I tried to solve #1 and #2 by using an M, and turning it on its side to become an e.  I’m not exactly sure why I thought that would help.  Sigh…

But cookies or no cookies, seven minutes a day of Bob Books is completely doable.  Jenna(4) and I are cranking at it, and she’s almost done with the first set!  Whoo hoo!