Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Magic School Bus Science Club, Solids, Liquids and Gases kit

The Magic School Bus "Solids, Liquids, and Gases" kit

The Magic School Bus “Solids, Liquids, and Gases” kit

“Santa” brought Jenna(4) a subscription to the Magic School Bus Science Club this year. It was a 50% off deal through Homeschool Buyers Co-op. That comes out to $12 a kit, which is totally worth it.

A lot of these experiments you can do at home for free. The only drawback is that you won’t have the teaching script to read from. I’m not going to lie, the script is pretty nice because it’s so foolproof. But if you go to the library and check out some books, you’ll probably be fine.

Here are some titles to look for:

The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake: A Book About Kitchen Chemistry

Solids, Liquids and Gases (Starting with Science)

Experiments with Solids, Liquids, and Gases (True Books)

Here are some experiments to get you started:

Dancing raisins. You need raisins and fizzy water.

Dancing raisins. You need raisins and fizzy water.

Drop the raisins in the water and watch what happens.

Drop the raisins in the water and watch what happens.

First the raisins sink because they are heavy. But then the gas bubbles (which are light) attach to the raisins and lift them up to the surface.

Blow up a balloon. You need at 2 liter bottle, vinegar, baking soda and a balloon.

Blow up a balloon. You need at 2 liter bottle, vinegar, baking soda and a balloon.

Drop baking soda and vinegar into the bottle and attach the balloon.

Drop baking soda and vinegar into the bottle and attach the balloon.

If we had used a 2 liter bottle this would have been better. What happens is that the baking soda and vinegar make carbon dioxide, which takes up room and forces the air out of the bottle up into the balloon. Our dinky little bottle didn’t have enough air in it to blow up the entire balloon. Note to self, buy 7-Up!

Fizzy tablets and water.

Fizzy tablets and water.

The citric acid and the baking soda inside the Alka Seltzer tablet react to produce the gas, which is lighter than water, so the bubbles rise to the surface.

Milk goop: you need milk and vinegar.

Milk goop. You need milk and vinegar.

Mix 4 parts milk, 1 part vinegar. Wait 10 minutes.

Mix 4 parts milk, 1 part vinegar. Wait 10 minutes.

The vinegar causes the protein casein to separate from the milk. The result is an ancient type of Egyptian glue.

More goop. You need cornstarch and water.

More goop. You need cornstarch and water.

Mix two parts cornstarch and one part water. Use your hands!

Mix two parts cornstarch and one part water. Use your hands!

This is an experiment you have to feel to understand. The result is not exactly a liquid, but not really a solid. It changes forms depending on how you squeeze it.

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That was a lot of  fun! We still have two more experiments to do before we finish the kit: making slime and a bouncy ball.

For more information about the Magic School Bus Science kits, visit the Young Scientists Club website.

Doon, by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon

Any Brigadoon fans out there? I just had a fun time reading Doon, by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. The hook is that two teen girls discover ancient rings and find themselves mysteriously transported to the magical land of Doon. The problem is, there’s an evil witch on the loose and only two weeks to stop her–and fall in love with some hunky Scottish hotties.

The raciness of Doon really pushed the envelope of what I consider to be clean teen fiction. Mentions of “girly parts” and almost sex-scenes would normally be no big deal to me, except that this book was from Blink, an imprint of the Christian publishing house Zondervan. I think teen girls would love this book, but I know some grandmas who would freak out if they knew what they had purchased at the Bible bookstore.

Luckily I’m not a grandma! I loved this book tremendously and couldn’t put it down. Hopefully publishers fix the typo on the back cover in the next edition. (I am very sympathetic to typos btw. I have made them in print too, and it feels awful.)

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

I review for BookSneeze®

Just say no to busy work!

Don't buy this at Costco!

Don’t buy this at Costco!

I had very low expectations for this latest Leap Frog purchase and I wasn’t disappointed.

Leap Frog’s Complete Kindergarten Learning Kit (Math, Printing, Language Building, Early Reading) (Grade K) was selling for $20 at Costco. (It’s $89 on Amazon!!!)

I didn’t want to buy it but my preschooler made me.

Okay, that’s not totally true. I was curious. The former Kindergarten teacher in me was begging to see what was in that box.

Save yourself $20 and just look at my picture:

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Nothing in this box is bad exactly, it’s just that I don’t believe workbooks and flashcards are the answer.

Sometimes you’ll get kids like my daughter who “want” to do workbooks. Okay, fine. Whatever. We can get out the Leap Frog workbooks for fun.

But edutainment is different than education.

There are a hundred more meaningful things you could do with your emergent reader that would be more meaningful. Here’s roadmap of examples.

With flashcards, if you are going to use them selectively (as I sometimes do), they shouldn’t be confusing. Take a look at this:

Sooooo many numbers and soooooo confusing!

Sooooo many numbers and soooooo confusing!

That's a little bit better.

That’s a little bit better.

One thing the kit came with that I thought was pretty good were these dot cards:

These are awesome, but you could make them yourself for free.

These are awesome, but you could make them at home for free.

Here are some fun ideas for preschool math.

Final thoughts? Maybe the next time you are at Costco, you can save $20!

P.S. Leap Frog does have four products that I highly recommend:


LeapFrog: Letter Factory

LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory


LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory
LeapFrog: Word Caper

Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder

Sadly all of the other Leap Frog products I have purchased haven’t been as good.

I finally tried the Daniel Fast

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A while back I posted a review of the book The Daniel Cure: The Daniel Fast Way to Vibrant Health.  Well, I finally gave the whole 21-day-vegan-challenge thing a try and wrote about my experience in today’s “I Brake for Moms” column for The Everett Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140126/BLOG5205/140129427/Wealth-of-food-makes-it-easy-to-forget-how-rich-we-are

The biggest learning point for me after doing the Daniel Fast was how much I now appreciate water. Clean drinking water isn’t something to take for granted. Head over to Water1st International to find out why.

 

Rotational Symmetry with Cookie Cutters

Exploring rotational symmetry with cookie cutters

Exploring rotational symmetry with cookie cutters.

Bruce had homework regarding rotational symmetry and it totally confused me because I’m really bad at visual-spatial things.

What is rotational symmetry? That means a shape that can be rotated less than 360 degrees and still look the same.  More info right here.

For spatially challenged people like me (you should see me parallel park!), rotational symmetry can be hard to picture. Hands-on learning can help.

A long time ago, I blogged about using flour and cookie cutters to learn about flips and turns. Guess what? That idea also works for rotational symmetry too!

First draw the X and Y axis in the flour.

First draw the X and Y axis in the flour. Then start experimenting.

This butterfly does NOT have rotational symmetry.

This butterfly does NOT have rotational symmetry.

Neither does the shamrock. It does not look the same until a 360 turn.

Neither does the shamrock. It does not look the same until a 360 turn.

A circle definitely has rotational symmetry. But this one's pretty obvious.

A circle definitely has rotational symmetry. But this one’s pretty obvious.

A little bit of masking tape and this becomes more interesting.

A little bit of masking tape and this becomes more interesting.

At 180 degrees, this shape has rotational symmetry.

At 180 degrees, this shape has rotational symmetry.

A word to the wise: this activity is messy! It’s the perfect example of something that would be really hard to do with thirty fifth graders in a classroom, but doable with your child at home.

Just be sure to have a vacuum ready!

Prepared for a Purpose, by Anotoinette Tuff

I seriously have got chills. I just finished reading  Prepared for a Purpose: The Inspiring True Story of How One Woman Saved an Atlanta School Under Siege. I read it start to finish in one day. That’s how good it was.

This book is by Antoinette Tuff with Alex Tresniowski. It tells the true story of how Antoinette interacted with a mentally disabled gunman at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, and talked him out of going on a shooting rampage.

I used to be a public school teacher and I send my son to public schools every day. So believe me, when I was reading this book, I paid attention.

But the story of the tragedy averted is only one half of this book. The other is the autobiography of Antoinette herself; how she grew up in the home of a single parent,  spent time being homeless, lived on food stamps, had a baby out of wedlock, got married, suffered divorce, and raised two of the darn finest kids you’ll ever meet.

That second half of the book is equally as inspiring as the first.

Prepared for a Purpose is published by Bethany House and has a strong Christian frame. I liked that about it, but was also a little bit sad because it means the book would be unsuitable for school districts to pass around for their employees to read. I think anyone who worked in a school would benefit from reading Antoinette’s story of cool thinking during lock down.

A final point is this book was also written by Alex Tresniowski. This is a guess, I’m assuming it was Tresniowski’s decision to structure the book the way he did. The mix of McNair and biography is brilliant, fast passed, and kept me turning pages as fast as possible. Nicely done!

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

The Young Scientists Club, Kit 30

Kit 30 from the Young Scientists Club is about owl pellets.

Kit 30 from the Young Scientists Club is about owl pellets.

Our latest Young Scientists Club kit has come in the mail! Kit 30 came with an owl pellet to dissect. There were also some food-chain pictures to cut out, but the main event was looking through poop.

This activity can last between ten minutes to an hour, depending on interest.

This activity can last between ten minutes to an hour, depending on interest.

The dissection begins!

The dissection begins!

This owl ate a lot of critters!

This owl ate a lot of critters!

If you’re interested in doing owl pellet dissection at home, you can find materials on Amazon. We’re kicking around the idea of doing an owl dissection birthday party when Bruce turns 9. That’s how much he loved this!


Pkg (2) Owl Pellet Kit with Tweezers, Pointing Stick and 8-Page Booklet

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The real question is, how long to I have to have a dead rodent skeleton on my kitchen counter?

Teach how to simplify fractions in a hands-on way

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Full disclaimer! This activity is a billion times more fun with candy and peanut butter. Unfortunately, we used plastic tiles today.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Free time at home gave us the chance to do some fraction review, to support what’s coming up next in my son’s Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions book.

This is one of those teaching activities that will either seems silly to you (if you had a strong childhood math experience), or else will be a huge light-bulb moment (if your childhood math was based on drill, kill and memorization.)

Are you ready to see what you think?

Here’s one way to make the abstract concept of simplifying and unsimplifying fractions, hands on and concrete.

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Use tiles, candy, crackers, or other manipulatives to make fractions come to life. In this example, 8 out of 12 tiles are yellow.

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“Peanut butter” them together, and all of a sudden, 8/12 becomes 2/3.

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After you do it with manipulatives, then introduce the formula. Divide the numerator and denominator by 4, and you turn 8/12 into 2/3.

Here’s another one:

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This time, we are going to unsimplify the fraction.

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Now we can see that six out of nine tiles being red is the same thing as two thirds.

Okay, so plastic tiles makes fractions a little bit more fun. But if we were working with M&M’s, this would be awesome!

Why don’t Melissa & Doug Toys have lids?

Why don't Melissa & Doug toys have lids?

Why don’t Melissa & Doug toys have lids?

REALLY! I’d pay an extra dollar or two for a lid. It would make them sooooo much easier to put away.

That, and other toy-store ramblings in my “I Brake for Moms” column today about Toys”R”Us: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140119/BLOG5205/140119126/Amid-the-toy-store-frenzy-one-priceless-moment

 

All About Spelling, Back to Basics

All About Spelling, Level 1, Step 6

All About Spelling, Level 1, Step 6

The board is back in action!

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about All About Spelling. That’s because the materials have been sitting in my bedroom for about six months gathering dust. My son Bruce(8.5) has so much homework from school that we haven’t had time for AAS. 😦

Now [insert trumpet fanfare] Jenna(4) is a strong enough reader for Level 1. It’s so much fun to open the book, get out the deck of cards, and fall in love with AAS all over again! (More about my love affair here.)

A look at today's lesson, and Jenna's emergent handwriting.

A look at today’s lesson, and Jenna’s emergent handwriting.

All About Spelling is hands on, idiot proof, and fun. That’s why it’s worth finding time for. That’s why (disclaimer) I signed up to be an Affiliate.

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Today I reviewed the Level 3 cards with Bruce and he aced them. Wow! He remembers!

Basher Books for Grown Ups

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My son Bruce(8.5) loves Basher Books so much that he reads them over and over again. I still don’t exactly understand the appeal, but appreciate how much he’s learned. If Trivial Pursuit ever becomes popular again, I want Bruce on my team.

Today at the bookstore I came across The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics by Clifford Pickford. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a Basher Book for adults.

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I am very sensitive to violating copyrights, so I’m not going to share an interior picture, but this book has topics like “St. Petersburg Paradox” on the left-hand page, and then a really cool picture on the right. Sound familiar?

I bought this book for myself, but I’m pretty sure Bruce will read it too, especially if I leave it on the kitchen table next to his cereal.

FYI: My version is leather bound and cost $20 at Barnes & Noble. The paperback version on Amazon is a lot cheaper.

Bookboard–It’s addictive!

A virtual Bookboard library

A virtual Bookboard library

For the past couple of weeks my daughter Jenna(4.5) has been experiencing Bookboard, an eBooks service that is like Netflix for books. (I received a free subscription, btw, in exchange for my honest opinion and review.)

The way Bookboard works is that your child gets an instant, small library of books to read.  After reading two or three books, new books get “unlocked” which adds to the collection and provides motivation to read more. Bookboard has over 400 books to choose from.

The unlocking idea is highly addictive. (If Netflix was like that I would never get off the couch.) Thankfully, this is books we’re dealing with. It’s okay to addict your kids to reading, which is good because my preschooler is really committed to unlocking new books.

Bookboard’s got a positive reinforcement system that works!

So far Jenna has spent 4 hours and 13 minutes reading 97 books, which is the same as 8 television shows. That’s equivalent to $644 worth of books from the store, or 9 family trips to the library.

91 books and counting
97 books and counting

Another thing I appreciate about Bookboard is that many of the books are on audio. I can click an icon, and have everything on Jenna’s shelf be audio-only books that will read to her. Then, I can go cook dinner.

It’s as close as I’ll ever get to being a Cylon Mom. 

“Snuggle up with my clone while she reads to you. I’ve got stir fry in the wok.”

(Okay, I’ve officially watched too much Battlestar Galactica.)

Unfortunately, the Berenstain Bears books are not on audio. Those are Jenna’s favorites, and she often calls me over from the stove to read them aloud.

Another drawback is that Bookboard is not available on Kindle…yet. Jenna and I have been reading on our desktop. But I could see how if you did have an iPad, Bookboard would be even more impressive. It would be a portable library on the go.

My final thoughts? I really like it! Bookboard is a nice compliment to Starfall.com.

For more information about Bookboard, check out their website.

Vacation Fun Lasts All Night Long

So many beds to choose from.

So many beds to choose from.

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Herald. My column is located on page two of “The Good Life” section. http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140112/BLOG5205/140119924/Two-nights-of-fun-family-and-insomnia

 

Like Moonlight at Low Tide

Is there a troubled teen in your life? If so, here’s the book for you. Like Moonlight at Low Tide: Sometimes the Current Is the Only Thing That Saves You, by Nicole Quigley, is a stunning debut novel that tackles hard questions; underage drinking, bullying, social media, and suicide.

When Missy Keiser moves back to her Florida hometown, she’s worried her ugly nickname “Messy” will resurface and that she’ll once again be a social pariah. Instead, new-found popularity becomes her salvation– and her undoing.

This book is published by Zondervan, so there is a Christian element to it. But that part doesn’t come until the very end, when non-Christian readers would be so hooked that they would stick with it. Meaning, you could give this book to a teenage girl who wasn’t interested in church, and she’d still read and enjoy it.

Some books are like roller-coasters. They take you up, down, happy, sad, and pull you along for the ride. Like Moonlight at Low Tide is more like a long buildup into a giant swell at the end. The first half is very dark, but it get’s more hopeful as the plot moves along.

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

I review for BookSneeze®

Corking with your Knitting Nancy

Corking materials, ready to go!

Corking materials, ready to go!

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Corking, aka finger knitting, aka using a knitting Nancy, aka knitting with a tower, is a fun way for kids as young as four to develop the fine motor muscles needed for good handwriting. It’s also a great activity to occupy children on long car trips.

We have the  Camden Rose Knitting Nancy) as well as the book Corking (Kids Can Do It) by Judy Ann Sadler.


The book has a bunch of ways you can make DIY corkers using cans and nails. But knitting Nancy’s aren’t that expensive to buy.

The hardest part is getting the Nancy going. (Um… that came out wrong!) Here are some pictures to help you get started:

Step one: hook a slip-not over the first peg. Pull the tail of the yarn through the knitting Nancy.

Step one: hook a slip-knot over the first peg. Pull the tail of the yarn through the knitting Nancy.

Step two: pull yarn straight back and then front.

Step two: pull yarn straight back and then front.

Step three: keep going back and then front until all of the pegs have a loop on them.

Step three: keep going back and then front until all of the pegs have a loop on them.

Step four:  pull the yarn over the loop on the first peg.

Step four: pull the yarn over the loop on the first peg.

Step five: pull the bottom loop over the top. Repeat on the following pegs!

Step five: pull the bottom loop over the top. Repeat on the following pegs!

This feels very similar to “finger weaving” which I used to do in Girl Scouts. The only main difference is that with corking, you end up with more of a hollow tube creation. You can stick pipe cleaners up the yarn to make fun shapes.

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