Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Washington State Gifted Ed Day

Gifted Ed Day 2014

Gifted Ed Day 2014

I was honored to join families from across Washington state today as we gathered in Olympia and advocated for gifted education. Our number one goal? Fully fund basic education, which now includes Highly Capable programs.

The House

The House

I’d like to say a special thank you to Representative Luis Moscoso who gave us his time and attention, as well as Monica from Senator Maralyn Chase’s office.

The Senate

The Senate

I hope people remember that children are not widgets. There is such a push in our country to standardize everything; curriculum, assessment and accreditation, that it’s easy to forget that variety is the norm, not the exception.


It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Highly Capable children will do fine “because they are gifted” when that isn’t necessarily true. In many ways Highly Capable is similar to Special Education, it’s just at the other side of the bell curve.

Butterfly Salad

Math on a plate.

Math on a plate.

Today my 4-year-old and I got out Cooking Is Cool: Heat-Free Recipes for Kids to Cook by Marianne Dambra. I am a little disappointed in the book because it doesn’t have step-by-step pictures for children to follow and it uses a lot of food coloring. But the full color illustrations of each recipe are nice.


Here’s our version of Butterfly Salad. The actual recipe called for dyed cottage cheese, which I thought was gross, so we used grapes instead.


  • lettuce leaf
  • pineapple rings
  • cottage cheese
  • grapes or berries
  • celery stalk (the body)
  • 1 olive (the head)
  • a carrot or bell pepper (the antennae)

Math Skills Involved:

  • counting
  • fractions (cut the pineapple rings in half)
  • comparisons (more cottage cheese, less cottage cheese)
  • ordinal numbers (first you do this, second you do that, etc.)
  • symmetry (the goal is to make the wings look the same)

This recipe took about twenty minutes to make. My daughter and I both had a lot of fun!

Cooking Is Cool: Heat-Free Recipes for Kids to Cook

Just by Jaime, Review and Giveaway

Our super cute order from Just by Jaime

Our super-cute order from Just by Jaime

Another great find from Etsy!!!

Over the past few years I’ve blogged about some of my favorite purchases from Etsy: our family rules artwork, our chore chart, my daughter’s apron, and my genius envelope wallet. Now I have a new Etsy discovery to share with you– Just by Jaime!

Shop owner Jaime Saunders Archer also happens to be a college friend from Stanford, my sorority sister, and a former third grade teacher. She knows a ton about art history and is a gifted nature photographer.

Jaime’s also very crafty. She has a line of hair accessories that I absolutely love.

Dressier than elastic, but won't slip off.

Dressier than elastic, but won’t slip off.

Do remember scrunchies?  In retrospect they were ridiculous, but the nice thing about scrunchies is that they were fancier than a plain rubber band. Well, Jaime’s hair bands are a modern perfection. Then look really polished and don’t slip off. She also makes headbands and clips.

Adjustable for different sized heads.

Adjustable for different sized heads.

My daughter loves them!

My daughter loves them!

Are you interested? If so, great news because we’re doing a giveaway! Enter the raffle for your chance to win.

Edited: 3/6/14  (Sorry, the raffle is now closed.)

Magic School Bus Science Kit, Magnets

Hide your infants!

Hide your infants!

Our latest Magic School Bus Science Club  purchased through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op was all about magnets. Thank goodness we don’t have any babies in the house because I’ve very paranoid about small childrend eating magnets. (I get worked up just thinking about it.)

But for a four-and-a-half year old, this kit was fun.

A lot of the experiments involved (included) iron filings, which wasn't as messy as it sounds.

A lot of the experiments involved iron filings, which wasn’t as messy as it sounds.


Okay, this one was messy when big brother opened up the bag…

The classic "magnet on a car" experiment.

The classic “magnet on a car” experiment.

Making  a compass.

Making a compass.

The total time commitment for this kit was about thirty minutes. It required no unusual at-home materials and was really easy to teach.

But I must confess, I threw all of the magnets away in the trash when we were done. Just in case!


The Giggly Guide to Grammar


One of the “I’m-a-mean-mom” Christmas presents I gave my son last year was The Giggly Guide to Grammar by Cathy Campbell. My eight-year-old would have much preferred another Lego kit, but I had my eye on the Common Core. I know Bruce’s teacher does a lot with grammar at school, and I’d like to support that at home.

I can see why The Giggly Guide to Grammar gets great reviews. It has fun drawings and even funnier sentences. Here’s an example from page 107: “Aunt Sylvia believes Elvis lives because she thinks that she saw him on a commercial for Levis.” (That’s a complex sentence with an anagram, btw.)

Unfortunately, I was hoping this book would be a good fit for Afterschooling, but it really isn’t. The Giggly Guide to Grammar would be great for public school, and it would be awesome for homeschoolers, but for an Afterschooling family it requires too much paper and pencil practice. That would be fine if we were using it during the summer, but for the school year it’s too much work. My goal with Afterschooling is not to load my kids up with extra duties, but rather to encourage them with fun enrichment.

A more passive approach to grammar would be the Royal Fireworks Press book Sentence Island by Michael Clay Thompson.

Perfect for bedtime read aloud.

Perfect for bedtime read aloud.

That being said, I keep finding The Giggly Guide to Grammar all over the house. On the kitchen table, laying in the hallway, in the bathroom (yuck); Bruce is clearly reading this book for enjoyment.

Would YOU read this on the toilet?

Would YOU read this on the toilet?

I’m not exactly sure how much Bruce is learning. I asked him about the book and he said he likes reading the funny sentences. I guess that’s why the full title is “The Giggly Guide to Grammar, Serious Grammar with a Sense of Humor”.

The Giggly Guide to Grammar

Does the Wonderbag work?

Wonderbag in action!

Wonderbag in action!

Last week I shared the story of my Crock-Pot shooting out sparks that almost caught my hair on fire. I immediately dumped it in the trash and ordered a Wonderbag.

Wonderbag Portable Slow Cooker with Recipe Cookbook, Red Batik

It’s been lots of dinners since then, and I’m ready to report. Does the Wonderbag work? Yes, definitely–but there is a learning curve.

Last night's dinner, chicken and apricot stew.

Last night’s dinner, chicken and apricot stew.

With a Crock-Pot you can dump a bunch of raw ingredients in, walk away and come back to a cooked dinner. With a Wonderbag, you need to start your pot on the stove, bring it to boiling, and then bag it all up.

Last night's dinner, chicken and apricot stew.

It’s better to Wonderbag with a full pot.

Here are some tricks I’ve learned:

  • It’s better to Wonderbag with a full pot. And yeah, I used “Wonderbag” as a verb. 😉
  • With my Le Creuset pot, I start heating up the pan and olive oil while I’m still chopping vegetables. That makes it all go faster.
  • It’s easier to use canned beans instead of dried beans.
  • Soaking lentils overnight helps.
  • The fastest way to make steel cut oats? Soak them overnight, boil them five minutes in the morning, and then Wonderbag them for 20 minutes.
  • The Wonderbag is great for making yogurt. It helps keep the pot at the right temperature overnight.
  • The Wonderbag website has a lot of great recipes, but they are often written for UK English speakers instead of American chefs. Egad! The metric system!!!

If you are interested in finding out more about Wonderbag and their mission to save the environment and help women all over the world (seriously!), then please check out their website.

In the meantime, if you are a Pinterest person, I’m making a new board: Wonderbag should be a verb.

Get a jumpstart on carschooling

Adding some history to our lives.

Adding some culture to our lives.

If you’ve ever wanted to get started with carschooling, the Homeschool Buyers Co-op has a good deal going right now to get you going:  5 Jim Weiss CDs from Greathall Productions for $62.35 (including tax and shipping). That comes out to about $12.50 a CD.

(Of course, check with your local library too because you might be able to borrow them for free.)

Here is a complete list of all of the Jim Weiss CDs I’ve reviewed so far.

The following are titles I just purchased. I don’t know if they will be winners or not:

  • Rip Van Winklel and Gulliver’s Travels
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and The Story of Rome
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  • Thomas Jefferson’s America

Why this Kindergarten teacher is confused by Kindergarten


Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Herald. We decided to register our daughter for half-day Kindergarten with an intent to Afterschool.


Afterschooling Plan for Working Moms


Afterschooling isn’t just for stay-at-home parents. There are a lot of ways you can provide meaningful instruction to your children using what would otherwise be dead-time.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot to offer teens yet, but here are some ideas for K-8:

  1. Carschooling –so easy, so effective. Ask the grandparents to buy CDs for Christmas, or else check them out from your local library.
  2. Dreambox Math –perfect for K-5. Have your kids play Dreambox while you get dinner on the table. Consider making 15 minutes of Dreambox a requirement to earn screen time.
  3. ClickN’ Read Phonics— K-3 phonics curriculum on the computer. I haven’t tried this, but it gets good reviews.
  4. Bedtime read alouds –be sneaky! For young readers, Bob Books can “unlock” stories you hate. For older readers, try using the CIA approach on your next chapter book.
  5. Hands On Equations –definitely worth the time. For older kids, if you can find an extra twenty minutes a week, Hands on Equations is really worth it. It will give them such an advantage in algebra, that you won’t believe it. Of all the math things I’ve blogged about, this is the curriculum that impresses me the most.
  6. Science Kits by mail— be a cool science mom, without having to plan anything. Seriously, almost everything you need (including a script) comes in the mail, ready for 30 minutes of fun. The catch is the kits are expensive, so you should wait for a Groupon or good deal on Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. Sign up for my Facebook page, and I’ll keep you posted.
  7. Highlights Top Secret Adventure Kits –project based geography that come in the mail. Your 7-12 year-old solves puzzles, looks for clues, and reveals the villain while learning about that month’s county. Unfortunately, like the Young Scientist Club Kits, these are really expensive, so you’d want to watch for a special deal.
  8. Story of the World Audio CDs –history kids probably won’t get at school. SOTW is a borrow from the homeschooling world. A college professor named Susan Wise Bauer has written four volumes of world history specifically for children. They cover ancient times to the present century. These CDs can be used grades K-8. I want my kids to listen to them every two years. I have a strong suspicion SOTW will help with AP tests someday.
Don't feel guilty that you're strapped for time!

Strapped for time but with a plan, that sounds like an awesome mom to me!

An Afterschooling Plan for Half-Day Kindergarten

In our neighborhood, full-day Kindergarten costs $3,600. Half-day Kindergarten is free, but is only two hours and 40 minutes.  All of the research I’ve read says that full-day Kindergarten makes a difference. I have an “I Brake for Moms” column coming out next Sunday, explaining the issue.

If you’d like to take a look at the research yourself, here you go:

Education.com’s Full-Day vs. Half-Day

Fact Sheet from the Children’s Defense Fund

Full-Day vs. Half-Dad Kindergarten; In Which Program Do Children Learn More?

In our neighborhood, if you take out all of the minutes from lunch and recess, full-day Kindergarten means 5 hours and 15 minutes of instructional time per day. Half-day Kindergarten is 2 hours and 25 minutes. (Please note, I don’t mean to be dismissive of the importance of recess. Children learn a lot on the playground.)

So if we were to chose half-day Kindergarten, could I somehow Afterschool enough to get in the extra 2 hours and 50 minutes a day? Yes; definitely! Here’s how:

An Afterschooling Plan for Half-Day Kindergarten


Language Arts Block, 60 minutes


Choice Time, 30 minutes

  • Full-day kinders would likely be getting this at school. This thirty minute block would be a chance for my child (and I) to unwind while I got the next activities set up.


Math, 30 minutes


Specials, 30 minutes

Homework (from school), 20 minutes

TOTAL TIME = 2 hours and 50 minutes!

The cost of this Afterschooling plan would be about $350, including the uber-expensive science kits. I could splurge and get the Highlights kits too, and still come in way under $600. Or I could go the other way, and do the whole plan for practically nothing. I’d just swap about the math section for this page of free activities here.

What’s half-day Kindergarten like in your state? Are you stressing out about registering your child for Kindergarten too?

Guest Post: I Taught My Baby to Read

I am so excited to share this guest post from Mrs. Warde of Sceleratus Classical Academy! Mrs. Warde is a wife, mother of three, and homeschooler. She’s also my co-pinner for our STORY OF THE WORLD board on Pinterest. 

Early Bird at 2 years, 10 months, building words.

Early Bird at 2 years, 10 months, building words.

A few years ago I taught my oldest child, then 4 years old, to read. Apparently my younger son was paying attention.  At 2 years 4 months old he surprised me with correctly identifying the name and sound of every letter.

I did not know  what to do with that until I thankfully stumbled across Teaching My Baby to Read. I looked at all Jen had written and decided to get the LeapFrog Word Builder Toy. It was a big hit with both my boys. I let my 2 year old play with it as much or as little as he wanted.

Sadly, Leap Frog no longer makes this toy, but you can still find it used on Amazon and Ebay.

Sadly, Leap Frog no longer makes this toy, but you can still find it used on Amazon and Ebay.

My two-year-old played with the toy for five months and then one day he said “I spelled the word ‘bed!’ B-buh, e-eh, d-duh, spells bed!” I looked at the toy and sure enough he had spelled the word “bed” on the level that tells you what you spelled. I praised him up and down and all through that day and the next he kept repeating how to spell bed and name the letters and sound they made. On the third day he said “I spelled the word ‘red’!” And the toy was off.

A week and a half later he read 40 CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word flash cards that I showed him. I let him start playing MoreStarfall.com on his own. Some things he wanted help with, some he did not. He watched his big brother play, too.

By his 3rd birthday he could read almost any CVC word he came across. The ones he had difficulty with were the ones he did not hear in real life a lot (seriously, who says the word “sat” very much?) He also started memorizing some sight words, all on his own.

Next, based on recommendations from Teaching My Baby to Read I got the LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory video. By the time it arrived in the mail it was mostly review for him, but at the end it introduced the concept of consonant blends.

Most of the Leap Frog videos are "edutainment". These two actually work!

Most of the Leap Frog videos are “edutainment”. These two actually work!

I admit, I panicked. Typical three year olds are not “supposed” to be  reading at a first grade level! I contacted Jen since this was partially her fault and she was very helpful. 🙂 I found a group of parents at the  Well Trained Mind Forum, Accelerated Learner’s Board who had been there, done that and they were a huge help, too.

It’s been two years and some  days I’m used to it, sometimes I’m not. I’m thankful I’m homeschooling.  He’s working alongside his brother doing 2nd grade work (except in  math,) reading at an even higher level, but he wouldn’t be starting  kindergarten until the fall if I were to put him in public school. And I am very thankful for the advice I found on Jen’s blog that helped me  help my early learner.

Want to find out more about Mrs. Warde’s homeschooling adventures? Head on over to Sceleratus Classical Academy

Normally I’m anti-workbook, but…


I just ordered another round of Critical Thinking Company books through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

This one is really fun.

This one is really fun.

These books are hard to recreate through hands-on activities. I’ve tried, but it’s a lot of work. Here’s an example of the skills covered:

One of these things can't fly.

One of these things can’t fly.

So yes, I’ve opted to go for the workbooks. A couple of pages a week while waiting for a sibling to do [fill in the blank]: guitar, ballet, swimming lessons, Cub Scouts, etc., can’t hurt. I keep the books in the car and use them to fill dead time with something meaningful.

This time for Jenna(4.5) I ordered the following:

Mind Benders Verbal Item # 01302BBP $9.99 1 $9.99
Mind Benders Book 2 Item # 01330BBP $9.99 1 $9.99
Math Analogies Beginning Item # 08501BBP $11.99 1 $11.99

Those should last Jenna the rest of the year. Hopefully they’ll also provide some practice for when she takes the CogAT in winter, a test our district uses to screen for the Highly Capable program.

But if workbooks aren’t your thing, you can always be creative! Here’s another one, just for fun:

Three of these things are symbols of weather.  One isn't.

Three of these things are symbols of weather. One isn’t.

Homemade Bunny Book


When I was in teacher credentialing school, I learned that one of the most powerful ways to teach young children to read was by making homemade books about their world. That’s difficult to do in a classroom setting, but easy to accomplish at home.  For step by step instructions, please click here.

Now for the newest addition to my daughter’s homemade book collection–The Bunny Book!

Good morning, Mommy Bunny!

Good morning, Mommy Bunny!

Mommy Bunny wakes up Baby Bunny.

Mommy Bunny wakes up Baby Bunny.

Wait, Baby Bunny. You need your pants!

Wait, Baby Bunny. You need your pants!

Baby Bunny brushes her teeth while Brother Bunny goes potty.

Baby Bunny brushes her teeth while Brother Bunny goes potty.

Mommy Bunny makes the bed.

Mommy Bunny makes the bed.

Mommy Bunny puts Baby Bunny in the buggy.

Mommy Bunny puts Baby Bunny in the buggy.

Mommy Bunny takes Baby Bunny to the park.

Mommy Bunny takes Baby Bunny to the park.

Baby Bunny goes down the slide.

Baby Bunny goes down the slide.

Mommy Bunny and Baby Bunny rest after a long day.

Mommy Bunny and Baby Bunny rest after a long day.

Please feel free to print this out and read along at home. You could also share it online and help spread the word about Teaching My Baby to Read.

All Things Hidden, by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

Full confession: I was going to give All Things Hidden by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse a 5 on Amazon because it is everything a historical fiction book should be. But then I read the true story of Kimberley’s experience as a mom, fighting to help her daughter Kayla battle a rare illness, and now I wish I could give this book at 10. Holy Toledo! How does Kimberley Woodhouse find time to write? Wow. I am seriously impressed.

Don’t let the cover fool you; All Things Hidden is not necessarily a historical romance. It’s told from multiple points of view including a mix of genders. It’s also a “clean read”, meaning I’ll be saving it for my own teenage daughter someday. I’d have to destroy the cover to get my son to read it.  😉

It’s not just the quality writing that makes All Things Hidden a good book. There is an exceptional amount of historical detail in the pages too. Peterson and Woodhouse tell the story of Gwyn Hillerman and her father Harold who are (at first) the only medical personnel in the Matanuska Valley, Alaska Territory, circa 1935. The Hillermans are fictional characters in a real life adventure story. As part of the New Deal, FDR sent 200 families to homestead the valley. The families got 40 acres, a house, a $300 loan, and a commitment to live in Alaska for 30 years. (More information here.)

What I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about All Things Hidden, is that the authors clearly spell out which characters in the book are historical, and which are fictional. They also share links to find more information about the Matanuska Colonization project. I felt like I learned a lot while I was being entertained.

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

Pink Fluffy Boots


Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Everett Daily Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140209/BLOG5205/140209263/Boots-are-the-first-symptom-of-this-year%26%238217s-clothing-virus