Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

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I still feel a bit guilty. Last weekend my family went to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon and we didn’t eat any beef jerky. Or smoked salmon. Or dog. Yuck! Okay, dog and horsemeat were never on the table but I did have some teriyaki jerky in the cooler. If we were truly going to immerse ourselves in the Corps of Discovery experience we should have been eating preserved meat.

At least we geeked out in the car. On our way down to Oregon we listened to chapter 32 of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times. Narrator Jim Weiss gave a delightful introduction to what we would find at Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark’s winter camp has been faithfully reconstructed.

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The actual fort was a lot smaller than I had imagined–and darker. My five-year-old daughter objected to its “earthy” smell. I have a cute picture of her holding her nose, but I don’t share my children’s photos online. So take a look at the mens’ quarters and imagine the aroma of animal hide.

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A cool part of the park is that they have rangers dressed up in period costumes giving demonstrations, like this one, where they actually fired a rifle.

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As you might expect, Sacajawea has a major presence at the camp. I don’t know if the scale is accurate, but this statue of her and her baby “Pompey” is about 5 feet, 5 inches.

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In the fort itself, Sacajawea’s family had their own room.

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The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park is a fun place to spend between 2-4 hours with kids, but it’s not on the same scale as Plimoth Plantation. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think we would visit again unless we were camping at Cape Disappointment.

 

Put Outlaw Words in their place

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Kids, Veggies and the Food Mover

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If you’ve ever wondered “Have my kids eaten any vegetables today?” then this post is for you.

Like many moms I’m engaged in a never-ending battle to get my kids to eat more vegetables. With my son it’s easy. He’ll try anything from kale to artichokes. My daughter on the other hand prefers “crunchy lettuce, washed broccoli” and not much else.

Keeping track of what they actually eat is difficult. So I decided to try an experiment. I ordered a Richard Simmons Food Mover Kit for each person in the family. On Amazon they were less than $7 each.

The kits came with inspirational videos which I donated to the library as well as instructional booklets.

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You can customize each  Food Mover with different caloric needs. There’s also a social emotional learning component at the bottom that focuses on qualities like being forgiving and patient.

I don’t want anyone in my family to lose weight; I just want us to focus on balanced eating. If we eat more calories than the Food Mover says that’s no big deal. But I do want everyone to close their vegetable windows!

Each night at 6:30 we sit at the kitchen table together, eat dinner and close off our windows.

A week into this experiment my daughter has learned what protein is and that she probably doesn’t eat enough because she never eats meat, poultry, fish or tofu. But now thanks to the Food Mover she’ll ask me for almonds. I feel like that’s a step in the right direction. She’s still indifferent to eating vegetables, but the rest of the family is fully committed.

For me as a mom the Food Mover makes me a better meal planner because it forces me to think ahead. How exactly will I help my family close those vegetable windows? As the primary chef and shopper it’s mainly up to me.

I’m not sure how long this experiment will last, but hopefully mindful eating will have a lasting effect.

 

Put a window on it

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Get out your scissors, moms and dads. Here’s a trick straight from the classroom that will make it easier for you to teach your child to read. Give your young reader a special bookmark called a word window.

My daughter Jenna has just turned five-years old and is chugging along at a first grade reading level. She can read between 75 and 100 words but still get easily frustrated. Too many words on a page overwhelms her.

An easy solution for this is using a word window. A word window is a bookmark with a hole cut out in the middle. In the past I’ve made fancy ones out of construction paper and clear tape.  But simple word windows made out of plain white paper work well too.

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Eventually my daughter will outgrow word windows, but right now they are extremely helpful.

P.S. Got an older kid with reading issues? Word windows work for third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders too, especially if they have ADHD.

Lovely and Unique Journals for Children

Cherish the moments and record the memories with two special journals for kids.

Cherish the moments and record the memories with two special journals for kids.

What a happy delight! Seattle based Sasquatch Books sent me two beautiful journals for children: The Next 1000 Days: A Journal of Ages Two to Six by Nikki McClure and This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal by Julie Metzger. I was really impressed by each book, both as a parent and a former teacher.

The Next 1000 Days is full of pictures, captions and blank space. There are about 23 pages for each age. When children are younger, parents can document favorite foods, books read and new words and capabilities. Once kids get older, they can use newfound literacy skills to take ownership of the remaining pages and to read what Mom or Dad has already written.

My own self-portrait from 1982.

My own self-portrait from 1982.

Capturing a child’s emerging handwriting is so much fun and The Next 1000 Days is a great way to do it. There are also special places for self portraits.

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This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal is for preteens and up. It has a wide variety of prompts too. This is excellent because blank pages can be really intimidating, especially to emergent writers. Some kids do fine with traditional diaries, but often times a question, checklist, or space to draw a picture can really garner a better response. This journal has the perfect balance between open-ended and closed-ended responses. It is also colorful and pretty; important attributes for a girl audience.

Unlike a lot of diaries you see for kids these days–diaries based on popular characters– there’s nothing gimmicky about This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal and it won’t turn your children into products of advertising. I definitely appreciate that.

My niece is heading off to Girl Scout Camp next week and I’m going to mail This Is Me off to her just in time. This is a journal begging for a young girl’s heart!

Helping Kids Understand Afghanistan

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What’s behind the veil? Washington author Trent Reedy has crafted a powerful book that gives middle grade readers an inside look into the daily life of Afghan girls.

I don’t want to give any secrets away, but Zulaikha, the main character in Reedy’s book Words in the Dust uses her chador to hide a clef palate, a birth defect that is likely to ruin her life as a young Afghan teenager. Nobody will want to marry her and she’ll be at her stepmother’s mercy for the rest of her life. Zulaikha’s older sister Zeynab seems to have a better fate because she is so beautiful, but both girls are trapped in a society dominated by patriarchy and oppression.

My kids and I have been reading a lot of books about Islam this month and Words in the Dust is one of my favorites.  What makes it even more heart wrenching is that Zulaikha and Zeynab are based on real life people Reedy met while serving in Afghanistan. In the Author’s Note, Reedy describes how National Guardsman pooled their money together to arrange surgery for a young girl named Zulaikha who had a clef palate. Helping her wasn’t even part of their mission, but the Americans did it anyway.

Words in the Dust is a book that is very difficult to put down. My son stayed up until midnight to finish reading it.

I sincerely hope that teachers across America bring this book into their classrooms. It would provide rich text for meaningful discussions.

Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel


Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel is like a Ladies Home Journal “Can this Marriage be Saved?” article in novel form. It tells the story of a Washington DC power couple rocked by separation and shady decisions. Two other storylines interweave the plot including a 28 year-old with a big decision to make and a trust fund playboy looking for direction.

All of this made for a very compelling read, even though I had difficulty connecting to the characters. The main protagonist, Melanie, came across as extremely unlikable. To me she seemed like the type of sanctimonious Christian women who give Christians a bad name. Luckily that was tempered out by a secondary character from Seattle, who seemed much more in line with what I think and believe.

An interesting part of the story was a homeschooling mom’s attempts to practically shrink-wrap her daughter in order to protect her “purity”. Shannon Ethridge, if you’re reading this, I would really hope that you are following the Bill Gothard/ATI homeschooling scandal. You can read firsthand accounts of what happened on the website Recovering Grace or find out more at Homeschoolers Anonymous. The parallels with your book are chilling.  😦

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

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 

Giving “blood sugar” new meaning

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The kids and I had a lot of fun with this one. Be warned, it’s sticky! Thanks to Morning Hugs and Goodnight Kisses for the idea.

The sweetest science book ever!

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What’s so great about doing science experiments at home with your kids? Watching them fall in love with science. What’s even better than that? Sitting on the couch reading a book while your spouse leads the activity. 😉

For the past few weeks my husband and kids have been obsessed with a book called Candy Experiments by WA author Loralee Leavitt.

Every evening when Dad comes home, he brings new candy from the office vending machine. They’ve done over twenty experiments so far. I don’t necessarily have blog-worthy pictures of all of them, but my husband did snap a few shots:

Red and Yellow Make Orange--Or Do They? experiment

Red and Yellow Make Orange–Or Do They?

Watery Stripes experiment

Watery Stripes

Halley's Comet M&M's experiment

Halley’s Comet M&M’s

Mentos Soda Fountain experiment

Mentos Soda Fountain

Right now Taffy, Tootsie Rolls and a Peppermint Patty are dissolving in water on my kitchen counter. Apparently chocolate won’t dissolve in water but caramel, sugar or mint will. The kids have also experimented with cutting candy in half and then trying to dissolve it.

Really, the possibilities for experimentation are endless. Now for an extra good brush of the teeth!

Candy Experiments

Teaching kids about Islam

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Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to make a coffee table book display of all of the wonderful children’s books about Islam I’ve collected.  Just because I’m Christian  doesn’t mean I want my children to grow up ignorant about other religions! 

In my “I Brake for Moms” column last Sunday called Ramadan is an opportunity to learn about Islam I mentioned three special children’s books:

Here are a few more books that we own, that I didn’t mention in my column:

Hopefully I’ll find time to review those soon!

P.S. If you’re interested in finding even more books about Islam for children, the author Rukhsana Khan has a wonderful list of “vetted” books:

http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/muslimbooklist/Muslimbooklist.pdf