Teaching My Baby To Read

Home » 2014 (Page 2)

Yearly Archives: 2014

“Call Me Grim” by Elizabeth Holloway

wpid-FB_IMG_14115974220153929.jpg

Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway is the perfect book for a misty October night.

Libi should be dead right now, except for creepy-stalker-guy Aaron saved her moments before a truck would have ended her teenage life. The catch is that Aaron is a local Grim Reaper and he wants Libi to take over his job.

As the clock ticks Libi has a multitude of decisions to make. Quick death or immortal discord? Best friend Kyle or Mr. Aaron RIP?

I was really impressed by how the story’s premise held together so well. There were lots of parts where I found myself thinking “Wow! That is sooooo cool!”

As YA books go, Call Me Grim is PG in terms of cleanness. It’s not too scary or too racy but it is definitely “I’ve-got-to-read-this-in-one-day!” material. I look forward to reading more books from Elizabeth Holloway in the future.

P.S. For the #YABookCook version of this post, head on over to JenniferBardsley.Net.

Q and A with Darlene Beck Jacobson, author of “Wheels of Change”

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Darlene Beck Jacobson

Do you love a great historical fiction book for kids as much as I do? Then check out my previous review of Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson. Today I’m excited to share a bit more about this fabulous new book. Darlene graciously accepted my offer to interview her!


Wheels of Change

Jenny: Was your protagonist Emily Soper based on a historical person in real life or is she purely a work of fiction?

Darlene: Emily is the name of my grandmother whose father was a carriage maker in DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Grandma also attended a reception at the White House and met Theodore Roosevelt. Those are the facts; the rest is fiction.

 

Jenny: You manage to work a surprising amount of vocabulary into your book, making me think you must be a killer Scrabble opponent. Where did you develop a love of big words?

Darlene: My Dad – Emily’s son – was a wordsmith who loved crossword puzzles. He often used big words and never talked down to my sister or me. My sister and I still enjoy competing against each other in word games. Our favorite is PERQUACKY. As far as SCRABBLE goes, my son’s got me beat. He plays online and really kills me with two letter words.

 

Jenny: Ouch! Two letter words are tough.

One of the funniest scenes is when Emily bakes a peach pie under duress. That’s exactly how I feel whenever I encounter pie crust. Do you like to bake? What’s your favorite pie: peach, blackberry or apple?

Darlene: I really enjoy baking. Cookies and muffins are my specialties, but there is something satisfying about a fresh baked pie. Strawberry Rhubarb and Key Lime are my favorites.

 

Jenny: Thinking about the book is making me hungry! Another food related scene revolved around gingerbread. Kids today are likely familiar with gingerbread cookies, but not many have probably tried real gingerbread. Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

Darlene: Have you tried the recipe for Mrs. Jackson’s Gingerbread found in the back of the book? It’s actually a very simple recipe and produces a tasty gingerbread. It’s been adapted from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook of the era. Here it is:

 

Mrs. Jackson’s Gingerbread

¼ lb. butter or shortening                                             

 2 ½C flour

1 C sugar                                               2 tsp baking soda

2 eggs                                                    ½ tsp salt

¾ C boiling water                                2 tsp ginger

¾ C molasses                                       1 TBSP white vinegar

  • Grease and flour a square cake pan. Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs. Add water, molasses and vinegar. Stir until blended.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Pour into prepared pan.
  • Bake 35-45 minutes. If a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry, it’s done

 

Jenny: Yum! That sounds good.  Unfortunately, I can’t eat gluten but I bet my family would like that recipe.

A big theme of the book is Emily struggling with her mother and society’s expectations of what it means to be a “proper young lady”. She has to iron, keep clean, bake and stay tidy. When you were a 6th grade girl did you have expectations placed on you that felt like a burden?

Darlene: My parents never told us what we should or should not do. I’ve always been a goal setter. I get a great satisfaction from achieving goals that I’ve set for myself. There was always peer pressure and pop culture telling us girls to look and act a certain way; that still happens today. But then – and now – I choose to march to my own drum and do what feels right for me. I tried to convey that message to my own daughter as well.

All the expectations of my life have been self-imposed. I grew up reading Nancy Drew books. She seemed so cool and confident. It was fun to pretend to be Nancy. I think early seeds of feminism sprouted within me from reading books like that.

 

Jenny: That, and a life-long desire to buy a yellow convertible. Oh, wait. That’s my own reaction to Nancy Drew. 🙂

A very moving scene is when Emily’s family goes to visit their African American friend Henry in the Shaw neighborhood. For those of us who are unfamiliar with D.C., what is Shaw like today? Is it still a predominantly African American part of town?

Darlene: Washington DC is a much more urbanized place than it was 100 years ago. There is a large African American population as well as people of Hispanic, Asian and other cultures and ethnic backgrounds…much like any American city. Shaw suffered during the riots of the late 1960’s, and population declined throughout the district. It has been on the rebound over the last two decades. The Shaw section of the district is a mix of multi-generational professionals who are committed to revitalization of the area. It has become a very fashionable neighborhood.

 

Jenny: Civil rights, both for women and people, of color is a central element in Wheels of Change. When you were a child, did you ever witness a civil rights struggle that made an impression?

Darlene: While I never personally witnessed the struggles that took place, they were a part of the daily landscape of growing up in the 1960’s.

 

Jenny: Any new books in the works?

Darlene: I am working on a PB titled TOGETHER ON OUR KNEES about the childhood of a little known suffragist named Matilda Joslyn Gage. There is also another historical MG in the editing stage called A SPARROW IN THE HAND. This story takes place in the coal mining area of Pennsylvania during Prohibition.

 

Thank you Darlene! You can find her book, Wheels of Change, on Amazon. The next stop of the Wheels of Change Blog Tour is Live Your Poem.

 

??????????

“Survival Colony 9” Makes Boys Want to Read

wpid-20140923_152113.jpg

In a post-apocalyptic world turned to dust, Querry Genn’s amnesia is either his greatest strength–or his downfall–depending on whom you ask. That’s the premise between Joshua David Bellin’s brilliant debut novel, Survival Colony 9. I was so excited to read this book that I preordered it from Amazon.

Survival Colony 9 was everything I hoped it would be. Scary, suspenseful and also thought provoking. Even better, it’s “clean” enough for my nine-year-old to read, so he’s pretty stoked.

The descriptive passages in this book were especially well written. I kept picturing the movie “Empire of the Sun” in all its ghastly glory. If Survival Colony 9 ever becomes a movie, John Malkovich should definitely play Querry’s father.

Some of you may recognize Bellin from my blogroll. He’s the creator of YA Guy, a blog that strives to highlight books that would interest teen boys as well as teen girls. As a teacher, reader and parent, I appreciate that mission!

Afterschooling at the beach

image

Half-day Kindergarten is only 2 hours and 40 minutes in Washington State. So every day after Kindergarten my daughter and I do “Mom School”. (Check out my full plan here.) On Tuesday we took Mom School to the beach.

What flotsam completes the square?

What flotsam completes the square?

 

Digraph practice. In retrospect we should have made "sh" for shells.

In retrospect we should have made “sh” for shells.

 

Reading practice. So much more fun in sand!

Reading practice. So much more fun in sand!

 

One of the great things about sand is that it works on fine motor skills as well as gross muscle work. So even though my daughter wasn’t doing handwriting worksheets, she was still learning. Plus, practicing your a-b-c’s in sand is a whole lot more fun!

 

“Wheels of Change” by Darlene Beck Jacobson

??????????

I am so excited to introduce you to Darlene Beck Jacobson’s new middle grade book Wheels of Change. Some of you might recognize Darlene as the author of the popular blog Gold From the Dust: Bringing Stories to Life.

Wheels of Change tells the story of sixth grade Emily Soper who lives in Washington D.C. at the turn of the century. For a twelve-year-old, Emily faces some pretty heavy stuff. Her favorite teacher is a suffragist, her frenemy’s mom is racist and Emily herself is embroiled in a daily battle with her mother over “acting like a proper young lady”.

I especially loved how relatable Emily is. She’s passionate about fighting for justice, but not in a stuffy way. You better be careful around this girl and a teapot!

The historical tidbits peppered into the story were fun too. In one instance, Emily’s mother is delighted to discover Corn Flakes because it means she doesn’t have to fire up the stove for breakfast.

Boys and girls alike will relate to this coming of age story set against the last days of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. They might actually learn something along the way–without even knowing it. That’s the best type of historical fiction as far as I’m concerned.

Interested in finding out more? Check out the trailer:

 

Putting the sense in Number Sense

wpid-20140912_111105.jpg

The best teaching happens when you make a lesson visual, spatial and auditory. That’s why I love teaching kids number sense with a math balance.

Utilizing a math balance in a whole-class setting of twenty-seven kids would be tricky, but at home with one child it’s easy. The  balance we own came from Right Start and costs $25.

image

5 does not equal 8. It’s so easy to see.

image

Just like it’s easy to figure out that there are many number combinations that equal 5.

image

In fact, we spent a full ten minutes just figuring out the number 5!

In pedagogy, we call this “Constructivism”.  It means learning a new concept through your own experimentation and discovery. Giving children the full Constructivist experience isn’t always possible, but a math balance makes it a lot easier.

For more posts about our math balance please click here and here.

Better Handwriting Paper

wpid-20140904_114925.jpg

I love-love-LOVE this new handwriting paper I’m trying out with my five-year-old daughter Jenna. It’s called Smart Start K-1 Story Paper and I bought it from Amazon.

What makes this paper genius is the colored lines. The blue line at the top is the sky, the green line on the bottom is the ground, and the dotted red line is the fence.  While your child is writing you say “Start at the Sky. Pull down to the ground. Lower case letters like the fence.”

Learning how big to make each letter is really complex. At school, teachers need to use the cheapest paper available. But at home I can afford to buy a higher quality paper to make life easier for my child. Enough practice with me in the afternoon, and Jenna will remember “Start at the Sky. Pull down to the ground. Lower case letters like the fence,” when she’s working at school.

My goal is for Jenna to work on handwriting 20 minutes a week. For more ideas for Afterschooling a half-day Kindergartener, please click here. For more ideas about handwriting, check out my Pinterst board.


Teacher Created Resources Smart Start K-1 Story Paper: 100 sheets

 

Rocky Reach Dam

wpid-20140826_125838.jpg

On our way back from a camping trip in Lake Chelan my husband suggested stopping at Rocky Reach Dam along the Columbia River.

“No way,” I said. “That sounds boring.”

“Twenty minutes, my husband promised. “Tops.”

It turns out we stayed for two hours because the dam was so much fun.

image

First we checked out the fish ladder and juvenile fish bypass pipe. If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest you might not know what that is, but basically it’s a fancy way to keep fish safe from hydroelectric dams. The visitors center had a short and informative film to watch.

Give salmon a fighting chance

Giving salmon a fighting chance

Click on the picture to find out more information

Click on the picture to find out more information

The pipe is where the fish come out

The pipe is where the fish come out

Cooler than it looks

Cooler than it looks

After viewing the fish ladder we went to the museum about the Columbia River. It had a cool, “Mad Men” era vibe to it. I was really impressed by the museum because it had something for everyone: geology, archeology, anthropology and history.

Paging Don Draper

Paging Don Draper

Turn the crank to make the light bulbs turn on

Turn the crank to make the light bulbs turn on

Inside the dam

Inside the dam

Roll on, Columbia and keep our lights on

Roll on, Columbia and keep our lights on

Outside of the dam there are beautiful grounds to explore. The Chelan PUD really does an amazing job with the flowers. Not pictured is the American Flag planted out of petunias and lobelias.

This is a great place for picnics. The bathrooms were clean and there was an outstanding playground for the kids.

My kids were impressed by the gondola

My kids were impressed by the gondola

So it turns out my husband was right. Rocky Reach was a good dam reason to stop. –What? I couldn’t write a whole post about dams without at least one pun!

 

 

 

Instant Homemade Books

wpid-20140817_113338.jpg

Homemade books are one of the best examples of how parents can help kids learn to read. In a classroom setting, personalized books are difficult to manage. But at home, Mom and child can whip out a book in fifteen minutes. The whole point is to create leveled readers with meaningful content that is sure to engage your kid’s interest.

Homemade books don’t have to be perfect. I talk a lot on my blog about making homemade books from brown paper bags, but there are a myriad of other ways to create them.

Here’s an example of a book my five-year-old daughter and I made for her baby cousin last weekend. Jenna told me what to write and did the illustrations. Sometimes I helped prompt her, but pretty much the words were her own.

wpid-20140817_113354.jpg

Notice how Jenna didn’t want to draw a picture for page one. Totally okay!

wpid-20140817_113407.jpg

See how Jenna drew over the words? That’s okay too.

wpid-20140817_113415.jpg

Rain, yes, well you can tell we live near Seattle! This is a very realistic plot development.

wpid-20140817_113424.jpg

Normally I like to have one sentence per page at this level, but I honored what my daughter wanted me to write.

wpid-20140817_113433.jpg

All in all, this book took us about 15 minutes to create. Then afterward, Jenna read it several times to her cousin. She felt very proud of her creation.

Ideally, it’s best to make 1-2 homemade books per week. Realistically, this is hard to accomplish, especially if you have multiple children. But once school starts in a couple of weeks, Jenna and I are going to be making lots of books as part of my afterschooling plan for half-day Kindergarten.

Boulder River Waterfall

image

Joan Burton’s fabulous book Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades has served us well again! Last weekend my family took a trip to Boulder River Falls.

Our drive along the Mountain Loop Highway offered us a sobering look at the devastating mud slide in Oso, as well as the tremendous reconstruction work in progress.

image

At milepost 41 we turned right onto French Creek Road. 3.8 miles later we found the trailhead packed with families just like ours, who were looking for an easy and fun hike to do with kids. As soon as our Northwest Trails pass was on the dashboard, we were ready for fun.

The hike to Boulder River Falls is relatively flat and easy. Burton says it’s 2.5 miles with a 250 feet elevation gain. My five-year-old daughter was able to handle it just fine. But be warned; there were a lot of bugs. In retrospect, we should have brought bug spray.

As close as I'll ever get to a weirwood throne!

As close as I’ll ever get to a weirwood throne!

The waterfall itself is breathtaking, but my kids’ favorite part of this adventure was throwing rocks into the river. This was good for an hour’s worth of entertainment. Then they discovered a patch of clay, and I knew my car upholstery would never be the same again.
image

On our way home we stopped by Fruitful Farm and Nursery and picked up some fresh local honey from Oso. It was a very “sweet” way to end the day.

image
 

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

The adventures continue! My “I Brake for Moms” column today was called Pirates weren’t part of the plan for this camping trip and was about Twin Harbors Beach State Park.  Here are some pictures, including shots of the massive die-off of velleas.

Velleas, aka "purple sails"

Velleas, aka “purple sails”

 

image

 

I think these were white mussels attached to a tire.

I think these were white mussels attached to a tire.

 
image

For more information about Twin Harbors Beach State Park, please visit their webpage.

P.S. I liked camping sites 262 and above best. They seemed to offer the most privacy–except from pirates.

Zumba Exhilarate vs. Zumba Incredible Results

IMG_0607

I wrote an I Brake for Moms column a while ago about my journey back from breaking my wrist and how Zumba had helped. (Please see: What burns more calories, Zumba or kids’ aerobics?)

This post is a specific review of the two versions of Zumba I own, Zumba Fitness Exhilarate and Zumba Fitness Incredible Results. Plus I’m offering a confession: Sometimes I let my kids watch TV downstairs while I’m doing Zumba upstairs. Otherwise, how would I find time to exercise during the summer when they aren’t in school? Yeah, it would be better if they were reading books or cleaning their rooms, but sometimes you have to make compromises. 😉

 

Why I like Zumba DVDs in general:

  • ALL of the instructors are really great. Nice, upbeat, encouraging, and they give clear directions.
  • Usually you have the option of turning the instructions off and just following the music.
  • The sets come with enough variety to keep things interesting.
  • The music is really awesome, even though I’ve never heard it before.
  • Zumba is FUN.

Random Thoughts and Unanswered Questions about Zumba:

  • Is Beto really as nice as he seems? Because he seems really nice.
  • Do you think Beto and Tony Horton from P90x know each other? Because Tony seems really nice too.
  • How does Kass Martin look so different with and without bangs? I think she looks pretty either way.
  • The lighting on Loretta Bates in the Zumba Step video is really pale. At first I didn’t realize she was the same person who was in Rush. Also, how did she get so good a belly dancing?
  • What’s with the wrist bands? Do people really wear random wrist bands when they exercise? What’s the point?
  • Doesn’t it hurt to exercise with big earrings. Wouldn’t they bang around and hurt your earlobes?
  • Was Marcie Gill a former cheerleader? She seems to have a cheerleader’s spirit.
  • Am I the only person who thinks Jessica Mellet looks a little bit like Heidi Klum? Especially in Zumba Step.

But I digress… Now for the reviews.

 

Zumba Fitness Exhilarate Body Shaping System DVD (Multi, Small)
What you get:

  • Step by Step (an introduction to the steps)
  • Activate (40 minute easy routine)
  • Exhilarate (60 minutes difficult routine both in terms of dance steps and intensity)
  • Rush (22 minute routine that is intense but short)
  • Ripped and Mix (30 minutes of cardio toning with the sticks, plus a 60 minute cardio routine)
  • two, one pound rhythm sticks

Thoughts about Exhilarate:

  • Rush and Ripped are my favorite. Usually I do them together.
  • The sticks are too easy for me now, but were really helpful when I was rehabbing my broken wrist.
  • Exhilarate is really hard for me to do on the carpet. I think it would be easier on wood floors.
  • The costumes are wild. I could imagine conservative people having a hard time with so much skin.

Zumba Fitness Incredible Results DVD with Zumba Max DVD

 

What you get:

  • Quick Start (an introduction to the steps)
  • Step (40 minute step routine)
  • Zumba riser (step)
  • Super Cardio Dance Party (60 minutes difficult routine in terms of intensity but with easy to follow steps)
  • 20 Minute Express (short and fairly easy)
  • 30 Minute Burn (easy to follow steps but no directions)
  • Amazing Abs (17 minute chair workout that is really hard

Thoughts about Incredible Results:

  • I love pretty much all of it, except I rarely do the 20 Minute Express and have never done the Quick Start
  • Steve Boedt in the Super Cardio Dance Party is really funny.
  • The Step workout is my FAVORITE!
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.

 

Final thoughts about Zumba?

Zumba is super fun. Exhilarate is slightly easier I think, but beginners would like Incredible Results too. If you’re going to go for it, I would suggest getting the shoes as well. Otherwise you can’t slide properly on the carpet. The first few times I did Zumba I had my ordinary gym shoes on and I kept tripping. Zumba shoes have a smooth sole and that really helps.

Party on!

Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

wpid-20140727_130821.jpg

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

image

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

outlaw

Kids, Veggies and the Food Mover

wpid-wp-1406074428239.jpg

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.

wpid-wp-1406074980818.jpg

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.