Teaching My Baby To Read

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Yearly Archives: 2014

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.

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

Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget

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True story: Last night at about 11:38 p.m. I was down in the living room guiltily reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I say guiltily because an hour before I told my husband “I was just going to read one more chapter.” Ha! Yeah, right.

I heard my nine-year-old’s bedroom door open. “Mom?” he asked. “Are you staying up late reading too?” He had The Underland Chronicles #3: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods in hand. Yup. He’s a chip off the old block.

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I could chart my life as a history of crazy book obsessions.

Start with Game of Thrones  and work all the way back to Anne of Green Gables. Or take a look at the home library I’ve assembled for my kids.

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Lots of people love books. A love of reading is easy to understand. But for the gifted and highly gifted, reading is usually just one of many obsessions. That’s because gifted people tend to be INTENSE.

I'm the one holding the baby.

I’m the one holding the baby.

Even though I grew up in the San Diego Unified School District’s Seminar Program for highly gifted kids, I always thought of giftedness as something that effected me in school when I was child, but not at home when I was an adult.

Then, when I became a parent and realized that at least one of my own children was gifted, I got a fuller picture.  Part of my work to become a better mom–at one point I printed out and read every article on the SENG resource library–gave me new understandings about myself.

As an adult, I still have passionate curiosity. I move from one learning obsession to the next. My husband likes to say “If it wasn’t this, it would be something else,” every time I pursue a new interest.

I could chart my life has a history of crazy hobby obsessions.

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Right now it’s lacto fermented salsa

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…and Zumba.

Previous obsessions have included bulb planting, vegetable gardening, canning and let’s not forget blogging.

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At one point I was even obsessed with composting which is why we have three different types of compost bins.

The one on the left works best.

The one on the left works best.

A couple of years ago I randomly became interested in the life and times of Rose Wilder Lane and the true story behind Little House on the Prairie. Over the course of a few weeks I read about ten books on the subject, all while holding a two-year-old while she napped. A year later, I wrote an article for the paper called The ‘Little House’ Books still Inspire.

A similar intense study of Ayn Rand lead to the article Motherhood is the Definition of Self Sacrifice.

I titled this post “Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget” because even after a passion fades, 80% of it sticks with me. I still compost, scrapbook, garden and blog, but those things no longer consume me. What I learned however, sticks around for the long haul.

Intensity helps you reach the 10,000 hour mark.

Intensity helps people reach the 10,000 hour mark.

So the big question is how to help gifted people deal with their intensities before they drive the rest of their family crazy.

I’m not sure I have the answer to this. But hopefully if you raise children to have a good heart, the things they become intensely obsessed with will be a blessing to themselves and their family.

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Like a mom obsessed with canning for example.  😉

A New Take on the Morning Message

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Reading and Writing a daily Morning Message is a great way to teach young children to read. But when kids get bored, effectiveness goes out the window.

So here’s an alternative–personalized letters. It takes more effort but is very impactful.

What you do is write two or three letters to your child to read each day. Make sure to use similar sentence patterns in each set of letters.

Example:

  • Letter #1: We are going to eat breakfast. We are going to make beds. We are going to get dressed.
  • Letter #2: We are going to the park. We are going to put on sunscreen. We are going to play on the swings.
  • Letter #3: We are going to eat dinner. We are going to read books. We are going to snuggle at bedtime.

The first time your child encounters the sentence pattern it will be difficult and he’ll need more help. By the third letter, he will hopefully be able to read everything independently.

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The picture I took isn’t the best example because it shows letter for two days. The letters on the right follow one sentence pattern, and the letter on the left went with a different set.

More Tips and Tricks:

  • Write up three days worth of letters at a time. That makes it easier.
  • Use clip art to provide picture clues. A grocery cart for going to the grocery store, etc.
  • Comic Sans is my favorite font for preschool and Kindergarten because the a looks like a printed a.
  • If you have a child who struggles with transitioning from one activity to the next, these letters can work to your advantage.

Oh! One more thing… Kids love to get mail, right? If you really want to make a splash you could send a couple of letters via post.

From Kindergarten to College, Parenting a Twice Exceptional Child is an Adventure

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I hope you are enjoying the third annual Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour. The following is a guest post from a homeschooling mom:

From Kindergarten to College, Parenting a Twice Exceptional Child is an Adventure

Being the antithesis of a Tiger Mom and embracing a completely ”go with the flow” philosophy toward education, I was completely caught off guard when our family’s babbling brook homeschool turned into a confused chaos of babbling brook, flowing river, multi-level white water rapids, and trapping eddies.

It all started rather innocently. I was baking cookies with my son, then 6. As we were putting the cookies on the cookie sheet, he looked up at me smiling and said, “Did you know if we put them in 5 rows and we put 4 in each row that there will be 20 cookies?” It was a startling conversation.

Educationally, I had been so focused on how little progress he was making in reading that I had never even noticed that his first grade math book wasn’t even the slightest bit challenging for him. So our babbling brook entered into the white water world of 2E.

Those two words, twice exceptional, unlock a unique combination of amazing gifts combined with significant struggles that our son both possesses and has overcome. While his uncanny visual-spatial skills and constant questioning shout exceptional talent, when he was young, they were often over-shadowed by an equally visible deficit, dyslexia, and a real struggle in learning to how to read.

The advantages of homeschooling rise quickly to the surface when teaching a 2E child. I could read advanced word problems for him to solve while he was still working on basic decoding skills. As he progressed quickly through mathematical concepts, he equally slogged through phonics, decoding, and spelling. He could discuss complex science concepts while still unable to write on grade level because his reading skills were so lacking.

Learning how to select appropriate resources became a necessity. Literature intense language arts programs were not going to work because he couldn’t read on grade level selections, yet neither would simple lower grade level materials work because intellectually he was ready for far more complex materials. It became a balancing act of selecting on-his-level readers combined with audio books which actually matched his abilities. So while he might have been reading a 5th grade level reader, he was listening to the Iliad.

By the time his reading level finally caught up to his grade level when he was around 10, he was already completing algebra. His writing skills were radically behind because of his spelling and reading skills. When he was finally ready to write something that was decipherable, his instruction needed to be significantly beyond introductory level writing. Because he was used to discussing and analyzing literature, he was able to quickly move beyond basic writing skills to analytical writing. By the time he was in high school, he was functioning above grade level in all areas, but he still faced, and continues to face, the major obstacle of slow reading speed.

As he approached college applications this past fall, he kept his reading speed in mind. He opted to not apply to many of the schools that appealed to his math and science side. He was concerned that schools that function on the quarter system versus the traditional semester system would overwhelm his ability to keep up with the reading.

The entire college application process was a roller coaster. The mantra is to find a university which fits the student. Reality, being what it is, means that the school also has to fit a family’s financial situation, not just student abilities. Our family’s situation matches what is described as the “donut hole.” The donut hole means we make too much money to qualify for much financial aid, but we don’t actually have the financial resources to pay for our expected family contribution. So, finances ended up driving our son’s decisions. Because I am sure our situation is not unique, here is what our son learned through this process.

Financial safeties are schools which a family can afford. Many universities are financial safeties because they offer scholarship money to top students to attract them to attend their institutions. These schools are not the top universities in the country, but they offer unique opportunities to attract top talent. These opportunities range from honors colleges to specialized honors programs. Our son was accepted into a specialized honors program which provides research opportunities for the 40 students accepted each year. The program guarantees the individual students the opportunity to participate in research in a field of their choice. Since our son’s goal is grad school and research, this program really attracted his attention during the application process.

When he traveled to the finalist weekend, he came home impressed. He said the students he had met during the finalist weekend were every bit on par with the friends he had made at The Summer Science Program. He felt the upperclassmen already involved in the program and the high school seniors there interviewing were definitely his intellectual peers and that collectively they represented a wealth of talent. The awards that participants in the program have received testify to the accuracy of his assessment. The program has Hollings, Goldwater, Mitchell, and Truman scholars. So, while this school might not have been at first glance a “fit” intellectually, through this honors program, our son is convinced that it is.

In addition, our son has been blessed by the generosity of this university. It allows students to stack scholarships. Stacking means that additional scholarships do not decrease the value of other scholarships. Not all universities allow stacking and will reduce monetary awards when other scholarships are earned. All in all, our son won four different scholarships from this university which translates into him attending full-ride. The cost differential between attending this school full-ride versus higher ranked schools with partial scholarship or institutional aid was between $100,000-$160,000 over four years.

Another factor that advanced students need to weigh is how universities view college credits earned in high school. For students like our son, those cumulative hours may be considerable. Since our son has completed numerous upper level math and physics courses, he will have enough credit hours transferring in that he is only a few hours short of being a college junior. In choosing a college, understanding how different schools view dual enrolled credit needs to be considered. Since the school our son has chosen allows the transferring in of credit, it opens the door for him to triple major without undue burden because he has already completed so many of the “in major” requirements.

Looking back over the past 13 years of our son’s homeschooling venture, I could never have anticipated the journey we took. I know that homeschooling allowed our son to thrive and never feel like he was incapable of succeeding. He never felt like a failure because he struggled. He was allowed to be himself and thrive where he was. Dr. Seuss penned, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Homeschooling has allowed that to be true for our son.

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2014

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Welcome to the 2014 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour!

Parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. That’s why for the third year in row, parents from The Well Trained Mind Message boards have created a blog tour to share wisdom, joy, tribulations and advice.

Starting Sunday, June 22nd the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

On June 22nd Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with How a Gifted Childhood Prepared Me for Gifted Parenting.

On June 23d At Home in the North Woods will share Great Expectations, four ideas for dealing with perfectionism.

On June 24th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about Following the Passions of the Gifted Child.

On June 25th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature a guest post From Kindergarten to College, Parenting a Twice Exceptional Child is an Adventure.

On June 26th Homeschooling Hatters will discuss Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!

On June 27th Teaching My Baby to Read will share Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget.

A difficult thing to understand about children with high IQs is that just because they are gifted, it doesn’t mean they are easy to teach or parent. In fact, often times the opposite is true.

This blog tour is written by people who understand what you’re going through. We are sending encouragement your way! So the next time you wake up at 3 AM worrying about your child, at least you’ll know that you aren’t alone.

Thanks for being with us on this journey!

P.S. There are still room for more posts, so if you have something on your heart that you would like to share, please email Jenny via Teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com.

For previous tours, click on the links below:

Social Emotional Learning over the Summer

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Last summer I worked really hard to focus on Social Emotional Learning with my kids, instead of just academics. Here are some of the things we did:

This summer I’ve got a new plan cooked up. I’m taking my inspiration from Romans chapter 12, but please don’t let that dissuade you. If religion isn’t your thing, you could choose a poem instead and use the same idea. (I’m Methodist and you’ll get no judgement from me.)

I chose this particular section of Romans because it hits upon some really BIG concepts in Emotional Intelligence. Recognizing and responding to the emotions of others in a socially appropriate way is HUGE.

Take a look for yourself. My game plan follows.

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I sectioned off the passage on sentence strip paper, with one sentence on each strip. Each particular verse gets its own color. There are 25 strips of paper.

Every couple of days, I’m going to bring out a new strip. At the dinner table, our family will discuss what the verse means, and then review all previous strips.

There’s room for a lot of discussion. What does “Agree with one another,” mean for example? Should you always agree with people? Should you agree with somebody who is doing something hurtful?

Another good one is “Be careful to do what everyone thinks is right.” What if everyone is doing the wrong thing? What about slavery and the civil rights movement? What about peer pressure?

I think this activity is going to open us up to some juicy dinner-time conversation!

When possible, we’re also going to put the words into action. “Welcome others into your homes,” for example, might correspond with my son inviting a friend to sleep over.

This summer I’d like my family’s hearts refocused on what’s important. But I also want my kids to think deep thoughts and to be encouraged to ask questions.

And if my kids would get along 20% better? My prayers would be answered!

Happy Father’s Day!

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Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Daily Herald:  On Father’s Day ask dads and grandpas for their boyhood stories.

P.S. The picture is from Watson Lakes.

Inspurashion

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This is exactly why we will be continuing with All About Spelling this summer. (Full disclaimer, I’m an affiliate for All About Learning.)

If a full on spelling program isn’t your thing, All About Learning has some great FREE ideas to keep kids busy this summer. I think I’m going to try the snacks.

 

Keep Kids Busy this Summer

Summer Rules

Looking for ways to keep kids “edutained” this summer? Here are my favorites:

Boys & Girls Learn Differently, Online Book Club: Chapter 2

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Are you reading Boys and Girls Learn Differently! A Guide for Teachers and Parents by Michael Gurian? If so, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on Chapter two. Please leave a comment or question below.

First, a brief one-sentence synopsis of what this books is about:

Once parents and teachers understand how male and female brains develop differently, they are better able to educate children.

My notes from Chapter two:

What does the most current research say about brain differences in girls and boys?

  • On average, boys do better on fast, multiple-choice tests because they tend to have stronger deductive reasoning skills (start with big picture, then look at details).
  • On average, girls do better with open ended questions because they tend to have stronger inductive reasoning skills (start with details, build up to big picture).
  • In general, boys do better than girls with abstract thinking. Girls will often have an easier time learning math if they have access to concrete manipulatives.
  • Girls often use language as they learn, boys are more likely to be learn silently.
  • Girls listen better and can still learn when a teacher is overly verbose or wanders. Boys need clear examples.
  • Boys are more likely to get bored.
  • Boys use more physical space.
  • Girls don’t usually need to move as much while they are learning.
  • Movement helps boys learn, which is why silent fidget toys are often helpful.
  • Girls often master cooperative groups earlier than boys.
  • There’s a section on page 48 about pecking orders. Girls can be at the bottom of a pecking order and still often get better grades than boys at the bottom of pecking orders.
  • There’s a section on pages 50-52 about Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences.
  • An interesting thought on page 53. Teachers often try to calm down young boys who are taking up a lot of space and being overtly physical (managing the spatial part of the brain to encourage linguistics). Maybe teacher should also be doing the opposite–encouraging girls to be more physical (managing the linguistic to encourage the spatial).
  • Pages 54-57 offer interesting data about the advantages for boys and challenges for girls in our school systems, as well as the opposite.

What are your thoughts on Chapter two?