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Rocky Reach Dam

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

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.

Worried about teens oversharing on the net?

If you’ve ever been freaked out about what your teenagers might be getting into on the Internet, then “Nerve” by Seattle author Jeanne Ryan is the book for you.

Written for a young adult (YA) audience, it tells the story of a teenager named Vee who gets chosen to play a game about dares called Nerve, watched by people all over the world.

But this story is really about how teenagers can unintentionally head down the wrong path in baby steps. 

First you do X, and X doesn’t seem that bad.  Then you do Y, which is a little bit worse.  Then before you know it, you’re involved in Z, and Z is extremely bad.  By then it’s too late!  You’ve done X, Y and Z and you’re in serious trouble.

Another core component of this book is about privacy in the Internet age.  Vee “likes” and “shares” things on her ThisIsMe page, and then that data gets collected by the people who run Nerve, and used against her.

A ThisIsMe page gone bad is a plot-line that can scare almost anybody.  It’s the perfect jumping off board for a serious conversation with teens about Facebook, Twitter and social media in general.

FYI parents, Nerve contains mature content comparable to your teen’s favorite soap on the CW.

 

A Parade of Old Favorites

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

In the upcoming weeks I’ll be fixing links and freshening things up on my new blog one post at a time. Right now embedded links are still taking readers back to Blog.com, which may or may not be working (depending on the weather).

This will mean less new content for a while. But hopefully I’ll start remembering things I used to do.

If I could do half the things with my kids that I’ve already forgotten, then they’d be ready for college right now!

😉

How to move from Blog.com to WordPress

Take THAT Blog.com!

Take THAT Blog.com!

I’m not an expert, just a horribly dissatisfied Blog.com customer. If you are in that situation too, this post is for you.

In the past 24 hours I’ve moved Teaching My Baby to Read from Blog.com to WordPress and all of my contact is intact.

This is what I did:

1) I opened up a WordPress.com account. (I think this was $99 for the year.)
2) I waited for Blog.com to be working. (Good luck with this step.)
3) In the Dashboard of my Blog.com blog, I clicked on “Tools”. Then I clicked on “Export”.
4) I saved my entire blog as an “XML” file onto the hard drive of my computer.
5) In the Dashboard of my new WordPress blog, I clicked on “Tools”. Then I clicked on “Inport”.
6) I imported the XML file of my old blog into my new one.
7) Ten minutes later, everything was transferred.

I still have a tremendous amount of work to do to update links, Pinterest etc, but it could be worse. At least I have all of my content.

My Blog Redesign

Okay folks, lay it on me!  I’ve been wanting to redesign my blog for a while now, ever since my son asked me to remove “the picture of his elbow”.  Other goals include:

  • Making Teaching My Baby to Read look more like a website, and less like a blog
  • Moving to an “archive” format, so that readers can quickly scan post titles and decide what looks interesting
  • Decreasing an emphasis on my family to ensure my children’s privacy
  • Increasing traffic overall

Basically, I’ve hit a plateau. I get between 100-200 unique visitors every day, but that number has been static for a while.  It’s kind of frustrating, because I feel like I have a lot of good content to offer.

But enough with the whining!

What do you think of the changes I’ve made?  Is there something that is bugging you?  Something you miss?  Please tell me the good, the bad and the ugly.

P.S.  I know I need to bring the blogroll back.  I just haven’t figured out how…

Starfall Rocks!

 Starfall Learn to Read

Upon the recommendation of my blog friends, I went ahead and shelled out $35 to upgrade to the paid version of Starfall.com.

I totally agree with Kristen at Teaching Stars, and Jen at Post-Apocalyptic Homeschool, because this has been worth it.  The added math games alone make it worthwhile.

Jenna(3) has been playing Starfall for about a month now, and has suddenly started blending three letter words.  (I’ve been trying to teach her how to do that forever.)  Yeah!

So…. Starfall.com is definitely being added to my Where to Start page.  It’s about time.  😉

Facebook can drive you crazy

Maybe it should have been “Your bat on Facebook”?

Here’s my I Brake for Moms column on the Weekly Herald this week.  Sadly, there are only three issues left before the Weekly Herald closes down, but you can still follow I Brake for Moms online, and perhaps in the Daily Herald too someday.

Learning about Maritime Engineering at the Hiram M. Crittenden Locks in Ballard

For Week 1 of my A STEM Summer plans, my kids and I went to Ballard to visit the Hiram M. Crittenden Locks. This was a great chance to see engineering in action.  We got to see boaters go through the locks and salmon swim up the fish ladder.

Our trip to the Ballard Locks was also a chance for Bruce(7) to learn about technology. He took a bunch of pictures with our digital camera, and then a few days later I helped him create a 2 minute movie using Windows Live Movie Maker. You can tell which pictures Bruce took, because they have the railing going across them, or else are shot from the ground looking up at the signs!

If your family gets the chance to visit the locks, see if you can plan to go during summer when the salmon are making their way through the fish ladder. It’s pretty cool!

Pizza Wanted Signs, Part 3

Teaching my son Bruce(7) how to use technology this summer is backfiring on me. He is now using the camera, color printer, and sometimes even the scanner to make high-tech “Pizza Wanted Signs” and post them all over the house! (This is what they looked like a year ago.)

(This is what they look like now.)

On the plus side, we just finished a lesson on suffixes in All About Spelling Level 3, so at least Bruce is no longer writing “wantid”. He’s also branching out into ice-cream, which I am also choosing to view as a positive sign of growth. 🙂

Blogging About Blogging: Monetizing your Blog

The mission of my blog is “Helping you ensure that your child is academically advantaged, regardless of age, ability, or socio-economic level.” The full explanation of why I started Teaching My Baby to Read can be found here. I also have a Privacy Policy, and Disclaimer. But do I actually make any money at blogging? The truthful answer is sort-of, but not enough to make a profit. I want to share actual numbers with my readers because I believe in being transparent about my intentions, and also because I thought it would be helpful information for my fellow mommy-bloggers.

When tax season comes around, I still feel very comfortable claiming this blog as a hobby that occasionally makes a little bit of money, but not enough money to actually cover the cost of my hobby. Here’s why:

1) I have two affiliate accounts set up. The first is through Amazon. Here is a look at my Amazon Affiliate profits from January 2012 to July 2012:

  • Quarter 1 Profits: $33.94
  • Quarter 2 Profits: $79.42

Great right? Uh, not really. I hope my husband doesn’t read this next part, because here are all of the book and curriculum purchases I’ve made on Amazon this past year that I have blogged about:

  • Quarters 1 and 2 Expenses: ($27.95), ($65.13), ($12.64), ($4.82), ($35.45), ($5.99), ($22.78), ($58.62), ($76.58), ($73.34) = ($383.30)

Ouch!

2) Okay, now for a look at my All About Learning Press affiliate account:

  • Quarters 1 and 2 Profits: $101.98, $101.71, $35.35 = $239.04
  • Expenses (Level 3 AAS kit as well as a couple of items from Level 1 AAR that I will be blogging about soon) = ($76.85)

3) I also need to add my Blog.com expenses for the year:

  • Taking the advertisements off: ($30)
  • Getting extra storage space: ($20)

4) The Final Total?

  • Gross Profits: $33.94+ $79.42 +$239.04 = $353.40
  • Total Expenses: ($383.30) + (76.85) + ($30) +($20) = ($510.15)
  • $510.15-$353.40 = (156.75)

Ahhhhh! I didn’t think the number would say that at all! My blog has ended up costing me money? Yikes!

It’s okay though, because all of the things I have spent money on are books, CDs, spelling, and learning games for my kids. Since I’m a really mean and sneaky mom, some of those “learning games” also doubled as birthday presents. So it’s all good.

5) One last point of useful information is what has my blogging traffic been like? Here are the numbers from January 1, 2012 to July 21, 2012:

Visits: 26,409
Unique Visitors: 16,573

Page views: 63,727

I don’t have the daily rate up there, but I usually get between 100-200 unique visits a day. What I have heard is that your blog really needs to be receiving upwards of 500 visits a day to make any meaningful money. Of course, judging from the information I have I would really question the description “meaningful”.

I hope this post explains why I do indeed have an Amazon Affiliate and an All About Learning Press Affiliate account set up on my blog. I’m not out to make money off of my readers, but it would be nice to break even on all of our chapter book purchases. 🙂

Technology on Wednesday, Day 2

Here is the movie my son Bruce(7) made from our trip to the Woodland Park Zoo.  I am teaching him how to upload pictures from a flash memory disc and use Windows Movie Maker.  Bruce used a lot of special effects for this 3 minute film, so hopefully you don’t get seasick.  🙂

Snap Circuits

One of Bruce’s favorite birthday presents from turning seven has been the Snap Circuits kit my husband and I gave him. Snap Circuits has a very Lego-like feel about it. It includes a circuit board and a myriad of components that snap together. If you follow the directions in the schematics book, you can build circuits that do real things like turn on a light bulb, work a fan, play music, etc. These experiments go very quickly. The first time Bruce and I did Snap Circuits together we did six different experiments in about twenty minutes.

 

Will I date myself if I say that this was “totally awesome”? I don’t have any engineering experience at all, and yet I was able to help my son do this without any problem. In fact, I felt like I learned a lot myself as an adult.

That being said, when my Electrical Engineer husband does Snap Circuits with Bruce he takes the learning to a whole new level because he knows just the right words to say. This strikes me as yet another example of education begetting education. Yeah for my by kids, bummer for everyone else. It strikes me as sad, because I never got exposure to anything like this when I was a child. My parents were wonderful, but they were English and Home Economics majors. It makes me wonder…If I had played around building circuits when I was seven, would the thought of becoming an engineer someday ever occurred to me?

Back to the present, how can the ordinary mom like me be able to do Snap Circuits with my kids and use the same sort of language that my EE husband can? Well, I need to hunt down a copy of There are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings by Kenn Amdahl. I first read that book in high school and remember it as being a funny, easy-t0-understand explanation about how electricity works.  I don’t really want to spend my limited free time reading about electricity, but I’m willing to do a little Mommy-Ed so that I can be a better home-teacher.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Beth at Homeschool Ninjas because she is the person who introduced me to Snap Circuits in the first place. I asked her which kit I should buy, and she said to buy the biggest kit we afford, because the experiments go very quickly. That was really good advice! So for Bruce’s main present, we purchased the Snap Circuits Extreme kit, which has 750 experiments.

There are less expensive Snap Circuit kits available too. There are also extension kits you can purchase to beef-up the smaller kits if your child ends up liking Snap Circuits as much as Bruce does.

Thank you Pinterest People!

I just wanted to say thank you to all of my readers who have shared my ideas on Pinterest. This is really special to me because I don’t know any of you in real life and I am not a Pinterest person myself. Actually, I’m sort of clueless about the whole thing.

What’s funny to me is that the most shared idea is for CVC Flip Books. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking my own project. It’s just weird how social sharing and the web works. Out of all of the ideas I’ve ever blogged about; it’s funny that it is CVC Flip Books that was the most popular.

If I was a pinner on Pinterest, these are the two ideas from my blog that I would share. I can’t take credit for creating these lessons, just blogging about them. I learned about both of these math activities from master educators when I was teaching third grade.

Peanut Buttering (Reducing) Fractions

Square Numbers and Square Roots

Probably if I wasn’t spending my free time blogging, I’d be pinning away. Or if I was a better blogger, I’d have a Facebook page for Teaching My Baby to Read and also be on Pinterest. But then I wouldn’t have any time to write my blog. 🙂 So once again, I’d like to give BIG thank you to those of you who are on Pinterest, and who have brought my ideas there for me.

Teaching My Baby to Video

This weekend my husband and I made our first attempt at teaching our kids Bruce(6.5) and Jenna(2.5) how to make their own movies. With Jenna, the focus was on the basics of storytelling; including a beginning, middle, and end in her movie. With Bruce, we worked on scene set-up (i.e. keeping your hand out of the shot), and basic film editing skills on Windows Movie Maker. This ended up being a fun way to spend a Saturday night!

Jenna’s First Movie:

Bruce’s First Movie:

We did originally have music running over the credits, but I wasn’t sure about copyright infringement, so I took it off. Any tips on this?