Teaching My Baby To Read
My dream is to spark a national conversation

My dream is to spark a national conversation about how massive parental involvement is the key to high quality education.

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Boulder River Waterfall

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. … Continue reading

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.       For more information about Twin Harbors Beach State Park, please visit … Continue reading

Zumba Exhilarate vs. Zumba Incredible Results

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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

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 … Continue reading

Put Outlaw Words in their place

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Kids, Veggies and the Food Mover

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, … Continue reading

Put a window on it

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 … Continue reading

Lovely and Unique Journals for Children

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 … Continue reading

Helping Kids Understand Afghanistan

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 … Continue reading

Giving “blood sugar” new meaning

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!

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 … Continue reading

Teaching kids about Islam

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 … Continue reading

Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget

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 … Continue reading

A New Take on the Morning Message

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 … Continue reading

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.