Monday, August 31, 2009

Arrival Home


I took a break from blogging (the last two posts were scheduled) to get us settled at home. Our Friday flight was rather exhausting. Anna didn’t sleep a wink during the flight, and it was very difficult to keep her entertained for six hours. At least the flight wasn’t bumpy, so she could wiggle around and sit on my lap most of the time looking out of the window and talking non-stop. I think that’s how she kept herself awake – her “why-frequency” always increases dramatically while she is overtired. However, she managed to stay awake and without meltdowns since 4:30 am PST to 9:30 pm PST – I truly don’t know how she managed that. Fortunately, she immediately switched to California time, slept until about 8 am on Saturday and Sunday, and we were all taking nice long naps during the weekend. Hopefully she is rested enough for her first day in the new preschool. I keep my fingers crossed that she will like it, and we won’t have the same drama every school morning that we had in her last school. I have a lot to do on my last day of vacation, and tomorrow it’s “back to work” for me as well. Wish me luck – I could use another week of “staycation” after this vacation :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Melissa and Doug Lacing Beads – a Little Too Late?

Anna was showered with presents in New Jersey. My friends got her this Melissa & Doug Lacing Beads set, and she was very keen to open it. It’s a great toy, and I am glad that Anna had an opportunity to play with it, but it looks to me that despite the label saying 3+, this toy is actually better for younger kids. The first thing Anna did was to put together a necklace out of number blocks arranging them in numerical order, then she fiddled with the rest of the beads and moved on to something else. I tried to get her to arrange the other shapes in the pattern of shapes, but, strangely, this is something that she simply doesn’t get yet. She was not interested. She was also not interested in the activity that was suggested on the box – stacking the beads and seeing how high you can stack them before they fall. She is not a big fan of letting her creations fall down and therefore doesn’t like block building either (unless it’s done with Legos that don’t fall easily). Still, I highly recommend this bright toy – I might keep it in New Jersey until the next year when, hopefully, she has a higher frustration level.












Saturday, August 29, 2009

Resources for Preschool Cats Theme

Here are some books and other resources that I have collected for the unit about cats. Again, we just barely scratched the surface – we might continue the theme next week, but I plan to spend a lot of time just hanging out, getting used to a new preschool and finding our new schedule. There are also all those new books and toys that papa is bringing us from Germany. Anyway, please download my collection by clicking on the image below.


Friday, August 28, 2009

The School Corner – August 28, 2009


It was our second week with grandparents, and we are flying home to California today. This week Anna adjusted to changes, was less anxious and more willing to play and learn. She spent a lot of time with grandparents at the pool, but it was opening at 10 am, and we still had an hour before for school and crafts. In the afternoons she mostly played with her new toys on the patio outside and watched an episode of her favorite Diego every day. Overall she had a great time, and I am sure she will miss her Babushka and Dedushka. Since my parents have a cat, I decided to have a mini-cat theme for this second week:

Cookies Week

We read several books about cats. I tried to offer Anna several activities based on Cookie’s Week book that we brought from the library – Making Learning Fun has a mini-unit based on this story, but Anna was not very interested in the books or activities that I suggested. As I mentioned before, she doesn’t like coloring, so she didn’t want to do anything that required coloring. But she traced a little and stamped magnet pages with her new Crayola stampers, so we still had some fun with this mini-unit.

We continued with Progressive Phonics and ploughed through short-U sound. Anna is doing quite well, especially when she is rested. She also continues her attempts to read independently – usually signs, words on the food containers, and yesterday I spied her sounding out a pretty long word – bookmark. We will start blending next week, and I am wondering how this will go – it’s harder than just individual sounds, and she still has to remember all the rules that she learned already. I am quite prepared to stop and give her a break if she balks at it, but we will see.

Aug26_LacingBeads4_SM Yet again, we didn’t do much on math, but math learning seems to be happening spontaneously. Anna likes to count when she is in the mood, and she likes activities that require some logical thinking – like finding “what’s wrong with this picture” or simply finding objects that don’t belong to the group. One of the presents that she received here was Lacing Beads by Melissa and Doug. She put together a necklace with numbered blocks without any prompting from me. 6 and 9 stumped her a little, but she figured it out herself by counting dots on the blocks. We also read another book from MathStart series (also a good book about sharing) – Let’s Fly a Kite

Aug25_AnnaFarm_SM I was encouraged to see Anna play independently a lot this week. Another of her presents was this activity book about farm animals. She kept returning to it and drawing with a dry eraser that came with a book. She also practiced drawing a lot – she added “mountains” to the list of things that she likes to draw, and she kept taking her scissors and cutting paper to strips. To her credit, she never attempted to cut anything else and only used scrap paper or construction paper for her independent cutting practice. She also kept playing out different situations – mostly based on travel bear stories from Germany that she kept receiving every day. I think papa was really missing his daughter, and she missed him too.

Aug24_Playdoh1_SM Of course, we also did arts and crafts. I loved most when those projects were initiated by her even though they were not as picture-perfect as directional art. Anna especially enjoyed playing with her new playdoh set. I finally found exactly the one I wanted – it had the most useful items – playdoh roller, spaghetti maker and a few shapes. The time I spent reading while she played contentedly by my side was the most relaxing times of this vacation. I will miss my parents too, and I will miss life without conference calls and work-related emails. Hey, I am already dreaming of my next vacations :)

Here is my favorite picture of Anna from this week:

Aug25_BlueDress_SMTo see what others are doing, visit a Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Open Ended Art - Crayons


The topic of Open-Ended Art festival this week was crayons. Technically, it was supposed to be yellow crayons, but we only had a tiny travel pack of crayons here with 3 colors. Anna is not a big fan of coloring and uses crayons only for drawing. On the positive note, she drew a lot this week using every implement in the house – pencils, pens, markers, highlighters and even crayons (she usually prefers markers to crayons). Here is what I photographed for an open-ended art:


She used two colors (something new for her), and the thing in the middle is supposed to be a mountain. A dot on the mountain is Anna who is stuck on the mountain. And an oval in the bottom left corner is a rescue helicopter that mama pilots to come and get her off the mountain.

For more of Open-Ended Art projects this week, visit Teaching My Little Bookworm.

What My Child Is Reading – August 27, 2009

Ladybug Magazine

We had another good reading week. I stopped by the library by myself and picked up April issue of Ladybug magazine as a test. We had a couple of issues of Babybug at home, and Anna liked to read it. She took to Ladybug after the first reading and wanted to read it… again and again. I am kind of lukewarm to the stories, but maybe I’ll check our local library to see if they also rent out magazines, and then I can get another issue for her. If she continues to like it, I will contemplate getting it for her as part of her Christmas present.

Arthur Goes To School

Anna likes Arthur books, and this one combined one of her favorite characters with one of her favorite activities – flap books. She enjoyed stories on each page – sequencing, counting, reading the story of Three Little Pigs with Arthur, opposites and ABCs. Frankly, sometimes I think that if Anna went to kindergarten now, she would probably be on an average level there with obvious weak points in everything that requires fine motor skills. I am wondering what happens when she actually goes there two years from now.

Me on the Map

I heard so much about this book on the blogs that I couldn’t help checking out. It’s truly a brilliant and elegant introduction into cartography, and I enjoyed it very much. Anna was interested the first few times, but her Ladybug eclipsed all other reading options in the house :) I still think that geography and maps are way over her head, but she knows now that we live in California, and her grandparents live in New Jersey, and she is able to show both on the map of the United States of America (she calls it Merica)

Where are you blue kangaroo

My mom picked this book in the library, and it was quite a hit too. In fact, I am going to look up other books from the same series in the library at home. This book is good for all the kids with special cuddle friends –that’s how Anna calls her kitty Periwinkle. Little Lily almost loses her special kangaroo a few times before she learns to take care of it. Anna took the story to heart, and I noticed significant uptick in her trying to make sure that her kitty doesn’t get lost. Maybe we will let her take him to school after all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Encouragement vs. Praise

The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.  ~Max Lerner, The Unfinished Country, 1950

Praising Girls The topic of ABC and 123 Summer Picnic this week is encouraging others. It’s a fascinating topic to me. I did a series on this blog about 2 months ago about raising optimistic children, and one of the points of the book was that encouragement is essential while indiscriminate praise can be poisonous to young children. Interestingly, I also read that in original Montessori approach the teachers were not supposed to praise their students in any shape or form, for praise by its nature carries evaluation. It’s almost like in quantum physics – the observer changes the state of the object he/she observes. The teachers in Montessori schools were supposed to guide and help, but not to judge or evaluate.

I will be honest – I am not too good with encouragement vs. praise at home. I am much better at work. My peers often tell me that they appreciate honest feedback and not politically correct set of words designed to “raise morale”. But at home I often go overboard with praise without wanting to. I have an only child – and in my mind she is the prettiest, the smartest, the funniest little girl that ever walked on planet Earth. Of course, I am exaggerating a little bit, but you get the idea. Sometimes the praise of You are so smart! kind just jumps off my lips before I can catch myself. But I am trying to become better for the sake of my daughter. I don’t want her to grow up a praise junkie, and I don’t want her to grow up an anxious child that doesn’t want to try anything new, because she is afraid to fall off her pedestal. I hope that she will want to experiment with things that she is not good at, if she is curious about them.

As always, I am researching the subject :) I picked up the book profiled in this post in the library, and I will review it when I am done reading it. But the main idea of the book in a nutshell is that girls love praise, and should receive it, but praise needs to be wise. I found interesting examples of praise vs. encouragement here:

Praise Encouragement
Your are the best student I ever had. You are a fine student. Any teacher will appreciate and enjoy you.
You are always on time. You sure make an effort to be on time.
You have the highest score in the class on this exam.

You did very well on this exam.

I am so proud of you.

You seem to really enjoy learning

You're the best helper I ever had.

The room looks very neat since you straightened the bookshelves.

My Internet friend, the author of Raising Three Thinkers, introduced me to the works of a very interesting author Alfie Kohn. I will leave you with a great article – Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”. I will be trying hard to follow this wise advice.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The First Swim “In the Real Ocean”

Aug24_Ocean2After our visit to Brooklyn Aquarium we went to the beach. When I told Anna that we are going for a swim in the ocean, she got immediately alarmed. Will there be fish? Sharks? Jellyfish? I reassured her that there will be nothing in the water except people. In fact, Coney Island Beach was a lot less crowded than I remembered it – probably because it was middle of the day on Monday. When Anna saw the waves, her reaction was of immediate a avoidance - no ocean! no waves! Again, I reassured her by holding her and dipping her in the water in between waves (by the way, there were barely any waves). Then my mom took over, and I could get for my first swim in the ocean in the last three years. It’s not possible to swim in our Pacific waters, the temperature is too cold even for me. When Anna saw me swimming, she got more brave. She started to play in the waves, and we had the hardest time getting her out of the ocean. In fact, she was all dried up, when she slipped out and promptly got sandy again, just so she could get into water again. We will miss you, warm ocean! If Anna is lucky, she might meet you again in November in Florida!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Field Trips Rock – Brooklyn Aquarium

Aug24_Aquarium_SMWe finally got out on the field trip today – we went with grandparents to Brooklyn Aquarium. The trip brought back memories of my first few years in America, when I lived in Brooklyn. We went by car, and crossed three famous bridges – George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn, and then we took Verrazano Bridge as an alternative route home. Anna was highly entertained by the ride – she has never seen such big buildings before, and it’s been a while since we took her to our own famous bridge – Golden Gate.

Aquarium (Anna keeps calling it canarium) itself was very fascinating… for adults. Anna liked it OK, but not as much as I thought she would. She is not a big fan of dark places, and the best part of aquarium were the underground passages where one can observe sea creatures in their natural habitat. I had to carry her a lot before she felt somewhat more confident. Big animals (walruses, sea lions, sharks) really freaked her out, but she enjoyed seeing seahorses, jellyfish and coral reef fish. She kept asking if there is a play area for kids here. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any, and generally this aquarium didn’t have a lot of “see and touch” exhibits – mostly “see and read” stuff. But knowing my daughter, I am confident that she would like a repeat visit a lot more, since she always needs time to digest an entirely new experience and will know what to expect next time. Obviously, we will not go again here, but I will still lobby papa for a drive to our own famous Monterey Aquarium some time soon.

Resources for Preschool Ocean Theme

We have spent two weeks on our ocean theme in July, had a lot of fun, and we barely scratched the surface. I think it will be interesting to return to this theme again next year. I have finally cleaned up my word document of resources, and I wanted to share with everyone the materials that I collected for this theme. Make sure to visit ABC and 123 as well – there was a multitude of excellent suggestions for an ocean theme there as well – unfortunately, their post came out shortly after we were done with our theme. You can get to scribd by clicking on the image below:


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trio Crazy Creatures – Crazy Hard for My Toddler

Aug22_Brio_SMWe got this Fisher Price Trio set from grandparents. It’s almost too bad that it was our first experience with Trio. I am so disappointed that I will definitely not buy any other Trio sets unless Anna somehow falls in love with it elsewhere. This set is advertised for 3-5 year olds, but even I had a hard time building with it and inserting legs and eyes. Anna was also frustrated and gave up on it quickly. Maybe she will be more prepared to build with it next year when we will hopefully visit grandparents again.

Fun in the Sun

Aug23_FunSun_1 Ms Cranky Pants turned into Ms Happy when grandma let her out on the patio and set out to big tubs of water for her. She played making tea and soup for about 30 minutes and then decided that it’s time to get progressively more undressed. Then she declared that she is going to take a bath. Nothing like water for any toddler, especially on a hot and humid day like today.

Aug23_FunSun_2_SM  Aug23_FunSun_4_SM  Aug23_FunSun_3_SM

Saturday, August 22, 2009

C is for Cat


Now when Anna sort of mastered her scissors, she loves cutting. She still can’t cut straight, but she is improving every day. Since we are going through a mini-theme on cats, we made a project together that I found here. Actually, I made most of it while she cut and folded another piece. However, once she realized that it’s a cat, she got more interested. She glued ears and tail and drew a rather impressive face for this kitty. Then she insisted on putting some dots on it with markers and decorating it with stickers. She still doesn’t like coloring, she prefers either tracing or just random dots. What can I say – I have a strange child :)



Coloride Workbooks


Anna got a set of Coloride workbooks from her grandparents. The idea is kind of interesting and easily reproduced without spending a lot of money on these workbooks. Hers came with 6 colored clips and a set of cards (30 in each set). First she had to put clips of matching color on those colored bumps at the bottom of the set. Once she was done, she was ready to start the activity. This particular set was Things That Go Together. So, for example, she had to move a clip from the helicopter at the bottom of the page to the plane at the top of the page and clip it in the opposite direction. Once she solved the correspondence, she could turn the card and see colored suns in the matching frames from clips – that was a sign that she solved the problem correctly. Unfortunately, only this workbook was age appropriate for Anna – the color matching was way too easy for her, and the other two were in Russian. She did very well in solving the problems, and had no problems matching colored clips to their locations, but putting the clips on the cards proved very challenging for her. So it ended up to be more of an activity to practice fine motor skills which she sorely needs.

Security Blanket


At the time where other toddlers give up their baby toys Anna suddenly developed strong love for her cuddle blankie. At home we only allow her to carry this blanket in her room, but it traveled with her on the plane and she carries it all around grandparents’ house. The moment things are not going exactly her way, she starts saying I need my blankie!, grabs it and hides her face in it. She keeps asking if she can take her blanket to her new school knowing fully well what my answer will be. She also has her favorite kitty (also in this picture), but her love for this kitty is nothing in comparison to the cuddle blankie. I hope that once she feels more secure and settled, the need for security blanket will fade, but it’s kind of baffling to see my normally self-possessed daughter wail that she misses her blanket in the middle of the department store.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our School Corner – August 21, 2009

Aug18_AnnaBaba1_SMWe are on the road this week – visiting my family in New Jersey. Anna has a lot of fun playing with all new toys that her doting grandparents prepared for her. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming for her, because she hears a lot of Russian around – something that she is not used to. Unfortunately, the only Russian word that she uses regularly and appropriately is bardak (it means mess). It’s too funny to hear her saying seriously, It’s not a big bardak, it’s only a small bardak. For the first few days she was mostly getting used to the new place, but she learned new things every day – playing grandma’s keyboard, trying out grandparents’ exercise equipment and going to the pool.


 Aug21_Exercise_SM  Aug16_VacaStarts_SM

Aug21_Math_SM But, after all, we did a few things for preschool as well. Anna really enjoyed local library, because it also has play area for young children with good selection of puzzles and a play kitchen. She read many new books and did one of the workbooks that her babushka bought for her about life on the farm. I also brought our Care Bears math book that I bought in the Dollar Tree, and she did a couple of pages. She drew pictures with her new markers. Interestingly, she only draws two things – faces and balloons, but now she adds more details – blue sky for the balloon picture or a line for the body if she draws a face. When I draw with her, she insists that my stick figures should have all Aug21_Puzzles_SM the proper anatomic details – fingers, toes, etc. She also tries out her reading powers more and more often – it’s amazing for me to see my daughter getting closer to independent reading every day. She recognizes a few short sight words and also decodes short words that are based on phonic rules. She asks me constantly to read a particular word to her, and then I try to explain why the word is pronounced that way. We finished short O sound in Progressive Phonics, and I also have short U sound for the next week. It’s actually quite amazing how much she can accomplish in 15 minutes if she is really in the mood for learning, but still our objective here is to relax and have fun before our next year of real preschool and work.

To see what others are doing this week in preschool, visit Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Open-Ended Art – Yellow Mixed Medium


We are joining an open-ended art weekly event from the road as my daughter (34 months old) and I are visiting my parents in NJ. Grandparents were well prepared for our visit and bought some art supplies, but for the first few days Anna was less than interested. Finally today she felt adventurous enough and announced that she wants to make a quilt. Quilt idea was brought by an excellent book that we read this week – Penguin Post. Well, I didn’t have any fabric (not to mention that my sewing skills simply don’t exist), so I suggested that we make a quilt out of construction paper. She readily agreed and chose voluntarily a yellow top for her quilt. I did suggest to her later to decorate her quilt first with markers and then with stickers, but the rest was completely self-directed:





To see other open-ended projects, visit Open-Ended Art at Teaching My Little Bookworm.

Letters From a Travel Bear


Anna got this bear from her German uncle and aunt last Christmas. He came in a small travel suitcase. She liked the suitcase, but not the bear – she is rather indifferent to stuffed animals. He was sitting next to a pile of other stuffed animals in our bedroom until our papa took him on a trip to Germany. Now travel bear sends Anna emails every day and tells her what papa has been up to. There are also pictures of him (travel bear, that is) with friends and family. Anna loves these emails, and I have a hunch that a Travel Bear will be a lot more popular once he returns home.

What My Child Is Reading – August 20, 2009

It was a great reading week! We went to the local library the very first morning after our arrival and signed babushka up. We left with about 15 books, mostly just based on my previous experience with their authors or picked more or less at random. Here are the best of the crop:

Elmer and the Kangaroo

Just before our departure we picked the first book of Elmer, and Anna really enjoyed it. It’s a delightful book about the patchwork elephant and his friends. New Jersey library only had one in the series, but it was even a bigger hit with my daughter. She really connected to the story, asked very many questions that showed full comprehension, and she even started to play it out with me pretending to be an Elmer. Interestingly, she also asked me why Elmer has –er in the end, and why he is not a monster like Elmo. She really pays a lot more attention at the title and tries to use her phonics powers to read the words.

Penguin Post

This was a random find, and both of us really liked this book. It would be great for new big brothers/sisters or for the ones who are going to become one soon. And it’s also a good read while discussing post office. The illustrations are very detailed and funny, both for children and the adults. It was another book that Anna wanted to replay with me and that prompted her to extend the story by making a quilt (even though it was just mentioned in passing).

My Mommy

This one was also a random find. I really liked this book as a last book to read before bed. It’s short, calming, and the illustrations are really great. Anna is a mommy girl, so she definitely connected to the story of mommy and her girl being together. It has very little text and could be a good early reader. It was a little difficult to explain illustrations though – each picture has also animal pairs that sometimes appear related to the text on the page, but sometimes don’t seem to fit well.

Pepper Journal

I had high hopes when I saw this book in the library. My parents have a cat, and I thought that we can have a “cat week”. But Anna found the story (that is focusing on the calendar and gives a lot of interesting facts about cats) very overwhelming and didn’t want to read a book after the first pass. She had enough good books on her comprehension level to wrack her brains over this one. However, I do recommend it highly for slightly older kids (4+), especially for those who are about to get a cat for the first time.

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