We had the best time with our stArt project this week. The book I chose was The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree. It’s a fact-based book by Gail Gibbons, and I learned about it from Adventures in Mommydom. Anna enjoyed a book more than I expected – lately she had an overload on season-related books. In the book a boy enjoys different games and activities centered around his friend, the apple tree. So I printed four tree outlines and made it a family activity. We each picked a season for our tree. Anna wanted winter first (she consults winter pages in this picture), but then she saw a new package of felt fall stickers from Target and changed her mind. I chose winter, and my husband did spring. Poor summer was left alone. I tried to convince Anna to do it on another day, but she was not interested. It was fun to work together using different techniques. Anna did hers entirely by herself. Her magical tree grows maple leaves, apples and pumpkins. As you can see, she will probably outgrow my artistic abilities rather soon, but she has to work pretty hard to get to papa’s level :)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Shannon at Growing and Learning by Leaps and Bounds is opening up a new linky about Kids Discovering Nature. I will be linking to her and to Nature Explorers at Blissful Moments, if I have something to say on the topic, and I have time to write the post about it. Today the topic is pretty simple – favorite fall activities.
I grew up in Minsk, capital of Belarus. Belarus is a forest kingdom. My favorite memories from my childhood include going out with my parents to pick wild berries or wild mushrooms. I remember misty mornings in the fall when we got up early and headed out on our mushroom picking expeditions. Then we came home and spent time cleaning mushrooms and preserving them in various ways for the winter.
I miss those childhood pleasures here in the States, but at least we still have hiking in our Redwood Groves and preparing for Thanksgiving. Let me tell you – Halloween and Thanksgiving is a lot more fun to celebrate than yet another October Revolution Anniversary. By the way, October Revolution was celebrated on November 7. It happened on October 25, 1917, but Russia was still on Julian calendar at that time. But I digress…
My favorite fall holiday for the last three years is Anna’s birthday. It’s in the middle of October, which makes it a little unpredictable weather-wise. Anticipation starts to build already – Anna is now trying to decide what she wants for her birthday cake. So far Diego is firmly in the lead followed by “kitties, but only girl kitties, because I like only girls”. To me now fall will forever be the time of birth and bounty, of excitement and anticipation and of celebrating with family and friends.
I always love it when I find the book that prompts hours of imaginative play and opens up new horizons. Little Ballet Star by Adele Geras definitely fits into this category. I picked it from the “new books” shelf in our library, because lately Anna was yearning for books with female characters in it. We read it probably 100 times in one week, and Anna asked questions about every single word she didn’t know. It’s not a short book, but it is easy to read, because each page doesn’t have a lot of text. The illustrations by Shelagh McNicholas are very pretty and graceful. I will not spoil the story for you, but in short it is about a little girl who has a very special birthday, and it has no conflict whatsoever – something that Anna really appreciates in books. I highly recommend this book to moms of girls, especially the “princess girls” who love to dance.
Two interesting things transpired after reading this book. First, Anna keeps saying that she wants to go to a dance class and she keeps “practicing” plies and curtsies that I demonstrated to her (they look rather hilarious). I have to admit that I cannot imagine my daughter progressing far in dance. She is more athletic than graceful, and her sense of rhythm leaves a lot to be desired. But still I think it would be an awesome experience to have at a young age. I investigated, and our community center offers “pre-ballet” classes for 3+ crowd, so we might sign her up for November sessions.
Secondly, Anna begs to go to a theater. Now she keeps saying that she wants to go to ballet for her birthday. Again, I investigated and our San Jose Ballet has a ballet called Coppelia coming up in October. So I have a question for my readers – have you tried to take your child to something that is not Elmo Live or such? What was their reaction? And if someone saw Coppelia, I would really appreciate your comment as well :)
Monday, September 28, 2009
I saw some neat post schedules among my blog friends lately, and I wanted to share mine. Well, I don’t really have one – mwa-ha-ha. I only really have three days planned:
My weekend posts are scheduled, since I blog early in the morning and prefer to sleep in on the weekend. They are usually in response to something I read or learned, or book/toy reviews (not paid, they are just about the books and toys that work for us). The weekend posts are also reserved for any self-made games or cooking together (something that doesn’t happen often enough here). On Monday I write about our weekend activities, especially if they involved trips. I keep Tuesday open for crafts and for Growing and Learning by Leaps and Bounds linkies.
Happy reading and writing, my blog friends!
Summer has decided to stay here for longer. We had temperatures in mid 90s all last week, and our A/C is working overtime. No apple picking for us – we spent both days of the weekend at our neighborhood pool. Anna still refuses to get her face wet, and we didn’t take any swimming lessons this year. This is the plan for the next summer – to learn how to swim. But she loves water and swims fairly well with a swimming tube. In the afternoon I let her watch one episode of Sid the Science Kid that we recorded. I am getting tired of Dora and Diego, even though Anna loves to watch those shows when she gets a chance. We don’t have any premium channels, so she doesn’t get to watch those often unless I bring the DVD from the library. Quite coincidentally, the topic of the Sid show was weather and what meteorologists do. Anna was very interested, because just recently we read a book from Let’s Read and Find Out series that was called What Will the Weather Be? The book was over her head in many places, but Sid show focused on temperature, wind and rain. After the show we went outside and improvised rain with a water hose. Anna was enjoying herself so much – giggling, catching water with her tongue like the kids in the show and collecting “rain water” in the buckets. I hope she will enjoy a “real” rain just as much when it finally comes and visits us.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I have to state one thing in the beginning of this post. I don’t like baking. It’s convoluted, prone to error (at least in my case) and bad for one’s figure. However, the other day I caught myself standing in Michael’s, admiring Halloween cupcake cups and contemplating cupcakes. Whoa, that’s what having children does to you! Still, it took me about two weeks to finally get around to baking this cake. I think I baked it last about 20 years ago, when I was still a student back home in the former Soviet Union. In Russian it’s called Sharlotka – Charlotte, and it’s the fastest cake ever:
1. Blend 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour and 3 eggs
2. Cut two Granny Smith apples.
3. Pour batter over apples and bake for 15 minutes.
As you can see, Anna was helping very enthusiastically and couldn’t wait for it to get ready and cool down. Then she didn’t want any apples in the cake. Oh well, at least the rest of us enjoyed it (and I won’t mention that that nice crust cracked as soon as the cake cooled down). Now I am thinking that maybe I can manage baking something once a month, and next month it will be something Halloweenish.
To see what others did visit the new home of Simply Made Sunday here
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Anna’s preschool had a Back to School night for parents on Wednesday. It was a chance to meet other parents and spend some time talking to teachers. All the teachers only had positive things to say about Anna. According to them, she adjusted greatly, contributes to discussions, likes arts and music and starts to make friends. I can also sense a positive change in Anna’s attitude to school. She still doesn’t relish going, but she is not in a bad mood on school days and immediately lets go on drop off. She still digests many of the things, but she is more and more positive in her comments about her teachers and her classmates. And I really like the program she has. Every week they have a theme, and every day they have different activities – dress up, story time, songs and arts that are somehow related to the theme. They also have a lot of theme-related props to play with during their free play time. For example, right now the theme is “community”, and they have construction vests, fireman hats, policeman uniforms in their dress-up corner as well as themed books, puzzles and building sets. The teachers describe everything on the board, so the parents can get a good sense of what books the kids were reading, what songs they were singing. All three teachers seem very warm, have a lot of experience and genuinely enjoy teaching and taking care of little kids. I am so happy that we went with our gut feeling and moved Anna to this school. My ideal preschool suddenly took shape right in front of my eyes. The only complaint that I have – a lot of holiday shutdowns and additional 2 weeks shutdown in August. It’s not a problem for us right now, but the family with two working parents always have to scramble for alternative care on such days.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I am honored to be a recipient of two blogging awards in the last week.
Dragon Loyalty award comes from Chronicle of Infant Bibliophile. I really enjoy this blog since I am always looking to expand our reading horizons. I want to pass it on to:
- Nicole at Tired, Need Sleep
- Debbie at WhispersWhispering
- Susana at My Family My Forever
- Christy at Superheroes and Princesses
- Nadia at Fun with Mama
Second award came from Adventures in Mommydom. I really enjoy Ticia’s sense of humor as she describes her life with twin boys and a younger Princess. I want to pass it along to the first group – I really consider those wonderful ladies my friends. And I also want to send it to a few others:
- Michelle at A Mommy’s Adventures
- Julie at Just Playin’ Around
- Michelle at Delightful Learning
- Annette at Live, Learn, Love
- MaryAnne who just now moved to her new virtual home Mama Smiles.
I also want to report that my Pay It Forward packages finally got mailed today. Sorry, ladies, I had a terrible time getting to the post office for the last two weeks, but now they are on their way.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Since I already wrote a couple posts profiling our non-fall books of the week, I will write about our fall picks. I make sure to visit everyone who links their posts to me and learn about their reading picks. That’s how I found a few books that turned out to be hits in our house last week.
This book was mentioned on several blogs, and Ticia from Adventures in Mommydom even made an apple pie based on the recipe from the book. Anna loved the book, because it features a female character and because she is very interested in farms lately. She only wanted to know where Annie’s animals were. I explained to her that some farmers grow animals while others grow fruits and vegetables, and that was big news to her. The book is easy to read and mercifully short – good reading for “just one more book, please” times.
This book was recommended by Nicole at Tired, Need Sleep. We both loved it. It goes nicely and simply over “from seed to fruit” lifecycle and even has a special page in the end to explain details on how the green shoot emerges from the seed. Anna was not interested in that part, but she liked to predict what will happen next – good exercise in sequencing. The illustrations are bright and simple, and the text is easy to grasp. Anna liked the book so much that she asked to keep it for another week – always a sign of extreme favor :)
This is my own find on the picture book display in our library. I like finding hidden gems from known authors. I have never heard about this book by Bill Martin Jr before. I have to admit that I wasn’t thrilled with both the rhymes and illustrations in this book, but Anna really liked it and wanted to read it many times. Basically, the book has one verse and one illustrated page for every month of the year. One thing that I liked – unlike many other books of this kind this one doesn’t talk about seasonal holidays at all and focuses instead on changes that happen in the nature.
I requested this book from the library a couple of weeks ago while preparing for our fall-related reading week. Every week I set aside a couple of books for Anna to read on the toilet, and it was her favorite “potty book” this week – she had us read it to her and read it herself many times. It’s a fact book, but it’s narrated by a small boy talking about all the things that happen during fall and how animals and plants are preparing for the winter. It’s very colorful, and both of us liked it. I think Anna got more out of it than from all other fact-based fall books that I tried. This author (Linda Glaser) has four books in these series, one for each season, and I will make sure that we will read them all eventually.
I am happy to report that The Well Read Child where my linky idea started has found a solution for her weekly round up – it will become a traveling linky starting next week. This week Well Read Child is hosted in its original place. I will be hosting it as well on November 5, but I will continue to maintain my own every week. My linky is open all week, so please feel free to link in on any day that is convenient for you, and I will be happy to visit you to learn what your children are reading.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
We are participating in StArt at A Mommy’s Adventures again. This week we read two books about color mixing that were on my library list for a while. Finally, they both happened to be available at the same time. Anna enjoyed Mouse Paint a lot more, probably because it didn’t involve any crying.
I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try some scientific color mixing combined with painting. I set her outside with four plastic glasses. The first three had red, yellow and blue food coloring mixed in water, and the last one had clear water. I gave her a medicine dropper and was hoping to get some color mixing done. The moment Anna saw a medicine dropper, she informed me that all her farm animals are very sick and need some medicine. Then she spent good 30 minutes dropping colored water on them. After some prompting she finally turned to color mixing but despite reading all those books was not able to predict what will happen when she mixes blue and yellow water. She was quite surprised when the water turned green. She never acted surprised before when we did the same with paint. I guess in her mind paint and colored water have different properties.
I also saw this neat coffee filter fall craft at No Time For Flashcards and wanted to color a few filters for it. Anna was happy to oblige, but I learned that the water solution definitely needs to be more concentrated. Our colored water looked great in the glasses, but the color was barely visible on coffee filters. Since Anna liked the whole project so much, we will probably try it again at some point with less water and more food coloring.
To learn what others are reading and making, visit StArt.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Keri at The Home Teacher has enlightened me in the beginning of September that today is an International Ice Cream Day. Apparently ice cream cone was invented on this day in 1903. Well, we are enjoying our annual September heat wave right now. The temperatures are staying at 90+, and our A/C is working all the time. Besides, after all, today is the unique day between summer and fall – technically fall started at about 2 pm our time here. So we decided to stick with summer today celebrated an Ice Cream Day. There is nothing that can cheer up a cranky toddler as a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.
I am ashamed to admit, but I don’t think that Anna has ever eaten a proper ice cream cone – we don’t buy ice cream from the ice cream truck (yet), and we eat it from the bowls at home. So she was somewhat confused by this craft project. She couldn’t understand why this “ice cream man” doesn’t have legs and why the craft kit came with three scoops and not one. Anyway, she did a pretty good job independently putting it together and then giving it a full head of hair. She started to make up a story about an ice cream man, but unfortunately, I accidentally spilled a cup of water on her project, so we had to shift gears at this point and head out to the library. I looked up a couple of books about ice cream on Amazon, but our library didn’t have any of them, so maybe we will take another shot at book-supported ice cream day at some point in time. I don’t think Anna will mind it at all – we both enjoyed our ice cream afternoon.
Growing and Learning by Leaps and Bounds has a linky about Learning Corners. The topic for today is our favorite learning corner. Well, we don’t have a dedicated learning corner, since we are not really homeschooling. We read books in Anna’s room, do Progressive Phonics on the couch in our living room, most of quick projects happen in our eat-in kitchen that also doubles as our family room, and we take our messier projects outside to our backyard. I would say that backyard is my favorite, because it’s really easy to switch from working to playing and back and because we are doing the best of our creative activities there. This table doubles as our painting table, our nature table, our science table, etc. Anna’s playhouse is right next to it, so sometimes she comes up with the ideas for the objects that we are creating that are linked to her favorite game of the moment or to something that she can use inside the playhouse. We are lucky to live in a sunny and dry place, so we can use this outside place practically all year round (especially after we will fix the soggy ground in this corner of the backyard).
One thing that Anna likes to do when she is in a good mood is to make up stories. Other kids draw pictures, she covers her paper with scribbles dictating to herself. All those zillions of books that we read mixed nicely in her head and definitely jump started her vocabulary. We are getting, Umm… how old is she??? a lot, when Anna decides to be chatty outside of the house (which is rarely). Lately she also enjoys the time when I sit down with a piece of paper and write down her stories. Here is the one that she created in the middle of the birthday party for her friend. She disappeared in the art room, then pulled me in and said that it’s time for the story: One hungry cat went for a long walk. She met a dog chewing on his tail. They played together and ran fast down the mountain. Then they met a monkey eating a banana (write a banana in a yellow color, mama!). No, it will be a mango. They all went home and played so many times. Then they had cake. Someone touched it.
I am thinking of having a notebook for Anna stories and recording them down, then maybe making a digital scrapbook with them. It will be fun to see how they will grow and mature over years.
Monday, September 21, 2009
This Sunday my wish has finally come true. I wanted to go on this train ride for a while, but I am glad that we first tried out steam engine travel on another railroad – Niles Canyon a few months ago. Anna was terrified then, but she had some time to digest the experience, and she did much better this time. She still didn’t like the steam whistle at first, but then got used to it and enjoyed the scenic ride. And, believe me, the ride is truly scenic. This narrow gauge railroad goes up the Santa Cruz mountains and travels through the ancient redwood groves. We have seen the trees that were more than a thousand years old. The weather couldn’t be better – a very warm fall day and just a little mist on the ground. I like this picture that my husband took – the light was filtering through the steam and mist creating beautiful effects. We had a short stop up on the mountain, and Anna had a chance to take a closer look at those giant trees. She was more interested in the train though – she couldn’t wait to get back on board. I think we might make this train ride a yearly event, since it’s only about 45 minutes drive from where we live.
When I was in the library last week, I saw this book on the “new releases” shelf and remembered that someone (unfortunately, I don’t remember who) has recommended it a few weeks ago. I checked it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great book, not just as an introduction/review of lowercase characters, but also as a delightful story of silly little children settling down after a busy day. The rhymes are making perfect sense and easy to remember, and each page also has a lot of “hidden treasures” – objects that start with the same letter. On the last page all letters are nicely asleep with their favorite toys. Anna asked to read this book at least 5 times every day since I brought it from the library, and she quotes from it while playing with something else. Usually her interest wanes after the first few readings, but she is still going strong on this one. I highly recommend this book, especially to those who are working on lowercase alphabet recognition.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I saw geoboards on a couple of blogs during the summer (unfortunately, I don’t remember where). I was intrigued, because I have never heard of them before, and the idea looked like fun. I really wanted to make one for Anna and eventually run into a small magnetic cork board that was perfectly square at $1 section of Target. I procrastinated for a month and finally got it done. It’s 5x5, and we use hair holders that I found at Dollar Tree as manipulatives. I put it into Anna’s “math” box – that’s where we keep her counting erasers, her purse, her ruler, and she loved it. She is calling it her workshop and for the first time she played with it for a good hour. Believe me, for my daughter it’s a very long time. She plays with it on and off every day, and I showed her how to make some shapes. She is not interested in reproducing them though – she just enjoys making many crossing lines. This is a really good toy that cost me just $2 and 10 minutes of making it. I am doubly pleased, because it’s the very first time I made something for her from scratch, and it became a hit. Now I am thinking of more projects to make, but I am still staying away from anything that would involve a needle and a thread :)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I probably should have found a less cheerful picture for this post, but I took this one when Anna was busy playing “shopping”. As I mentioned in my Friday School Corner post, Anna was very unwilling to do anything this week that she perceived as “work”. I did some “debugging” of our routine and realized that some things need to be changed to make our afternoons together less of a battle of wills.
- Anna still has 2 hour nap time between 2 and 4. Unfortunately, sometimes she falls asleep only shortly before 4 and then I wake her up at 5 pm. On these days she is very grumpy and sort of disoriented. I asked my husband to just let her play in her room if she is not asleep by 3:30 pm. Strangely, she is in a much better mood then, and we also have more time to ourselves in the evening, because of earlier bedtime on these days.
- I had the right idea in my “ideal schedule” to start the afternoon with time outside or free play, but we are not executing on it, especially on late nap days. I am too anxious to get “something useful” done. I got a good advice in the comments yesterday - “go with the flow”, and I need to learn to do that. At the same time, I should get better at keeping some short activities at hand – connect-the-dots printables, craft kits, etc. for those periods for when she does want to sit down and do something with her hands.
- I need to change the pace on Progressive Phonics. I had it 3 days a week in my schedule. Why on Earth do I keep trying for it every day? Nothing kills interest as fast as pushing too hard. This silly s-blends book with so many sounds needs a month to go through, and I should plan accordingly.
- I don’t need to participate in every linky I like. I enjoy reading about what others do for Open-Ended Art, but sometimes Anna is simply not up for open-ended projects, especially when they involve materials that she has never experienced before. So… I will not stress any longer about whether we do an Open-Ended Art or not at any given week and maybe it will happen more naturally for us.
So I am curious – what is NOT working in your “mommy school”? What does? How do you convince your child to do “work”? I am interested in your insights.
Friday, September 18, 2009
It’s been not an easy week as far as school is concerned. Anna was simply not cooperating with my well laid plans. At best she simply wanted to play and be left alone. At worst, she was grumpy, whiny and demanded to be entertained. Her only response to What would you like to do? question was invariably Watch a movie. Now, we limit TV at home to 30 min a day, so we had quite a few fights about it. She didn’t want to do anything that she perceived as “work” and generally was getting on our nerves quite a bit. Well, I am used to this ups and downs of parenting a toddler, but I do hope that she gets into more cheerful frame of mind again soon.
We continued our Phonics program from Progressive Phonics. Anna is doing well there… when I can convince her to actually sit down with me and do “reading words”. Sadly, she has been avoiding it as well this week, because this is, after all, work, where she has to apply herself. We are studying s-blends, and there are gazillions of them. She puts a foam sticker on every page we finished, so an unfortunate book is getting fatter and fatter. I also made a fishing game for her with simple sight words. She enjoyed it quite a bit, especially when she managed to get several words at once. I think I will continue to change words from time to time, so novelty of it doesn’t wear off too quickly.
We had some fun with Math this week. I bought for Anna a set of counting erasers and some magnetic numbers some time ago, but yesterday I pulled it out and put it into her box in the kitchen. She was very excited – it’s amazing how much fun a child can have for $1. It didn’t take her any time at all to figure out initial function (erasers), to try them out on markers and pencils, and decide that they stink as erasers, but will work great as play money. I remembered that she got a small purse from her uncle and aunt last Christmas and fished it out from “rejects”. She spent a good hour shopping – all I needed to do was to put out some “food” for her to buy with “prices”. She was counting her money and putting the right amount into the "piggy bank” (container from erasers) without any difficulty at all. I am sure we will be now playing “shopping” for a while.
Prewriting. Anna really enjoys “connect-the-dots” activities. This is the first time we tried an ABC connect-the-dot. She did rather well both in figuring out which letter should be next and drawing straight lines. I tried to engage her in card making activity too, but she was not interested – she just wanted to get some blank cards and pretend to mail them.
Science and Social Studies. Somehow our theme of apples didn’t materialize this week. Instead we read the book about the weather as an extension of our Seasons theme and talked about differences between seasons. It’s a little hard to stay focused on fall, when after a couple of cool days the thermometer returned to upper 80s. We also tried to read Bible stories – read more about that here.
Sports and Music. We were going to Gymboree Music class since Anna was about 15 months old, and it was a very good early experience for Anna. However, the class seems to fall into her window of minimal energy – it starts at 5:30 pm. She is restless, doesn’t listen and keep saying that she wants to go and play in the main Gymboree gym. I told my husband that I want to cancel the class, since it also involved 30 min drive one way. He went with Anna on Monday and came back home convinced that this is the right decision. We might look into another organized activity closer to home or just give her more unscheduled time. She gets enough exercise just running around the table pretending to be a butterfly :)
Thursday, September 17, 2009
It was a good reading week for us. I think we have about 20 books checked out from the library, and Anna likes a fair number of them. It was hard to select her favorites, and I shared a couple more books we’ve been reading in other posts.
I picked this book by Eve Bunting accidentally, and all three of us including my husband fell in love with it. The story is beautifully illustrated and is really appealing. The library is closing, and animal children of the town are doing everything in their power to keep it open. The message is loud and clear – you can learn to do anything as long as you have books and know how to read. And, if you have a library, it’s even better. We definitely agree – we love our library!
This was also an accidental find. Anna and my husband liked it more than me, so it was their favorite “potty book” this week. The story line is about a pig named Hamlet who doesn’t fit and not supported at home, because he wants to stay clean and write poetry. I thought that the poems in the book (non-rhymed) and even its story line are way over Anna’s head, but she enjoyed beautiful illustrations. It also fits nicely with our current theme of being in touch with nature.
Elmer books always end up on Anna’s short list of favorites. This one made her giggle – it’s not often that she really laughs at the events in the book. The content is clear from the cover art – Elmer flies during the windy day, but the story has some interesting twists including its own take on the “boy who cried wolf”. I highly recommend Elmer books to the crowd of 3 to 5 – they are so sweet and cheerful, and the humor is right on the mark for this age group.
I usually try to find a book or two to complement Anna’s preschool theme of the week. This week they are talking about friends and friendship, so I found this book for her in the non-fiction section. We never read through an entire book, since the amount of text on the page increases all the time, and the end of the book is a little too dry for my liking. But the setup is really interesting – an alien traveler talks to his friends about humans and their rituals. The exchange between aliens is quite funny at times. Anna liked the book, but it’s definitely more suited for an older audience – I’d say 5+.
What is your child reading? Share in my linky.