Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mission Organization #4 – Organizing School Time

I thoroughly enjoyed my winter break and all the extra time with my daughter. I know, however, that very soon we will be back to our normal routine. I am already lucky enough to be able to be home before 5 pm almost every evening. I accomplish this by starting my work day at 7 am, so I can be out of the office by 4 pm.

By mid December I felt rushed and almost depressed. It felt that I am trying to fit too much into too little time we have. There were all the blog carnivals that I felt compelled to participate in, all the interesting ideas, all the little projects that seemed cute, but quite often backfired when my tired self crossed paths with my cranky no-nap-that-day daughter. So I spent some time in reflection to reevaluate what works and yet again focus on outcomes:

  1. I want to have a quality time with my child that is enjoyable for us, and I want to try new things once in a while.
  2. I don’t really have to do as much arts and crafts as we’ve been doing. Anna’s preschool is all arts-and-play, they do beautiful art there every day – same projects, actually, that I see on the blogs quite often. I can just refill her “make it” box and see if she has a fancy to do something, but I need to take it off my internal agenda.
  3. I want to focus on what I do best and what she does best. I am good at academics, and that’s what I will teach her. We will continue on our “learning to read in 15 minutes a day” journey, we will do more math and logic, because we are “in the flow” when we do these kinds of things together.
  4. I will not focus on writing, because I can see clearly that she is not ready and not interested. As with many other things with my daughter, she mastered things seemingly in one day when that day came. However, I plan to spend a lot of time on storytelling. I love to write down her stories and look at the world through her eyes.
  5. I want to show her the world as much as I can. I am very excited to receive the first postcards from Geography Postcards Exchange, and ours are finally on their way. I want to take my daughter on a virtual journey through countries and continents this year. I was going back and forth between doing US deep-dive first and decided against it. Honestly, I want my child to be a citizen of Planet Earth first and an American citizen second.
  6. I want to spend more time out of house, especially once the longer days return. I was torn this year – wanting to do something to blog about vs. just going for a walk around the neighborhood with my daughter. I am not going to be conflicted this year. I want her to meet the other kids in the neighborhood, to take up dancing and to make it to the library story time as often as we can.

So what will it all mean for this blog? Mostly, I am not sure if I will be blogging every day. I usually write some posts in advance and schedule them, but I will not worry if I run out of posts once in a while. Of course, I will continue to host What My Child Is Readingbooks have always been and will always be a very important part of our days. I will continue to share the materials that we are using, the toys and the games we are playing. I have never been compensated for any of my reviews outside of Amazon Associates program, and I don’t foresee it change in the future. All the reviews I do is only because I like sharing things that work for us. You can probably expect more posts about math and logic and fewer posts about arts and crafts. And I will try to come up with a geography-related post once every week as we go on our virtual globe-trotting adventures. I am already collecting materials for them (for adventures, not for blog posts :))

Happy New Year, my blogging friends! Let 2010 be a peaceful, happy and productive year for your families.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Lot of Games = A Lot of Math


I love this post-Christmas week. The preparation is over, the gift-unwrapping mania is gone, and we can relax and enjoy the quiet family times. It means that we are spending some time each day playing board games. Last Christmas I rashly bought Anna Chutes and Ladders only to realize pretty quickly that she is nowhere ready to play that game. We put it away then, and now it’s back on the circuit together with Hi-Ho Cherry-O, homemade Hug-the-Kitty game and MiniLUK. Anna loves playing games, and she follows the rules easily. I also like it that she is a good sport about losing. She cheers for the winner and always says in the end, It was a good game! Let’s play some more!


We didn’t get any new board games for Christmas except this Body Quest game that was part of the Smart Kids Body IQ package that Anna received from my parents for Christmas. She cannot read the text, of course, but the game is pretty simple (and quick) to play. We played it a number of times already. One thing that I really like about some of the “travel the board” games Dec28_MiniLuc is that they introduce and reinforce math concepts. I was just recently brainstorming the ways to teach Anna to recognize two digit numbers when it finally dawned on me that Chutes and Ladders is the best 100 chart there is. Every time we play a game with numbers I ask her to identify a square she is on. She still needs reminders that we read numbers the same way we read words – from left to right, but she is getting better, and she learns naturally and easily in the context of the game. I am contemplating getting a real Bingo game as the next step in reinforcing two-digit numbers, but I am also appealing again to my blogging friends, especially to the ones with slightly older kids – which board games you play at home and like? I’d like to expand our collection this year, since we all enjoy this special unplugged time together.

And even though it’s not exactly a science post, I am linking it to Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom, since I don’t think that any real science is possible without being solid in math.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toys My Child Is Playing With - Baufix

Dec25_ChristmasMorning2_SM My daughter is extremely lucky. She is an only child for quite a few adults – the only grandchild on both sides, an only niece. We also happen to be the only couple with a child among our closest friends, and she also got a present from her closest friend (this is the one that she chose to open first). Even our elderly next door neighbors gave her a present. Not surprisingly, on Christmas morning our living room looked like a half of a toy store moved in. Interestingly, by the way, Anna didn’t ask Santa for anything specific. She actually said, I want no presents from Santa. I only want presents from you guys. Still, Santa brought her a Good Luck Care Bear and a Care Bear Baufix puzzle. The rest of her presents were from friends and family, and the one that we are all most excited about is Baufix Starter Set. As you might have noticed, we love high-quality German toys here even though they are expensive. I’d rather have fewer good toys that can grow with my child than masses of plastic stuff floating around. I have first seen Baufix during our first visit to Germany with our daughter; she Dec27_PapaAnna was 20 months then, and I was determined that one day she will get one. It’s a great wooden construction set with many possibilities for building specific things (a car, a helicopter, a locomotive, etc.) or for open-ended play of learning how to keep two pieces together for younger children like my daughter. It’s targeted to children 3-6, and I doubt that any 3 year old will be able to Dec27_Baufix1 actually build a working model despite very detailed and clear instructions in accompanying booklet. They will, however, have hours of fun playing with their older siblings or parents or just experimenting with a screwdriver and a wrench. The good part is that a completed model can be used by itself as a stand-alone toy for a while until your child is ready to disassemble it and to build something else. My only warning is that the set might not be suitable for closely spaced children, since it doesn’t lend itself well to cooperative play. You can only build one model at a time, and there is one screwdriver and two wrenches included. Obviously, it’s also not meant for children under 3, since small screws can become a choking hazard.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mission Organization #3 – Top 10 for 2010

I see a lot of reflection posts on the blogs of my friends, and I love reading them. There is something magical in the time leading to a new year – time to reflect, evaluate and plan for the new year. I am definitely doing this here too.

Unlike others, I don’t think in terms of “Daily 10”. I know for a fact that it doesn’t work for me and just adds pressure to my life that is already pretty full. I don’t have several children to care for, but I have a full time job that requires a lot of thinking, decisive action and initiative. I definitely want to further my career and therefore I need energy to be mentally present when I focus on my work tasks. Sometimes I need to work late or travel, or I just simply come home wiped out, and I don’t want to cross any tasks off my “daily 10 list” or feel guilty that I didn’t. So… on to my Top 10 for 2010 :)

1. Exercise at least twice a week – starting at 30 minutes and building up. It’s extremely important to me to get back to the habit of exercising regularly and building flexibility and strength.

2. Try a new recipe once a week. We are pretty good in cooking from scratch, but we are stuck in “recipe rut”. Both German and Russian cuisines are heavily starch-based. We need to find some healthy recipes that would incorporate more vegetables into our diet.

3. Every two weeks try something new – it could be a new game, going to the museum, short trips to new places, etc. It’s always a little exhausting for us to try new things, since we are so nicely comfortable in our house and love to spend time together,  but the new experiences are the ones that build new memories – good ones and amusing (“oh my God, I don’t believe it happened to us) ones.

4. Bring more music into our lives. We are going to sign Anna up for a dance class, and play more music at home. My husband used to play guitar more, and we just received a beautiful book with German children songs from Anna’s uncle and aunt. I am hoping that she will also learn more German by learning more German songs.

5. Once a month go out for a date. For starters we could go out after Anna is in bed asking our neighbors to stay in the house, but I would also like to find a reliable sitter in the neighborhood. I love all our dates in, but it would be awesome to spend some time together outside the house too.

6. At least once every month do things with our friends. We have a group of friends who all chose to be child-free for different reasons. These friendships are important to us, and I admit that it hurts sometimes that we cannot be as much a part of their lives as we used to be. But nevertheless we managed to stay close and I am hoping that as Anna gets older, we get to do more things together again.

7. Read at least one new book every month that is not about children. I used to read for pleasure and now all my free time is spent on the Net. This brings me to point #8.

8. Reduce Net surfing and focus on actually implementing/trying some of the ideas I find. I enjoy visiting other blogs and commenting on many wonderful ideas. I will continue to visit some blogs that I really like and correspond to their owners via comments and emails. But I will have to limit my time spent on these activities more decisively that I did in 2009 to leave time for other things that I want to do with my already very limited time.

9. Do two major projects around the house – installing new heating/air conditioning and landscaping part of our backyard. Fortunately, it’s not a matter of money – we were planning for those major expenses. It’s more of a matter of executing – deciding what we want, finding the contractors, dealing with disruptions, etc.

10. Teach my daughter to appreciate small things in life – morning cuddles, good food, time spent together. Sometimes we focus so much on the next big adventure that we forget to value things that we do every day. We love our tradition of sitting together in the evening as a family talking about our favorite moments of the day and why they were important to us. I am hoping that 2010 will be the same in this sense – that we will still have a lot of time for each other and we will share in the wonder of joy of seeing our daughter learn new things every day.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The School Corner – December 27, 2009


On one hand, Christmas week was very busy with Christmas preparations. On the other hand, I was home, so we had more time. Since we had Anna, we always celebrate Christmas at home with our three closest friends who also don’t have any immediate family nearby. I wish the whole time leading to Christmas stopped being so stressful. The stress definitely rubbed off on our daughter who was excited and nervous at the same time. We arrived to this “wonderful” phase of “terrific three” when she breaks into tears every time things are not “just so”. It makes any activity more challenging since she gets very upset when her projects don’t match her self-imposed standards. However, there are things that are going well, and I will write about them today.Little Puff

Reading and Phonics. I started to add early readers to our phonics exercises every evening. Now we do one blend from Progressive Phonics each evening (we finished book 10 from Intermediate series this week) and then she reads me (rather fluently) about 10 pages from Margaret Hillert early readers. They are rather ancient, but they are beautifully illustrated and not as mind-numbingly boring as Bob books or Dick and Jane. I am really looking for advice on other good early readers, because Hillert sight vocabulary is very controlled and eventually reading more books might become not so interesting for my daughter.


Prewriting. Anna’s writing box that I put together got some love this week. She was more interested in it when I put some cards and envelopes in it. She came with an idea of drawing a card for her friend and decorated the envelope. As with almost everything else, she is more interested in the activity if she is not presented with a blank page. For example, if I draw a circle on the page, she will draw a stick figure, but she won’t attempt it on her own.

The Story of Christmas

Social studies. History, geography and other subjects revolved heavily around Christmas and its history. I wrote about this book in the book reviews, and we both enjoyed reading it. By the end of the season Anna was saying confidently that Christmas is about love, giving and babies. Good enough for a three year old. We also watched Santa Claus is Coming to Town from her Christmas Classics DVD, and she hated it. She found it very scary and wanted the DVD donated at once “to children without parents”.


Fine Motor Skills. Following our recommendations, Oma and Opa gave their granddaughter Baufix Starter Set for Christmas. I just love this building set, because it’s great both for logical skills and for fine motor skills. Anna and papa spent a lot of time playing with it already, and she gets to practice a lot of new fine motor movements – screwing with a screwdriver, tightening with a wrench, selecting things of the right size, etc. I will definitely be reviewing this toy in more detail in my future posts.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What My Child Is Reading – December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas to everyone! Now, when Christmas is here, we will spend the next week reading all the books that were gifted to us. In the meantime, here are the library books that we’ve been reading:

The Snowy Day

Both Anna and I fell in love with this simple story from Ezra Jack Keats. I think it’s even more fascinating for my daughter who has never seen snow yet except in the pictures. It’s very easy for Anna to understand the adventures, excitement and disappointments of this small boy as he experiences his first snowy day. I also love the way the book ends – next day he goes exploring not by himself but with a friend. An enjoyable read in every possible way.

Christmas Tree Memories

I didn’t expect this book to be a hit, but I brought it down as “a potty book”, and Anna wanted it to be read to her every time she went for several days. The story is pretty complex – the family looks at ornaments on the tree and remembers where they came from. There is even a mention of death – one of the ornaments came from an aunt that died. I thought that it would be difficult for my daughter to comprehend – her notions of past and future are hazy at best, but she liked to listen to the story of each ornament. It also brought some discussions between me and my husband about making one special ornament from this year on and eventually creating our own memory tree.

The Story of Christmas

I think I learned about this book from Monkey See Monkey Do book reviews. They read a lot of fantastic Christian books. I think we should have read it earlier in the season to give Anna a good overview of traditional Christmas Story, because most of the books that we read sort of assume that the child is totally familiar with it. I liked it, because it gives a very accurate account of biblical texts including the fact that Mary was not married to Joseph at the time of Annunciation. I was not thrilled with boring illustrations – this is my main complaint about the book. Anna liked references to baby Jesus – she could finally connect to the story. Now she understands better my favorite Christmas song that I keep singing at home – Do You Hear What I Hear?

Mr Seahorse

We read Mr Seahorse by Eric Carle in the summer for our Ocean unit. Anna saw it in the library and asked me to take it home. I did and she asks for it every night. I am not sure why she finds the book so fascinating – maybe because of all the good fathers in the book and the way they take care of their young. She giggles at Mr Kurtus most that is apparently carries eggs on his head, and she loves the ending, I love you, but now you are ready to be on your own.

Share your holiday reads by linking below. The linky is open all week, and I always enjoy visiting your blogs and discovering good books to read.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


  • Welcome Christmas! Come this way
  • Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day
  • Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer
  • Welcome all who’s far and near
  • Christmas day is in our grasp
  • As long as we have hands to clasp.
  • Welcome Christmas while we stand
  • Heart to heart and hand in hand.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Gingerbread House


For more than 2 years now my husband meets weekly with two more work-from-home dads for a play date. One of these dads courageously volunteered to host a gingerbread house decorating play date. He baked three gingerbread houses from scratch and provided most of the decorating materials. I wasn’t there, since Anna is always clingy when my presence means the departure from normal routine. My husband took some pictures and told me that Anna was the one most interested in decorating her house and was amazingly reserved in snacking on decorations. Perhaps it was because that the first thing she tasted was peppermint candy, and she dislikes peppermint. Anyway, her house looks Dec23_GingerbreadHouse_2_SM gorgeous. Of course, my husband helped somewhat with fine details, but they both assured me that she did most of it herself. Anna was very proud and excited, and we are all looking forward to tasting this beautiful creation shortly after Christmas. I am also very impressed with the hosting father J, because I wouldn’t dream of whipping up even one gingerbread house, let alone three. These three kids  are incredibly blessed to have fathers who are so very involved in their lives.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Toys My Child Is Playing With - MiniLUK


I have never heard of MiniLUK until we received it from our friends who went back to Germany as a birthday present for Anna. We didn’t give it to her then, because she had so many other presents, but we finally gave it to her now as an early Christmas present. It’s a learning game that is quite popular in Germany. First of all, you need a controller that you can see in the picture and can buy  MiniLUK from Amazon here. By itself it’s a fun (and quite challenging) exercise for young children to put 12 plastic squares in proper places with proper rotation. Once the squares are in place, the game can start. To play the game, you also need special cards that come bound into a book. Ours were with instructions in German (and with some German words in some puzzles that are not needed to play a game successfully), but apparently you can also buy English books for different ages here. This is the most fun part about this whole concept, because cards can be Dec22_MiniLuc1made for any age. Our present came with three booklets – one for preschool with matching shapes, numbers and letters, another one is called “Kindergarten Olympics” with more challenging logical puzzles and yet another is “In the House” where the puzzles are mostly about matching parts to whole. My husband told me that he played with MiniLUK in teenage years as well, but the puzzles were a lot more challenging. The idea of the game is that one solves one square at a time (for example, finding a match between a shadow image on the bottom and the actual picture on top) and then places a proper plastic square to the transparent side of the controller. Once all 12 squares are matched, one can flip the controller, and self-check on the other side. If you solved it correctly, the color pieces on the other end will make some sort of a picture that is included on the side of the card. Interestingly, Anna first got the idea and played several games relatively easily, but as the puzzles got harder she started to fumble with the setup (which doesn’t change between games, it’s always the same) – it got too much for her. Note to myself – not to do more than 2 puzzles at a time, even if she wants to do more. I can see us buying more books in the future and also possibly making some homemade ones – it’s not impossible to do once you get several basic templates for self-checking.

The Art Box – Dec 22, 2009

Dec22_ArtBox_1 As I mentioned in my reorganization post, I decided to make one of Anna’s boxes a collage box that is always accessible to her, another one a writing/drawing box, and yet another a “make it/fine motor skills” box. She was so used in not paying attention to her shelves that I finally pointed this new arrangement out to her. It was in the morning after breakfast and immediately Dec22_ArtBox_3 she pounced on the collage box saying, I want to make something! Fortunately, we didn’t have to go anywhere in the morning, and she spent more than 30 independent minutes delightedly cutting with her zigzag scissors, using some stickers and then changing her mind and cutting all the craft foam into “cake for kitty”. By the way she also found out that her plastic zigzag scissors will not cut foam Dec22_ArtBox_2while metal scissors will.  Watching her cut with those zigzag scissors that I put away last year because they were so frustrating for her reminded me how far she went along from the last year in her motor skills. She still displayed no interest in her drawing/writing center, but I am pretty sure that the situation will be different when she is closer to 4. And here on the left “a card for Oma” – the only mini-project that didn’t end up in kitty cake :)

To see other open-ended projects, visit The Art Box.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Early Science – Magnifying Glass


On Sunday – Anna has found a small magnifying glass in her Advent calendar. It’s not a very good glass – it came from a party favor set that my husband picked up at a Dollar Tree. But she was extremely excited about it and kept saying how she never had a magnifying glass before. Everything was studied – her hands, water drops, crumbs, and, of course, her kitty. She was fascinated with how she can see details better. Unfortunately, it was pouring again yesterday, so we didn’t go out to look for creatures to explore and, fortunately, we don’t have any at home. I still want to get her a better quality glass eventually, because magnifying glass was one of the things that I enjoyed throughout my childhood. A nice way to introduce magnifying glass and its possibilities is Sid’s the Science Kid episode on magnifying glasses – Anna enjoyed watching it and can’t wait to see real roly poly.

For more science ideas for young children, visit Science Sunday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mission Organization #2 – Our Not-Quite-Workboxes


I wish we had more space in our house, but our eat-in kitchen doubles as a family room/art corner. We have a taller shelf with some containers that are not easily accessible – that’s where I keep messier things – paints, glue, etc. Anna’s kingdom is this artwork board that can technically double as a white board in the future, and the shelf under it. When we first set it up, Anna was excited about things on the shelves, but I let it go stale, and she only plays with those dolls on top (she insists on calling them Melissa and Doug), with her magnetic board and with “free play box” on the lower shelf. This “open-ended” box is a collection of little toys from various birthday parties, some small cars, small dolls, etc. From time to time she pulls it out and plays with the objects in various ways. I removed all the things that Anna doesn’t play with any longer from all the boxes, refilled our “Magic Folder” and set up four boxes on the upper shelf on the left as “learning boxes”:

  • The Writing box with pencils, markers, cardstock and all cards
  • The Math box (currently with a sorting activity to help her learn numbers 11 – 30, I’ll write about it in a separate post)
  • The collage box (Nicole at Tired, Need Sleep and Shannon at Mommies’ Little Artists are great motivators) with glue, scissors, scrap paper, stickers, etc.
  • Fine Motor Skills box – currently with a lacing activity

I hope that I will be organized enough to change things in those boxes regularly to keep my daughter challenged and, hopefully, independently occupied. I also made some of her Kumon books accessible to her by moving it to a different location. I am curious how she will like the changes (she was enjoying her last day at preschool this year when I was working on this reorganization project) – I hope that she will be excited.

Tomie dePaola – Country Angel Christmas

Country Angel Christmas

One of my favorite sites ABC and 123 has a monthly “Author Challenge”. December author was Tomie dePaola. We discovered him relatively recently and enjoyed reading his books from “My First Holiday” series - “My First Thanksgiving” and “My First Chanukah”. The illustrations are simple and bright, and the text is very appropriate for a young toddler. But Anna enjoyed his more complex books even more. Country Angel Christmas was definitely one of her favorites this season.

It’s a story about Christmas celebration in Heaven. I was curious what Anna would think of this setup, but apparently to her Heaven is about the same as the “Galaxy far far away” and angels belong to the same category as fairies. She was really surprised, however, to find Saint Nicholas in the book who suddenly dons Santa clothes and flies to Earth to deliver presents to children. She calls Santa St Nicholas since reading this book and she definitely understands the plight of three littlest angels who are shooed away from meaningful activity because older angels don’t want to deal with inevitable mess. In the end, of course, they end up true heroes of Christmas.


Ironically I printed this American Angel for Independence Day, but we never got around to make her. I still kept the printout, and we made the angel as the story stretcher for Country Angel Christmas. It’s definitely not an independent project, since I had to cut out all the parts and glue small parts in place, since Anna didn’t want to mess up her beautiful angel. The angel turned out beautifully,Dec20_Angel2_SM and Anna insisted that it has to go on our tree. The tree definitely became a place for Anna to hang all her artwork lately, and we are brainstorming for the ways to display it after the tree is gone. We are also looking forward to reading more dePaola books in the future – our library has a great selection of his works.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mission Organization #1 – Organizing Space


For the first time in years I have a real “staycation”. My company has a holiday shutdown for 2 weeks, and I had enough vacation days to be able to start my shutdown last Wednesday. So far the days were spent in manic card writing, last minute gift shopping, and gift wrapping. We sent out about 70 cards this year, and every year my husband makes a point to create our own card, create two versions of homemade calendar (one with best Anna’s pictures) and one with his penguin drawings, print calendars at Kinko’s and send them out to our friends and family. Every year we are talking about how we should start our holiday preparation earlier, and every year we fail to do so. As a result, I still have a monumental tasks of mailing about 20 calendar packages on Monday. I am just hoping that post office will not be such a zoo as it was the last week. And that brings me to my main goal for this break – mission organization! Time to recharge, rethink and reorganize!

Firstly, I am trying to use this time to reorganize a few things in the house that were bugging me for a while (including my paper-strewn desk). I started with closet clean-up and hauled out several boxes of clothing, books and toys to donate. Anna has been a good sport about it after some initial resistance. She even brought one of her toys that she really didn’t want to give up to Goodwill and told the gentleman in receiving that this is her favorite baby toy, but she wants to give it to babies who don’t have parents to take care of them. There are still ways to go, but I am hoping to be able to tackle one thing every day and arrive to a better organized house in 2 weeks. There is still, of course, a skeleton in a closet… eh… in a garage. That skeleton cannot be found, since our garage turned into a messy storage facility. I am pretty sure that we won’t be able to tackle it before New Year, but hopefully we can start on reclaiming this mess in January.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What My Child Is Reading – Dec 19, 2009

Mortimer Christmas Manger

I saw this book highlighted on many blogs I read, and now I have to join the chorus. It’s beautifully illustrated, and my secular daughter found the story appealing but somewhat mystifying since we don’t have a Nativity set at home. It led to some interesting discussions about the reasons behind Christmas and why Mortimer decided to give his new house back to the statues. She also enjoyed a happy end of the story, but commented several times that Mortimer needs to go back to his own home and make it nicer.

Gingerbread Baby

Unexpectedly Gingerbread Baby was the second book that was requested very often during this week. Anna didn’t like Jan Brett books before, but they had more ambiguous endings or were a little scary for her. This one has a perfect happy end, and she enjoyed looking at beautiful illustrations. She only couldn’t understand why Matti didn’t tell her parents about Gingerbread Baby.

Ho Ho Ho

Every Sunday of December Anna was allowed to pick the book for home during our weekly visits to Barnes and Noble as part of Advent celebration. We were not thrilled with her last pick, since we are not big fans of sound books. However, she refused to put it down or negotiate for a different book, so we had to honor our commitment. We read Snappy Sounds together several times and then she was content to read it to herself and listen to annoying festive sounds on the pages.

Purrfect Pete

Anna picked this book in the library, and I didn’t realize that it’s a chapter book before we got to reading it. We read it in one sitting, but it’s rather long. It was interesting to see how hard Anna’s mind worked to understand what happens in the book. It has a surprising twist in the middle and a happy end, but after talking about it non-stop, looking at the pictures and asking many questions Anna declared the book scary and wanted it to be returned to the library at once. Still I think that it deserves a review, since I like it when the book rattles her mind somewhat and makes it work. Snappy Sounds surely doesn’t :).

Share your children favorite books by linking below! The linky remains open all week.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Open-Ended Art – Red and Green


A few days ago I wrote on my blog how my daughter doesn’t play by herself lately. Adriana from My Bilingual Boys chimed in and said playdoh! D'oh – we didn’t have playdoh out forever, and Anna took to it right away and for three nights in a row played contentedly for 30+ minutes while I was making dinner. Playdoh is a wonderful tool for open-ended play, but my daughter always does the same thing – cookies! And she deliberately chose Christmas colors and then announced that she made cookies for Santa. Sure, they look yummy enough to me :)

The School Corner – December 18, 2009


Anna is 3 years 1 month old.

Anna’s school is busy celebrating winter holidays. Her favorite school project was a bracelet with jingle bells. She is playing with it at home a lot singing Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs. Our art board at home is full of artwork – some made in school, some made at home. I’d say that at the moment we are all “crafted out” – Anna practically threw a fit today at my suggestion to make something. It’s a busy time of the year with other obligations as well – this week it was a birthday party for her classmate, and a cookie decoration party, but she has fun and takes it in stride. We still had time for a little bit of academics this week:The three bears

Reading. We continue our Progressive Phonics program, and Anna is breezing through Intermediate books. We are now in book 10 of Intermediate series, and she actually asks to do it every day. I am starting to introduce some early readers here. Anna liked Margaret Hillert stories on Starfall, and she was able to read this version of The Three Bears by herself. I was somewhat surprised, because Hillert books based on high frequency words, not on phonic words, and still she only had difficulty with the word something. I am very proud of her progress.

Reading Writing and Math

Math & Logic. I want to be honest – from what I can tell, Anna is above average as far as math is concerned. Probably genetics is somewhat at play here –  both myself and my husband always did very well in math and logic. That’s why I introduced this workbook for Gifted and Talented to Anna – to find something that will challenge her without going a couple of grades higher in math. We are not doing Writing Part of this book, since she is not ready with her writing skills yet, and any kind of writing/drawing assignment frustrates her. But logical tasks entertain her. It’s interesting that she easily does the pages that I thought would be challenging for her and sometimes stumped on easier pages, for example on identifying what is missing from the previous page. It’s strange, because she has very strong observation skills in real life and notices minor changes in her environment right away. I can see us playing more memory games to reinforce these skills.


Prewriting. Prewriting was mostly crafts with some worksheets that she chose to do on her own. We are not really focusing on it the way we focus on reading – my three year old is not really interested in coloring or drawing except when we eat out on Sunday morning. It’s a family restaurant, so she gets those coloring sheets and crayons. Lately she is more interested in drawing or coloring herself rather than asking one of us to draw something for her.


Arts and Crafts. As I mentioned, between her preschool and home, we had a lot of arts and crafts happening lately. Our favorite project of the week was decorating our Christmas tree, but we did other things that involved paint, playdoh, stickers, markers, etc. We also baked and decorated cookies twice – once at home and once at cookie decoration party.

Social Studies/History. We read a lot of Christmas books. Some of them were about first Christmas and we talked about Jesus Christ and Christian religion. I think that Anna is still utterly confused as to why His birth is celebrated as such a big deal. The notion that God sent His Son to Mary, and then Mary gave birth to a child who was human, but very special brought forth a lot of why and how questions. We also discussed that people celebrate Christmas for other reasons as well – for example to mark the time of the longest night and celebrate the nature cycles or just to focus on family and on giving to others like we do.

To see what others did this week, see Preschool Corner.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

StArt - Christmas Tree Books

We read several great Christmas Tree books this year – Anna didn’t like the first one below, but the other two are on our list of favorites. Anna refuses to return them to the library, and we keep reading them on and off.

Little Tree

 The Littlest Christmas Tree  The Little Fir Tree

Dec16_LittleTree_1_SM I had several Christmas tree projects on my December list of projects, but Anna was not really interested in any of them. As I was browsing in Dollar Tree yesterday morning I noticed a cone made out of shiny green wire mesh, and immediately thought that Anna will love decorating this “tree”. As I mentioned, she is a lot more interested in 3D projects lately. We started by wrapping some Christmasy pipecleaners around and then Anna made Dec16_LittleTree_2_SM some beaded ornaments for it. She was extremely engaged and proud of the results. When she was making beaded “garlands” she kept talking that she is stringing berries for birds to eat and was brainstorming on how she could make birds. Her idea was to make them out of paper, but she wasn’t really interested in actually executing on it. She couldn’t wait to put the tree in her room, and she is hinting that she also wants to wrap some presents for kitty and put them under the tree. She already lobbied unsuccessfully for kitty to have her own Advent Calendar with chocolate and lobbied successfully for kitty to have her own stocking :)

Here is a completed tree:


To visit other Story + Art entries, visit StArt

Follow me