Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March in Review

Mar19_MamaAnna

For whatever reason March is always a difficult month for me, so I approach it with a certain amount of trepidation. At different points in the past I had a miscarriage, totaled my car, had my apartment burglarized, etc. Well, this March was not the worst ever. Still, I am glad that it’s over. Both myself and my husband were sick a lot, and the changes at work are finally happening, but not as quickly as we would all like. My boss is going to leave for another part of our gigantic company, and I don’t know yet who I am going to report to. At this point I think I am going to do mostly what I am doing today, but this might change too.

I exercised twice this month – this makes a big jump over nothing :) I am optimistic that with better weather we will have more opportunities for physical activities. I am excited to see that my husband makes some progress in his weight loss – 5 lbs down, 15 more to go. We try to keep our commitment to more fresh food even though we regressed during the time when we were both sick and tired. We saw our friends more often, and we even plan a trip together in May if all the stars align properly.

Anna is healthy and finally growing. She was always on the small side, but in the past week it looks like she grew an entire inch. She finally fits nicely into her 3T clothes and needs new shoes soon. We had some beautiful spring weather in March (I hope it will come back for Easter!), and we used an opportunity to spend more time outside. Anna took to her big girl bed easily, but completely dropped naps. She still has “rest times”, but she spends them playing and reading in her room. This month I did better with letting her choose her activities and not pushing my own agenda. We had some trying days with meltdowns and crankiness though. I read somewhere that the real height of terrible twos or threes happens in the middle of that year, and we are approaching 3.5 here. There is definitely more testing, but overall she is still a happy child who wants to please, and I feel very blessed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Math Tuesday – Natural Math



Mar28_Swing

We did precious little for “structured” math this week. Anna’s German grandparents arrived on Saturday, and she is busy “teaching them English”. I have to say that she is quite successful, even with Oma. So much for my hope that she will switch to German with them. Ms Anna was also cranky in the afternoons last week and not in the mood for any “lessons”. Still it was Mar29_Castle interesting to see how much math she uses spontaneously in her daily life – drawing a certain number of balls in her picture, counting on the swings, collecting leaves, seeds and rocks, observing that if our friend joins us for brunch, this will make six of us. Then yesterday she really surprised both of us when she wanted us to see her “castle” which she built during her rest time. I have never seen her building anything so symmetrical before. She also started to read out two digit numbers, for example on speed limit signs. And she made this hilarious story while we were waiting for our brunch on Sunday:

Once upon a time there were 3 little bears and each had 8 pairs of pants. A hungry wolf came and ate 2 pairs of pants from each bear. And then bears said, “We want pancakes!” and ate 3 big pancakes each.

I love to see her number sense and math abilities blossoming in play. It’s amazing to see how this little toddler that could count by rote only is now able to really apply numbers in the right context, make comparisons, notice patterns and explain (sometimes) how she arrived to certain conclusions about the world around her. I hope this time of making learning fun will never end for both of us.



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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Art Show

Mar27_ArtShow5jpg

We always knew that we wanted Anna to attend preschool even though my husband is staying home with her. Without siblings she is too wrapped up in our adult world at home, and she is not the child who is actively looking for other peers to play with. She is quite happy with parents as playmates. A few hours a week of supervised playdates and classes were not going to change it. She started going to preschool when she was about 2.5, but things were not going smoothly in her multi-age Christian preschool. She was very disappointed when her best friends graduated and she was left “with babies” her age. Also I was not entirely comfortable with that school religious  Mar27_ArtShow4 curriculum and how Anna interpreted what she was hearing there. So we started our search yet again and found a secular preschool that we, the parents, immediately liked. It doesn’t call itself Montessori or Waldorf or any other name. Its mission statement says, We encourage exploration, imagination, creativity, problem solving, and appreciation for uniqueness and differences in personalities, abilities and appearances. Mar27_ArtShow3 And they do. Anna loves her school, and we love the program and enthusiasm and professionalism of the staff and her teachers. Every time I drop her off (I get to do it once or twice a week), there is so much for children to do during free morning time depending on their interests. Anna tends to go to the science tools, building blocks and puzzles first. Many kids play dress up or look at Mar27_ArtShow2 books. Some others are getting creative with supervised free art – it includes shaving cream, cutting, pasting, stickers galore, etc. And then there is structured time which is mostly story time, music and art centered around the theme of the week. They also cook every Wednesday in their “Green Frog Cafe”. Every spring school has The Art Show where every classroom displays their best creations. Anna was very secretive about her contributions to Mar27_ArtShow1this  Art Show – she was insisting that it’s going to be a surprise. And we were pleasantly surprised to see so many creative artwork by so many kids in one place. The Art Show was on Saturday at 11 am, and Anna was begging to go to school since 7 in the morning. A lot of her friends were there with their parents showing off their pieces excitedly and proudly. Anna’s favorite was her clay caterpillar – she really wants to take it home as soon as possible. Our favorite was her self-Mar27_ArtShow6portrait, every child made one, and the teachers did a fantastic display of them. Even though Anna doesn’t seem to have much of an interest for art at home, she is doodling a lot more lately, and now I understand much better how she comes up with some of her creative ideas. We are very excited for another year in this warm and welcoming school before she goes off to a “big school” and hopefully also encounters dedicated teachers who will build on her strengths and help her try new things without a fear of failure that she sometimes displays at home.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Looking For a Rainbow

Spring Flower Rainbows

Take Your Kids on a Spring Color Hunt

Flower Hunt

Spring comes early to Silicon Valley where we live, and we have a March tradition – we go on a flower photo hunt. The goal is to find and photograph flowers of every color, and we never have difficulties in finding them. Our garden has many colors too, but we are missing beautiful oranges of California poppies. Luckily, our neighbors down the street have a “wild flower” garden where we can admire native plants all year long.

A Flower Petal Rainbow

Flower Rainbow

We ask our three year old not to pick flowers in other people’s gardens without permission, but for this project I handed her a small pail and instructed her to  find all colors of rainbow in our own garden. She was singing a rainbow song that she learned in preschool as she was going about it and had a wonderful time selecting her flowers. I wish we could do a better job identifying our flowers – I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know the names for half of them, and we also discussed different shades of the same color. I expected Smarty to ask why different flowers have different colors, but she didn’t. However, I was wondering about it myself and was prepared with an answer for her that I found here.

Mar25_Rainbow3

Flower Rainbow in Books

Spring Books for Kids

Planting a Rainbow by Louis Ehlert is a great book to read before or after a spring color hunt. It also works very well if you are preparing to plant flowers. Smarty loved this book more than Eating the Alphabet, because, in her words, she likes growing flowers more than eating vegetables.

Rainbow Activities and St Patrick’s Day

  • Engineer This: Design and Build a Leprechaun Trap
  • St Patrick’s Day Crafts
  • Discover Ireland
  • Rainbow Theme Day for Preschool

    Follow my St Patrick’s Day Pinterest Board and my Spring Pinterest board.

    I link this post to my favorite link ups and sharing days.

  • Saturday, March 27, 2010

    What My Child Is Reading – March 27, 2010

    This was not the best of our reading weeks. Usually we find the book or two every week – the book which we read many times. Somehow we again ended up having 52 books from the library, and as a result Anna was on “I just want the book I didn’t read before” track all week. She also got in serious trouble for pulling a page out of a library book (a page with no text that sometimes comes before a title page), because she wanted to make a bookmark. She was punished – 2 days with no reading time from both parents. There was a lot of crying. All this led to pretty dull week here, but here are some of our favorites:

    How My House Grew

    How My Garden Grew is a pretty old book that we found at the library, and Anna was reading it again and again on her own this week. The story is rather simple and goes over the steps needed in planting and taking care of the garden. It also follows the garden cycle from spring to winter. It’s a good book both for very young children and for early readers.

    A Present for Toot

    After success of Toot and Puddle in our house, we got one of the sequel books in the library. Anna didn’t find A Present for Toot as interesting as the first one. She did look at it on her own once or twice, but I felt that the ending was a little ambiguous for her. She couldn’t tell me whether Toot liked his present – probably because Toot didn’t act in a wildly enthusiastic manner of toddlers in the end. Still, it’s a great book that ties well with the original story and develops characters further.

    The Snail and the Whale

    The Snail and the Whale was positively my favorite book of this week. I was so sure that Anna will like it too. It rhymes great, the illustrations are beautiful, and it has a theme of traveling and seeing new places. Unfortunately, she didn’t like it. There was one page of the whale in the storm which she found scary, and then she didn’t like the fact that the race boats caused the whale to become stranded. I highly recommend this book.

    Math Fables

    Math Fables was recommended by Kelly from One Small Room. I guess my expectations were high, so I was somewhat disappointed. The idea of the book (how a number can be constructed out of two smaller numbers) is interesting, but some of the rhymes felt forced, and some of the words (prudent, procrastinate) were a bit hard for Anna. I also noticed that she is a lot more interested in live math books when they involve people and not animals.

    I am trying something new this week – using a Mck Linky blog hop instead of a basic list. Feel free to copy a code below and paste into your blog, but you don’t have to – you can just link to me as you did in the past. I am also linking this to Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word and to Feed Me Books Friday at The Adventure of Motherhood.


    MckLinky Blog Hop

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    The School Corner – March 26, 2010

    Anna is 3 years 5 months old

    Mar22_Dress

    It was a much better week for adults in the house. Both my husband and I have left our nasty cold behind and have more energy. Anna had a bit of a running nose, but it doesn’t seem to slow her down much. The weather was beautiful this week, so we didn’t do much learning. Instead we spent time outside. The fascinating part about this picture is that daughter is wearing a dress. It’s the first dress that was ever approved by all three of us, and Anna was very pleased to wear it as much as she could this week. Her theme in school was, appropriately enough, Spring, and she brought home some interesting art pieces.

    Magic School Bus Sleeps for the Winter

    Reading and Phonics. Anna spends her mornings and nap times reading on her own. Her last library choices were several Clifford books. She skips some longer words, but I asked her questions about the stories, and she could answer them, so she comprehends what she reads fairly well. Together we finished Little Bear series and read one of Magic School Bus early readers. It’s not exactly in season, but Anna personally chose it in the library.

    Each Orange Had 8 Slices

    Our Math was slow this week, since the weather was so nice. We read a couple of math books and played with our manipulatives. We also played in randomly choosing a number and looking for this number of flowers, leaves, rocks, twigs – kind of a scavenger hunt. Anna was not terribly interested in this activity though, but I have some thoughts on how to mix it up in the future.

    Mar23_Geography

    Geography/History. This week we were focusing on the history of Passover holiday with books and an art project. Anna, however, was interested in how the day and night times are different around the globe. She often asks us what time it is now at Babushka and Dedushka’s place (3 hours away) and at Oma and Opa’s place (9 hours away from us). She was happy to watch the flashlight/globe demonstration yet again.

    Mar24_Cjalk

    Arts and Crafts. This is my favorite picture of Anna from this week. She is just her messy care-free self here. With a better weather we took some of our art projects outside and rediscovered the chalk. I love doing craft activities outside using the things that we find in nature – I plan a post on Sunday on this.

    To see more weekly wrap-ups for preschool weeks, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    StArt – Elijah Cup

    Four Special Questions

    We were learning more about Passover this week – its history and how it’s celebrated today. I picked a few books for Anna on the subject. One of the more age appropriate ones was Four Special Questions that deals with Passover celebrations from a child’s point of view. The book talks about Seder preparations, special Seder plate and special questions that are read by the youngest child at the table who can read. Anna was very interested in this part, so we had to track actual questions (and answers) to them in more advanced Passover books. One special Passover tradition is leaving a special glass of wine for Elijah – a famous prophet from Old Testament. There is also a part of Seder when the door is open for Elijah to enter. Jews believe that Elijah will return to announce Messiah’s arrival.

    Mar22_Glass As a story extension, we have made an Elijah Cup with a plastic glass, window crayons and stickers. Anna was quite excited about this project because she never worked with these materials before. She selected motivational stickers and carefully stuck them around the rim. Then she spent quite a long time painting her Elijah Cup. She also quite enjoyed hearing how her voice changes when she talks into it.

    For more story stretchers, visit StArt at A Mommy’s Adventures.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Social History - Passover

    Photobucket

    Sammy Spider First Passover

    • Next week Jews all over the world will celebrate Passover holiday. It was the only Jewish holiday celebrated by my paternal grandparents. They didn’t celebrate it in a traditional manner, but we would always spend a day or two with them eating a special meal that involved matzah and discussion about all the famous Soviet Jews that had very non-Jewish last names. I have to add that my grandparents were committed Communists and atheists, but they celebrated the holiday as the acknowledgement of their roots and their freedom. Moe and Big ExitSo in honor of the holiday we read several books about Passover and discussed what  it’s about. Most of those books (except Sammy’s Spider First Passover that we both quite liked) whooshed right over Anna’s head. I couldn’t find anything that would actually make events of Exodus easier for her to understand. We did watch VeggieTales Moe and the Big Exit that was recommended to me by Ticia from Adventures in Mommydom. It was our first time ever with VeggieTales (we rented it from the library), and I admit that I was quite bewildered by the story. I do have to give it credit for following the Bible account very closely, but I failed to see how a cucumber would be a brother to green peas, and I am sure I missed a lot of Prince of Egypt American cultural references in this retelling. So I decided to try Prince of Egypt that we happen to have at home. Now it was Anna’s turn to be completely bewildered. After 30 minutes of non-stop questions she announced that she was done, and we didn’t even get to the whole burning bush business. I did get a lot of questions about the plagues, especially about the last one. One of the evenings we had the following exchange before going to bed:
    • Mama, am I a first born?
    • Me: Yes, you are.
    • Anna: Good thing we are not in Egypt!

    We had more success in learning about modern Passover celebrations. Anna thought that search for afikomen was pretty neat – we made a game out of it where I would hide a piece of paper pretending that it’s a special matzah piece, and she was looking for it. Still – I felt that learning about the religious holiday without being intimately connected to it through rituals and traditions did not work out well – I really have to think next year whether I want to do more or less about Passover celebrations in the house. At this point I am undecided.

    To see more posts on geography and history, visit Geography/History Exchange at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Our Math Curriculum


    Dec30_MathBox2_SM I came to the United States as a college graduate, and so did my husband. Both of us were not raised with “math is hard” outlook, and we have engineering degrees. We didn’t really try to focus on math last year, but we read a lot of counting books, played shop, measured things together, compared sets while building towers and counted while throwing balls. But when she turned 3 and her reading took off in a matter of months, I was thinking of how we can replicate our success with Progressive Phonics. I was looking for something that I could break into very small pieces and that wouldn’t be either boring or way beyond her abilities.

    Mar21_Math

    One thing that I had to understand is that initial success in math is much harder to measure that success in language arts. Reading or spelling successes are more obvious. When I went to look for math curriculums, the choices were numerous and somewhat overwhelming. So I went to the educational store not far from work and looked at various curriculum books. I was sort of surprised to realize that just by doing “hands on math” we were well Math Reasoning Level Abeyond preschool. So I looked at K-level books. Not surprisingly, Singapore Math was closest to how I was taught math, but I had the feeling that the way material was presented will not appeal to my daughter. After going back to the store several times I chose this math book from The Critical Thinking. We’ve been using it for about a month now, and overall I am pleased with this approach. I don’t ever show Anna the whole book – she might be intimidated by it. Instead I use it more as a guide for myself – I usually introduce the topic to her through games and books and then ask her if she wants to do “a math challenge”. I don’t give her more than one worksheet a day – we have no reason to rush this curriculum considering that my daughter is still only 3 years and 5 months. I am trying to keep it fun and light – the same way we did it with reading. For example, our current topic is odd and even. We talked about pairs, divided play food into two and read Missing Mittens from Math Start series before I even gave her the first worksheet. My only complaint about the curriculum is that more hands-on topics of measurements happen only in the last third of the book, but, of course, I can choose to introduce it whenever I want.

    Join the Math Links Blog Hop at Joyful Learner:


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    Monday, March 22, 2010

    The Art Box – March 22, 2010

    Mar19_OEA_1 I am glad to be able to join The Art Box this week again. It means that daughter was interested in independent art this week – something that I always welcome, but it doesn’t happen here often enough. Last week, however, was fruitful in both structured and independent art made with stickers, markers, scissors and glue.

    Mar19_OEA_4

     

    I like it when Anna is able to tell stories about her art. This is the one that she brought from her preschool – she did it during their “free art” time. According to her, this is Halloween in winter, and all birds are flying south. The teachers keep telling us that she loves art in preschool and is always the first to show up at art time.

    Mar19_OEA_3

    Her drawings became a little more “premeditated”. She tells the story as she draws – here she was drawing bones, muscles and joints in her hand, and the hand was holding her name. She also created “a plan for my room when we move to a bigger house” (which, by the way, we don’t plan to do). The plan had a bunk bed, many bookshelves and a mountain to climb on, a pretend mountain, of course.

    Mar19_OEA_2

    This project started as making a present for her favorite stuffed kitty. A present was supposed to be wrapped and tied with the string. Once I gave her the string, she got other ideas and made pizza for kitty. It’s always interesting to see how her little mind works and how more complex creative ideas are born.

    For more open-ended art by young children, visit The Art Box at Tired, Need Sleep.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Science Sunday - Snails



    Mar17_Snail1
    Phew, it’s been a while since we participated in Science Sunday. I am not very good at hands-on stuff, and with the time change our time together on work days got reduced even more. But I was sick a few days last week and working from home. It meant that I could hang out outside in the sun with Smarty in the late afternoons and observe how our garden welcomes spring. We had some visitors from animal kingdom including snails (you can see the snail better Mar17_Snail2 if you click on the picture to enlarge it). Smarty’s first reaction was Eeww!, but I showed her how snail moves and how it reacts to the touch and she was intrigued. She spent good 30 minutes “taking care” of the snail. She carried it from place to place, looked at it under the magnifying glass and attempted to feed it leaves, rose petals and even rocks for dessert. Smarty had some  questions on why the snails leave the sticky trail, Mar17_Snail3what they eat and where they live. We did a quick google search and ended up here. I cannot vouch for all the information, but Smarty was interested to learn that snails actually have eyes on the stalks. I was interested to learn that snails belong to Mollusca family. I admit that I always thought of them as insects, but my knowledge of animal kingdom is really bad – we had very boring botany/zoology classes in school, and I purged all the textbook knowledge from my memory. It’s fun to relearn some of it now with my daughter.
    Are you a snail
    Smarty was very disappointed the next day when the snail wasn’t here when she left it. She wanted to play with her friend, the snail again. I was rather surprised that her snail survived about 30 minutes of child’s attention – I did remind Smarty several times not to squeeze it. It surely moved as fast as it could trying to get away. I ordered Are You a Snail from the library in case we see more snails, so we can learn more about them.
    By the way, we just found out that the bees are apparently building the nest in the siding of our house. Gaak! I guess our next science topic will be learning about the ways to remove them.
    For more science ideas, visit Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.

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