Friday, April 30, 2010

Month in Review – April 2010


Another month passed by. I have made some new commitments to myself that I hope to start implementing next month. Mostly it’s about being more organized and finding time for exercise. I didn’t do as well with both of those areas in April as I hoped, but I also know more now about what really works for me and what doesn’t. I also found new inspiration in the comment that amazing Valerie from Frugal Blog Fun made on one of my posts. She said that her girls learn to try new things by watching her trying them and having fun. I want to do more of simple explore-and-play and less of “school” activities with Anna, especially since our time together is  already so limited. We had a lot of fun in April when I tried to follow her lead more and not worry about curriculum. I love to see how her imagination takes off and how she digests what she reads and learns and expresses it through her play.


Finding a bee nest in our siding has been a blessing in disguise, since we finally got moving on one of our major renovation projects for the year – a new siding and a coat of paint for our house. In the process we made a discovery – our house had no insulation whatsoever. Now we know why our winter bills were so high. Hopefully, we will see the benefits on insulated house in the summer too when the weather gets hot enough for A/C.

I am looking forward to May – to better weather, more grilling outside, longer days and possibly to a vacation in the last week or in the first week of June. I have a lot of plans and more energy – I hope it’s going to be a great month for all of us.

Week In Review – May 1, 2010

Anna is 3 years 6 months old


We didn’t do much “school” this week. Anna was in a playful mood, especially after rediscovering some of her “hidden treasures” after my clean up of her play kitchen and her “workboxes”. Her theme in preschool was Authors and Nursery Rhymes. Now she keeps saying that she wants to be an author when she grows up, and we had several discussions on how books are published.

Frog and Toad Are Friends

Reading week was extremely busy, since I brought back very many books from the library book sale. Some of them were early readers, and Anna just informed them that she will be reading them herself. For our “ you read to me” time she read Frog and Toad Are Friends, another book from Arnold Lobel. I don’t think Anna liked it much, because Toad is quite grumpy. She also read A Baseball Ballerina. Anna didn’t have problems with words, but a lot of problems with comprehension of this story, especially since it’s written in the first person, and she is not used to this style.


Math. We made Moon Cookies together and enjoyed the whole process a lot (including licking batter). Anna read me a recipe and handled some of the measuring and mixing. She loves baking so much that I made a new resolution to try and do it more often. She also read a book Starting Off with Counting which even made it to her short list of winning library books (books that she could keep for another week)


Independent Studies”. One night Anna suddenly grabbed her My Own Human Body book that happens to reside in our office (I am not sure why) and announced that she wants to learn more about human body. Then she proceeded to read it to herself and told us excitedly about some facts from the book. Since she seems to overcome her fear of skeletons (at least for now), we might focus more on human body since this is one subject that fascinates her very much.


Art. A lot of art (at least a lot for us) happened this week – several painting sessions outside for our study of Israel, making books with papa, trying different craft kits from Michael’s (check out colored sand $1 kit that allows to paint with color, it’s really great!). But my favorite moments were when Anna was just taking something from her art box and sitting down to making unstructured art. It’s another sign that my girl gets bigger and more independent in how she spends her time.


Play. As always, we had “picnics galore” inside and outside. The whole house became a pirate ship at some point, and there was a lot of dinosaur games. Anna is still trying to figure out how she feels about dinosaurs, but there was a lot of running away from T-Rex and a lot of discussions whether he is really dead and therefore cannot get to us.

For more weeks in review, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

We Play

We Play


Sometimes it might appear from my posts that life is pretty serious here in The House of Mouse. Not so. The older she gets, the more she plays and, quite frankly, the less she “does school”. This is not the best picture, but here is her narrative to the game, I am sailing my pirate ship around the world. We are going to go back to the dinosaur time and then we’ll stop at the museums and look at fossils. And kitty and I will have a picnic – oh, and I am about to bake a cake for a picnic. This is just so Anna.

Come over and play at the Childhood 101.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Geography Track – Israel

Planet Earth


I was very excited to have Israel in our geography hop. I love this country and its people, and three of my grandparents were Jewish. My grandmother on my father’s side always wanted to see Israel. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, but all her three sons visited, and one of them lives there permanently. I am really looking forward to my next visit, because I can see my cousin’s little son who is the first true Israeli in our family, just as my daughter is the first American. This picture is from the trip I made when I was about 6 weeks pregnant with Anna – she was very fascinated to learn that she visited Israel in my tummy. Of course, according to her, she was in my tummy always since I was a baby :)

Sammy Spider First Trip to Israel

We read several books about Israel, but the only one that was on appropriate level for a preschooler was Sammy Spider’s First Trip to Israel. It’s a wonderful book, and I liked how the author described Israel using five senses – its colors, its tastes, its music. Anna was also pleased to learn her first Hebrew word – Shalom and informed me that now she speaks a little bit of Hebrew too. The book also mentions various famous places of Israel, so older children might enjoy it too. I want to note, however, that in this book the Israel is visited by a Jewish family, and holy sites of other religions are not mentioned.

Apr28_BlueAnother book that we read was Colors of Israel. I wasn’t thrilled with it, especially seeing how color yellow was described as the color of a robot designed to inspect suspicious backpacks and blow them up if needed. Still, I suggested to paint something using colors of the flag of Israel – white and blue. It lasted about 5 minutes, then more colors were requested, and Anna’s favorite activity, color mixing, began.Apr28_Sand

We also talked about deserts and hot climates a lot lately, so I picked up a neat sand painting kit at $1 section of Michael’s. It came with two “color by number” pictures, only numbers were actually stickers that one can peel off and fill the sticky surface with the colored sand. I was impressed with how ingeniously the kit was done and how great the end result looked like. Anna was very proud of her “desert pictures” and was showing them off to papa in the evening.

I am still hoping to do a science mini-unit on Dead Sea by the weekend – stay tuned :). In the meantime hop over to History/Geography at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Guest Post at Playing By the Book

Fantastic Fiction

I am very honored to contribute to Fantastic Fiction event at Playing By the Book. Every time I read Zoe’s posts I am amazed and inspired by her creativity and her ability to integrate music, art, food and great literature into unique experience for her girls. If you are not familiar with her blog, go and check it out.

StArt and Science - Weather

Well, since daughter wasn’t interested in the math activity I had in mind for my Math Links post, I’ll write my late Science-early StArt post instead. To be honest, the science and book part of it was written a week ago, but the “art part” happened this weekend.

Apr12_RainThis spring brought a lot of April showers. I don’t remember so much rain in my 8 years here. Anna was happy to go out and test her new rain slicker. She enjoyed tasting the rain and measuring it with her bucket (2 inches in 2 hours is A LOT for us). We read several books about weather, and Anna liked All About Weather even though a lot of information in this book iWhats the Weather Todays over her head. She requested it many times, and was able to read parts of it on her own. A couple of pages deal with the water cycle – evaporation and condensation. My virtual friend Debbie at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn had a great and simple experiment for Selena a few weeks back, and I was itching to repeat it at home. I especially appreciated the fact that I could do it as part of dinner preparation. I don’t have any picture of this, since I didn’t want to leave daughter next to boiling water, but Anna was very excited about cloud making and immediately wanted to make cloud as big as our room. I had to explain to her that this would require a lot more water that we have in our pot.


Lately my husband and Anna got into making stories together. He is a much better artist than I am (his spelling, however, is a different story). Anna made up the story about jumping in the puddles and going back for hot cocoa, and she helped illustrating it by drawing puddles. By the way, her middle name is not Maria, but somehow the character in all her stories is always Anna Maria.

For more story stretchers, visit StArt at A Mommy Adventures, and for more science ideas, jump to Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Art Box – April 26, 2010


I have a mission for today – to reorganize Anna’s art box. It’s overrun by loose paper scraps, stickers, little bits of this and that, and she didn’t seem to be particularly interested in it this week. It seems that when she has way too many options, she is overwhelmed and not interested in going for art project on her own. She does have rare moments, however, when she is in the mood for truly open-ended art. That’s how this “submarine for her school” came to be. Anna really wanted to take it to school, so maybe she will bring it for her sharing time next Friday.


We are trying to spend more time outside while the weather allows it. On Friday I caught daughter completely preoccupied with her “designs” on the driveway. I like how carefree she is when she is really focusing on something and how she always has a story to go with her drawings when she is in the flow. This time it was about T-Rex hunting other dinosaurs and then eating their eggs :)

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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thoughts on Positive Thinking


I saw two interesting posts this week that made me think a lot about my views on the subjects raised in them. One was The Power of Positive Talk on Teach Mama and another was Just For Fun on Joyful Learner. Both of them to some degree deal with labeling our children, and how those labels affect their behavior now and in the future. They also led to some interesting discussions between me and my husband about how we interact with our daughter and what we can improve in the future.

We both come from the cultures where the whole “positive thinking” approach is not regarded as highly as here in US. Have you read any of Russian classic literature that had any sort of happy end? Come to think of it, the Germans are not famous for their positive outlook either. The prevalent traditional thinking is, “life is hard and sometimes unfair – get used to it and work hard to succeed”. On the other hand, we both come from the families that gave us a lot of love, encouragement and support, and we certainly want to give the same to our daughter. It’s hard sometimes not to “overpraise” her, since she is a really good kid most of the time. But we also don’t want to create a “praise junkie”. My husband and I both agreed that I should praise her a bit less, and he needs to praise her a bit more, and we both need to focus more on praising her efforts in emerging skills – getting dressed on her own, entertaining herself, waiting for us to finish our conversation before asking questions, drawing and writing. We are both trying hard not to praise her for intelligence – this came from another article that we read some time ago – How Not To Talk to Your Kids. Anna has the same natural tendencies as the boy in this article – she divides everything into something that she is good at and into “No, I can’t do it, I am not so good at it”, and no amount of “You can do it” positive talk is going to work on her when she is in her “can’t do it” mode. What works for us, at least some of the time, is giving her space, resources and time to try something on her own and let her experience her own satisfaction from her achievement even if it’s not perfect from our point of view. We still have to get better at it, but I am beginning to see that that’s what a true positive thinking is about.

So how do you motivate your young children to try new things and what do you do when they don’t want to try something?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bob Books Giveaway Winner

Thanks for everyone participating in Bob Books Giveaway. spoke and the winner is comment #27.

Blogger Mandy said...

I have been looking into purchasing these books. Thanks for a great giveaway option!

Congratulations, Living, Loving and Learning at Home

What My Child Is Reading – April 24, 2010

We had a very busy reading week. I got a lot of books from the library based on the recommendations from previous WMCIR posts. Alas, only one of them was a true hit in our house. I despaired asking Anna which books are her favorites, so I introduced a new rule: she can only keep 7 books between library visits. It’s pretty interesting to watch her weigh her options – she always starts by piling up the first 7 books she lays her hands on and then exchanges them for the ones she really wants to keep. Interestingly, her winners are split pretty evenly between complex stories that we read to her and picture books/early readers that she can read on her own.

The Moon Might Be Milk

This is one book recommended both by Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn and by Almost Unschoolers that was a clear winner. Moreover, I certainly plan to make moon cookies this weekend and probably throw some Earth cookies inspired again by Almost Unschoolers. We both enjoyed reading the story and looking at the illustrations, and I highly recommend it to everyone if your children will sit through a book that is at least 20 minutes long. It also lends itself well to sequencing or matching activities that I am too lazy to create and, of course, to baking together.

Adventures of Aluminum Can

Anna asked for The Adventures of Aluminum Can every evening and seems to enjoy it a lot. I am not sure, however, whether it was her stalling tactic before going to bed or whether she was really trying to comprehend the story line. Since she didn’t ask many questions, I assume it was rather the stalling. I thought that the story is really well done but better suited for older kids (at least 6+), since a lot of concepts would be beyond preschoolers’ grasp.

Me and My Place in Space

To be honest, Me and My Place in Space went back to the library, and Anna chose to keep Our Stars. However, she read Me and My Place in Space many times on her own and with me and asked a lot of questions. We read in some other book how Pluto is no longer considered a planet, and she kept pointing out how Mercury is the same size as Pluto in the pictures and asking why it’s still a planet. Again, I would recommend Our Stars for 6+ age group.

Ms Frizzle Ancient Egypt

OK… This is a great book, but it made me really resent Amazon’s way of giving their books a wide age range such as 4-8. There is no way this book is meant for 4 year olds. The illustrations are complex, there are several subtle substories going on, it’s rather long, and it deals with some pretty heavy stuff. I turned the page, and suddenly we were in the middle of mummy-making process starting with cutting the body and removing the brain. As you can imagine, this generated endless why and what-if questions here. Anna absolutely refused to return this book to the library, but I am hoping that with 20+ new books to read she might leave this one alone.

What is your child reading this week? Please link up and share – the linky is open all week. I am also linking to Feed Me Books Friday and to Read-Aloud Thursday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Week In Review – April 23, 2010

Anna is 3 years 6 months old


We had a great week even though the weather was changing wildly – from mid 80s to mid 50s with rain and then back to sunny again. Anna’s preschool theme was Dinosaurs, and she enjoyed it a lot. It was good to be outside without wearing sweaters and to have a warm and sunny weekend for a change. Naturally we spent a lot of time outside enjoying our Planet Earth.


Reading and Phonics. Anna read to me Father Bear Comes Homeanother delightful book from Little Bear series. I think now we read through all of them. She also read to me Rabbits and Raindrops recommended by Nicole at Tired, Need Sleep. I assume that she read all other books that we brought from the library, since she only wanted me to read them to her once and then she said that she could read them herself. We also finished Advanced Book 7 in Progressive Phonics – we will have to hit “old phonics books” soon, since Anna is not quite ready to stop her “reading words” tradition.


Fine Motor Skills. Lately Anna developed a little more interest in coloring. I found an excellent coloring book of hidden pictures in $1 section of Michael’s. Anna first reads the text, then tries to find the objects and then colors them. She also entertained herself by cutting and gluing many scraps of paper together this week “creating beautiful art for her school”.


Field Trips. Here we are, hanging out near Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. Of course, we took Anna to San Francisco before, but last time was more than a year ago, so she forgot all about it. We had fun walking along Fisherman Wharf, watching sea lions and seeing many ships – old and new. Anna enjoyed this experience so much that we are looking forward to more trips with her.


Play. We had the first really warm day last Sunday. It could only mean one thing – water play! We both missed it, and Anna had a blast. What is the best way to celebrate Earth than run barefoot, get as dirty as possible and then wash yourself off with a water hose? I love to see her all excited about being outside and how she finds more things to do on her own there.

For more preschool (and K) ideas, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

StArt – Dinosaur Dig


Digging Up Dinosaurs

Anna’s preschool theme this week is dinosaurs. We did a dinosaur week in the fall with many books and crafts, but having this theme in preschool rekindled her interest big time. She especially enjoyed “digging for dinosaur bones, but they were plastic, mama” with her classmates. So at home I dug out the only dinosaur book that we haven’t read during our dinosaur theme – Digging Up Dinosaurs. It’s a science book from Let’s Apr19_DinoDig1 Read-and-Find Out series, and it’s a bit too advanced for her. She didn’t want to read it last time, because she was afraid of anything that had to do with skeletons. Now she listened with interest and asked a lot of questions on fossils. I still had 3D dinosaur puzzles that I got for $1 at Michael’s, so after reading a book we did a dinosaur dig of our own. Anna really enjoyed digging Apr19_DinoDig2out “dinosaur bones” and putting her dinosaur together (with my help). Then she  played with him and her other toys for an hour – the dinosaur was very brave and protected everyone during their picnic (all games here involve elaborate food preparation). We also later made another dinosaur that had come in the same pack, and they were chasing each other and putting on dinosaur shows.  Apr21_Playdoh2

I suggested to make some more playdoh food for dinosaurs, but for once Anna was not too interested. Instead she was making “planet Earth” – a big pile of green playdoh on top of a blue ball. She insisted that her Earth will be all green and will only have one big lake. Let’s pretend that this “green Earth” thought is inspired with all “Earth Day” books that we read lately.

For more story stretchers and great books and crafts, visit StArt at A Mommy’s Adventures. For more science ideas, visit Science Sunday at Adventures of Mommydom.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Geography Track - San Francisco

Planet Earth Apr17_SF2

This past Saturday we switched from virtual to actual travel and visited the famous city that was mentioned in several “travel the world” books that we read recently. I am talking, of course, about San Francisco. We live in San Jose that is about an hour away and technically bigger than SF, but Anna doesn’t perceive San Jose as a big city since we live in one of its quiet residential areas. She was super excited to go to San Francisco. She kept saying from her car seat, Isn’t it amazing? We are in a real city! Look at all those houses! It’s so wonderful. I guess some of it was dramatic reenactment of Going to Town from Little House series, but she acted as a proper little tourist.

Apr17_SF3We chose to go to Fisherman Wharf during this expedition, since I haven’t been there since Anna was born. I was curious to see if the sea lions have returned there. Good news – they are back even though the colony is somewhat smaller than it used to be. It was quite a walk to get to Pier 39 from where we parked, and I expected Anna to start asking about playgrounds, but she seemed quite entertained by sights, sounds and smells of the big city.


In the evening I asked Anna to describe her visit to San Francisco. Here is her account: San Francisco was wonderful! We drove in the car, and then we were in San Francisco. We had snacks, then we saw… a lot of things, and then we drove back. Me: What did we see? Anna: We saw seagulls, big boats, a museum and street musicians. Me: And did we see any animals? Anna: Yes! We saw… those black guys… sea lions! They looked like sea monsters!

Good night san francisco We still have a few things planned for the rest of the week – I reserved Sea Lion and Good Night San Francisco, watch Annie and the Little Green Plane and maybe build a bridge (I am not sure that I feel that crafty or adventurous, but it sure looks good!)

For more Geography and History ideas, visit Geography/History at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why I Am Not Joining The Great TV Rebellion


I read about The Great TV Rebellion at a couple of my favorite blogs, and I remember reading about similar campaigns last year. I always cringe at these kinds of events. Why? Because they are just that – campaigns. It’s almost like binge dieting – let’s turn off our TVs offs for a few days and record all our favorite programs, so we can feel all righteous this week and catch up on our TV viewing next week.

I don’t believe in binge dieting, I believe in lifestyle choices. We don’t watch much TV here at all. In fact, we were one of those very few families that chose to follow “no TV for under 2” policy recommended by American Association for Pediatricians. Even now Anna’s TV viewing doesn’t exceed 30 minutes a day, and she only watches DVDs or recorded PBS shows. If we have doubts that she will understand the movie, I or my husband watch it with her. She is probably the only American child her age who only saw Cinderella to the end – we tried a couple of others (we actually have a very large DVD library at home), but felt that other Disney movies are too intense or incomprehensible for her. I don’t feel any guilt on letting her watch high-quality programs which entertain and educate her, because I see that she can understand them.  She incorporates the material into her play, she interacts with the program, she asks many questions. She likes to watch, but she is not addicted to blue screen and doesn’t automatically go to TV option when she is bored.

I admit that sometimes it’s hard to limit TV and other electronic entertainment so radically. It would be nice to have more time for adult conversation, for catching up on chores and even for feeding my own blogging addiction. But I tell myself that the time we spend together – playing, reading, going outside or cooking is a lot more valuable to my child than any TV or computer program could possibly be.

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