Saturday, July 30, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – July 30, 2011

Gramma's Walk

Our FIAR choice this week was Gramma’s Walk by Anna Grossnickle Hines. It was an interesting book in concept, but a little too obvious in execution. I strongly recommend Anna and Natalie for its brilliant take on people with disabilities. I would say that Gramma’s Walk is better for smaller kids and will work well with “five senses” units. Overall all three “follow up books” I highlight in this post were met with more enthusiasm that this FIAR book.

I kept Ladybug Girl at the Beach out of Anna’s reach Ladybug Girl at the Beachuntil after she actually got a chance to be on a real beach. Of course, “her” beach was very different because of the water temperature. Strangely, it also had very few seashells, we were lucky to find one. Also, unlike the main character of the book, my daughter had no hesitation getting into frigid waters (provided that I was close). Still, she absolutely loved this book of first beach experience since she could connect to it now.

Shells Shells Shells

Shells, Shells, Shells is another book in a great series by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. We read some other books in it, but this particular book was recommended by The Adventures of Bear. I like how these books manage to make some complex concepts accessible for young children and add some humor elements as well. The book is somewhat long for younger kids, but they might still like beautiful illustrations.

Out of the Ocean

Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier is a great beach book that we enjoyed for the second time. Again, this book was a lot better received after an actual trip to the beach, especially since we had a funny experience when the ocean wave ripped a pail out of Anna’s hands, took it in and then washed it out some time later. Very exciting stuff for a 4 year old :) I loved the illustrations in this book – beautiful.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Week In Review – July 29, 2012


In our lives… We had a great and full weekend with two terrific “field trips” – to the ocean and to Big Basin State Park. Anna loved the beach, and the book that I selected for the week, Gramma’s Walk worked really well with the theme even though the walk in the book is an imaginary one. She got additional shots needed for K, and was a tired, vomiting and cranky little girl on Wednesday due to DTap reaction – ugh.


Afterschooling. We tackled Gramma’s Walk book in FIAR program. We are not doing formal FIAR, but do use the book as a foundation for extension activities. Since we only found one shell during our beach visit, I pulled out a tray of shells that I bought about 2 years ago. Anna had fun, cleaning them, sorting them and finding what to do with them.


Creative thinking. When I gave Anna a bunch of shells I asked her what she could do with them. Her choices were interesting – she sorted a bunch of scallop shells “to make a Christmas garland or to use in projects”, a few smaller shells were taken as “scratchy” musical instruments, and she wanted to make a hummingbird feeder out of the largest scallop shell. Another bunch of shells was taken to “make a math game”, but I haven’t grasped the game just yet.


Places we are going… Anna was one very busy traveler this week! In addition to having a beach and a redwood forest as her personal playground, she also headed back to the Monterey Aquarium with her papa and with her favorite friend. This has definitely been the most adventurous week in an entire summer so far. She loves travel and she loves to talk about her adventures with everyone who is willing to listen.

July25_DivingFavorite things. There were a few this week. One is that papa taught Anna to dive. She was resisting it for a while, but now she is so proud of herself that she just spends most of the time in the pool diving. She also expressed more interest in writing this week. As it’s typical for her, she does many things only when she is ready and no amount of pushing will make it earlier.


  • Favorite quote: Mama, are there really millions of books in the world?
  • Me: Yes, and every day more books are being written. Perhaps when you grow up, you will become a writer?
  • Anna: No, I am not so good at writing. But I am good at reading, so perhaps I will become a reader.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Holier Than Thou?

You missed a “hot topic post” from me, didn’t you? Well, here it comes. Some time ago I was reading one of “Level A” blogs in my reader Our Worldwide Classroom, a blog that I usually enjoy, especially since it is written by a secular mom like myself. Kylie was sharing (without going into too much detail) why she decided to take her child out of public school, and she posted this quote on her blog. image

So now let me go on my own personal rant here. I am so tired of this kind of generalized disrespect towards public schools and people who work there. I am sure that people are trying to justify their decisions to keep their children at home. I can even see the wisdom of that choice in certain situations. All I want is to see some respect for the teachers who go to the classroom every day of the school year, rain or shine, and teach not just one child but 20+. I want to see some respect for your friends (including your blog friends) and family members who are making choices different from your own.

I am not sending my daughter to the thought-policing fascist government monopoly. I am trusting her to people who chose the life of service and, yes, to those who perhaps cannot afford to quit and teach just their own kids like some of the bloggers in the blogosphere. I also want to believe that through being part of a public school system our family can contribute more to the community we live in. I am actually pretty excited about the fact that my daughter will become a kindergartener pretty soon, and the whole wide world of “a real school” will be open to her. For more of our decisions on why not to homeschool, read this post.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekend Snapshots – July 23-24, 2012

image July23_Ocean2Saturday was for Ocean… 

July23_Ocean1 Anna kept saying how the sand on the beach is so different than the playground sand…

July23_Ocean4 No encouragement was needed to get in the water…

July23_Ocean3 A difference between Northern California and East Coast – looks like the ocean belongs to her! No wonder – water temperature is well under 70.

July23_Ocean6 Thawing out…

July24_Redwoods3Sunday was for redwoods

July24_Redwoods1 It’s impossible to get the scale of those giants in the picture. Here Anna is playing in the exposed roots of the tree. She was calling it her “hamster house”.

July24_Redwoods2 Anna could go through “the tunnel” in this tree without even bending much…

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – July 23, 2012

Night of the Moonjellies

I admit that I have never heard of Night of the Moonjellies or its author Mark Shasha before finding this book in Five in a Row reading list. But after the first read of the book I could absolutely see why it was picked up for FIAR. The story is lovely, and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. Anna enjoyed it as much as I did especially since every night we played parts of this game.

Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor

For the second week in a row The Magic School Bus book was one of Anna’s favorites. The MSB On the Ocean Floor is illustrated somewhat differently than other MSB books (same illustrator Bruce Degen) and strangely has some new characters in it, but Anna does enjoy the mix of fact and fiction in these stories. This particular book also has a lot of little notes with additional information about the ocean and its inhabitants.The Snail and the Whale

I simply adore The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson. What a terrific story of adventure and friendship that also rhymes really well. When I read this story to Anna about a year ago, she didn’t connect to it as much as I expected, but this time around she loved it as much as I did. I am going to get this book for our home library!

Wow ocean

Our opinions were somewhat split on Wow! Ocean! by Robert Neubecker. Anna was not thrilled at first since she doesn’t care for books without a story. Each double page carries only one simple sentence, the rest of the page is filled with colorful and detailed illustrations of the ocean creatures. She did warm up to the book somewhat after she understood the pattern behind the pages, and she enjoyed playing “I spy” with this book. Younger kids might appreciate it better than she did.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Week in Review – July 22, 2012


In our lives… I am cheating a little and writing this post on Wednesday, since I know that I will be in very long all-day meetings at work on Thursday and Friday, and my husband will be “holding the fort” at home. Hopefully they will be enjoying another heat wave at our community pool. But we did the best of our times together this week with a fun art project, a visit to the library and a very busy weekend.  


Afterschooling was limited to the visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium over the weekend, reading a beautiful FIAR book by Mark Shasha Night of the Moonjellies and reading a lot of other books about ocean (see my WMCIR post tomorrow). Anna enjoyed the visit to Monterey a lot more than the first time around since she remembered it and knew what to expect.


We are learning about… ocean life, of course, but we also took a chance to do some charity on the level that Anna could truly appreciate and went shopping for Back to School drive. Anna had a blast shopping for another kindergarten-age girl and was enthusiastically adding her early readers to the backpack until it was bursting at seams. She also talked me into buying the same backpack for her, and I was happy to do so, since her prior choice was a Dora backpack. I am not a big fan of licensed characters, so I am glad that she chose something else instead.


Places we are going… We are lucky to live in the area where we could go to the museums, to big cities, to the mountains or to the ocean every weekend if we so choose. We try to space these trips, and therefore they are more memorable. I am glad that we made it to Monterey even though the place was incredibly crowded on Saturday. Perhaps we can make one more trip there during the week before our membership expires.


My favorite thing… is how excited Anna always is when I come home. Of course there are disadvantages in being a working mom. I don’t guide her every step and rejoice in every achievement. But as an “absent” parent, I get to be favorite practically at all times, and I enjoy this outpouring of her unconditional innocent love.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

StArt – Mister Seahorse

An art project for preschool to explore Eric Carle

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Meeting Real Seahorses

Monterey Aquarium-Seahorse
This weekend we have visited Monterey Bay Aquarium. What I like about this fantastic Aquarium is that it cleverly mixes live exhibits and hi-tech displays with a lot of chances for kids to touch and hear, not only to see. Despite her specific request to see seahorses, Smarty was only moderately interested in them (it’s  been our almost last stop on a long visit), but she really enjoyed the video game where kids were supposed to camouflage their seahorses to save them from a hungry predator. My husband and I were fascinated to learn more about seahorses, their cousins and their unusual breeding ways and compare real facts to Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle.

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Mr Seahorse
When we came home, we reread the famous Mister Seahorse. It’s a lovely book about fish Daddies taking care of their young even though it appears from our visit to Monterey that it’s not entirely true to the facts, so to speak. Seahorse males really get pregnant and hatch their young. Anyway, this time Smarty was really interested in the details of Eric Carle’s illustrations, so we decided to make our own seahorses in Eric Carle’s style.

Explore an Art of Eric Carle

Decorating-Coffee-FiltersStep 1. Draw an outline of the seahorse on the coffee filter (due to my total lack of artistic talent, I traced the seahorse. Color with markers and make it “colorful”
Step 2. Use the dropper and watch the colors spread. Smarty did this step so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to grab my camera.
Step 3. Paint the ocean with watercolors. Enjoy flicking the brush to make bubbles.
Step 4. Give “shots” to your plastic animals while Mama cuts the seahorses.
Step 5. Arrange and enjoy. Don’t forget google eyes!

Art Projects Based on Eric Carle Books

For more art projects for preschoolers, check out my board Preschool Arts and Crafts.

Your Turn:

What is your favorite Eric Carle’s book?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend Snapshots

image July16_OceanWow, ocean!

July16_StarFish This star fish feels rough and bumpy…

July16_Kelp Let’s go and see seahorses!

July16_Monterey Wish granted…

July17_Mixer I can do this pizza dough all by myself!

July17_PizzaAnd I will keep helping with pizza.

July17_Play  A group of “school children” out on a hike.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – July 16, 2012

For the past 2 weeks we are trying Five in a Row (FIAR) approach at home while continuing to read wide variety of books. Interestingly, I didn’t encounter as much resistance to this approach as I thought I would once Anna realized that a FIAR book will be an “extra” book on top of our normal reading together time. Our choice this week was The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen, and I will dedicate this edition of WMCIR to the books about flight.

Glorious Flight

I chose The Glorious Flight for FIAR study because it worked well with our virtual visit to France, but I admit that I was not taken by the book. The illustrations are muted and look like vaguely impressionistic portraits, and the language is kind of formal and pompous. However, the book did manage to tell the story of many tries, errors and eventual success in a few pages, so we kept going with it. Luckily, there were a few other books that livened up the topic.

Magic School Bus Takes Flight

Magic School Bus Taking Flight was Anna’s own choice for Five in a Row this week – she was reading it every day, and I read it to her twice. This is a book from our own bookshelves – I stocked up on MSB books during the last library book sales and gradually “release” them to her. She loves these series as books but not so much as movies – she finds the movie versions too intense. Her favorite character is “scaredy cat” Arnold (probably because he is most “deep” character in the series.

How People Learned to Fly

How People Learned to Fly was a nice non-fiction book about the science of flight. It didn’t mention Berliot’s flight, but talked briefly of Brothers Wright and their first powered flight. It was good that we already watched All About Flight movie before reading the book, since I think the movie explained lift and thrust forces better than the book did. Illustrations by True Kelly are as gorgeous as ever though, so it was a pleasant read. Hot Air

Hot Air by Marjorie Priceman was my own favorite of the week even though many of its pages are wordless. The book tells the “almost real” story of the first balloon flight that conveniently for us also took place in France. Apparently, the tradition of sending up animals as test subjects originated way back when, and the facial expressions of reluctant animal crew are hilarious. This book can be appreciated both by younger and older kids, since illustrations are amazing.

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