Friday, September 30, 2011

September in Review and Plans for October


Sep19_AnnaMamaSeptember was definitely a “mixed bag” month. It was a big adjustment for all of us to have a kindergartener in the house, and this change also coincided with another spike in my work load. I can say with confidence that the most enjoyable days were weekends, where we made a point to relax, spend time with friends and not to commit to too many activities.


On the positive note, Anna is thriving in school. Despite the fact that she is younger by at least 6 months and shorter by at least 6 inches than anyone else in her class, she is doing very well. Last week the teacher sent home the note saying that she is amazed by Anna’s progress in handwriting. Nobody is more amazed than I am – she went from forming awkward giant all-capital words to writing legible sentences (well, legible to her, her spelling leaves a lot to be desired) in a matter of two weeks. She seems to be making friends and is looking forward to school every morning.


October promises to be even more crazy at work if this is at all possible, so we really need to regroup and focus on what is doable. I am hoping that Anna will continue to enjoy her school and will continue to “tolerate” her afterschool program which she attends 3 days a week. I am hoping that we will keep up our "game night” tradition. I plan to keep spending a lot of time outside, especially on weekends. And I am really looking forward to Anna’s 5th birthday. I already asked for a couple of days off, so I can really enjoy it with my family.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Weekend Science - Air

Air is All Around You

We are continuing to learn a little more about science of the world around us. This week we continued with matter topic and focused on gases. We read Air is All Around You, but didn’t have a chance to do the main experiment in the book yet. We did talk a lot about properties of gases, and it was interesting to see what Anna understands empirically and what she doesn’t. For example, she gets that air takes space but she thought that air doesn’t HairDryerhave weight. I can see how it’s hard to see the weight of air, especially since balloons filled with air (and especially with helium) appear to have no weight. At least Anna could observe the power of a forced air – this simple experiment with a hair dryer still fascinates me as much as it fascinated her. It can also be performed with balloons, but I think that light plastic balls are more interesting since normally they don’t float at all.

I have some other air experiments planned, but Anna was more interested in spelling/math this past weekend than in science, and I decided to go with the flow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week In Review–Sep 25, 2012


School. This week has been a much smoother sailing for me and Anna. Not so much for our papa who was quite sick with the virus that Anna brought over last week. Anna was very enthusiastic about everything that was happening in school. She has a very strong class, at least on kindergarten side of it, and a lot of kids are trying to do what the first graders are doing. I see her interest in math growing every day, and I am especially excited to see her progress in writing – both in letter formation and in her desire to write without constantly thinking about spelling mistakes. She also has bi-weekly music classes in school and a weekly cooking club in her afterschool program.


Afterschool. Anna was really keen on continuing school at home this week. She didn’t seem as tired as she was last week, and she enjoyed making her first entry in her future book of “fun poems, rhymes and songs” – a poem about leaves. Then she and papa thought of various ways to draw leaves and papa scanned some of her leaves into the computer to illustrate her poem. It looks nice!

Work was OK, but my company has been in the news too much lately Smile I wish it was something positive, like our latest and greatest products, not how often we change our CEOs.


Field trips and best moments. We are enjoying an unseasonably warm week – the last hooray of summer. On Sunday we went hiking to one of our favorite places – Castle Rock State Park. It is famous for sandstone rock formations that are appealing to serious climbers and to little kids alike (obviously not in the same places). It was wonderful to hike in the woods and observe different plants. On the way there we saw deer crossing the road in front of the car and heard many different birds chattering over our heads. It was fun to watch Anna trying to climb the trees and the rocks – she certainly got some major wiggles out!

Favorite link: Super teacher worksheets – great quality worksheets and other printables absolutely free!Sep20_Math

Quote of the week: Anna: Mama, I think it would be good for us to go and watch a game, like a hockey game. But please bring a pen, paper and some math problems. If I am bored with the game, then I will solve some math problems to have fun.


Come and share your adventures in afterschooling – afterschool linky is hosted on Just Playing Around this week.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What My Child Is Reading–September 24, 2012

Curious George
We didn’t have a “theme of the week” this week, since Anna’s reading assignment in K was Curious George. She might be the only child on Earth that completely dislikes Curious George series, especially the original book. If you think about it, the book is extreme for a modern child, with George ending up in prison of all places! I brought some other books from the series home, and she read them, but it was clear that she still thinks of George as someone who doesn’t follow the rules, makes messes and always in trouble. So we switched to other books that she enjoyed much more.
Crinkleroot Trees
Anna’s class is still studying trees for science, so I picked up another tree book in the library – Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees by Jim Arnosky. As it turns out, this book is part of a series, and I will definitely be looking for other Crinkleroot books. The illustrations are awesome (like in all Arnosky’s books) and the amount of information is just right for the preK+ kids. The book also identifies about two dozens common trees – I finally learned English names for some of them that I only knew in my native Russian.
Princess in the Palace
Finally there came a book of fairy tales that didn’t put my daughter off. There’s a Princess in the Palace by Zoe Alley and R.W. Alley is a clever take on 5 classic princess tales presented in an oversized comic book format. All tales are linked together – daughter of Cinderella becomes Sleeping Beauty, etc. I think the book is more appropriate for grade age students, since it’s also full of word play (e.g. Cinderella was running ragged). It was sometimes to explain all nuances to my kindergartener, but she enjoyed the book just the same and kept rereading it on her own many times.
Pup at the Palace
Anna continues to read through Animal Ark series by a British author Ben M. Baglio. She informed me that she found a pattern for these books – in each book an animal and a person gets hurt. The language and the setting in these series are a lot more complex than in The Puppy Place, another of her favorite series of the moment, but the added complexity doesn’t faze her – she can read practically anything at this point as long as she is interested in the book.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Writing, Et Cetera…


Yet again I didn’t manage to do any art projects at home – Anna was not at all interested. Ironically, she was quite keen on doing more homework than she was given instead. It seems that a lot of her crankiness last week was related to a virus that caused a couple of days of sniffles for her. We, her parents, are struggling with her kindergarten life more than she does. My main struggles come when I look at her output from the previous week that is being sent home on Monday and ask myself if this is a colossal waste of time for her. But on the other hand, I do see positive changes in her – especially in her desire to write. I spent a lot of time trying to coax her to use lowercase letters in writing without any results. Well, apparently it was explained to her in school that uppercase writing is no longer cool, so Anna is putting forward a lot more effort learning to form lowercase letters properly, and it’s exciting to see her progress. It’s also good for her to be in the classroom with the kids who can write – she told me that when her teacher had asked the first graders to write three sentences about leaves (kinders needed to write one sentence), one girl wrote the whole poem instead. Mrs J read it to the class and placed it on her “favorite authors” shelf where she keeps the best works of her students. Now Anna has a new aspiration to write a book of fun poems, rhymes and songs, written and illustrated by Anna. I am glad to see that she is challenged and growing in something even though I am still racking my brains wondering how she could progress in math at all with the curriculum she has.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Science – Solids, Liquids, Gases

Solids Liquids Gases
I am trying to continue our tradition of doing “semi-science” activities on weekends supported by non-fiction books. I am starting to use Foundations of Scientific Understanding loosely as a guide for these forays of science. This week Smarty was delighted to learn that everything on Earth is made of matter, and that gases, liquids are solids represent states of matter.
Sep17_Ice2I froze some ice colored with food coloring. I also tried to insert toothpicks into ice to make sailboats, but this didn’t work for most of the ice blocks. Smarty’s first question (that she was able to answer on her own) was, “How did you make colored ice?”Sep17_Ice1 Launching ice boats and watching them melt was a clear success. There was also some observation of color mixing.Sep17_Ice3Me: Do you know where water goes when the puddle dries out? Smarty: Sure. It goes into air as a water vapor. And then comes back down as rain. So much for teaching something new. OK, for fairness sake, states of matter were new to her.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week in Review – Sep 18, 2012


Sep11_TrainHome: It’s been a busy and stressful week. I had to work long hours, and daughter has been missing me. On the other hand, she was Ms Cranky when I was there for her – I guess she is still adjusting to her new schedule. It feels to all of us that we don’t have as much time together – probably due to the fact that we are having dinner and starting a night routine an hour earlier than we used to. An hour is a lot for working parents!


School: Anna has aptly defined her feelings after a school day as “happy but tired”. She enjoys school and apparently developed quite a crush on one particular first grader. She enjoys afterschool less than in the first weeks, probably due to her low energy level. Her favorite parts of school days are recess and going home, but she also enjoys learning more signs in sign language.


Afterschool was limited mostly to homework and to weekend things. Anna still enjoys her science journal and made another entry in it with her new discoveries – a dried up fruit of unknown origin and an acorn. I had more things planned but Anna had absolutely no interest in them. At least she still loves her gymnastics and asks if she could go there more than once a week.

Work: brutal. One of my best people is leaving, and I am really frustrated I couldn’t talk her out of it. A lot of politics at work and overwhelmingly too much work.


Field trips – We went to the Roaring Camp Railroad last weekend. An old steam train takes people on the ride through the mixed forests of Santa Cruz mountains. We went last year too, but Anna didn’t remember the trip. She was not afraid of the whistle this time and really enjoyed the trip even when it drizzled a bit.

Sep14_Anna Favorite moments. Anna is very interested in “secret languages” at the moment. Her first attempt was just the random selection of sounds, and I explained to her that it’s not going to work, since she will not even be able to remember what they mean. Her second attempt is much better and involves dropping the first sound of every word. It’s actually fun to have our own secret language.

Come or join Afterschooling week in review that is hosted this week at Mama Smiles. You can also enter this giveaway if you host or contribute to Afterschool.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – Kevin Henkes books

I dedicate this week review to the books by one of our favorite authors – Kevin Henkes.


Chrysanthemum was Anna’s kindergarten book assignment this week. We were supposed to read it with her four times and then she needed to answer some questions from the book. When she saw the book, she promptly informed me that she is not interested in reading it, because I read it in preschool, at home, in the library and I know it already. I challenged her to retell the story to me, and she did it, often quoting the story word by word. I was amused especially considering that she hasn’t seen this book in several months. So I gave up on Chrysanthemum (a good book, by the way!) and instead brought home almost every other Kevin Henkes book that our library had on its shelves).

Lily Big Day

Anna’s favorite of the week was Lilly’s Big Day where she met again the main character from Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (she read that book earlier). She was very entertained by the story line predicting correctly what will happen next, but then she didn’t quite get an ending on the first or second reading. She kept saying that Lilly didn’t get what she wanted. After some time she was able to finally grasp that Lilly did, after all, get very close to her dream. Anyway, fun book.

Julius the baby of the world

I thought that Julius, the Baby of the World is one of a few books that don’t sugarcoat the feelings an older “formerly only child” might experience towards a younger sibling. Lilly is not at all excited about her new brother and all the attention her parents are showering on him. She designs clever schemes to “counterbalance” that attention. Nothing works until someone else makes unfavorable remarks about her little brother. It’s a great book for new brothers and sisters, but Anna commented that she is very glad to stay an only child :)


Owen was definitely my favorite book of the week, but Anna liked it a lot as well. It was very relevant for her, since she is very attached to her own “green blankie” (that's his name). When we were reading through the part when Fuzzy was supposed to go to the “blankie fairy”, Anna’s eyes got big as saucers, she grabbed her blankie and stated that he never goes to the blankie fairy. Luckily, Fuzzy didn’t go to the blankie fairy either. It’s a very sweet book, and I am glad that we finally got to read it.

Your turn: Which Kevin Henkes book is your favorite?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Busy Busy Work


This has been a hard week . I think the novelty of kindergarten is wearing thin for all of us. Anna was coming home exhausted and cranky, and I have been exhausted and cranky too due to many things happening at work. I guess I am not taking too well to both my colleagues and my daughter not listening to me at the same time :)

So here comes my first rant about school – the amount of homework my daughter brought home this week. It comes home on Monday afternoon since she is in the afterschool on Monday and due back on Friday morning. I don’t mind reading homework (even though injunctions to read an assigned book for at least 4 times are a bit insulting), but 10 pages of math? In kindergarten? Seriously?

To my daughter’s credit, she attacked her homework with great enthusiasm and completed it within 20 minutes. However, her father who reviewed her work, was less than thrilled to discover how many mistakes she did in something that we know she understands perfectly well. I believe the mistakes are due to the repetitive nature of tasks – a true “drill to kill” exercise even though some pages were supposedly “enrichment” pages. I think she would have done better if she got only enrichment part without “practice” part. I guess this is something to be discussed during our parent-teacher meet up in November.

Do your kindergarteners get homework? How much? What do you think of homework in kindergarten? Any ideas on how to get a 5 year old to slow down and actually pay attention?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Science Journal

image image

Sep11_OJ1On Sunday we went for a walk around the block. We brought some items home with us for “studying” (Anna’s definition of studying: “looking at things with a magnifying glass”)

Sep11_OJ2 She inspected everything very carefully

Sep11_OJ3Then she drew her observations in her very new “science journal”

Sep11_Oj4 She was very proud to be able to spell September and spell most of other words. They learned a chant to spell “September” in school. It was the first time she was actually delighted about her ability to spell and write and now she has a new career aspiration to be a librarian who will also write books for her library.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week in Review – September 11, 2012

Afterschool Sep3_Portrait

In our lives… We all enjoyed a long weekend even though I had to work through some of it. By the end of it Anna was telling us that she can’t wait for school to start again. On Tuesday we went for an ice-cream social in Anna’s YMCA. We had a lot of reservations signing her up, but she is doing really well in a crowd of kids ranging from K to 3rd grade. Daughter was also excited to have her first formal music class – her school has bi-weekly music instruction for all levels. She continues to enjoy school and gets better with morning routine. In other news, my project at work turned out OK, but I suspect that it’s only the beginning of a much bigger effort.


Afterschooling was flowing really well this week, since Anna got her very own desk in our office. My husband has built it out of IKEA shelf. We were doing some activities from her homework book Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom, and she was going through Lollipop Logic (recommended by Joyful Learner) on her own. She loves this book, it appeals to her a lot more than traditional workbooks that are more based on repetition.


Favorite things this week… watching my daughter try new things like rock climbing, hearing her rave about her school, her teacher and her gymnastics class. It’s sometimes hard not to be there for all of her firsts, but I love knowing that she is enjoying her new life in a big school. I also love all the love and energy that my husband is pouring into making things for Anna like her new desk or with her like smurf houses. He is also fully in charge in the morning – not an easy job when he himself is not a morning person at all. And of course I loved a long weekend and a shorter work week :)



  • Favorite quote. Anna: I wish we did more studying in school. We only studied one day so far.
  • Me: Umm… What do you do on other days?
  • Anna: Mostly seatwork
  • Me: And what did you do on the day when you were studying?
  • Anna: Running around with magnifying glasses and studying things.

Are you sending your children to school while doing fun activities at home? Link up and share your weekly adventures. Every link earns you extra entry in this giveaway.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – Books about Trees

As always Anna read a variety of books this week, but I want to try something different and limit my reviews to one “theme” if I can. We do usually have a theme going and now we are trying to tie it to something she is learning in school. In science they were learning more about trees, so I am going to highlight our favorite tree books that we found this week.

The Big TreeThe Big Tree by Bruce Hiscock was an accidental library find. It is a nice cross between a fiction book and a non-fiction book, and Anna picked up on it by exclaiming in the middle of the story, It’s the science book and a story book and a history book too. The book does weave different historic events into the story of an old maple tree, and it also includes a lot of scientific facts about the trees in general and maple trees in particular. The story is long, so I would say 5+ is a reasonable age for it.

The Great Kapok Tree

Now let’s travel from New York to the Amazon Rainforest and read a gorgeously illustrated book by Lynne Cherry – The Great Kapok Tree. This is a fiction book, where various animals and a native child explains why their tree has to be spared by a logger who came to chop it up. Anna said that the book is sad, and I agree with her. It is sad that Amazon Rainforest is in danger, and it also means that all of us are endangered as well.

Flowers and Trees

We have Flowers and Trees from Child’s First Library of Learning set in our home library, so we looked up some questions about trees that Anna found interesting, such as How Do Leaves Change Color? and How Big Do Trees Grow? Anna was excited to learn that she has already seen the tallest trees in the world – we are lucky to live so close to them. We do like all the books from this series even though the order of the questions makes very little sense. It probably makes a lot of sense to my 4 year old though :)

Our Family Tree

I can’t resist to include Our Family Tree in the list of our tree books of the week. It has nothing (or very little) to do with trees. Since we are evolutionists, I was on lookout for a while for a good “introduction to evolution” books for children. Our Family Tree comes pretty close to what I was looking for, but it kind of fails to communicate the span of time it took to transform single cell organisms into human beings. It does have a timeline and some more details in the back of the book for older kids, so overall I do recommend this book for evolution-minded families.

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