Sunday, July 29, 2012

Week In Review–July 29, 2012


A week in Israel. I had a great business trip! We had an offsite event for 2 days in a beautiful hotel in the middle of Negev desert in Israel. This event was organized incredibly well and was a lifetime experience, especially some fun parts like a dancing party late at night in the desert. The last 3 days in the office were a whirlwind of meetings, but it was good to see my coworkers and friends face to face again.


Water Mouse. In the meantime, Anna had a great week with her father. Every day they spent 3 hours at the pool, and I was very amused to see how tanned she got despite sunscreen that papa applied diligently but only before leaving house. Swim classes are going well, and Anna swims more and more confidently. We expect she will be a fully independent swimmer by the end of this summer.


Quote of the week. Mama, I am so glad you came back safe and sound, and all in one piece... I am your tail, your fluffy long tail that follows you even when you go on business trips. And I will always be your tail, and also I will be part of our family tale, because I am your daughter, and I will continue our tale even when you die.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–Fantasy Books

The HobbitI was on a business trip this week, so papa and Anna were deciding on their reading choices without me. They started reading The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien. Anna reported me on the phone that she is loving it despite the fact that there are “scary creatures”. It’s interesting to watch her watching more into fantasy and science fiction. Here are some other fantasy series that we read before.

Dinosaurs Before Dark

Magic Tree House is, of course, a classic fantasy series for young readers. We read some books from it for the first time when Anna was about 3, and she didn’t enjoy it then. She reread first 20 books or so (except Pirates and Mummies) when she was 4, but stopped at Merlin Missions. Now Merlin Mission books are her favorites, and we have the full collection of Magic Tree House books at home. The language is fairly easy and well suited for early readers.

Daisy Meadows Fairies

Fairy books by Daisy Meadows is another series that didn’t go over well at first, since Anna took Jack Frost and his goblins rather seriously. At 5, however, she decided that the goblins in the books are funny and not scary and didn’t rest until she read every single book by Daisy Meadows available in our library. To be honest, I am glad that I don’t need to spend my time reading these books to her, but I don’t mind her reading “recipe-based” books as long as she reads quality books as well.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Speaking of quality books, I am glad that Anna devours long stories without pictures as long as she is caught up in the story. From time to time she pulls out and rereads books from our own bookshelf – Roald Dahl’s Charlie books, Mrs Piggle Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald, Catwings by Ursula Le Guin, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I am looking forward to her fighting Lord Voldemort with Harry Potter and traveling to Mount Doom with Frodo one day not too far away.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week in Review–July 22, 2012


In our lives. Anna had her last “organized” week of the summer – she attended a week of Mad Science camp i n our community center. She was “escited” on the first day – this is scared and excited at the same time, but she loved it. Now, I didn’t expect her to learn why experiments work, but the camp definitely added to her interest in all things science, so it was a big success.


Special events – I left on Friday for another trip to Israel and enjoying 100+ temperatures here. I certainly hope that one day I can bring my family here for a somewhat longer stay. In the meantime Anna will spend a week with papa at home going to swim lessons, reading and playing. I hope she has fun without me and discover time for projects that are always on her “one day” list.


Toys and Games. The weather was cool and windy in the beginning of the week, and papa took Anna to fly a kite. She is much better at it now than last time they tried to do it together, and she managed to keep a kite in the air for quite some time. I am sure papa and daughter will play a lot more games and build with Legos while I am gone.


Quote of the week:

  • Anna: My favorite number is 5.
  • Me: And next year it’s going to be 6, right?
  • Anna: No, mother. When you are 5, you are still small, cute and have no responsibilities. It all changes when you are 6. You have to work harder. It cannot be my favorite number.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–July 21, 2012

It was a busy week. Anna kept reading through Humphrey series by Betty G. Birney and read a variety of shorter books. We also started listening to The Story of the World on CD, and she is begging me to buy a book. We might move for the time being from geography to history, since she seems to be very interested in some of the stories.

11 Experiments That Failed

11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill was recommended by Joyful Learner and was hugely popular with Anna who developed a very large funny bone lately. In fact, she was quoting entire pages from this book by heart to her father but reassured him that she won’t be trying these experiments herself. The story is greatly enhanced by clever illustrations of Nancy Carpenter. I’d say reading age is 5+ – younger kids might get some “creative” ideas from this book.

Looking at Lincoln

I got Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman because of its illustrations. Again, the story is more appropriate for school-age kids, but it could be a perfect read for Presidents’ Day – the book is a good cross between fiction and non-fiction and explains who Lincoln was, what he did and even how he died. There is an appendix in the end of the book for even older kids and their parents. Anna enjoyed the story and read it several times on her own.

Archaeologits Dig for CluesWe started listening to Story of the World on CD this week, and Anna was very fascinated by it. I brought home Archaeologists Dig for Clues which provides an excellent overview of what Archaeologists do including both field work and lab work. We read this book before, but now Anna is older and can appreciate the level of detail much better. I think we might follow up by reading about the most amazing archaeological discoveries, such as King Tut or Troy.

Amanda Bean

Our math book this week was Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream – a book about multiplication. It makes an honest effort to explain the connection between multiplication and “fast counting" of sets, but somehow the story seemed boring and repetitive. Neither I or Anna cared much for it. We do like 2x2=Boo by Loreen Leedy that is more entertaining and tackles the same concept.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hands On Geography – Australia

Do you enjoy geography for preschool and elementary school children? Would you like to do a hands-on mini country study at home? Then please visit my hands-on-geography series about introducing children to cultures and countries around the world. The topic for this post is Australia.
Hands On Geography from Planet Smarty Pants - Australia
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Hands On Geography

We have started introducing our daughter to different cultures since she was about 3 years old. Over years, we read about many different countries trying to encourage daughter to pick a country of her choice when she got older. We also tried to pair up a book with a cooking, craft, or science activity that would make Smarty’s view of the country more “hands on”. You are welcome to check out other posts in Hands-On-Geography series:

Books About Australia

Ready to Dream
Ready to Dream by Donna Jo Napoli is appropriate for preschool age, but scales well to elementary school children and could be done with middle school students exploring different art styles. Illustrations by Bronwyn Bancroft are amazing, and she uses native aboriginal style throughout an entire book. The story is about a young girl coming to Australia with her Mom, befriending a local aboriginal artist and learning a new way to draw and to dream. This book gives a great introduction to Australian animals and landscape. For older readers and for read-alouds I highly recommend Stories from the Billabong by James Marshall – this book beautifully retells ten ancient aboriginal myths .

Look at the Map

I am trying not to overwhelm daughter by details, but we do look at the maps during our geography studies to learn a little bit about the country and about map reading at the same time. Smarty knows that Australia is the only country that takes up the whole (smallest) continent, and she learned about two famous landmarks – Urulu (also known as Ayer’s Rock) and Sydney Opera House.

Rock Painting in Aboriginal Style

Since we learned about the aborigines and their art style, we chose to paint rocks as our hands-on Australia project. I didn’t want to “make” Smarty paint in that style – I was hoping to lead by example. Alas – Smarty was very enthusiastic about painting on rocks, but in her own style. She made “a beautiful stripe pinky butterfly family who leaves in a butterfly palace” instead.
Rock Art 5 Year Old
Another canvas in Ready to Dream book was forearms. Smarty went for her hands instead and painted them “beautiful and powerful brown”. It’s funny how quickly she went from carefully wiping her hands on the napkin when even a drop of paint fell on them to this. Luckily, it was a washable poster paint.
Hands Painting

More Activities for Australia

Follow my pinterest board Geography

Your Turn

Do you have a favorite picture book about Australia?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Week in Review–July 15, 2012


In our lives. It was the last week of Anna’s Y camp. The program exceeded all our expectations, both in quality and in how much Anna enjoyed 5 full days of camp. She really enjoyed hanging out with older girls, watching them do crafts, listening to their stories of sleepovers and playing board games with them. Apparently, she was well accepted into their circle as a “fun little sister”. Of course, there is the other side of hanging out with older kids – Anna started to copy some undesired sassy behavior that we are trying to nip in the bud. This week, however, she was mostly back to her normal self, except being a little sad about leaving her friends behind. She is excited about her Mad Science camp next week thought, and we hope that she enjoys it as well.


Special events. Yay! Anna passed her swim test at Y, and she is super proud of herself. She will still do two weeks of daily swim lessons in our pool to get better, but we are happy to see that her progress. This week the theme in the camp was “deep ocean”, and Anna went to a field trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium and had a visit from a Marine Animals Show. As I said, Y summer program was fantastic, and Anna is already planning to come back next summer.


Toys and games. Usually Anna spends her free time reading, but one day this week I picked her up relatively early, and she spent an hour building “a turtle house” from Legos while I was going through her closet gathering clothes for a garage sale. This lucky turtle also got a personal swimming pool and a lot of toys to play with.



Quote of the week: Anna watching a spectacular sunset with me: You know, mama, I think that a famous dead painter is up there painting pictures with God. He is so good that the picture is changing all the time, and it’s also different for different people.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–July 14, 2012

Anna is in a fun age where she can read pretty complex books independently, then turn around and enjoy Reader Rabbit Teaches Phonics game. This week she read both long chapter books and a lot of picture books that she chose at a library. Here are some of her picks and some of mine.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

My husband bought Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator in a used book store, and Anna happily grabbed it, since she enjoyed reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first with me and then on her own. She reported that the book is super fun. Willie Wonka invented the pills to make people young again and gave them to Charlie’s grandparents. Each pill makes people 20 years younger, and they each took 4 and became babies again. One of them was only 75 and then she became… negative 5. So they all had to go to a scary land to get her out. I guess I need to read a book myself to know what it’s really about.

Around the World on 80 Legs

Around the World on Eighty Legs was a big hit in the house, and I was amused to see that the author Amy Gibson lives practically next door in Los Gatos, California. Technically, the book misses North America and Europe, but the books has fantastic short poems about animals from all other continents. There were even a few animals I’ve never heard about, and I can see many-many follow up activities that can be done on this book. I am thinking of getting this one for our home library!


I got Creation by Gerard McDermott in the library because of its beautiful illustrations that made me go, How did he do that??? My daughter is not much into illustrations, but she also enjoyed the story told in the first person by God. She told me that she wished the book were longer. Again, this book would lend itself extremely well to extensions, I am thinking of pastels on the black background if we ever find time and inclination to try it out.

Max Money

We don’t do “formal math” in the summer, but I am trying to read at least one living math book a week together, so Anna’s interest in math stays fresh. We like books from Hello Math series, because math content is woven well into the stories. Anna was a little upset that even though the main character earned some money doing chores for one of his brothers, other siblings took this money away because he owed them. It never happens to her, since she really loves saving whatever money comes her way and she is planning to “get rich” at the garage sale today Smile

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week In Review–July 8, 2012


In our lives. This was an exciting week with a whirlwind of activites. Every year we have a street party for Fourth of July, and Anna was looking forward to this event very much. It’s really a great event for kids – lots of food and desserts, a giant water slide, face painting and crafts, and, of course, fireworks. This year her best friend’s family joined us for 4th of July, which made the day even better for all of us. Her Y camp was open the other four days, and the theme was “animals” with a field trip to Oakland Zoo and a visit from a traveling petting zoo. We are very happy with her Y camp and a little sad that she only has one week of it left.


Things we are doing. The only academic thing I am pushing this summer is writing requesting Anna every day to either write 3 sentences in her journal or to record 5 books that she read. It’s interesting to watch her spelling taking off, but she still doesn’t enjoy writing at all and her neatness leaves a lot to be desired. Otherwise, Anna spent most of her free time in the pool – she is really hoping to pass Y swim test on her last try this coming week.


Quote of the week: We read the book Annabelle Swift, Kindergartener where kids were counting milk money and there were  18 kids with milk costing 6 cents a carton. I wanted her to try multiplication:

  • Me: Anna, suppose the carton costs 5 cents, how much money would they have all together?
  • Anna: This is easy. We need to subtract 18 from $1.08. Umm… 90 cents!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–July 7, 2012

Our home book collection is exploding, since my husband found new used books store which sells high quality books for $3. He constructed a new bookshelf in Anna’s room and moved her Magic Tree House collection there, which gave her an excuse to reread all her favorite Magic Tree House books. Together we are still plodding through 101 Read-Aloud Bible Stories and also read a couple of other books that I will share below.

The Children Book of Virtues

The Children’s Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett was on my list of books to read for some time, and now it was almost too late. Some of the stories, especially fables, were familiar to Anna, and the only story that really fascinated her was the one about Genghis Khan who killed his faithful bird in anger. Well, at least the book was not in vain, because we are working now on controlling our temper and not acting out in anger.


Fraction Action

I don’t recall exactly how we got into this conversation, but Anna mentioned to me that she doesn’t know fractions. It’s a little amusing, because she uses them instinctively, but I guess she didn’t have formal introduction to them. So I brought home Fraction Action by Loren Leedy. Loren Leedy definitely has a gift of explaining complex concepts in a very simple way. I liked little quizzes on every page and a big quiz contest between a teacher and students in the end. Good for 5+ due to topic.

Measuring Penny

Measuring Penny is another engaging mathematical story by Loreen Leedy. It was Anna’s favorite book this week, and she volunteered to read it back to me twice. It’s good when the mathematical content and the story flow well together, like they do in this book that introduces different units of measurement. In addition, the book is good for dog lovers (my daughter, however, is not a dog lover), because it introduces so many different dog breeds. Good for 4+.

Starry Messenger

Starry Messenger by Peter Sis was recommended by Joyful Learner. In general I end up really liking Peter Sis books, and Anna is indifferent to them. This one was not an exception, especially since some of the text is written in a fancy cursive that even I had difficulty reading. I think we will reread this book later when daughter leaves her current fantasy-focused phase and moves back to biographies and non-fiction.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Week In Review–July 1, 2012

June30_OutsideHome. This post is a bit late as I didn’t have much time for blogging lately. Work is still very busy, and I’d rather hang out outside in the garden in the evening than spend even more time at my computer. Anna spends a lot of her free time reading and the rest of her time wanting to be entertained and attempting to boss everyone around. She has been so unreasonable lately that we sometimes wonder June29_DadGiftwho possessed her and where our sweet and cooperative girl went. Alas, some of her “not so free” time she spends in timeouts, but there are good times too. She was very excited about her papa’s birthday this year and insisted on making him “#1 Dad” trophy. The trophy is made out of things papa likes – a mouse, keyboard keys, Lego and crayons. She does know her father!

Places we are going. Anna is still in her Y summer camp, and the theme of the last week was “America the Beautiful”. They did some patriotic craft and went to The Great America amusement park on the field trip. Their Friday surprise was a magic show – Anna loved it and now talks about learning to do some magic tricks and making her own magic show.

June30_ReadingQuote of the week: If I could ask God for one thing, I wouldn’t ask to be rich. I just want to have a nice long life with all my friends and family living long. I would ask to have as many books to read as I can. I would want to have two jobs and change them every week. One week I will be a librarian, then I will be an astronaut, and then I will become a librarian again.

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