Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Children’s Bookshelf –September 29, 2012

Forget me notsIt was another eclectic week of reading in the house, but at least we had some time for reading together this week. We are reading Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley. Anna didn’t express desire to learn any of the poems by heart, but she surely enjoys good poetry neatly arranged by different topics. I am thinking of getting this book for our home library, because I believe that good poetry can be read and reread at any age.


In Anna’s school first graders are expected to check out one book from a school library every week and write a very simple book report on it. They are only allowed to choose picture books. I asked Anna why and she said, Not all first graders have time to read chapter books. Yeah, right. Anyway, she chose Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems. It’s about the only book by Mo Willems that we haven’t read before, and it’s very cute. Anna said that she chose this book, because it’s funny and the monster is very cute and not scary at all.

Greek Gods and HeroesOf course, not a week passes in our houses without another Green myths book (luckily, our library has so many of them!). This time Anna picked up a thin paperback of Greek Gods and Heroes by Robert Graves in the library that was not illustrated at all and didn’t have this inviting cover. I thought that she won’t read this book that seemed so far above her age. I was wrong – she keeps rereading it, told me all about new (to her) stories that she learned from this book and keeps chuckling at certain points. She got me so intrigues that next week I am going to read this book myself Smile

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Signs of Fall

sunnydaytodaymamaafterschool linkySep22_WaterSlideFall started here with a warm day, perfect for a birthday party with a water slide.

Sep23_LeavesHowever, Anna and Papa started decorating our house for the fall by making paper leaves. Anna stuck with it for a while making at least 10 on her own (she traced them using a template papa made).

Sep23_Leaves2I think our fall window looks lovely!

Sep23_Wading… And while waiting for the fall to come, we will still enjoy sun and warmth while we can.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week In Review–September 23, 2012

It’s my pleasure today to host Afterschool LinkUp. Afterschool is cohosted by:

While I was too busy to comment on links from the last week, I couldn’t help but check out this post by Edventures with Kids – it’s good to know that there are so many interesting books waiting for Anna in higher grades.back-to-school-booklists

Sep18_MathIn our lives… Anna is now adjusted to different wake up time. Most of the days she gets up on her own when her alarm clock beeps, gets dressed and comes down to breakfast. She falls asleep an hour earlier – at around 9 pm. She seem to be enjoying writing more this year, but complains that math is boring and there is too much of it. I am going to talk to her teacher about it – I get her references to “boring”, since she is far behind “dot talks” and adding to 20 in her math knowledge.


Afterschool. As usual, Anna was reading a lot this week. Once she made an effort to earn computer time by writing in her journal – she wrote about her allowance and how much she loves getting it. She is getting $1 a week and very unwilling to spend any money. I signed up for Bedtime Math emails following advice from a friend, and I really like it, because it encourages mental math. She mostly enjoys solving these challenges, but one resulted in her screaming in frustration, because she didn’t know how to approach the problem. So it’s a lesson both in math and in not giving up at the first sign of trouble.


What’s new? We have officially closed our swimming season last weekend. The day was warm, but water in the pool was rather chilly – apparently a solar heater doesn’t cope well with shorter days. Now it’s on to hikes and many upcoming birthday parties for the weekends. I picked up a humongous project at work, so my time to comment and write might be very limited in the next few weeks. I am just hoping I will still have enough time for my family!


Quote of the week: (After the first Mad Science afterschool class):

We learned about physical and chemical reactions today. A physical reaction is boring everyday stuff when anything hardly ever happens. A chemical reaction is cool and amazing stuff with bubbles and heat changes and other things.

We would love to have you link up your School-Age Posts about your learning week including, crafts, activities, playtime and adventures that you are doing to enrich your children's lives After School! When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our afterschool button to link on your site!!! By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our afterschool party next week!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Children’s Bookshelf–September 22, 2012

When we came to the library on Monday, I asked Anna if there are any topic she is specifically interested in. Very firmly, she answered Greek Gods and Goddesses! She is becoming quite an expert in the Greek Myths, having read by now dozens of books. It’s interesting to see how all this reading is reflected in her vocabulary – very often her expressions make me smile. Here are some of the books I want to highlight this week:


Anna said that her favorite Greek hero is Hercules and specifically asked for a more detailed book about his twelve feats. The book The Twelve Labours of Hercules by James Riordan was a great fit. The story is told in great detail (including the horror of his madness and destruction of his family) and illustrations by Christina Balit are wonderful. I wouldn’t recommend the book for a preschool crowd, but older children would enjoy it.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

I didn’t have a lot of time to read to Anna in the evenings, because we were dealing with lice infestation again! She was reading on her own while I was brushing her hair for an hour every night making sure there are no nits left untouched. Only once she asked me to read her a book and I picked On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Kathy Goldberg Fishman to celebrate Jewish holidays happening right now. The book gives a good overview of traditions and appropriate for children 4+ (due to length).


Anna tried to play Poptropica a couple of times in the library, but couldn’t progress far (not having earphones didn’t help matters). She spied The Official Guide to Poptropica at the library and begged me to take it home. She read through it three times already, and I expect that she will want to play the game next time she earns some computer time. I looked at the book and on parent information on Poptropica website, and I think it’s going to be OK to allow her exploring this virtual world.

This post is part of The Children's Bookshelf, a weekly gathering of children's book posts aimed at connecting parents with great books for their kids. Do you have a post about children's books that you would like to share? If so, link up below, feel free to follow The Children's Bookshelf on Pinterest or visit TCB's co-hosts: What Do We Do All Day?, No Twiddle Twaddle, Smiling Like Sunshine, Mommy and Me Book Club, My Little Bookcase and Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. You can find more details here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Virtual Book Club and Sewing Buttons

VirtualBookClubjdaniel4smomAfterschool Blog Hop

I really wanted to participate in a Virtual Book Club hosted by some of my favorite blogs. September author is Lois Ehlert. I think of her not as much as an author as a book artist – her collage illustrations are simply stunning, and we read pretty much all of her books between the ages of 3 and 5.

Wag a Tail

I chose Wag a Tail to talk to Anna about the art of collage. She was not interested in the story that is more appropriate for 2-3 year olds, but was intrigued by the last page introducing different breeds of dogs and their qualities. She decided that an ideal dog for our family would be a Boston terrier since he is friendly, smart, and doesn’t need a lot of exercise. She also informed me (again) that she really wants a cat.


I asked Anna if she wants to make a collage of her own, and she agreed. However, while rummaging for collage materials, she suddenly had a fundamentally different idea. She spied some foam butterflies that I had forever and wanted to make a Christmas ornament with them. Umm… Not exactly what I had in mind, but I went along. Then she announced that she wants to sew buttons on her ornament to decorate it Sep16_EndResult(there are a lot of buttons in Wag a Tail collages). Last time I showed her how to sew on buttons last winter and she was struggling with them. Now she took to it very easily and surprised me with staying on this project for more than an hour and sewing quite a few buttons on all the while trying to stay symmetrical in her design. She was very proud with her Christmas decoration – never mind that it was in the 90s and I was waiting for her to get ready to go to the pool. Before we know it, Christmas will be here too.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week In Review–September 16, 2012


In our lives. I came back from a business trip on Wednesday morning to be able to make it to the Back to School Night on Wednesday night. There were no big revelations during curriculum overview – I am pleased to see emphasis on reading and “encouragement” of writing. I am hoping that by the end of the first grade Anna’s fine motor skills will mature to the point when writing stops being mechanically difficult.


Afterschool. I accepted that there is simply not enough time for afterschool activities right now except on Friday afternoon and weekend. Anna comes from home and Y (she goes to afterschool Y program three times a week) tired and only wants to read and cuddle. At least her method of unwinding is reading and not watching TV. On Friday afternoon we had a cooking class with mama again.


What’s new? Yesterday Anna’s class had a picnic – a great opportunity for parents to meet each other and for the kids to play together. It was fun to reconnect to old friends and make some new connections. We also had a playdate with Anna’s best friend and his sister. The kids had so much fun together that everyone was crying and throwing tantrums when it was time to leave.


  • Quote of the week. I know 10 secrets about balls:
  • 1. They are fun to play with.
  • 2. They are my second favorite object. My first favorite is rocks.
  • 3. You have to hit the ball hard, so it bounces back high.
  • 4. I am a good dribbler, because I’ve been practicing.
  • 5… I’ll tell you the rest later.

Little Wonders' Days

Co-hosted by:

We would love to have you link up your school-age posts about your learning week including, crafts, activities, playtime and adventures that you are doing to enrich your children's lives after school! When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our AfterSchool button to link on your site. By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our AfterSchool party next week!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Children Bookshelf–Books about Ancient Greece

I am excited to announce that I am joining with other book bloggers to form The Children’s Bookshelf. The Children’s Bookshelf is a place to connect with other parents and children's book lovers to share new finds and old favorites. Today I am sharing our books about Ancient Greece. My daughter is very fascinated by everything Greek at the moment by following The Story of the World in the car. Perhaps this will be helpful to people following The Story of the World curriculum and to other history lovers

I came back from my travels on Wednesday afternoon this week and my daughter met me with a statement that she needs to go to the library because she is out of new book to read. I was surprised to see that she picked several Greek myths books from the shelves –
Greek Myths
We really enjoyed Egyptian stories by Marcia Williams, so I couldn’t wait to pick up Greek Myths that had to travel from another library to get to us. I thought illustrations were more interesting in Egyptian story, but the book covered a couple of myths that were new to Anna including less cheerful ones of Pandora, Athena and Arachne, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Icarus. Interestingly, Anna noticed that in one of the myths Hades was called Pluto and commented that this one is a Roman name for God of the Underworld.
Following my question a couple of weeks back, I ordered D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths from the library, but after looking through this I decided not to give it to Anna, especially after listening to her anxious thoughts about some of the myths she already read or listened to. Some of the illustrations in the book are beautiful, but not necessarily meant for impressionable 5 year olds. I am thinking, however, about adding both this book and National Geographic Treasury of Greek Mythology to our home library.

Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece: Modern Rhymes about Ancient Times was a welcome respite from intensity of Greek myths. Each page contains a catchy short poem about events (Olympic Games, Marathon Battle), political figures and heroes of ancient Greece. There is also a pronunciation guide for those pesky long names. We will be looking for other books in these series by Susan Altman and Susan Lechner for sure.
What have you been reading? Link up and share!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Week In Review–September 9, 2012


In our lives… I am traveling for work this week again to my favorite destination – Tel Aviv. This time my trip included a weekend, so I had a chance to swim in the Mediterranean Sea and meet my cousins. The trip is going as well as these trips tend to go – a lot of meetings with my coworkers during the day, late night dinners and catching up with my inbox in the evening. It looks like I’ll be completely over my jet lag just in time for me to go back home.

What’s new?. Anna is doing fine under her father’s care. Last week they went hiking in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park and visited Exploratorium in San Francisco. She keeps talking about her summer Mad Science camp, so we signed her up for an afterschool Mad Science class offered through school on Wednesday early release day. It means two scheduled activities a week this year – Mad Science and gymnastics. I decided to keep teaching her Russian on my own, because having a tutor twice a week was just too hard on her and on us. We keep weekends free to hang out together as a family and go places.

Quote of the week. Anna (on the phone with me): Mama, I miss you so much. I miss you more than anything. But I cannot talk to you now – I am playing a game on iPad. Bye and come back soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–How to Find Good Books

I am on a business trip this week, and so I decided to write instead about how we choose books to read. While selection of books changed over years, the methods didn’t change much. Here they are:

  • 1. Take your children to the local library and give them freedom to look around and choose some books on their own. We did this since Anna was about one year old.
  • 2. Follow your children’ interests while selecting books. We went through several phases already – photo books when she was very young, books with nothing scary in them, non-fiction only and now mostly fantasy books.
  • 3. Add some variety. I always try to add some of my own choices to Anna’s selections – for example, books that expand her horizons in history, geography or science. I also bring poetry books on a regular basis.
  • 4. Keep adding to your own home library if at all possible. I remember reading in Freakonomics that having books at home is a better predictor of children’ academic success than reading to them or taking them to the library. We add to our home library through library book sales, garage sales and occasional bookstore/Amazon splurge.
  • 5. Consider free books. We own 2 Kindles (soon to be three as Anna keeps asking for her own Kindle for her birthday). There are many free books from Project Guthenberg available for Kindle. They can also be read online, but this is something that we actually avoid doing.
  • 5. Read books about books (or book blogs). I found some good recommendations in Story Stretchers series by Shirley Raines, What to Read When by Pam Allyn and The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.
  • 6. Ask your fellow blog friends. Over years we read a lot of books by visiting participants in WMCIR. For example, right now I have a few books waiting for pickup in the library – recommended by Mama Smiles, What Do We Do All Day and Joyful Learner.

How do you choose the books to read? Do you control/preview what your older children are reading? Please share your opinions in comments.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Cooking Class With Mama

My first grader is great at academics, but my goal is not to raise a “brain”. I want to make sure that she is able to live on her own one day. This is why she is learning some basic kitchen skills during “cooking classes” with Mama. Here is a photo account of one of them.
Cooking Class With Mama
This post was updated on August 21, 2014 with new graphics and a resource section. Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

1. Let your kids choose a recipe

Smarty looked through several of cookbooks for kids from our own collection and from the library and chose Stone Soup from My First Cookbook by Paula Deen
Kids cook - choosing recipes

2. Go Shopping

I asked Smarty to check whether we have all the necessary ingredients. It was also a good opportunity to get her more familiar with where we keep things in our kitchen and garage. We didn’t have everything we needed, so she made a shopping list. While we went shopping, she insisted that she absolutely needed a cheap plastic ring from those blasted toy dispensers. She blows all her allowance on these toys.

3. Peel Vegetables

Peeling carrots was a great problem solving exercise. Is it easier to peel a carrot holding it vertically or putting it back down on the board as I suggested. Eventually Smarty agreed that peeling carrots when they are not trying to slip from your fingers is easier. Peeling potatoes proved too difficult for her so far.
Peeling Carrots

4. Cut Vegetables

My husband and I disagree a little bit about whether our daughter is ready to use a sharp knife. I do supervise her closely when she uses a knife and I “scaffold” her by first cutting vegetables into smaller pieces. In general, I think that a sharp knife and a firm vegetable, such as a potato, is safer than a bad knife and a soft tomato. You also don’t want to try it if your child is too tired, but Smarty really perked up after munching on some carrots and was very focused while working with a “real knife”
Learning to cut vegetables

5. Don’t Forget Less Glamorous Parts

Smarty is eager to help in the kitchen, but… she conveniently disappears once the “interesting part” is done. We are working on staying on to help with clean up, setting the table, and with making sure that dinner doesn’t burn. I admit that we are not as consistent as we should be with this part. 

6. Connect With Your Child

One good part about cooking together is not just that you put dinner on the table while your child is “attended to”. In fact, joint cooking doesn’t work for me on the nights when I am stressed or in a hurry, because cooking with young children certainly takes more time and requires patience and ability to overlook or quickly correct inevitable mistakes. Cooking together is a bonding time where we can chat, taste some of the ingredients, and work as a team while creating something useful – dinner for our family. Cooking together also helps my picky eater to be a little more adventurous in trying new foods. I won’t claim that it always works, but at least she enjoys the process if not the result.

More Resources About Kids in the Kitchen

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Follow Natalie's board Kids in the Kitchen on Pinterest.

Your Turn

How do you get your kids to stay and clean up after cooking?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Week in Review–September 2, 2012


In our lives… It was the first week of school here! Anna was super excited to go back to the same wonderful teacher she had in kindergarten. She is now one of 15 first graders in her combo K-1 class. She has a kindergarten buddy and tries hard to be a good example to her new friend. Anna is also excited to be able to buy food and eat lunch in school cafeteria. I know many people manage to put together fantastic fun and nutritious lunches for their kids, but I was never able to really put needed thought, time and energy into prepping her lunches. Maybe cafeteria food loses its appeal in a couple of years, but for now it looks like we’ll stick to it.


What we are learning… Transition to early mornings and longer school days is tough on all of us. Anna was coming home exhausted and was not interested in any activities except reading. We are moving her bedtime earlier – hopefully my husband will manage next week to get her to a desired time of 8:30 pm. She bounced back nicely on the weekend after sleeping for 12+ hours and catching up on much needed rest.


What’s new? Anna took on several longer projects these weeks and completed them on her own. It’s interesting to see her putting more thoughts and planning in her projects. I was also excited when she suddenly wanted to try out a 100 piece puzzle. My husband and I like puzzles, but until now our daughter just “wasn’t getting it”. I helped her a little, but she was very proud when she did a 100 puzzle almost on her own.


Quote of the week:

  • Meeting a neighbor on Friday afternoon.
  • Neighbor: How was the first week of school?
  • Anna: Awesome! I had the best teacher in the whole wide world, and I have her again!
  • Neighbor: But aren’t you happy that you will have a long weekend?
  • Anna (shocked): No, I would really like to go to school! I love school!

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