Friday, March 29, 2013

Reading Roundup 2013.03.29

Light online reading this week.

For financial literacy, it's never too early, Atlanta Journal and Constitution (March 25, 2013)

Is there danger in play, or more in its absence? Not Just Cute (March 20, 2013)
A really interesting read about play, why it's important, and also how its substitutes are damaging.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Letter lesson

Waldorf, for some reason, is not hot on written language and letters for preschoolers. I understand not pushing this, since there is plenty of time to develop the skills, but I don't understand the idea of denying an interested child the chance to explore what makes him curious.

Starboy definitely is expressing an interest in cracking the code on written words. "What does that say?" he pleads daily. Although my own recollection is of learning to read whole words before learning  each letter and its sound, I would have to think that I was given "sound-it-out" guidance as we went along in each story, based on how I've seen my mother read with Starboy.

So we've started some letter and sound recognition activities. With no method or plan to make it much easier for him. Luckily I'm not a strict Montessorian. Although that might help him, in terms of strategy.

We've started a multi-day project of making place cards for our family easter gathering (14 people). I found some blank cards for $1 per pack (12/pack), and got some matching glitter stickers ($3-4 per pack, you'll need more than one for a big crowd).

The bummer is that the stickers are all crammed together on the sheet, which makes finding the letter you want pretty confusing for a pre-reader. I did cut off the numbers entirely. And I encouraged him to set the stickers on a blank sheet during the hunting part, so he could see beyond the floral tablecloth. I considered cutting apart each letter, but then we'd have 26 pieces to manage, and that didn't seem conducive to success.

Some of the family names were pretty long (3 syllables) to fit onto the place card, and so I took those on while Starboy worked. He seemed to get maxed out after about three name cards, even with an additional incentive of using lenticular robot stickers for some of the names.

*This post has been shared at these linky parties. Please check them out for literally hundreds of great crafting ideas! The Magic OnionsNatural Suburbia, Frontier Dreams, Montessori Monday.

Indestructible alphabet flash cards

I'm so excited to try these gorgeous alphabet cards by Marie-Claire Camp on Kickstarter. Aren't they gorgeous? Her initial project sold out, so I've pre-ordered on the second run.

They are basically flash cards made out of food-safe credit cards, with beautiful graphic design. This photo doesn't show it, but they will have both cursive and print letters on the face. Starboy is going to love them!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Free Spring Sparkle Story!

Sparkle Stories is offering a free Spring tale that honors death and rebirth. "Elija's New Home" talks about love and loss of the devoted family dog. A secular story for all (or no) religions.

And check out the deal for By Thistle By Thimble's sample audio book—only $3 ! I can't wait to hear these stories.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Clucking spring chickie — this one's for Julie!

Meeting Julie reminded me I have tons of crafty ideas to work on, and it's time to get crackin'! Thanks for the inspiration, Julie— Here we go!

This hilarious chickie is from the Willowday blog. I could not resist trying it. When you yank on the string inside the cup (the cup also serves as a stand to hold the chick up), you can make it cluck! Check out her video.

Starboy loved doing his own cutting, and this led to a full half hour of self-directed cutting. He took a paper filled with stickers he stuck yesterday and cut them apart into "toys" for his little plastic animals to play with. All the stickers were round or oval, so it was great practice for him.

So nevermind that this is a yellow, young chick, that also happens to have a rooster comb. And that young chicks might peep. I guess we should have used white or brown paper, maybe.

Speaking of paper, our regular 9x12 construction paper was pretty flimsy for this project. I'd recommend tag board or an old folder. I see now that we over-glued the are in the valley of the U, which makes him look a little strained. Oh! And googly eyes! I totally forgot about that! Ah, well.

We used foam stickers we had on hand for the beak and comb.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Nature Table

Spring has sprung at the nature table! Chicks, frogs and overpriced handmade wooden birds are verily frolicking.

Starboy was thrilled that the scene had changed.

You can compare to last year's scene here, here, and here. And how I set it up in the first place here.

 I love the wooden animals.

But the gems are really fun, too.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Nature Table - dining room edition

Do you remember these apothecary jars? And these? They still take my breath away.

So I had to update the centerpieces for spring. I couldn't bear to put them away yet.

So sweet!

Easter snail mail treats

I'm still a fan of snailmail. The gratification of email is addictive, but it's not the same as the satisfaction of receiving something a person created with his hands. Took the time to sit down and write. 

So I'm a huge fan of Amber Lee's 13 Ounces or Less series on GiversLog. The post office will ship nearly anything as long as it has correct postage. They prefer things to be secured in a box, so they can safely travel through their machines, but where's the adventure and love in that?

Last year, I sent The Optimist a plastic egg made with a felt chickie. This year I found a larger egg, so the package was a little more deluxe. I took out a few of the things that came with the egg, and added a few more.

It included a felt bunny that I made, some chocolate carrots, chocolate eggs, and declarations of love about books. The Optimist loves books. And chocolate. What could be a better surprise in the mail?

I slipped the address inside the egg, and the stamps went outside.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Reading Roundup 2013.03.22

Not a lot of great reads in the last few weeks, but here are a few I thought were interesting.

6 Ways to help children cope with frustration, Everyday Family (March 6, 2013)

Reading, Writing, Video Games, New York Times Opinion, (March 15, 2013)
"A 2012 report by the New Media Consortium identified "game-based learning" as one of the major trends affecting education in the next five years." Ugh.

Minecraft spawns classroom lessons, Washington Post (March 14, 2013)
"Mr. Lanphier said the reason that we're using this is because it's an accurate way to build things without just having to write down all this stuff," [one student] said.

The Family Stories that Bind Us, New York Times (March 15, 2013)
"Children who have the most self-confidence have what's called a strong "intergenerational self." They know they belong to something bigger than themselves....The bottom line: If you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family's positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come."

Should machines be used to grade student writing? Inside Higher Ed (March 15, 2013)
So not only is your child going to spend more than ten hours on this one state test, which will be administered on computers that your school does not have funding to maintain, but also this information —which is supposed to gauge roughly where your student is in his learning—is going to be used in some states as a graduation requirement, but will be graded by machine.

We can do better for our students, and we must.

I am not your wife, sister or daughter, The Belle Jar (March 18, 2013)
"This reductive as hell. It defines women by their relationships to other people, rather than as people themselves. It says that women are only important when they are married to, have given birth to, or have been fathered by other people. It says that women are only important because of who they belong to."

Some really great parenting reminders, all by Aletha Solter, who founded the Aware Parenting Institute. You may have seen her work in Mothering magazine:
Why do Children Misbehave?
Twenty Alternatives to Punishment
The Disadvantages of Time Out
Weekly Family Meetings for Conflict Resolution

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Weekly rhythm chart

Calendar objects for game night, special holiday, school day, car trip, and home lessons.

I've been wanting for ages and ages to make a visual calendar for Starboy's week, to go along with his morning/evening routines chart. Waldorf folks would call it a "rhythm chart."

I had great inspiration from Sew Liberated, Playful LearningPlay at Home Mom, Homeschool Harmony, My Name is Snickerdoodle, and A Kid's Day. I'm sure you can see their influence. I encourage you to get inspiration from other artists like this, but if you are creating something to sell, you need to come up with something entirely new, and make sure you buy/obtain rights to use the imagery. Copyright or no, it's crappy to steal ideas from other creatives in order to profit from them.

Art class, baking day, hiking, home art project

I wanted a chart that was easy to manipulate. Absent a bulletin board—and really purposely avoiding a pocket chart—I wanted to do something magnetic. But I also wanted it self contained, so rather than making it fridge-centeric, I got a cookie sheet from the dollar store. It's a little smaller than I'd like. But this way it could be hung on a wall if we wanted it to.

I wanted to make the weekend days a different color, because Starboy knows them as "the day Daddy stays." But I found the columns hard to read without any distinction, since everything is crammed together. So I cut strips to delineate the different days via color.

It's really not as readable as I'd like, and that's why I haven't glued those paper strips down, yet. There may be more improvements to come.

The whole calendar.

Game night, special day, zoo day, post office, birthday
School day, car trip, Grandma/Grandpa day, library, playdate
Lessons, art museum, camping trip, aquarium, fitness walk

I wanted to make little collages, like Meg did at Sew Liberated (with influence from the fantastic Show Me a Story). I didn't think it was possible in these small squares (about 1 1/2"). So I had this great idea I was going to draw each item, but I immediately realized that was ridiculous and went straight to clip art from the Internet. It's a fair use, since we only use the chart at home, and it's not for sale. Much of the art is free from Discovery Education, I always have loved Mark Hicks' style, and used his images on my classroom hall passes and handouts when I was an elementary teacher.

I used a round and a square punch to make each shape from scrapbook paper, then I punched a second piece of cardstock and glued them together to be stiff. If you can find a chipboard shape you like, I recommend that as a better course. It's sturdier and lots less labor intensive.

If you have a Cricut or a Silhouette, then I don't want to talk to you. 

I colored the clip art with these lovely Lyra colored pencils (highly recommend), then trimmed it and glued it to the squares. I shellacked the squares with a glue/water mix (faux Mod Podge) only on the front side. I found if you glue both sides, the square will curl, particularly if the paper grain of the two layers are not aligned. (Actually I put the backing on after the square was decorated, so I could glue it and shellack it at the same time.)

I used a glue gun to put the magnets on the back. Glitter glue! You know you want it.

I have some super-strong magnets to temporarily hold the calendar to the fridge. I'd like to swap them out, because they are the kind of magnets that, if a kid swallows two or more of them, real problems could occur internally. I'll probably glue some lesser magnets right to the board, or else sew a long fabric sleeve for the magnets, so they can't be swallowed individually.

The fridge did seem like an obvious place for the calendar, so that's where it's living now.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Star Sighting

So I'm sitting in Target's Starbucks treating Starboy to some Pizza Hut Pizza.

Think about that for a minute. How can we wonder why people feel so unfulfilled and unable to appreciate the art of handcraft, when we allow things like this to happen? How can we appreciate the hills and valleys of something made from the soul of hard work, the recipes of generations, the spirit of families and regions, when we settle for the homogenized, greasy, high-fat sameness of prepackaged faux food?

It's a crime, really.

But I'd come to the mall unprepared, without snack, overshopped, and without a plan for dinner. I realized this was a (crappy) solution to smoothing out the rest of the evening, which is a good direction for a regular bedtime. Starboy can't give up hope on the day, and fights sleep as long as he can hold out, so bedtimes sometimes can be taxing on the patience. I was taking the easy way out.

So here I was, eating this faux food pizza, literally spoiling my bread-and-cheese-loving son, thinking about the natural food blogs that I read (like this, and this) and how I shouldn't be eating any bread at all, much less a trademarked Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza, and how I need to be walking every day, when a pretty blonde mother and two pretty girls who look just like her wander in, looking for a table.

The place is fairly crowded, and we're at a big table, but there aren't any more chairs. The mom keeps looking at the open area at our table. I'm thinking, Well, you're welcome to share, but there are no chairs. There's no solution, so I don't say anything.

The mom looks at me, hesitating.

And then the ceiling cracks open through two floors of shopping, name brands, and plastic packaging to reveal the open sky, glowing with fluffy clouds. An immense sensation of happiness and light fills the area in front of the table. The mom is bathed in rays of light from the heavens, and her hair floats on happiness and love, like Boticelli's Venus, maybe, or better: the Elf Queen, except she's wearing a smart outfit and not standing in a giant seashell. And her ears are normal.

As the choir of angels begins to hum, I hear her say:

"Do you write a blog?"

I kid you not.

I am dumbfounded. My chin drops into the puddles of dripping joy that is surrounding this moment. I hear a little sploosh and hope she doesn't notice I have a mouth full of politically incorrect amalgam fillings, and I probably need to floss. Starboy continues to Hoover his greasy, nutrient-free pizza.

"It's about crafts, right? And a little bit of cooking?"

I now remember that my fuzzy hair looks like that of a crazy person. I am wearing the sweater that is so moth-eaten, and darned in so many places, it looks like it could belong to a homeless person, or someone from the East Coast, depending on your background. My face is puffy from the overabundant pleasures of tree-pollen season (Miserable. Most people just call it "Spring"). My t-shirt, at least, is clean. Didn't I learn this lesson when I ran into a student and her mother at this same mall a few years ago?!

But I'm in it, and I can't change my outfit now. And that singing is so beautiful! And the light, O! The light!

There is a reader! Those page views aren't entirely from spam-bots in Russia and China! And she thinks the blog actually has a mission! Are those tinkling bells I hear? Are more angels getting wings?

The girls find a table next to us. I say, "You may be the only reader." Okay, well except for The Optimist. But she's family. I laugh nervously. Maybe too loudly.

"No, no!" She says. Is she playing a lyre while she is talking? "My sister in Seattle reads, too! I send it to her."

My jaw is still on the floor. Drool is forming. I have forgotten my manners, forcing her to say, "I'm Julie."

Yeah, that's her real name. I know so many Julies that each one has to be qualified with an extra nickname, so her identity is still safe.

I introduce myself and Starboy. He's wearing his Valentine's t-shirt. Maybe she'd seen the post? I can't for the life of me think of anything to say. The kaleidoscope of light dancing on the clouds is dazzling. The angels are a capella, and singing in 4-part harmony.

"It's good. Keep doing it," She says, The music comes to a crescendo, and the bells vibrate with intensity, like the finale of Carmina Burana. With a great whoosh, the light, the cloud, the angels, the perfect pitch, the Orff bells and the lyre disappear into the heavens.

Three teenagers wander by with 460-calorie drinks. A grinder whirrs. Starboy gnaws on his pizza crust like an old Scottish dog with a soup bone, by the fire on a blustery night.

Best. Target trip. EVER.

Ice skating fairies

"Lines [on the ice] made from fairies ice skating."

Love it. You can't make this stuff up. I'd given him the paper so he could draw a boat.
He made the picture to send to the Sewall-McCann family who makes Sparkle Stories.

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Sparkle Stories series — and a free story!

A new Sparkle Stories series launches next week—More Adventures with Martin and Silvia!

To celebrate, they are sharing a free story called Everywhere Explorers:

When Martin and Sylvia play "explorers," they don their special hats and venture happily into the back yard or surrounding forest with their eyes and ears ready to discover something new. But their sense of adventure is put to the test when they are told they need to spend a whole day in Momma's office. "Explorers always find something exciting everywhere they go," says Daddy. But brother and sister are not so sure. Could they really be explorers—everywhere?

Starboy is in love with Sparkle Stories, and Martin and Sylvia are practically part of our family. If you haven't checked them out, try the free story!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Daily rhythms

Waldorf has such nice ideas about rhythm and routine for children. When kids know how and when things are going to happen, they can spend their energy growing, rather than worrying what's coming next, the theory goes. From a Montessori perspective, a chart can allow a child to become more independent. And I would have to think there are mathematical benefits to learning a one-to-one correspondence between the task item on the board and the task you have to do—and not to mention language arts benefits about sequencing and storytelling: first, next, last.

I love this idea of simple rhythms, but have been too undisciplined so far to really follow it. Even though I know Starboy really would benefit. So, to get started, I decided to try a daily chore chart. I got inspiration from Play at Home MomHomeschool Harmony, A Kid's Day, Playful Learning, and more. If you don't feel crafty enough to create your own chart, check these out (and Google more), as some of them are downloadable or for sale.

Morning tasks: Brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast (pic is of eggs), potty

I wanted to make this interactive using magnetic morning birds and evening stars, but the chart was becoming too big. I'd have to find a place to store all five birds (I have to add "take vitamins"), and seven stars at the bottom of the wood board, before moving them into place when the task was completed, and I couldn't make it work on this small board. So I decided not to let "perfect" be the enemy of "good." They all are glued in place.

Evening tasks: Put dirty clothes in hamper, set out clean clothes for tomorrow, take a bath

The stars are wooden and the birds are chipboard. All have scrapbooking "stacks" paper glued on with white glue/water, and are shellacked with the same glue. The drawings were done with a fine Sharpie. The board is a wooden craft board with scrapbook paper glued on and shellacked with white glue/water. A string handle allows us to hang the chart on his bedroom door.

Right after I hung the chart up, I remembered I was going to make a vertical tree, so that the chart would not stick out the side of the door. So. Consider yourself warned, you non-planners.

Evening tasks: Put on PJs, brush teeth, potty, bedtime stories and songs

Now when we talk about getting ready in the morning, I ask Starboy, "Have you done all of your birds? We can't leave until we do all the birds." At night, we "do our stars." Sounds so much better than "chores," or "grooming." And it is helping a little with getting out the door.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bad seed

How does an orchid do something so egregious, it's put into the slammer?

Reading Roundup 2013.03.08

Mud and Sticks and Real Paint, Teacher Tom (March 2, 2103)
On: why TV/i-gadget time should be limited for small children

The Rhythm of the Home spring edition is up!

In a fast moving world, we could all do with a roll of 36, Vince Laforet (Mar. 7, 2013)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Don't mind the man behind the curtain....

I thought it was so lovely to see this display of antique Oz books on display at the central library recently...

...Until, seeing the posters over the display, I realized that Disney has a film coming out. Dog wagging or tail wagging? Publicity suggestion by Disney, or creative "the book was better" placement by sharp-thinking library staff? I'm going with the latter.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rainbow Sandwiches

Have you ever seen anything so intensely amazing? Behold the rainbow sandwich—a local wonder of fleeting beauty. This sandwich cures all for the preschooler's bad day, and with a gourmet grilled cheese on the menu and Mexican Coke, it's not so bad for Mommy, either.

Peanut butter and honey, apple slices on the side, and enough leftover for dinner as well. We love you, rainbow sandwich!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A day in the life of the growing Frontal Lobe

How do you wear your rose-colored glasses?

I just about peed my pants reading Jason Good's essay 46 Reasons My Three Year Old Might be Freaking Out (sample: "A balloon he got six months ago is missing."). There are literally 500 comments, and some of them are even funnier than the original post, beginning with the grandma "Omabird," who wrote, "Perhaps it is why God, in his great love and mercy, made old people deaf."

A related Slate article reveals the brain science that routinely changes your three-year-old into Sybil. If your child is three, or ready to turn three, I implore you to read this article, and post it on your fridge. This simple story has offered new levels of patience to me that are literally saving my bacon. It seems that an undeveloped frontal lobe (no sense of time, planning, logic or patience), a constant fear that their parents will abandon them, and under-stimulation from the natural world all conspire to create meltdowns where you least need them, according to the article by Melinda Wenner Moyer. And let me add: Fatigue. God help you if you push the window at 4pm on a no-nap day in store.

Doesn't that sound a lot more reasonable than, "OMG he just freaked out over nothing!"

I'm a fairly paitient person, but the constant meltdown/negotiation/resolution process has been wearing  a bit. I mean, really? Does every effing thing require a full, screaming meltdown? Especially from my usually calm, reasonable boy? A couple of days ago Starboy had a freakout at the fabric store that involved crying, hitting, flinging his shoes in different directions, taking off running (with other shoppers quietly pointing out where he was for me), and crawling around on the filthy floor. Ultimately I had to carry him out (and then back in again, and out again, because they didn't validate my parking. $%@!).

Why the high drama?  Because he did not want the mice printed on the fabric to be separated when our yardage was cut. He wanted the mice all to stay together smoothly on the bolt.


And that's what I get for fabric shopping at 4pm on a no-nap day. And parking in a lot with a one-hour free parking limit, at a store with glacial customer service.

Inspired by my utter misunderstandings of the Age Three Experience, I kept track of a day's worth Starboy's issues on a recent low-meltdown day. That's right, this was one of the easier days lately. Each instance resulted in some amount of crying or drama, up to kicking and boneless body-planting in place (and most involved some level of negotiation/problem-solving to resolve):

Wants another half bagel for breakfast.

Wants both bagel halves on the plate at the same time.

Doesn't want water to drink.

Doesn't want to rinse jam from bagels off hands.

Wants to hear a Martin and Sylvia audio story, not Junkyard Tales.

Doesn't want to leave art class, which has ended.

Wants a "special" food (read: a sweet or a muffin) before leaving art class.

Wants a "special" toy (read: new, or one saved for restaurants) to hold on the way home.

Doesn't want to get out of the car at home.

Wants orange melon (which Techman and I had finished b/c he didn't want any).

Wants to eat his snack in back yard, not front yard.

Doesn't want "only cheese" for his snack (hardboiled egg is on plate with "only cheese").

Wants to wash hands at the kitchen sink, not the bathroom sink.

Wants me to flush the toilet together with him.

Did not want me to actually flush with him when we counted to three.

Wants Daddy to help him in the bathroom, not mommy.

There have been few times in my life that I have reached 9:30 in the morning and thought to myself, "You know, a beer would be pretty good about now." I don't even really like beer. Of course, at this rate, I'd be drinking a six a day, so I've been keeping it to root beer and Cokes. But I may be moving on to earplugs.

What hard-to-understand logic has your preschooler offered up lately? What helps you get through it, and keeps your child feeling secure?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Reading Roundup 03.01.13

Here are a few things I've been reading this week.

When Seth MacFarlane is a Complete Ass and You Don't Even Notice, Jezebel, (Feb 26, 2013)
A must-read.

How to Make Better Teachers, Teacher Tom (Feb. 25, 2013)
Great article on what really matters in teaching. "As Lois Weiner, professor of eduction at New Jersey City University puts it:  '(These initiatives are) part of this global project to deprofessionalize teaching as an occupation . . . the thinking is that the biggest expenditure in education is teacher salaries. And they want to cut costs . . . that means they have to lower teacher costs. And in order to do that, they have to deprofessionalize teaching. They have to make it a revolving door, in which we're not going to pay teachers very much. They're not going to stay very long. We're going to credential them really fast . . . We're going burn them up. They're going to leave in three, four, five years. And that's the model they want. So who is the biggest impediment to that occurring? Teachers' unions. And that is what explains this massive propaganda effort to say that teacher's unions are an impediment to reform. And in fact, they are an impediment to the deprofessionalization of teaching . . . It's a disaster for public education.'"

Yahoo's Blow to Work-Family Balance, NYT Motherlode (Feb. 25, 2013)

Why does my kid freak out? The science behind toddler tantrums, Slate (Feb. 27, 2013)
Very Relatable

46 Reasons my Three Year Old Might be Freaking Out, Jason Good (Dec. 13, 2012)
Classic. I may have posted before. Still funny.

Sugar is Toxic, NYT (Feb. 27, 2013)
Another must-read. But I bet you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the coming months.