Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vacation Entry 2

  • Daughter woke up at the crack of dawn, complained that it was too bright, and told me to turn off the sun.
  • PBS Kids/Breakfast
  • Mommy took a shower/Daughter danced to Tower of Power with Daddy in the living room.
  • Got ready to go to home(pre)school group at friend's house
  • Home(pre)school group class about phases of the moon. Helped daughter make Phases of the Moon poster. Kids ate crescent rolls and cut-out star-shapes from cheese slices. Mommy ate Daughter's cheese star.
  • Car ride home; Daughter cried because I ate her cheese star.
  • Mommy found our star cookie cutter and got daughter another piece of cheese. Can we please stop talking about cheese?
  • Lunch.
  • It started raining.
  • Snuggled up with Daughter and Random House Book of Poetry for Children.
  • Napped. Such luxury.
  • Finished "Teach Your Child to Read" Lesson 86 - "The Dog That Dug, Part 2." Story is about a dog who digs a hole and finds gold coins. Daughter thinks all gold coins are filled with chocolate.
  • Daughter made a tiara with Daddy (sequins, jewels, pompoms) while Mommy made dinner
  • Daughter watched Rock N Learn "Human Body" DVD. Her new favorite word is esophagus. She loves the Alimentary Canal video. The main character rides in a little boat, like an amusement park log ride, through the body and into the potty./Mommy and Daddy ate dinner.
  • Daughter asked for "chicken with black stuff" for dinner
  • Mommy cooked Daughter chicken with black stuff.
  • Daddy did dishes - thank you Daddy - while Mommy and Daughter played My Little Pony Chutes and Ladders. Mommy was Rainbow Dash and Daughter was Princess Twilight Sparkle. Daughter won. I was relieved that happened because it was our first time playing Chutes and Ladders and I make her play by the rules. 
  • Practiced the first few measures of "Row Row Row Your Boat" on piano 
  • Built a tent

Monday, December 29, 2014

Vacation Entry 1

Usually I am at work on Mondays, but today I am on Winter Break and we had nowhere to be. A glorious combination.

  • Slept in until 8:30!
  • Watched PBS Kids/Breakfast
  • Science experiment involving citric acid, red cabbage powder, vegetable oil, etc. from science kit Christmas gift from my aunt, uncle, and cousin
  • Played Opera A to Z CD while Daughter painted some wooden cut-outs Grandma got her for Christmas
  • Mommy wiped paint off the floor, table, and child
  • Played "Aria of the Queen of the Night" three times while Daughter danced around living room in a princess dress I made her the Halloween before last (Italian Renaissance princess, not Disney princess)
  • Daughter played with pretend food, opera CD still playing, while Mommy did dishes
  • Discussed gravity
  • Daughter made herself a personal pizza with dough, sauce, cheese, and pepperonis for lunch
  • Mommy did more dishes
  • Walked to the park
  • Played at park for two hours
  • Came home and read to Daughter
  • Daughter helped chop turnip and leeks that she dug up a few days ago, using her crinkle cut chopper, for soup
  • Put frozen lasagna in oven for dinner
  • Sautéed onions, garlic, olive oil, and started steaming turnip and potato in too little water
  • Read another book to Daughter/burned turnip and potato
  • Salvaged most of the turnip and potato while Daughter watched Wild Kratts and ate strawberries
  • Combined the ingredients for my soup experiment (chicken stock, onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil with a pinch of salt, turnip, potato, chopped parsley, chopped chives, a couple of springs of thyme) and let simmer for 45 minutes. Do not do this, but this is what I did because I don't have a blender and I wasn't cooking this for anyone but me: I fished out the thyme sprigs and mashed everything with a potato masher. The texture is wrong, but the flavors are delicious.
  • Daddy got home from day gig/ate lasagna
  • Bathed Daughter/continued gravity discussion (Daughter not satisfied with explanation including matter and mass; read her the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page on gravitation which led to her asking, "What's spacetime?" Read to her the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page on spacetime which includes words and phrases like Euclidean space perspective, Minkowski space, and supergalactic and subatomic levels. "Are you satisfied with that answer?" "Yes." "Good.")

Friday, December 26, 2014

Rude Vegetables

We visited a friend's garden today and my daughter (still in her pajamas) got to dig up a turnip.

This made us all think of the book "Talia and the Rude Vegetables" by Linda Elovitz Marshall, in which a little girl named Talia misunderstands her grandmother. The grandma says "root vegetables," but Talia hears "rude vegetables." Grandma instructs Talia to dig up seven root vegetables to make vegetable stew (a Rosh Hashanah recipe including cinnamon and raisins). Talia wonders how the vegetables can be rude (talking back? being bossy?) and reflects on her own behavior and what she needs to ask forgiveness for. She digs up beautiful vegetables, as well as a few she decides must be the rude ones, like a stubborn, terrible turnip. She gives the beautiful vegetables to the rabbi for the hungry, and takes the rude vegetables to Grandma who laughs about the misunderstanding. Very sweet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Las Posadas

My husband's family has a Christmas Eve tradition of making tamales...
...and then, while the tamales are cooking, we dress the little ones (and not so little ones) up as wise men, angels, shepherds, and Joseph and Mary, and go outside to sing Pedir Posada. The song is a back and forth between the "afuera" and "adentro" singers. Those of us who are outside sing to the inside people, asking to be let in, telling who we are (Maria y Jose). The inside people sing that they have no room (at their inn) and that we must go away. Finally, we are let inside to sing the Adoracion of the baby Jesus. After this, Santa Claus arrives (he used to come at midnight! but we've thankfully moved that time up to 7:00ish). By then, the tamales are ready and we all sit down to dinner.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why We Do "Do" Santa

My parents did not "do" Santa with my little brother and me.

I'm fairly certain this was my mom's idea. My mom didn't want to tell us something false was true, to lie to us, thereby discrediting everything else our parents told us - as if Santa Claus was an orange at the bottom of a carefully stacked grocery-store orange display. If we discovered they had lied to us about Santa, we would question them about everything else.

We would question our parents about God.

Not believing in Santa, and not understanding that we were in the minority of children who did not believe in Santa, caused its own problem one evening. We were at some store and my brother - who was two - said he wanted to be Santa Claus when he grew up, and I - six years old - said that he couldn't be Santa because Santa didn't exist. Well, a woman nearby heard me, and her son heard me, and she scolded me and called me a liar. Merry Christmas.

Had it been my choice, we wouldn't have "done" Santa. I would have done it my mother's way, explaining to my daughter that Santa was make-believe, like Mickey Mouse... except I don't think that would have worked at this age because I'm fairly certain she believes Mickey Mouse is real. Because of my own experience, I would have told her not to go around telling other children that Santa is make-believe... except then I would have been encouraging her to lie by omission, right?

We don't "do" Santa in an elaborate way. We don't have an Elf on the Shelf or leave him cookies. We do say that Santa brings presents. He doesn't bring all of the presents. I don't expect her belief in Santa to last any longer than her belief that Mickey Mouse really lives at Disneyland, and I'm not worried about what she'll think of me when she finds out Mickey is a person in a costume.
My Armenian grandmother, a woman who made Christ the center of her life, raised her three children "doing" Santa, and all three of them are Christians with Christian children. In the boxes of photos and documents, the artifacts of my grandmother's life, we found a letter she had typed to her children one Christmas, pretending to be Santa Claus. In it, she wrote about being good and telling them where "he" had hidden their presents.

I think about my grandmother secretly typing that letter as part of a game of make believe, and I think about her saving it for more than forty years. I wonder if she ever, while going through old photographs, took it out and read it to herself. I'm sure she did. I imagine her smiling, remembering how excited my dad and uncle and aunt were that Christmas morning. And I think about my dad and uncle and aunt and me standing around her kitchen table, after her death, sorting through pictures and passports and letters, and finding the envelope on which she had lovingly typed From Santa Clause.

Field Trip: The Nutcracker

This morning, we went to see Westside Ballet's The Nutcracker at The Broad Stage. We had front row seats. Before the show, my daughter picked out a nutcracker ornament to hang on our tree. She chose a green one - her favorite color - playing a drum (Daddy is a drummer). We've been preparing for this experience for a month by listening to the CD (and dancing around the living room), watching the film version starring Macaulay Culkin as Drosselmeyer's nephew/nutcracker/prince, and reading (and re-reading) the Bearenstain Bears Nutcracker book. It was so fun to hear her gasp and whisper things like, "Ooh, Drosselmeyer!" and "The Mouse King!" when she saw them come onstage for the first time.

Field Trip: Planetarium

This month, our home(pre)school group's theme is Space, so earlier this week, my husband and I took our daughter to the planetarium at Santa Monica College.  Jim, the man giving the presentation, was wonderful - totally unfazed by a group of preschoolers walking around the room being preschoolers. My daughter's favorite part was the mobius-strip space roller coaster.

I, Said The Donkey...

Sunday, my daughter sang in the church Christmas pageant. Here she is at rehearsal in her shaggy brown donkey costume. All the other little girls wanted to be lambs and cows, but not my friendly beast.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


My daughter has been using the word "objecles" the past week. She's been using it in place of "objects." I love it. I'm not correcting her. It's so very Lewis Carroll.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bread and Water

Last night, my 3 1/2 year old asked for bread and water, so she could be like Hansel and Gretel. The bread had to be on a little plate, and the little plate had to be on "a pan shaped like a rectangle" (a cookie sheet), and the pan had to be on her little table. She was very specific. Very my child.

This copy of Hansel and Gretel is bilingual English & Spanish, so it was "solo con agua y pan."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This Week

This week:

1)We brought in the Christmas tree. Ours is potted and sits out on our patio January through November. When we bought it at the 99 Cent Store three years ago, it was tiny. Not anymore. My 3 1/2 year old decorated it (and by "decorated" I mean told me where to hang them) with the Jesse Tree ornaments she's been coloring. We're a couple of days behind because coloring inside the lines is something she's just learning to do, so she isn't in love with the activity yet.

2)She's made her own pizzas three nights this week.

3)She had rehearsal for the church Christmas pageant. She is a "Friendly Beast." (I'm not sure what kind yet.) The pageant is Sunday evening and the preschoolers are singing Jesus What a Wonderful Child and Friendly Beasts.

4)She completed Lesson 81 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

5)Tuesday, her home preschool co-op learned about Earth orbiting the sun, and the moon orbiting Earth. The children orbited one little boy holding a balance ball, and had dizzy fun trying to rotate while doing so. Then, they made a model of Earth orbiting the sun and the moon orbiting Earth using brads and construction paper.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Little Pizza Chef

My daughter has eaten pizza three nights in a row. This is because she saw a cartoon in which the characters made pizza, asked if we could make pizza, and I said yes. We used garlic pizza dough, pizza sauce, pizza cheese, and pepperoni from Trader Joe's. Four ingredients. Bake at 475 for 8 minutes. There is enough dough for 4 saucer-size personal pizzas. I have a feeling she will be making pizza tonight, too.

Cheese pizza

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Teach Your Preschooler to Write Computer Code

This is my daughter (age 3/12) learning to write computer code. Let me preface this by saying I know almost nothing about coding. I, myself, have only been learning it for a couple of days.

Next week, the public school where I teach is participating in The Hour of Code, which encourages teachers to teach students how to write computer code for one hour. Because my school has an iPad lab, I was able to take my students into it twice last week to "play" Code With Anna and Elsa (from Frozen). There are 20 "puzzles" in which the "player" uses Blockly (a programming language) to write code for Anna and Elsa to ice skate. It's so so fun. Just try it. You'll see.

So, on Day 2, because I had completed Code With Anna and Elsa, I tried my hand (or hands) at Plants Versus Zombies (who comes up with this stuff?), and I saw that the website had a tutorial for pre-readers. That evening, I came home and started teaching my daughter how to drag and click Blockly blocks.

She wrote 48 lines of code before dinner.

December's Verse

Each month, I have my daughter (age 3 1/2) memorize a new Bible verse. (We've been doing this since January, so we are now on Month 12.) For now, we do one a month, and all I do is read it to her once daily. After hearing it repeated several times (the number of times depends on the length and complexity of the vocabulary and syntax), she's able to recite it herself. This month's verse is the first verse on our Advent Calendar - Isaiah 9:1. She had this one down in three days. It's short, and I think it helps that she's able to decode words now and knows several sight words so she can read along.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent Days 1 and 2

Advent Day 2: God made Adam & Eve.

Advent Day 1: God made the world.

These are the ornaments my 3 1/2 year old colored yesterday and today. Yesterday we read the story of Creation, and today we read Adam and Eve.

(While trying to color inside the lines, my daughter sighed, "Oh dear, this is hopeless.")

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ourselves: Rest and Restlessness

Do any of us get enough sleep? In Charlotte Mason's Ourselves, she wrote about Rest and Restlessness.
Restlessness makes the body strong.
Restlessness is the part of us that wants to run and jump and dance. It is the part of us that wants to ice skate for five straight hours.

But restlessness may be a hard master.
[I]t is only by going on doing one thing steadily that we learn to do it well, whether it be cricket or algebra; so it is well to be on the watch for the moment when Restlessness, the good servant, turns into Restlessness, the unquiet Dæmon who drives us about from post to pillar[.]

In this section, Mason wrote about the importance of sleep, as well as the danger of sloth. Her solution:

Up and be doing, whether at work or play.
This makes me think of a cool article Jennifer Humble shared recently titled The Physics of Productivity. It included the idea that if we get moving for two minutes (the Two Minute Rule) that we will stay moving, and it's easier to convince ourselves to get moving if we tell ourselves we're only going to be doing so for two minutes.

For earlier posts about Ourselves:
The Soul & Hunger
The Perils of Mansoul

Saturday, November 29, 2014

When Two Vowels Go Walking

To teach vowel digraphs that use the "When Two Vowels Go Walking, The First One Does The Talking" Rule, this is a cute and easy (and fun!) idea.
I made these for my three-year-old today. She got the concept right away and learned a couple of new words. ("Mommy, what's coal?" "Mommy, what's loan?")
You can also incorporate consonant blends!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Field Trip: Imagine U

Trying to reach the gas pedal
These photos were taken at Imagine U Children's Museum in Visalia, California. Outside, there is an old fire truck, small sand boxes for playing paleontologist, and giant foam blocks. Inside, there are costumes, an electric train, a piano, an area for playing dentist and doctor, and a market complete with cash register and play money. Admission is $5 per person, and they offer annual passes for locals. It's a perfect play place for preschoolers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How We Do Preschool

Preschool is not Charlotte Mason (not in the Santa Monica-preschool sense), but we "preschool" anyway.

Over the weekend, a mom asked how we do preschool, how much time we devote to preschool daily, and if we have a particular time set aside for "school."

I started by backwards-planning. I looked at a kindergarten readiness checklist and, because I am preparing her for a Charlotte Mason Year 1, I took that into consideration, too.

Not only do I want her to know shapes and colors, I also want her to be exposed to classical music, to watch a caterpillar turn into a butterfly, to collect rocks, to learn memory verses, to listen to stories, to sing hymns, to visit museums, etc.

When my daughter was two, I went down the kindergarten readiness checklist, checking off the things she knew and teaching her the things she didn't. One example, we focused on the numbers 1 through 5 using Mathematical Reasoning Beginner 1. Another example, I gave her scissors and bought Kumon Let's Cut Paper books.

Now, we are doing kindergarten in terms of reading and math, but calling it preschool, and when she is in "kindergarten," I'll tell her she's in kinder, but we'll work on skills at whatever level she feels comfortable and challenged.

We do reading lessons and math lessons just about every day, including weekends. For reading, we use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Last night, we completed Lesson 76. For math, we use all sorts of stuff, but our primary resource right now is Mathematical Reasoning Level A.

Lessons are SHORT. We only work for as long as she's engaged. If she becomes distracted, I close the book and stand up, which usually results in her pleading "nonono" and finishing the page she's working on. She can "do" math for 30 minutes. Her attention span for reading is shorter, maybe 15 to 20, but she plays a lot during her lessons. I highly recommend this. During reading, she dances or acts out words or runs out of the room for a prop.

We don't have a set school-time, but reading and math are done in the evening. (During the day, my husband takes our daughter to parks, ballet, Church Mice, co-op, etc.)

We read Bible stories, talk about what she learned in Church Mice, watch VeggieTales DVDs. We do science experiments and read Lets Read and Find Out books. My husband speaks to her in Spanish some of the time, and I'm adding in some more explicit vocabulary instruction. We go to museums for art and history. My husband plays just about every instrument and we've been talking about him starting piano with her using the Alfred curriculum. We're going to see The Nutcracker in December, so we've been dancing in the living room to Tchaikovsky. We completed Lollipop Logic Book 1. She learns a memory verse each month, like psalms, and is currently learning the Lord's Prayer set to music (Readeez's Our Father on YouTube). We work on please, thank you, listening to Mommy and Daddy, and other habits.

This is the gist of how we do preschool.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Best Part of My Day

(a post by my three-year-old)

1)hanging on the slidy thing at the park
2)playing with Brooke-y
3)doing my art

Friday, November 21, 2014

Our Current Read Aloud

I am currently reading A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, a couple of pages at a time, to my three-year-old. The movie comes out in January in the United States, and the trailer looks like it might actually be as sweet as the book.

If you haven't read the book (it's surprisingly not on many reading lists), it is about a bear from Peru. And because I find this an interesting fact, I'm sharing it with you: there is only one kind of bear native to South America -
The spectacled bear (Wikipedia user Cburnett)

Paddington is found by Mr. and Mrs. Brown in Paddington Station. He is all alone, a stowaway from Darkest Peru, in the station with not much more than a hat and a jar of marmalade. And he's so polite.

But he also makes some messes. At the station's buffet, he has an accident involving tea and buns, and gets jam and cream all over his fur. Then, while taking a bath (to wash off the jam and cream), he doesn't know how to turn off the water, so the tub overflows. The tub is too slippery for him to get out and, thinking he is going to drown, Paddington uses his hat to bale out water.

I wonder if Michael Bond based Paddington on a three-year-old?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ourselves: Thirst

In Ourselves ("Thirst"), Charlotte Mason wrote about the importance of drinking water (of which I don't do enough). I'm trying. This week, I started bringing herbal tea bags to school to make during recess and lunch recess, instead of refilling my coffee cup.

"Thirst" is also about the character of Drunkenness...

The chairs and tables out of his house, his children's bread, their mother's clothes, all go to buy drink. The man's time, health, and strength are spent in drink––he becomes homeless and friendless, sick and outcast, for the sake of drink.
...which reminded me of a character in Betty Smith's novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The father in the book, Johnny Nolan, is an alcoholic. I loved A Tree when I read it in elementary school, and I highly recommend it. The lexile is 810, the same as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, though Charlie's grade level equivalent is 5.6 while A Tree's grade level equivalent is 7.6. The main character, Francie, is a character that will stick with you. I remember wanting so much for her and being amazed at her hopefulness.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My 3 Year Old's Nativity Drawing

11/15/14 (age 3 1/2)

The original drawing

Mary's hair cracks me up. I think I looked the same way after giving birth.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Field Trip: ICE Santa Monica

My 3 1/2 year old skated FIVE HOURS today! We walked to the outdoor rink on 4th Street, rented our skates ($15 per person, but you can skate from 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays - if you have the energy), and went out on the ice.

The smallest skates they have are size 8. My daughter wore a 10, which is larger than her street shoe size, but the same size as her tap shoes.
I do not know what I'm doing on the ice. I've been skating a handful of times, and the last time was in high school. I can skate without falling down. That's it. I can't skate backwards. And I can't stop.

My daughter started out holding the wall with both hands. I explained to her that everyone falls, but you get up and try again. My daughter was fine with this idea. She always surprises me with how brave and determined she is. I asked a staff member if there was a "right" way to fall. (The staff members were all really nice.) She said she didn't know if there was a right way to fall other than with your hands out, but she showed my daughter how to get up after a fall.
Look mom, no wall.
If you want to get close to God, take a three-year-old ice skating. You'll pray over and over Keep her safe. You'll pray And thank you for having kept her safe up until this point. When she falls and you're holding her hand, you'll pray Thank you for not letting me rip her arm out of the socket. When she perseveres, you'll pray thank you for that.
No wall!
A woman - thank you for her too - skated over to my daughter and gave her some tips. She explained that skating was just marching and gliding, and then she offered to take my daughter on a lap around the rink. I had been watching the woman earlier, in awe at how relaxed she looked, gliding across the ice like the fairies in Fantasia, while I had my shoulders up at my ears, worried about falling and people and my child's bones and the texture of the ice and, and, and...

After two hours, my daughter was skating around the big rink, holding hands with me (not the wall), and asking to go in the Tot Spot (the children's rink) alone. At the end of the day, she asked if she could take her skates home. I told her no, but that the staff would keep them safe for her until the next time she goes skating.

"Okay," she said, "but tell them not to let anyone else wear them."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Where We Are In Math

My 3 1/2 year old LOVES math. Part of me wishes she loved dollies and pretend food more, but nope. She wants to do math. I had hoped to follow a Charlotte Mason schedule in terms of when we started "schooling" (as in, not for another 2 1/2 years), but my daughter had different plans.

When I read the PNEU programmes, I was attracted to the way Mason believed math should be taught. It was gentle. It was hands-on. The sequence was logical (the PNEU programmes list Pendlebury Arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, simple division...). Little ones learned to add using beans and dominoes. Multiplication facts were learned using money (9 x 7 = 63, and one way to make 63 cents would be with 2 quarters, 1 dime, and 3 pennies, etc.). There was five minutes of drill daily.

I don't believe one must purchase a math curriculum for grades K through 3. That said, I think Mathematical Reasoning is really awesome, and I've written about that here.

My daughter has completed 150 pages of the 250-page Mathematical Reasoning Level A book. For the most part, we go in order, but if she doesn't understand a certain concept, we skip it and come back to it a few days later. Here are a couple of pages from Level A...

I'm not concerned with handwriting right now. She can learn to write Year 1 when she has more fine motor strength. But right now, she's capable of counting items in a set (one-to-one correspondence), and matching sets of items to numerals.

This page was fun because we used real pennies to "buy" candy by placing one penny over each piece of candy. This activity could also be done with real candy (like M&Ms or Smarties) and pennies!

Operation Christmas Child

Thank you to Mary Prather for such a great list of things to pack in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

Yesterday, I showed my daughter this video...

She loved it. (She watched it again last night. Twice.)

She said she wanted to make a shoebox for a girl, a three-year-old girl, like her.

I had the day off from work, so we took the bus to the 99 Cent Store. Before we went inside, I reminded my daughter that we were buying presents for her little girl, and not buying things for her. We reviewed Mary Prather's list, and then we went inside.

Here is what my daughter picked out...
Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, ducky wash mitt, brush, plastic cups (set of 2), Jungle Book Band-Aids, facial tissue
Necklace & bracelet set, Jake and the Neverland Pirates socks (she insisted on these socks), headband, sunglasses
Puzzle and stuffed puppy
Also in the box: watercolor paint set, crayons, and stickers
There are a couple more items we'll be adding to the box, like a card and a photo. And then we will be dropping it off at the nearest drop-off location.

Again, thank you Mary Prather for helping us get involved!