Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Daughter's First Visit to the Dentist

When my daughter was nearing six months old, I asked the dental assistant at my dentist's office when I should bring my daughter in for her first checkup. "Not until she can spit," he said. Really? Everything I had read, the parenting books, the magazine articles, the web, all advised six months. But I listened to the dental assistant, and waited.

And waited.
My daughter will turn 4 in a month and a half, and she can finally spit. So, when I scheduled my checkup, I scheduled her first checkup too.

My dentist is not a pediatric dentist. In fact, I've been going to this dentist for more than five years, and have never seen a child or teen in the office. But my dentist, her dental assistant, and her receptionist were all great with my almost-four-year-old.

I didn't want my daughter to be scared of going to the dentist. I wanted to make it a field trip. I told her she was going to get to be a Junior Dentist, and that she was going to get to help examine my teeth. A couple of days later, a box from Amazon arrived. She asked what was inside, and I told her to guess. I told her it was something she needed to be a Junior Dentist. "A white coat?!" She guessed right. I know my child. There was no way she was going to buy that she was a Junior Dentist if she didn't have a lab coat.

I made our appointments for 9:00 a.m. - early - when my daughter would be in a pleasant mood.

The dental assistant let her follow him in and out of the room as he took my x-rays. In. Out. In. Out. She thought that was great fun; you should have heard her giggle. During my checkup, my daughter got to sit up on a chair next to me. The dental assistant and the dentist answered all of her questions - about the tools, about the foot pedal for the chair, about the cleaning process. She got to vacuum my mouth, which also made her giggle.

Then, it was her turn. My dentist explained everything she did before she did it. She sprayed air on my daughter's hand, before spraying the air in her mouth, and she touched my daughter's fingernail with the dental pick, before putting the pick in her mouth. Then, the dentist asked if my daughter had a spin-brush at home, and explained that the dental assistant was going to use a spin-brush to brush her teeth. Finally, the dental assistant gave my daughter the choice of bubblegum or cherry flavored fluoride gel (my daughter chose bubblegum), and had her wear a tray with a tiny bit of the gel in it. He explained that if she needed to spit, she could just put her hand up, and he would put the tiny vacuum in her mouth. She didn't love the fluoride gel treatment, but she didn't complain, and she followed the dental assistant's instructions.

The best part? No cavities! Now, that's something to smile about. :)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Wake Up With The Waves

The Wake Up With The Waves children's music series at the pier began today. Every Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, a different children's music act will perform - for free. Today, the band was Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. I had never heard of them, but I'm not up on my kiddie music.
I made the mistake of buying my preschooler a kazoo. I also made the mistake of paying $3 for a kazoo.
Cliff Kid Z were passing out strawberry puree fruit ropes (a "healthy" version of a Twizzler), which my daughter liked, and a chocolate chip bar, of which she only took a couple of bites.
Inky the Octopus was, of course, there. He's the pier's Pacific Park mascot.
Before the concert, there was "limbo." It's amazing how much preschoolers like crawling under a pole.

Playing in the Backyard

Burying her legs in the sand

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Four Thoughts on Thursday

  1. Milly Molly Mandy made me tear up this morning. The chapter I read aloud was about a village fete and MMM's friend Billy Blunt had been training for the race. Father paid for a "shabby boy" who didn't have any money to compete, and the shabby boy won. Instead of being upset that he'd lost, Billy Blunt told the shabby boy what a good runner he was and told him he'd like to run together. Then, some time after the fete, MMM and Billy were walking and saw a man waiting for the bus. His hat blew off and he called to them to see if one of them was a fast runner. MMM, with great admiration, said Billy was, and Billy ran after the hat, caught it, and gave it to the man, saving the man from missing his bus and having to wait another hour for the next bus. And then Billy said was happy because he had been useful. I want to live in that little village, in that nice white cottage with the thatched roof.
  2. We went to a Classical Conversations open house this week. We might be doing this in the fall. Because I am a Charlotte Mason-ish-ist, I don't plan to go hardcore CC. If we do join, we will be "playing" CC, the way I like to watch/play Jeopardy on TV; my plan is to add listening to the memory work CD into our day, that's all. Some families do go hardcore CC and base their entire curriculum around which CC cycle they're in.  (CC homeschooler Nicole at Half Mom Half Amazing is all mom and all amazing, and puts together 100% amazing lessons for her three adorable boys.) For our family, CC would be a children's class, like ballet. Compared to other children's classes in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, CC is not expensive - about $500 for 24 weeks. However, for other areas, CC is considered expensive, especially if a family has multiple children. On top of CC tuition, there are books and workbooks and flashcards and CDs that a family can buy to use in their homeschool... My daughter loved presentation time (which, for the littles, is like show-and-tell). During presentation time, my daughter looked at me and whispered, "Mom, it's almost my turn to do my presentation," and I panicked. I thought, what on the earth do I have in my purse that she can present? Cashews? Cheese? My phone! An app? A photo! I whispered back, "Hurry, pick one picture you want to share. One." She quickly decided on the photo of her playing the Make a Splash 120 math floor mat game. She jumped up and talked about her game and how it has inflatable dice and how it's so much fun, and then she - like the other littles - said, "That concludes my presentation. Are there any questions?"
  3. I'm taking my daughter to the dentist for the first time on Tuesday. My dentist said not to bring her in until she could spit, so now that she can spit, it's time. I have some anxiety about this. I'm trying really hard to assure her that it will be great. (I actually like getting my teeth cleaned. They rub banana flavored numbing gel on my gums and then I'm fine. I used to hate going to the dentist, but that's another story.) I scheduled my appointment first, so she can watch and ask questions, and see that Mommy is fine; Mommy even enjoys it. When I told her about the appointment, she cried, so I told her she could be the Junior Dentist. I'm not at all sure if that's going to work, but I'm hoping they'll be cool and let her do things like press the button on the X-ray machine and give her a q-tip so she can help numb my gums. I'm also going to see if they'll let her hold a clipboard and tour the office. You ready for super crazy mom? I ordered her a little lab coat, because I know my child, and the first argument she's going to make is that she's not a dentist because she doesn't have a lab coat. Well, now she will.
  4. At Sunday School, the preschoolers got to take turns riding Daisy the Donkey into Jerusalem.
    (Yes, she likes that hat.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Latin Joke

Today, we were discussing the Latin root "mar" meaning sea, and - because my students know my first name is Mariel - one of my 4th graders, J, said, "Does that mean we should call you 'sea-riel.'" (Cereal.) I laughed and told him yes. None of the other students got the joke. I rewarded this student for his creativity with a Starburst, and he's been calling me Sea-riel all day.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday in Topanga

Brunch at Canyon Bistro. Gluten-free pancakes. We like our gluten, but these were delicious.

Mine: vegan chili over over-easy eggs on corn tortillas, melted cheddar, creme fraiche. Yum.
My friend, Anita, is on the board for Theatricum Botanicum, a fabulous outdoor theatre in the woods. This morning, we had brunch at Canyon Bistro in Topanga, and then went to the theatre to see a group of public school 10th graders perform some Macbeth.

Here is a quote from the email advertising the event:

"For 6 classroom sessions, 75 sophomores from Los Angeles Leadership Academy High School in Montecito Heights interpreted and staged scenes from Shakespeare's Macbeth - scenes that spoke personally to them. On Saturday, these talented young people will perform their scenes on the mainstage of Theatricum. LA Leadership Academy High School students are predominantly Latino, mostly low-income, and 100% determined to excel." 

It was awesome. I was so impressed by the respect the students showed each other, the fun they had with Shakespeare, the way the principal of their high school was so supportive of the program and enthusiastic, the enthusiasm of the actors from Theatricum who worked with the students, the support shown by all the families in the audience, and the students' out-of-the-box teacher.

It was inspiring. I needed it. I got teary-eyed during the first act. That is what public school should be.

Check out this moth we saw at the Canyon Bistro!
It's a Ceonothus Silkmoth.
A Western Fence lizard

With Anita, at the entrance to the theatre
Peeking backstage. You can do that when you're three.

Under the stage. (Note the stage's trapdoor.)

Dancing on Theatricum's main stage
A walk in the woods with Anita

Some Children Hang from Monkey Bars...

...Mine hangs from stilt walkers.

How to Add and Subtract on a Number Line

I've been using Mathematical Reasoning (Level B/1st grade) with my preschooler. (I LOVE Mathematical Reasoning. Best math books ever! We used half of Beginner 1, all of Level A, and are now using Level B.)

Mathematical Reasoning teaches children how to add and subtract using a number line. This is also something my public school fourth graders need to be able to do to meet Common Core standards, except instead of whole numbers, my fourth graders are adding and subtracting fractions.

The problem? When I surveyed my class, half said they'd never explicitly been taught how to use a number line. So, I taught my students how to use a number line the way I taught my daughter to use a number line...

Put your pencil on zero. That's the "starting line."

Make a BIG JUMP to the first number. (For example, in 4 + 3, the BIG JUMP is from 0 to 4.)

Next, make TINY HOPS (to the right for addition, or to the left for subtraction). (In the example 4 + 3, from the number 4, you make 3 TINY HOPS to the right.)

The number you land on is your answer. (In the above example, you land on 7.)

...BIG JUMP & TINY HOPS. That's all there is to it. (You can even do this on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk and make it like hopscotch for your kinesthic learners.)

The half of my class that hadn't known how to use a number line smiled and made comments like, "Oh, now I get it!"

Here is yet another problem with Common Core: We roll out new standards, with the "expectation" that students in all grades will be able to meet those standards with the teaching they receive that school year.

But let's talk Charlotte Mason for a minute... Let's say you hadn't been a CMer with your child for grades 1 through 3, and then, in year 4, you made the switch. You had never taught your child to narrate, and - all of a sudden - you ask your child to narrate. Would your brand-new-at-narrating student narrate with the ease of a child who had been practicing this skill for three years? Or would your student find it difficult to organize their thoughts and give you more than a one sentence answer to "Tell me about the story."

I'll tell you that, from my own experience, it's work to teach fourth graders who aren't accustomed to narration how to narrate. Public school students are horribly used to being asked questions with single sentence answers, or being told how many sentences a paragraph must have, or being told what page they will find the answer to the question, or being given the answer "Yes" when asked "Is my work/answer good enough?"

We cannot expect students who do not have a foundation in New Program X to be successful in New Program X. It would be less unfair to start New Program X with a group of kindergarteners, and the next year have the first graders continue New Program X, and the year after that have the second graders continue, etc.

But to anyone just reading this because they were never taught to add or subtract using a number line - I wasn't - and is just curious as to an easy, fun way to teach it, I give you BIG JUMP & TINY HOPS. Happy hopping.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Make a Splash 120 Mat Floor Game

This game, from Learning Resources, has inflatable dice. The way we were playing, my daughter rolled the blue dice and found her number on the mat. In the picture above, she rolled 4 and 3 and then put the t-shaped frame on the mat with the number 43 in the center of the frame. Then she rolled the orange die. The orange die has -10 (look at the square above your number), +10 (look at the number below your number), +1 (look right), and -1 (look left).

Other info:
  • You have to inflate the dice each time you play (if you want to pack everything back in the box). 
  • Re-folding the mat reminded me of folding a road map - at which I am so completely terrible. I have an irrational fear of road-map-folding. I did figure it out. I didn't enjoy it. 
  • If a die gets a hole, the box includes a tiny adhesive piece to patch it up.
  • Static: every little speck clings to the mat. Vacuum the floor before playing.
That said, my daughter loved this.

She wanted to be a giraffe...

When asked why she decorated her leg with spots, my three year old told me that she wanted to be a giraffe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Painting Lesson

My three year old with artist Patrick McGilligan
Our friend, Patrick McGilligan, let my daughter help paint the window of our neighborhood video store, Vidiots, last night. He let her choose the entire color scheme. He asked her what color she thought the teeth should be, and she said blue, so blue they are. When asked what color his face should be, she chose her favorite color: green. An artist can paint things whatever color he or she wants them to be...

Friday, March 13, 2015

When Preschoolers Learn About Death

Two nights ago, my three year old burst into tears and hugged me. "I don't want you to die," she said, "I don't want you to die." I can't remember what prompted it because I was so shocked that she had come to the realization that I'll die. We hadn't been reading a story including death, or watching a movie including death. Letting her watch Big Hero 6 last week didn't help, I'm sure.

But she said it again last night. I was standing on a chair, trying to reach something up high, and she said, "Be careful Mommy. I don't want you to get hurt because I don't want you to die." She wasn't crying the way she had been the night before, but she was serious.

"What's making you think about me dying?" I asked. "You talked about not wanting me to die yesterday, and now you're talking about it today."

"It's because I don't want you to die."

"I'm not going to die any time soon."

This morning, my husband and I talked about it. I asked him if she'd said anything to him about D-E-A-T-H. He said she had, and that he told her he wasn't going to die for a very long time.

"But why is she thinking about it right now?"

My husband thinks it's because we're nearing Easter, and while Easter is about resurrection, it's also about death. You can't have the resurrection without the crucifixion. It just doesn't work that way.

I try to make sense of this moment, of the the lessons we taught her that led to this. Look both ways when you cross the street. Don't talk to strangers. There is danger in the world. God gave you Mommy and Daddy to keep you safe.

Children have to learn about death. I know. But that doesn't lessen the pain of seeing your child suffering with the idea of losing you.

Your own experiences?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Magic School Bus Solar System Mobile

Here is Daddy helping Daughter assemble her Magic School Bus solar system mobile. The kit was $10 from Scholastic and it came with the book The Magic School Bus Blasts into Space, and some glow-in-the-dark star stickers. Daddy did half of it, and Mommy finished up. I had to use tweezers (and a reading lamp) to knot the fishing line. It was "knot" easy.
The finished product. :)

Daughter LOVES it.


Saturday at the aquarium...

A first...

Yesterday afternoon, my 3 year old and I were in the checkout line at Trader Joe's. Next to us, there were two little girls who were maybe 4 or 5. My daughter thinks that any child her age is a friend, and fortunately these little girls did too. My daughter was wearing her tutu because she'd just gotten done with dance class, and the girls had balloons because they'd gotten them at Spanish class. So there they were chatting away and then I heard this come out of my daughter's mouth, "Oh, I'm homeschooled. And I go to dance class, and Church Mice, and Little Explorers." I was so surprised because she's never explained this to anyone before. It's always me explaining to adults. I used to wonder what she was going to feel about other children going to school, and about her schooling happening at home. She was so matter-of-fact and happy. They all kept chatting and sucking on the lollipops they'd gotten for finding the store's hidden mascot. It was lovely.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Milly Molly Mandy

This morning, we read our first Milly Molly Mandy story, in which MMM runs errands for her family. MMM lives with her mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and aunty, and each of them, unbeknownst to the others, asks MMM to run an errand. On top of that, MMM's dog wants a walk. MMM tells him he'll have to wait, because she has six errands to remember. Well, she remembers five of them, but she can't remember the last, and she has a penny with which she's supposed to buy something for someone. The shopkeeper asks if the penny is for candy (sweeties), but MMM says no, and tries to remember who have her the penny and what she was supposed to buy. Finally, she remembers, buys the item, goes home to walk the dog, and is rewarded with money to buy sweeties when the adults find out what a good errand girl MMM really is.

In a book written today, the main character would roll her eyes and protest when asked to help, then forget what she was supposed to buy. Then when the shopkeeper asked her if she wanted candy, the child would go ahead and buy candy. And then the child would forget to walk the dog.

This first story has so many character lessons. MMM is happy to be helpful, and has a cheerful attitude. She responds "Yes, Mother" and "Yes, Father" when her parents tell her to do something. She's respectful, responsible, and honest. Finally, she's generous, sharing the reward she receives with a friend.

Have you read MMM? What was your take?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our Next Read Aloud...

Friday, we finished two books. Our morning read aloud - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - and a book we'd been reading in the evenings (because my daughter "loves" George Washington) - George Washington by the D'Aulaires.

So far, our morning read alouds have been A Bear Called Paddington and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Chapter books. Fiction. This reading takes place in the car, and my husband instituted a Three Interruption Rule, which means that if she interrupts three times, I close the book. This does not mean that I don't stop to explain what certain words or expressions mean, just that Daughter can't do something like stop the story to say she doesn't want to wear her shoes. The Three Interruption Rule works great! There have been mornings where she hasn't interrupted at all.

She loved Charlie. She was very interested in comparing the book to the movie. There are quite a few differences, a huge one being that Charlie never does anything wrong in the book. However, in the movie, he and Grandpa Joe break the rules and drink Fizzy Lifting Drink. It's a great scene in the movie, but Dahl's Charlie is the good guy, the child to emulate. He wouldn't disrespect Willy Wonka by not listening, and he would never even consider stealing. But movies have to have conflict, and children being taught lessons by turning into blueberries, being sucked up tubes, being made tiny, and falling down garbage chutes, while the main character stands back and watches - this does not make a movie.

I did do some censoring while reading the book. Mainly, I lessened how rude the children were to their parents. In one instance, I said "Be quiet" instead of "Shut up."

...Which brings me to my choice for our next read aloud.

I wanted something where the child main character speaks nicely to her parents. We don't allow our daughter to put her hand on her hip when she's talking, or to tell us "But-", and we have her say "Yes Mommy" or "Yes Daddy" when we tell her to do something. These are habits we are training. Training. As a public school teacher, it frustrates me when elementary school children do things like suck their teeth or roll their eyes, etc. These are just a handful of the behaviors I refuse to allow my child to think are okay. This is why I liked Veruca Salt so much - because she gave us the opportunity to discuss "good egg"/"good nut" behavior vs. "bad egg"/"bad nut" behavior.

I considered James and the Giant Peach; Pippi Longstocking; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Charlotte's Web; Mr. Popper's Penguins; Homer Price; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; and Little House in the Big Woods. But I thought about what we needed right now, and right now we don't need parents getting killed by rhinoceroses, or little girls with dead mothers and the mention of cannibals, or Mommy tearing up when Charlotte dies (because Mommy will tear up). We can hold off on Oz and Narnia and the American frontier. We can hold off on donut machines and penguins. What we need right now is little girl with a sweet attitude and a loving two-parent household.

So our next read aloud is The Milly Molly Mandy Storybook.

When I first saw this book on a list, and read the first few pages, I was turned off by its simplicity. Where's the conflict? But then - confession time - I let my daughter watch Big Hero 6. Mistake. She didn't have nightmares, thankfully, but there was so much that was just unnecessary for a 4 year old. Yes, the death scene bothered me, but not as much as having a main character who is disrespectful and lazy and arrogant. He's not a kid you want your child to emulate. The biggest thing that's wrong with this movie is that the character that we want our children to be like is not the one that is most relatable, the human kid. No, the character with the clear understanding of right and wrong is the one that is least relatable - the robot.

I'm looking forward to simplicity.

What's your next read aloud?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason

Tonight I met with the director of the local Classical Conversations group for the required "Informational Meeting." She was very sweet and I liked her immediately.

My 12 year old cousin is homeschooled, and my aunt and uncle have been part of a CC community for the past 7 years. I've always been impressed by what my cousin has gotten out of CC, and the way my aunt and uncle have talked about CC. The idea of CC for my own child (even before I had a child) has always been at the back of my mind.

But then I found Charlotte Mason. Of all the homeschooling philosophies out there, she's my girl. And I've got to say, sitting there tonight, talking to the CC director, I realized how silly homeschoolers must sound when we talk "philosophy." Oh yes, I'm a classical/eclectic. I'm a CMer. I'm a little unschooly... What must the woman sitting next to us at Starbucks have thought?! She must have wished she had earplugs! It made me think of the beginning of Mere Christianity when C.S. Lewis uses the metaphor of the hall and rooms, but there in Starbucks, the hall was homeschooling, and the rooms were various homeschooling "denominations."

Is there a room for CC/CM? A room for CMers who do CC?

How do CMers stay true to Charlotte, while CCing? Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

This is one of the easiest peanut butter cookie recipes. It only has four ingredients. (I did come across one that only had three ingredients - sugar, peanut butter, and an egg; no vanilla.)

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of (salted) peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla 
  • 1 egg

(Yes, it is flourless, and it does actually produce edible cookies!) Preheat oven to 325 F. Bake 15 minutes. My daughter loved setting the temperature on the oven (she figured out 325 was the dot between 300 and 350!), stirring, rolling the "dough" balls, and pressing them with a fork, but she wasn't in love with the cookies. But it's a cookie! Warning: They are REALLY REALLY REALLY sweet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Just a smidgen of what we did the past week...

Practicing her moves before class.
My daughter's class is learning their dance for the June recital. The dance goes something like this: diamond, diamond, pick up the flowers and let them fall, diamond, diamond, pick up the flowers and let them fall, Anna, Elsa, and then there's a turn, and then the strawberries come forward (my daughter is a strawberry, while her friend Brookey is a blueberry), then the blueberries come forward...
Yesterday we had our home(pre)school group lesson about measurement. That's Brookey's mommy reading Leo Lionni's Inch by Inch. She showed the kids a measuring tape, a tape measure, and gave them each a ruler, and then we measured printouts of the birds in the Lionni book (a flamingo's neck, a toucan's beak, etc.). For snack, she made some crescent roll worms, and some dirt cups with gummy worms. But these were gourmet dirt cups. She used coconut milk for the chocolate pudding (homemade), and coconut milk chocolate whipped cream, and - of course - crushed chocolate cookies.
Saturday night, we started some rock candy. We poured 2 1/2 cups of sugar - that's a whole lotta sugar - into a bowl, and one cup of water. I microwaved, stirred, microwaved, stirred, microwaved, and stirred. When all the sugar had dissolved, we dipped the popsicle sticks into the syrup and let them dry for 30 minutes on a plate. This was so seed crystals could form. I poured half of the syrup in one glass and half in another glass. Then I colored one with red food coloring, and one with blue food coloring. I poked a hole in a plastic lid, stuck the popsicle stick through the hole, then stuck the popsicle stick into the red syrup.This is to keep the syrup covered and the stick in place. Then I did the same for the other stick and put it in the blue syrup.

 This is what they looked like the next day.

Look at that sky. And the weather forecast said it was supposed to rain.
Last week, we made the no-guilt brownies from Trader Joe's. (Just add vanilla yogurt.) Chocolate is my daughter's favorite food group.