Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Daughter's Red Dollhouse

In April, my daughter, not yet four years old, saw a red dollhouse on display at a craft store, and decided that is what she wanted to ask Santa for.
No. We were not getting a dollhouse. We live in a tiny apartment. The kit for the "red" dollhouse was too expensive. And, working full time, I couldn't imagine when I would be able to put one together.

When I voiced these things to my mom, she said that she had a coupon and that she would put the house together. With two out of three problems solved, I bought the largest, most complicated kit the store sells.

My mom is an artist and my stepdad builds Arts and Crafts style furniture, and both are perfectionists. They spent more than one hundred hours building this...
The dollhouse comes with shingles that are supposed to be applied one. at. a. time. So my stepdad came up with the idea of doing a plank roof and a copper turret. 
My mom insisted that a copper turret necessitated copper rivets, which she simulated with 1/8 inch copper brads. 
She drilled holes in the turret. Then she applied super glue around a hole, inserted a brad into the hole {using tweezers}, and used the flat end of a shish kebab skewer to press the brad against the turret to glue it in place...112 times.

My stepdad thought the front steps were too narrow, so he built better ones. Of course.

Clearly, I hired the right construction crew. ;)

Friday, December 25, 2015

How We Celebrate Christmas Eve

My husband's family celebrates Christmas Eve with Mexican Catholic traditions.

My mother-in-law {and as many people as can crowd around the kitchen table} makes tamales. 

{This is my husband's sister, teaching Daughter to spread masa on a corn husk. My SIL is an expert at using the back of a spoon to do this. Tipthe easiest way to spread masa is with a plastic joint knife - the tool used for mudding over screws and nails in drywall.}
My SIL is an elementary school teacher {she was my little brother's kindergarten teacher decades ago!} and always plans things for the little grand and great grandchildren to do. This year the littles each got a goody bag when they arrived, with stickers, a couple of pieces of candy, a sharpened Christmas-themed pencil, and a Christmas-themed activity booklet. There was an ornament decorating station set up in the back room, pin the nose on the snowman, and a "dollar jump."
The little ones got to do a standing long jump next to a measuring tape of {real} dollar bills. Wherever each child landed, the "measuring tape" was cut, and the child got to keep that number of dollars.
The costume boxes get pulled out and the children get dressed as kings, angels, shepherds, Mary, and Joseph.
The children and a few adults go outside, with the outside songbooks. 
The rest of the adults stay inside with the inside songbooks. We go to doors around the house, asking for a place to stay {una posada}, and the "innkeepers" turn us away until we get to the front door.
The innkeepers let us in, and we sing a song of adoracion of Baby Jesus. {A new baby is welcomed into the family by portraying Baby Jesus in the Posada. Four years ago, Daughter and her cousin - the other little angel - shared the role of Baby Jesus. The years there isn't a new baby, we use the Christ child from my MIL's nativity scene.}

In the 14 1/2 years my husband and I have been married, we have never done this part, but I was told this is traditional: After kissing the Baby Jesus, one takes a piece of candy. The candies are called colaciones.
While the children are getting out of their costumes, my nephew leaves for "more cups," and a while later, Santa Claus arrives at the front door.
Santa Claus gives each child a gift...
This year, Santa brought Daughter a set of Hello Kitty hair accessories.
Every time anyone has asked my daughter what she asked Santa for this year, she's told them "a red dollhouse," and I've said, "But Santa's bag isn't very big, so a dollhouse might not fit." She was very happy with her hair accessories, but she did say to me in a whisper, "Mom, I wanted Santa to bring me a red dollhouse. Next year, can we write a letter to Santa and say, 'Dear Santa, please get a bigger bag'?"

Little did she know that she would wake up to a red dollhouse...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What Do I Teach After The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

We recently finished the last lesson in The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading, a book I highly recommend.

My daughter is 4 years 7 months, and can read and comprehend a Magic Treehouse book. She doesn't yet have the endurance to read a whole chapter book on her own. But I don't worry about this. {There are so many other things that keep me from falling back asleep at 2 a.m.}

We've been doing short reading lessons since she could speak {because I'm that kind of parent}. She likes reading lessons. She probably thinks all preschoolers do them.

We started with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which we did not do as written. {I recently talked to a mom who had tried TYC and said her preschooler hated it. If you do it as written with a preschooler, your preschooler will most likely hate it. Preschoolers cannot sit still for that long.}

We did three or four tasks (sub-lessons) per day, even on weekends, skipping a day here and there And I rewarded each task with an M&M. 

There is no harm in giving your child 3 M&Ms. {Floss. Brush. Show your child slightly scary YouTube cartoons of germs digging cavities in teeth.}

I considered the lesson a success if we got through one task, let alone three. My goal was consistency.

When we finished TYC, I bought The Ordinary Parent's Guide. We started in the middle of the book, and did a lesson a day.

Again, I did not do it as written. And, again, I used candy.

Because there are lots of people who give my child candy. And lots of special occasions. {October through April is candy candy candy.}

So we put all the candy in a huge Ziploc bag, and the only way she gets to eat a piece is if it's during a reading lesson. 

Tonight she chose half a chocolate See's Santa.

How I went off-script: TOPG has parents do two review and one new with their children. Again, preschoolers cannot sit still for this long. I found it more effective to daily take turns reading a free-choice book. That was enough review. As Daughter became a better reader, she was able to read more of the books she wanted to read.

So, we're done with TOPG. Now what?

I know this is going to sound nuts {and free} but I was thinking about what good readers know about reading. Good readers are good decoders. They understand the rules of syllabication. I don't mean that they can list a bunch of rules. Good readers have repeated exposure to the same syllables, so they can tell you how they work.

For example, you know that -tion at the end of a word says "shun." You know what -ish says.

Good readers also know what suffixes, prefixes, and roots mean, so they can figure out what words probably mean.

{The third thing is grammar, which I would argue is implicitly learned by preschoolers from Mom reading aloud chapter books.}

So the crazy {free} thing I've been doing is...

I've been re-typing a book from the 1800s, lesson by lesson. It's A Pronouncing Spelling Book by Epes Sargent. We started in the early 100s. There are some words that I leave out because they're inappropriate for a four year old to use in conversation, and some that I leave out because they're so archaic that I can't find a definition for them...

...but I've been leaving in words like "caitiff" (a contemptible or cowardly person) because 1)they remind me of the nonsense words we would use to test students on their decoding skills when I worked at Sylvan Learning Center, and 2)because they are fabulous words that I get to look up ahead of time and, when Daughter asks, I get to share with her. {Because I would rather hang out with an OED than attend a party.}

Each lesson has about 25 words, and each word is broken into syllables. At Daughter's request, I typed each word under each broken-up word...


...because this is how TOPG is formatted.

How are you doing advanced phonics lessons?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas!

This was what our Christmas tree looked like 4 years ago, when our daughter was 6 months old. We bought the live tree at The 99 Cent Store, along with a 99 cent string of lights.

This morning...
...Daddy and Daughter repotted our very weird-looking little conifer. (This is the tree's second time being repotted.) Isn't this the funniest looking tree you've ever seen? I don't know what it is. The needles are short and sharp, and long in some places, and they don't grow in bundles. (If anyone knows what this is, please leave a comment.)

We decorated our tree with a handful of ornaments, one of which is a felted otter that Daughter and I made together, and another is a knitted green bird from Peru (a souvenir from the Natural History Museum's most recent special exhibit - Egyptian & Peruvian mummies). The lights are the same ones we bought four years ago. 
Merry Christmas! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Week in Review

1)We started out the week with the Christmas pageant. My daughter was a cow and sang three songs - O Come All Ye Faithful, Get Ready for the Baby, and Alleluia - but her favorite song from the pageant was one the big kids sang - That Boy Child of Mary.
2)On Monday, Daddy took Daughter to Classical Conversations. Here they are categorizing living things.

3)Tuesday, my school district cancelled school due to terrorism threats. My daughter didn't need to know that; she thought it was a holiday. We played CVC Words Learning Lift Off (with Rudolph the Reindeer and Hermey the Elf as game pieces...twice), did an endangered animals puzzle, built shapes with Learning Resources Dive Into Shapes, and played Memory. Then we took her bike to the park.
4)We've been enjoying stories in My Bookhouse Volume 1. One night we read The Little Engine That Could, and another night we read a story called "A Quick Running Squash." The story made me think of both Jack and the Beanstalk and James and the Giant Peach. In the story, a little boy is given magic seeds, which he plants. A magic "running squash" vine grows. As the squash grows bigger and bigger, it runs farther and farther away from the garden. To catch his squash, the boy has to run after it, jump on top of it, and ride it like a horse. In the end, the squash grows so big that it explodes, and everyone has squash pie for dinner. She LOVED this story.

5)Daughter did two Duolingo Spanish lessons.

6)One evening, we went Christmas caroling with church. My daughter and a little boy  were the official door knockers, while the rest of our large group waited to sing on the sidewalk.
7)Another evening, we went to our Classical Conversations Christmas party. That day after work, I had to go to the grocery store for ground beef and taco seasoning, cook the beef, and get my daughter and self ready for the party, all in about an hour. On the way to the party, I realized that I had forgotten my daughter's tin whistle, so my husband - thank you - dropped us off at the party, and went home for it. My daughter's class (4 and 5 year olds) played Mary Had a Little Lamb on their tin whistles, and all of the kids did a mini-Memory Master challenge. I was so surprised at how much she remembered.
8)We went to our friend's house for dinner and tree trimming...and dress up.
9)Daughter spent a couple of hours on Saturday playing with clay (an early Christmas gift from another friend). I made her a penguin body, and Daughter added flippers, feet, eyes, and beak, and later a scarf and hat. Then Daughter made penguin a chair and asked for a penguin desk. Then Daughter made a fire  and wanted to make a pot, so I showed her how to make a pinch pot. We suspended the pot over the fire with pipe cleaners. The penguin was the owner of a candy shop and needed the fire and pot to melt chocolate.
10)At ballet, Miss Camille showed the students how to go from an arabesque to a passé.
11)Santa is almost done building Daughter's Christmas present.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Santa Math

This was not my idea. 

My four year old saw me searching for fun 2-digit times 2-digit multiplication printables for my fourth graders, and she asked if I could print out a Santa Claus worksheet for her.

I checked to see if there was an addition version of Santa, and there was - with approximately 300 problems.

I wanted to talk her out of it. It would take her a long time using Unifix cubes, and it would require being really careful. I didn't think she had the patience or the fine motor skills.

I was wrong.

She spent 35 minutes adding and coloring - she hardly needed me - before announcing her hand was tired and that she would finish the rest tomorrow...
Here is the link:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Week in Review

1)We started the week with rehearsal for the Christmas pageant.

2)She did her Classical Conversations presentation on The Nutcracker, which we saw last weekend. I had her dictate to me what she wanted to say, and I typed it just like she said it. She added bits of information (like that Drosselmeyer had an eyepatch) and a few pirouettes. :)

3)We finished The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Reading. Simple. Inexpensive. Effective. I love this book.

4)This week, our home(pre)school co-op was about Hanukkah. The little ones made menorah crafts, and had latkes and applesauce for their snack.
5)Santa Claus is building my daughter a dollhouse - a red, three-story painted lady. The instructions said to use tape to hold it together while the glue dries.
6)My My Bookhouse books arrived. Volume One was in two pieces. I think the bookseller misunderstood the meaning of "used-very good." I contacted the seller and they refunded some of my money, and we've been - carefully - reading Volume One. One evening, we read a Dutch story about a puppet named Hansworth, and another evening, we read a Norse story about a little boy trying to get his goats out of a turnip field.
7)Daddy took Daughter to Kenneth Hahn Park for a nature walk with the group from CC.
8)She can play Jolly Old Saint Nicholas very well now and wants to learn Up On the Housetop.
9)My friendly beast finished the week with dress rehearsal for the Christmas pageant.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Week in Review: Advent, The Nutcracker, and Chocolate Cupcakes

1)Our home(pre)school co-op baked chocolate cupcakes...from scratch!
2)Tuesday, my daughter participated in a study at UCLA. If you give birth in Los Angeles, UCLA somehow gets hold of your name and address and immediately sends you a letter asking you if you'll let your baby be involved in studies done by their psychology and linguistics departments. We said yes, so we get contacted every so often to bring our daughter to the campus. From what I gather, on Tuesday, the  linguistics department was testing to see if she (as a 4 1/2 year old) understood various prepositions.
3)She was very excited to start opening the doors on her Advent calendar.
4)She made this at Church Mice.
5)She went to ballet.
6)She used Unifix cubes to do subtraction. We're using Mathematical Reasoning - a book I love. Some of the pages are for dot to dots, and you can only solve the dot to dot if you solve the equations first. We fold the dot to dot page over so she can focus on the equations first.
7)I bought a set of My Book House books! I found a "used - very good" 6 book set (the green ones that are each 400 pages) on Amazon for $85. I'm so excited about adding these books to my collection.

8)Our family went to an Advent party at church. It was lovely. There were crafts, Advent hymns ("Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" and "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"), pasta and salad, Jesse tree ornaments, and songs played by the bell choir. We walked home under Christmas lights.
9)We also went to a performance of The Nutcracker, and got to meet some of the ballerinas.