Thursday, February 26, 2015

When the cat's away, the mice will read Macbeth...




  1. I feel overwhelmed. I have report cards due tomorrow. Not done yet. I have a door that needs decorating - tomorrow - for Dr. Seuss Week. I need to plan for next week. Monday morning is Green Eggs and Ham Day; do I bake green eggs and ham again this year? Fox in Socks Day is Tuesday; where is my copy of Fox in Socks? I have an IEP meeting tomorrow morning, and parent conferences are next week...
  2. I'm reading aloud Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my daughter. This is our morning commute read. We are a one-car family, so Daddy drives me to work, and I read, and Daughter has a breakfast of something like chocolate milk and cheese crackers. We just finished the chapter in which Veruca Salt and her parents go down the chute in the Nut Room. She saw the movie first (Gene Wilder version) and loves the book.
  3. Daughter pulled everything out of the cabinet this afternoon, trying to find out what items had calcium.
  4.  Then, she drew a pirate ship with a skull and crossbones flag and a "guy" eating an ice cream cone and a popsicle AT THE SAME TIME!!! (she was so excited by this idea) with sidewalk chalk.
  5. I didn't teach math today. All three of the administrators at my school were out today, so I co-opted the iPad lab - no one else was using it - and my fourth graders spent the day reading along to a Librivox recording of Macbeth.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spanish Lessons in February

Last month, our focus in Spanish was Numeros (1-20). My plan (which I quickly ditched for a better plan) was to focus on the ABCs en espanol during February. However, we are doing Colores instead. Color names came so easily to her, while the ABCs are a little too abstract. In hindsight, it makes sense to hold off on ABCs since she doesn't yet need to read or write in Spanish. It makes more sense to focus on vocabulary right now.

Happy New Year

The mall near our house had stilt walkers, music, fortune cookies, and crafts for Lunar New Year yesterday. Below are the two crafts we made together.





Saturday, February 21, 2015

Imaginary Play

Last night and this morning, my daughter played "shop." Last night, her shop only sold patterns - Unifix cube patterns. These were quite expensive. The first one I purchased with invisible imaginary money was priced $90. The second one cost me $1,000. Because I have lots and lots of invisible imaginary money in my pajama pants' pockets, I was able to buy two additional patterns for $2,000 and $3,000. This morning, Daughter invited me into her shop, which now sold food, books, pets, and patterns. The health inspector has yet to visit this shop. "Would you like a bunny, a monkey, or a leopard?" I went the traditional pet route and bought a bunny. The foods were "cups" of colorful animal shaped beads from our craft supplies, and the cups were upside down Duplo blocks. Daughter explained that I had my choice of banana cream pie or chocolate chip roast beast, so naturally I chose the chocolate chip roast beast. It was only $40. Good thing, because I have yet to visit the invisible imaginary ATM.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Let Your Light So Shine...




Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
-Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blue Tutu

Sweet girl, this is you at 3 years 9 months in your new blue tutu right after dance class. You are at the grocery store, dancing amidst the flowers. Daddy is the one who gets to take you to dance class. He is also the one who said he wanted you to have a new special tutu. I was surprised when you picked a blue one. I love it. It makes me think of the blue fairy in Pinocchio.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Please Don't Try to Talk Me Out of Homeschooling

This evening, I met a friend for coffee. I had my daughter with me, and she saw a little girl in the cafe and immediately declared her a friend. And of course, as parents of young children in my area do, the little girl's parents asked if my daughter went to preschool.

Ugh.

Do I have to start telling my daughter that she is "in preschool"? Do I need to come up with a name for my preschool, so that when people ask, she has a reply they can nod their heads at and say, "Oh that's nice," the way people do when discussing the weather.

When you have a small child on the Westside, your small talk with stranger-parents is not about what the adults do for a living, but where your children go to school. Where your children go to school reveals a lot about you.

These particular stranger-parents were very nice. And their daughter was very nice. But while my daughter wants to make friends, I only want to be friendly. I don't want to get into a philosophical conversation.

When the nice stranger-parents asked if she went to preschool, I guess I could have just said no. But I didn't. I never do. When will I learn? No, I said, "We're homeschooling."

"Oh," the nice stranger-mother said, "Is there a particular reason?"

Does there have to be a particular reason? Maybe I should practice this in front of a mirror. I'll pretend to be a stranger-parent and ask myself, "Why?" Then, Mariel-me will shrug her shoulders and reply, "No reason."

"I teach public school," I said. "So, it was - in part - in reaction to that."

This is not small talk. Stop talking, Mariel. Stop talking. Change the subject. Talk about weather.

I just want to have a conversation with my friend, drink my coffee, eat my brown butter fruit tart.

But no. My daughter and stranger-daughter play with some math manipulatives I've packed in my daughter's backpack. Stranger-daughter is three years older than my daughter, so when my daughter wants to play with the manipulatives in a specific way, and stranger-daughter wants to play with it in a different way, my daughter crosses her arms and pouts and I step in to mediate.

Why can't my child - just for this evening - be an introvert and play with her math manipulatives at our table by herself?

Stranger-mother tells me that this is one of the things her daughter learned by going to preschool. Mediating conflicts during play. I shouldn't be offended. Stranger-mother is well-intentioned. It's just small talk. Nice weather we're having.

My child is three. Pouting and crossing her arms isn't good behavior, but it's less negative than how she could be reacting. She's not lying on the ground, kicking and screaming. That's a plus, right?

The girls work through their differences. Great.

Stranger-mother says that they're happy with stranger-daughter's public school kindergarten. "It's just up the street," she says, as if her reassurance might make me reconsider my decision to homeschool.

I'm not homeschooling as a last resort. "We're not homeschooling just because of our experiences teaching," I say. I mention Charlotte Mason, whom she hasn't heard of, and explain, "I want to provide a broad curriculum."

I've read about parents who printed up official-looking t-shirts with their (home)school logo to shut down stranger-parent small talk.

Oh yes, she goes to preschool right up the street. Lovely place. Nice weather we're having today, isn't it?






Sunday, February 15, 2015

Potassium Phosphate Crystals

 Here's one of the things we did today...
 After half an hour...

After an hour...
 After an hour and a half...
After two hours...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

This is the ceiling of my public school classroom yesterday. One girl's parents surprised us by bringing 3 dozen balloons, one for each child in my class plus some extras. We tied the balloons to the backs of all the chairs. Only two kids wacked each other with their balloons and had them taken away until the end of the day ;)

When I grow up...

"I want to be a surfboarder astronaut when I grow up." (Daughter age 3 years 9 months)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book 3

Tonight my daughter read her third book cover to cover all by herself. It was Curious George's Opposites. It's Guided Reading Level is J, but it's grade level equivalent is 3.1. The Lexile level is 570, which is - according to the Lexile website - as high as low 5th grade. See how wacky these leveling systems are?! This is a board book, one sentence per page, only 16 pages. I prefer the Guided Reading leveling system, of the choices available.

So, so far she's read the following books without assistance, start to finish:
1) Have You Seen My Cat
2) I Love You Dear Dragon
3) Curious George's Opposites

First Gumball

Yesterday after work, my husband dropped my daughter and me off at the Promenade to get her new Crocs. Children's feet grow so fast!!! Daughter chose purple Crocs, and two charms. (I told her she could either get a pair of "fancy" Crocs and no charms, or a pair of basic Crocs with two charms.) She chose a Dora the Explorer for one shoe and a Boots (Dora's monkey) for the other. Then, we got dipped cones from McDonalds for the walk home. It was 81 degrees yesterday, so the dipped cones were a really bad idea on my part. One ended up on the ground, and some pigeons flew over to snack on some chocolate shell pieces. I picked it up with a stack of napkins. The other cone dripped all over the place. We shared it.

And then we passed a gumball machine filled with big gumballs. "I've never had a gumball before," said my chocolate covered three year old.

So what do I do? I bought us each a gumball, and we strolled and chewed our way home, my daughter swinging the bag with her new shoes and me blowing bubbles. It was lovely.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Owl Puke

I brought home an owl pellet kit for my daughter today. We dissected the pellet with two felting needles and a pair of tweezers. I've dissected many an owl pellet, so I was very very disappointed not to find a skull in our pellet. But - based on the shoulder blades - our pellet contained a rodent (mouse), not a shrew or vole or bird. I wish the Owl Puke kit had come with wooden dissection tools and a little magnifying glass like other kits, but the tray that came with it is cute. It's got spaces for vertebrae, ribs, skull, leg bones, etc. Picking up tiny bones with tweezers provides fine motor skill practice, and it's so much more fun than a handwriting worksheet.

Monday, February 9, 2015

You Won't Believe This One...

My school district's mandated English Language Arts assessment included having students watch a short YouTube video related to their grade level's writing prompt. Two teachers at my school got quite the surprise when they showed their mandated videos. The trailer for Ms. J.'s video had the b-word in it. Worse, Ms. Z.'s video started with the trailer for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY! Betcha didn't know that was Common Core.

Add this to the list of reasons we're homeschooling.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Guided Reading Levels E - J Book Picks

Of all the leveling systems out there, I prefer Guided Reading. I just feel like GR is slightly more accurate because it takes multiple factors into account, not just sentence complexity and vocabulary, but also content, theme, etc.

After completing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, a child can read vocabulary that is considered 2nd Grade, based on the Fry Word List. However, I would say that it is more accurate to say that a child can read at a 1st grade level (GR levels E through J) because this is their independent level.

Wanting to provide my daughter with some more E through J books, I went on a used book shopping spree last night. Here is what I chose, along with some E-J (1st grade books) we already have:

Dear Dragon (E - all the Dear Dragon books are level E, we have I Love You, I love it, found more)
Inside Outside Upside Down (E)
Each Peach Pear Plum (G)
The Carrot Seed (G - we have it)
Dinosaur Roar (H - we have it)
Big Red Barn (H - we have it)
Goodnight Moon (H - we have it, who doesn't?)
Put Me In The Zoo (H)
Old Hat New Hat (H)
Quick As A Cricket (I - we already have it, great for teaching similes, a must have)
Small Pig (I - author Arnold Lobel)
Curious George's Opposites (J)
Great Day For Up (J)
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut (J)
Cat in the Hat (J - we already have it)
Green Eggs and Ham (J - have it)
Hop on Pop (J - have it)

I will not be buying a book called Mine's the Best (recommended by TYCTR) because it uses the phrase "I hate..." and I don't want my three year old using that phrase.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons: The Finale!

My daughter (3 years 8 months) completed Lesson 100 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons on Sunday evening.

We started this book a year ago.

Prior to beginning this book, my daughter knew all the letter names and sounds (including both short and long vowel sounds). This happened through the use of 2 Leapfrog products: 1)Leapfrog Fridge Phonics (a singing magnet set) and 2)a DVD called Leapfrog Letter Factory. She got the Fridge Phonics set for her first birthday.

Knowing the letter names and sounds is not a prerequisite for beginning this program. The book assumes the child has no prior knowledge of letter sounds or their names. (The book actually teaches the letter sounds prior to the letter names, sounds being more important to the skill of decoding.)

In addition to knowing letter sounds, she knew how to sound out CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant words like cat, pig, hot, etc.). Six months before we started Teach Your Child to Read (it was shortly after her second birthday), I began reading her BOB Books in the bathtub and using bath crayons to write words from the story on the tiles on the wall. I don't love BOB Books. When I bought Set 1, I had the idea that readers like this were a necessary step in teaching my daughter how to read. Though I had been teaching full-time for a decade, my experience was with upper elementary and middle school. In lower grades, the focus is on learning to read, but in upper grades, the focus is on reading to learn. I had never taught someone to read from the very beginning. I thought the BOB Book phase lasted a while, probably because public school stretches things out that don't need stretching out (and does the reverse with things that need more time to master). BOB Books didn't work for us. My daughter wasn't interested in the stories, and wasn't engaged by the illustrations.

At the same time, I bought another Leapfrog DVD: Talking Words Factory. I also made flash cards, and reviewed them during bathtime. I'd show my daughter a word, and she would find the word on the wall and sound it out.

We skipped the first 6 lessons, and started on Lesson 7. We only worked as long as she was interested. She had a sticker chart and I gave her a sticker for every task she completed. The sticker chart had about 26 spaces I think, and it took her a week to fill a chart. This meant that she finished about two and a half lessons per week. When she filled her chart, she got to choose a small reward.

Over time, her attention span increased, and the sticker chart was replaced by a popsicle or a piece of Halloween candy. I know that rewards are not "Charlotte-Masony," I'm just relaying what we did.

At one point, her attention span increased so that she was able to do half a lesson in one sitting. I never had her do a whole lesson in one sitting because I liked her reading the same story two days in a row. I felt like it gave her time for things to sink in. So, Day 1 we did the first read, and Day 2 we read the story a second time and stopped for comprehension questions. Day 2 also included Picture Comprehension.

I also did not have her do the task that has children re-read a list of new words "the fast way." I found that with repeated exposure, she was eventually able to recognize words by sight.

I also did not do the writing letters tasks. For children who do not know letter sounds and names, and do not have the fine motor strength to write neatly, one could substitute an  activity forming letters with pattern blocks, or feeling sandpaper letters, or using a wooden or plastic letter construction kit, etc.

It's not 100 Easy Lessons. For us, it was more than 300. But it works! I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Two for Tuesday

1)My daughter woke up this morning from a dream involving giant mosquitoes. "Then I slipped, and went back to the real earth."

2)We are watching Master Chef Junior and the contestants are making salmon en croute. My daughter (who is 3 years 8 months) says she wants to make salmon en croute, and says she'll eat it when she's five.


Preschool Theme: Armenia

Today was my turn to teach our home(pre)school's class. The theme this month is Around the World, and the country I signed up to teach about was Armenia. (I'm half Armenian and have visited Armenia twice.) We met at the park, and I set out lavash (a flat bread similar to a tortilla, it is baked by sticking it to the wall of a clay oven in the ground, and then peeling it off) and sliced cucumbers to dip in hummus, dried apricots, walnut halves, boxes of grape juice, and dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice, from a can, each dolma cut in half). I didn't have time to make anything because I was teaching today, and the prep for the craft I came up with was very labor-intensive.

After reading an Armenian folktale called "Grateful Animals," I showed the girls (we only had girls Monday) how to make an Armenian paper doll. I made this craft up myself; there are very few Armenian culture preschool resources out there - shocker, I know. (Also, very few Armenian folktales   are appropriate for preschoolers. The characters are verbally rude to each other, or the stories are too violent, or they don't make sense because something was lost in translation. "Grateful Animals" works though.)

To make the craft, I pre-cut everything (black construction paper hair, scrapbooking paper shirts and skirts and aprons, lace for veils, paper doilies for collars, yarn for belts, construction paper hats, and strips of gold rhinestones).

The gold rhinestones were because women's Armenian folk costumes include gold coins.

The girls did such a good job of gluing everything on, drawing faces, coloring shoes, adding their rhinestones...


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Piano: Going Up, Coming Down

In this video, you're teaching me what Daddy taught you on piano. Go-ing up, com-ing down. You have a very good teacher.