Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Sweeping Lesson

Sweeping is one skill I have struggled to teach my children. Recently I told Dash that his job was to sweep around the table. He was quite distressed: "I can't do it!" Fortunately, a stray roll of blue painters tape was in the kitchen. I taped a blue square around one laminate "tile" on the floor. "Sweep into the square," I told him. With only a little more coaching, he swept some crumbs into the square, then into the dustpan. Hurray! Another chore option in the making!

Follow-up: I'm afraid the square made more of an impact than the experience. Silly me for leaving that tape in children's reach. Now we have a whole hopscotch design on the kitchen floor. How am I supposed to tell them to sweep into that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Library List Tuesdays

Another Tuesday, another library visit (if I didn't have to keep returning the previous books, I might stop checking out new ones!) Here we have:
a Spanish picture dictionary (a failed attempt. I can't pronounce with confidence yet)
Ancient History: The Emperor's Silent Army. Actually, we kept this book about the full-size teracotta warrior statues from the previous week.
Read alouds: Choo Choo Clickety Clack. For Little Nephi, of course.
Once Upon a Golden Apple. A dad jumbles fairy tales together into one family story.
Astronaut Handbook. A simple introduction to preparing for different jobs on a space shuttle. Could be used to teach about synergy.
Character/Behavior Training: Good Manners at School. I know, a funny thing to get when school is almost out.
Emily's Magic Words. We read this during a family home evening about manners. I prefer the illustration style in Emily's Everyday Manners, which is also from the Emily Post Institute. Still, this was good because it focused on one little aspect of manners, so we didn't feel overwhelmed trying to improve everything at once.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Thought

Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Movie Night: Ponyo

How can you get more Japanese than Hello Kitty pocky sticks? Find them in the oriental section of your grocery store. Caution: they taste strongly of partially-hydrogenated soybean oil, but the kids love them.

For an extra special movie night in March, we watched Ponyo. Click here for the trailer. Ignore the movie reviewer at the beginning who can't pronounce her subject. Originally released in Japan, Disney does a convincing job dubbing all of Hayao Miyazaki's films. This is a very creative twist on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." Forget mermaids. Ponyo starts out looking more like a goldfish with a face. When she is rescued by . . . cute-boy-with-very-Japanese-name, she likes him and decides she wants to become human so she can be with him. Lucky for her, her dad is an eccentric mad scientist with blue eye shadow (he was human, but hated them, so he moved under the sea where he is trying to resurrect ancient, extinct ocean creatures). An accidental tumble into the elixir of life and, voila! "she's a little girl with a round tummy."
One of my favorite parts of the movie is the Senior Center the boy's mom works at. The senior citizens are fabulous, well developed supporting characters.
Clean Rating: The questionables present: Ponyo's mom is once called "the goddess of mercy;" and a little playdate--ing before 16. The famous kiss? Well, Ponyo is in a bubble and the boy is told to kiss the bubble. Although he just happens to kiss the part closest to her face. I give it 4 stars for cleanliness, about on par with Monsters Inc.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Plus One

One of the preschool activities we enjoyed this winter/spring was adding one or two to single digits. Having seen what happens when you only give your kindergartener a day or two to master simple addition before moving on to the bigger numbers, I was quite willing to take it slow with manipulatives and repetition.
Still, I was surprised recently when Mia began spontaneously announcing random addition facts. We were driving together when inspiration struck. I recited the addition facts from 1 to 9 (1+1=2; 2+1=3, etc.) in numerical order. Then I started over, still in numerical order, asking her fill in the sum. She was quite quick up through about seven. When she paused on the next number, I "helped" her by answering. She told me, "Don't say it Mom! I can figure it out!" Then she did. I'm so excited that she figured out the "rule" of plus one addition: the sum is the next higher number that follows the big number in the problem.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Library List

I hereby decree that every Tuesday (or as regularly as I can reasonaly make it) every Tuesday hereafter will be Library List day. Books are one of the core elements of a classical education. As long as you frequently visit a well-stocked library, it's a very affordable way to educate, too.
Library List
Art: Katie and the Mona Lisa
This book would be a playful art history read for anyone studying the Renaissance; which we're not. I returned it unread.
Math: Millions to Measure
I was delighted to find another math picture book by the creators of How Much Is a Million? Despite its title, Millions to Measure has nothing to do with millions, but it is all about measuring. It begins with the history of the English system, including a little measuring chart which should be memorized (Grammar stage alert!) for kitchen use. Then it explains how the metric system began. It has a fold-out inset, which worried me, but it unfolded to have a ruler which was exactly one meter long. Understanding the principles of the metric system is easier for children who know basic fractions (like 1/10th). Highly recommended.
Biology: Eyewitness Skeletons
I was hoping this was a pure science movie. Dash has been fascinated with the human body this year. Unfortunately for us, it included culture associations, like taro cards, that were more confusing for him than informative. Only watched once.
Movie Night: Pete's Dragon
Mia's Choice: Scholastic DVDs Chrysanthemum, and Disney Princess Christmas
History of Ancient China: The Emperor's Silent Army and Growing Up in Ancient China
The Emperor's Silent Army was our longest book. It covers the fascinating history/discovery of the thousands of life-size terracotta soldiers discovered in the last century by the tomb of the First Emperor.
Literature: Each Peach Pear Plum (a board book Little Nephi loved), Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, Storytelling Princess, and A Chair for My Mother.

Modest for the Temple

I let Mia have her bag of princesses down at the same time as the building blocks. She played quietly for a while, then brought Snow White and her dress to me. "Mommy, can you dress Snow White so she is modest, to get married in the temple?" Of course I did, and she took Snow White to the temple she had built out of wooden blocks (why she didn't take Prince Charming too, I don't know!).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Books My Mother Gave Me

The first book I remember my mother giving me was Meet Kirsten, for Christmas when I was 7. Receiving books for Christmas and Birthdays was an ingrained tradition in our family--they didn't even have to be new, as long as the story was worthwhile! In subsequent years, I devoured each new American Girls historical book, the Boxcar Children, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables (the whole series), The Chronicles of Narnia, Dealing with Dragons and Beauty, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Entering my teen years, I started borrowing from my mom's collection. Pride and Prejudice was lovingly struggled through on a road trip when I was 12 or 13. I still don't know if Mom planted it in the luggage for myself or her own leisurely reread.

Mom didn't just give books, she gave examples: reading in the kitchen, the car, between chores, waiting for appointments, feeding the baby, and just because. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at finding her the food editor of the world-famous literary blog, The Uncrushable Jersey Dress. Even less surprising is that I have continued the book giving tradition with my own family. Now I give books for Christmas and birthdays--and they don't always have to be new, especially if the story is worthwhile!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Review: A Chair for My Mother

I wanted to review a book for Mother's Day. My first thought was the Caldecott Honor book A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams. This was one of my favorite books I was introduced to as a Kindergarten Learning Coach for Washington Virtual Academies last year.
Summary: The story begins with Mom's job: a waitress at a diner. Some days, after school, Rosa does chores there, too. Half of the money she makes is put in a big glass jar at home. Her mom puts all her tips into this big jar. If grandma has an extra coin, it goes in there, too. When the jar is full, they intend to buy a "wonderful, beautiful, fat, soft armchair." They are doing this because all their old chairs burned up last year when their house was on fire. A year later they still don't have a sofa or soft chair to sit in after a hard day's work, but finally that huge jar is full. They take the coins to the bank, then buy the chair they were dreaming of.
My Take: I love provident living lesson in this story: choose a priority, work, save, be patient: then you can buy it. I also love the ridiculous chair they choose, "one covered in velvet with roses all over it." This book isn't preachy. Rather it's a comfortable tale of a family making a home of beauty and comfort with their thrift and industry.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Movie Night: How to Train Your Dragon

We usually stay in for movie night, but we don't often have family in town. So when my parents suggested going to see How to Train Your Dragon, we went.
Usually we stay in the cautious G-rated arena, soliciting Disney and Pixar, so we weren't quite sure what to expect from this Dreamworks movie with a PG rating. Some of the dragons might be scary to preschoolers (go figure--mine weren't fazed). Most of the violence is implied, except for some punches, etc. Our whole family enjoyed it, including myself and my husband.
Rating: the best action-adventure cartoon I've ever seen. I would recommend it especially for families with elementary age children and older. There's enough drama, middle school and high school kids (as well as parents) could go for it, too.
**picture of a two-headed dragon is courtesy of Dash, who also helped make a simple "dragon cake" for after the show.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Numerical Gumballs

We printed-off a gum ball counting activity from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Since I had gone to all the work to paint that silly board with stenciled numbers on it, I put the two together. Mia had to count the number of gum balls in each machine, then match it to the stenciled number. This natural placed the machines in order from least gum balls to greatest number of gum balls. A great number awareness activity!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sorting Beads By Color

I found a set of preschool beads at the grocery store. For a sorting activity, I got an egg carton, then put the first bead for each color in a "cup." I told Little Nephi to "sort by color." We got this activity down several times (supervise those small beads!). Once he became independent at it, he got bored and tried "unsorting" the beads. Then I decided it was time for a different activity!