Grow a Reader this Summer!

20 Apr

Have you already started mapping out your summer plans?  If you have kids who haven’t learned to read yet, consider using this summer to teach them!  All you need is a few minutes every day and this fabulous book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. In approximately the duration of your child’s summer vacation, you can teach them one of life’s most valuable – and fun – skills!

When my son (now 6 ½) was 3 ½, I wanted to start teaching him how to read.  He knew most of his letter sounds, and he would sit still for any length of story I would read him.  It seemed like the right time to get going.

But where to start?  I didn’t know the first thing about how to approach it.

At the recommendation of some moms I know, I bought the book mentioned above.  It’s a very specific method of teaching reading to children.  (The book states that it’s designed for 4- or 5-year-olds, but can also be taught to bright 3 ½-year-olds.)  Its huge size seems a bit daunting at first, but the layout is very easy to follow.

Just do one lesson a day (or every other day, whatever your child can handle and your schedule allows).  Each lesson is presented with exact instructions, down to a teaching script so you know what to say with each task.

Every lesson includes writing practice, and the whole thing only takes about 10-20 minutes to complete.  By the time you reach lesson 50, your child will be reading an entire paragraph!  This amazing book completely takes the guesswork out of this process.

One thing you MUST do before you start teaching your child with this book: read the parent instructions.  It is imperative that you have an understanding of how the lessons work before you begin teaching, or you will stumble around and lose your child’s interest – which we all know is the kiss of death!

An added way to make the lessons fun (and to incorporate a bit of math, too) is to make a chart of squares numbered 1-100.  Each time your child finishes a lesson, they can put a sticker or a stamp in the square for the lesson they completed.  Once they’re done with all 100, they earn a prize.  Or you can give them a prize after every row of 10 – whatever works for you!

My son reads extremely well now.  He’s become a real lover of books, and can read anything we throw at him.  Knowing how to read has given him  independence and confidence to start him on a path to success in school, which is something that will serve him well for the rest of his life!

That's my boy!

I’m now using my well-worn copy of the book, with its many wrinkled pages and a taped-up cover, to instruct my 4 ½-year-old daughter.  She’s coming along great!

If you’ve never taught someone the skill of reading, you’re in for quite an experience.  It’s tedious, frustrating, and sometimes seems impossible, but the end result is an accomplishment that both you and your little one will cherish.  Summer vacation is a perfect time to do it!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game (But Leave Your Bad Attitude at Home)

19 Apr

Chip’s first experience playing a team sport was practically ideal.  One of his best pals was on the team.  That kid’s dad—an affable guy named David—was a truly talented and caring coach.  Plus the games took less than an hour, followed by snacks, and Chip’s Kindergarten teacher came to watch.  It doesn’t get much better for my 6-year-old.

I loved it, too.  Watching Chip interact with his teammates, take direction from his coach and grow as a player proved a constant source of delight.  The only thing preventing the experience from being an all-around winner was Madame BS as in Bad Sport.

Her son was one of the better players on the team—not the top talent but close.  She clearly knew the rules of the games; I could tell as she screamed from the sidelines practically non-stop.  To her credit, she only yelled at her kid.  (Only cheered for him, too, while the rest of us moms rooted for everyone on the team.)  But here’s the kicker: Whenever one of our players made a mistake, Madame BS would put her head in her hands and groan.

Shame on you, Madame BS.

A couple weeks back, one of our less gifted players was struggling as goalie.  (Coach David plays all of the kids in every position—it’s about learning and fun, he says.)  In the third period, this particular boy let four goals score.  He didn’t seem all that shaken up by this unfortunate turn of events—until, that is, he caught sight of Madame BS.  With her beet-red face, she looked like someone had socked her in the gut.  (A tempting idea, I admit.)

Who cares if a team of 5- and 6-year-olds win or lose?  Why send such a negative message?  What are you teaching your kid in the end?

We’ll play soccer again.  We’ll try to win, too.  And we’ll keep our chins up and eyes on the ball, not caring whether or not someone is making sour faces by the sidelines.

Websites for Homeschoolers…or for Anyone!

12 Apr

I’m not sure if I’ve ever technically been considered a homeschooler, but I do know that even before my kids were born, I never intended for them to wait until they got to school to start learning.

Their entire short lives (they’re 4 and 6), I’ve stocked up on educational supplies, created lesson plans, and scoured the internet for craft ideas.  We’ve made countless trips to museums and zoos, attended story time, and sought out just about every educational opportunity at our disposal.  Long ago, I also turned our office into a “classroom”—so maybe I am a homeschooler at heart!

Part of our "classroom" at home

Now that my son is in kindergarten full-time, and my daughter is in preschool part-time, I don’t need to put so much thought into planning out educational activities for them.  But I don’t think I’m capable of leaving everything in the hands of their teachers – it’s just in my nature!  I like to be involved as much as possible, which also includes volunteering at their schools whenever I can.

So from time to time, I still hit my favorite homeschooling-type websites for ideas on lessons, activities, crafts, and other ideas for fun things to do with my kids.

Check these out – I guarantee you’ll be inspired!

www.notimeforflashcards.com – craft ideas, book suggestions, and songs from a homeschooling mom

www.confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com – activities and downloads from a homeschooling mom

1plus1plus1equals1.blogspot.com – lesson plans from a homeschooling mom

belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow – art activities for kids of all ages

www.artprojectsforkids.org – art activities for kids of all ages

www.preschoolexpress.com – activities and printouts for preschool kids

familyfun.go.com – crafts, activities, and recipes from Disney’s Family Fun magazine

sippycupcentralmom.blogspot.com – crafts and activities from a homeschooling mom

www.schoolbox.com – educational supplies

www.learningpage.com – lesson plans and worksheets for various ages

www.worksheetlab.com – free printable worksheets for preschool and Kindergarten children

I like to have as much of a role in my kids’ education as I can.  Much of the time, education comes in the simple form of fun.  My kids won’t be little forever, and I want to fill up our time with as many enriching activities as possible to create a lifetime love of learning!

Get That Gun Away from My Daughter!

10 Apr

So here’s the scene: my 4-year-old daughter is sitting in a chair at the front of Claire’s boutique at the mall.  She’s about to get her ears pierced.  She’s terribly excited – she’s been asking to do this for ages and I’ve finally relented.

marking where the holes will be...

And now here comes the lady with the plastic gun.  It’s loaded with a cute, rainbow-colored daisy earring…

BAM!  The right ear is done.

My daughter starts to cry, either from the pain or the noise or the shock of it all.  I hold in all of my tears and grief and weird feelings and try not to make a scene.  My daughter, however, wants to make a scene.  A really big one.

She’s freaked out, and no amount of coaxing is going to convince her to sit still to have her other ear done.

My husband alternates between bribery and threats to get her to comply.  Dear daughter keeps saying she wants more time to think (in-between heaving sobs).  Every time hubby thinks he’s gotten her calmed down, she loses it all over again as soon as she sits in that chair.

Fifteen minutes go by.  Then thirty.  Then an hour.  By this point, I can hardly even swallow, I’m so stressed.

Soon a crowd of onlookers gathers, all of them women.  A kindly old grandmother advises us to just hold our daughter down and force her to get the other ear pierced.  A pair of tween girls show off their own earrings, and amidst lots of forced oohing and aahing, they tell her how pretty she will be if she can just summon the courage to do her other ear.

Right about this point is when I feel the bile rise in my throat and realize I can’t take it anymore…it all just feels wrong.

Is this well-meaning group of people actually telling my 4-year-old that she should suffer through her fear and pain just for the sake of beauty??!!  This is not a life-saving vaccine we’re talking about – it’s jewelry!

Once I got my stomach unclenched and found my voice again, I spoke up and got us out of there.  We ate lunch and I took my daughter back to Claire’s to have the first earring taken out.  She was a little heartbroken about it, but she got over it.  I told her she could make the decision about getting her ears pierced when she was a little older, which seemed to take a huge weight off her shoulders.  This was just too much for her.

A few weeks ago I saw a fabulous documentary called Miss Representation.  To quote from the website (www.missrepresentation.org), “the film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.”  The film was nauseating, and 100% right on the money.  Women are valued for their appearance, and chastised for not living up to certain standards – even when their jobs have nothing to do with their looks and everything to do with their intellectual capability.  (Remember all the media coverage of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin a few years ago – Hillary the ball-busting troll and Sarah the hot mom?)  I highly recommend watching the movie.  It’s eye-opening for anyone who is – or knows – a woman.

I kept thinking about that movie while my daughter was sitting there, wanting to go ahead with the other ear but scared stiff and now knowing what to do.  I shouldn’t have been such a coward; I should have spoken up right away and said:

“Hey, baby girl, you know what?  This is not an important thing in your life, or in the life of any woman.  It’s just decoration – it doesn’t define who you are or what kind of person you will be.  You’re beautiful because you’re kind and loving, not because of anything on your body.”

cute as a button, even without earrings

My 6-year-old son was too upset to stick around and watch his sister go through the piercing drama.  I hardly even knew what to tell him.  What message are we sending to our little girls – and our little boys – about this?  I know it’s “just” ear piercing, but is something OK if it’s painful or scary, as long as it improves your appearance or keeps up with everyone else’s expectations?

I was 4 when I got my own ears pierced, but my daughter may be 14.  Or 44.  Or maybe she’ll never do it, I don’t know.  It’s up to her when she feels that it’s worth it.  In the meantime, I hope she realizes – no, believes – that it really doesn’t matter.

Quotes about Moms

9 Apr

For the life of me I can’t remember where I got these great quotes about mothers!  As soon as I recall the source I’ll let you know.  If you’re a mom, or have a mom, or have ever met a mom, you’ll love these!  My personal faves are the hilarious #10, 15, and 59, while number 20 made me choke back tears…

  1. There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one ~ Jill Churchill
  2. Mothers are all slightly insane. ~ J.D. Salinger
  3. My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. ~ George Washington
  4. Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~ Elizabeth Stone
  5. The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. ~ Honoré de Balzac
  6. There was never a great man who had not a great mother. ~ Olive Schreiner
  7. In the man whose childhood has known caresses, there is always a fiber of memory that can be touched to gentle issues. ~ George Eliot
  8. Mothers have as powerful an influence over the welfare of future generations as all other earthly causes combined. ~ John S C Abbott
  9. There is no influence so powerful as that of the mother. ~ Sarah Josepha Hale Continue reading

Superhero 5K and Family Fun Run

5 Apr

Check out my guest blog over at www.northtexaskids.com!

Click here for my story about the upcoming Superhero 5K and Family Fun Run benefitting Dallas CASA.

-Jennifer

Free Apps – Get ‘Em While They’re Hot!

4 Apr

In honor of Autism Awareness Month during April, you can get 15 free Apps from Kindergarten.com on sale for $0.00 for a limited time on iTunes (normally all 15 apps would cost over $20).

Click here for the free apps!

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