Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fun With Shapes, Mirrors & Microphones!

I had to referee a fight that broke out in the library, read on and I'll tell you why. We recently did a lesson on shapes, and while the girls have had their shapes down for quite awhile, this lesson offered them something different because we compared and contrasted shapes, as well as discussed their properties in detail. 

In order to keep little hands and minds busy so I could organize myself and make some photocopies in peace at the Library, I pulled out a bag of shapes I made in secret and gave it to the girls. They loved it! In fact, they loved it so much, they started- yes, fighting. Once we got the evenly shapes divided between them, everyone was somewhat happy and creative play peacefully ensued.
Keep a bag of these in your purse or car! Shapes I used: Hearts, Circles, Ovals, Rectangles, Trapezoids, Rhombuses, Diamonds, Stars and Triangles, all different sizes and colors, cut out from construction paper and laminated with contact paper.
They created their own little story boards using the shapes to create characters doing fun things, like animals, birds, and they even gave the shapes names like "Little Heart" and she had her own personality. They used a rectangle for a blanket when they put Little Heart to bed, they made a wagon for the characters to ride in and told me a story to go along with what they were doing. I love this sort of open-ended imaginary play, it really gives you a glimpse into their little minds and you get see just what they've learned. 

The best ever: When you hear them impersonating you, acting like little mirrors and microphones and showing you everything you do. All you can hope for is that they picked a snapshot of you on a day when you put your best foot forward;^)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Storyville Fun!

This place is unreal and I totally wish I had this when I was little. Under the recommendation of a friend, we finally visited Storyville in Woodlawn for the first time this fall. It's 100% free since it's part of the library and there's tons of fun and educational stuff for the kiddies to do.

They can grocery shop in a market that has mussels (MUSSELS!!), fish, lean cuts of steak, all kinds of fruits and veggies, life-sized laminated money, bread, milk, eggs, and a scale for weighing your produce.

They can dress up as a postal worker and sort and deliver mail and pacakages to each of the buildings/houses in Storyville because each has its own numbered mailbox (left, in picture).They can sell tickets at a ticket window to a play or puppet show they can put on in the Theater House.

They can pretend to be engineers, architects, designers and mathmeticians in the building zone.

They can drive a trolley car and spell words on street signs with huge foam magnetic letters.

They can cook and clean and care for infants and pets in the house, which has a life-size staircase to a second level where there's a doll house and reading room.

There's a log they can crawl through and a treehouse to climb up into that also has some nice private reading nooks.

And all the while they can browse and select picture books on display throughout the whole town, then check themselves (for real) out in the Storyville Library. They haven't forgotten the babies, though, because there's a gated area where babies can safely play.

Techie Moms, you'll be glad to know that the place has free Wi-Fi for your smartphone since it's connected to the Woodlawn Library building, and older kids (6 and up) can color, do puzzles, read, and play with magnetic shapes and letters, etc., in the play area just inside the library doors while little ones enjoy Storyville, provided you have someone with you to help supervise them. There's also a huge coat room as you come in with a rocking chair, cubbies, and a table with sidewalk chalk to keep them entertained while you wait for a friend, nurse or change the baby, or just take a breather. The bathrooms are also located near the entrance, they're kid-and-family-friendly and are always sweet-smelling and clean! Can't ask for more.

They have a variety of coloring pages at the check-in desk that are best to grab on your way out to soften the blow of having to leave before your child/ren are ready, which will be NEVER, unless Spiderman himself is outside waiting.

My only disappointment: They only allow 5 and unders inside, so in another 6-8 months, we may have to find a new spot (most likely Great Kids Village in Columbia), but please believe that we're gonna milk the next half-a-year we have for what it's worth!

There's another branch not too far from Woodlawn in Rosedale, fyi. If you visit, please remember to come back and leave a comment to let us know if you loved it as much as we do. Happy playing!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What a Novel idea!

I went to a small private grade school on the water and was afforded a great education similar to that that a typical  homeschooler might receive. My 7th & 8th grade teacher was adamant about exposing us to things like public speaking and current events- we each had to do an oral report on any current even topic of our choice from a reputable magazine once a week and then discuss it as a class, and then we did an annual speech contest through which she introduced famous quotes to us.

One other thing she did, that was wonderful and has been my recent inspiration for novel-reading to my kids is to choose classics, books most people have heard of but probably never read, and read them with us, page by page, explaining the nuances and helping us analyze what was going on in the story. We'd take turns reading a few paragraphs each. We'd also take notes in the margins and highlight key phrases, paragraphs or quotes. I still have my copy of those books and they are like gold to me. I fully intend to do the same with my girls when they are old enough and mature enough to handle the subject matter in these books.

Here's my book list; some are also from high school:

The Pearl
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
White Fang
Call of the Wild
Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
The Crucible
On The Beach by Neville Shute
1984 *I read this on my own as an adult*

I began with Charlotte's Web for my girls and plan to compile a book list for young pre-/readers as well. Be sure to check back for that!

Monday, December 20, 2010

PlayAway View at Your Local Library

I was visiting our new favorite place, Storyville in Woodlawn, and as I was checking in at the desk, I noticed someone had left some kind of digital device behind and it was still playing a kid's video. I inquired about it, hoping the person hadn't yet left the library and the librarian informed me that it actually belonged to the library. 'Yeah, right', I said...No, really, it did. *sheepish grin*.

See, this is why I love the library, all kinds of free, good stuff if you just look!

What I saw was a demo of the new Playaway View digital video media player that the library now allows you to check out. It's so cool, and with no DVDs or CDs to fool around with, it's a mother's dream. A Playaway audio also exists for checking out audiobooks but I haven't yet seen it at any of our local libraries. Be on the lookout for it and the View at yours!

Official Playaway View website
All about Playaway View- Collier Libary Site

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Charlotte's Web: Our newest book adventure

I remember watching the movie when I was a child, but I was never quite fond of Charlotte's Web by EB White.  So what in the world made me pick it up at the library last week?? Familiarity, perhaps. I was browsing the shelves because I decided it was time to begin my reading of novels to the kids, who are only 3 & 5, but I figured we'd test the waters to see how they liked it and they generally have no problem sitting still and listening to a story.

Well, happy to say that I'm over the moon about this experience because I feel like we're really connecting when we sit down to read a little more of our new book every night. I take it along with us in case we have any periods of waiting while we're out and about so we can read then, too. My husband isn't that fond of reading novels so I'm trying my darndest to get them on my side and am working to brainwash them into loving books the way I do.

There's nothing like a good book, the places it takes you, the things you learn and experience. Charlotte's Web is a great teaching tool for morals, life lessons and even vocabulary because the way it's written, the author explains big words and other things in a way a child even as young as 5 will understand. If I didn't know any better, I'd think this must be where the author of the "Fancy Nancy" books got her start!

We're a little more than halfway through the book and the girls seem to get really absorbed into the story, so much that they end up with an intense, thoughtful look on their faces as their minds work to visualize what I'm reading and explaining, and they always ask for more. We do about 1-3 chapters a night depending on how tired we are and how long each is. It really is a good story that I couldn't appreciate the first time around and I'm so glad I picked it up. I'll be on the lookout for more stories after we're done with this one for sure! If you can suggest any, that'd be great!

*By the way, I plan to follow up with a DVD of the movie once we're done reading.*

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2's, 5's & 10's: Tooth-brushing by Numbers

I recently began teaching the girls to count by 2's, 5's & 10's using a method I fully and happily exploited in grad school: the more senses you can employ when learning something new makes the material "stick" a lot better than just one-dimensional learning from a book or a chart, which is part of the reason aromatherapy works when it comes to memory.

I started by combining their PE lesson with math by doing a series of literal exercises with them and counting in this new pattern as we went along; we did sets of jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. Then we followed up with some good 'ol book learnin' using drawing and manipulatives (hands-on objects they could physically count with)- we used some little wooden alphabet building blocks I happened to find weeks prior at the Thrift store, but beads and buttons work just as well.

For the drawing portion of our learning, we took two exercises from the book I always rave about (Learn-At-Home,1st grade) where, for counting by 2's I had my 5-year-old draw 5 stick people with two arms in the air and count/add up their arms, writing the corresponding number above their heads (2, 4, 6, 8, 10), then for 5's I had her trace her hand ten times on a large sheet of construction paper and then counting/adding up the fingers, write the corresponding number on the "palm" of the hand (5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50).

My 3-year-old was great with getting her teeth brushed up until just a few months ago, when all of a sudden it became dreaded and unbearable (for the both of us!) for some mysterious reason! So, after a few days of what felt like pulling teeth instead of just brushing them, it occurred to me that I should try the counting we'd been learning to get and keep her attention so we could get through the teeth-brushing sans missed spots, cavities and tears. I was allowed to brush hassle-free and the deal was I'd let her spit once we got to our top number (10, 20, 100), so at least she knew exactly when it'd be all over and that seemed to make her more willing to wait and listen to the counting. Let me say, it worked beautifully!

Now, every time I brush her teeth, I count by 2's to 20 (nowadays it's up to 50 so she can get a true sense of the pattern), by 5's to 100, or by 10's to 100, I usually mix it up daily. It's even carried over to my 5-year-old- she enjoys hearing me count, too and it's great because now I've got a great, functional way to reinforce the numbers and patterns without it being boring or grueling to them. Where would I be without these flashes of inspiration?!?!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Dec. 20th-21st

I received the email below regarding the upcoming full lunar eclipse and I'm so excited because I always, ALWAYS miss this kind of stuff and don't usually find out about it until it's over. I'm not sure if I'll get the kids up for it being that it's so early/late but if I can see it myself, I'll try.

"There's a full lunar eclipse on Dec 21st at 3:17am Eastern Time (12:17am Pacific) which is visible from all of North America! If you have no idea what a lunar (as opposed to solar) eclipse is, check out this new JPL information video: http://www.jpl.

For those of you more experienced with eclipses, here's the exact data you need: 
http://eclipse. gsfc.nasa. gov/OH/OH2010.html#LE2010Dec21 T

Bottom line: Go outside on the evening of Dec 20th and look up. You'll see the copper color of the moon as the day swings to the 21st. This is the first one since Feb 2008. Enjoy!

Clear skies!

Even if you can't get up to see it, it's still a great teaching topic for when you ARE awake. It's also a good segue into stars and planets, which always fascinate me, and the girls seem to have taken a great interest in them too.