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Category Archives: Phonics and Reading
Early last week, I finally read in the news what I should have read weeks ago, rain was coming to Seattle, real rain. It was finally time to over seed the lawn! Not only had much of our lawn met an untimely demise, due to this summer’s lack of rain, but I’m trying to slowly replace all our lawn with Ecolawn. Ecolawn is a drought resistant grass, requiring very little watering during the summer months, and grows much slower, so only needs to be mowed a couple of times a year. I’ve grown a few test patches and love the stuff, so I had a couple of bags that I wanted to use once I knew rain was on the way. As usual, Dora wanted to be where I was, doing what I was doing, so she got to learn how to sow grass seed! She greatly enjoyed the activity, though ended up accidentally throwing grass seed at me, which caused me to break out in hives all over.
We also received a book in the mail that I had been debating buying for some time, the SENSEsational Alphabet Multi Sensory Book. It teaches the alphabet by using multiple senses, but is quite expensive. Dora has really hated the Montessori sandpaper letters and letter baskets, so I finally broke down and bought the book. It is a great book! First of all, the child can press the letter and hear the letter and key word pronounced. Then each key word has a tactile or olfactory aspect to it (the zipper for the letter “Z” can be zipped, the feather for the letter “F” can be touched, the apple for the letter “A” is a scratch and sniff, etc.). In addition, each letter and key word is written in braille and the accompanying ASL (American Sign Language) sign is shown. The company now also makes SENSEsational Alphabet Touch and Feel Picture Cards, which are much cheaper, but I opted for the book, because I wanted Dora to be able to hear the letters pronounced. Another item that came in the mail was Beleduc’s Flower Power Game, which teaches how to use primary colors to make secondary colors. In order to win, the child must use red/magenta, blue, and yellow colored disks to make a green, orange, and purple flower. As I mentioned previously, Dora is very focused on color mixing right now and this game seemed to be the final element that she needed in order to be able to remember how to make secondary colors.
Then Dora continued or her “surprise mom” whirl wind, by getting out the brown stairs control cards, laying them out in a random order, and matching every brown stair to its corresponding card. I’d had long given up on getting her interested in the control cards for the brown stairs or pink tower, so was completely shocked when she did this!
Finally, she brought out and completed the Power of Two Cube all by herself!
Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.
Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
This week, we focused on the seasons of the year. In particular, we focused on planting spring bulbs. We partly did this, because my spring bulbs have gotten very sparse since Dora was born and also partly because Dora loves gardening. Mostly, however, I am obsessed with flowering bulbs. I was inspired to do a unit on bulbs by the book, Science is Simple: Over 250 Activities for Preschoolers, and then read about a cool experiment in The Usborne Book of Science Activities, Volume Two, that I wanted to try.
Bulbs offer a great way to look at the seasons, particularly for a child that is as fascinated with gardening as Dora is. Spring bulbs are planted during the fall. They are small, dried out, ugly, withered-looking things, full of promise. While we humans hunker down in the winter, we forget about them out there, enduring Mother Nature’s worst, just biding their time for the right moment. Then, in the late winter, before the weather even gets nice enough to think of gardening, just when we need cheering the most, the crocuses and daffodils are out, announcing the end of winter, whether it is actually here or not. Again, another riot of color bursts forth, during the middle and end of spring, with the tulips and anemone providing a show throughout the summer. Even now, as I decorate the front of our house for Halloween and store the hoses for winter, my begonias are still flowering in their hanging baskets, as if summer hasn’t ended and they haven’t a care in the world.
So, yes, I am a bit obsessed with flowering bulbs and any excuse to examine them closer is something that I am keen on. The bulb science experiment that I wanted to try comes down to forcing a bulb to bloom by putting it in a jar of water, such that the bottom of the bulb just touches the water. You then put the jar in a dark place and let it bloom (I don’t quite understand why it needs to be dark – mimicking winter perhaps?). The book doesn’t clarify if all bulbs will work with this, it recommends an amaryllis, but thus far our bulb seems to be working (I think I used a daffodil, but we’ll hopefully see soon enough). A bulb stores all of the sunlight and nutrients needed for the plant to grow. The book does not discuss freezing the bulbs, which I have always heard was necessary for bulbs to bloom. I decided to risk that the bulbs that I bought had been through some sort of freeze already. Our bulb has started growing some roots and I will try to remember to post a follow-up on the experiment in a few weeks.
We bought all of our bulbs at Molbak’s, which is a nursery in Woodinville, WA. If you are ever in the Seattle area and you like gardening, be sure to check this place out. They now call themselves Molbak’s Garden + Home, as they have added tons of things besides gardening supplies and plants. I haven’t quite determined whether they keep Christmas decorations out all year or not – we’ve just recently started going there frequently, as it right by one of Gohan’s classes. Currently, half the store is devoted to Christmas decorations, and this place is huge. As an idea to how large and varied they are, they have a whole section devoted to origami Christmas decorations, that are actually ceramic reproductions of origami. That sounds weird, but try to imagine how many Christmas decorations a place must carry if they can afford to devote one whole section to ceramic origami Christmas ornaments?!?! They also have a restaurant, tons of plants for sale, varied pots and planters, a huge selection of fountains, and more. Lest, you go in there naively unaware, however, I must forewarn you that they are not cheap. Dora loves the fountain section and I was somewhat eyeballing a fountain that is far too large for our yard anyway, when I noticed this price sticker on it!!!!
I would also like to point out that the most entertaining thing in Molbak’s, as far as three-year olds are concerned, is the small section of artificial turf with a hand fertilizer on it.
I read several seasonal books with Dora and the only one that really struck a cord with Dora was Leaf Man by Lois Elhert. I hadn’t really planned to focus on leaves this week, but she spied this book and insisted I read it right then and there. The story line is just okay, in my opinion, but the things Elhert does with the leaves is beautiful and Dora was enraptured with the way the page tops formed the landscapes (i.e. jagged for pine trees, rolling for hills and maple trees, etc.).
Immediately, Dora started talking about “Leaf Man” whenever she saw leaves. Currently, we take a walk most afternoons, per her request. We meander here and there and examine what is growing, dying, changing, in our neighborhood. We have been collecting leaves, rocks, pinecones, and all other sorts of nature’s treasures, storing them in a basket. So we decided to try our hand at making our own “Leaf Man”. We used Mod Podge under and on top of the leaves. After doing this art activity, I am even more impressed with Elhert’s leaf art than I was before, it is not so easy to design things with leaves. We also learned that it is best to press the leaves some before Mod Podging, them, else they tend to curl up and not want to lay flat on the page. Finally, I learned that preschoolers and Mod Podge are a very, very, very messy combination!
Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.
I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStore, Footprints in the Butter’s Reading Aloud Challenge, and…
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
I’ve was a bit late getting on the Pinterest bandwagon and didn’t want to post about my account until I built up my boards enough to be worth while.
If you are not familiar with Pinterest, it is essentially a virtual pin board, where you pin ideas, craft projects, recipes, random thoughts, quotes, etc. The thing I particularly love about Pinterest is how visual a means of organization it is. In one since, it is a collection of bookmarks, but it is so much more as it is actually a collection of images of bookmarks. Plus, rather than than bookmark a site and then try to come back and find the project, recipe, or whatever you want, you just bookmark the thing you are interested in, with an image and description to remind you what the bookmark is for (in the event that you’re like me and forget why the heck you ever bookmarked something in the first place).
The main problem with Pinterest is that once you start getting followers and following people, and even before when Pinterest just randomly recommends things, you find yourself easily spending hours on the site.
To give you an idea about how Pinterest works/looks, this is a partial snip of my main “page” with some of my boards:
And her is a close-up of my painting board (from the boards page, you get the details when you click on the board).
Anyway, I have a found it to be a good way to organize all the recipes, crafts, and educational projects that I want to save or try. If you are interested in following me or just checking out my boards, click here:
I’ll try to follow you back, if I get notified that you’re following me (I’m still trying to work out the kinks about what notifications I actually want to receive as it can get to be a bit much when 20 people repin something I posted).
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
I was recently contacted by Tandem Literary about doing a review of Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis. I am really glad that accepted the offer as not only did I greatly enjoy the book, but I learned a lot also. Kenneth Davis is a very down-to-earth historian, who engages his readers with humor, wit, and an irreverent tone, unlike that of many traditional academia. As a result, Don’t Know Much About History reads more like a lively novel, than a history book.
First published in 1990, Don’t Know Much About History, captured the attention of readers everywhere, landing it on the New York Time’s bestseller list, where it remained for 35 consecutive weeks! Don’t Know Much About History has just been revised to include new discoveries about our nation’s past, as well more recent history, such as the Clinton scandal, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession, the election of Barrack Obama, and more.
Don’t Know Much About History would make an excellent “text” for teaching high school level U.S. history. It covers major historical events, often disproving historical myths that many of us were taught in high school. Davis brings history to life by including real life stories about the people and places that formed our country’s history. In between each major historical event, he includes short timelines to further summarize each era. He also includes many primary sources, which not only contribute to the feeling that this is “real history”, but would also provide wonderful springboards for student research papers.
Disclosure – Tandem Literary sent me a free copy of Don’t Know Much About History for review and will send one reader a free copy, but I was not compensated in any other way for this review. The top image link does go to Amazon, whom I am an affiliate for, so if you order a copy of the book via that link, I will earn a small percentage. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
After my Easy Canvas Print review, the company offered me a chance to also review a free product from their sister company, Build-A-Sign. I was ecstatic, because there was a custom sign that I have been wanting to have made for some time. You see, we have a problem with an excessive number of door-to-door salespeople, religious missionaries, politicians, etc.
As homeschoolers, phone calls, door-to-door salespeople, and other day-to-day interruptions can make our jobs difficult, at best. I long ago learned to minimize interruptions by letting phone calls go directly to voice mail, not checking e-mail during the day, scheduling appointments for either before or after our “school day”, etc., but the distractions coming to our door were not only wreaking havoc on our day, but also presenting a safety concern.
You see, our front doors came with decorative windows, which while lovely to look at, were providing an opportunity for certain door-to-door sales people to peer in our house. These salespeople were the ones that use high pressure, sometimes outright scary, tactics to attempt to persuade people to buy magazine subscriptions. If you have never had one of these salespeople come to your door, consider yourself lucky. We were having them come every week! Not only does the BBB give these companies F’s for their questionable business tactics, some of the salespeople are convicted felons. There have been cases were a salesperson subsequently went on to rob and/or assault a homeowner.
Needless to say, I was not only uncomfortable with having to fight the high pressure sales tactics on weekly basis, I started getting a bit freaked out by the fact that some of the salespeople were peering into our house. I tried putting up a “ No Soliciting” sign, but the salespeople were not even remotely deterred , because they “weren’t soliciting, they were raising money for charity” or some other such nonsense. After consulting with friends, I finally came up with a sign that said:
We do not buy, sell, donate, discuss religion or politics, etc. through the door.
Thank you for respecting our privacy.
I have not had one magazine salesperson knock on my door in the two years since I posted this sign. In fact, the only people who have continued to disturb our peace have been Comcast salespeople who claim to be knocking to “let us know that they will be coming out next week to do work on our street and they didn’t want us to be worried, but while they have my attention…” Grrrrr!
Anyway, the problem with my printed sign, was that it looked tacky. So I gladly ordered an aluminum sign from Build-A-Sign. The design process was fairly straight forward. I chose an aluminum “street sign” as I wanted something that would fit on my door and be weather resistant. The sign arrived quickly and was impeccably packed. I drilled two holes into the sign, threaded a ribbon through the holes, hung the sign from a hook, and voila! It looks so much better than my tacky printed sign!
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
I was recently contacted by Easy Canvas Prints to do a review of their product in exchange for a free canvas print for myself. Needless to say, I eagerly accepted! I ordered a print of a the picture above of Dora walking in the strawberry fields. I felt the image really summed up her personality – she was off doing her own thing and she was amongst strawberries, which are her absolute favorite food.
Ordering the print was very easy. I just uploaded my file and selected my features with the click of a button. I opted for the gallery wrap, since I wanted this picture to stand out. I also opted for image wrapping for the border, which meant that my image continued on the sides of the canvas. This was an excellent option for this picture as it made the strawberry fields really look like they continued on even farther.
I received my canvas print in just a couple of days. It was packaged very securely and in excellent condition. The canvas material gives the print a professional appearance at an amateur price.I am very happy with the way it looks on my wall and actually I now want to order a few more canvas prints to fill the wall.
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
I previously posted about several 2011 summer reading challenges for kids, but I have since learned about a few more reading challenges. So here is a completely revised list.
Barnes and Noble Summer Reading: Imagination’s Destination – this program is for kids in Grades 1-6, and runs May 24 – September 6, 2011. Kids earn a free book after reading eight books.
Bookworm Wednesdays – Every Wednesday at 10:00 am beginning July 6th for six weeks. Bookworm Wednesdays entitles kids to free admission to a select children’s film when they present a book report at a participating Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas or Cinema de Lux box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report.
Borders “Double Dog Dare” – this program is for kids under 12, who can earn a free book after reading ten books The program runs May 4 – August 26, 2011.
Chuck E. Cheese Reading Rewards Calendar – Agree on a reading goal with your child. Fill in the reading chart every day that your child meets that goal, and after two weeks, he can turn it into Chuck E. Cheese for 10 free tokens (with pizza purchase). They also have other calendars to work on other goals. This program is actually and ongoing program.
Half-Price Books “Feed Your Brain” – Kids 14 and under, who read a total of 600 minutes during the summer, can earn a $5 Back-to-School Bucks reward. Runs from June 1 to July 31, 2011.
H-E-Buddy Reading Club – Kids read ten books, submit the form before October 1st, 2011, and receive a prize in the mail
Homeschool Village’s Summer Reading Program – for all ages, including parents! Read three books and win a fourth.
iVillage’s PBS Kids Summer Reading Community Challenge – This challenge started June 6th, but you can still join. Parent participants of this six-week challenge receive a daily email with fun activities to build reading skills, tricks and advice from a Challenge coach, great book suggestions for kids of all ages, tips from other parents taking the challenge, and a chance to win daily prizes.
PB Kids Summer Reading Challenge – For kids aged 10 and under. Complete either the Early Reader List or the Caldecott Medal & Honor List to receive a free book.
Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge – kids aged 15 and under must log on to www.scholastic.com/summer between June 6, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EST and June 25, 2011, 11:59 p.m. EST, log their reading minutes, and fill out the sweepstakes form. Grand prize is 6 books.
Soar with Reading – This program starts June 13th. Right now, the site does not give any other details.
TD Bank Summer Reading – this program is for kids aged 18 or younger and runs May 4 – September 30, 2011. Kids, who read ten books, get $10 deposited into a new or existing Young Saver Account.
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
I just learned of the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, which I failed to mention in my previous post about summer reading programs. This challenge is open to legal residents of the United States, aged 15 and under. From the official rules: “To enter, you must log on to www.scholastic.com/summer between June 6, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EST and June 25, 2011, 11:59 p.m. EST, log your reading minutes, and fill out the sweepstakes form. On or about Wednesday, June 29, 2011, three (3) children will be selected at random. Each will receive a grand prize of six (6) age-appropriate books which can be selected from a list provided by Scholastic (Approximate Retail Value: $35).”
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
Update – Be sure to read my updated list of summer reading challenges.
It’s that time again! Summer time is a wonderful time for some lazy day reading. Another incentive for summer reading are summer reading programs, which reward kids for reading. We always enjoy our library’s summer reading program, but several companies also offer rewards programs.
- Barnes and Noble Summer Reading: Imagination’s Destination – this program is for kids in Grades 1-6, and runs May 24 – September 6, 2011. Kids earn a free book after reading eight books
- Bookworm Wednesdays – Every Wednesday at 10:00 am beginning July 6th for six weeks. Bookworm Wednesdays entitles kids to free admission to a select children’s film when they present a book report at a participating Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas or Cinema de Lux box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report.
- Borders “Double Dog Dare” – this program is for kids under 12, who can earn a free book after reading ten books The program runs May 4 – August 26, 2011.
- Chuck E. Cheese Reading Rewards Calendar – Agree on a reading goal with your child. Fill in the reading chart every day that your child meets that goal, and after two weeks, he can turn it into Chuck E. Cheese for 10 free tokens (with pizza purchase). They also have other calendars to work on other goals.
- Half-Price Books “Feed Your Brain” – Kids 14 and under, who read a total of 600 minutes during the summer, can earn a $5 Back-to-School Bucks reward. Runs from June 1 to July 31, 2011.
- H-E-Buddy Reading Club – Kids read ten books, submit the form before October 1st, 2011, and receive a prize in the mail
- Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge – kids aged 15 and under must log on to www.scholastic.com/summer between June 6, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EST and June 25, 2011, 11:59 p.m. EST, log their reading minutes, and fill out the sweepstakes form. Grand prize is 6 books.
- TD Bank Summer Reading – this program is for kids aged 18 or younger and runs May 4 – September 30, 2011. Kids, who read ten books, get $10 deposited into a new or existing Young Saver Account.
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff
The Book It! program from Pizza Hut rewards kids in grades K-6 with free personal pizzas for meeting reading goals each month during the “school year”. Registration is currently open for the 2011-12 school year. The homeschool enrollment page is . The deadline to register is September 1st, 2011. The site also has printables, goal setting helps, and more.
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff