Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Listening Comprehension

We are reading the "Bed and Biscuit" series and on a whim I searched to see if the books were available on cd.  It always surprises me how many great books are out there on cd--and available at the library!  We take full advantage of the books on cd around here.  Since Q was about 2.5 books on cd have been a great rest time tool for us.  We started out with fairy tales and picture books (shorter with simpler plots) on cd for her to listen to during rest time.  Eventually we started checking out the chapter books we'd read AFTER we'd read the book--she loves re-listening to her favorite stories.  And wow, does this reinforce the vocabulary, character development, plot development and overall comprehension of our girl.  Though that's not the real reason we love the books on cd--more than anything they are just plain enjoyable and a good tool to help her slow down and relax--she will lay on her bed and listen and her body gets a chance to slow down and rest. 

Some we've enjoyed--
James and the Giant Peach
Charlotte's Web
Laura Paton's Fairy Tales
Brave Irene
Skippyjohn Jones books
Kevin Henkes books
Junie B Jones Series (yes, ALL of them are read aloud on cd!!)
Clementine series
My Father's Dragon series
Discover Nature series (Nicola Davies and others)
Curious George Series (once again--all read on cd!)

They are also great to put on for road trips in the car and I also like to put them in her discman on long roadtrips so she can listen with headphones. 

Best of all, books on cd are a tool that grows with the child (or adult!)  You can get books at any level.  When I was in grad school and commuted to school I listened to some classics on cd that were too intimidating for me to read--much easier to listen to something than read it. 

I encourage you to find some ways to enjoy books on cd in your home this week!! 
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Polishing Coins

Something both of my kids enjoy is coin polishing.  I am sure there are tons of ways to do it, but Daddy recommended salt (we like the larger sea salt) and lemon juice, so that's what we use.  I think you can also use toothpaste!

Q was very intent on getting her pennies polished up!  This was great fine motor, practical life and attention practice for her.  She also noticed that the salt tasted like the ocean and she enjoyed smelling the lemon--so some great sensory awareness.  AND...we talked about the fact that both salt and lemon juice sting boo-boos or eyes. 

Of course this brand-new 2 year old wanted in on the action, too.  I gave him some quarters, a little bowl of warm soapy water and a toothbrush and he also enjoyed cleaning coins. 
Remember that introducing any activity such as this may only last 5 or so minutes the first time, but repeated presentations/offerings of the activity will usually be met with longer time periods for a child to stay engaged.... 
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Monday, September 23, 2013

On Fridays we draw with chalk. These are Q's creations.

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Michaelmas Dragon Bread

Monday is bread-baking day at our house.  It's also Uncle Bob's hot cereal day, kitchen cleaning day and popcorn for snack day, if you'd like to know!

In honor of Michaelmas this upcoming Sunday, we baked dragon bread, in what's become an annual tradition for us!

While we baked we learned a new song (I found the rhyme online (oops, can't remember where) and then put a tune to it. 

I decided that we needed a savory dragon to go with our roasted chicken and broccoli dinner, so I searched the internet.  I combined a few recipes and altered a few things to fit our needs (which, sidenote, made me really proud that I am becoming enough of a bread baker to have an opinion on how I like bread made!). 

Here's what we did:
3 c. flour
1 c. shredded cheese (I used a mix of colby-jack, mozzerella and parmesan)
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 pkg yeast (2 3/4 tsp)
1 tsp salt
1 c. warm milk
1 egg at room temp
garlic salt
extra parmesan for top

*Add sugar and yeast to warm milk, stir and let proof for 10 minutes

*Meanwhile, sift flour, add salt and cheese--stir.

*Pour milk mixture into flour mixture and knead until soft dough forms (I had to add more water)

*Form into large ball, place in clean greased bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Let rise 1 hour or until doubled.

*Punch down, place on a greased cookie sheet and form dragon.  Decorate as desired.  We also sprinkled the top of the dragon with dry dill, a bit of garlic salt and some shredded parmesan.

Bake at 375 for 20 or so minutes until dragon is golden brown. 

It turned out DE-LISH!

Here are some more pics from our day:

While Q and I baked, Little Man played with dry oats and cooking utensils.  Here's what the table looks like post-baking.

I keep "play oats" in a can.  They are fine for him to eat while he plays (and he does), but I don't bake or anything with them.  And when he finishes playing I pour the excess back in for next time.

Look at this girl doing dishes.  Mmmmm.

And him vacuuming...all the oats he threw on the floor.

There, that's better!  Q even wiped the table and chairs with some warm vanilla water to clean all the stickiness and add a nice smell to our kitchen.  Sorry, Alie, not even any crumbs on the floor for you.

Here's our dragon before baking.  I've learned to take a picture of bread creations because ya never know what will happen in the oven and we might pull out a blob!
We used dried veggies (which my kids refuse to eat) to decorate our dragon and almonds for the teeth and claws. 

Dried green bean eyes and dried beet chip scales.

He came out looking great!

Q got the honor of slaying the dragon.

Which she enjoyed immensely. 

And mmmmm that was a yummy dragon!
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Read aloud recommendation

We just finished the first in this series of 3 books and both loved it!  It's so much fun to get so caught up in a book with my girl that neither of us can put it down...just ONE more chapter....These are sweet books and a little more advanced (as far as character development and plot) than some of the other series books we've read lately (Magic Tree House or Junie B).  It definitely pushed her to the edge of her listening comprehension and we had to take some pauses to remember who each character was and what they were doing.  But it was definitely do-able for her and we have the next two waiting for us on reserve at the library! 
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Monday, September 16, 2013

A morning devotional

This year our 5 year old is going to a mixed-age kindergarten 3 mornings a week.  That means 3 mornings a week we spend about 25 minutes in the morning driving to school.  One of my resolutions for this school year was to spend that time in worship with my children.  So far it's working great. 
It's nothing fancy.  We sing a few songs, we talk a little bit about spiritual things (whatever comes up), and we spend some time in prayer.  But it's turned into one of my favorite times of the day.  I feel focused and I hope my kids do, too.  We have a pretty drive to school through farmland (and some construction sites--which I am sure my son considers beautiful) and it's very sweet to sing songs of praise as we drive past cattle and trees and fields of tall grass. 

So here's what we do....
I decided I wanted to teach my children some scripture passages that have been put to song, so I chose a few of those--
Come Let Us Sing With Joy to the Lord (Ps 95)
Steadfast Love of the Lord (Lamentations 3)
Unto Thee, Oh Lord (Ps 25)
and then a couple others:
Be Glorified (we sing "In my school Lord, be glorified")
and Holy Spirit Dwell in Me

Q is also learning the books of the New Testatment, so we sing that.  Then she practices her memory verse. 
Then we pray about things on our heart. 

I have a little (definitely not fancy) handwritten agenda I clothespin to the visor in the truck to remind us the songs.  I plan to change it up a bit every so often when we're ready for new songs. 

Q usually reminds us to do "devo" every morning.  Some mornings it goes smoothly, some mornings it gets interrupted.  No matter what, though, I know God sees our hearts directed to Him in worship and my children are learning a valuable habit, so I'm not too hard on us the days it doesn't go perfectly. 
It thrills my heart to hear Q singing the songs at other times of her day.  I grew up singing these songs at church camp in Wyoming--around a campfire at the base of a mountain, in what I'd argue is one of the most beautiful places on I am always transported to that place when I hear these praise songs. 

Several times since we've started our devos my kids have asked to pray at other car ride times.  Q wanted to pray one day for her teacher's hurt foot.  Another day when it was raining Beck said, "ain.  Tank you, God!"  and let us know he wanted to pray and tell God thank you for the rain.

For us this little tidbit of time spent in worship has been simple but powerful. 
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Melissa and Doug box repurposed for bean sensory play

Often I take our Melissa and Doug toys out of the original boxes to store in plastic bags as they fit in our cabinet better.  I save the wooden boxes, though, as they make great containers for sensory play!  Don't forget about the fun/learning opportunities in a simple handful (or two or three!) of dried beans and some empty containers. 
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Friday, September 6, 2013

Books to read aloud....

When Quinn was around 4.5 we started reading chapter books aloud to her.  Her very first one was James and the Giant Peach.  Since then we've been through lots of books together.  I do try to be somewhat diligent to make sure they are books that are appropriate for her--in content, her interests, and also her comprehension level.  Some people are proponents of reading any chapter books to their kiddos, but I think I would feel sad if I read her a really good classic and she didn't enjoy it as much because it was way over her head.  So I am trying to save "harder books" for when she is ready.  The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a great tool in helping decide which books to read.  I also have lots of books left over from my teaching days to sort through. 

We still take a picture when we finish chapter books--to remember our journey, to celebrate, and to share with family members what our girl's up to!  I love this little tradition and some day plan to turn it into some type of keepsake. 

I plan to share some of the great chapter books we've really enjoyed at this 4-almost-5 season of life. 
Here's one of our very favorites--

Callie, the Flea, and Me
Bill Wallace

It's a bit of a slow read with not a ton of action, but it was such a "comfy" book.  We learned a lot about nature and farm life. 

We happened to check out a library book this week that was the perfect extension to the chapter book--it was called

Two Blue Jays
Annie Rockwell

And it told the story of two jays building a nest and raising the baby birds.  It showed in pictures, step-by-step exactly what happened with the mockingbird family from the chapter book!  Awesome! 
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Date Night with Mom and Dad

Totally love this idea....using the day of the month....

Check it out.