Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eric Carle Week

Well, I've told you about Dr. Seuss week, and it was such a big hit that I decided to turn around and do an Eric Carle themed week the very next week.  The author choice was spurred by a couple of things.  One - the next week's theme in our Picture Book Preschool was bugs, and there were a few Eric Carle books on the week's list.  We also have several Eric Carle games, and I liked how we used themed items the week before.  So there it was.
We read many, many Eric Carle picture books in that week, including all of the standard books - The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug, Walter the Baker, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me are all titles that we own (among others).  We also checked books out of both of our local libraries (our public library and a school library that we are lucky enough to have access to).  Our family probably had between 15 and 20 individual titles in our book pile that week! 
Here are some other resources we used that week.  We borrowed a puppet kit from our public library which included the book Mister Seahorse and a seahorse puppet.  We had a stuffed ladybug that went along with Carle's book The Grouchy Ladybug.  At our house, we also have a Very Hungry Caterpillar puzzle, an Eric Carle's ABC game, and a Very Hungry Caterpillar Card Game (again, keep in mind that I was a children's librarian for many years - I tend to collect this sort of stuff!).  I mentioned the Reading Rockets website in connection with our Dr. Seuss week, and there is a Very Hungry Caterpillar Family Literacy Packet.  I did print it out, but forgot that I had it, so we didn't use it.  I do really like the Reading Rockets Family Literacy packs, so I recommend it.
We did two activities related to Eric Carle's books.  The first one was related to Walter the Baker.  We read the book, in which the baker is asked by the king and queen to make a roll that the sun can shine through three times.  In frustration, he creates a pretzel.  After reading the book, we made pretzels using the recipe from Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton.  If you haven't read this book, it is a stay-at-home dad's cooking memoir (he is also a food critic), and he tries some really cool foods with his daughter.  My one negative comment is that the recipes are created using a food scale, and my first attempt to make pretzels with 8 ounces of flour without a scale wasn't so successful!  But the girls and a friend enjoyed rolling out the pretzel snakes to then create the pretzel shapes.  We talked about making the sun shine through three times while we made them.  In fact, each time we've made pretzels subsequently we've had the same conversation.  The biggest plus about the recipe from this book is that it can be made in under 2 1/2 hours (including rising time) and the ingredients are so standard that they are in my pantry at all times.  This activity was definitely a success!
We also tried to create pictures in the Eric Carle method.  First, we read Draw Me a Star (warning - this book is about the creation of the world and does have naked humans in it).  I chose this book because it had a nice large sun in it, and I had decided that's what we would create.  There are lots of other Eric Carle books with suns in them, though, so feel free to use something else!  We started early in the morning creating the papers.  The girls got white paper and yellow and orange paint.  They just spread the paint across multiple pieces of paper, trying to cover as much of the paper as possible.  Eric Carle uses tissue paper when he does his collage, but I thought that wouldn't hold up as well to toddler fingers.  We let those pieces dry until after naps.  Then we cut the paper into smaller pieces to use in our sun collage.  I traced a plate for the sun, and then cut strips for the sun's rays.  At this point in the day, the girls weren't so interested in creating the collage.  I had to really talk Frances into finishing, and Gloria ended up using a pencil to just scribble all over the paper.  But I think in another year they will be more developmentally able to follow the project all day.  If you're interested in doing something like this, Carle has several books with descriptions of his work process on the back of the title page, or in his author's note.  There is also a book (which I just remembered I own!) called You Can Make a Collage produced by Klutz Press.  This book has some tissue papers created by Eric Carle himself, so you can just cut those up and go for it!
One of the ways in which these themed weeks have been successful for us is in recognizing the authors' work at the library and other places.  My girls are likely to call out "Look! It's Eric Carle!" or recognize the Cat in the Hat on the spines of books whenever we're at the library or bookstore.  It's fun to see.  We will definitely be doing additional weeks - maybe Margaret Wise Brown will be next, as I am a huge MWB fan and have many of her books.
A few other things - in the past few weeks, Kohl's has had the stuffed Eric Carle plushes and books as the $5 option.  We are looking forward to receiving some new plushes from friends who live in towns with Kohl's (we, sadly, do not).  I would be remiss if I didn't direct you to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art .  If you live on the East Coast, it would be worth a trip, but the website is really neat, too.  It includes book lists, class information, exhibition information, and a link to the museum shop.  It's great.
Finally, on Barnes & Noble's website, there is an online storytime that Frances loves.  It's The Very Hungry Caterpillar read by Eric Carle himself.  Frances really enjoyed hearing his voice and seeing his picture.  This week was a whole lot of fun - let me know if you decide to do something similar!  Next up is our birthday-themed week.  See you soon!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dr. Seuss' Birthday Week

Hi everyone! Welcome to everyone who has come to check out my blogs after seeing my friend Alisa's posts - love that lady!!  I'm going to try and catch up with the month of March, if you can believe that!  We had three "theme" weeks in our house in March, so let's start with the first week, the week of Dr. Seuss' birthday.  In case you didn't know (and want to get a head start on next year!), Dr. Seuss' birthday is March 2nd,  so we celebrated beginning on February 26th.
The first thing we did was go to a fun storytime at our local Target store.  I had seen the Dr. Seuss storytime advertised in a newspaper insert, but being that we live in a smaller town, I wasn't sure our Target would be included.  When I went in to the store the week before, the employees told me that they would be doing the storytime, and that there would be GOODY BAGS.  Well, goody bags are my favorite thing!  The storytime started at 9am, and we were there at 9:02 (a pretty big feat considering we usually don't even get out of our pajamas until 10!).  Frances and Gloria were the first two children there, and we enjoyed a couple of stories before anyone else showed up.  The reader was dressed like the Cat in the Hat, and she read us I Can Read With my Eyes Shut! and The Cat in the Hat.  Then as other children came, we went on our way.  By the way, Target had its Dr. Seuss books on sale for $5 that week - we scored The Cat in the Hat for ourselves.  The goody bags were terrific and included a really nice lunch-bag sized reusuable bag, stickers, a bookmark, juice box, granola bar, fruit snacks, crayons....the girls were happy!
On Sunday I got our Dr. Seuss station ready.  There is a table by our couch where I stack the books we are reading that week for Picture Book Preschool, and that week I made it into our Dr. Seuss station.  It included stuffed versions of Sam from Green Eggs and Ham, the Wocket from There's a Wocket in my Pocket and the rein-dog from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (all of these were from Kohl's at one point or another).  We checked out as many Dr. Seuss books as we could from our local library, but we also own Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and There's a Wocket in My Pocket.  We also have a couple of plastic totebags from Target that have Dr. Seuss books on them that we hung on various doorknobs.  Finally, I put out some Dr. Seuss games we have, including the Green Eggs and Ham board game and a rhyming game that I found on the Internet from someone's blog (but can't find the link now - I'll keep looking!) and a Fox in Socks puzzle.  These were fun games to keep Dr. Seuss on our minds all week.
During the week, I used this TERRIFIC resource from Reading Rockets.  If you haven't been to their site, take a look around.  I am very impressed with all of the activities and supporting resources they have for literacy.  This resource is for a Family Literacy Bag, which would be given with a copy of Green Eggs and Ham, and is really more to learn about different kinds of food.  But it worked perfectly as part of our week.  One of Frances' friends came over during the week while her mom was doing errands, and we made the mobile that is in the literacy bag.  I just made four copies of the fruit and vegetable page (two copies for each of the two girls).  The rest of the materials I already had - yarn, paper plates, crayons, scissors and tape.  It was very easy for the girls to do, and now our mobile is hanging in the girls' room.  It was a neat way to reinforce the ideas of the book in a different way. 
Wednesday was Dr. Seuss' birthday and Read Across America Day, so I made sure that we read some of his books on that day and talked about him a little bit.  Ordinarily we would have celebrated his birthday that day, but our friends were not able to come on Wednesday, so instead we scheduled his birthday party for Thursday.  On Thursday we had the best day.  We watched our DVD of Green Eggs and Ham (which includes some other Dr. Seuss stories) and then had Green Eggs and Ham.   I made them pretty simply by just adding green food coloring to the scrambled eggs before cooking, and we ate sliced deli ham too.  After lunch (which was served in Dr. Seuss bowls from Target), we had brownie cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday.  It was a lot of fun! 
I was surprised not only by how much Dr. Seuss stuff we had floating around our house (after all, I was a children's librarian for 15 years - I tend to collect that sort of stuff!), but by how enthusiastic Frances and Gloria were about a "themed" week.  Since we had returned home from vacation in January, we had been struggling with preschool activities.  It seemed like I bought workbooks and intended to use them, but we never did.  And the piles of library books at our house were getting bigger and bigger by the day because we were in our regular library routine of selecting books, but we just weren't reading very often at home.  Now my girls recognize the distinctive Dr. Seuss symbol on other books, and tend to select his books from the library.  This "themed" week got us all excited about learning again, and paved the way for our next "themed" week - stay tuned for the Eric Carle week in our next post!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Picture Book Reading Challenge

Hi everyone!! Once again, it's been way too long since I posted, but I swear that there will be THREE more posts coming in the next couple of days to catch you all up on what we've done in March.  But this post is to let you know about the Picture Book Reading Challenge.  I just found out about this challenge, but we are up for it!  Here's the link to the challenge post - it's hosted at There's a Book.  We are going for the Harvester level - that's 200 books, people! 
I am hoping that this will jump-start several things for us.  We haven't been doing as great with our Picture Book Preschool - we're a couple of weeks behind, and most weeks we do read the books, but not in any sort of organized method.  Also, we have been checking out lots and lots of books from the libraries we visit, and we need to read them and get them back so other people can read them!  Thirdly, I am really trying to keep up our bedtime routine of reading a few books - some days we do this and some days we do not, and I can see it makes a big difference in getting them settled down for the night.
So I am keeping track of the books we read on this page (it's located to the right of this post, but here's the link ) if you'd like to take a look at what we are reading!!   Hope your week is going well!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where Have We Been? and Snow Books

It seems like it has been WAY too long since I posted here, and really, it's been more than three months.  On my blog reader, I usually unsubscribe from blogs that don't post more often, and I'm sorry for that.  Life has gotten in the way...I've had happy kids, sick kids, kids learning, kids exploring, and just a lot of fun in the past few months.  This includes a trip to visit my mom, sister and brother-in-law (with just me and the girls flying on planes!) and loads of weather-related days inside.  Our house is a mess these days - but a good mess.  A mess of toys and fun.  But I digress...
Frances and Gloria are doing a lot these days, but it seems like life is getting more and more structured.  Frances just started a gymnastics class last week.  I've told some of my friends that I am glad to see that she doesn't listen to the teacher, just like she doesn't listen to me.  But it's a lot of learning new skills and new vocabulary, and for that I think it's definitely worth our time and effort.  Plus I get a little one-on-one time with Gloria during the class, which is always nice.  It seems like I get a lot of one-on-one time with Frances, who has a much shorter tolerance for napping, but with Gloria there's much less time when she isn't with her big sister.
Christmas and traveling have definitely disrupted our routine this year, and I made a mental note to account for that this coming year.  Right now we are weeks behind in the Picture Book Preschool curriculum that we use - we got stuck in the first couple of weeks with the heavy equipment books and we also have been reading lots and lots of books about snow.  Here's an annotated list of books we like about snow, and I feel like we're experts now!!

The Mitten by Jan Brett.  Nicky wanted white mittens, and when one falls off, he can't find it right away...but many, many animals can!  Brett's illustrations allow peeks into the mitten - lots of fun!
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton.  This is an oldie-but-goodie about what happens when SOOOO much snow falls on Geoppolis that only Katy (a large tractor with a snow plow) can plow the city and help get everything back to normal.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Another old title, but so satisfying.  Peter is a preschooler who wakes up to a snowy day.  While there are definitely things that bigger kids can do, Peter finds his own fun with simple ideas like dragging a stick through the snow.
I Like Winter by Lois Lenski.  We own a reprint edition of the 1950's title.  It has rhyming short text and talks about winter activities.  It also focuses on Christmas, so is more appropriate for December, but it's still fun now (I think my girls would talk about Christmas all year long).
Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London.  If you haven't read this yet, go get it now!  Froggy always hibernates in the winter, but this year he wakes up to go play in the snow.  This is a funny story with lots of sound effects as Froggy struggles to put on his winter clothing.  Very fun.
The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel.  This is a rebus story, so preschoolers can "read" it with you - talking about all the clothing you must wear when you go outside, and how all that clothing can backfire on you!
Millions of Snowflakes by Mary McKenna Siddals.  Very simple text, so it's easy to read to very young children -all about going outside and celebrating the snow.
Snow Play by Kate Spohn.  This is a glittery, textured book with simple rhyming couplets.  Again - I've chosen lots of books about what you do outside in the snow.  Since we moved here from Phoenix, my girls weren't exactly sure how to play in snow!

Right now we are working on some basic life skills with Frances, including putting on her own clothes and picking up toys and dishes after she's done.  We just today took a trip to the dentist with both girls.  Frances did a great job, Gloria didn't like it even when her beloved Smurps (Smurfs) were on the TV on the ceiling.  Oh well.  Hope your winter is going great, and that there are not too many snowflakes around!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Last Two Weeks of November

Well, I have been intending to write this blog post for the past few days, but with grocery shopping and Thanksgiving, time has gotten away from me!! So this will be a catch-up post for sure.
In Picture Book Preschool the first week, we were supposed to be reading Thanksgiving books to learn about the holiday.  Somehow (I suspect between a general busyness, a lack of interest the first week and the sheer amount of Thanksgiving books we had to read) we did not get more than two or three Thanksgiving books read.  So we extended that week of books into this week (Thanksgiving week).  We have continued to read the books for the past week, and even took them out to the river (where we celebrated Thanksgiving with family) to read.  It was a nice way to pass the afternoon while I helped cook and they waited to eat.  Also, they got to hear other readers besides me!! 
We have talked about Thanksgiving a little this week too and Frances mostly says she is thankful for "her friends and Mama" and that's it.  We also traced their hands to make turkeys and then colored and decorated them. 
I use the Kumon workbooks (I purchased them off Amazon) to help with basic skills like coloring, gluing and cutting - things that I notice Frances isn't as interested in.  We use the first level right now.  I tried the cutting workbook in September, but it was frustrating.  Frances and I are both left handed, and cutting doesn't come easily.  She tried to cut one page, and then lost interest.  I wanted her to learn how to cut correctly, so didn't pursue it again, although we've used the other workbooks since then.  Last week Frances picked up the cutting workbook and said she wanted to cut.  We took our time, practiced cutting the correct way, and generally celebrated her hard work.  Since then she has taken it out again, and keeps asking me which way her thumb should be pointing, etc.  I think we will continue to use these workbooks at least once a week.  I do recommend these workbooks - they are fun, and build on the skills kids learn.  They are called Let's Cut, Let's Glue and Sticker and Let's Color.
I have also just finished a really interesting book called The Well-Trained Mind: A Classical Education at Home by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.  This is the 2009 edition, and it was so interesting.  I am definitely considering home-schooling our girls, although I haven't decided for sure.  This book was comforting - a school year by school year guide, including which curriculums the authors recommend for each subject for each year.  The authors also include information such as how much time each week you should spend on each subject, and most importantly of all, they use their local library extensively.  That's something I really appreciate, and as a potential home-schooling parent, it makes me feel like I could really do this without slighting my girls.  In fact, this classical education model is definitely rigorous and would be a lot of work for all involved.  But I also think it would educate them in ways they could not consider now.  So...I highly recommend the book, and it's definitely something for me to think about.
Until next week...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Second Week of November

Here we are with another week of November gone.  It's time to really start panicking about Christmas, I guess.  This moving has set me back...
Last week in Picture Book Preschool we were learning about pets.  This week there were two books (Momo's Kitten and Let's Get Turtles) that we were not able to obtain from any of our regular sources.  So we substituted a couple of books we had on animals already checked out - Silly Suzy Goose and How Animals Care for their Babies (we had that from the curriculum a few weeks ago and hadn't returned it yet).  We had seen the movie for Millions of Cats a few times, and Frances wanted to go back to that book several times during the week.  It also has a really nice rhythm to it which makes it fun to read. 
This week we are reading books about Thanksgiving, and then we will try to do at least one "thankful" craft to help make the connection.  This is the first year that I think Frances can get the idea about being thankful, and we do have a lot to be thankful about!
We have friends who have little girls the same age as mine, and we try to get together about once a week to have playtime.  Last week we got together on Monday, and I had made Pumpkin Pie Play Dough for the girls to play with.  It smelled terrific, and luckily no one thought they should eat it!  All four girls played with it successfully and shared all the tools too.
Frances did have one day where she had some sort of stomach flu, but thankfully for me she bounded back quickly!  She just laid in bed in the "guessing room" (what she calls the guest room) for a morning, watching movies on our portable DVD player, reading books and coloring.  After her afternoon nap she was ready to go!
I decided now was the time to start potty training Gloria.  Gloria has a lot of experience watching everyone else go to the bathroom, and she talks about it all the time.  The girls and I are flying after Christmas to see my family, and I just thought it would be easier for her to be at least potty trained during the day hours.  So far, though, Gloria has her own ideas about this process.  She has gone on herself four times either right before or right after we were going to the bathroom (I set the timer for every 20 minutes).  We've run through plenty of pairs of underpants since Sunday.  Hopefully she will get the idea soon.
However, this process means that Gloria and I are spending at least 10 minutes together every half-hour, and Frances often joins us in the bathroom for some reading.  In the past two weeks, I unpacked all of our picture books, and they are enjoying looking at new books.  The biggest hit in the past couple of weeks is Maurice Sendak.  We have read In the Night Kitchen probably the most, but the Nutshell Kids books are a close second.  I grew up hearing Carole King sing those stories, and I can at least carry the tune.  But the other day we went on YouTube to see if we could find snippets from Really Rosie (the movie including those stories).  Now all of us sing the songs.  I think our two favorites - One Was Johnny and Chicken Soup with Rice are both good learning books too!
Well, that's it for this week.  Hope your week is equally great.  We are getting snow now, so I will post pictures next week.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Last Week with the Learning Girls

Hi everyone - well, we survived another week in the M  household, something that was definitely in doubt on several days.  On Halloween night Gloria came down with a fever.  I hoped it was from too much excitement, outdoors time and candy, but by the next morning it was still going strong.  We went to the doctor to get a diagnosis of hand, foot and mouth disease.  Although I was really lucky that Frances didn't get it, we still stayed inside the majority of the week because Gloria was contagious.  And the worst part of that was that it was a nice week - sunny and in the 60's, something that is so rare in our northwestern state at this time of year.  We wanted to play with our friends, but couldn't.
We did focus a little more on Picture Book Preschool last week - the theme for the week was food.  We read almost every book on our list.  I really thought that Aliki's A Medieval Feast would be  the book that we did not finish last week.  However, the frames around the pictures, including details of fruit, vegetables, flowers and animals that were used in the cooking process for the feast,  kept Frances looking and listening.  She asked questions while she listened too.  I worried about the glorious peacock that is depicted on the cover, as we had lots of peacocks near the library I worked in in Arizona.  But when we got to the cooking of the peacock, she did not say a word.  We enjoyed Stone Soup and Pancakes, Pancakes and I am going to keep Stone Soup  another week so we can make a soup recipe with it.  We didn't read Bread, Bread, Bread but we just overlooked it - we certainly had enough time to read it!
One of the preschool recommendations for last week was to cook together.  Frances is really getting in to cooking and "helping" me on a daily basis.  This week we made Chex mix together and worked on measuring and mixing.  Both Frances and Gloria are enjoying pretend cooking lately - there is a kitchen in our hall closet, as well as an actual play kitchen in their bedroom. 
Gloria is continuing to surprise me with her letter and number recognition.  She points out letters or numbers on shirts, books, TV, street signs - Gloria loves them.  She made a D on the Magnadoodle and told me "Look Mama, a D!"  So that is fun to see.  Yesterday was her two year old well child appointment, and the doctor asked if she says at least ten words.  I told him "Oh yes, she probably says hundreds."  I know he didn't believe me, but it's true.   
This week's theme is Pets and we will be working on doing some pet-related chores as well as our learning.  We are also lucky enough to have friends who are doing a preschool curriculum where the theme is the farm this month, and we will be sharing in that.  Thanks for checking in with us!