Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What do you think? Wednesday

Did anyone else catch Matt Lauer's interview with an elementary principal in Boston? It was part of NBCs Education Nation series that coincides with the two day education summit being held in Washington.
In the video, Lauer visits a school that was formerly one of the lowest scoring schools in the state, and is now one of the highest scoring schools in the state. The principal of the school links the improvement in test scores to a new program, Kindergarten One. K1 is a pre-kindergarten program for four year olds. The difference between kindergarten one and nursery school is that the teacher must have their masters. In the story, statistics to support kindergarten one are given, yet the studies used to generate these statistics are not named. Students who attend pre-kindergarten programs are 35 percent less likely to be held back in kindergarten, pass the literacy test (not sure which literacy test?) at 24 percent higher rate and were 30 percent less likely to repeat a grade later.
At the beginning of the video, Lauer says, "Curriculum, assessment, academic achievement, these are no longer foreign words to a kindergartner, it's the standard." I have to admit, the lead to the story definitely caught my attention. In the interview, the principal says they are "fully immersing four year olds in a school day" so they can learn the rituals and routines of being a learner.  She assures the public that they are fully immersing the children in "fun".  Really?? I don't think being bombarded with things like curriculum, assessment, and academic achievement is always just "fun".
To prove that the school is using developmentally appropriate aspects of play, clips are shown of the students playing with play dough and coloring with markers. Umm, couldn't I just fully immerse my preschooler in fun play with play dough and markers at home? Nope. According to this school, a teacher with a Masters must be leading these fun activities. Now, I'm not knocking preschool teachers or preschool teachers with a masters. I am a mommy with a masters in education. Yet, my husband, who has degrees in psychology and computer technology, is much more successful in guiding my child's learning through play, even minus the masters degree! I can think of many more examples of people who do not have a master's degree yet are efficient in teaching their own children through play and developmentally appropriate experiences. Some of these are parents who stay home all day and engage with their children and some are parents who send their kids to childcare during the day and still have available time to engage their child in play and learning.
Another thing that I noticed was that the deciding factor of the success of kindergarten one was student's achievement on standardized tests later in their educational career. Can I say that the fact that now EVERYTHING, including early childhood, is now about gearing up for "the test" is enough to make me want to vomit??? Before you know it, we'll be measuring a child's ability to play constructively with play dough while using all levels of higher level thinking strategies!
I understand that this issue is multi-layered. I don’t think such programs are bad. They are a good substitute for what is best. In my opinion, what is best are parents engaging with their children in play which will naturally lead to learning.
I understand there are single parent homes where a parent has to work 3 jobs to keep food on the table and do not have any available time to spend with their children. That is not what’s best for those parents or children. And I do believe that those parents need people (and sometimes programs) to reach out and help them—if helping them provide early learning to their child is a benefit, then let it be available to those who need it.
I am an advocate of early childhood intervention. Yet many of the interventions that are currently in place are under-funded and under-staffed. Now we are going to add more programs instead of stabilizing the programs that are already in place? It just doesn’t add up for me.
I don’t understand why we are doing more of what doesn’t work. The same people who tell us our schools are broken are telling us, let’s put them in school for longer periods of time each day, for more days each year, and now for more years of their life.
Here's the video. Check it out and let me know,
 What do you think about children starting formal schooling at age four instead of age five?

Full Disclosure Statement: I may have gotten a lump in my throat and teared up a bit when I watched other people drop their four year olds off at kindergarten. Maybe I'm just an overprotective momma who is not ready to send her child off to school in only 2 years! (BTW, I'm not letting Logan watch this. He's totally ready for school. He found a backpack in the basement, put it on, and said, "Bye mom. I'm going to school!!")

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walk With Me

Ever had "one of those days"? A day when your I'm -fairly- laid -back- for- a -two -year- old two year old has the temper tantrum to end all temper tantrums? (Seriously folks, I think his head almost exploded. He turned purple, then blue, and then almost passed out- and later, I noticed little red pin-sized dots that look like teeny-tiny freckles under his eyes. I think his head did explode!) The child has probably had 5 temper tantrums his whole life- it's just not his thing, normally. But that day was just "one of those days." 
On those days, I love to escape into my neighborhood and take a brisk walk. Luckily my husband was around and I was able to get out. My neighborhood is so quiet (even at 9:30 am on a Saturday morning) and so park-like. It's not a fancy subdivision but everyone does their part to maintain their yards and their gardens. That particular morning the air was beginning to feel crisp, the sky was bright blue, and the birds were singing. It was so good to take my mind off things and notice the sights and sounds around me-- the neighbor's little red barn and American flag, the half-orange, half-yellow tree at the top of my hill that is just starting to change, and the squirrels scurrying to collect nuts even though there are about 1.4 billion acorns in the street in front of my house!! As I was out and about, I thought, "I need to get Logan out here to enjoy the fall."
When I got home, I noticed this post in my google reader. It was such an easy activity. Little Wonders' Days used fall stickers on index cards to create a picture scavengar hunt. I couldn't round up too many stickers so we just cut out a few pictures and glued them on.

As we went on our walk, we took pictures of the items we found.

We came back home and made our pictures into a fall book for Logan.  I wrote "I see a _________." on the left page and we stuck a picture on the right page.
The walk was definitely what we both needed and our book helps us to capture those fun memories!!
A great book that goes along with this activity is We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger.  See my review of this book + other fall books here.
I am linking this up to We Play. Check out all of the fab play ideas. Your child will never be bored again. (ok, I can't really promise that ;) But I do think kids of all ages can enjoy the ideas on this link up.

We Play

Monday, September 27, 2010

Falling into Great Books

books about fall, fall books, children's literature, ready set read, photo

We're back from our weekend in Branson!! Both kids are finally well and we had a great weekend of homecoming parades, hoodies, and hot cocoa. Fall is Here! We also took a trip to the library to check out some of our fall favorites. Do you have any must-reads for fall? Here is what my child is reading:

When Autumn Falls When Autumn Falls by Kelly Nidey is a great way to introduce the vocabulary term, "Fall" to a young child. In this story, temperatures fall, apples fall, even football players fall! This book has cute cut paper illustrations.

Fall Leaves Fall By Zoe Hall Watching the leaves fall to the ground, two children try to catch them and rake them, kick on them and stomp them. Then the two children bring the leaves inside and make silly pictures with some leaves and label others.

Leaf Man (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))Leaf Man  by Lois Ehlert. We love, love, love, love, love Lois Ehlert books. This one does not disappoint. In this story, a leaf man (made from a fallen leaf, acorns for eyes, and a sweet gum ball for a nose) goes where the wind blows... toward the marsh, through the prarie, and past the spotted cows. Ehlert illustrates her books with collages made from fallen leaves. At first, Logan had difficulty spotting some of the animals within the leaf piles but as I pointed them out, he became better at identifying them. Older children would have fun locating the 'hidden" pictures. Come back to see our stART (story + art) project with this book later this week!

I Know It's AutumnI know it's Autumn By Eileen Spinelli The repeatitive phrase, "I know it's Autumn when..." introduces the activities of autumn, apple picking, pumpkins, leaves changing, and (my favorite) a turkey sticker on a spelling test! The repeatitive text in this book would create a natural extension of an interactive writing activity. Try having your child write a story filling in the phrase, "I know it's Autumn when _______________." Let your child write the parts is able to write.

Leaf JumpersLeaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber This book offers poetic descriptions of the various leaves and trees found in fall.  The birch is "oval as an egg" and the gingko leaf is "shaped like a little fan."

We're Going On A Leaf HuntWe're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger In this story, three children search for fall leaves as they go on a hike. This story is comparable to We're Going on a Bear Hunt (which my son loves!!!) so we had a lot of fun with this book... and actually went on a leaf hunt. More to come later this week...

The Little Yellow LeafThe Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger In this story, a little yellow leaf is not ready to fall from the big oak tree. The leaf finally spies a scarlet leaf and the two leaves decide to let go together. I love that amongst all of the books that describe fall concepts, there is a book about fall leaves that tells a heartwarming story about friendship, bravery, change, and letting go. And the illustrations? They are ah-mazing!!

I'm linking up to What My Child is Reading at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. Click on the link to find lists of other great books!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two year old Travel Time

I am packing for vacay!!! We leave in a few hours to go spend the weekend in Branson, MO. Although we don't have to travel too far, I know how antsy my 2 year old gets in the car, and I wanted to have plenty of things to keep him occupied.
I reached out to my online community of moms for help in planning car activities. I love being a mommy blogger. There are so many amazing mom resources right at your fingertips. As a member of we teach, I often find helpful tips in the discussion boards. I posted this question in my "we teach two year olds" group, "We're going on a family vacation this weekend!! Any suggestions for car activities for a 2 year old?" And I received enough ideas that I could probably consider a road trip cross country and have enough activities for my boy!!
You wanna see my packing list?
  • Books- Logan really likes the cheesy books that play music or make noises. So I did pack 2 of those... along with some favorite titles.
  • Felt board- I had recently made this roll up felt board from and then Mary Anne at Mama Smiles shared her free templates for felt shapes and dress up bears!
  • I Spy Book- Michelle at This and That About Kids shared this simple foam I Spy Book. It took about 5 minutes to make!! (I heart easy.)
  • Stickers + paper + crayons + clipboard
  • Felt Threading Activity - The Activity Mom posted this idea a few weeks ago. I think it will be perfect for a car ride. (BTW, The Activity Mom Blog is like crack to me. I am addicted. And check this out, she just opened an etsy store so you could just go there and buy some sweet travel activities! I'm totally shopping there once I convince my hubs that we DO need more educational toys and games!)
  • CDs of Music and stories
  • Sticker books (I got these at a Used Book sale. They were only missing 1 sticker!)

Seriously, there were so many more ideas given to me. Some of my other favorites were small erasers to drop into a water bottle and dump, aquadoodle travel sheets (I'm going to try and find these for Christmas), and a bag of small stuffed animals to play with both in the car and @ your destination. If you want to check it out, join up at we teach. Here is a link.

Visit we teach

Well, I'm outta here. I will not be showing my pretty little face in bloggy world for a few days. I am going to relax and eat a lot and listen to my baby say, "ma-ma" all weekend (He just started it yesterday!!) as he crawls (also started this week) around on hotel floor. (ewww)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Family Portraits- 2 year old style

My Dog is As Smelly As Dirty Socks: And Other Funny Family PortraitsWhen we saw, My Dog is As Smelly As Dirty Socks: And Other Funny Family Potraits by Hanoch Piven, at the library, my head screamed, stART project!!!!! (stART= story + art. It's a weekly link-up hosted by A Mommy's Adventures to share an art project that you did with your child).
The BEST part of My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks is the illustrations. In the story, a young girl improves her family portraits by chosing objects to represent characteristics of her family. For instance, the father is playful (so his nose is a top), the mother is sweet (her eyes are cookies), the brother is sneaky (his mouth is a snake), and of course the dog is made from an old stinky sock.
I had been wanting to create family portraits with Logan but he is not actually drawing people yet. I wasn't sure if drawing faces would even work. SO... I came up with this idea.

I cut out ovals for the faces. Then I gave Logan contact paper to build a face on (we put the colored oval under the contact paper so that he could see the face area). Then we used a variety of materials for eyes, nose, mouth, and hair.
Because I am a control freak, I divided the objects up into 4 paper plates. I would give him a plate to choose from for the eyes. (He always knew where to put the eyes). Then I would give him a plate to choose from for the nose, etc. (The other face parts were hard for him. He would hold the object up to his own face first to figure out where it went. lol)

Some of objects we used were:
buttons, beads, scrapbooking embellishments, feathers, pipecleaners, yarn, cotton balls,.
Here is our family:

(I let Logan do most of the art, but I did help him put Daddy's hair on. I also convinced him to use the heart die cut that said, "Hot stuff"... moms gotta have fun too!) I wish my pictures were better- photography is not my "thing" and the contact paper is glaring!- Also we used peach paper... it looks orange, we're not pumpkins, promise!)

This is not only an awesome opportunity for preschoolers, but older students could do a lot of great writing with these portraits. This book is a must-have. Run, don't walk, to your library to check it out... umm, on second thought, don't run in the library. Librarians frown on such things!

Monday, September 13, 2010

This one's for the boys...

No Girls Allowed: Devotions for BoysNo Girls Allowed by Jayce O'Neal  is a devotion book for boys aged 8-12. Since it is important to me to find ways to connect my boys to God's word, I was excited to review this book. No Girls Allowed includes 60 devotions. Each devotion begins with a scripture verse, a short story, and 2 pages of activities. Activities include: games- crosswords, secret codes, wordsearches, Things to do- practical applications, Things to Remember- additional Bible verses on the topic, and Wisdom- quotes on the topic from famous people-both Christians and non-Christians.
I found the content of the devotions to be good for challenging boys in their spiritual journey and the book to be relevant. The devotions would be good for a boy who has a background of basic Bible stories. . For instance, in the devotion David and the Cheese, the author challenges boys to think about what would have happened if David hadn't obeyed his father and taken lunch to his brothers. (He wouldn't have been used by God to fight Goliath.) The book is relevant. The author uses current sports heros, movies, and TV shows. Here was my only issue with the book (and this could be because my sons are still too young for this book or maybe it's because I grew up really sheltered, lol) some of the connections to movies and people are not the things I would want my 8 year old watching. Which means, some kids wouldn't "get" all of the references in the book.
All in all, I think any book which challenges a young man to walk with God, is a good investment!
Oh, and if you are concerned about this book discriminating against girls, there is a companion book called, No Boys Allowed: Devotions for Girls by Kristi Holl, Jennifer Vogtlin
 (Tyndale House provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way with this post.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My family and Me Theme

A favorite topic for preschool is My Family and Me. Preschoolers love to talk about their families. Learning about families helps a preschooler's vocabulary as he/she learns to label family members. Plus, reading about loving moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas, is just fun! Whether studying families in preschool or reading about families at home, books about families are a good way to help kids bond and form loving connections with adults in their lives.

my family and me, preschool theme, picture books, all kinds of families, image

All kinds of Families by Mary Ann Hoberman  is an interesting book to include on a study of families. In this story, the author groups objects into families and then compares it to human families. It would be great for kicking off a My family and Me preschool theme as you ask children to think about the question, "What is a family?"

my family and me, preschool theme, picture books, the relatives came, cynthia rylant

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant This is a precious book about a family reunion. The Relatives Came would be a great text for introducing extended family members. I love this book! Rylant is one of my favorite authors. I don't know why but this book gives me chills by the end. Every. Single. Time. It's not a sappy, tear jerker book. In fact, it's quite humorous-- but it's also heartfelt.

My family and Me, preschool theme, picture books, Bear's Busy Family (A Barefoot Board Book)Bear's Busy Family A simple story of a bear family This book includes Grandparents, Mom, Dad, Uncle and Aunt, Brothers and Sisters, and cousins. The text is very simple. There is a  darling bear family tree at the back of the book that you'll fall in love with.

My Family and Me, preschool theme, picture book, The Fathers Are Coming Home

The Fathers are Coming Home --This book was written by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny) but wasn't published until recently. In this story, fathers return to their children... both a human father and many animal fathers. I was instantly attracted to this book. It is a very repetitive story, although the text isn't as repetitive as some children's books. This book is probably best for toddler/young preschool as there is not a great deal of "story" to it. The illustrations were recently done but seem old -fashioned and simple. My preschooler, Logan, likes to count the animals on each page.

My family and me, preschool theme, picture books, What's in Baby's Morning?

What's in Baby's Morning? By Judy Hindley This simple book chronicles a baby's day with lots of loving experiences with family members.

I Love My Mommy Because...Cute board book detailing the things mommies do. Illustrations are based on animal mother/baby pairs.

My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven. This one is so good, it deserves it's own post. We created family portraits after reading this book!

What are your favorite books for exploring families?
This post is part of a series on preschool themes. Looking for another preschool theme? Check out my Books by Theme page.