Monthly Archives: January 2015

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Cool Stuff: Vol. 2 Issue 2

A few good articles to share this time:

From The Mindshift blog from KQED, an article looking at how unschoolers turn out once they hit college/adult life. It’s a small study, but the results are interesting. There’s a mix of outcomes, but overwhelmingly positive. How Do Unschoolers Turn Out? Certainly worth a read if you are thinking about unschooling or are curious.

I really love how this blog post shows how to use books in the early phases of provocations and projects. They pique interest, spark ideas, and introduce topics. The children in this classroom didn’t gravitate toward the bird watching provocation (binoculars and guide book by the window) until reading a book about birds. Of course, as a librarian and bibliophile, I love this and it’s certainly a default for me to turn to books. I’m glad to get a little validation seeing others do this too. Becoming a Birder on Searching for Sparks blog. 

I know I link a lot to Racheous, but I often love what she has to say. Here’s a great post about unschooling and how it means not worrying about ensuring kids learn specific facts. It’s Not All About Learning. As she puts it:

“I don’t care if my child doesn’t learn about certain arbitrary facts associated with a life cycle we’re observing or specific elements of numeracy we’re exploring through play. That specific, testable knowledge is no longer the endgame. It happens regardless – but it’s no longer the top desired outcome.”

It’s not that she doesn’t want her kids to learn information, it’s simply that any given information and the emphasis on it’s necessity to learn it is totally arbitrary. The endgame of education is to learn how to learn and enjoy it. 

The Diverse Bookshelf: Puppets and Blocks

The two books I have to share this month are STEAM related, meaning they tap into art and science themes, concepts, and ideas. They are less about explicit diversity, but are excellent examples of incidental diversity, where they feature diversity without focusing on it. 

I would also like to mention that Lee & Low Books, a publisher that puts out high quality, diverse children’s books, is compiling monthly lists of diverse children’s literature for each month. Here is the link to the January list, it includes books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and diverse titles for National Hobby Month. It’s a really fantastic list and highly recommend checking it out. 

 PuppetsAshley Bryan’s Puppets by Ashely Bryan, pictures edited by Rich Entel

Ashely Bryan’s Puppets is a collection of poems Bryan wrote to accompany the puppets he creates from beach trash. Bryan combs the beaches near his house for bits of natural and manmade garbage- from cloth to bones to shells to glass- and then uses them to create these amazing puppets. He gives each one a name and has written a poem that both addresses what their components are, their personality, and their story. Names are all of African origin and there is a list at the end where he talks about what the words mean and which language and people they are from. 

This book has a lot of directions it could be taken in with provocations. Cam is really interested in using recycled materials to make our own puppets and using the book as a model and inspiration for our project.Puupets 2 There is also the them of ocean pollution (for older children see the Scientists In the Field book Tracking Trash), ocean currents and how they push trash around, and ocean clean-up. The book could also lead to exploration of African folklore, culture, and diversity on the continent. And of course there is the poetry. 

The book is laid out with two page spreads that feature a group portrait of a handful of puppets. These spreads are followed by individual portraits and their corresponding poems. Bryan has intentionally included two or three puppets that do not have names or poems to encourage readers to write their own. Bryan’s poems are simple yet powerful and they give a lot to talk about. Through descriptive, symbolic language he links the pieces that compose the puppets to their personality and invented histories. There is plenty to talk about with the use of language and symbolism in these poems, yet they are simple enough that young readers can connect with and understand them. 

An outstanding book. 

Dreaming UpDreaming Up: A Celebration of Building written & illustrated by Christy Hale

Dreaming Up is another amazing poetry book. This one pairs illustrations of children playing with traditional toys (blocks, stacking rings, sticks, sand) and a picture of a famous building. The pictures are paired with a shape poem about the building the children are doing, meaning each poem is shaped like the building or toy. 

Again you could place this book out with some sort of provocation to play with blocks or toothpicks and gumdrops or even a basket full of sticks. Seeing the interplay between children’s play and adult work, as well as the inspiration they can give each other, is quite powerful. 

Of course the book could, with slightly older children, make a great poetry study. The poems take different forms in regard to rhythm and rhyme, but there is also the physical form of them to pore over. Placing this book out with transparency sheets, pictures or other notable architecture, and pens might invite budding poets to create their own shape poems. 

The end of the book features information about all the buildings seen in the book and about their architects. The list of architects is surprisingly diverse as well with only a few white male architects. These brief biographies may serve as jumping off points for children interested in learning more about the field of architecture. Dreaming Up 2

The children and their quiet play scenes in the illustrations remind me a lot of the scenes in Greda Muller’s seasons books with the exception that these children come in all different colors. 

Another excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.  

Handwork: Threading and Lacing

While I’ve been showing handwork projects I have been working on in this series, I thought today I would share what kinds of activities I have set up for Cam that are intended to help her gear up to sewing and handwork of her own. All these activities help her develop concentration, hand-eye coordination, hand strength, and accuracy. They also allow her to play with patterns, which is an early math concept.

We’ve had a number of these activities around for awhile and even if she goes a couple weeks without touching them, she always seems to find them again and engage with them for a half hour or so. The repetition is a good thing. (The links take you to the product or a similar one on Amazon or wherever I bought it. I don’t get any part of the sale, but I know it’s frustrating to see something on a blog and not know where to find it for purchase.)

Threading and Lacing

1. Large Bead Threading

These are giant beads- palm sized for a kid- and they came with what appears to be a rope to thread them on. This was one of the first threading toys I got for Cam since it was super easy to shove the rope through the beads. I tied a knot at one end so they wouldn’t slip off and that has seemed to work. Now that Cam is clearly capable of threading these she makes patterns and necklaces and bracelets with them. 

2. Threading Apple

Such a sweet Waldorf toy, Cam loves this one. It’s a little apple with holes drilled all over and a rainbow ribbon attached for threading through the holes. This is a good one even as she gets older, because she now works on not looping over to the other side and on keeping the ribbon from twisting. That’s a lot for her to keep track of right now and is excellent practice for hand sewing. Bonus, the company we bought this from is a small local toy shop. 

3. Smaller Bead Threading

We got these a long time ago when we found them on sale at a toy store. Fortunately Cam likes cars and trains! These are a lot harder to thread because the hole is long and the string is much thinner. It took a fair amount of practice, but Cam finally mastered it. She still likes them though and makes necklaces out of these too. I should note Target has started selling Hape toys and they have several different lacing bead tubes like this one in a variety of themes including numbers. 

4. Sewing on plastic canvas

I set this up with Cam’s clothes making provocation and I kept it up because it was popular. I bought some small plastic needlepoint canvases (it was readily available at the craft store and Walmart), threaded a couple large needles with thin yarn, and also included a bowl of beads. Cam gets a kick out of this 

5. Snap Beads/Pop Beads

I had these as a kid and remember loving them. On a recent cleaning spree in her closet, Cam and I came across a set I had bought in the dollar bin ages ago and she was hooked. They are hard for her to snap together, but that’s okay because in snapping them she is building hand strength. If you buy a set, be aware that they are cheap and the snapping pegs will snap off from time to time. Buy a big bag. They also don’t bend really easily so having more to make long chains is also a good thing. 

6. Lacing Peacock

We found this at our local Christkindlmarkt last year. It’s hard because it has a lot of pieces, but Cam has been working with it and is learning how to string all the bits together. With all the beads, felt and silicone feathers, and the different colored laces there are a lot of ways to lace it and play with it. 

7. Button Snake

I made this button snake awhile back. If you have basic sewing skills and some fabric scraps they’re very easy to make. It helps practice fine motor control, buttoning, and hand eye coordination. 

 

 

Cam in the Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Granola

IMG_2597Awhile back we bought some granola that was lightly dusted with cocoa powder and had chocolate chips in it. It was, not surprisingly, absolutely delicious and Cam loved it. We would sprinkle it on our morning yogurt and Cam would pick out all the chocolate chips before eating the rest of the yogurt and granola. Sadly our grocery store stopped selling this brand so using a granola recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks and the ingredients list from the granola package I created a chocolate chip granola recipe. Making granola is pretty simple, it’s mostly stirring ingredients then baking.

IMG_2598While it’s currently winter (so I don’t mind turning the oven on) I decided to give this a try in the slow cooker since that would make it more Cam-friendly. It worked okay, not well. It just didn’t dry the ingredients out enough so I ended up popping it in the oven after all. I’ll include instructions for both ways in the recipe in case you want to give the slow cooker a try. I also swapped out the oil for coconut oil, but you can use either. I had it on hand and wanted to give it a try. 

 (Yes, it is winter and yes, Cam is wearing a tank top. This kid never gets cold.)

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Granola
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. oats
  2. 1/2 c. canola oil
  3. 1/2 c. honey
  4. 1/3 c. water
  5. 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
  6. 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  7. 1/2 c. flax seed
  8. 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  9. 1/4 tsp. salt
  10. 1/3 c. chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line or grease a large cookie sheet.
  2. Mix all the wet ingredients together and all the dry ingredients together. Leave out the chocolate chips. Stir the two together and pour onto the cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for about 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn.
  4. The granola is done when it is no longer wet and you can smell it toasting. Stir in the chocolate chips and let cool. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
  1. Slow cooker method: Grease your slow cooker insert. Once the ingredients are mixed pour them into the slow cooker and cook on low for 3 or more hours, until the granola is dried out. Leave the lid canted or off completely to allow the moisture to escape. Stir every once in awhile to prevent it from burning. Once it's dried out turn out onto a cookie sheet to cool.
  2. If you were so inclined, you could add some sort of dried fruit, such as cranberries at the end with the chocolate chips.
  3. I used coconut oil instead of canola.
  4. Feel free to toss in whatever else might be in your pantry and sounds good- nuts, seeds, etc.
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/

Cool Stuff Vol. 2, Issue 1

Just a few things this week that I’ve been saving up:

A really interesting blog post about princess-shaming from one of the librarians I follow, Liz Burns. Princess shaming is when parents wring their hands over their daughter’s fascination with princesses and encourage them not to like girly things. Here’s a little pull quote to give you a sample of her thoughts: 

“…there is a right way and wrong way to be female and the child is picking the wrong way. And of course, the books are all wrong because they don’t have enough ‘exemplary, idiosyncratic female role models.'”

I so agreed with this and it put princess play into such a different light for me. There are a lot of links in the article to other interesting articles. 

An interesting article about saying yes to kids when they ask to try out things. The author labels this the culture of permission which I think is incredibly descriptive. This is intended for classroom teachers, but I think it’s totally applicable to homeschooling and just generally having kids at home. It’s short with a video at the top (which I have not watched) and worth a quick read. 

Finally, in neat little list of things to remember for the new year. I was especially fond of #21 as we try to reduce our amount of stuff.

Activity in the Hive: Here Is the Beehive…12345

While Cam has shown some interest in letters, she is really drawn to numbers. She learned them very quickly (both identification and counting to ten) without any prompting from me. Personally I prefer the laid-back approach to “teaching” this stuff and came up with a few passive ways to help Cam explore numbers more. 

Inspiration

Reggio-Inspired Math Table from Wildflower Ramblings

Playful Numeracy: Making Math Visual and Hands On from Racheous

Numeracy Resource Learning Area from Walker Learning Approach on Facebook

Waldorf Gnomes- Mathematics from The 5 of Us

Reggio-Inspired Preschool Math Tray from And Next Comes L

Books

We have a huge bin of counting books in our classroom. A lot of the titles we’ve found used, but there are some we’ve bought too. Using books to passively teach numbers is a great strategy, especially if your child really clicks with one title and you read it over and over and over and…

  Animal 123Animal 123 by Britta Teckentrup

This has been one of Cam’s favorite books since she was less than a year. Teckentrup’s illustrations are simple, beautiful, and really engaging for young children with bright colors and clean lines and plenty of contrast. The pages fold open to reveal the next number and one more of what is being counted. We have a couple tears from less-than-gentle baby hands, but it’s a great teachable moment when that happens. Not only does the book teach the counting 1-10, but it’s a subtle introduction to the concept of adding. 

My First Learning Groovers123: My First Learning Groovers 

We came across this book at Costco. It has the numbers 1-20 and each number has grooved numerals that the child can run their finger along. I usually read this one with Cam so I can be sure she is tracing the numbers in the correct way so as not to establish any bad habits. This is a similar idea to the Montessori tactile numbers and if you can’t find this book you could look for Montessori: Number Work by Bobby and June George.

We All CountWe All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers by Julie Flett

We have tons of these counting 1-10 books in our number books bin, but I adore this recent purchase. Part of the appeal is it’s diverse: it’s bilingual with a Native American language (Cree) and the people pictured inside are not the default white. But it’s all about the illustrations here. The cover has a big flock of burrowing owls, one of Cam’s favorite species, that are just darling. The illustrations are clean and modern looking too which I think makes actually counting the objects easier. It’s also a board book which makes it sturdy.

 Ten Nine EightTen, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

An oldie, but a goodie. This was one of my favorites when I was a little girl and now it’s one of Cam’s favorites which makes me happy. Ten, Nine, Eight makes for a great bedtime story, but what I appreciate about it now is that it counts backwards. Not only does this show children that numbers work in reverse (and demonstrates minus one) it also helps them break out of the order of 1, 2, 3. Essentially it plays with numbers. The illustrations are really charming and cozy. It also makes you look around your own room for things to count. Math is everywhere. The book is available in board book format and paperback (you can often find it in thrift shops and used book stores) and is translated into Spanish. 

 

Media

Montessorium: Intro to Math

This is an app for the iPad. It does a lot of the traditional Montessori math lessons like the red and blue rods and counters, but in a digital format. It isn’t very expensive (considerable less than buying all the physical materials) and is very engaging. It’s clean, beautiful, and works well. Cam likes to play it although a few of the activities are too hard without one of us helping her (which is really how kids should be using apps). 

Poems

Poems and rhymes are great ways to teach young children. Their rhyme schemes and sing-song quality make them very memorable. Cam has amazed me on more than one occasion by reciting a poem or song I’ve recited without prompting. 

1, 2, Buckle My Shoe I was only familiar with the 1-10 part of this rhyme, but it goes up to twenty. Sometimes I feel like we spend so much time working on counting to 10 that counting higher, as Cam wants to do, gets left out. 

Here Is the Beehive This is a counting down rhyme and is a finger play. The link is a great resource from BBC which includes the full lyrics and a little video. The lyrics may come up hidden, just click the arrow to open the box to see them. 

Activities

Kid-O 0 to 9 Magnatab: I thought this looked cool, but wasn’t quite sure if Cam would agree. Turns out she absolutely loves it. We brought it to restaurants, she left it out on the coffee table to play with all the time, and she’s still playing with it a month after its delivery by St. Nicholas. It essentially teaches kids how to write the numbers (there is also an alphabet magnatab in both print and cursive). You’ll need to do some front loading first by showing them and monitoring them writing the letters, but once I was confident Cam was forming them mostly correctly I let her play with it by herself. Also be careful about forming bad pencil grip habits, from a teacher’s perspective those habits are SO hard to break. The tablet features a control of error (for all you Montessorians out there). If they haven’t done a careful enough job not all the little magnets will have popped up. Just a little warning, those magnets popping up into their holes make noise. I am noise averse and it doesn’t really bother me, but be aware. 

Montessori Teens Board: Cam is really into counting above ten now. I know I sound like a pushy mom saying that, but it was all her. I decided to help her visualize these numbers better (and maybe build a bit of place value understanding as we go) and make her a Montessori tens/teens board for 10-14. I’ll make a 15-19 later when she’s more confident going that high. A teens board is essentially a row of 10s stacked on top of each other with tracks to slide in a 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. into the ones place and covering the 0 to make 10 into 11, 12, 13, etc. The actual material is pretty expensive for what it is so I decided to make one. Here’s a round up of DIY Teens Boards on Living Montessori Now. I made one similar to the La Paz Home Learning one and it cost me less than $8. It was also pretty simple to make (an hour max). But you can make it more or less fancy depending on your level of handiness, your budget, and the time you want to dedicate to it. 

Magnetic Numbers: Exactly what these sound like. They’re the number counterparts to the traditional magnetic numbers everyone has seen on fridges. It’s a super passive way to play with numbers and simply get a sense of what they look like. I bought a bin with letters (lower and upper case) and numbers for fairly inexpensive. The ones we have are these, but they don’t seem to have the set like we bought with all the letters and numbers. Go figure. This company also makes their letters color coded in red and blue like Montessori materials so it may be a good substitute for the moveable alphabet if you need something a bit cheaper. I’m very happy with the quality of them.

Red and Blue Rods with Numerals: I used the red and blue rods I made (1-9 because the box was too small to fit the 10 and because 10 takes two numerals to make) and paired them with a bowl of blue magnetic numbers to match with the rods. Cam still has to count each rod so she tires out before we’re totally done with this activity. I also have to sit with her when she does it, but that’s fine with me. She enjoys doing it and counting together.