Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Night at the Zoo

We're building a zoo. Our big January project is to build our very own zoo. We've already made a list of all the animals that will live in our zoo. The next step is to study each animal and determine what region that animal belongs in. (Arctic, Antarctic, Rain Forest, African Plains, etc.)

We will be building dioramas of each region. The dioramas will be built in those "under the bed" plastic Rubbermaid containers.

After our zoo is complete, we will be hosting a Night at the Zoo event. We will send out invitations to various friends and relatives. We will create a buffet snack table. We will greet our guests and then Kira will give a tour of the zoo, complete with lectures about each region and what animals live there.

We will be posting fact sheets, too, for our guests to read about our animals and regions.

I'm very excited about this project. I've been "creating" this in my mind for a few years now, just waiting for the girls to be old enough to begin.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Reading

Things have happened with leaps and bounds around here. I pulled out those star stickers and suddenly all Kira wants to do is sit in the bathroom and read words. It's awesome.

Her Grandma came to pick her up today, so I asked Grandma to visit our bathroom for a moment. I wanted to show her what Kira was doing. Kira took off running across the house chanting:

"Grandma! Grandma! I can read. I can read. I can read."

As soon as we got to the bathroom, Kira read several of her words before we pushed her out the door. She would have been quite intent to sit there and read all day. In fact, after she came back home, she did exactly that. We spent at least a half an hour sitting in the bathroom reading. I used some of her cards to create simple sentences. We discussed what sentences are and how words are used to create sentences. (haven't gotten to the parts of the sentence just yet...) Then Kira started taking the sentences I had created and manipulating them to make new sentences.

There is no doubt that Kira has definitely got this reading thing figured out now. It's just a matter of teaching her all the different rules and adding vocabulary to her collection of knowledge now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reading Lessons, Continued...

I took a bit of time to reorganize the index cards that are taped to the bathroom wall. Now they are organized into categories according to their "word families."

"Word families are groups of words that have a common feature or pattern - they have some of the same combination of letters in them and a similar sound. For example, at, cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the "at" sound and letter combination in common." (Enchanted Learning)

After I organized all the words, I added a few new words that Kira has not yet read to me. I know she is able to read them, we just never actually sat down and read each word in that grouping. I added a couple of extra "families" that I know she will have no trouble with, also. 

In the morning, I will show her how I have rearranged everything. Kira is somewhat resistant to the process of reading out loud. She likes to claim that she can't read or that she's not in the mood. In order to get her to be a bit more interested, I will be pulling out the shiny stars. Each time she reads a word for me, she will get to pick a star sticker and place it on the word card to show that she has read that word. I will make her put her stars on the cards in an even interval to prevent her from focusing on one word at a time. In this manner, I hope to give her some motivation to do the reading and reinforce that she is able to do it without any complaining. 

Now I know Kira will be reading all these words whenever she happens to be in the bathroom. It's just the nature of the human brain to find something to occupy itself during times of stillness. (not that my 5 year old is EVER still...) What I need, though, is a way to get her to read those words to me. That's why I'm bringing out the stars. 

I will continue to add new words to the wall throughout the next few months. As each word card accumulates a certain number of stars - FIVE maybe - then it will be "retired" to a different location. Maybe we will create a "word families" box and let her keep her retired cards in that box so she can still practice the reading skills with those cards whenever she wants to pull them out. 

Feel free to throw me a few suggestions. While I'm pleased with how readily Kira is grasping this particular concept, I am also completely open to any and every possible idea to make it better for us both.  

Friday, December 4, 2009


I have a HUGE box of buttons of various sizes and colors. I like to use my buttons in art projects and scrapbooking, but I often find myself spending way too much time looking for just the right color or just the right size.

I have a solution. 

My two girls will start sorting my buttons for me tomorrow. I'm going to buy the appropriate number of jars and have them sort my buttons by color / size. This will accomplish a multitude of things.

First, Marisa will get to practice her colors. She will also be able to practice sorting by color. She might get a bit of size sorting in, but I'm not too sure that she's ready for that at the lovely age of *Hell Hath No Fury* 3 years old.

Second, Kira will get to practice her color and size sorting. At the age of 5 years old, she is more than capable of doing this level of sorting. She will also be sorting out the animals, the flowers, and the holiday buttons to add a level of difficulty.

Both girls will get paid a small pittance each day for their work. This will give them an idea of earning their money. They already have piggy banks that they just adore dropping coins in. Giving them a bit of cash to compensate them for the time they spend on such a tedious task will also help keep them motivated. This task will take many days to complete and I wouldn't want them to stop in the middle without finishing the sorting project.

Most importantly, though, my buttons will ultimately be sorted into a system that will allow me to access whatever it is I may want or need at any given time. THIS, of course, is my main goal!

Major Organizing Project = Massive School Lesson for Both Girls


Thursday, December 3, 2009

School House Rock

I bought the School House Rock Collector's Edition DVD about a year ago. Unfortunately, I could never quite figure out how to navigate through the menu. Yes - consider it to be a bit of blondness combined with a great deal of stress at the time.

I decided to try again now that my life has settled down quite a bit. Luckily, I found the menu to be much more comprehensible this time.

I have spent the better part of the day listening to the never ending series of songs, accompanied by appropriate animations, that teach about a large variety of subjects. We've listened to a song about bones, songs about parts of speech, songs about legal matters, and songs about money. It's pretty cool how these topics can be translated into songs that kids will inevitably learn. My husband still sings "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function" which he learned when he was a kid.

If you have never been introduced to School House Rock, I highly recommend that you find a copy at your local movie store.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I've been spending the last few days teaching Marisa her letter sounds. We make a fun game of the whole process.

I ask her what the letter "A" says.

She tells me that the letter makes some off the wall sound that is completely not what that letter says.

I tell her in a voice that is incredulous that that is NOT what the letter says.

Then I tell here exactly what the letter says.

She repeats what I say about the letter, then we carry on to the next one in line.

We do this for the entire alphabet.

This is the same method I used for Kira two years ago. Kira, however, preferred to tell me that her letters said "nothing" instead of providing me with nonsense sounds. At any rate, Marisa is learning the letter sounds and having fun being obstinate about it. Who knew that "MY" Marisa would enjoy being obstinate and difficult??? (Never saw THAT one coming...)