Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Year's Reading Challenge

So I'll admit, I have a book buying problem.  I've been collecting books, particularly non-fiction books, since before Xander was born.  Garage sales, book fairs and book orders mean I can stretch my money, plus he always asks for books for his birthday and Christmas.  That means we have a lot of them.  
When Xander was a toddler, we did a 1500 book challenge, where we read 1500 unique books in one year.  I enjoyed the challenge, and knowing that he was being exposed to a huge number of words.  Now that our library has grown up a little, I decided to do an updated challenge with him.

A while back I posted about how our books are organized and how we use Libib to catalogue them online.  With the website, I printed an Excel Spreadsheet of all of our books and printed one very long list.  The goal is for him to read all of the books he owns in 2018.  (He has roughly 1100 books logged).  This challenge includes both board books he'll read to his future sibling, as well as his chapter books (which should provide more of a challenge to the timeframe).  I excluded his encyclopedias, though.

I put his list on a clipboard and included a little box for him to check them off as he goes.  I think finding the books on the list will be good practice with alphabetical order.  He can also highlight them if he wants.

I'm looking forward to the challenge and seeing if he accomplishes it!  I'll let you know what happens!

Monday, December 11, 2017

EL Reading For Parents: Brain Rules for Baby

Recently I posted my Maternity Reading List.  The first book I read from the list was Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina.  I have to say, it was one of my favorite parenting books (granted, I'm not posting about the ones I really didn't like).

All of the advice and information in the book is research based (definitely appeases the science teacher part of me).  The author gave practical tips, while still realizing that parents are human and need to balance brain development and regular life.  Topics ranged from pregnancy, to family relationships to raising happy, moral children.

Some Take Home Messages:
Notes: almost all of these are things I have read other places, but the scientific evidence to back them up is reassuring.

  • Face to face interaction with babies is the most valuable
  • Talk to your baby as much as possible
  • Praise effort, not intelligence
  • Model and teach empathy & emotions
  • Discipline consistently but with explanations

Friday, December 8, 2017

DIY Baby Teether

As I announced a few weeks ago, I'm currently expected our second little early learner.  I am so excited and have been busy planning all out fun activities!  Since my best friend is also expecting, we decided to have a girls night and make a baby craft.

This is what we came up with.  They're natural wood and silicone teethers.  The two round ones I plan on just giving to the baby either at home or in a stroller.  The two long ones I plan on hanging from a baby gym so the baby can practice reaching and grasping.  The black, white and red one I figured would be good to start with, for visual stimulation.

We ended up ordering quite a bit between us, but I made four things, she made five and we have lots left over to make more.  I figure, on a per item basis, it wasn't too expensive and it was a fun evening.

We got this kit, which came with a very handy little box.  It's where we stored all the extra beads and string when we were done.  We also got some hexagonal silicone beads and round silicone beads to augment the set.  I was glad we did.  Below are pictures of everything we have left after both of us finished our projects.

Stringing them was simple, although having a big needled helped tremendously.  We made sure to knot the string tightly, and secured it with some nontoxic clear nail polish.  The beads all all big enough, they shouldn't pose too much of a choking hazard, even if they were to break free.

I'd love to hear any ideas you have for DIY baby projects!  I still have 6 months to fill!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

DIY Magnetic Advent Calendar

This year I really struggled with Advent Calendar ideas.  We always do our book advent activity, where I wrap 24 of our Christmas and Winter themed books and Xander gets to open one each day (we've done this every year and he's still enjoying the activity at 7 years old).  

The last two years I've done a Lego Advent Calendar, but it required remaking the envelopes every year.  He liked it, but I was ready for something different, and slightly more reusable.

This is what I came up with:

I used magnetic spice containers (similar to these) that I got from the Dollar Tree.  I liked the Dollar Tree ones better because they were wider and shallower (and cheaper).  Then I use the bottom of the container to trace circles on card stock and filled in the "tree."

The containers are big enough to put a few fun sized candy bars.  This year I put in some mini Pokemon figurines I got super cheap on Amazon.  I put two in each container and Xander has loved opening them so far.  In the future I could put other little toys, or even something for Xander and something for the new baby.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Maternity Reading List

As I shared last month, I am so excited to start the early learning journey again with our new little one when he/she arrives!  To prepare I've already started making my reading list.  It has books I read already (so will likely skim) and new books I just got (thank you ebay!).  I was thinking I should jot down some notes on the takeaways I get from each one, so maybe I won't have reread them all for baby #3, especially considering there is likely to be a LOT of overlap.  I can share that in the future if anyone would be interested.

UPDATED 12/6/17

Another hand one that I have for reference, but won't fully reread before baby.

Are there any early learning books I'm missing or that you would recommend?

Friday, November 10, 2017

A New Little Early Learner

I am so blessed to be able to have more good news to share.  Last week I posted about my wedding last summer, this week I'm excited to announce that we have a new little one coming in May.  Xander is thrilled to be a big brother, although he's seriously pushing for a little sister.  I'm happy he will get a sibling to love.
Additionally, I'm incredibly excited to start the early learning journey again. I LOVED all of the learning activities I did with Xander when he was little.  That was some of the best bonding time, since it was focused one on one time.  I know so much more than I did when I started with Xander, so it should be fun to adapt things to the new one's personality.  Luckily, my husband is very supportive of my craziness and has even agreed to help when he can. I look forward to blogging about the new experiences and hopefully, making some new learning materials.

To prepare, I plan on re-reading a bunch of my reference books and probably getting some new ones.  I plan to make a place on the blog where I can organize parent and learning resources by age.  If you have suggestions, I'm always open to hearing them!  

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Some big changes have been happening around here as I've been away from blogging.  Most notably, I got married last August.  I am so grateful to have found such an amazing partner for me, and dad for Xander.  My husband is an audiologist, and probably an even bigger science nerd than I am.  He'll fit right into our EL household. :)

My dad was completely on board with letting Xander walk me down the aisle this time.  
 No word can express how happy this picture makes me!  Xander deserves a wonderful dad.  We are working on having Xander adopted, currently just waiting on the paperwork to go through. 
 Our new little family of three.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Organizing a Homeschool Library

Disclaimer: We currently fall more under the category of "Afterschooling" family than "Homeschooling" category, but the library organization applies in either situation.  :)

While some women love to shop for purses, shoes, clothes, make-up, etc., my main shopping weakness is books.  I was the girl that dreamed of the library from Beauty and the Beast, instead of the prince.  Between garage sales, library book sales, Scholastic book orders and Amazon, we have accumulated quite the library of children's books.  Xander adores his books, spends hours a week (and sometimes a day) reading and rereading his books.  It's hard to feel guilty buying him more when I know they'll get put to good use!

However, with all the books we had, I was worried about some of them getting buried on the shelves, or not being able to find books we were looking for.  As soon as I finished my basement, I knew that new bookshelves were in order!  Since I also tend to have an obsessive need for organization, I needed to come up with a system of organizing those books!  After some research and some work, our new Homeschool Library was born!

There's an App for That
As I was deciding how to organize the library, I did quite a bit of Googling into apps and software to organize home libraries.  I finally landed on  Libib is a free cloud based database that lets me organize and categorize my books.  I can create multiple libraries and I can use my phone or iPad to scan barcodes, I can type in ISBN numbers, I can search for books or I can do a complete manual entry.  The vast majority of the books we own already had the information loaded into the website, I just had to add them to my library.  I can access the library anywhere I have internet (which will be handing when I'm at a garage sale and can't remember whether or not I have a particular book).  I can also export the library and its information into a spreadsheet.

The part of the app that was most valuable to me, though, was the tags.  For each book I was able to add tags, that I can use to search.  Just a few examples of tags I have are "Christmas," "Leveled Readers," "Weather," "Life Cycles", "Space," "Historical Figures," and "Character Development." Many books only have one tag, but many have several.  It took a lot of upfront work (which I did slowly over several weeks), but I am glad I did.  The power in it is that if we are studying a particular topic, I can easily type in a tag and find all the books we have related to that subject.  If Xander is interested in castles, for example, I can figure out all the books we have related to castles, even if they're not all stored together.  

On the Shelves
Luckily, there is  still quite a bit of room on the shelves.  Part of that is because I have chosen to store all of his chapter books on shelves elsewhere in the house.  I have dreams of someday having all the shelves together (and maybe even one of those beautiful IKEA corner shelving units with a ladder), but those dreams will have to wait for a bigger house.  Part of it is because I have not dug all of the board books out of storage, yet.  Someday we'll have more kids and then those shelves will be put to good use!

Below is the general way I categorized the shelves.  

I used to exclusively use those cardboard magazine organizers from IKEA, but they take up so much room on the shelves, particularly if they're not full.  I decided to still use those for our more seasonal books (holidays, seasons, toddler nonfiction books).  For the rest of the non-ficiton, I put them into categories separated by paint sticks.  I just used a fine-tipped sharpie to label the paint sticks.  They're cheap and easy enough that I can adjust the categories as our collection grows/changes.  The categories on the shelves do not necessarily match the categories in Libib (because Libib lets me have multiple tags).
The categorization of the non-fiction is easy enough.  I struggled a little more with the fiction.  I ended up having one shelf of fiction completely random.  There's no system and Xander can take and put in books however he'd like.  Some fiction, however, I decided I needed to categorize.  For example, we have several books by certain authors or in certain series, that it just made sense to keep together.  We have a category for the Bear Books by Karma Wilson, another for the Aurthur books, one for Eric Carle books and another for the Llama Llama Books.  I also ended up putting together a section for books about Love and Family.

Cleaning Up
As of right now, Xander can get out whatever books he wants to read, but I am not having him put them away.  He's supposed to put them in a pile and I will put them away for him.  While I encourage his independence, he tends to shove books onto shelves, bending pages and covers in the process.  We're working on it, but until then, I'm ok with putting the books away for him.

Room to Grow
While this is the current system, and I am very happy with it, I also see it growing and changing in the future.  The grownups books need a better place than boxes in my dad's basement.  I would also love to have something like the picture below for a playroom for younger kids.  I'm also open to other ideas and suggestions the readers have to make it even more efficient!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Games for Brains: Otrio

Playing Time: ~10 Minutes.
Players: 1-4

When I first saw this game, I was immediately drawn to the beautiful wood board and the colorful rings.  Even without knowing how to play, it just looks interesting and fun (maybe that's just me, I have the same feeling when I walk into a kindergarten classroom).  It is played kind of similarly to tic-tac-toe, only a little more grown up.  You have three sizes of rings and can win by get three in a row of the same size or ascending to descending sizes.  Additionally, you can win by filling one space with a ring of each size.  For two player, you each play two different colors, which function independently.  While the concept is super simple and can be explained to a new person in about a minute, it is actually a bit more challenging that we first thought it would be.

Xander enjoys playing and it is great that it takes about 10 minutes or less to play.  Sometimes I just can't commit to a 45-60 minute game in the evenings!  We've played 2, 3 and 4 player, and liked all version.    

Angry that I took his spot

Brain Value:
Like I said, this game takes more brainpower than it first seems.  It is a very visual game, which is good for me since I am not always a visual person.  Since there are four different colors and multiple ways to win, you really have to pay attention to the whole board and try to anticipate what others might do.  He so easily gets caught up in what moves he wants to make, that he has to focus to block moves of other players.  I also like that he has to plan a little bit ahead, rather than just playing each move as he goes.

The company makes other games, so I am kind of intrigued to see if I like them as well.

Affiliate links used, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Monday, January 2, 2017

When Early Learning Kid Hits Public School

Hello!  Remember me?  Life has been crazy, hence the silence around the blog.  I taught a new class this year, so all of my free time went to that.  Sadly, I barely got to do any fun learning activities with Xander, and when I did, I forgot to take pictures and blog.  I'll try to be better. :)
Anyway, since a lot of my blog focuses on early education, I figured I'd give an update as to what happened when Xander hit school.  This was his first official year in public school (we did preschool last year, but he was only there a couple hours a day and learned pretty much nothing).
In preparation for Xander entering kindergarten, I had contacted the principal last spring to address some of my concerns about having a kid who could read and do math enter kindergarten.  The principal pretty much wanted me to wait until summer to do anything.  In the summer I contacted both him and the teacher and was told we'd just wait til school started.  Two weeks after school started, and Xander was coming home having "learned" a letter a day, I contacted the teacher again and some meetings and evaluations were eventually set up.  We met and some fantastic ideas were discussed, but nothing was really implemented, so I kept pestering.  Basically, it was a long road to get to a place where we could address Xander's learning needs.

His evaluations came back showing that he was doing 2nd grade math and has a 5th grade reading fluency, so obviously a letter and number a day were just not appropriate.  In November it was finally decided that we should move Xander to 1st grade.  This involved changing schools (within the same district), but was felt to be a better fit.  Xander only missed the age cut off by about 6 weeks, so while he is now young for his grade, he's still fairly close in age to his peers.  It seems like the best balance for him.  He'd be much more challenged than in kindergarten, without it being too big of an age jump.  Also, it allows him to learn the process of school.

He's now been in 1st grade for a couple of months and likes it pretty well.  The teacher works really hard to meet each student where they are and the principal is very easy to work with as well.  He's grouped with the more advanced kids for their MTSS time, so is working on STEM skills and currently doing a research project.  He's getting challenged well in grammar also.  I am not 100% sure how I feel about his math placement, but overall I think his needs are being met the best they can at the moment.  He's learning science and social studies and really enjoys music, art and gym.  He gets along well with his peers and enjoys school.
1st Day at the new school!
  I'd LOVE to do more fun learning activities from home and have tons of ideas for them.  Xander would like that too.  Someday I will work more normal hours and maybe be able to do some afterschooling.  For now, we still use many iPad apps and Xander does some CLE lessons from time to time.

I still have absolutely no regrets about teaching him young, despite the initial stress of this school year.  Our learning time together was always intended to be fun and never took too much of his day.  He had plenty of time to play.  More than teaching him anything specific, I think I taught him how to learn.  He LOVES to read and drinks in stories, characters and information.  He has fantastic recall and figures things out quickly.  He likes learning and being challenged.

More than that, looking back at the pictures from when he was little, early education gave us SO many memories.  While he may not remember every art project, game or activity, having that time focused on just him is invaluable to both of us.  I'm incredibly grateful for that time and wouldn't trade it for anything.
Christmas morning he was surrounded by a pile of toys and the first thing he wanted to do was read.  Proud mama!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...