Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Simple Science: Acids and Bases

It has been way too long since I did any posts with science experiments!  Here's one we did recently to introduce the concept of acids and bases (we did not get into PH or the chemical reactions that occur with them).  

From conversations we've had when he's been sick or when pregnancy gave me heartburn, Xander already knew that certain foods like citrus fruits are acidic.  We explained that bases are the opposite of acids and neutral means something is neither acidic nor basic.

To prep, I cut up a head of purple cabbage and then boiled it about 6-7 cups of water for 15 minutes and strained it.  I was supposed to use distilled water, but accidentally used filtered instead and it still worked.  Now I have a jug of distilled sitting around.  Oops.

Then I had Xander line up a bunch of glasses and we added a different liquid to each one.  I had Xander make a list of the different liquids, so he could make predictions and record observations.  We used pickle juice, lime juice, milk, hot sauce, water with baking soda, white grape juice, sparkling water and regular water (for the control).

Then I had Xander try each one and write down observations about how it tasted. 
I only let him dab his finger in the hot sauce instead of trying to drink it. 
Then I had him add 1/4 cup of the cabbage juice to each cup and we recorded what happened.  We were looking for color change.  Then I had him use the color changes to try to determine which was the strongest acid and which was the strongest base.  (It will turn bright pink for acids and teal for bases).

It ended up being a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Xander concluded that acids usually taste sour.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Why I'm Teaching My 2nd Baby to Read

When Xander was a baby, a good friend introduced me to the books by Glenn Doman, and therefore, the world of early learning.  From there, I ate up all the information I could find, joined some early learning parents groups and our activities (and the blog) evolved as I learned. (I've also started writing reviews of several of the books I read that you can check out here).
Now with my second baby, I've had some experience and acquired more knowledge about early education.  The question wasn't if I was going to teach him to read, it was when and how I would start!  Every family is different and each parent needs to decide what works for their family.  Here, however, are five reasons I'm going to start teaching my second baby to read.
1.  It Gives Us Something Fun to Do Together:
First of all, I love having meaningful time with my kids.  I love playing with Archer and making him smile.  I adore watching his curiosity and effort to learn to do things.  However, little babies are a bit limited in what they can do, so teaching him to read gives us a set of activities that is fun for both of us.  He is much happier when he is engaged and I'm thrilled to engage with him in ways that will be beneficial.  The time I spent teaching Xander was some of the most memorable bonding time we had.

Furthermore, I am very type A.  I have to feel productive to be happy.  I'm the kind of person that makes myself color coded weekly planner pages and likes to feel like I got a lot done at the end of the day.  Being a mother to an infant is kind of the opposite. So much of the day is spent nursing and rocking him, or doing piles of laundry.  While these things are important, feeling like he and I had some great bonding time that also taught him something valuable, helps keep me feeling like I accomplished more at the end of the day than a stack of dishes.
Sneaking books into his bed instead of sleeping.
2.  It Works
We know from experience that teaching babies to read works.  Since testing takes away from the fun, I wasn't sure at first.  I figured out Xander could read words when he was about 18 months while playing a game, he was reading easy readers by 2 and when he was evaluated in kindergaten, they stopped the evaluation when he reached 5th grade level fluency.  We're not sure where his reading level actually was at the time.    Babies are primed to learn language.  They learn to speak their native language almost effortlessly.  Reading is just another language, arguably an easier one to learn.  When babies learn spoken language, they have to content with accents, varying volumes and inflections and figuring out where one word ends and another begins.  Written language is much more consistent.  (You can see my post about teaching my first baby to read here).
3.  Babies Love Learning and Teaching Them is Easy
Look at any baby and you will see a tiny human who is constantly learning and exploring. Their brains are learning faster than they ever will again in their lives.  The younger they are, the faster they learn.  Teaching Xander took some organization, but less than 10 minutes a day (in addition to reading stories together or letting him watch a DVD).  He loved it.  I literally could not make new materials for him as fast as he wanted to learn them.  Even when he could read, he still loved watching reading lessons on Little Reader or Your Baby Can Read.  I literally had to hide the DVDs.  The other nice thing, is the content is so much more age appropriate when the learn as babies.  Six year olds aren't that impressed with books about the cat that sat on the mat.
4.  I'm Happy With the Results
Gearing up this time is so much easier, knowing the potential outcome.  Xander LOVES to read.  He could easily spend hours a day reading and often does.  He almost always has a book with him in the car, often takes one when we're on errands or when we have to wait in waiting rooms.  He gets so excited about his new books, that when the school book order comes, he pretty much doesn't talk to me for the rest of the night (mixed blessing).  This summer, he received the Heroes of Olympus series and that first afternoon he was pretty upset we made him put down his book to eat lunch.  Since then he's read them all again and again.  I love watching him get excited about acquiring the next book in a series or our trips to the library.  With reports of crazy percentages of kids struggling to read, it is so reassuring to have a who has is proficient.  I know it will help him in every school subject.
5.  Reading Opens Up New Worlds of Knowledge and Creativity
When a child can read independently, they are no longer dependent on an adult to introduce them to stories and ideas (we parents have to get laundry and dishes done sometime, right?).  On their own, they can explore a variety of adventures and information, finding their own interests and preferences.  I try hard to let him read whatever he likes, as long as it doesn't contain inappropriate content.  Sometimes that means he reads graphic novels, sometimes he reads encyclopedias.  Xander's head is full of a crazy amount of random facts from reading.  When he plays with friends or with toys, he has an imense imagination, because he has so many fantasy worlds from which to draw.  His vocabulary is phenomenal for his age, because he was exposed to so new words in his novels.  Sometimes stories have sparked an interest that has driven a lot of non-fiction reading as well (like his current mythology obsession).  Basically, he had YEARS of extra knowledge that he would not have had if he had waited until school to learn to read.

Friday, August 3, 2018

2.5 Month Learning Activities

I thought I'd share what learning activities we're doing with Archer now that he's about two and a half months.  He's still pretty young, so most learning comes from just normal baby life.  We spend a lot of time snuggling, nursing, bouncing, singing songs and reading books.
We're still using the baby gym and crawling track.  Archer LOVES the gym and is getting so much better at reaching for the toys (I usually use the toys I made in this post).  He likes when he can get them swinging or we swing them for him.  I still put books beside him to look at when he gets tired of the toys. Archer tolerates the crawling track.  Sometimes he likes it, sometimes he hates it, a lot of times he gets very frustrated he can't go where he wants to go yet, but I am glad he tries.
During the toddler years, I updated Xander's work shelves weekly.  Since Archer is still so young, I plan on keeping his shelves up for several weeks.
On the left we have a simple rainbow stacker.  He's too little to use it, but we sometimes show him the different colored rings to occupy him.  Oddly, having it out must be tempting, because I'll find that Xander has been playing with it from time to time.  We also have a little car track.  Archer can't actually use it on his own yet, but we push the cars off for him to watch and listen to.  He seems to be interested and I like the eye tracking aspect.  They make an even bigger one, and now I kind of wish I'd purchased that one instead.

On the top right we have some baby paper.  He really seems to like this when he's in his car seat, but it is also nice incentive for him during tummy time.
In the top basket I have a bunch of noise music makers.  I play each one for him, but vary where I play it.  For instance, I play it to the right side of him, or above his head, etc.  That way he has to look around for the sound.  His eye tracking has gotten so much better.  He loves this game and always rewards me with HUGE smiles.
Xander likes to get in on the game too.  

The second basket has various balls in it.  The little ones make different noises and the big ones are easy for him to grab.  I place these next to him when he's lying on the floor so he can try to grab them of move them.  Sometimes I will put them around him while he is in his baby gym.
We recently started having Archer watch Tweedlewink.  A lot of the parents in my Online Early Learning groups swear by them, so we thought we'd invest in them for him.  They definitely follow the Right Brain approach to learning, using whole words and relatively fast display of information.  They cover a huge variety of subjects, but are simple enough so as not to overstimulate tiny brains.  As you can see from the picture below, Archer LOVES them.  Each lesson is about 8 minutes, and we let him watch one a day.  He sits very attentively the whole time, sometimes talking to the TV.   Xander usually insists on watching with him, also.  We will see what we think of them as he grows. 

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