Friday, April 26, 2013

Popcorn Physics with my Pre-schoolers

As we were eating our bed time snack this evening, I started asking my kids about why popcorn pops.  My son said, " I don't know."  He was interested though, so I explained that the kernels had water inside of them.  I asked whether the energy was going in or coming out of the popcorn.  (It's going in.)  I explained that the energy going in changed the water from a liquid to a gas.  We examined a popped kernel to see where the seed coat ended up.

Then my son had a better idea.  

Library Treasure: Go Bugs Go!

This week's treasure was my son's find.  The scenes in Go Bugs Go! Jessica Spanyol are  attractive to kids.  Apparently the her son helped develop some of the characters and scenarios.  It features of physical action and intriguing little details.  There are also some nice repetitions of phonetically simple words  The result was that my children each sat and "read" this book to themselves many times.  I suspect we may see this one again.

Have you found a great book at the library recently?  Please share!

Linked to: Mum's Make Lists, Reading Link-up

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Scripture Memory for My Visual Learner

I was reading about learning styles this week, and was reminded that it is important to put things in a visual format for my visual child.  I think this explains the frustration we have both had at Bible memory time when I ask him to verbally recite.  I decided to try to make Bible memory a visual activity.

I am not a visual learner, and as you can see, not particularly accomplished in illustration.  However, my son's reaction to these little visuals has been enthusiastic.  In one day, he went from being able to say about half of the Psalm, with prompting and hand motions, to saying the whole thing, simply by looking at these sticky notes.  Right now, we are connecting phrases with the pictures in order.  I chunked the Psalm using different colors. In the future I plan to have him put each section in order, then put the colored sections themselves in order.   I did use some words, but at this point those help him learn the words, not the passage.

Psalm 1 in Sticky Notes

How blessed is the man, 
who does not walk in the way of the wicked, 
who does not stand in the way of sinners, 
who does not sit in the seat of scoffers,

but his delight,
is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law
he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree,
firmly planted by streams of water,
that gives forth fruit in its season.
Its leaf also does not wither,
and whatever he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
but are like the chaff which the wind blows away.
He will not stand in the day of judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Science of Sun Tea

There are so many fun things going on here!  I am afraid I went a little over board in my live presentation, so hopefully I at least encouraged some curiosity   We  have plenty of sunlight these days, so I will give it another try soon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to potty train: Regression

 I know more about toilet training regression than I like to admit.  If you are in the middle of it, I am really sorry.   Here are some things that have worked for me and my kids. Nothing works every time, but eventually something will work whether it is one of these ideas or another.

Talking to a doctor

I knew there had to be a physical problem when my child was sitting on the toilet, and obviously holding it.  The child now loves the doctor, because, "The doctor helps me get better."  There is never a wrong time to talk to a trusted doctor.  Toilet training regression can have multiple physical causes.  Some of those causes require prescription medicine, so talking to the doctor is necessary.  AskDrSears is a medical web-site that I have used, but nothing substitutes for a discussion with a live doctor.  

Identifying an emotional cause

A new sibling, a sibling going to the hospital, and several moves have caused regressions in our household.  In this case, I just tried to do the best I could to reassure my child. Usually, as the change was adjusted to, the regression naturally reversed, but not always.  

Charge ahead, or take a break?  A middle ground

 Some people say that if you let them go back to diapers and start again, they will train faster the second time.  It did not work that way for us.  However, there are times when neither I nor the child can handle charging ahead.

A strategy which I found helpful was to partially revert to cloth diapers.  If the child has success, they get to choose between diapers and underwear.  If they have an accident, they wear diapers.  

I think this works well for a list of reasons.  First, disposable diapers keep the child dry, so they might have a hard time knowing when they have gone.  Cloth diapers let them feel what just happened.  Also, cloth diapers are less comfortable than underwear, so both my kids were pretty motivated to wear underwear.  

 My child  sometimes chose diapers, and I realized that for a perfectionist temperament, the stress of needing to use the toilet was counter productive. Without the stress of a mess on carpet in a rented home, my responses to accidents were more appropriate.   Sometimes the diaper wearing child would make it to the toilet and "earn" under wear.  This strategy let the child feel in control.  I think that was helpful in getting past some of the emotional struggle of regression. For us, it was the right amount of motivation, without the undue stress.

When our move caused a total regression, and I had left cloth diapers behind, I went to Green Mountain and bought six Indian pre-folds, a snappy, and two plastic covers.  That is what you will need if you are starting just when you hope to finish.  If you've never done cloth, ask for the information sheet, it's an excellent resource.

What other tactics would you add to a mom's bag of tricks for over coming toilet training regression? 

                       When Should You Start Potty Training?

Linked to: 

Raising Imperfection

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Montessori Writing Method:Pencil Practice

One of the reasons I am excited about using Montessorian techniques for writing with my kids is that  the stress of using a pencil correctly is detached from the joy of words.  Of course, it could work in reverse if using the pencil is a joy, and the words are stressful.  The Montessori method calls for a set of shape stencils, colored pencils, and plain paper.

Homemade tools

You can buy Montessori shape stencils, but I chose to make my own, largely because shipping was going to be hassle, but also because larger pieces are a easier to manipulate.

You may recognize the shapes from this Melissa and Doug puzzle.  It's a must have in my opinion, and if you look around you can probably find it for $8.  We have definitely gotten our money's worth out of this one!

To make the matching stencils, I simply traced the shape onto corrugated cardboard and punched it out with a tooth pick.

Using the shape stencils

The prescribed procedure is to direct the children to use the stencils to draw shapes, then to fill in the shapes with simple lines, drawn form one side to the other.  For some reason, my son finds this much more interesting than coloring.   He also likes to draw the shapes next to each other, so that they form a picture of some kind.  My daughter is more interested in the process of drawing itself.

This project was conglomeration of several things. We used the shape stencils toward the desired goal of making a crown.

So far this has been a great low stress way to work on mastering the use of a pencil.  Both of my children have really enjoyed using the shape stencils and the puzzle pieces to make their own creations, and  I can tell that they perceive it as a step toward competency and freedom, not an enforced task.

Related posts: Montessori Writing Method: Magnetic Letters
Montessori Writing Method: Homemade Tracing Cards
 Linked to:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to potty train: Before you actually start

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is not a a hard and fast right time to begin potty training.  Most of us end up trying some where between one and half and three.  When my son showed every sign of being ready around age one, I was totally lost on what to do.  In this post and a few following, I will out-line what I did the second time around, and would recommend.

 Here are some steps I would want take after my baby started walking to get ready for the eventual potty training.  These are recommendations of an ordinary mom, not a medical professional.

Introduce some kind of potty chair.

Healthy toilet use is largely about being relaxed.  Ideally. your child should  feel really comfortable just hanging out on the potty.  There are chairs that you dump into the toilet and seats that make the toilet comfortable.  If you're using the big potty directly, you'll also need a stool that makes sitting up there comfortable and safe.   Put the chair in the bathroom and let your child sit on it while you sing or read books.  You might do it on a schedule or at random.  Just make it fun.

Develop a system for clean up.

Conventional potty training involves many, many, accidents.  It is extremely important that the parent not be too concerned about the accidents.  I find that the easier clean up is, the more relaxed I can be about the accident.  You will need a system of dealing with dirty laundry.  This might simply be a bucket with a lid in the bathroom.  Wipes or clothes used for diapers will still be needed.  You will also need a set of rags (or paper towels or old diapers) dedicated to sopping up.  You will  need a disinfectant .   Clorox Anywhere is my favorite, and is cheaper in the store than on Amazon.

Cloth diapers.

This is negotiable, but I think it really helps.  For one thing, the child needs to know he is doing something in order to respond to it.  Secondly, cloth diapers make a nice in-between option later on.

You do not want the cloth diapers that keep the child dry.  Cotton pre-folds are perfect, and the covers you use with them make great over the under wear covers later.  Gerber has some all in ones that they call training pants, but they're hard to find.

When our move caused a total regression, and I had left cloth diapers behind, I went to Green Mountain and bought six Indian pre-folds, a snappy, and two plastic covers.  That is what you will need if you are starting just when you hope to finish.  If you've never done cloth, ask for the information sheet, it's an excellent resource.

Let the child see some examples.

Easy going souls probably already have their children in the bathroom with them, but for some of us it is the last true retreat.  However,  the child needs to know that people go in toilets if they are ever going to want to do it themselves.  In particular, little boys will probably want to know that it is something that men do.  Observing others is one of the main motivators that causes children to actually begin using the toilet.

Rejoice any time they go with a diaper off.

It can be frustrating to have the mess to deal with, but going with a diaper off is something that you will desperately want to encourage later.  Start responding now with a happy " <insert family term here> ! " .

I would not expect these steps to result in full-time toilet use.  If it does, a huge congratulations to you!  Rather, these steps might help a child  become aware and interested in the process of using the toilet, and help the caregiver be ready when the child is ready.

What else helps a child feel ready to use the toilet?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bible memory for children

A few years ago, my friend, Michelle, inspired me by teaching her two-year-old scripture passages.  I realized that the time was quickly approaching when my kids would be ready to memorize scripture, and began to think about what that should look like.

Growing up in a dedicated family, church, and Christian school, I memorized many verses.   I am grateful now for what was stored in my young  heart.  As I look back, I see that some of the verses I memorized as a child are more useful than others.

Passages that lead to knowledge of God

My parents taught me John 3:16 before I was four-years-old.  It was reviewed many times during my child hood.  This is one of the most precious verses they could have given me.  The whole gospel, clearly written on my heart with love.  It speaks of God's graciousness, and nothing is more central to my faith.

Now that I am choosing passages for my own children, I want to choose passages that are central to the character of God.  Many of the verses chosen for children are focused on details of behavior.  I think this is a mistake.  Focusing on behavioral details in Bible memory tells the child that getting those details right is the most important thing.  According to Jesus, Knowing and loving God is the most important thing.  (See Mark 12:29.)

Long passages, thoroughly reviewed

Each year the teachers in my Christian elementary school would introduce a "passage of the year." The class would memorize the passage at the beginning of the year and recite every day for the rest of the year.  To this day, I can quote Exodus 20 in the King James, even though I have not reviewed it in the twenty years  that have passed since I finished the first grade

Remembering extended passages, is valuable to me as an adult.  If I am thinking through a situation, searching for words for prayer, or giving a defense, I have entire discussions at my disposal.  It is easy to remember where large chunks of memorized material are found, so I can go back and check whether I am remembering accurately, or refer someone else to these passages.  

In contrast, I was also asked to memorize many individual verses on a week at a time basis throughout my child hood.  The standard format was that the verse would be assigned one week, and we were expected, or bribed, to come back the next week able to recite it.   In most cases, the verse would be recited in a reference, one verse, reference, format.  The next week we would be on to a new verse found in a totally different book.

Although I do remember many of these verses, and am grateful for them, they are less valuable to me.  The references do not stick to the verses in my brain.   This is a problem if I want to share with someone else in the moment.  Of course, I can google if there is time.

A more dangerous problem with these stand alone verses is that I do not really know what they are saying unless I go back and look them up.  As the text book from my World History class at a state run university demonstrated brilliantly, you can make the Bible say anything if you mix and match.  Frankly, many preachers are just as guilty. Before I rework my life based on a piece of Scripture, or, worse, influence someone else to rework theirs,  I want to be sure of what the Scripture is saying. 

As my husband and I approach Bible memory for our own kids we are trying to pick passages that focus on who God is.  We are working on longer sections and reviewing that one section for months, maybe years, at at time.  I hope it serves them well as the passages entrusted to me as a child have served me.

What have you found most useful in your own experience with Bible memory?  What do you focus on in Bible memory for your pre-school and elementary students or children?