Learning to Read – Early Writing

Getting  home from work the other day, my wife showed me something that made me proud…  My son had written down a complete sentence.  The kindergarten teacher was dictating the words and the students were writing down what they heard.  This fired me up to write a couple words myself and here I am to do just that.  This made me think that I should start my second series piece and it’s going to be titled:

Learning To Read

Reading is most important thing anyone could ever learn to do and it makes a good ‘series’ feature for this blog.  There were a couple of posts already in this vein and it just seems like a worthy topic of some additional journal entries and fits a series chronology well.

The idea behind this series is to follow the learning progress of my kids, now 5 and 3, and keep a journal on their development as they learn to read.  It wasn’t but a handful of months ago my wife and I were meeting my son’s kindergarten teacher with about 50 other parents.  The teacher was telling us about all the wonderful things we could expect to see through the kindergarten year.  There would be leaps and bounds made in our kids’ writing and that we shouldn’t expect to see perfectly formed words but rather phonetic interpretations of them.   For example: KR might spell car.  That would be perfectly normal and would demonstrate good progress.

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Pandora & Kid’s Music

I posted a while back on how I think Pandora mobile is going to sound the death knell for satellite radio.  Well, when I wrote that post, it was because I thought it was so cool how I could type in Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd and have my phone kick out some sweet rock-n-roll through the little sound dock we have in our kitchen.   It just got a little bit cooler this weekend after another idea hit me: what about kids music through Pandora?

It was daddy weekend as my wife went up to northern Michigan with the girls for a ‘girls weekend get-away’ type of retreat.   It was the kids and me and it was cold and rainy outside so there was nothing really to do outside.  And, I’ve been tired of running the tube and movies because I don’t want to turn these little brains into mush.  I thought to myself that we could do some sort of coloring or writing activity, but I also thought we could use some music.  The idea hit me to put a kid’s band into a Pandora play list but I didn’t really know any kids bands that I really like.   If you’ve ever watched Noggin (which is now Nick Jr.) you’d know that they have music videos interspersed throughout their programming.  I remembered a girl musician that we liked that got the kids up and dancing, but I couldn’t remember her name.  Thanks to Google and knowing what channel she was on, I was able to find her name in a heartbeat:  Laurie Berkner.

We got out the coloring books and some crayons and markers and listened to some good music.   Pandora found song after song of age appropriate music that I also found palatable.  There really are a lot of kids songs that truly suck and can be very annoying.  So if you have something you like already and give it to Pandora, it is going to find music of a similar ilk and do all the work for you.   There were Bob Marley covers and a lot of acoustic guitar type songs that were a lot of fun to listen to.

We would have to stop coloring and get up and dance every other song or so and the kids had a great time despite the rain.  If you haven’t tried Pandora mobile yet, you might want to give it a try.  I was happy with Pandora mobile from the outset, but it just hit another level.

I enjoy Latin music too but I’m very particular about it.  For example, I like Belanova, but that’s not normally what you’d hear when you think of Latin music.  They’re a band that you hear on MTV when you’re in Mexico City and a lot more contemporary and pop than mariachi music.  I look forward to trying something like that out too.  I’ll report back on how that turns out.

Also, my dad always used to play classical music on Sunday mornings when I was a kid and I really miss that rich music filling the house.  I’m going to try putting in some Mozart or Wagner or something and see how Pandora handles it.  I’ll report back on that too.

Happy listening.

Bill Watterson & Your Kids

Bill Watterson is an artist.  He is one of my favorite artists.  He is the creator of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes.  We can be thankful to have enjoyed his art while we were growing up.  I can remember waking up each morning, going through my morning ablutions, getting dressed, grabbing a bowl of cereal, and heading straight for the Calvin & Hobbes strip while sitting across the breakfast table from my mom while she worked on her crossword puzzle.  These are the kind of memories that are some of the fondest.

When you’re a child, this comic strip isn’t ‘art’ or political or sage, it is just fun.  You don’t really know as much as you think you do at that age, but you generally know what’s the good stuff and what sucks.  And, Calvin & Hobbes was the good stuff.  I can honestly say that reading the those three blocks of this comic was the best thing about my morning routine.    This activity that took less than thirty seconds was something to be looked forward to more than anything else each waking day as a child.  It would be a bummer on those off chance days that the paper didn’t come or was soaked with rain or what-have-you.   Saturday’s where extra special because the comics were in color and it was generally a six-block strip.  Although Watterson was one of the first artists to turn his six-block real estate into one drawing or two normal size blocks and one taking up four spaces or any combination he felt like, he would sometimes do the customary six block strip.

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Reading To Your Kids

42-17371503It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to read to your kids.  It’s something you should do every day or at least at some regular frequency.  There are so many different skill levels when it comes to “knowing how to read”.  Being an above average reader will increase your child’s ability to do just about anything and everything necessary to eke out a living in this world.  As I have said before, I believe that reading skill levels fall into a vast spectrum of beginning to advanced.  There is always room for advancement in education and vocabulary.

The best method of teaching your child to read is repetition.  By reading to your child at a high frequency, you set him up to know so much about this important skill without him even knowing for a moment that he’s learning.  To him, it’s just fun and for you it’s quality time spent with your child.

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Review Your Child’s Schoolwork

School Teacher            Reviewing your child’s schoolwork is a great way to stay close to your child.  It will allow you to know:  1) what subjects your child is working on at school  2) give you an idea of what his day was like and 3) give you assets for starting a conversation.

            It’s difficult to start a conversation with my four year old some times.  I might ask “how was your day?” and get no response, or “poo poo” for a response, or a giggle, or some other nonsensical response.  Four year olds have only started developing their vocabulary so it’s tough for them to converse on abstract topics.  Therefore, you get responses that lead to no conversation when you don’t ask the right question.

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Make Time For Your Photos And You’ll Make Time For Your Kids

Recently I took a day off from work and neither my wife nor my kids were home.   This is a rare occurrence and I was planning on doing something that I would enjoy which is most often watching a movie or reading a book.  Since I had some photos on the camera that I took with my boy, I thought I’d transfer them to the PC and have a look.  That started me down a path that would keep me in front of the computer for the rest of the day looking at photos.

 fotomatWhen you look through your photos and you have a little time to do it, it really is an enjoyable thing.  Most of us these days have digital cameras that we can mount up with more pictures in a month than our parents would take in a season.  Digital photography has really been a huge breakthrough over the past ten years.  Gone from our youth are the fotomat booths that used to reside in the middle of parking lots.  Like most things that seem to forever change our lives on a go forward basis, there’s a downside to it all and that’s the time we have to look at all those pictures.

 

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The Miley Cyrus Syndrome

Miley Cyrus Tongue OutThis is one of those predictions that’s not fun to make:  Miley Cyrus will be shaving her head and rebelling soon.  The prediction is that over the next few years Miley will get more and more into drugs and alcohol and spin out of control.  Now my wife really doesn’t like talk like this because she disagrees and thinks I’m just being pessimistic.  It seems like simple psychology, however, given signs like her performance at the Teen Choice Awards.  When you consider the Teen Choice performance and what we’ve seen happen over the years with other child stars that have turned out to be super “successful” like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Dakota Fanning, and the Olsen Twins it’s cause for some cynicism.  She’s only going to push the envelope harder as she gets into her twenties.

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Sleep, Napping, and Attitude

sleep-better-cuteSo much of your child’s disposition has to do with his last night’s sleep or whether he’s taken a nap.  This is really no different for adults as well.  Your quality of sleep has a lot to do with how you’re feeling.  How you handle your child’s ill tempered disposition because of sleep deprivation, or whatever other cause,  is the challenge that will define your parenting skills as pro or amateur.

As soon as I get home from work and my 4 1/2 year old boy and 2 1/2 year old girl rush up to see me and hug me, I can see in their eyes whether they’ve had a nap or not.  Generally if there has been no nap, it’s entirely apparent in their eyes and quickly becomes apparent in their disposition.  Without a nap, kids are much more likely to be standoffish at the simplest of questions or a request for a hug.  When you place a plate of food in front of them and they swipe at it and say they don’t want it and are difficult to deal with, it’s often because there was no nap that day.

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