Saturday, November 28, 2009


Do you remember your first pet? Chances are, unless you had older siblings or your parents had pets before you were born, your first pet may have been a fish, reptile, or rodent because those are easy to care for - comparatively speaking.  Many kids beg for an animal friend, but parents don't want to take on the responsibility of caring for one. They figure it's best to have children learn to care for their own animals before allowing one that takes a lot of attention to join the family.
Goldfish and lizards can be beautiful and interesting to kids, but they don't love people, and rodents tend to stink and attract other rodents. All pets need to be fed and cleaned and have their needs met.
Pets can be wonderful for kids, and loving a dog, cat, or even a horse will help kids develop relationships and accept responsibility, but having one can be a lot of work and licenses, vet bills, food, etc. all cost money. In my opinion they're worth it, but sometimes it's best to wait until the children are old enough to accept their share of responsibilities before getting one.
What was your first pet and how old were you when you got it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Okay, I know it's trite but I can't resist blogging today about things I'm thankful for.
First there are the things I tend to take for granted but many people lack such as a roof over my head, adequate food to eat, and a much safer environment than lots of others in the world have.
My health isn't perfect, but it's better than it was for years.
And I'm very grateful to have had two books published this year. Even one would have been a dream come true because all my previously published work was in periodicals or compilations.
I've been keeping a blessing diary where every evening I write down at least three things I thank God for. Looking back over the months and seeing how frequently certain kinds of things are mentioned it's clear the ones I appreciate the most are relationships, especially with people I love; beauty, usually either the natural kind or the experience of reading good books; and managing to accomplish things, especially if those weren't easy.
What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kathy Stemke's Suggestions

As promised, here are some fun activities Kathy Stemke, author of Moving Through All Seven Days, suggests to help young kids learn through movement.


String seven bells on a string with the each day of the week spelled out. Add a picture of the foods mentioned in the rhyme below. Great for jump rope chants:

Monday, meatball, start the week, Tuesday, tunafish, what a treat. Wednesday, watermelon, red and cool, Thursday, turkey, that’s the rule, Friday, French fries, eat them hot, Saturday, slurpees, thanks a lot, Sunday, spaghetti, sun or rain, Then start the week all over again!


Make a poster of seven empty boxes.

Using tacky the kids put the days of the week in order from Sunday to Saturday.

For fun you can blindfold each child, spin them three times, and see how close to the right spot they can place their day on the boxes.


In each suitcase there is a piece of clothing for each day of the week.

On Monday we wear mittens.

On Tuesday we wear a tee shirt.

On Wednesday we wear a wig.

On Thursday we wear a tank top.

On Friday we wear a feather boa.

On Saturday we wear socks.

On Sunday we wear sneakers.

On command, one child runs to the suitcase says, “Monday” as they put on the mittens. He runs back and sits down. They next child says, “Tuesday” as he puts on the T-shirt. Etc. The first team to be finished and seated wins!


Make a poster with all seven days of the week printed out.

Cut each day into their syllables.

Sun day

Mon day

Tues day

Wed nes day

Thurs day

Fri day

Sa tur day

Give the cards to the children. Call three children at a time to make words until all the days are spelled out and in order.

To find out more about Kathy Stemke and sign up for her free monthly newsletter, Movement and Rhythm click on the link for her blog:

For more about Kathy and her book please look at my previous post.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Helping Young Kids Learn

Kathy Stemke has written a book full of ideas to help young kids learn. She says, "Many preschool children find it difficult to sit and learn, so give them opportunities for movement! It's commonly believed that when you hear something, 10% of the information is retained. If you see it, hear it and say it, 40% is retained. But, if you also DO it, you retain 70%-100% of the information. Using a multi-sensory approach to teach children enhances their retention and capitalizes on their natural tendency to move. In other words, incorporate movement into learning, and your child will have more fun and learn faster."

Kathy’s book, Moving Through All Seven Days, uses movement activities to teach the days of the week. The lyrical rhymes also teach them how to spell each day! The 14 pages of activities at the end of the book are designed to reinforce the concepts as well as give impetus to movement exploration.

You can find it on lulu by clicking on this link:

On Saturday I'll share some activities Kathy suggests.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Penny Pinching

These days most people are concerned about money, and you'll see lots of hints about how to save pennies. My grandfather used to tell me about his Scottish grandmother who taught her family, "Waste not, want not," and "Many muckles make a mickle." Gramp said that last phrase was Scottish dialect for "Many littles make a big."
We're probably all aware of hints like those to save electricity by turning lights and electrical devices off when not needed, water lawns late in the day to save water, use fabric towels instead of paper ones, re-use things instead of throwing them away, buy and store quantities of things we often use at a discount, and shop with coupons, but here are a few more 'littles' I haven't seen elsewhere.
Unless clothes are extremely dirty, using slightly less laundry detergent than the bottle or package suggests usually works fine. The same applies to dishwasher detergent, fabric softeners, toothpaste, etc.
When buying applesauce avoid the oddly shaped bottles that make it nearly impossible to get it all out.
Packages of tissues usually have several folded together at the top of the box and, if someone is in a hurry to catch a sneeze or wipe a runny nose it's easier to grab and use them all at once. Separating them when the box is opened can avoid wasting those.
Save computer paper by using the backs of previously printed things to make copies of things that don't need to look good.
These hints, and others like them, mean we can buy a few less of each item in a year. The saving from each one is small, but they do add up over time. Many 'littles' really do make a 'big.'

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Humberto the Bookworm Hamster

As a kid I had a pet hamster named Hamstead that I loved dearly. I also loved books. Lots of kids today also love hamsters, other little animals and books so they should love reading a picture book like the one I've recently discovered by Mayra Calvani. Here's some information about it:

Humberto is an antisocial little hamster… he’s totally addicted to

books! His neighbors, the squirrel, the rabbit, the skunk, the

hedgehog and the beaver want to become his friends, but Humberto

doesn’t have time for them. He’s too busy reading! Then one day,

disaster strikes and he must choose between saving his books and

helping his soon-to-be friends.

Available in print and ebook!

Find out more at:

Visit the author's website at or her blog


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Learning to Read

When I started first grade thousands of kids hadn't gone to Kindergarten because no census had been taken during WWII and school districts didn't know they were coming. I'd gone to Kindergarten, but only for a few weeks. But first grade was legally required, so there were 42 kids in my first grade class. Our teacher was new to the job and I won't go into how terrible she was except to say 21 kids were held back and had to repeat the grade because they hadn't learned to read.
But seven of us started second grade reading at fifth grade level.
Of course we all had parents who read to us at home, but so did most kids. And all parents "knew" it was harmful to try to teach kids to read themselves, so none of ours had tried. So what was the secret?
The public schools in California at that time were using sight reading (See, Hear, Say) curriculum but, because so many of the first graders weren't learning by that method, the teacher had tried using phonics and required them to chant the letter sounds every day while the rest of us worked at other things.
Remembering that experience, I played a phonics record or tape (you can tell that was a long time ago) every day as the children in my home preschool settled in for their naps. The familiarity would help them doze off.
I think doing that was one of the main reasons so many of the children began reading
on their own.
As I mentioned in my last post, I'm firmly opposed to trying to push
reading skills on kids who aren't ready for them, but this is an entirely
pressure-free way to prepare them to learn.
And it might also be a help to older kids who have learning disabilities
to play phonics CDs as they fall asleep at night.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Helping Kids Read Well

One of the first posts I ever made on this blog was about helping kids become excellent readers. It's about time to bring up that important topic again.
When my daughter was little I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but couldn't afford not to work, so I ran a home preschool.
I didn't believe in trying to push academic learning on little kids because reading readiness develops at different ages and if children aren't ready to learn to read, instead they learn that reading is impossible. Working with special education kids I saw quite a few who were so sure they would fail because they'd done so in the past that they wouldn't try to read.
On the other hand, some young kids are ready and eager to learn and it's frustrating for them to be in environments that don't allow reading instruction.
I wanted to meet the needs of all the kids so I set up a program to do that.
Every morning at circle time we'd spend about five minutes on a letter and number of the day. We'd count objects according to the day's number. Then I'd tell the kids one sound the letter of the day made and go around the circle saying, "If your name started with... it would be..." or, "If you had ... in the middle of your name it would sound like...." The kids loved hearing the funny changes to their names.
At the end of each day we'd put away the toys and have Independent Learning Time while waiting for parents to arrive. The kids could choose a book, puzzle, coloring page or other quiet table activity. They'd put each one away as they finished with it and choose another, so everything would be neat when the children went home. I'd provide a workbook for each child according to his or her learning level and interests and if one workbook was completed I'd give another. Those who wished could use their own workbooks at Independent Learning Time and many did so, but there was absolutely no pressure to use the workbooks at all. That part of the day worked sort of like the Montessori method.
The rest of the day we'd have lots of free time to play, both inside and out, a special activity such as a messy art project, a visit to the nearby library for Story Time, a cooking or science project, or a Special Event such as a field trip, party, visitor, or (rarely) a movie.
Of course I'd read to the kids during morning and afternoon circle times, letting them choose from the pile of books related to the theme of the week. Some of those would be Big Books designed so teachers could point to the words while reading. Often the kids would keep requesting more stories for 45 minutes or more.
Many of the four year olds and a few of the three year olds spontaneously began reading independently and all those activities probably helped them do so, but I'll tell you about one of the most important things I haven't mentioned next time I blog.