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Thank you, Super Why.

29 May

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My children do not watch a lot of TV. I may have one of the only eight year olds who does not know that iCarly exists. Please do not let the cat out of the bag should you two happen to be chatting about television. We have stuck to PBS, Fresh Beat Band (more my obsession than theirs!), and Charlie and Lola. They have 30 minutes or so a day of screen time (my 4 year old gets an extra show in lieu of a nap), and they seem genuinely happy with it.

This is NOT a post patting myself on the back. This is a post giving credit where credit is due: to Super Why and other shows like it.

I have realized that my third child did not get the best of me. In fact, some days, even though we are home together for many hours at a time, she doesn’t get much of me at all.  My mind may be elsewhere, or I just don’t feel like playing or reading or being on.  And, she is my most independent child. She loves playing alone.

Last week, it dawned on me that Sophie did not learn her letters from me. I realized that my older two daughters have taught her all they know, and she watches Super Why at least once a week. It is this show that turned Sophie on to learning about letters. This show gave her the curiosity to ask me what letters are in her books and to ask me and her teachers at school to show her how to write her letters. She has begun to watch her sisters do their homework and then run to a corner to do her own “important work” in one of her many journals. I have often heard Sophie singing one of Super Why’s catchy tunes as she writes.

I love this! As a mom, I love that I can justify the TV I let her watch. As a teacher, I applaud the creators of Super Why.  This show has an actual benefit to her life as a reader and a writer. I know that while I go to make beds or write this blog, she is learning something valuable.

In the next blog post, I will show you how you can support your child’s newfound passion for letters and words—beyond videos and computer games.  I will give you some quick and easy ways to reinforce and extend what your child has begun to learn.  Stay tuned…

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It works!!

17 Feb

I had to share this note my 3 year old delivered to me on Valentine’s Day. She wrote it all by herself. I will confess, I had NO idea that the tips in my last post about memo boards would sink in with her this quickly, since I only began writing to her in the last two months or so.

As I mentioned in my last post, my notes to my three year old are formulaic and basically the same each day. “Dear Sophie, I love you. Love, Mommy.” Or, “Dear Sophie, today is (insert day of the week). I love you. Love, Mommy”

The look of pride on Sophie’s face when she read me this note was easily one of the best parts of my day.

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“I love you.”

Blah Blah Blah

5 Jan

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First off, I would like to thank you all for reading this blog. When I see how many hits I get each day, it validates that there is indeed a need to consider and discuss what we are doing at home with and for our children. I hope you will stay tuned to pick up some new ideas and even share some of your own tips with the rest of us.

Before I go into the next tip, I will need you to visualize a mother picking up her child at preschool. She has answered an important call on her way over to the school and is continuing the chat into the building, silently picks up her child, and then walks out holding her kid’s hand. They get into the car, and with the wonders of modern technology, the mom is able to complete her important conversation while her child buckles himself in and eats his snack in silence.

Is this at all familiar to you?

Now imagine a parent walking his or her child in the stroller. The child is looking at traffic, singing, while the parent is on the phone.

Does this ring a bell?

Now move onto the grocery store. A caregiver is pushing the cart while the child is in the front pulling stuff off the shelves naming every item he throws in. Caregiver says, “SHHHH, I am on the phone.” Then into the phone: “This kid doesn’t let me get a thing done.”

I have probably just described any one of us at one instance or another. Can any one of us busy parents/grandparents/nannies say that we have NEVER been on the phone while out and about with our children? Probably not. I, too, feel that sometimes the only time I can get a word in, or be at all productive, is when my kids are strapped in…

The purpose of this blog entry is to inspire all of us to stop and think before we make that call or have a long conversation while out and about with our children. When our children are strapped in—be it in the car, the stroller, or the shopping cart— we are able to have the most meaningful interactions we will have all day. The “on-the-go” chats about what we see and do are the most important learning experiences for our young children.

You may be asking: “Why does it matter if I am on my phone while we walk or drive?” What I have for an answer is my opinion, based on what skills I have watched my children acquire along the way and by what I have seen and read as a teacher of young children. By talking to your young child about the world around her, you are helping her to become a member of society. You are helping her to process what she sees around her, helping her find vocabulary to describe and assimilate her new knowledge and observations into her world.

Here is an example. In just one short trip to the grocery store, your child has the potential to learn:
-vocabulary for all the objects around the market
number skills as you count foods as you put them into your cart
-social skills as you interact with those around you (including your child)
-literacy skills as you read a shopping list or make one for your child to read
-attributes and organization of food around the store: green apples, red apples, fruit in one place, fish in another…

Transition times, as short as they may be, also prove to be wonderful times for learning. In the short time it takes you to walk upstairs with your child, walk to the car, take a bath, prepare dinner, you can work on some basic literacy and mathematical skills that your child will need for kindergarten, and beyond. Here are just a few of my favorite educational space fillers:

Sing your ABCs and other kids’ songs
Count steps (by 1’s, 2’s,backwards, forwards)
Rhyming (“bat rhymes with fat. Mat rhymes with bat.”)

Though you may start off feeling like you are just reciting to your child, you are actually laying the foundations. In no time at all, your child will join in.

When you talk to your child you are helping to build phonological awareness skills. What does that mean? As Hallie Kay Yopp and Ruth Helen Yopp, two professors in the College of Education at California State University define it in an article (“Phonological Awareness is Child’s Play”, 2009):
“Phonological awareness is the ability to attend to and manipulate units of sound in speech (syllables, onsets and rimes, and phonemes) independent of meaning.”
Simply put, your child will learn to understand to break down words, hear syllables, make rhymes (words that SOUND as if they have the same ending) and detect words that have the same endings and sounds within syllables (rimes). Phonological awareness is directly correlated to your child’s later success in reading and spelling.

So, there you have it. I am sure many of you are already doing exactly what I’ve discussed in this blog. If so, I hope I have helped you understand how valuable these seemingly trivial interactions are to your young child’s social and intellectual development. In later blogs, I will revisit this topic and give you more ideas. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments section of this blog.
Until then, I hope that I have given you the food for thought you need to bring the joy back into grocery shopping. (I think we all need a little reminder every once in a while! I know I do.)

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