Monday, July 30, 2012

How to finish a whole curriculum...

Many homeschooling families, especially those just starting out, struggle with the issue of how to finish an entire curriculum.  How do you get from the first lesson to the last during a single school year?  How do you cover all of it when you have other bits of curriculum, field trips, appointments, sports, art lessons and so on to also fit into the schedule?

Here's the short answer:  you don't!

Say what?!?!

Yep, that's right.  You don't finish an entire curriculum! Your kids will be fine, and you can relax a little.  Read on for some tips to at least get closer to finishing, as well as my reasoning for  why you shouldn't worry about completing the entire curriculum.

First, do your kids really need to do every lesson in the curriculum? Probably not.  As you go through, you will likely find lessons that are redundant - things your child already knows, or lessons that don't fit what you think your child needs to learn.  It is perfectly ok to skip those lessons!  Public and private school teachers do this all the time. 

Second, no one anywhere in the world will ever learn everything there is to learn.  There will always be gaps in what is taught, learned, and even simply what material is available.  Don't worry about cramming it all in.  Some of those gaps will be filled in later, and some never will be filled in.  That is just fine!  Think back on your education - to all of the things you did learn, wanted to learn, should have learned, and filled in later.  Most of us have a mix of "did/wanted/should have/filled in later" learning.  I can't think of anyone that doesn't have this mix. 

Third, go to any public (or even private) school, and see how many of the teachers there finish every lesson of every bit of curriculum.  I have yet to meet a single teacher able to accomplish this.  There are simply too many subjects, not enough hours, and too many other things that get in the way.  The best teachers I know skip around in the curriculum, focus on the class's strengths and weaknesses, and adjust along the way.  As a homeschooling parent, I do the same thing.

My son is turning 14 in August, and for his math and social studies curriculums (well, for all of his subjects actually) we skip around, just touch on some lessons, do some lessons in their entirety, and skip some lessons outright.  As you think about your child's curriculum, and find yourself panicking about how many lessons there are in each subject, and how many weeks to get through it, with how many hours there are in a day, RELAX

Skim through the first six weeks of each bit of curriculum.  Are there lesson that your child is already familiar with?  Yes? Either just touch on them for a refresher, or skip those entirely. 

For math, if there is a lesson my son already knows, I might give him 10 out of 30 problems, just to keep in practice.   So, if he's suppose to do 30 graphing problems today, but he already knows the material, I will ask him to do 10 problems to check that he has indeed learned the material previously, and then I will give him tomorrow's lesson today.  Do this several times, and eventually you've cut out an entire week, or even month, of lessons during the course of the school year.  Eventually you'll get closer to finishing the curriculum, even if you don't actually make it to the very end.  Last year, for math we actually covered 1 1/2 math curriculums by using this method.  We skipped several chapters entirely, and just touched on a few.  We cut out several weeks of study on integers and single-variable equations.  Later in the year, we cut several weeks on certain types of word problems and some graphing.  Will my son be at a disadvantage because of it?  No.  The parts we skipped were material he already knew, or material that is covered in his science curriculum, or is material he has learned himself through his interest in computer programing and video game physics.  Not only that, but because he learned them in a context that was interesting to him, and in which he had a practical application, he actually understands those bits of his math curriculum far better than if we'd only focused on the curriculum itself.  Look for those places where the curriculum overlaps your child's interests or other subjects.  Then, decide if you can just lightly touch on those areas or skip over them entirely.  You'll save a lot of time which you can then devote to other subjects and activities.  Plus, you also save time that can later be applied to more difficult lessons.

For world history, my son already knows a huge amount about the major wars of the last few centuries.  When we get to those time periods, we'll touch on these events, but we won't study them in depth because my son already knows more about them than our curriculum actually covers! Again, that is weeks cut off of the curriculum.  This is an area that fits my son's wanted to learn.  Because he wanted to learn about war and military history, he's covered a huge portion of world history on his own with no curriculum, and no formal teaching/learning. Your children will do the same with their own individual passions.

Don't worry about finishing an entire curriculum.  Your child will be perfectly fine, even if you don't finish all of the material.  They might even be better off if they are learning in a relaxed environment rather than an environment in which there is a stress over following the plan completely.  After all, what is important isn't the calendar and making sure lessons #1 through #32 are all completed.  What is important is that your child is LEARNING.  If you do 15 lessons, and your child has learned a substantial amount, isn't that better than doing all 32 lessons and having your child only remember the barest of details?
Focus on the LEARNING, not the calendar and curriculum plan.

This post is linked up at:

A Little R & R

Updated:  Thank you so much for the fantastic comments!  And, so many within just a few hours of posting this!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I got kicked out of the public library...

If you read THIS post, you know that I got kicked out of a public library recently, but you don't know why.  If you haven't read that post, please do because some of the guesses that my friends and blog readers have come up with are quite funny!

Let me explain a few comments before I give you the story behind getting kicked out of the library...

Two guesses were that I was chewing gum or drinking Starbucks.  Funny, because I was, in fact, chewing gum, and the person with me did have a travel coffee mug with her.  Another guess had to do with using a laptop, which I also was doing.  Someone else guessed it had to do with unpaid/overdue fines.  I do have some of those.  But, none of these had anything to do with why I got kicked out.

A friend guessed that I brought my dog in a bicycle sidecar.  Somewhere I saw something that made me wonder if bicycle sidecars were a real thing.  I found out that they are real, but perhaps not terribly stable.  I posted a question to my Facebook friends asking if anyone had ever used one, which is what prompted that guess.  Although, can you imagine the site of someone riding a bicycle with a dog in a sidecar through the library? :)

Another friend guessed that I was longboarding between the stacks.  If you don't know, a longboard is a long type of skateboard.  I had recently longboarded about 1/3 of the way to a new job, and had mentioned that to a small group of friends.

Someone else guessed that I was loitering in the children's section.  Um, NO.  Although, the young adult/teen room at this library does have a sign saying something about no one over the age of 18 being in the area or something like that.  I did get asked to leave that area once when I was searching for a poetry book that had been oddly classified as young adult instead of being with the other poetry books in the main part of the library.  But, that is not what got kicked me out either.
30 Vintage Library Catalog Cards by 58andGrace on is the real deal....

I got kicked out of our public library for having a tutoring session there.  I have held tutoring sessions at public libraries for years, and have done so in several different cities.  It never occurred to me that a library would have rules against tutoring there.  I know that most won't allow reservation of private study or meeting rooms for paid tutoring, but every library I've ever asked at has told me, "Of course you can tutor here! It is a public library!"  The only rule is to not use the private rooms for paid activities like tutoring.

I was shocked when my student and I were asked if we were having a tutoring session, and then asked to leave.  The librarian cited a written policy - which they showed us - which states that tutoring in the library does not support the libraries mission to "educate and entertain."  First of all, entertain???  I realize that many libraries do have entertainment focused activities and events, but is that really a necessary part of the mission statement???  Odd...  And, secondly, how does tutoring not support the mission to educate?


Upon further investigation, I found out that not only does that library have a written policy against tutoring on library property, but the county wide library system has a policy against it!  I spent most of last year tutoring a child at a different branch in the same county system, and no one ever told me that I couldn't! In fact, the librarian at that branch celebrated tutoring in the library!

Since we live close to New York City, I searched for any policies that the New York Public Library might have on tutoring on library property.  While the New York Public Library doesn't have any mention of any tutoring policy, it does indicate that such an activity would be allowed as part of library patrons having a right to free speech and free assembly.  New York Public Library, YOU ROCK!

And, there you have it....why I got kicked out of a public library.

  • <--- I can't seem to get that dot to go away.  Odd...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I got kicked out of a public library...

Yes, you read the title correctly.

I got kicked out of a public library on Friday morning.

And, you will never guess why...

Library Books on Shelves Black & White 8x10 Fine Art Photograph by Diana at EyeShutterToThink on Etsy

Some guesses from my friends include:
  • ...suggested that they don't censor books;
  • ...brought my dog in a bicycle sidecar;
  • ...was longboarding between the stacks;
  • ...gum chewing;
  • ...brought in Starbucks;
  • ...talking to loudly;
  • ...was taking photos;
  • ...cussed;
  • ...was using a laptop;
  • ...was sleeping;
  • ...asked in a loud voice, "What's a card catalog?"
  • ...whistling;
  • ...humming;
  • ...asked someone where the nearest Barnes & Noble is;
  • ...farted...twice;
  • ...was breastfeeding;
  • ...was kissing.
From the comments left on this post:
  • ...singing too loudly with my earbuds in. 
  • ...too many books. 
  • ...something an item of clothing said. 
  • ...unpaid/overdue fines.
  • ...wearing something too revealing.
  • ...loitering in the children's section.
  • ...arguing with the librarian.
  • running around screaming.
  • mad at librarian because I suggested a book they should have, but she was too busy to deal.

Those guesses are all wrong, but some are quite amusing, right?  What do YOU think I might have been doing that got me kicked out?  I'll post the real story later in the week...

Don't forget, I have a special deal in my Etsy shop, just for my blog readers.  15% off all purchases if you use coupon code "MOVINGHELP" during checkout (eep....I just fixed that code! I had it wrong previously!!! Sorry!!!).  I've added loads of new items!

UPDATE - I promise to post the real reason for my getting kicked out of the library on Wednesday evening.  I was holding off in the hopes of posting this to the Hip Homeschool Mom's blog hop, but I guess that isn't happening as they are moving websites or something or other. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Boy haircuts...

I had planned a post a few days ago focusing on homeschooling, and our plans for the upcoming school year, but instead I vented about the dump that is our (rented) home (read it HERE).  This post won't be about homeschooling either....maybe I'll get to that over the weekend.

Right now, I'm still fuming over the dump that is our (rented) home, and the repairs that have been redone incorrectly again, and the advice that "the mold will go away...eventually."

But, I'm also thrilled by how many views and comments my welcome post for the M.O.B. (Moms of Boys) Society post for their blog link up received.

And I'm also still chuckling because we had a little fun yesterday when JP decided long, thick, curly hair is just too much for 90F summer day with humidity, and finally asked me to cut his hair.  I've given my son over 90% of his haircuts in the past 13 years, but have never quite cut hair this long...except my own.  Did I mention that I cut my own hair? Yeah, I do.  There have been some embarrasingly bad cuts, but along the way, I've learned...

Anyhow...want a little laugh at the teenager's expense?  (He has given me authorization to post these photos...).

I measured his hair before we was over 7 inches long when pulled straight.

PRE-haircut goofing around.  Funny face to match that 1970s style:

Mid-haircut, sporting 80s style shades, and well on his way to a Flock of Seagulls hairdo (I considered buying some gel just to see what we could achieve...):

And, finally, the cut that grandpa says "looks a lot better", and that one of my friends said "makes him look a lot older" but JP said, "Wow, that feels better!"
Whatcha think of the new 'do?


(This post has been edited, and parts that are no longer relevant have been removed.)

(This post has been edited, and parts that are no longer relevant have been removed.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Welcome M.O.B moms!

This post is part of the annual M.O.B. Society Link Up.  So....welcome M.O.B. moms and all the rest of my readers!  For those of you that are new to M and J in a Nutshell, M is mom (me!), and J is JP (my son).  I'm a single mom, homeschooling a 13 year old boy, wrangling a boxer/bulldog/possibly-terrier-too dog, and working a couple of different jobs to keep us going.

M and J in a Nutshell is where I share whatever comes to mind!  I try to focus on homeschooling and single parenting, but you will also find recipes, study aides, and a lot more on this blog.  Occasionally I post about my Etsy shop, and sometimes I vent about our horrible apartment (want to help us move? See THIS POST for details).  We live just outside New York City, and thus I also blog about our adventures in Manhattan from time to time.

The dog, Rowdy, thinks she should help JP with his science schoolwork.
We are eclectic homeschoolers meaning that we do regular lessons, but we pull from a variety of resources instead of using a standard curriculum.  In some areas we also lean towards unschooling.  We also have food allergies, so all of our recipes are dairy and soy free, and many are also either vegetarian or vegan.

We love to hike, take walks with our dog, explore Manhattan, learn about science and history, do art projects, and read.  Legos are a favorite toy, even with my son in his first year as a teenager, and we love pretty much all of the games made by Cranium (lots of different games for lots of different ages!).

You can also find us on Facebook HERE...
or on Twitter HERE...
or on Pinterest HERE...
or at our Etsy shop HERE...
or on our other blog, Life of This Kind, HERE.

Some of my favorite posts from this blog are:
My most popular posts are:
Thanks for checking us out!  Now, I'm off to visit others from the M.O.B blog hop!
4th of July - the dog was scared and stayed in my lap the whole evening...she's too big to be a lap dog!
Just as I clicked the camera, the dog shot forward to sniff it!
Then, JP wanted to copy the dog...silly boy!

This post should be about homeschooling, but isn't...

I was prepared to write a post all about our plans for the upcoming school year, but instead, I'm writing about home repairs again!

I've had this song going through my mind for a couple of weeks now - pretty much every time I think about the state of our apartment, and my landlords neglect of damage and repairs due to water leaks from two floors above... "We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place" by The Animals

Our ridiculous landlord and his handyman have some odd ideas about repairing water damage.  Grrr....  For the third time in less than two years, we have had major water damage in our apartment, and each time it has come from above.  Apparently the person that lives two apartments above us is prone to getting drunk, turning on the water, and passing out before turning off the water. soaks through her floors, down between the walls and into the apartment between hers and mine, and then eventually into mine.

First, the damage resulted in a chunk of the bedroom ceiling collapsing onto my son's bed (thankfully he wasn't in the bed at the time!), and part of the bedroom and bathroom walls having to be replaced.  It took them MONTHS to do the repairs!  The damage occurred in August of last year, but wasn't finally repaired until November of last year!

Then, in December, there was another water leak above and around the shower and bathroom sink, with odors of mold in the closet immediately next to the bathroom.  That wasn't repaired until January, and the repair guy said he couldn't smell the mold, therefore it must not be there, and he wasn't going to do anything about it.  He merely plastered over the damaged spots on the bathroom ceiling and wall, and painted over them.
Oh, and did I mention that since we moved in, up until January, we had NO smoke or carbon monoxide detectors despite my repeatedly calling the landlord?  I finally bought my own...  This is where one of them was supposed to be installed BEFORE our moving in:
Then, a month ago (mid-June), I started to hear the sound of dripping, then pouring water, and the (finally installed) smoke alarm chirpping.  I went down the hall to find water pouring out from the smoke alarm and the channel where it was wired in, plus the ceiling in the hall began to crack and drip.  The bathroom wall was again showing water damage, and TWO closets had water leaking into them.  The super of our building came up, looked at the damage, and turned off power to half our apartment as the smoke alarms were now going off constantly and couldn't be reset. Then, he left. I had already called the landlord/management company several times (as I also had in the two previous instances), but to no avail. They said, "We've called a repair person, and that's as much as we are going to do. Our duty is over.  He'll be there eventually."  Eventually was more than three week later, and only after I threatened to withhold rent and sue if they didn't get repairs done.  By this point, the odor of mold was so bad that I was having minor asthma attacks and had to shove towels around the two closet doors to block the odor from coming out around the doors.  And, if you opened the closets you could see the mold too.
Water leaking from the hall ceiling.

Mold and water damage in the closet - and it has gotten worse since this photo.
The crack in the ceiling - it has recracked since being "repaired."
These are just a few pictures of the current damage.  There are a bunch more of mold throughout the closets, the sagging bathroom wall, and so on. 

A repair guy finally came out, and assessed the damage.  He said he would get drywall, paint, and supplies and be back...but only AFTER taking care of the lady two floors up and her damage. He came last week, but did NOT bring any drywall.  Instead, he just brought some plaster and paint.  He did NOT do anything to clean the mold which is widespread in the two closets, and merely painted over them.  The places that he plastered over have all cracked again, and the original damage is still there.

This apartment, and building, and neighborhood could be great, but the landlord and his handy man suck.  Why wouldn't they do the repairs the right way from the start? Why not do something about legally getting the lady that has caused all three leaks out of the building?  If she's caused three major water leaks, it stands to reason that she'll cause more!   

Meanwhile, my son, the dog, and I have been living with half the power in our apartment off for more than a month now, mold in the closets, and so on.  The landlord doesn't seem to care, and the repair guy has yet to come back to install a new smoke alarm which he promised he would do today (it's 1230pm...he promised to be here around 9am).  
Because the power is off to half the apartment, this is what I had to do to keep the refrigerator running! Dangerous, right?
And, I can't afford to move.  I want to move, but that requires putting up first and last months rent, plus a deposit, and depending on how you find an apartment, possibly a broker's fee.  It could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 to move.  I work hard, and do a lot of things to bring in money, but how do I manage that in just two weeks...becuase, oh yeah, our lease is up at the end of the month.  I had originally planned to renew it.  I still can renew it, but I'd rather not.  These problems are likely to keep happening.

(This post has been edited, and irrelevant parts removed.)


And, guess what??? I'm updating the very day I posted this because we started inspecting the rest of the apartment and there a bunch of new cracks in the living room ceiling too!  What is going on????  Ugh!  We really need to move!

UPDATED AGAIN:  WOW!  You are bringing me to tears with your kindness and generosity, especially after we just found our first EVER cockroach IN our apartment.  We've seen all of three in the last two years, and they were in the basement...nowhere near our apartment, and suddenly we have one IN our apartment???

And, thanks especially to Dawn.  Your comment/advice is so right!  I'm hoping to talk to a realtor/broker/agent tomorrow - there is one on the way to my job.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm thankful for...banana slugs...

Yep, you read that right!  I'm thankful for banana slugs!  Let me tell you why, but first a nod to the inspiration for this post.  Meghan at The Tuckers Take Tennessee put up a post called "One Thousand Gifts" this morning, and my friend, Sheri, regularly posts 5 things she's thankful for and 5 things she's excited about on Facebook.  Both of them remind me fairly regularly to count my blessings, and to view even the small things in my life as gifts.  I commented on Meghan's post by saying that these reminders, and seeing the gifts in our lives can turn around a bad day, and even at the worst of times, we all have gifts and blessings in our lives.

So, why am I thankful for banana slugs???  I actually haven't thought about banana slugs in a long time, but then Corinna at The Frog Bag mentioned them in a post recently, and I began to think about banana slugs a lot!  After I read her mention of the creatures, I was thrown back to my childhood in the Pacific Northwest, southern Washington to be exact.

I remembered the story my dad and his best friend told all the kids during their softball tournament weekends at the coast - Steve and his wife had a beach house at the coats, and the house had a low deck, but there was enough room that a kid could easily squeeze under it.   Well, the whole softball team plus wives and children hung out at this beach house on softball tournament weekends, and several kids wanted to crawl under the deck - although I don't recall if any of us ever actually did...?  My dad and Steve concocted a story to keep us out of there...they told us that a giant banana slug named Samantha lived under the deck, and she loved to eat children!  Ok, so banana slugs aren't exactly scary, but the story was convincing enough, and banana slugs are slimey enough that I don't think any of us ever crawled under the deck after being told about Samantha! :)
What's Up Slugs? print by Bishop Lennon on Etsy
After Corinna's post, and then thinking about Samantha, softball weekends, and time with my dad, I got to thinking more and more about banana slugs.  Weird, I know!  I ended up researching them a bit, and wrote a post about them for my other blog, Life of This Kind.  While writing the blog post, I looked around for good banana slug coloring pages...and found almost none.  That got me thinking about drawing...which led me to actually draw...which then led me to figure out how to upload printable drawing pages to my blog...which led me to draw a banana slug coloring page...which led me to think, what else could I draw?...which led me to drawing a sloth...which led me to consider what else I could draw...which has me thinking and drawing A LOT...which led me to reattempt to create printable items for my Etsy shop...which led me to be determined to figure that out when I couldn't get it to work previously...which led me to...  I could go on and on!

Anyhow, my point in all of this is that I am THANKFUL and counting the GIFTS and BLESSINGS in my life today.  I am thankful for reminders of good memories, even if they involve banana slugs. I am thankful for inspiring people in my life, whether I know them "in real life" such as my friend Sheri, or only in the virtual world of the internet, like Corinna and Meghan.  I am thankful for my son, as always.  I am thankful for the inspiration to use my old skills for new things, and to try out new things to learn new skills.  I am thankful for the ability to take past errors or problems, and to learn to fix or overcome them, whether large or small.  I am thankful for the ability to share with all of you.

And, although I've posted them to my Life of This Kind blog, I'm going to share my banana slug and sloth coloring pages here too.  And, if you want to see the printables I figured out how to put in my Etsy shop, just click HERE.  It has taken me nearly a year to get the printables in the right format, and get them to email properly...but, I DID IT, and I am proud of that accomplishment!

Please note, you can print these coloring page for your personal use, but please don't distribute them beyond family and close friends.  Thanks!  I put a lot of work into them...

Banana slug

Sloth Coloring Page

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Easy vegan "cheesy" crackers

I've made vegan crackers before, trying to get a "goldfish" type of flavor, and mostly succeeded.  However, the previous recipes I've used required quite a lot of ingredients and effort so I don't make them very often. son brought home some REAL goldfish crackers. I was like, O_O  *sniffle...I want some!  But....not enough to go through all the trouble of those time consuming and complex recipes.

Theeeennnnnnn....I came across a super duper, mega easy recipe at the 100 Days of Real Food blog.  It's not vegan, and not dairy-allergy friendly, but I thought, "Hey, I can fix that!"  Oh, and I didn't have whole wheat flour, and didn't feel like going to the store to get some (lazy!).  The 100 Days recipe says to use a food processor, but my dough didn't come together in a ball as it was supposed, washing the thing is a chore!  I'd rather just knead the dough by hand for a minute or two.

So, undaunted by the lack of whole wheat flour, I plowed onward.  Here's what I came up with...

1 Cup flour
1/2 Cup nutritional yeast 
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp dry, crushed basil
6 Tbsp COLD margarine of your choice (or butter if not vegan or dairy allegic), cut into pieces, with 1 or 2 set aside "just in case"
3-4 Tbsp of cold water 

The nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and dry mustard give the crackers the "cheesy" flavor, and the basil is just yummy.

In a dry bowl, whisk together the flour, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, mustard, and basil.  Use a pastry cutter or fork to work in the 4 or 5 Tbsp of butter/margarine. When it is looking like a bunch of crumbs, add 1 more Tbsp of butter/margarine and 1 Tbsp of water. Knead by hand until you have a fairly smooth, non-sticky ball of dough.

(Mine was quite dry and crumbly so I added one more Tbsp of butter, and 1 more Tbsp of cold water.)

Once your dough is sticking together in a ball, roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick, and cut with cookie cutters for fun shapes.  Or, do as the original 100 Days post suggests, and roll the dough into a log and just cut into simple rounds.

Place your cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes.  Check them at 8 minutes - the bottoms should turn a golden brown.  The tops will NOT brown or really change color much so you MUST carefully use a spatula to lift one or two up and look at the bottom side.

Store in an airtight container for a few days, or freeze if not eating right away.

***Just a side note: If you eat a whole bunch of these all at once, you pee will turn a sort of neon yellow!  After doing some research I found that this is because of the B-complex vitamins in the nutritional yeast.  Your body will get rid of the excess when you pee.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America is...

Happy Independence Day to my fellow readers in the United States of America!  And, for those of you not in the USA, thanks for taking the time to visit.

This post is all about "America is..."

One of our favorite books celebrating our country is called just that, America is..., and is written by Louise Borden and Stacey Schuett.  This book is beautifully illustrated, and covers the range of the country from coast to coast, mountain ranges, plains and deserts.  Although it is considered appropriate for grades k-3, we still read it every year on the 4th of July, and my son is 13. To go along with the book, I found a simple lesson plan HERE (pdf format).
You will find all kinds of resources all over the web for the 4th of July, and to learn about the United States of America, but here are a few that we have enjoyed over the years...

Coloring pages for each state HERE.

Historic symbols of America coloring pages HERE.

Lots of coloring pages HERE - grouped into categories. Click on a category to be taken to the related coloring pages.

The United State's National Anthem sung by the combined choirs of the USA's military forces:

For a fantastic 6 part PBS documentary about the American Revolution - the reason we celebrate Independence Day - click HERE.  This series is more appropriate for older kids, teens, and adults.  For a lesson plan, a game, and more that goes with the video series, click HERE.

For children, check out Liberty's Kids!  This is a cartoon series about American history.  THIS link takes you to the YouTube channel for the series.  Unfortunately, each episode appears to be split into two parts on YouTube.  A sample video:

And, if you ever have the chance, I highly recommend driving across this vast country!  We did it a few summers ago when moving from California to New York.  This truly is an amazing land with people of all kinds, terrain of all types, and beauty from coast to coast.  I wrote a bit about that trip in my blog post on "carschooling."  A few pictures from that trip:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Poetry and children

I wrote a post a while ago about poetry for children, and specifically discussed some of my favorite books for teaching poetry to kids (read it HERE). This time, I want to share with you some of my favorite poetry collections for children, as well as our favorite ways to enjoy poetry.

First up are two classics: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children,edited by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, and A Children's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Before moving from California to New York, we lived with my mom.  Often after dinner, we would sit at the kitchen table and take turns reading poems from these two books out loud.  It was a great way for my son and his grandmother to bond since they didn't always get along, in addition to just being a nice way for the three of us to spend some time together.

Of course, no post on poetry for children would be complete without the works of Shel Silverstein - Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, and more!  I can't think of a single person in my inner circle of friends and family that wasn't in love with Shel Silverstein's books as a kid. And for most of us, that love continues into our adult lives.  My son also still loves these books.
In our family, we usually read these curled up under blankets together at bedtime.  However, for the more silly poems, it is great to take turns with one person reading a poem aloud as the other acts it out, then swap.  A sure way to get a case of giggles!

One of my favorite poets is Ted Hughes.  Most people familiar with Hughes through his poetry collections that are more appropriate for adults (Birthday Letters or The Hawk in the Rain), or are familiar with Hughes as the ex-husband of poet Sylvia Plath.  However, he wrote many collections of poetry for children.  My favorite is Collected Poems for Children by Ted Hughes.
And, for children just learning to write, and struggling with punctuation, consider Punctuation Celebration by Elsa Knight Bruno.  This is a cute collection of poems about the proper use of various punctuation marks.

And, a few more that my son enjoyed as a younger child (and still enjoys as a teen, although you won't get him to admit it!).  In addition to most of these being hilarious, the illustrations in some are also amazing.  Check out:
Giant Children by Brod Bagert and Tedd Arnold
The Dragons Are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky
For Laughing Out Loud edited by Jack Prelutsky
Vile Verses and Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Science Verse by Jon Scieszka
I hope you find some new titles in my list, and that you and your family will read together today.  Even when your kids are teenagers, or young adults, keep reading aloud together.  No one is ever too old for a good read along!  Or, set aside an afternoon for what my son calls "Read-a-Palooza".  Pile a bunch of books on the floor, grab pillows and blankets and snuggle all together.  Then spend the afternoon reading either silently, but still next to each other, or take turns reading aloud, or go in bursts of silent and out loud. Reading is a great family bonding activity.
Please note: All titles are linked to for easy ordering, but of course check out your local library or favorite book retailer for these books.