celebrex allergy

Jul
24

Writing with our latest addiction: Wordle

Recently, my kids introduced me to Wordle.  Type in any text or URL, and voila! An artistic word cloud emerges that you can personalize with fonts, colours, and orientations. Here’s what Wordle spewed when I entered the URL for Educationdiva.  Neat!

When it comes to word games, I occasionally have to check myself into Rehab.  Years ago, I had to destroy a Boggle CD-Rom that came in a cereal box after I started hallucinating that word cubes were flying at me.

Luckily, Wordle is not like other word games.  It’s artistic, and it works amazingly well for motivating kids to write.

Click here to read my post on YummyMummyClub about five ways to turn Wordle  into fun writing opportunities.

Do you Wordle?

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Jul
16

We had a picnic – INDOORS

In theory, I love the idea of going on a picnic.  In reality, the thought of schlepping all that food and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes is not so appealing.

So, on a rainy day this week we went on a picnic: On the floor of my dining room.  I laid out a cute plastic table cloth, and the kids and I munched on goodies and read books together.

The best parts?  Proximity to the fridge, no sunscreen, no bug repellant, no bugs, and no schlepping.  Did I mention we cranked up the music and grabbed books off the shelves?

The kids are on a Beatrix Potter kick.

 

Over tea, we also enjoyed a gem of a book about the magic of books.  It’s called, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”  It was even made into a short film, which won an ACADEMY AWARD.

 

 

We just loved the book and the film!

 

All in all, the indoor picnic was a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.  Just because it’s raining or the mosquitoes are ferocious doesn’t mean you can’t still have a picnic!

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Jul
10

ARE WE THERE YET? Unplugged entertainment for your road trips

If you’re hitting hitting the road this summer or even if you’re zipping around the city, you may want to try these unplugged games for the whole family.  Sure you can turn on the DVD player or the DS, but it’s also nice to mix it up and play together. Print off these six activities and let the journey begin!

Read the full post here on Yummy Mummy Club.

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Jul
06

5 Ideas to Promote Independent Play this Summer

Are you finding it a challenge to carve out some “me time” with your kids at home this summer?

My post this week on Yummy Mummy Club is about 5 ways you can nudge kids to play on their own.  Not only is independent play good for your kids’ creativity and self-esteem, it is also good for your sanity!

Sometimes simple things like cardboard boxes or a closet full of clothes can mean hours of entertainment.

Click here to read my post and to get your kids playing on their own!

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Jul
04

Picasso is a pig and Matisse is a bull: Your kids will love this book!

It’s not easy to find a book that is at once silly, clever, attractive, and educational. When Pigasso Met Mootisse paints Picasso as a diva pig, and Matisse as a feisty bull.

At first, the two artist-animals are friends, but eventually jealousy leads to rivalry.  Pigasso doesn’t understand Mootisse’s “MOOsterpieces,” (haha) and Mootisse doesn’t get Pigasso’s “Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon” featuring female pigs.

Imagine this with pigs!

Loosely based on Picasso and Matisse’s friendship, the educational tour de force of the book lies in its visual and verbal puns.  Parodies of famous paintings featuring pigs and bulls are rendered so as to closely imitate the style and colours of the original masterpieces.  Think of a Matisse nude with udders sticking out!  

Even though the two artists criticize each other’s artistic styles, they eventually agree to disagree and remain friends.  A great teaching point for kids on friendship and acceptance of differing points of view.

Good news! You don’t have to wait to get your hands on the book. Below is actor Eric Close reading When Pigasso Met Mootisse.

You can also find ideas for discussions and activities HERE.

I hope your kids enjoy this book as much as mine did.  You never know where it may lead:  A visit to a museum?  A painting activity?

 

 

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Jun
29

Decisions, decisions: Kill Julius Caesar or become a poor farmer? Your kids get to decide!

One of the best ways to learn about history is to role play what it would be like to live in a different time and place.  My post this week at Yummy Mummy Club is about an interactive history adventure series, called “YOU CHOOSE.”  

 

Kids don’t just read this series, they BECOME part of the story by choosing who to be, where to go, and what to do.  My favourite so far is the book on “Ancient Rome,” but there are several others books in the series to appeal to a variety of interests.

To discover more about this interactive history series, read my post here!

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Jun
28

Exciting news for Education Diva!!!

I am so thrilled to announce that I will be the new “Kiducation” blogger on Erica Ehm’s YummyMummyClub website.  You probably remember Erica Ehm back from her days on MuchMusic.

Yummy Mummy Club is a dynamic online magazine that features real issues relevant to  Moms today: Health, finance, education,fashion, and much more.

Watch for my posts on books, films, online resources, and fun educational activities to get you through the summer and beyond.

Click here to view my first post and profile on the YummyMummyClub site.

I am really looking forward to being a part of this great team.  

I will continue blogging on Education Diva, and hope you will also follow me as Kiducation on YummyMummyClub.

Thanks for following and reading! :)

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Jun
27

Hollywood actors read stories to your kids while you…

Elijah Wood reads “Me and My Cat” to my son while I get dinner ready.   On the drive to school, Jason Alexander reads “Dad are you the Tooth Fairy.”

Yup, I have CONNECTIONS!  Actually, no.  The truth is I discovered this fabulous website called, “Storyline Online,” a program of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

What is Storyline Online?

A collection of videos featuring famous actors reading quality stories.  Illustrations, colours and textures of each book are prominent in each production.   A choice of twenty-four stories includes learning activity guides. Grades: K-6.

Here are a few clips featuring Amber Rose Tamblyn, Robert Guillaume, and Melissa Gilbert.

 

 

 

Why Storyline Online is great for kids.

- Actors model a love for reading.

- Text is displayed with illustrations to practice reading along.

- Good variety of quality stories available 24/7, free of charge!

- Narration by professional actors is excellent, and bring stories to life.

 

Why Storyline Online is great for parents.

- Learning guides are included to further discussions about each story.

- Actors will repeat the same story over and over and over, so you don’t have to!

- Ten minutes of guilt-free sanity, maybe even more.  

- It’s FREE and accessible anywhere with an internet connection.

 

Well, it has been a real pleasure welcoming these celebrities into our home and minivan!   My kids are looking forward to more stories, and for a change I don’t  feel their time is wasted on the computer.

I hope your family enjoys this online resource.   Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jun
26

Surviving June: What to do with the mountain of papers and binders headed your way.

image by feisty from Fotolia.com

 

We’re officially into the last few days of school, so naturally my house is buried in mountains of papers and binders.  It feels like teachers’ revenge:  Hah!  We’ve had to put up with your kids’ mess all year, so now we’re sending it all home to you.  Have a great summer.  Hahahahaha!

The binders never have the cute projects that show your child’s personality.

 

Of course, there’s always the one important life-changing project that’s somewhere between the 500 pages of worksheets and pop quizes.  WHERE  IS IT?

You would think I would just reuse the binder for next school year.  I can’t say for sure why this never works out.

So, when my daughter in grade six brought home a GARBAGE BAG! full of papers and binders, I threw my hands up in the air and put her to work.  This is what emerged:

 

She came up with the idea of using the binders for summer projects. She even wrapped the binders in paper and decorated them as covers.

She also made new labels for the dividers so each project would have its place.

Hahahaha, I hear the teachers laughing. “Let’s see if she actually keeps all her projects in the binder, and  whether she even gets around to using it.”

I will say this:  The school papers are gone.  My daughter is excited about getting to her personal projects, and having a place all her own to collect them. These are all good things, and have saved me a lot of headache. I like that my daughter took ownership of what was worth keeping, and that she repurposed the binder for the summer.  I can also envision other kids using the binders as scrapbooks, photo albums, journals.

Perhaps the teachers will have the last laugh after all.  My daughter has now constructed a summer locker out of a box.

 

I guess I can’t help but be proud and optimistic :)

What do you do with all the stuff kids bring home at the end of the year? Please share your tips!

 

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Jun
21

Memorization and recitation of poems to be compulsory for British elementary school students.

“Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is….his house is….OH COME ON! Um, what’s the next line again?”    Don’t worry, you’ll only be docked a few marks for failing to memorize and correctly recite the poem in front of your classmates.  That is, if you’re an elementary school student in England.

As part of a major overhaul of the national curriculum of England, children as young as five will be expected to memorize and recite poetry.

According to an article in the Guardian, the poetry curriculum is part of education secretary Michael Gove’s initiative to create a rigorous English program that will ensure students leave primary school with high standards of literacy.

From The Guardian. "Michael Gove, the education secretary, wants to make English teaching at primary schools more rigorous." Photograph: Graeme Robertson

Beginning at age five, kids will be exposed to poetry by their teachers and will start to memorize and recite simple poems. Students will learn appropriate intonation techniques, and will build up a repertoire of memorized poems increasing each year.

“More generally the curriculum will place a much stronger emphasis on reading for pleasure with children from Year 1 “becoming very familiar with key stories, fairy stories and traditional tales”.”

Already critics are warning that Gove is turning back the clock fifty years, and that memorization will impede creativity and appreciation.  Scott Griffin, who presides over England’s most prestigious poetry award, worries that “  by poetry, what the government might really mean is “poetry”, or POETRY – that is, grist for the spoken English competition, in which students at my school were expected to stand on a stage and chew their way through The Lady of Shalott in a feigned and foreign RP accent….if learning ”by heart” might actually mean learning by rote, then I’d prefer poetry to have no part in it.”

 

With all due to respect to Griffin, I don’t think he knows what it likes to grow up without poetry. While he can whip out a repertoire of beautiful verses for every personal and public occasion, that is sadly not the case for most North American children and adults.  Even nursery rhymes are disappearing from the repertoire of young children.  That’s a shame, since poetry teaches word economy, develops vocabulary and auditory skills, and is generally inspiring.  Recitation is an excellent way to develop skills in public speaking.

Since poetry at school is not on the horizon, I have a new goal this summer:  Read a poem a day with the kids! “Read Aloud Poems for Young People” is a resource I go back again and again.

amazon.ca

What do you think:  Should memorization and recitation of poetry be compulsory at schools?

 

 

 

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Jun
11

Kids need spelling tests, not spellcheck.

What do CDs, personal mail, going to the bank, and pay phones have in common?  Relics from the pre-internet era that can make you feel oddly old and nostalgic.  Add one more to this list: SPELLING TESTS.

Remember when you had weekly spelling tests at school?  I had them all the way from grades one to nine, and I’m glad I did.  The word lists often focused on a set of rules, and I’ll never forget them.  I can still hear my teacher’s voice: ” i before e except after c.”  Yes, I know I’m nerdy.   Yes, I know now there’s Spellcheck with its instructive curly red lines that catch my terrible typos.

BUT here’s what Spellcheck can’t do:

1- It can’t cover up some of the most basic spelling errors. Bad spellers are sooner or later unmasked, much to their embarrassment.

2- It can’t inculcate the discipline and focus of studying lists of word weekly.

3- It can’t force kids to think about corrections and rules related to their errors.

Here are some common spelling errors Spellcheck will not catch:

should of , compliment vs. complement, affect vs. effect, their/there/they’re, your vs. you’re, it’s vs. its, using apostrophes as plurals, lose vs. loose, wear/where.

I’m itchy just from typing these errors!

I know that weekly tests are out of fashion.  The notion is that somehow kids will just pick up spelling through reading and Spellcheck.  Maybe, and maybe not.  What would be the harm in bringing back a weekly tradition that at best would build better spellers, and at worst would encourage the discipline of regular study and memorization?

As the school year winds down and I take stock of all the great things my kids have learned, I can’t help but feel that something is missing. Bad spelling can make even the most intelligent and well educated people look kind of dumb.  Moreover, there’s nothing more grating than a spelling error glaring you in the face.  Or is it greating? Definately?  Please, please, someone do something about “definately.”  Even Spellcheck picks that one up.

What do you think, should weekly spelling tests return?

 

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Jun
04

Best books to read out loud this summer.

With the days warming up, I like to gather the kids on the lawn to share some books over cold treats.    Reading aloud is a great way to keep kids interested in reading over the summer.  Kids don’t like to sit for long,  so it’s important to pick books that pack some punch. (No pun intended!)

Just like people, books tend to be introverts or extroverts.    Extroverted books are meant to be read out loud with dramatic flair, and the more listeners the better.

Here are my picks of best extroverted books for an energetic summer day.

Warning:  Be prepared to to amp up the drama!  Don’t be surprised if your audience gets in on the action too.

Ages 3-6:

1- Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus – by Mo Willems

2- The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear – by Don and Audrey Wood.

3- The Monster at the End of This Book – by Jon Stone.

Ages 6 and up:

1- Miss Nelson Is Missing – Harry Allard.

2- Jabberwocky (poem) – Lewis Carroll.

3- Green Eggs and Ham – Dr. Seuss

Ages 9 and up:

1- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – Judy Blume

2- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – Kate diCamillo

3- Pinocchio – by Carlo Collodi

 

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May
30

How to give your kids’ learning activities a summer makeover!

 

Ah, the lazy hazy days of summer.

Picture it:  Games of badminton on the lawn, swinging in the park, swimming outside, sticky popsicles,  and: MATH ACTIVITY WORKBOOKS!  Ugh. I don’t think so.

Let’s face it, workbooks have no place among summer activities.  Regular routines of instrument practice, reading exercises, writing, and math can become big party-poopers in the summer.

As an education blogger, I am not suggesting that learning grind to a halt in warm weather.  I am instead recommending that you consider giving some regular learning activities a summer makeover. Here is a sample “look” for a summer makeover:

 

 

READING

WINTER  : BEFORE


Assigned chapters for school, reading comprehension questions, fireside reading, audiobooks in the car.

 

SUMMER  :  AFTER

Read anything and everything including comics and magazines, no questions, poolside reading, audio books on the patio.

 

 

WRITING

WINTER : BEFORE


Structured paragraphs, essays, journals.

SUMMER : AFTER


Freestyle poetry, vacation scrapbooks with photos and descriptive writing, nature journals.

 

MATH

WINTER: BEFORE

 


Workbooks, flashcards, online practice.

SUMMER:  AFTER

Measuring plant growth in the garden, fractions in the sand with measuring spoons and cups, counting with sticks and stones.

 

MUSICAL INSTRUMENT PRACTICE

WINTER:  BEFORE


Lessons, 30 minutes a day, assigned pieces.

SUMMER:  AFTER


No lessons, play throughout the week in spurts, replay old favourites.

 

 

If you would like  to encourage your  kids to love learning throughout the seasons,  I recommend you let some of the structure slide this summer. (No pun intended.)

With some simple modifications outlined in the makeover, learning can be easily incorporated into summer fun. No more party-pooper workbooks! Kids need time to play and rejuvenate,  just like you.

p.s.  Don’t forget summer camps that foster your child’s passions in a fun, social setting.

 

How do you incorporate learning into the lazy days of summer?

 

For Further Reading:

Earth Day Math: Take Your Learning Outdoors.

Exploring Sand with Preschoolers

What Families Can Do To Keep Kids Reading During the Summer



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May
09

Other must-read Maurice Sendak books

By now, everyone has learned the sad news of the passing of Maurice Sendak.  Best known for his almost instant classic, “Where the Wild Things Are,” Sendak’s emotional and creative artistry left an indelible mark on children’s literature.  Sendak didn’t consider himself a children’s writer,  insisting that his books were  “about human emotion and life.”  ”They’re pigeonholed as children’s books, but the best ones aren’t — they’re just books.”

While “Where the Wild Things Are” is Sendak’s most acclaimed book (made into numerous films and read by President Obama to children at the White House), it was not the author’s favourite.  Sendak preferred “The Nutshell Library” and “Higglety Pigglety Pop or There Must be More to Life Than This.” I remember reading these books over and over again as a child, and their words and images have stuck with me as an adult.

This collection of rhymes and tales includes, “Alligators All Around,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “One Was Johnny,” and “Pierre.”  One is about the alphabet, one a counting book, one about seasons, and one about Pierre who would only say “I don’t care”.  Educational books that are not condescending to children, and contain something of Sendak’s fantastical art.  I had an audio-cassette recording of these books as a child, and I wish I could find it again.  It was read by a woman, and if any readers know what I’m talking about, please comment.  I would love to find these again! Oh, here it is!  I just found it on YouTube, narrated by Tammy Grimes. Now, where can I buy this?

Sendak’s witty and slightly dark humour pervade this tale of Jenny the dog’s adventures, as she seeks whatever is missing in her life, despite having “everything.”  A dog’s transformation from gluttonous being to one who would risk her own life to save a weaker creature.

Today is a sad day, but I have many happy memories of reading Sendak’s beautiful books as a child.  What are your favourite Sendak memories?
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May
07

Your car is your “classroom.”

If you have kids and live in a North American suburb, chances are you spend a lot of time in your car.

Oy, the agony of being stuck in rush hour traffic with three restless and squabbling children.  On the other hand, being “stuck” in the car has its advantages.

Sometimes the best conversations about life happen on the drive between school and music lessons.

Sometimes kids will listen to audio materials they might not listen to at home.

I like to experiment with different kinds of music and audio-educational materials in the car.  Might as well turn the car into a “classroom”, while keeping it fun.

Here are some audio resources the kids have enjoyed:

HISTORY


The Story of The World: History narrated as if it were a story is appealing to kids.  Folktales from various cultures are incorporated.  A series that covers earliest history to modern times. Ages 7+

MYTHOLOGY

Tales from the Odyssey narrated by Mary Pope Osborne. Osborne is best known for her Magic Tree House series, but I like this series even more.  Here, she narrates her favourite ancient  Greek myths for kids.  Highly recommended.  Ages 6+

POETRY

Where the Sidewalk Ends narrated by the poet, Shel Silverstein. Silverstein’s style of reciting poetry is unique, and brings the poems to life.  Love this one!  Ages 5+

CLASSICAL COMPOSERS

Mr. Bach Comes to Call by Classical Kids. Adventures begin when JS Bach pops in on a little girl as she practices piano.  Bach’s music is woven throughout the adventure, as listeners also learn about the composer’s life.  Classical Kids has several composers in the series, but Bach is my kids’ favourite. Ages: 5-10

MUSIC

Legends of Gypsy Flamenco. Ole!  Kids get exposure to music of another culture, and you keep your sanity while not listening to Justin Bieber.  Try Celtic, Klezmer, Brazilian, or whatever you like!

SILLY STORY

I Stink! A garbage truck loves his stinky self, as he goes around the city describing all the wonderful garbage he collects.  It’s a day in the life.  Needless to say, my son loves it.  The narration and jazzy music are just great.  (The audio book is not pictured here, but is available.) Ages: 4-8

 

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to make your shlepping time a little more interesting!

If you’re looking for more ideas for younger kids, visit ThinkMagnet’s post “Back Seat Learners,” which was the inspiration for my post.

Please share any tips and resources you’ve found to educate and entertain your kids while driving.


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May
01

The Kid Should See This!

Has your kid ever seen what an erupting geyser looks like?

Or thought about  the size of an atom in terms of a blueberry?

Seen Tito Puente play live?

How about watched the School House Rock clip about the nervous system?

The Kid Should See This is genius.  Curated by Rion Nakaya and her four-year old son, “The Kid Should See This” is a compilation of awesome moments in music, science, art, technology, nature, and random cool stuff.

Nakaya calls the collection “Kid-friendly not -made- for- kids videos for all!’ I love that nothing here is condescending, and that parents will enjoy watching as much as the kids.

We are addicted!  Here are a few of our favourites from the collection:

MUSIC MADE FROM NATURE. (A COMMERCIAL FOR BURT’S BEES.)

WHAT IS EXACTLY IS AN ATOM AND HOW SMALL IS IT AGAIN?

TITO PUENTE ROCKS THE VIBRAPHONE IN THE 1940s

ERUPTING GEYSERS

Visit The Kid Should See This to find your next family video.  Which was your favourite?

Thank you Rion Nakaya for bringing together this collection.

 

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Apr
30

Education Diva Makeover!

Sometimes a woman just needs a change, which may explain why I almost crashed my site for a new look.

I won’t bore you with my hair-raising technical nightmare, since the point is by some miracle (and thanks to GoDaddy) the site is back up.

There are still a few glitches to work out,  but I would love to hear what you think about Education Diva’s makeover so far.

Thanks, and stay tuned for more posts to come.

Education Diva

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Apr
26

Thrilled to be guest posting on Imagination Soup!

www.imaginationsoup.net

I’m just thrilled to have my post about “The Best Villains in Children’s Books” featured on Imagination Soup. Mwahahaha! (Evil laugh.)  Actually, I didn’t have to devise an evil plot to get on Imagination Soup, which makes it all the more thrilling for me.

Imagination Soup is the brainchild of Melissa Taylor, a professional educator, writer, and Mom.  Melissa is both  knowledgeable and fun.  Her blog is a treasure trove of activities and resources for reading, writing, math, parties, and much more.  I had Imagination Soup on my “favourites” from the beginning, so it’s an honour to be a contributor.

Hop on over to check out Imagination Soup, and read my post while you’re at it!

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Apr
25

Foreign language learning at home with Rosetta Stone

I was very lucky. As a child of immigrants, I was immersed in languages from an early age. I wasn’t even aware I was learning! Later in life, I chose French immersion and other languages. I’m sure I had a much easier time than my monolingual friends.

My kids don’t have it as easy. They get some Spanish from me, but will not go the French immersion route.

When my 11 year-old said she really wanted to learn French,  I looked into some lessons and tutors.  No go.  Too inconvenient, too expensive.

I first heard about Rosetta Stone through my kids’ school, before the ubiquitous booths cropped up at malls and airports.

What is Rosetta Stone? A “dynamic immersion” foreign language learning program (with many languages available) delivered via CD-Roms or Online.

Although I loved the convenience, I was skeptical about language learning on the computer.  I learned languages the good old-fashioned way:  With people!

Nevertheless, I took the plunge and purchased the Homeschool French Levels 1&2 CD-Roms for $279.00    Yes, it’s expensive, but I reasoned that in the long run it’s cheaper than paying for a private tutor or lessons since my other kids can also use it.

The verdict?  Still too early to tell if my money was wisely spent, but I am impressed so far. “Dynamic Immersion” is based on five language components:

1- IMAGES  2-INTUITION 3- INTERACTIVITY 4-INSTRUCTION 5-IMMERSION

Learners speak, write, and read the language in an interactive way without translation. Headsets with mikes (included) are used to practice speaking and pronunciation, and record students’ sounds while assessing pronunciation.  Grammar and spelling are taught both implicitly and explicitly throughout. Images help to instill vocabulary, and lend a worldly flavour  with people of various cultures and ages.

Each lesson lasts around 15 minutes, and tracks each learner’s progress.  The program even allows for a few learners simultaneously, and will track each one’s progress individually.  Could be fun for families and siblings to learn together.

The Homeschool edition includes lesson guides for parents to follow, but I haven’t looked at it closely yet.

So far, my daughter is enjoying this way of learning and doesn’t want to stop.  Time will tell how successful Rosetta Stone will be with my kids, but so far, so good.

 

 

 

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Apr
23

Getting spring-crafty with coffee!

Coffee makes everything better. To those who suggest I have dependence issues around caffeine, I say “Poo poo.”  My morning cup makes me  feel happy and energized, and I could care less that it’s caffeine induced.  Great for the mind and the body, it turns out coffee can even be useful for crafts. Who knew?  Now, when I tell my kids my coffee habit is good for THEM, I won’t just be talking about my mood.

Here are a few excellent links I found that use coffee grounds and filters to make fossils and butterflies.  Perfect as a tie-in to spring and earth day, these crafts are fun and easy. I can’t wait to try these out on the deck with the kids, and a nice cup of coffee, of course.

1- EARTH DAY COFFEE GROUND FOSSILS (CLICK FOR INSTRUCTIONS.)

Don’t throw out your coffee grounds.  Use them to make dough!  Select any shapes to make “fossils”,  and use as an opportunity to discuss dinosaurs, the history of our planet, erosion, or other related topics.

2- COFFEE FILTER BUTTERFLIES (CLICK  FOR INSTRUCTIONS.)

These are so pretty, and so easy to make.  I could see attaching a string, and hanging them mobile-style.  Thanks to my instant-coffee machine, I have stacks of coffee filters piled up in my pantry that will finally be put to good use.  We will make this craft outside in the garden, and maybe talk about caterpillars, cocoons, and pollen. For younger children, Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” would make a great accompaniment to this craft.

Score another point for coffee:  Perk up the day with these caffeine-inspired spring crafts!

 

 

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Apr
20

Instrument practice without tears – 5 Tips.

My 11,9, and 6 year olds  play musical instruments.  That amounts to about eight years of wrong notes, mismatched teachers, screaming (mostly by me), and intense (ahem) coaxing.  Obviously, it hasn’t been all bad or we would have all quit long ago!   These years have presented a real learning curve – for ME. While I don’t pretend to have THE solution for getting kids to practice without nagging, I thought I would share what I have learned along the way.

The goal?  No more parents pulling out their hair!

1- Don’t call it “Practice.” This sounds stupid, I know, but I swear it makes a difference.  When we ask kids to “practice” it takes away from what the real purpose is: “playing.” What sounds more appealing to you: “It’s time to practice”, or “It’s time to play?”

2- Sit down and talk with kids about short term and long term goals for playing. Short term:  What do they hope to achieve in this playing session?  Where will they be by the end of the week?  Playing the same line in a piece over and over can seem pointless, unless kids are clear that it’s part of the larger goal.  Having the kids set  goals allows them to take ownership of their time, and most importantly, teaches that they are responsible for their own successes and failures.

3- Let them fail! Some days they don’t play.  You’re paying for the lessons, you’re shlepping them in rush hour traffic, so it’s hard not to freak out.  As long as this is not happening consistently, IT’S OKAY!  Let the teacher deal with it. It’s good for kids to suffer some shame and disappointment in a lesson.  When kids hear from the teacher that they’re not doing enough, it has a totally different effect than when it comes from you.  They need that experience.

4- Back off! I’m talking to you,  parents with a music background.  YOU are not the teacher. I know every time they play a B natural instead of a B flat, or just don’t count,  it’s all you can do to not scream.  I had  the habit of breathing down my kids’shoulders (literally) every time.  There’s nothing wrong with helping the kids when they ask for it, or with using you musical knowledge to offer some insight.  IN MODERATION.  If the goal is to encourage kids to love playing music, think about how difficult that is in a high-pressure environment. Admittedly, I’m still working on this, because I can’t help myself.  Probably the best thing you can do is model enjoyment of music making.  Play your instrument, and listen to music.

5- Play with others and for others. Any opportunity your kids have to play with other kids is golden.    I once had a very informal get-together  at my house with kids’ friends who play instruments.  They played for each other, and fooled around on their instruments together.  They were surprised by their friends’ talents, and they got to have fun making music together.  The kids also enjoying playing for grandparents, who provide plenty of praise and encouragement.  Playing with others and for others counts as some practice time, by the way!

Well, there you have it.  Five things I have learned to help me stay sane after years of practice.  After many years of making my parents suffer, I still love to play the piano and listen to music.  I hope my kids can get to the same place with their parents a little less worn down.

What techniques have worked for you when it comes to encouraging instrument practice?

Here are a few websites to check out for further tips:

http://www.pbs.org/parents/theparentshow/blog/tips-for-getting-kids-to-voluntarily-practice-a-musical-instrument

http://www.essential-music-practice.com/kids-and-practice.html

http://voices.yahoo.com/how-kids-practice-musical-instrument-2372294.html

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Apr
18

Christmas Lectures direct from London! (No, they are not about Christmas.) Curious? Hint: World-famous scientists, kids, internet, awesomeness.

I know this makes me sound so old , but wonders of our internet-age never cease to amaze me.  Once upon a time, only  children living in London could attend lectures given by the world’s top scientists for children.

Started by Michael Faraday in 1825, “The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures” have continued annually ever since, educating children on a variety of science topics.  Thanks to re-digitized footage from the RI archive, now kids around the world can watch great lectures given from before they were even born.

I particularly enjoyed Dame Nancy Rothwell’s (Professor of Physiology) lecture “Sense and Sensitivity,” in which she explains how our senses are crucial to our survival.  Guests during the hour include a monkey, a dog, an engineer,  an Olympic champion, and more. Kids in the audience  appear engaged by her dynamic speaking and hands-on demonstrations, and likely your kids will be engaged watching at home too.

As an aside, it’s great to have a world- famous woman scientist talking to kids.  What a great role-model for girls and young women.

“Sense and Sensitivity” is part of a series by  Dame Rothwell, called, “Staying Alive: The Body in Balance.” Each lecture is one hour long.  This is way too long for some kids, but is remedied by the beauty of our internet-age: The pause and fast-forward buttons!  No need to sit through the entire hour-lecture in one sitting.

Visit the RI website to select from a multitude of fascinating topics from Christmas lecturers past and present.

Isn’t the internet an amazing place?

 

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Apr
16

Runny Babbit is geally rood!

Our brains hurt, but we also laughed. Runny Babbit delivers Shel Silverstein’s signature silly poetry that kids love, but is also full of brain teasers. First letters of words trade places, therefore demanding good listening and decoding to understand the phrases.  Absolutely fantastic for stimulating attentive listening and reading skills, not to mention great for language and vocabulary development.    Good for pattern recognition too!

Here are a few samples:

 

Think about trying Runny Babbit with unmotivated readers too. The short and self-contained poems are not overwhelming, and give a sense of accomplishment.

Shel Silverstein’s delightful illustrations add extra appeal.  Check out this take on Cinderella: “Runny Cooks for Linderella”

The constant play on letters and words might be challenging for early readers, but is completely manageable and fun when read aloud.  In fact, it’s a great opportunity for grown-ups to be sound silly and have fun with the kids.

Visit the official Shel Silverstein website for extension activities. The “Ideas for Teachers and Parents” has some great ideas for “Runny Babbit,” such as asking kids to translate the poems to regular English. How about analyzing rhyme patterns, or throwing a Runny Babbit party?  Why not ask kids to make their own poems with first letters of words switched around?

The website features information about Shel Silverstein, also known for “The Giving Tree,” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”  I highly recommend the recording of Silverstein reading from “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” This is a classic in my house!   (Apparently, there is also a recording of Silverstein reading “Runny Babbit.”)

At once silly and challenging, Runny Babbit is a great find. Recommended:  Ages 6 and up.

 

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Apr
04

Hunger Games: They’ve read the book, but can they handle the movie?

Like many tweens, my daughter devoured The Hunger Games trilogy.  Twice, maybe three times.   When the movie was released, she couldn’t wait to see every scene and character acted out on the big screen.  Today, we saw the film together.  Many of her friends had already seen the movie, so she was getting desperate.   While I’m glad we were not the last people on the planet to see the movie, I can’t say it was a great experience from my perspective.

I read “The Hunger Games.”  The book contains bloody scenes of children killing each other in various gory ways, and some traumatic events.  Now, it’s one thing to imagine these scenes in one’s head while reading.  It’s quite another to watch these scenes come to life on a gigantic screen.   Half the time my daughter had her eyes or ears covered.  She couldn’t  watch the slaughter of kids by swords, Tracker Jackers, and mutts.  The kids’ screams were hard to take.

To the movie’s credit, it was very faithful to the book.  The actors and staging were all excellent, and very “real.”  If you have read the book, think carefully about what that means and whether your child is really ready to see this book come to life.

I would be curious to hear your take on The Hunger Games movie for kids.

 

 

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Apr
02

Writing, camera, action! Easy spring writing activity.

Finally, back to blogging again!

Spring has finally arrived in our corner of Canada, and we’re kind of in sensory overload.  The kids were so excited to find lady bugs in the yard, and to splash around in the mud from melted snow.    I thought it would be great to turn the impressions of the season into a writing activity, but my kids’ attention spans are particularly short these days. So, I thought of something that would be short and fun for my 9 and 6 year olds: PHOTO BOOKLETS!

This is a fun activity to encourage descriptive writing, sequencing, and poetry. You can vary the activity according to age and preference.

WARNING: Kids ran amuck with my iphone snapping pictures.  Yes, it’s a leap of faith.

Step by step process:

1- Hand over the camera. Take a deep breath, or stand over them.  Each kids snaps a maximum of 10 photos of most interesting/neat spring scenes.

2- Upload the photos. Copy and paste to Word, so text can be added underneath.

3- Kids can choose to sequence the photos to create a short narrative, or  why not simply write short descriptive sentences or rhymes as captions. Use text-boxes under photos in Word.

4- Print booklets.  Voila!  Kids turned into photographers and authors in under an hour!

5- EDUCATIONAL TIP:  Expanding kids’ descriptive words beyond “nice,” “awesome,” and “good” will help them become better writers. Here’s a link to a list of adjectives from MomsWhoThink.com . By no means do you have to drill your kids on the 1,100 adjectives listed, but  you can pull out some good ones from there.  There’s a short list at the top of the page with “feeling adjectives”, “sound adjectives”, and other categories that are helpful.

Photos could really be of anything your kids find interesting, outdoors or indoors. Try it with favourite toys, stuffed animals, and family members.

Hope your kids find this writing activity to be…a snap!

 

 

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