Category: Book Recommendations

Cool Math

By , May 12, 2010 5:34 pm

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Do you have a reluctant math student? Unfortunately I have two of them.  My 7 and 9 year-old are stuck in that very tedious phase of math where everything seems to be all about drilling problems.  According to her recent parent-teacher conference, my 4 year-old on the other hand, currently spends much of her time in the “math environment” of her Montessori classroom.  As her proud Mom, I have of course already planned out her future career as an engineer!

The foundation of math can be pretty boring.  I remember that from my school days.  Fortunately I ended up loving math later, and even took it in college.

I keep thinking, if only there was some way to make it clear to them that math can actually be really cool later on, then perhaps they’d be willing to slog through this early stuff until the light bulb comes on for them as it did for me.

Fortunately I recently discovered the math stories by Theoni Pappas.  I bought Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales (that’s some of the cool stuff!) and The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat (my kids love cats).

I have begun reading the fractals book out loud with my oldest daughter. We have read several chapters and she keeps wanting more!  Each short chapter has an easy and creative explanation of a different complex, mind-bending concept presented in story format.  Often there are related activities to do, or puzzles to solve.  At the end of the chapter is a highlighted box with more complete information about the concept, usually involving history or practical applications.

The Möbius strip was one of the real WOW chapters that we have read so far (see our photo above).

Will these books turn my children in to math-lovers?  Who knows, but they are fun!

Keeping Girls “Girls”

By , May 3, 2010 12:11 pm

One benefit of no TV that had never occurred to me when I began this experiment after the birth of my daughter nine and a half years ago, is the lack of exposure to “sexy teens!”  I am shocked sometimes when I see how some teens and tweens, dress and act.  I really am not a conservative person, in fact I consider myself to be quite liberal, but I do believe that 9 year-old girls are emotionally girls and NOT women.  What ever happened to childhood?

Some might think it backward (please don’t flame me), but I am SO relieved that my 9 1/2 year-old daughter still believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  She still plays dress-up and fairies with her little sister and like-minded friends.  She is not on Facebook, nor has she ever expressed a desire to be.  Don’t berate me for “stunting” my daughter’s social and technological development.  Believe me, I am sure she will “develop socially” as soon as those hormones hit her system!  She also knows how to use a computer just fine thank you.

There are certainly many factors involved.  Her stage of physical development, her personality, and the fact that she attends a very small Montessori School all surely play a role.  But I do truly also believe that part of the fact that she has not yet become interested in “popular teen culture” is that she is not exposed to TV shows and commercials that cause her to emulate those behaviors.

My good friend friend just sent me a link to a review of an interesting-sounding book by Leonard Sax, the author of Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.  His new book is about girls:  Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls-Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins.  I urge you to read the review and see what you think.

Meanwhile, I hope that my little girls stay little girls for as long as they need to.

Great Magazine Find! “Tessy & Tab Reading Club”

By , March 9, 2010 1:36 pm

I get tons of offers to review all sorts of odd things: snack foods (no thanks), prenatal vitamins (not pregnant), infant video games (did you read the title of my blog?), celebrity this and celebrity that (my interest in celebs = ZERO).  Do any of these marketers actually READ my blog first? I rarely accept a review offer.

Well, a while ago I got a very nice email about a publication that sounded pretty good and well-matched to Unplug Your KidsBlue Lake Children’s Publishing wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing their bi-monthly “magazine” (really more like a little book) for 2-6 year-old pre and early readers.  The magazine is called Tessy & Tab, and after checking out their website, I decided that my 4 year-old and I might like to give it a try.

The verdict?  We love it!

As I mentioned before, Tessy & Tab is more like a small stiff paperback book than an actual magazine. This is helpful if you have destructive little-ones!   But as Heather of Blue Lake explained, “kids like the word ‘magazine.”  Your preschooler will love getting their own “magazine” twice a month in the mail.

The main characters of Tessy & Tab are a duck named Tessy and a kangaroo…obviously named Tab.  Each 14 page issue features Tessy and Tab doing fun things that children will enjoy learning about, or are perhaps familiar with.  My packet included issues about flying kites, ice skating lessons, learning to write, making pizzas, a yoga lesson, and crafting jewel mugs.

The subject matter was very interesting to my 4 year-old and the bright and simple illustrations were fun for her too.  The text is basic and the font is large, dark, and easy to read.  My daughter was pleased that she could sound out some of the words herself, and LOVED the part where she got to do an “I Spy” finding different pictures and words that appeared throughout the story.  I think she sat quietly on the sofa for at least half an hour working on her packet of Tessy & Tabs.

From a parent point of view, I like the following:

  • I can do more than just read the content aloud.  There are also a few activities, some of which my 4 year-old can do on her own.
  • The featured letter and number are useful bi-monthly teaching tools that might especially be helpful for homeschoolers.
  • There are three “Story Questions” at the end of each issue.  The questions check to see if your child remembered and comprehended the story (there are visual hints too).  A good introduction to the idea of “reading for comprehension” which they will face for many, many years to come in school.
  • Twice a month is ideal in my mind for publications geared to children so young.  Although it flies by for us grown-ups, a full month’s wait is a Very-Long-Time when you are 4ish.
  • The website has printables, learning games, and activities that go along with each issue.

And last, but DEFINITELY not least!!!

  • Tessy & Tab has no advertising.  I don’t have to endure tortured requests for Disney princess fruit snacks or Sponge Bob sneakers after we read an issue.

I have subscribed.

If you decide to subscribe and like this magazine, please tell your friends about it.  If you have a blog, please write about it.

Blue Lake Publishing is a low budget operation and it does not accept advertising.  I really respect this attitude and I wish them well.  I also thank them for bringing Tessy & Tab to my attention!

LINKS:  How does the Tessy & Tab Reading Club Work?

Ta Da!! (2010 Newbery & Caldecott)

By , January 19, 2010 2:06 am

Yesterday morning was the big announcement of this year’s Newbery and Caldecott children’s book award winners. Drum roll please…

 

John Newbery:

“The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

 

2010 WINNER – When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 HONORS –

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (YIPPEE!! Bought this for my 9 year-old for Christmas!)

Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

 

Randolph Caldecott:

“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”

 

2010 WINNER – The Lion & the Mouseby Jerry Pinkney

2010 HONORS –

All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman


CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!

PS: How well do you know your children’s book awards? If you can’t tell your Theodor Seuss Geisel Award from your Pura Belpré Award, then you can read up on them all here.

Help! I am Drowning in Candy!!!

By , November 3, 2009 6:20 pm

A few more Halloween candy ideas:

  • Send it to troops overseas for them to pass out to local children.  For more info, go to the Operation Gratitude website, but basically just send your candy (plus an optional but very welcome $11 to cover the cost of shipping overseas) before December 8th to:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, California 91406
ATTN: Charlie Othold

You can also send it anytime to Operation Shoebox at this address:

Operation Shoebox
8360 E Highway 25
Belleview, FL 34420

(Keep in mind that soft or chocolate candy might not travel so well, especially to a hot climate.)

  • Find a local dentist who is participating in a Halloween Candy Buyback program.  Participating dentists give your kids $1/pound of candy and then they send it to troops overseas!  Go to the Halloween Candy Buyback website to do a zipcode search for participating dentists in your area. Consider encouraging your children to donate their dollars to a charity that interests them.
  • Some food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters accept candy.  Be sure to call first to find out if yours wants it.
  • Buy inexpensive cellophane party favor bags and make pretty little candy packages.  Tie the top with a scrap of ribbon or yarn and donate them to your local charitable thrift store for them to sell.  Great stocking stuffers for someone!
  • Of course you can always do a Candy Bank too, and then use one of these ideas as the final destination for your traded candy!
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