Monday, July 18, 2016

Is Your Child Ready to Learn How to Read?

It's never too soon to start reading to your children. It might, however, be too soon to teach your children HOW to read. There are several reading-readiness signs to watch for, and I'll share them below. But first I'd like to share the thought that learning to read sooner is not always better

Finland's children begin formal reading instruction at age seven, and even then are only in school for half days. (2:6) Although they have this "late" start, a whopping two years behind American children, they have the highest reading scores in the world! (2:170) As American schools cut out recess & play times to allow for more test prep (even in Kindergarten!), Finland children are given 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of class. They have no national curriculum, but instead choose to heavily emphasize reading to children.

Here's a quote from 30 year school teacher John Taylor Gatto on the the importance (or lack thereof) of what age your child learns to read: "David learns to read at age four; Rachel at age nine: In normal development, when both are thirteen, you can't tell which one learned first -- the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school, I label Rachel "learning disabled" and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I teach David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won't outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discounted merchandise, "special education" fodder. She'll be locked in her place forever. In thirty years of teaching kids, rich and poor, I almost never met a "learning disabled child; hardly ever met a "gifted and talented" one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths created by human imagination."1:84 Oh and in case you're wondering, Finland doesn't bother with gifted programs.

So, let your kids be kids! Encourage them to explore, dig in the dirt, observe nature, and play! And always set plenty of time each day to read aloud to them. They'll associate reading with pleasure, and the time will come when they pick up an interest of wanting to read for themselves. When this happens, seize your opportunity and strike while the fire is hot!

Hopefully you're reading aloud to your child every day, just for the fun of it. If your child picks up reading naturally, that's great! If not, don't worry about rushing it. Children who are formerly taught to read by their parents from a very young age can tend to struggle later on, often times not until second grade or later. Researchers aren't saying that reading early is bad! They just recommend to let the early reader to "arrive at the skill naturally, on his own, without a structured time each day when the mother or father sits down with him and teaches him letters, sounds, and syllables."(2:30) 

So when IS the right time to start formal reading lessons? The simple answer is when your child shows an interest. Naturally, older children may take their time while younger siblings may be anxious to learn because their big brothers and sisters are doing it. As long as they've learned to equate reading with pleasure, you won't have to coax them to get to this point. Here are a few other readiness signs you can look for... 

Is Your Child Ready For Reading Lessons? 

  • Does she love it when you read books to her? If not, read this post
  • Is he motivated? Does he want to learn to read? If not, you need this book
  • Has she had her vision tested? Your child may have a vision problem you don't know about, that can affect her ability and willingness to read. It's estimated that 5-10% of preschoolers and 25-40% of school age children have vision problems... and the earlier they are diagnosed, the better! 
  • Does he understand that letters have sounds and make up words? Does he understand that you read from left to right, top to bottom, front to back of the book? This is print awareness. So is recognizing that words are everywhere- on signs, on your cereal box, etc. 
  • Are your child's brain and eye development in sync? Some indicators include the ability to skip properly, ride a bike without training wheels, walk up stairs properly, and crossing the mid plane of the body (like drawing a rainbow from left to right without stopping). 
  • Can he rhyme? Can he clap syllables? 

Ready? Set? Go!  

If your child is ready, great! You're more than qualified to teach him yourself! You don't even need a pricey curriculum. I share my favorite resources for teaching reading on my site; none of them are pricy and some are even free! Check them out here
: Teaching Children How to Read

If your child isn't quite ready, believe it or not, you're already teaching him! The best pre-reading learning comes from these sources: 
  • Real life learning... exploring the world around you & building vocabularies. Get some ideas HERE and HERE.  
  • Read-Aloud time... the child should be read aloud to every... single... day. Every day! Be sure to read my Read Aloud page if you haven't already. Also, every parent should read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  
  • Physical play... Don't underestimate the importance of active exercise and play! Reading readiness has to do with the body

Is Your Home Reader-Friendly? 

In closing, I'll share Jim Trelease's three suggestions (the three B's) to make your home more reading friendly: 
  1. Books (Have lots of print available in your home!)
  2. Book Baskets (Place the print in a few locations throughout the house so it's handy to read in the living room, bedroom, play room, even the dining room table!)
  3. Bed Lamps (Have a set "lights-on" reading time before bed each night).(2:90) 

Works Cited:

2 Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth EditionOh, and in case you're wondering, Finland doesn't bother with gifted programs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Our Experience with Allergies, Eczema, Red Skin Syndrome & Topical Steroid Withdrawal

I wanted to have a single page linking to all of my posts on these topics, so here we go...

This is how we got started on this bumpy ride. 

We used Hydrocortisone cream for my son's eczema, as directed by our doctor, and it gave him a red, itchy, burning, horrible skin condition called Red Skin Syndrome.  

Our turning point!!! I haven't written an update since then but my son is finally free from the grip of topical steroids. We now manage his eczema without them entirely and his skin is so much healthier because of it!

This is what I used on my son's red skin during topical steroid withdrawal.

Monday, July 4, 2016

RSS Healing Butter & RSS Zinc Butter Recipes

In honor of Independence Day, today I'll share a recipe with you that we used along the road to gaining independence from topical steroids for my son's eczema! 

As you know, he went through the brutal process of topical steroid withdrawal. After using topical steroids (over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream) on his eczema as directed by his doctor, he developed a worse condition known as Red Skin Syndrome. You can see my posts about it here, but today what I want to share is the natural body butter recipe I formulated to help him through TSW. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

DIY: Turn Any Blanket into a Carseat Canopy

Today's post is a quick fix to turn any baby blanket into a carseat canopy by sewing on two little loops. 

What you'll need:
  • One baby blanket that's a good size to drape over your infant carrier
  • two scraps of fabric, 6" x 10" each
  • two big buttons
  • velcro

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tracy's Treasury of Picture Books for Toddlers & Young School-Aged Children

I hope you're ready for more of our tried-and-true, family-favorite books! Today's books are our favorite stories for little ones. They fit the following criteria: 
  • They're picture books with real pages. (This is a step up from our Sturdy Books for Babies & Toddlers.)
  • They're quality children's books (twaddle-free, well-written & well-illustrated). I'll try not to go off on a tangent about all the sub-par kids books available today which I'd liken to a junk food diet in book form. If  it's annoying or lacks redeeming qualities, it gets the boot.
  • My boys love them. These have been tested, tried and true by my two older boys, who have read them to pieces. They're keepers. 
Ready for some great picture books? Here we go.. 

Picture Book Read Alouds... 

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter - This is a classic picture book that both of my "big boys" love and have listened to over and over and over again. It provides good opportunities to talk about various lessons learned too, which is always a bonus. The story is also available in large collections with other Beatrix Potter stories, but the small, hardcover book is the way to go. It's how it was originally published, and is an ideal size for little hands and includes all the original illustrations. I think picking a couple of the little individual books (like The Tale of Jemima PuddleduckThe Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, or The Tale of Samuel Whiskersis preferable to a large volume of all of them that won't get read as much. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Draw With Your Kids!

If you have kids in your life, you need to bookmark this fabulous resource! My sister-in-law shared it with me and I just love it. There's an artist who makes you tube videos with his kids as he gives them a step-by-step drawing lesson. There are some simple ones, good for younger kids (his youngest is age two), and others for more advanced drawers. Here's the stegosauruses we made on our first lesson (mine, my 3 yo and 6 yo)...

And here's a more recent pictur we made for groundhog day (mine, my 4 yo and 7 yo)...

He has instructional videos for drawing, painting, sculpting, and even origami with kids. The subjects range from animals to star wars to plants to zombies to Frozen characters. I just love it! Thank you Mandy for sharing it with me!! :)

Here is a link to his website, Art for Kids Hub. And here's a link to his you tube channel. Enjoy!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Favorite Charlotte Mason Resources

There's an abundance of great Charlotte Mason resources available to homeschoolers. Here are my favorites...

Living Books...

  • Living book search  - This is a great resource! Use it to find living books by subject and reading level. 
  • The Ultimate Living Book List for History Studies! I arranged living books (recommended by Sonlight and Simply Charlotte Mason) chronologically, by level, to supplement our history studies. These could be used with any history study.