As part of my quest to cram lots of geography into the kids’ heads in the next 3 months in preparation for our long around-the-country road trip, I moved a couple DVDs up in our Netflix queue. Specifically, the History Channel series How the States Got Their Shapes. It arrived yesterday, and today I put it in, expecting the kids to watch one of the 4 episodes on the disc.
They watched all 4.
It was crazy interesting. Borders getting set, or changed, or fought over, because of rivers or transportation or mineral rights (gold!) or politics (keeping the South from getting an advantage).
We’re all looking forward to when disc 2 arrives, though we’ve got a few other discs in the queue first. I’m going to have to bug Netflix to see why they don’t seem to have season 2 available …
This post is mostly just a reminder for me. I just learned about the Kidizen program. They teach civics and government by having kids build a city out of Legos. I am planning to sign the kids up for the fall semester. I almost wish I could sign me up …
On our most recent stop at one of the San Jose libraries, I spotted an endcap covered with Asterix books. The kids have read the couple of them that we have and enjoyed them, so I picked them up and showed them to Sayer. She grinned. Big. When Duncan saw them his eyes lit up and he grabbed one from me. Needless to say, we checked them out.
There were 4 of them in that particular stack. The kids devoured them. So I went looking at the catalog for the Milpitas library and found another 25ish titles. I put about 20 of them on hold before running out of room on two of our library cards. Yesterday I picked up the first batch of books as they came in for us. There are 13 Asterix books on our library shelf now. Sayer has already read 4 of them, and Duncan has finished 1. This morning Duncan asked if he could read another one, and I had to tell him that first he needed to read the history selections we had checked out. Minor grumbling, but he’s reading away, anticipating Asterix.
Gotta love Asterix
Sayer has had lots of ideas for writing stories, and has even sat down at her computer half a dozen times to start writing them down. Usually, though, she gets distracted or loses interest after an hour of writing, or a page or two.
Doctor Who has apparently changed that. She decided that she had an idea for a script and sat down on Tuesday and wrote for 3.5 hours straight. Her script is 6 pages long. She has somehow managed to use something approaching a real script layout, with a few notations for action among the lots and lots of lines of dialog.
She asked me if I could send it to the people who make the show. Well, of course I can. That part is easy. It’s like sticking a letter in the mail addressed to Santa, North Pole. The postal service will happily carry it away. The hard part is getting any kind of response back. How does one convince the ultra busy writers/producers/actors of the show to take 10 minutes to read the script and write a short note acknowledging it? Ideally one that says something along the lines of ‘keep writing!’?
No idea. But I guess I’m going to have to try. Time to go figure out international reply coupons and Royal Mail postage …
Sayer has been asking me to get her a pen pal for ages. The problem is, she has been unwilling to do the things I told her must be done before I’d get her the type of pen pal she wants – a girl from China. My rule was that she needed to write a couple letters to friends and family first, and respond to their replies. I didn’t want her to get signed up to be a pen pal with someone who was as excited about it as she was, and then discover that she wasn’t really that interested in writing real letters. I thought that writing to her cousins and our friends around the country would be a good way to figure that out. She dragged her feet, just really not wanting to do it.
Eventually she did write a short note to her Great Grandma Sara. We’re waiting to see if there’s a reply. But Sayer is not waiting patiently – instead, she’s spending the time doing web searches to find sites that list kids in other countries who are looking for pen pals. She has found two sites, and (with permission) has sent emails out to one girl from each site. The first one was sent over 2 weeks ago, but there’s been no response. The listing was several months old, so it’s possible that the girl has already found a pen pal, or that she no longer wants one, or whatever. The second email was sent only about 5 days ago, but Sayer is terribly impatient. Given that there has been no response so far, she’s just asked permission to send another email out to another girl on that same site. She’s on the computer now, writing up her note.
We’re hoping that when we finally do connect with a Chinese girl, Sayer will be able to practice reading and writing in Mandarin …
I’m planning a HUGE, crazy road trip this summer. I’m going to take the kids on a loop around the country that will take us to see sites, visit museums and science centers, and go on outdoor adventures in 26 states. I’ve been working on the itinerary for several weeks now, figuring what things we want to see in which states, and where we’ll stay while we’re there, and how long it’ll take from one attraction to the next, and where the cheapest gas is … I’m still not done working it all out, but I’m excited
We’re also going to be able to meet up with friends and family along the way – bonus!
As part of the preparations for the trip, I’m suddenly trying to cram a lot of American history and geography into the kids’ brains. We wouldn’t have gotten to it until early next school year, I think, but now I’m trying to move it all up. The age of exploration, the founding of the colonies, the Revolutionary War, the early days of the country, westward expansion, the Civil War …
Gah! I’m overwhelmed, and totally enjoying it
So our plan to read lots and lots of the math and science early reader books worked beautifully. Duncan did indeed read 17 of them before begging to be done for the day (he started at 9:30 and stopped at 1). And Sayer managed 38 or 39 books over a slightly longer time (she continued to read for another 45 min or so after Duncan stopped). After I logged all the books on our 2013 Books page, the 17 titles that both kids had finished left the house. And since then Sayer has read another 10 or so of the books, and Duncan has read about 12. Only another 20 or so left to go …
As I added in today’s book titles and pages, Duncan hit 4000 pages for the year. Awesome!
In the page count, I was 1000 pages ahead of Sayer about 10 days ago. Since then she’s read one longer chapter book and all those math/science readers plus another random book or two, and now she’s ahead of me by about 250 pages. Time for me to get cracking!
I was cleaning out the kids’ book shelves last weekend and saw a whole section that I decided should probably go. They’re all math and science books for beginning readers. The thing is, the kids really hadn’t read them.
Sayer probably read a couple of them randomly, but …
So I asked the kids if we could plan a stay-at-home-reading day on Friday. We have no outside classes that day, just a trip to the library in the afternoon. I asked if we could spend all the time until we were leaving for the library just reading those books. I had guessed that there were 35 or so of them, and given that they’re on the ‘early reader’ side of things, I’m sure that Sayer could fly through them all, and Duncan could get through about half. As it turns out, I think there are actually closer to 50 books. Sayer *might* make it through all of them, but maybe not. They’re ready to give it a try.
Duncan got a head start today. He read three of the MathStart books. They were really, REALLY easy. The ‘Ask and Find Out’ science books are a bit more challenging, but still well within his abilities and far too easy for Sayer. Still, reading level aside, there may be a fact or three in there that they can learn
I think I’ll ask Duncan to read another one tonight when he goes to bed, and a couple more tomorrow … that way come Friday there will be a stack of books that he’s read that Sayer can plow through, and then they’ll tackle the rest. And then all of the books that they BOTH have read will be leaving the house – yay for more shelf space (which will, of course, only be taken up with more books …).
Last year, Sayer exceeded her reading goal by one book. Given that we had increased her goal and her books got longer, that’s really much more impressive than it sounds.
Because she reached (and beat) her goal, Sayer is entitled to a prize. Within reason, the prize is up to the kids. Duncan usually asks for a toy. He wants something he can see and feel. Sayer usually asks for an experience – a movie or eating out. When she beat her 2011 reading goal, she asked to go out for Korean food. This time, she has asked for Peruvian food. Always trying something new
We had planned to go out on Monday night, but the restaurant we’d chosen closes early Mondays. So we’re headed there tonight to see what culinary delights Peru has to offer.
Hooray for reading! And eating!
For Sayer’s birthday we gave her a new (to us) bike. She’d outgrown her old one, by a lot.
Within a few weeks, she was riding without training wheels. Yay!
Duncan decided that he thought that after a month or so of practicing with training wheels, he’d be ready to try riding without them. That deadline fell almost exactly on his 7th birthday, so we asked if that meant he’d try it when he turned 7. He agreed. And he did try, but decided that he wasn’t quite ready.
We put the training wheels back on for another week, but they weren’t quite level, so they irritated Duncan because he could lean one way, but not the other. We took them back off.
Mark has been the one taking the kids to the park to practice riding, but last weekend I took them out. I brought the training wheels and a wrench along with me, just in case Duncan decided that he HAD to have them on. I helped him until we got to the park, with going up and down the driveway aprons on the sidewalks and across the crosswalks, but at the park, he was mostly on his own, and he did much better than I’d been led to believe. I’d help him get started, then encourage him to keep pedaling, and he’d manage on his own for a dozen yards at a time. The thing that was hardest for him was keeping straight on the path – when he’d wiggle off it he’d end up in the grass or in the landscaping bark, and he’d get stuck and stop until I got over to him to get him on the path and started off again.
I took the kids to the park again today. I brought the training wheels along again … and am quite pleased to say that I will never have to do that again.
We got to the park and I got Duncan started on the path, and he took off. He managed to correct his direction to stay on the path, and would have made it all the way to the play structure if there hadn’t been someone coming up the path the other way. Rather than run into the oncoming pedestrian, Duncan headed into the grass and stopped and waited for me to help get him going again.
After we got to the playground, Duncan played for about 10 minutes while Sayer rode around nearby, then he came over to reclaim his bike. He wanted to ride.
And ride he did. I got him started, and he followed Sayer around the loop in the park. He only had problems at one corner of the loop, where there’s a slight incline. After going around the loop without other difficulties 3 or 4 times, he managed enough momentum at that corner to make it up the slope, only to run into the trashcan at the top. The next time around he made it up and managed to steer clear of the obstacles. FanTAStic!
One more time around the loop and he decided that he was tired and it was time to go home. He’s still wobbly enough in his course corrections that I keep a hand on him and his handle bars on the sidewalks and crosswalks, but that won’t last long.
He’s very, very proud of himself, and he can’t wait to tell Mark about his accomplishments