Monday, August 12, 2013

First Son's Third Grade Poetry Memorization

I had planned to finish all of our 2012-2013 posts a long time ago, but of course I got swept up in planning the next year! It's my blog, so you really have no choice but to bear with me. Here's the list of poems First Son memorized in third grade.
I offered to record all of his memorized poetry, but he was a little shy on camera. I do have Halfway Down.

I wrote a little about how we memorize poetry in this post. First Son selected at least every other poem he memorized in third grade. I think he enjoys it more when he chooses the poem. If he pulled one right from a book, I would probably allow it, but usually he chooses one from a selection I provide.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Discussion: Chapter 9 of Unconditional Parenting

The quotes in this post are all from the ninth chapter of Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn: Choices for Children.

In this chapter, Alfie Kohn discusses why and how children can participate in making decisions, real decisions that have an actual impact on their lives (not just whether they use a blue cup or a red one, though for the three-year-old this is an important and essential decision).

Mr. Kohn insists there are benefits to allowing choice for children (beyond avoiding the tantrum instigating by placing the wrong color cup in front of the three-year-old mentioned above). According to the author, when children feel they have helped shape the environment or the subject in their education, they tend to be more interested and delve more deeply into the topic.
The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.
He recommends leaving final decisions in child's hands as much as possible. So begin with a discussion and help the child reason through the consequences of a decision, but allow the child to make the final choice. I'm glad he admits this is more complicated in sibling conflicts.
In short, with each of the thousand-and-one problems that present themselves in family life, our choice is between controlling and teaching, between creating an atmosphere of distrust and one of trust, between setting an example of power and helping children to learn responsibility, between quick-fix parenting and the kind that's focused on long-term goals.
Importantly, Mr. Kohn is not arguing for a particular solution in any problem:
The process matters more than the product, and it should be a process that encourages children to reason and plan and participate in figuring something out. What counts is that kids know their needs matter to us and that we're willing to take their ideas seriously.
It makes sense to me that children who are given the opportunity to practice decision making in the home will be better prepared to make decisions as they grow older. This is definitely an area in which I need to provide more practice for my kids. I think I need to really seek out instances where they can make choices, especially in our school planning. It's very fun for me to just plan everything out (as I've already done for the upcoming year) without involving them. Perhaps I need to plan opportunities for them to make decisions. (That sounds kind of funny.)

In this chapter, Mr. Kohn talks about pseudo-choice, especially the idea that children "choose" to break a rule and therefore "choose" the consequences.
Adults who blithely insist that children choose to misbehave are rather like politicians who declare that people have only themselves to blame for being poor. In both cases, potentially relevant factors other than personal responsibility are ignored. A young child in particular may not have the fully developed capacity for rational decision-making or impulse control that is implicit in suggesting he made a choice.
This is an important part of the chapter, I think. There are so many parenting techniques that recommend "allowing" children to "suffer consequences" so that a parent does not feel like they are punishing a child. This is actually a deception, and it's important for parents to realize that children quickly recognize it as such.

Of course, there are times when a parent's requests are not negotiable. Mr. Kohn offers some guidelines and suggestions for those situations. First of all, we should be as kind and gentle as possible, which may require asking multiple times. We should also always explain the rationale. With young children, we can turn the demand into a game. We should continue to offer as many choices as possible.

Sometimes, more drastic measures are required. A child, for example, cannot be allowed to wander down the middle of the street. We may need to physically carry a struggling child out of danger.
When it is absolutely necessary, we should do everything possible to soften the blow and minimize the punitive impact of such a move. Our tone should be warm and regretful and also confident that we can eventually solve the problem together.
He talked a little bit, too, about how to handle a temper tantrum. Most importantly, I think, is that he says we should ignore everyone else:
This is not about what people think of you; it's about what your child needs.
It seems obvious, but every parent knows the first thought when there's a tantrum out in public is of the people watching, when it should be on the child and the relationship between the child and the parent. Secondly, always consider the child's point of view. (We've been listening to the Ramona Quimby books over the past few weeks and I've been amazed at how the books have reminded me of how a child thinks.) Finally, let the tantrum work itself out and address the underlying cause later, when everyone is calmer.

I think we'll all be happy after the next post, because it will be on the last chapter of this book.

Previous posts on Unconditional Parenting

Thoughts on the Introduction
Discussion of quotes from chapter 1
Discussion of quotes from chapter 2
Discussion of quotes from chapter 3
Discussion of quotes from chapter 4
Discussion of quotes from chapter 5
Discussion of quotes from chapter 6
Discussion of quotes from chapter 7
Discussion of quotes from chapter 8

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

July 2013 Book Reports

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a novel written from the perspective of a fifteen year old autistic boy. I don't know how accurate it is in depicting an autistic person, but there is a paragraph early in the book that sounded exactly like a young autistic I know. It is an interesting and different narrative form for a novel. This is a quick read and I enjoyed it, but I always find myself saddened by "regular" people in novels who do horrible things, as if that's just how life is now. (started at a friend's house, finished with a library copy)

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy is the sequel to The Hero's Gide to Saving Your Kingdom, which I read last month. It's just as enjoyable and in some ways has a little more depth. More books are in store and I intend to read them all! First Son enjoyed the first one, laughing out loud sometimes as he was reading it. He'll read this one, too. (library copy)

Destination: Bethlehem by Sharon R. Altman follows two cousins who independently develop relationships with the Holy Family in the months leading up to the Nativity. The 24 chapters are meant to be read on the 24 days in December before Christmas as an Advent activity. I found the story to be adequate despite my higher hopes for it, though there is some usefulness is providing the historical information for children. I'm not sure if we'll read this book during Advent. I may ask First Son (who will be in fourth grade) to read it independently. I don't think it would be bad to read; I'm just not sure it would be better than other books I've already planned. (received as a gift)

The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke is a science fiction story based in the far future, when Earth has sent seed ships to the far reaches of the galaxy to avoid the elimination of mankind when the destruction of Earth was assured. A spaceship from Earth arrives at a thriving colony. It was fun to read and interesting to ponder, though it's probably not surprising that Clarke and I differ on many opinions. (Kindle edition borrowed from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library)

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is so enjoyable! I can't believe I had never read it. At first I was going to ask First Son to read it independently, but I think instead I'll read it aloud to the whole family next year. (Kindle edition, though we received a real copy as a gift)

Theras and His Town by Caroline Dale Snedeker (purchased copy from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts)

Impressionism: 50 Paintings You Should Know by Ines Janet Engelmann gives a summary of Impressionism and then presents fifty paintings in chronological order with brief descriptions of the painting or the painter for each one. At the top is a timeline that extends throughout the book. I enjoyed this book and felt like it gave a nice overview of the subject and some important paintings, helping me to prepare for our picture study in the upcoming year; we'll be studying Renoir, Degas, and Monet. (library copy)

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate was a pre-read for First Son. It's the tale of Ivan, a gorilla living in a small cage at a mall zoo until a tiny new inmate prompts him to change. It seems to be written at a pretty easy level with lots of very short chapters that will be inviting to weak readers, but the character growth and topics (animal cruelty and zoos) are appropriate for older readers. First Son may be a little young for a few of those lessons (at nine), but there's nothing here he can't read. It's a great tale of compassion, bravery, hope, and understanding. (library copy)

Prayer (a review for The Catholic Company)

Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss (received as a gift)

Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark and Caleb's Story by Patricia Maclachlan is the trilogy of the beginning of a family, when Anna's father puts an ad in a newspaper for a wife, answered by Sarah. Shockingly, I had never read these books. The first is my favorite, with beautiful and halting descriptions of Anna's hopes and fears. The last is a good story of forgiveness and a reminder to parents of the ways our children watch our actions. These are on my list as possibilities for First Daughter to read in first grade. (purchased used on Cathswap)

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill was written in the 1970s, telling of a white girl befriended by a black boy who go on together to build a successful toothpaste company. First Son will be reading it next year in his financial literacy studies and I think he'll enjoy it. It's a good book of entrepreneurship, friendship, math in real life, self-sufficiency, good corporate citizenship, and racial issues. It is surprisingly not too preachy but honestly fun. Definitely recommended. (library copy)

Something Beautiful for God: The Classic Account of Mother Teresa's Journey into Compassion by Malcom Muggeridge (purchased copy)

Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg #1 by Geoff Rodkey is full of adventure and unexpected twists. I liked the main character, though I did not like how his family treated him. I think it's an intriguing beginning to a new trilogy for young readers and am excited for the next two. First Son could read this book, but now he's interested in the Redwall series so it's not clear I'll need to provide any leisure time reading for a while. There is one disturbing episode in which some pirates attempt to force themselves on a young woman which I worried would bother First Son, but Kansas Dad thinks he wouldn't really understand it and would just move on. I'm going to put this on our list for next summer (when he'll be ten), just in case I need to make some suggestions. (library copy)

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury is as beautifully written as any Bradbury. And very creepy. (library copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Second Son Is Three!

Second Son turned three a few weeks ago. It's hard to believe we don't have a two year old (or someone who will soon be two) in our house anymore.

He loves to build with LEGOs and makes elaborate abstracts "ships" for us, though he needs help taking them apart.

We have plenty of age-appropriate toys for him, but he prefers the LEGOs and Playmobil, of course, because those are the ones his big brother and big sisters like best.

He often says things are too scary for him, like The Pirate Movie and Toy Story.

He's thinking
He talks and talks and talks. Kansas Dad calls him a chatterbox. He tells us all about the books he's reading and the toys he's playing with and what he's going to do and what he sees and on and on.

He has an Angry Birds shirt and two Cars shirts. He chooses whichever one he sees first when it's time to get dressed and would wear nothing else if one of them were always clean.

He runs aways when he needs a diaper change. He does not want to be diaper-free, as enticing as the Cars underwear and gummi bear rewards might be, so we're waiting a bit longer.

He'll start Catechesis in the fall. I'll be his teacher; hopefully he hears the voice of God despite me.

He loves to jump into the pool, or slide down the kiddy slide into the water. He keeps trying to swim even though he knows he can't.

oh, look at all the buttons!
He's three so sometimes he doesn't know what he wants, but he knows it's not what we've given him (even if it's what he requested). Usually, we find it best to wait a few minutes and he'll forget he didn't want it.

Sometimes he doesn't like to eat breakfast. So he just has a snack later.

His favorite candy is Smarties. By far. He also likes gummy bears.

No celebration or outing is complete without a visit to the frozen yogurt store. His favorite toppings are gummy bears and marshmallows. The yogurt itself is relatively unimportant.

Sometimes he won't sit in his high chair at the table, insisting on a regular chair. I have to remind him a hundred times during the meal to sit down. He washes his own hands after the meal and sometimes clears his plate, too.

Mother's Day 2013
 He keeps jumping off the new couch; we have to remind him over and over again not to jump.

His favorite books: Bear Wants More and all the other Bear books. He loves when we read to him; I particularly love to listen to First Son read to him.

First Son will duel with him. They each have light sabers, but Second Son is only half his height. First Son always lets him win. He's a terribly cute Jedi.

He only recently figured out how to open doors. He likes to come into our room in the morning and say, "Get up, sleepyheads!" (Especially after everyone laughed so hard the first time he did it.)

His favorite food? Hot dogs, maybe. He eats so much of everything and will try a remarkable number of foods, though he often says, "That's too spicy for me." Even if it's not spicy. He loves yogurt and cottage cheese. He eats his pancakes without syrup, most of the time, and loves bacon. Recently he ate three pieces of bacon and nothing else for breakfast. (It was turkey bacon, so three pieces is not too excessive.)

He does not like bedtime, but usually goes quietly, especially recently when we let him climb into his crib by himself. We take him to bed before night-time prayers with the others (which made night-time prayers a thousand times better for everyone else). We sing songs. It used to be two songs, but he usually talks me into four now by asking for something like The Hail Mary or the Magnificat last. Who can refuse that? He'll sing along, too.

He likes You Are My Sunshine (replacing Sunshine with his name), the Hairbrush Song, and the Alphabet Song. He has four favorite Veggie CDs: Backyard Party, Playtime Songs, Sunday Morning Songs, and More Sunday Morning Songs, but I think that's mostly because of the covers.

He often asks to listen to the Kids' Favorites playlist on Spotify, which begins with songs from Despicable Me. He can do a wonderful rendition of the Minion's Irish Drinking Song (along with his siblings).

First Son can always make Second Son laugh. He's a great big brother, helping him along in just about every way.

This birthday party was the first one Second Son enjoyed. In the past, he always cried at all the noise and people and candles. But he had a fabulous time. One of my friends made the kids. She did a particularly good job on Second Son's cake.

He's still playing with these cars.

Happy birthday my little man! We're blessed to be your family!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Second Daughter Is Five!

Second Daughter turned five a few weeks ago. Here is her annual birthday post.

I think she's the loudest, most rambunctious of our children. First Son has always liked running from one side of the room to the other, but this girl bounces and bounces and bounces. Her laughter fills this house.

She loves to play games and will play Sleeping Queens and Rat-A-Tat-Cat remarkably well, considering she can't add very well yet. She loves playing The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game with us, but only uses the squirrel to steal acorns. She will play with Mr. Nobody if everyone else is busy.

She loves to take pictures and movies with our old cameras and received one of her own for her birthday. Many of her movies are spinning ones - she stands in the middle of a room holding the camera and spins. Those make us a little queasy, but we love watching the others. She narrates them, so they tell us exactly what's going on in her head.

I think First Daughter took this picture.
Her favorite meal is Kansas Dad's famous baked macaroni and cheese. Put some Cheetos on the plate alongside and she'll be in heaven. She loves sweets of any kind, especially trips to those frozen yogurt stores where you can load up on toppings. She likes to put as many toppings as possible on, one scoop of every kind if we'd let her.

Her favorite toys: dress up sticker dolls, Playmobil people (especially any set that involves babies or real water), LEGOs (if the older two are playing with them), dressing up, playing house or "vacation" (when they pack a random assortment of items and camp out under blanket tents in the living room), Little People, blocks, SuperMind and MightyMind Aquarium Adventure.

She wanted a LEGO party for her birthday so the boys would have fun. (They wouldn't want to come to a princess party or anything, you know.) A wonderful friend of mine made the exact LEGO cake she wanted in the shape of a five.

Sadly, she stepped on a LEGO while racing through the house at her party which seems to have given her an infection on the bottom of her foot. So, for what I think is the first time in her life, she's taking a round of antibiotics.

Her favorite books: The Seven Silly Eaters, Stuck, Extra Yarn, and has recently asked us to read a lot of Richard Scarry stories. She'll say she loves every book we own and she's just as excited by the weekly library bag as the others. She still likes to stack up all the books from a shelf and look through them one by one.

birthday morning
She didn't want a pancake as big as her head for her birthday because she said she couldn't eat it all. She refused silver dollar pancakes or a mouse pancake or any other shape or configuration. Kansas Dad offered to make chocolate-chocolate chip pancakes for her, and those she accepted.

For her birthday she wanted a stuffed Minion (from Despicable Me).

She loves playing with First Daughter, whenever she can lure her away from First Son. She plays wonderfully with Second Son, sometimes.

She loves the new playset.
She and Second Son look so alike, you could almost imagine they were twins if they weren't obviously two years apart.

She has recently discovered Mario Kart on the Wii and will sometimes choose that for her screen "time." I'm pretty sure she can beat me at it.

Kansas Dad built a new playset in our backyard (with many thanks to Grammy and PawPaw). It took Second Daughter only a few minutes to realize she had mastered the monkey bars.

She took swimming lessons for the second time this year, and for the second time had to leave before or during her lesson because Second Son had an emergency. (Last year, he fell and broke his two top teeth. This year, he threw up all over me, not just a little, really threw up all over me.) She was very sad to leave, but Kansas Dad promised her a trip to the pool just the two of them on one of her outings and she had a great time. She passed Level 1 this year, too, and was very proud of all her new skills.

Second Daughter and Mama on a fancy night out.
Her favorite color is rainbow.

Sometimes she wants to wear lots of layers and sometimes she wants to wear a dress without any pants underneath. She does still often choose a dress to wear rather than pants or shorts.

Lately she has taken to wearing her tennis shoes without socks. She has more pairs of shoes than anyone else in the house and wears them all, as the spirit moves. She has used her own money to purchase shoes at least twice this summer alone.

Mother's Day 2013
She's five, but one of her favorite games is still to dump out as many containers as she can in the living room. She's always does a better job cleaning up if someone helps her.

She graduated from our local library's story hour this past spring. She's been going there pretty much since she was born, certainly before she was one!

She loves to color, cut, snip, glue, and create masterpieces with the contents of the craft box. The more she can cut and glue, in fact, the better. She can go through twenty sheets of paper in as many minutes.

She can write her name, though she often starts at the bottom of her letters. She has expressed an interest in reading, so we're going to work on that a little in the fall, when she begins kindergarten (or kindergarten part one, depending on how it goes - she'll be such a young kindergartener, I may extend kindergarten over two years).

She will carry crayons to every room of the house. She's not so prone to writing on the walls anymore, but they are a bit too inviting for her younger brother.

Making Lenten pretzels
Sometimes she wants ice in her water, sometimes not. Sometimes she wants a breakable plate, other times her plastic flower one. Sometimes she wants an omelet at breakfast, sometimes scrambled eggs. She loves pancakes and waffles with as many kinds of syrup as we'll allow.

The birthday girl and boy
Happy birthday, my sweet Second Daughter! May the coming year be full of laughter and adventure!