Early Literacy

As much as we want spring to arrive, we gave in and borrowed several more books about snow from the library this week. Indoor days lead to lots of reading, which is more enjoyable recently now that two-year-old J will actually sit for longer than five seconds to listen to a book with M and me.

Homeschoolers have the luxury of time to read and read and read, which as we all know is the centerpiece of early literacy. There is an interesting article about emerging readers in the winter issue of Ed. Magazine, the magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It discusses the importance of exposure to books and reading at young ages and mentions some of the activities kindergarten teachers use to foster literacy by teaching kids letters and letter sounds. Many kids know their letters and sounds, and are beginning to read, by the time they reach kindergarten, but the ideas presented in the article about frequent singing, and rhyming, and story time make good sense. Lately, we've been doing an activity where I ask M to pick a letter and then we name all the objects in a particular room or place that start with that letter. Huge fun!

And, once again, we can use the city to help promote early literacy. We have a great time tallying all the "No Parking" and "One Way" signs on our walks, and reading storefront signs and banners--- with "pizza" of course being the biggest hit.

Great Science Resource

Our neighbor is a biology professor at Tufts University who has recently developed a science website, Scispark.com, that helps kids to think like scientists. Although he has helped write science textbooks, he really believes that the best science learning occurs when kids are taught how to think more critically and creatively. Using engaging activities based on real-life scientific research, the website is perfect for homeschoolers and others looking to enhance science teaching and learning. I highly recommend checking out the website: www.scispark.com.

Symphony and Justice

Today M went with Daddy to her second family concert of the year at Symphony Hall. It's such a great resource for city homeschooling!

But beyond the symphony, the more important lesson M learned today was how to stand up against injustice. On the bus ride to the concert, a white woman boarded the bus and began verbally attacking the black bus driver with racial slurs and other nasty words. After this continued unabated, my amazing husband stood up in the bus and told the woman that if she didn't stop her verbal assaults, he and everyone else on the bus would stand and wait for her to leave the bus. Everyone on the bus cheered! Sure enough, the swears kept on coming so the bus driver pulled over, and Daddy and many others stood around the woman and waited over 10 minutes for her to exit the bus, which she finally did. What a wonderful lesson in courage, justice, and human goodness for M to witness!

Triumph of the City

I am currently reading, however slowly, the newly released book: Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (Penguin, 2011), by Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser. I love all books that extol the countless benefits of city-living, but this book in particular hinges on the fascinating notion that what makes cities so powerful and influential is their unmatched ability to efficiently cultivate and exchange ideas among people. Throughout time, artistic, cultural, industrial, and technological innovations have sprouted in cities from lots of different people with lots of different ideas living and working so closely to each other.

I know that one of my favorite things about city-living is the constant bustle and vibrancy of the city, and the fact that I can hardly walk down my block without running into people I know among all the strangers who pass by. I can see how ideas can quickly and easily flow from one person to another.... so perhaps urban homeschooling will become a new renaissance thanks to the din of the city.

Winter Thaw

I love winter days that feel like spring when we can meet friends for outside playdates at the park and do lots of stomping through melting snow puddles and slushy city sidewalks!

Time and Attention

As kids reach preschool and kindergarten age, I often hear parents say that they feel they can’t “teach” them enough, particularly when there are other siblings at home, and sending kids to school seems the better option to provide their children with the challenge and stimulation they crave. While it’s true that some homeschooling days can be busy and unstructured, kids learn a considerable amount from the daily rhythm of the home and the formal and informal activities they are exposed to.

If you question whether you can provide enough of yourself to your kindergartener or pre-kindergartner to help him succeed, consider that the average kindergarten teacher in the U.S. today has 22 children in her class. Can she provide more time and attention to your child than you can?

Bath Time Fun

We took full advantage of yesterday's 50-degree temperatures and spent over three hours outside, including a quick walk to the convenience store to get some balloons for bath time. I made water balloons out of them and the kids had so many laughs playing with them in the bath! This is another great idea that was mentioned at one point on the Magical Childhood blog, which I visit frequently for great suggestions on how to make our kids' childhood more fun and spontaneous.

Letter Lines

One activity that M and I have been doing a lot lately during J's nap is "letter lines." We use our wooden letters to make words and then create new words that start with the last letter of the previous word. Lots of fun and a great way to secretly "teach" reading and spelling!

Snow Day

Regardless of whether or not kids attend school, snow days are perfect days to stay in pajamas all day, play in the snow, and build huge mega-forts in the living room!