Posted by: cindybiz | July 20, 2010

Walk the neighbourhood!

Flowers along the way...

What a wonderful time of year to take a walk in the evening! I find it a great way to get fresh air and reconnect with the family after a full day of activities. But do you look as you walk?? One of the best ways to expand your child’s brain (and yours) is to take in your surroundings as you go through your daily life…and you can start right in your own neighbourhood!

Have you ever looked…I mean really looked (not in a nosy way) at the houses along your route? What kind of flowers and trees are there? If your child is young, how many trees are there? Do you see any dogs? Cats? Bunnies? Cars? Diggers? When we were replacing our garage door, it is amazing how differently we viewed everyone else’s door! It is all about perspective! Ask questions of the kids as you go and you will be amazed at what you discover together!

Why not take a different route than usual and expand your horizons! Maybe you will find a forest or park in your travels. Or make a new friend. As the kids get older, they can walk farther…and more adventures can happen!

And be sure to look UP at the clouds and DOWN at the ground! My son delivered flyers when he was young and he always came home with money as he kept his head down as he pushed through all kinds of weather…and it was like a bonus to bring home some coins! Lots of other things to be discovered too!

I would love to hear about your adventures this summer…you just never know what you will discover just around the corner!

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Posted by: cindybiz | July 5, 2010

Summer travels…

Do you have any vacation plans this summer?? Every few years we take a BIG vacation as a family…one year it was going East…then it was West a few years later…and next summer we are planning South! North America is amazing to explore! And so many learning opportunities!!

One of the best ways to get the kids excited about the trip is to have them help with the planning. They can get on the internet and find all kinds of fun things to do along the way. When we went East, we found a Chocolate Festival…the kids were very onboard for that one!! This then helped them to realize that the long trip would be worth it.

What is the most asked question in a moving vehicle? “Are we there yet?” How many times have you heard this one!!?? One way we combat this is to give the kids their own map. It is a great way to build their map reading skills and for them to see for themselves just how close you are to the destination.

One other task we do when away is keep a journal. On vacation, a lot of things happen in a short amount of time, so you will want to write them down. And what a great opportunity to keep your child’s writing skills up over the summer. We provide each child with a small journal and ask them to write in it every day so they can remember all the fun they had…and then we have something to refer to when we get home and make our scrapbook. Another way is to collect postcards along the way and write your memories on the back!

We aren’t going anywhere this year…but are planning a kitchen renovation instead which opens up a whole new avenue of learning! I would love to hear about  your summer vacation plans! Share them with us all!

Posted by: cindybiz | June 15, 2010

Summer…are you ready?

Summer fun with friends!

Summer fun with friends!

Summer can mean fun…but it can also mean your child’s brain can get lazy! Here are some ideas to keep things working well so that September is not a struggle.

Six Tips to Stay Sharp on School Breaks

And if you want to see what our family does in the summer, check out my blog post from last summer.

Summer at the Taylor House!

I would love to hear what you do too!

Posted by: cindybiz | May 26, 2010

Books in your home are important!

This important study just seems to confirm what literacy experts have said for years…books are important!!

ScienceDaily (May 21, 2010) — Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.

A tiny part of our home library!

For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada’s rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.

“What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?” she asked. “The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed.”

Evans said, “Even a little bit goes a long way,” in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.

“You get a lot of ‘bang for your book’,” she said. “It’s quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources.”

In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.

For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate’s degree, but not a bachelor’s degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor’s degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.

The study by Evans and her colleagues at Nevada, UCLA and Australian National University is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on what influences the level of education a child will attain.

The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children’s educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country’s GDP, the father’s occupation or the political system of the country.

Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children (3.2 years).

For the original article and for related information, check out Science Daily .

Have you found this to be true in your experience? Love to hear from you!

Cassandra and family

Today I want to welcome my friend, Cassandra, to share about her life! I enjoyed her recent post about Unschooling as it really made me think…and thought it might make you think too. After my recent post on learning math, I thought it might be interesting to present an even wider vision of how kids learn…and dare I say, how brave moms allow their children to absorb the world around them!! I will admit I want to be that kind of mom, so posts like this make me ponder how I do things…and I hope it will do the same for you!  Thanks Cassandra!!

We are moderate Unschoolers.

In a nut-shell, Unschooling is home-based, child-led learning that focuses on education and growth that stems from real life experiences.  It’s about kids learning things in context, when they are actually interested in them, and thus most likely to actually absorb and retain what they are learning.  It’s about trusting our children’s God-given ability to learn.  To me, it just MAKES SENSE to learn something in context to the world around us rather than reading it in a textbook.  And I rather enjoy the idea of having children learn what they WANT to learn rather than forcing a boxed curriculum on kids that covers topics that someone has selected for  mass distribution and grading.

I consider us only ‘moderate’ Unschoolers because I do still introduce some lessons to our children.  Many extremely passionate Unschoolers have never done a formal lesson with their child – and many of these children are brilliant, University bound scholars with amazing critical thinking skills and academic awareness!  We certainly do some phonics lessons, math activities, etc., but only when our children are actively seeking it.  It is never forced.  Everything we do that is “educational”, is essentially fun and requested by our children or at least happily complied to.  We do not buy/adhere to boxed curriculum. (Anymore).

So, for most traditional Homeschoolers, we’d definitely fit the Unschooling mold – I just wanted to clarify.

The truth is, children are sponges, born to learn – they are little eager knowledge seeking machines.  Unschooling doesn’t mean doing ‘nothing’, as I’ve heard people say.  Very much the contrary.  We do PLENTY.  I spend more time actively engaging with our children in “educational” ventures than I spend doing anything else in life.  But, despite my initial gut feeling and wholehearted belief that self-led learning is how our kids would learn best, when our eldest, Simon, was in “JK” I caved and bought a boxed Kindergarten curriculum for Math and Phonics.  He hated it.  It was so repetitive and boring.  One day, about 3 weeks into our “schedule”, I found myself saying, “Simon, hunny, if you want to do school at home, you need to do your work.”  As soon as I said it, I’m sure my eyes popped out of my head and I physically shuttered.

I was programed.  I was pre-programed to believe that kids could only “learn” a certain way.  Or that I needed some kind of physical evidence of what my kid knew.  I already understood I’d have to fight those deeply embedded (brainwashed?) thoughts, but I think it really hit me that day.  Since then I’ve worked HARD to fight those false concepts, burned into me from years of controlled schooling.  I mean, since when did “learning” mean filling out pages of arbitrary math equations or writing the letter “A” 25 times?

Homeschooling is uncommon enough.  Try going the Unschooling route and most people look at you like you have 3 heads.  No, actually, 3 heads oozing rainbow goop.  It’s just not something most people understand or have ever considered – which is understandable – it’s very much against the grain.  However, because of the mass skepticism about allowing children to lead their own learning adventure, parents of this method must have a thick skin and a genuine belief in and passion for what they do.

Yesterday, I was again reminded and reassured that my instincts are correct – our kids are learning every day and in every  moment.

In the afternoon I had planned to do some Math games and a fun phonics print-out with Simon (5) and Audrey (3).  But – it was a gorgeous sunny Spring day and they wanted to play outside.  We’d been at the park all morning and my pre-programmed schooling-self was telling me, “No!  It’s LEARNING time now!”.  I had to physically shake my head and force myself to say, “Sure, let’s go play in the sand box.”

As we sat enjoying the sun, conflict was still brewing within me.  While I was trying to convince myself it was OK that we weren’t doing those planned ‘educational’ activities, my thoughts were interrupted by Simon saying he’d ‘be right back’.  A few moments later he returned and dumped a huge container of old shells in the sand.

“Let’s sort ‘em”, he announced.  So, Simon, Audrey, and I spent the next 15 minutes sorting shells by size, then colour, then shape.  Simon made a line and helped Audrey count all 30-something of them.  He then initiated a hiding game, playing with subtraction.  Simon then asked me how to spell “shell” and if it started with an S.  I told him it did and explained the letters and sounds of the words and wrote it in the sand.  He then spent time writing his own words and Audrey practiced tracing her A and H with a stick.

When we had a snack,  the kids played with division, subtraction, and fractions as I cut cheese into several pieces.

Then Simon wore his new watch and kept a close eye on the time while we went to the stream and played with rocks.

After we came home, Simon and Audrey climbed up to the kitchen table and started writing all the words they “knew”.  Simon wrote all kinds of silly words that were ridiculously goofy but, surprisingly, phonetically correct.  Audrey had fun with the few letters she knows and just making lines and shapes.  She also sat explaining the alphabet to Alex (19 months).  Simon then counted the money in his wallet, completing grade 2 level addition and multiplication using coins and bills.

And so – I look back on my attitude about “formal” educational activities with a huge, sheepish grin on my face.  My children never fail to amaze me with their God-given ability to learn and grow.  All I do is make myself extremely present (in body, mind, and spirit), give them a stimulating and enriching environment, answer questions, and stimulate thought.  And I trust our children intensely.  Unschooling requires a lot of trust.

Our kids do all the exciting work of learning on their own and within themselves, it’s only my job to facilitate.  It’s unbelievable how much real ‘education’ goes on in our home… no ‘schooling’ required.

A sandy “phonics lesson”

Simon’s words

A great article about Unschooling –http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/earl_stevens.html

Interested in reading more? See more of Cassandra’s blog “Everyday Discoveries“!

Posted by: cindybiz | May 3, 2010

Our kids and math…what is the easiest way to learn?

A friend sent out the follow article on math and how our kids learn best. The author suggested that we have put math on a pedestal and that we need to knock it off and realize that it isn’t as hard as we think! What I really like about this article is that there are a number of “real life” unschooler examples to read through to back up what the author is suggesting. Math really is all around us if you think about it!

If you or your children have math challenges (or you just want ideas to enrich their learning), it is worth a read!

From Psychology Today by Peter Gray:

Kids learn math easily when they control their own learning

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think of math?? Is it challenging? or do you feel it comes naturally? Does this article make you think any differently about how you view math? Thanks for sharing!

Photo credit: muffet

Posted by: cindybiz | April 28, 2010

Spelling…how important is it?

Hmmm…spelling…we all learned it in school…I teach it to my children as I homeschool them…but how important is it?? I will be honest with you, this is just something I am pondering…I am not planning to throw out the dictionary!! Ido, afterall, make sure that I use the proper “your” or “you’re” when writing my blog posts!

Here is the definition of spelling: Spelling is the writing of a word or words with the necessary letters and diacritics present in an accepted standard order.

I guess the reason I am pondering this is because I was “called onto the carpet” about a quote I put up on my facebook page: “When U give someone a book, U don’t give just paper, ink, & glue. U give the possibility of a whole new life”. Christopher Morley Pretty cool quote, don’t you think?? But the questioner was upset because of the “U” instead of “you”…..the reason it was like that is if you post on Twitter, you only have 140 characters, so you do what you need to do and I am sure that is why such liberties were taken with the English language.

The following quote was circulated awhile ago…take a read:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

Hmmm again….so what is our goal in learning how to spell well? I would think it would be so that others can understand what we are trying to communicate…but the example above shows that spelling isn’t really the only factor…sometimes context is just as important.

So…as I continue to ponder, what do YOU think? When you text, do you use full words or “2” for “to” etc. When you want share a complete thought on Twitter, how important is it to use full words or would a few short forms help fit it all in? Isn’t the most important point that the message is received??

So…why am I writing this blog post?? I really want to hear from YOU!! What do you think about spelling? Is it contextual…should it be super important…are we just lazy?? I am SO looking forward to hearing your thoughts about this…so comment below!!

Photo Credit: kiwanja

Posted by: cindybiz | April 23, 2010

Your brain…and how to keep it working!

I have discovered a very cool website (thanks to a comment on this blog…thanks Louisa!) called Lumosity which is all about your brain…and how to keep it working well.

For example, did you know there are certain foods that help it work better?

Brain Foods

Yummy brain food!

Research shows that eating to feed your brain can have significant benefits for psychological health. Here is what your head is hungry for:

Nutrients- As with any organ, the brain needs a constant supply of various vitamins, minerals and amino acids. These are needed in order to keep up with the ongoing process of repairing damage, maintaining every day functions and adapting to changing environments. Neurons specifically need a steady source of raw materials in order to produce the numerous neurotransmitters necessary for cellular communications.

Fats- Over 60% of the brain is made up of fats. In addition to being the basic building blocks of all cell membranes, fats play an important role in insulating neurons via myelin sheaths.  Omega-3 fatty acids are a particular type of fat involved in regulating mood, protecting neurons, improving blood circulation, preventing stroke and reducing inflammation.

Anti-oxidants- Normal wear and tear combined with environmental sources of pollution create toxic molecules called free radicals. Radicals contribute to the biological equivalent of rusting by deteriorating and often destroying cell membranes. Anti-oxidants are compounds capable of neutralizing these radicals and thier potential for damage. The pigments which give fruits and vegetables their color are also often powerful anti-oxidants.

Water- Water is needed for the elimination of toxins, the production of energy, healing, growth and every single chemical reaction in the body. Unfortunately due to active lifestyles, diets containing caffeine, alcohol and high concentrations of protien, most people are chronically dehydrated. Lack of water results in cognitive deficits in attention, memory and processing speed. A general rule of thumb is to drink enough water to keep the color of your pee a pale straw color.

And for specific examples of foods to do this, see the chart on this page. What a great way to get your child’s brain working at its best!

Brain Games

What I am also enjoying is the games that help to improve Speed, Memory, Attention, Flexibility and Problem Solving! Your Brain Performance Index (BPI) is how you measure and track your cognitive performance in Lumosity. It is useful in tracking your improvement and comparing yourself to others.

I am just delving into it all, but wanted to share it with you so you can join in the fun! Will I see you in there?? I hope so!

Is there anything YOU do to optimize  your brain power?? I would love to hear your comments!!

Photo credit: Muffet

Posted by: cindybiz | April 7, 2010

“Visual Acuity”….what???

I heard this term used a number of years ago by a kindergarten teacher. She said it was important for kids to master this skill. She was referring, mostly, to the necessity for a child to learn to distinguish between his “b”s and “d”s as well as his “p”s and “q”s. Makes sense. I wondered if there was more to it, so I started to do some research…very interesting! Here is the definition of “Visual Literacy”, which encompasses a lot of interesting concepts!

Visual Literacy: “A group of acquired competencies for interpreting and composing visible messages. A visually literate person is able to: (a) discriminate, and make sense of visible objects as part of a visual acuity, (b) create static and dynamic visible objects effectively in a defined space, (c) comprehend and appreciate the visual testaments of others, and (d) conjure objects in the mind’s eye.” Brill, Kim and Branch (2000)

Wow! It sure IS much bigger than I first thought! And when I thought about it, important as we live in such a highly visual world!  But where do  you start if we want our children to be fluent in this kind of literacy? How do we ensure that our children have a good visual vocabulary? By practicing it!!

One of the things I love about Usborne Books is the fact that there is a lot to do in each book. It is rare that a book can be taken at face value…there is ALWAYS more to it than just a story! When you look at a book like “First 1000 Words,” you will find a picture to look at and discuss…and you also have a little yellow duck to find. This is one of the first tools to teach your child visual discrimination. That little duck is hiding in all kinds of places and yet your child can still recognize him as a duck! Bingo…you are on your way to success! Take the next step and add in finding a bird…there are a few of them in the book, all different, but all birds…keep that searching/recognizing going! This book is excellent for this…and for a little older, move up to Great Animal Search where the searching is harder…and so is the learning! (there are a lots of other too, but you get the idea…)

This is just one important aspect of visual literacy…there are many more…maybe I will pick another one for another blog post. If you want more information now, I came across a chart that has all kinds of things that show how important this concept is…and ways to practice it. Check it out: Periodic Table of Visualization Methods See what I mean? We use this type of literacy all the time and don’t even think about it.

What is the simplest thing you can do? Head to the library and find some great search books! I, personally, love all the Usborne ones, but I suspect there are many others that also use this idea of exercising your child’s brain. And when you find something, be sure to let everyone know so we can check it out too!

Want more information on this topic? Look here: Visual Literacy

Photo Credit: Robin Saylor

I found the following as I was searching for information regarding Mr. Einstein birthday…love this summary of some of his ideas and thought you might too! Enjoy!

Albert Einstein has long been considered a genius by the masses. He was a theoretical physicist, philosopher, author, and is perhaps the most influential scientists to ever live.

Einstein has made great contributions to the scientific world, including the theory of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the prediction of the deflection of light by gravity, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose–Einstein condensation, to name a few of his scientific contributions.

Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”

He’s published more than 300 scientific works and over 150 non-scientific works. Einstein is considered the father of modern physics and is probably the most successful scientist there ever was.

10 Amazing Lessons from Albert Einstein:

  1. Follow Your Curiosity

    “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

    What piques your curiosity? I am curious as to what causes one person to succeed while another person fails; this is why I’ve spent years studying success. What are you most curious about? The pursuit of your curiosity is the secret to your success.

  2. Perseverance is Priceless

    “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

    Through perseverance the turtle reached the ark. Are you willing to persevere until you get to your intended destination? They say the entire value of the postage stamp consist in its ability to stick to something until it gets there. Be like the postage stamp; finish the race that you’ve started!

  3. Focus on the Present

    “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

    My father always says you cannot ride two horses at the same time. I like to say, you can do anything, but not everything. Learn to be present where you are; give your all to whatever you’re currently doing.

    Focused energy is power, and it’s the difference between success and failure.

  4. The Imagination is Powerful

    “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

    Are you using your imagination daily? Einstein said the imagination is more important than knowledge! Your imagination pre-plays your future. Einstein went on to say, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.” Are you exercising your “imagination muscles” daily, don’t let something as powerful as your imagination lie dormant.

  5. Make Mistakes

    “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

    Never be afraid of making a mistake. A mistake is not a failure. Mistakes can make you better, smarter and faster, if you utilize them properly. Discover the power of making mistakes. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, if you want to succeed, triple the amount of mistakes that you make.

  6. Live in the Moment

    “I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”

    The only way to properly address your future is to be as present as possible “in the present.”

    You cannot “presently” change yesterday or tomorrow, so it’s of supreme importance that you dedicate all of your efforts to “right now.” It’s the only time that matters, it’s the only time there is.

  7. Create Value

    “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

    Don’t waste your time trying to be successful, spend your time creating value. If you’re valuable, then you will attract success.

    Discover the talents and gifts that you possess, learn how to offer those talents and gifts in a way that most benefits others.

    Labor to be valuable and success will chase you down.

  8. Don’t Expect Different Results

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    You can’t keep doing the same thing everyday and expect different results. In other words, you can’t keep doing the same workout routine and expect to look differently. In order for your life to change, you must change, to the degree that you change your actions and your thinking is to the degree that your life will change.

  9. Knowledge Comes From Experience

    “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”

    Knowledge comes from experience. You can discuss a task, but discussion will only give you a philosophical understanding of it; you must experience the task first hand to “know it.” What’s the lesson? Get experience! Don’t spend your time hiding behind speculative information, go out there and do it, and you will have gained priceless knowledge.

  10. Learn the Rules and Then Play Better

    “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

    To put it all in simple terms, there are two things that you must do. The first thing you must do is to learn the rules of the game that you’re playing. It doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s vital. Secondly, you must commit to play the game better than anyone else. If you can do these two things, success will be yours!

Written on 3/09/2010 by Mr. Self Development who is a motivational author that offers a practical guide to success and wealth; support him by visiting his blog at mrselfdevelopment.com.

Photo Credit:nobelprize.org

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