Life and Changes

Sometimes, though you have the best intentions, life gets in the way.

First, Easter week happened.  I work for my church and in the church world Easter is kind of a big deal.

Then, Carter went through a terrible bout with salmonella poisoning.  It began a few days before Easter and persisted and persisted and persisted.  During the week he was showing symptoms, we had NO idea what was wrong with him.  It was pretty pitiful and the kind of thing that drives a mother crazy.

Here he is trying to have fun on Easter, but ended up pooped in his Daddy’s arms.

Thankfully, he got better just a few days before we were scheduled to leave for NYC to visit my brothers.  As far as Carter is concerned, NYC = Subway trains.  He wants to ride them every chance he gets and he makes it his job to learn all the trains that we need to take and the stops where we need to get off and transfer.  He’s quite the conductor.  Here are a few images from our time in the Big Apple.

Tickle Time!

Carter Bug at the Staten Island Children's Museum

Preschool Art at Rockefellar Park on the Hudson

There are some great parks in NYC!

On the "Shakey Bridge" with Uncle J.

Life is good when you're 3.

Admiring the fountains at The Met before going inside.

Central Park

Enjoying an amazing view from a highrise in Brooklyn.

During all this time away from our daily “school” routine I came to some tough conclusions.  The first is that I’m totally missing what Carter is ready for with the activities I’m planning for him.  I realize that this may not come across as a problem to some of you, but it is one in my eyes.  If I am planning activities for my son to learn letter sounds and match uppercase and lowercase and the like when he is ready to read books and write, then I am wasting both our time.  If I am having him count items to 10, when he can easily count from 1-100, identify those numbers and write them I am totally missing the mark.  The larger problem is that the things I am teaching him now have been the things I have been teaching him since before he was 2 because those are the things I taught my students in PreK. It’s my comfort zone, so to speak.  Teaching a child who is reading and teaching a child anything past pre-math skills is a little beyond my area of expertise.  I can now see that keeping a bright child challenged is just as difficult as teaching an at-risk child to recognize their name and learn academic basics.

I’m going through a bit of a redo myself.

I have started to research some more things to challenge Carter from a language standpoint.  I read over this Montessori Language Scope and Sequence to find some jumping off points.  I’ve purchased some early readers: Miss Rhonda’s Readers and Bob’s Books.  I have purchased the moveable alphabet and will be assembling it today.  I am swinging by my library to pick up The Read Aloud Handbook and Reading Magic to take our read aloud time to the next level.

I have not yet started my research on math and beyond.

I say all this to say that I’m pausing to reevaluate and the site may take on a different direction, since it is just documentation of our learning journey.

If you have any suggestions for resources, I would greatly appreciate shared links, books titles and materials that will spur us forward.  I’ll showcase anything I get in a new post to make it easier for others to benefit as well.


Books about Plants

Last month it took me nearly the entire month to gather and use the books that I needed.  This month, I got smart.  I’m not sure if your library has this feature, but where I live you can “Place a Hold” on a book that you want that may not be in or may be at another branch.  I’ve been using this for a while to get books that I want to read, but this is the first month I’ve used it for Carter’s books.

There are so many great books and authors on the list for this month and topic (descriptions not mine).  Enjoy!

The Enormous Potato by Aubrey Davis

Davis uses a potato instead of the traditional turnip in this retelling of a familiar folktale. When the eye of a potato grows into the biggest potato in the world, a farmer must call for reinforcements to pull the vegetable out of the ground. Help comes in the form of the farmer’s wife, daughter, dog, and cat, and finally a mouse, who adds just enough extra muscle to get the job done. The potato, when it finally appears, is huge, taking up most of a double-page spread and almost burying the folks who pulled it out. It’s big enough to feed all the people of the town, who completely devour it.

Flower Garden by Eve Bunting

A comforting, richly illustrated story about a birthday surprise. An urban African-American girl and her father buy plants, potting soil, and a window box at the supermarket, ride the bus to their apartment, and put together a colorful gift for the child’s mother. Rhyming verse carries the brief story, while wonderful, warm, full-color illustrations present scenes from novel angles, and depict a loving family with a sense of intimacy, sincerity, and joy.

Jack and the Beanstalk by Steven Kellogg

Kellogg has streamlined Joseph Jacobs’s version of the classic story, keeping much of its vigorous language. In the illustrations he has provided a story within a story. On the front endpapers, the ogre steals the gold, harp, and hen from pirates as a wizard floating by in a hot-air balloon watches; this has the effect of enlightening readers about some of the moral ambiguities of the story. The wizard is shown writing down the actual events that follow and provides Jack with the beans that set them all in motion. Kellogg’s riotous, swirling pen is perfect for the energy of the tale; this is not the neat, contained English countryside of some previous editions. The ogre is toothy, warty, and a rather putrid yellow-green. His wife breaks the mold as well; she is tall and slim, fond of lipstick, and adorned in a necklace of skeletal shrunken heads. Colored inks, watercolors and acrylics throughout are similar in palette to Kellogg’s recent work–lots of orange, yellow, and green–at times bordering on the garish. There are many humorous touches to delight children, who will also be happy to see Pinkerton accompanying the princess’s entourage. Jack himself is irresistible.

Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole

A great way to show how the parts of nature connect and grow together… Cole is an elementary-school science teacher, and his nature drawings in colored pencil on colored paper make for joyful learning, both precise and lovely.

*This free online resource is based on this book.  It contains a lot of great activities and story sequencing cards for you to print.

Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden by Edith Pattou

Mrs. Spitzer is a wise teacher who knows many things. She knows about gardens. She knows about children. She knows how similar they are. And how they will flourish if tended lovingly.

One Bean by Anne Rockwell

What do you get when you take one bean and add a handful of soil and a splash of water? With patience and a bit of sunshine you get a full-grown bean plant that makes beautiful flowers and grows a whole new crop of beans. Packed with facts and featuring activities kids can do themselves, this book is perfect for blossoming botanists and growing gardeners alike.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

Mother and child plant bulbs in fall, order seeds from catalogs in winter, eagerly anticipate the first shoots of spring, select seedlings in summer, “and watch the rainbow grow,” reveling in the opulence of color. The power of this book lies in the glowing brilliance and bold abstraction of the double-page collages.

Seeds! Seeds! Seeds! by Nancy E Wallace

Buddy Bear gets a package from Grandpa that contains five bags of different activities with seeds. From them, he learns how seeds grow, plants some, glues down and labels some others in a collection, decorates a picture frame with beans, and feeds the birds. His collection grows through the week as he saves seeds from various foods that he eats. The artwork consists of cut-paper collages with shadowing and life-sized photos of real seeds that look as though they can be picked right off the pages.

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

This picture book admirably conveys the miracle of a seed. Flower pods burst and dispatch their seeds on the wind; the air-borne seeds are subject to myriad disasters; and the ones that make it through the perils of the seasons to become mature flowering plants are still susceptible to being picked, trod upon and otherwise damaged. But nature allows for survivors, and so the tiny seed grows into a giant flower, releasing its seeds and continuing the cycle

Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens

Easily recognizable as a trickster tale, this features appealing, contemporary cousins of Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear. Here, Bear and Hare are involved in a gardening partnership, with industrious, clever Hare reaping all the vegetable profits. As usual, Stevens’ animal characters, bold and colorful, are delightful. Hare, decked out in a lively gardening shirt and surrounded by mischievous offspring, is the image of determination. It’s Bear, however, who wins the personality prize: he snoozes away each planting season squashed in his favorite chair, changing positions with each flip of the page. It’s all wonderful fun, and the book opens, fittingly, from top to bottom instead of from side to side, making it perfect for story-time sharing.

Weather Books

On your next trip to the library, look for these great books about different types of weather.  When I taught in the classroom, one of my favorite parts of any unit or project was researching great books to share with the class.  Though this list isn’t extensive, these are some of my favorite authors and the most worth your time to find. (Book descriptions not mine)


A Busy Year by Leo Lionni

In this deceptively simple tale, Lionni characteristically hides a moral from which kids of all ages will profit. On New Year’s Day, twin mice Willie and Winnie discover a “snowmouse” that appears to be holding a broom. But a voice announces, “I am not a broom. I am Woody the tree!” So begins a momentous friendship. The twins visit Woody each month and are thrilled when small buds and then leaves and blossoms appear on her branches. In June Woody confesses that she fears summertime, when people’s carelessness with cigarettes and campfires causes many trees to die. Ready with a water hose, the twins protect their pal when a forest fire breaks out in July. After her leaves blow to the ground, the caring duo brings Christmas gifts to a cheerfully decorated Woody, and all are “happy and ready for another busy year.”

Froggy Gets Dress by Jonathan London

The rambunctious Froggy has more pressing pursuits on his mind than hibernating through the winter–“Snow! Snow! I want to play in the snow!” Accompanied by kid-pleasing sound effects (zoop! zup! zat!) he excitedly dons cold-weather gear and “flop flop flop”s outdoors. His mother, however, quickly points out that he has forgotten a few items; he returns to the house repeatedly for such essential apparel as pants, a shirt and a coat–and his long johns. Any youngster who has ever bundled up for wintertime play will surely laugh out loud over this addled amphibian’s constant undressing and dressing.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G Shaw

The white shape silhouetted against a blue background changes on every page. Is it a rabbit, a bird, or just spilt milk? Children are kept guessing until the surprise ending—and will be encouraged to improvise similar games of their own.

The Cloud Book by Tomie de Paola

Introduces the ten most common types of clouds, the myths that have been inspired by their shapes, and what they can tell about coming weather changes.

Little Cloud by Eric Carle

A familiar story line involving the whimsical world of ever-changing shapes in the sky. Little Cloud drifts away from his wispy friends and entertains himself by changing into a variety of forms a lamb, an airplane, a shark, a clown, etc. before joining the others to form one big cloud that rains. His trademark painted cut-paper collages are eye-catching and appealing. Children will enjoy the simple text and the colorful illustrations.


Like a Windy Day by Frank Asch and Devin Asch

In a poetic text, a girl imagines herself doing all of the things that the wind can do. The brief story is filled with action verbs as the child follows the personified wind through the countryside, into town, and along the beach and riverside. Broad and sweeping spreads are filled with movement as the child tumbles, races, and flies until she settles at the end “like a gentle breeze.” While the pictures are large enough for group sharing, there are many clever and amusing details to be found on closer inspection. Youngsters will find socks and neckties flying through the air, a magician’s hat complete with rabbit blowing away, and a TV inside an apartment turned on to a weather report.


The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins

The wind blew, and blew, and blew! It blew so hard, it took everything with it: Mr. White’s umbrella, Priscilla’s balloon, the twins’ scarves, even the wig on the judge’s head. But just when the wind was about to carry everything out to sea, it changed its mind!

Clifford and The Big Strom by Norman Bridwell

When a hurricane strikes while Clifford and Emily Elizabeth are having fun visiting her grandmother at the beach, Clifford the Big Red Dog knows just what to do to keep everyone safe.

Just a Thunderstorm by Gina and Mercer Mayer

During a big thunderstorm, Mom and Dad find lots of ways to comfort Little Critter and his sister. Mom makes a fun dinner and Dad lights the candles as they both share their wisdom about thunder, lightning—and rainbows!

Jubal's Wish by Audrey and Don Wood

The story begins “Once upon a bright and sunny day.” This chipper bullfrog, “so happy his feet barely touched the ground,” has a picnic to share. But his overworked neighbor, Gerdy Toad, is too busy with her brood of “toadlets,” and Dalbert Lizard, a sad, washed-up sea captain, is not in the mood. When a wizard appears to grant Jubal a wish, the hero hopes for happiness for his pals. Alas, not only do they seem more miserable than ever, but black clouds, thunder and lightning darken Jubal’s sunny day and his spirits. Luckily the storm precedes Jubal’s fulfilled wish and a predictable, happy-ever-after conclusion.


The Rain Came Down by David Shannon

“On Saturday morning, the rain came down. It made the chickens squawk.” But that’s only the beginning. Before the sun comes out again, an entire neighborhood is in a crabby uproar. The owner of the beauty parlor squabbles with the barber, who argues with the painter, who has just accidentally bonked the barber in the head with his paint can. Then the baker unintentionally pokes the pizza man in the nose with his umbrella, and they start quarreling. Soon, “the whole block was honking, yelling, bickering, and barking.” There’s no end in sight… until the rain stops, the sun comes out, the air smells fresh and sweet, and a rainbow appears. Before they know it, the bickerers are helping each other clean up the mess caused by the ruckus, and everyone’s smiling again.

Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg

Caught out in the rain, an ant takes shelter under a very tiny mushroom. Soon, a wet butterfly, then a drenched mouse, a dripping sparrow, and even a rain-soaked rabbit each beg to join him under his miniature umbrella. How can the ant let the others in when there is barely room enough for one? But as the rain comes down and down, they all somehow manage to squeeze together and share the tiny shelter. And when the sun finally comes out, the ant discovers a magical secret of just what happens to mushrooms in the rain!