Reading Together: Why, What and What is Next?

Reading aloud is important in our home. I have vivid memories of my mom reading aloud to me as a child. She would come into my room in the evening and we’d curl up together reading Madeline L’Engle books such as A Wrinkle in Time. I have read to my own children since they were babies and in the past 2 years we’ve made the switch to chapter books. Pip and Liv love listening to chapter books, whether audiobooks in the car or physical books I’ve found on family member’s shelves or in lovely used bookstores. I recently posted our first audiobook series for 2019 on my social media and was flooded with questions. So I’ve decided to answer some of them below!

Why Do You Read Aloud?

Research has shown us, time and time again, that reading is vital to child development. Reading aloud to a child exposes them to diverse vocabulary, develops imagination and teaches listening skills. And it helps develop lifelong readers! Even once your child has begun to read, it is important to keep reading aloud with them by selecting books beyond their reading level but tied to their interests. By reading to Pip and Liv, we are modeling reading for enjoyment while demonstrating how to read. Left to right, top to bottom, inflection, character voices and emotions like suspense, surprise and sadness!

What Books Do You Pick?

There are so many book lists out there. Some put out by libraries, authors, bloggers and more. The Read Aloud Revival has recently received a lot of press and I very much appreciate her exposing parents to the idea of reading to their children. While I have some hesitations with her book list, it is a fantastic place to start for many families.

There are some specific things I look for when selecting chapter books to read with our children. While it is hard to simplify it, here are the first three things I look into…

  1. Not Twaddle: Twaddle is “trivial or foolish speech or writings”. We look for books that teach character, written with “literary power” and expect intelligence from our children. A great explanation of this can be found here.
  2. Simple Drawings: Ask my poor husband, I will spend hours in a used book store flipping through multiple copies of the same book. I’ll request different versions of the same book through the library system and return most of them to the cart without ever checking them out. I don’t want a book that provides brightly colored pictures to my children. This takes away from their imagination’s job! I love a book with simple pen drawings in black and white. Enough to help them if they’ve never seen the story’s topic, but which leaves out most of the image for their minds to fill in.
  3. Engaging: There is a good chance that, if the story bores me, it will also bore my children. I look for books that we all find interesting. Not only does this keep my children loving our read aloud times, but it makes me more prone to pick the book up and excitedly start the next chapter.

What Did You Read in 2018?

We had so much fun reading chapter books in 2018. Many we were gifted by my husband’s aunts and some came from his grandma. They were older book with that wonderful “book smell” and simple line drawings. Here is a list of the ones we completed before the stroke of midnight last night:

2018 Reading List for Pip and Liv

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  2. Stuart Little by E.B. White
  3. The Francis Collection by Russell Hoban
  4. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
  5. Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  6. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
  7. Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus
  8. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  9. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

What Are You Reading in 2019?

Pip and I talked about a new reading goal for 2019. We had set our goal for 10 in 2018 and just missed it. Failure is ok in our house, we actually celebrate it! We love learning from our failures and talking about them openly. Despite our shortcoming this year, we decided to aim a little higher for 2019. We are going to try for 12 books this coming year! We are wrapping up a few from last year still while making a “wish list” for 2019. There are more than 12 books on the list because, well.. we like options!

2019 Reading List for Pip and Liv

  1. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (started in 2018!)
  2. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
    1. Mary Poppins Comes Back
    2. Mary Poppins Opens the Door
    3. Mary Poppins in the Park
    4. Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane
    5. Mary Poppins and the House Next Door
  3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  4. Burgess Animal Stories by Thornton Burgess (started 2018, a huge series!)
  5. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  6. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  7. Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  8. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
    1. We plan to continue through this series – there are 14 Oz stories by Baum, another 26 put out by other authors and even more “related works”
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S, Lewis

Let us know if you are reading these too – my children love to talk books with their friends!

Tara

Forest School 2017: Day 3

As we pulled into the parking lot this week, Pip spotted his “guide” and shouted greetings to her as soon as he was free of his car seat. He was greeted with smiles and friendly greetings. As a mom, that means a lot! The teachers for our forest program prefer to be known as guides. They aren’t sitting them down with a lesson plan of what each child will learn. Instead, they are guiding them through developing their own interests, learning lessons from their own curiosity and being safe while pushing them from their “safe zone”.

It always fascinates me to see what each child gravitates towards when they first arrive. Pip has newfound confidence in climbing EVERYTHING, so he is usually racing to the top of the closest boulder or trying to find a tree ascend. Liv, ever the adventurer, noticed the paints this week and painted a beautiful piece of artwork. On herself.

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.com

This week’s science experiment was painting with glue, salt and paints. The older children tested different mixtures to see how they differed and made observations to the group! Pip was proud to bring his home. It may never dry…

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

Liv took advantage of the older children climbing and enjoyed the class tarp all to herself!

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

Her hiking skills continue to improve weekly – and she gets more adventurous each week. She’s learning to steady herself and navigate the uneven paths. Never the helicopter parent, the thought of a helmet crosses my mind regularly.


Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

This week I was flying solo, as O had some meetings and couldn’t attend. Can we all say a ‘thank you’ for baby carriers?! Liv does GREAT for the first half, but wears herself out quickly. When daddy is along he takes her down the path and back to the car for a nap. Just mommy and we have to keep trucking!

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

The children had a particularly exciting tool to try this week… and a very detailed lesson along with it!

As soon as Pip arrived home he told daddy “I used a BOW SAW!!! WE CUT WOOD! A DEAD TREE!!! … not a live one.” Haha!

❤ Tara

Gameschooling: Do you?

Gameschooling | www.oliverandtara.com

So ,what is Gameschooling?

Gameschooling is teaching school subjects through game play – board games, card games, etc. So teaching geography through Ticket to Ride, colors through Candyland… you get the idea!

Why would one Gameschool?

Games teach so many fantastic skills and, if selected carefully, can teach great educational subjects at the same time! In addition to the obvious skills of turn taking, sharing, cooperation, learning to win/lose… there are some additional developmental skills games can help! My favorite executive functioning skills of self-regulation, perspective taking, problem solving, working memory and planning are involved in almost every game out there. Games can also grow creativity, social skills and both verbal and non-verbal communication abilities! Plus, let’s be frank. As parents, we can often lose sight of having FUN with our kids. Life demands are no joke! Intentionally planning game play into your day can be a welcomed respite and time of connection.

Do you Gameschool?

There are some people who only gameschool, which fascinates me! While we aren’t 100% gameschoolers, it is an intricate part of our homeschooling. We’ve played games with Pip since he was very young, and Liv is already wanting to play Pip’s games with us during the school day!

Current Favorites…

Because I know the question would be asked… here are some of our current favorite games!

  • Robot Turtles (Pip)
    Early introduction to coding, but no technology involved! I’ve seen Pip’s ability to plan, problem solve and navigate increase exponentially since we began playing this game!
  • Cariboo Island (Pip) – discontinued
    Really, any of the cariboo versions are great, but all are discontinued. So check with local moms, thrift store and consignment sales! This fun “hidden treasure” game let’s you work on letters, numbers and shapes! It’s quick with a built in reward system.
  • Koala Capers (Pip)
    My mom found this one on Zuliliy, but even on Amazon it’s really decently priced! This one allows for a lot of adaptations to make it easier and harder. You are trying to find the most outfits for your koala by rolling the dice and matching the pattern and clothing item to one of the many combinations out! What is also fun is that all the outfits are from different areas of the world. So we get a lot of geography and occupation talk in too!
  • Shelby’s Snack Shack (Pip)
    Think of this as the modern day Hi Ho Cherry-O…. just with a dog and bones! Spin to try and dig up bones, then spin to see how many you can get. Watch out – you might lose a turn, lost your bones, or steal some from a neighbor. MOM NOTE: Don’t put all the bones out if only two of you are playing. It will NEVER END. We typically only put out 20!
  • Hidden items activities (Liv)
    Not a purchase-able game, but just the game she’s into currently. Hiding anything (even family members) gets her excited! And it’s doing a great job of teaching her waiting, turns, and stamina! Plus her giggles are infectious!
  • Hungry Pelican (Liv)
    Pip actually picked this game out as a Christmas present for his sister! It’s a lot of fun to drop the food into the pelican’s mouth and it appears in the stomach! We put all different things in the mouth, not just what came with the toy! It offers a lot of funny vocabulary, wh questions and surprises. Plus, it’s a game even Pip gets in on, so they are learning to play together too!

Want to read more?

Some great blog posts out there on gameschooling include…

❤ Tara

Another day in nature

Today was day two of Forest School/Nature School (we use the terms interchangably). Some cute photos and takeaways.

Liv is always so excited to arrive at Forest School! Especially when she also gets to wear brother’s hat.

For science, they learned about butterflies and then disolved sugar into water to make sugar plates.
We didn’t see any butterflies, but we did catch a praying mantis who stopped for a drink!

From being hesitant to climb anything week one, to trying everything week two!
He knows the rules to call out “climbing” and wait for an adult to respond “climb on!”

This increased confidence translated to the first tree he attempted to scale independently!
(He did need some help, but his height was a slight disadvantage!)

He wasn’t the only one scaling everything – though she be little….

Today we painted in our journals. For brushes, the children had to search nature!
Liv loved the flowers, her brother preferred his fingers! Haha!

She’s become fascinated with birds lately, and today we “dressed up” as one!

After observing a chipmunk eating these seeds, Pip decided to try some too!
I just love his curiosity… “I do not think they are very good!”

Always the little helper…

I just love how much growth I’ve seen in both kids after just two weeks. This is just a small snapshot of our three hours today! Each week their teacher adds a few more structured activities for them to “opt in or out”. This week we started journaling, next week we begin Yoga. Pip always opts in, Liv usually does as well. We are also soaking up the warm weather. Forest school is all weather, so we will be out here in the rain and snow soon!

  • Tara

Forest School 2017: Day 1

I had learned about forest school via world wide web. I’d show videos to my husband and told him how much I wish we had one near us. It was pure chance that I found our local forest school!

A mom had posted on a local homeschooling group about the activities she was enrolled in and asked what others were doing this year. One activity was forest school! I couldn’t click that link fast enough! Thankfully, my children have some awesome grandparents that encourage their homeschooling and help support their extra-curriculars ❤️

Day one of forest school came and O was actually able to attend with us! Pip was so excited and had so many questions. His number one question? “Will there be mud mommy?”

After a week of daily rain, he definitely had mud! He was so excited! His excitement was clearly contagious, because soon he had company….

This little girl had her hands covered in mud and loved it!

Soon, the son of our leader came running through the mud barefoot. Pip’s mouth dropped open. He looked at me as if to ask “can I do that?!” With just a bit of encouragement from his leader (whose bare feet you can see) and me…

Soon the leader invited the children to join her in a group for a science experiment. She brought out canteens and poured some contents into each child’s cup. She asked them to hypothesize, wonder and notice. They discussed color, temperature, smell, flavor… And enjoyed sitting quietly drinking tea together on their first day of Forest School!

Soon they moved on to storytime, where they learned about “being present” and what that means in a group. And it physically involved a move as well. Up onto a boulder!

We moved our entire class to another location within the park to continue exploring, trying new games, and learning safety. We discussed what to do if they see a snake, finding support when they want to climb high and respecting physical boundaries for our play space. Liv loved this new space and boldly followed the big kids around exploring.

Pip watched some of the other boys ascend the large boulder. He gave it an attempt, but left discouraged. He soon because engaged in a game of “1-2-3-Where are you?” but continually looked back to the boulder and watched the more experienced boys climb. A short while later he ran over to his leader and called out “Miss Erin! Climbing!” She smiled, and called back “climb on!” (which meant she was ready to spot him). The smile on his face when he made it to the top made my mama heart explode. He stayed up there for 20+ minutes!

A quick lesson on how to find a good throwing rock helped transition the boys to the closing, which involved throwing said rocks over a ledge and telling everyone their favorite part of school.

He was sad to go, but completely exhausted! We can’t wait to return to the beautiful views and the adventure of exploring!

❤️ Tara

A year ago

OliviaJane-24 (1)-ANIMATION

A year ago your heart rate dropped a few times and scared everyone…

A year ago I’d been worrying about you for 6 days straight, in labor 4.5.

A year ago I pushed for over 3 hours. And saw your beautiful dark hair….

A year ago I was wheeled back into surgery.

A year ago I watched you “be born” – what an amazing sight!

A year ago your daddy turned to me and said “She’s an Olivia… Olivia Jane!”

A year ago I “met” you. And it was true love.

Happy Birthday to our tenacious and sweet baby girl.

You are so so so loved.

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I’ve got you, babe… 

I've Got You, Babe... | originally posted on www.oliverandtara.com

Pip was born in the main OR of a hospital in San Jose, California. It was sterile. It was cold. It was terrifying.

I remember reading up on c-sections when we learned we had no other choice. One thing I read stuck with me – Pay attention to the details. Remember the little things.

As they prepped me for surgery, before O was let in, there was music playing over the speakers. “Put the lime in the coconut. ” I remember thinking “they wouldn’t be playing this on the maternity floor.”And that made me even more sad.

When I finally could hold Pip, I insisted on pulling back his cap. I wanted to see the details.  Did he have hair? [yes.]  How long were his fingers? [they looked so long on the ultrasound!].

Then, I spoke to him. And he stopped screaming. He turned and looked at me. Eyes wide open. And over the speakers I heard “I’ve got you babe…”

And all I could think was “well, that was perfect.”

❤️ Tara

The first scare… 

Somehow both of our children have been able to give us a good scare before they were even a month old. 
Confession: I doubted I had any “mommy sense” when Liam was first born. His delivery was emotionally difficult and left me feeling like I was “behind” most other moms. You know, the ones who got to see their baby sooner than 2.5 hours after delivery. 

But every internal alarm went off when  things started to unravel for Liam. I’m so grateful for a pediatrician who believed in “mommy sense” and followed up… 

For those of you who have never heard this before…  Here is Liam’s story

But the view… 

This past weekend was absolutely beautiful. The weather, the sunshine. *happy sigh* I could see the snow capped mountains for miles. I constantly remind myself never to take this view for granted. 

Right now we are going through every single corner of our house and cleaning it out. We are physically putting a hand on everything we own and deciding if it should stay in our house or go. If it’s a “go”, out the door with it (which takes 2 votes). If yes (even just 1 vote) then we decide where exactly it goes. A place for every thing and every thing in its place. The main floor is a few feet of playroom floor space away from being done! 

After quite a few days in the house going through cabinets and cupboards, I had penciled in 2 hours all to me on Saturday. O took Pip and Liv to go pick us up some lunch. I, on the other hand, laced up my shoes and decided to set some sights on some personal records. 

And I nailed it. Longest run at home, some seriously consistent splits and a best time. Only missed my goal by 2 minutes. I’ll blame stop lights and call it a win! 

The Princess Half Marathon is just a few weeks away…  I had doubts as to my abilities back in January. But I know I’ve got the Half in the bag this time and can’t wait!

This next week I’m pulling out my sewing machine and working on my costume…. I’ll post here when I’m done! 

❤️ Tara

Family Movie Night

We don’t watch much TV in our house. We’ll go weeks without even turning it on. If it is on with the kids awake, we try to have it only be shows that teach (such as documentaries). Don’t worry,  Pip gets to watch movies at Nana’s house and cartoons with his cousins. He’s far from deprived and is up on all the modern references 😉

Growing up we watched a LOT of movies  by Feature Films for Families. After I was grown, the company put out a line for younger kids, known as “Stepping Stones”. My mom has continues to support the company long after we owned every film and has now made sure our kids all have a library of quality entertainment. 

So, last night we started a new family activity – movie night. Pip picked a movie, then he and daddy popped popcorn on the stove. Mommy and Liv pulled out snuggle blankets for everyone and found the big popcorn bowl. We pulled out “the parking garage” (a small basket) and put  our phones in it, placing them way over in the kitchen. Then we all got on mommy’ s couch (that’s a hilarious story for another time) and watched Jasper: Journey to the End of the World

If there was any doubt that my kid’s love language is quality time, you should have felt the happiness seeping out of his being for those 90 minutes. 

❤️ Tara