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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Family Day at the Rubin Museum of Art, NYC

My favorite thing about living near NYC is the vast hidden treasures.  There is always something new to explore.  Recently my family and I decided to head into NYC and take advantage of one of the few warm days we have had at the end of this winter.  We were walking near Union Square and came across the Rubin Museum of Art.  Not only had we never been there before but we never even heard of this museum.  Lucky for us they were announcing their Family Day, so we decided to check it out.  What a great discovery.  This museum is of art that descends from the Himalayas region (ex: India).  There were amazing statues and prints of the Buddha, an exhibit on the various kinds of prayer beads, and all kinds of Tibetan art.  While this wasn't necessarily an art form that we had ever really been interested in, the art was appealing and fun to explore.  Even my little guy at 22 months loved the statues, lights, and sounds.  This day was especially fun for him since the museum had a variety of activities geared towards their youngest visitors. 

The museum had many activities that helped children participate in art experiences and also explore this region's culture.  My guy loved making a peace flag from the art blocks that were available.  He also had fun adding to the collaborative mandala, listening to traditional music, and watching the butter sculptor. 

In the education center there was clay for the kids to use so that they could try their own hand at sculpting.
He also enjoyed using the instruments to make music.
Most of all he loved exploring the space that was filled with family-friendly activities that celebrated the culture of the Himalayas.   This is definitely a museum to check out with your family!!

Raise the FLF: We were inspired by the simplicity of the peace flags to create our own family memory flag.  This can be easily done by hanging a string anywhere you can make room.  We took a small space above his play area to hang ours.  Here you can hang a photo as you have your various family adventures.  This will not only display your best memories but also promote talking with your kids.  They can share in their experiences and memories whenever they reconnect to these moments. Having the visual reminder helps to jog their memories and help them in talking about their experiences.  It is so important to promote language and vocabulary from our kids because these are skills that are naturally imbedded and help them stand out in their development.  Plus it also deepens family bonds and is just plain fun to hear about their perspectives! Every time my son sees the picture of our day at the Rubin museum he says "Buddha" a new word he learned there which is funny because it is not even pictured.  I guess it was a memory that stuck with him.  What kinds of memories will you hang from your family's flag?



Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Study of Doing Nothing

Hi- it has been a while! I have had a rough transition into 2014.  I have spent the last few months dealing with a few medical issues.  Nothing life threatening but enough to zap me of most if not all of my energy.  As I look back on the last few months my initial reaction is to feel bummed that I was not able to "do up" the holidays as would be my normal plan.  Not only did I barely have the energy to put up some minimal decorations, I was not able to plan and do the many amazing projects I saw all over the Internet that I know my son would have loved! However, now that I am slowly on the mend I realized the blessing in disguise that I was given.  I spent many days with my son doing absolutely nothing- yet it was everything to us! I spent hours on the floor with him- me wrapped in a blanket and not moving much, but him building a fun land with all his toys around me.  The babbling talk he shared with me was just as excited as if I had downloaded the latest Pinterest craft.  I also spent hours of cuddle time just watching my son watch and discover the world around him.  Nothing sketched out for him yet having organically magical moments.  Sure I wish I would have videotaped him, scrap booked his lego inventions, or written down his cute phrases...but in truth I know I will always carry these quiet moments in my heart.  As I am finally recovering my energy, I carry with me the reminder that the gift our children most seek from us is time together- whatever shape that may take. 

I hope that you all enjoyed the holiday and are looking forward to the many adventures 2014 will bring.  I am looking forward to health, happiness, and great moments with family and friends.

xoxo

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Storm King Art Center, NY

This past weekend I got to spend a little time with some of my favorite boys- my hubby, son, and 6 year old nephew.  Being that the fall leaves were so gorgeous here in the NY/NJ area we decided to go for a little drive.  I have been wanting to check out the Storm King Art Center (www.stormking.org) in NY and thought this might be a nice opportunity.  If you ever have a chance I highly recommend it.  It is a really fun sculpture museum with the added bonus that it provides your family a rare opportunity to interact with art in a unique way.  You can walk (or run as you can see below) amongst the art and feel part of the experience.  


Museums are not always a crowd-pleaser activity- especially one with abstract pieces.  Aside from getting little ones to appreciate the art, walking around quietly is usually an unattainable fantasy!  In comes Storm King! The Art Center has huge fields where you can get up close and personal with the "cool", "weird", and "awesome" structures.  I love the abstract sculptures because they provide families an opportunity to think about what they are looking at from their various perspectives- and the best thing about art is asserting that there are no "right" answers!  A great life lesson delivered in a natural way.  It was so fun to think about what the sculptures looked like and then read the title of the work.  So many times the title signaled that the artist had something completely different in mind than we had seen- but that is a strong lesson for our kids.  Helping our kids be risk takers in talking about their opinions provides important life long skills.  


My nephew and son had a blast running freely looking at the sculptures from all angles.  My husband and I each enjoyed looking at the art from our lens but also from the point of view of the kids.  I thought the sculpture below looked like the Phantom of the Opera Mask...until my nephew said it looked like a hanging pretzel.  It was kinda hard to argue with him. LOL  I can't wait to go back since we barely explored a third of the place!


Raise the FLF: I always like to find a way to tie in the experience at the end of a museum visit.  Otherwise there is a lot of walking around oohing and ahhing without really knowing what anyone was thinking other than "when can we go get lunch?!"  My husband and I have a tradition of sharing our favorite piece at the end of a visit and saying why.  Neither of us are art experts we just say what we liked and why.  No pressure but it is a nice check in.  When visiting with little ones in our family we like to share this idea. You can also turn it up a notch by getting inspired by the art you saw and taking an artistic turn of your own.  After Storm King Art Center you could draw your favorite sculpture or go home and use building blocks to make your own sculptures.  Don't forget to get the whole family involved and to take pictures.  You might also try what we did this particular afternoon.  After lunch, as the guys got a little fidgety I gave out some Crayola Model Magic and while we were unwinding we started to create our own structures based on what we saw.  I love using Model Magic because it is mess free and easily portable.  It is easy and entertaining for the kids AND adults! I really love us applying what we saw in a way that extends the days creativity, fun, and best of all lasting family memories. 




Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Word About Wordless Books

As you know the other night I was fortunate to facilitate a parent’s literacy night.  I love these because parents and educators have so many great ideas to share.  I walked away with lots of new perspectives on the work I do as a teacher and also the role I play as a parent in promoting thinking and learning.  One concern that came up was a parent that was having difficulty engaging her child in talking about the books that they read together.  She felt like her son didn’t have much to say.  This is a typical dilemma I see as I work with a variety of children.  The tricky part is promoting rich discussion without overanalyzing a story to the point that the story gets weighed down and is boring! I shared one possible way to promote talking “through” a story- using a wordless book. 

I love wordless books because there are so many useful ways they can bring value to any reader.  In this parent’s case, I think it would be nice for her child to let the images drive her story telling but a wordless book also lends an opportunity for the adults to model using rich language to describe what is happening.  I shared the book Chalk by Bill Thomson because I think it appeals to readers of all ages and in particular is a magical story that inherently connects to one’s imagination.  I suggested to this parent that the first time she reads the book with her child they do so “quietly” meaning just let her child enjoy and drive the talk.  Her child will probably initiate the discussion because most readers can’t help but call out as they “discover” this magical tale.  Then maybe the second or third “read” she could try modeling spending time on some pages describing the “important action” but also noticing the rich details in the character’s expressions, setting, and tone.  I reminded her not to force her child into the talk but to nurture it by acknowledging her child’s thinking throughout the story.  


Our conversation of using the book Chalk  to promote rich talk actually prompted a larger discussion on the many exciting ways that wordless books can be used to nurture a love of books.  There were so many I compiled just some into a list that I thought you might find interesting.  Click on this linkhttp://www.scribd.com/doc/182410018/Wordless-Books-docx and feel free to explore the ideas as well as some of my favorite wordless books.  Do you have your own ideas or wordless favorites? I’d love you to please share!


                                                                     
Raise the FLF: Wordless books are great to use across age groups because it doesn’t hold one down to a particular level of text.  Therefore I think these provide a particular opportunity for families to learn together.  Wordless books can be great fun to bring a family together and story tell as a group.  Adults and kids alike can take turns telling the next pages and building on each others imagination to weave their own fantastical story.  Try it with a few wordless books; then take those new family skills and put them to the test.  Can you build your own story together?  One person can pick a character or characters, another a setting, and yet another a problem.  Then while having dinner or driving around running errands (or while waiting on reeeaaally long lines this holiday season) try taking turns telling a story.  Not only will this promote lots of great skills for your children (speaking and listening!) but it will also provide lots of great family fun. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

THANK YOU

This past Tuesday I was fortunate to facilitate a parent literacy night at my local book store.  I would like to thank Well Read (http://www.thewellreadbookstore.com/)  for their graciousness in hosting our group.  Our local bookstore consistently provides our community with dynamic events for the whole family so I felt lucky to be part of their lineup!  I would also like to thank the parents and educators that came out on a busy night to share ideas to benefit our children's love of reading and life long learning.  

We had a great discussion about the kinds of things families could do at a variety of age levels to inspire a love of reading.  At a deeper level we discussed the difference of learning for the classroom and learning for the pure joy of discovery.  Our discussion brought up what is sure to be many future posts.  In fact there were so many books that were shared that I am updating my list of favorites to highlight as great family reads- stay tuned!!

On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, I want to touch upon just one of the points that was brought up.  Reading aloud and what literacy means in general can come in many shapes and sizes.  At the core, we all agreed that our children benefit most when reading and learning is authentic and appropriate.  This means not forcing fake "assignments" on our kids but at the same time using their natural curiosity to drive "teachable moments."  This weekend we all agreed that we would be on the lookout for those joyous moments where literacy might mean silly songs as we take a Sunday afternoon drive, talking about our day over hot chocolate, or cuddling up to a good book at bedtime.  

RAISE THE FLF:  At FLF the goal is to take a moment and stretch it to really learn as a family- learning about each other and learning about the world THROUGH each other.  When running errands or trying one of the many fall activities in the area don't forget to debrief as a family at some point.  TALK to one another about your opinions.  Agree- or better yet disagree on your experiences.  Through this talking your child will get a chance to see how we all can look at the same experiences differently.  They will be enriched by the language of expression and best of all you will learn something about each other.  Now don't get me wrong I'm a teacher and I know Sunday night often feels like "last chance Sally" to get our stuff together before a busy week.  I am in the midst of that myself.  However, when possible it is so important to model for our children the rich conversational skills that take our random moments and turn them into deeper family moments of learning.  Yes even picking out your produce at the supermarket can lead to a relevant conversation with our kids- how DID we decide which fruit and veggies to get for the week? Or what exactly can we DO with the hundreds of apples we picked since baking would be cruel and unjust punishment for this yummy fruit at mommy's hands?! There should seriously be an apple exchange program where we pick apples and then turn them into local bakers for seriously delicious pies! Sure these ideas seem obvious but it is so easy to forget to TALK about our day with one another.  Happy weekend. :D

Sunday, October 20, 2013

REPOST: WELL READ EVENT

As many of you know I am a mommy, auntie, and teacher trying to balance my best ideas with a busy reality.  As such, I love to share and collect ideas to help our kids become life long learners.  Therefore, I'm super excited to host a family literacy night at my hometown bookstore- Well Read in Hawthorne,  NJ.  I am so proud to be part of their line up as this book store has really enhanced our town with all kinds of local events.  I hope that anyone of you that are in the area can come out and join me.  My goal with this workshop is to share ideas with parents about how to nurture our children's interest in reading and writing.  There are lots of fun activities I'd like to share about things we can do at home to support their literacy development.  To keep our night focused we will concentrate on kids birth to age 11.  However, you can stretch some of these ideas beyond!  I want this night to be fun and interactive so bring your questions, concerns, or best ideas.  We will meet at Well Read (425 Lafayette Ave. Hawthorne, NJ) at 7:30pm. Let me know in the comment section (or email me at familylearningfactor@gmail.com) if you can come.  Really hope to see you there!!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Getting Real - Tech Time

So when I first got pregnant I envisioned all kinds of parenting "rules" I would follow.  Then I had a baby and realized the only rule was try your best - and survive! One of the rules I thought I would follow was no TV until Gabriel was 3.  I don't judge anyone who chooses to let their child watch TV but I envisioned this serene world of imagination being nurtured without interruption from the effects of TV.  Yeah well below is a picture of Gabriel at month 8 when he started to refuse to "eat" (remind me to tell you of my rocky relationship with breast feeding one day).  

Yup, our rule went right out the window when we discovered that 10 mins 14 secs of Baby Einstein would equal peace of mind that Gabriel was getting his nutrition and well frankly we were getting a little quiet time!  Since then I've been justifying Gabriel's viewing choices by trying to balance the reality of survival with my desire to limit his TV time.  Everyone's line and balance is different and I truly think there is not 1 right answer or way.  For me, I prefer apps and Internet clips because I think it is easier to be mobile and to control the length of time.  Though trust me Gabriel has been introduced already to the wonder of TV- sometimes mommy needs a minute! Anyhow I thought it might be nice to share some of the tech that we find helpful. 

For me, I have a few go-to apps that I think are purposeful, easy, and can mold to a variety of ages.  Although You Tube is not an "educational" app, I love searching for short clips that fit the child I'm with at the moment.  For my son, I feel good showing him some of the Baby Einstein clips that support his language development.  In particular, I like playing some of the clips in Spanish since I am trying to raise him bilingual. It helps to support the things we are doing at home, plus calms him at particularly cranky times.  Often 10 mins is all he needs.  I also enjoy an app called "DoodleBuddy."  This is a free draw and paint app that can be used for a variety of purposes.  Kids love to free doodle, use the stamps, and change the backgrounds.  It can be a loose free play for them or we can practice more specific skills like letter formation, drawing shapes, or following directions.  Another app I have been enjoying recently is called "MeeGenius."  You can download the app for free.  The site will send you the link to a free book after you sign up for an account.  Later you can purchase other books if you'd like.  This is a great apps that reads books aloud to your children but also tracks the words in yellow as it reads them the words, helping to develop your child's understanding of print concepts.  As always, technology should always be closely monitored and all things should be done in moderation.  But, as I have been learning, there are times we just need help in keeping our kids entertained! Why not find things we feel good about?! What apps/web sites do you enjoy using with your family?

Raise the FLF:  You know what my son loves in particular? My camera! He loves looking through the pictures on my phone and rewatching the videos that always seem to linger there.  Maybe it is because the pictures and videos are often of the people he recognizes in his world (our closest family and friends).  Looking through these pictures and watching these videos hold his attention better than most other things and allow us to support his vocabulary growth with people and objects that he instantly recognizes.  His smile is gigantic when he sees himself dancing in our living room holding his beloved ball with grandma and grandpa shouting "goal, goal, goal!"  It also gives another use to the hundreds of pictures and videos we take- they become an instant tutor of language and a way to relive our favorite memories.  You can use this with older children as well.  They love looking through these special times and can even be in charge of labeling the occasion or retelling how they felt at that moment thus accessing important retelling and communication skills that will be really helpful to their academic growth.  Older children can even take it further by using these pictures and videos to export into an iMovie or garage band app and really develop special memories in an imaginative way.  My oldest nephew loves to do this.  To him he is having silly fun but he is also developing important higher order thinking skills.  Let's put all those pictures we take to work for us in a variety of ways.  Then we don't have to feel bad that we never print them or put them into that fantasy scrap book we plan on making one day!