Find Your Place and Watch It Grow

Sometimes Marko pulls out our laminated map of the United States where it sits, rolled up, tucked in between the refrigerator and the wall. We unroll it on the living room floor and he walks back and forth over it. Laurel traces the lines with her finger, finding "Big Texas" and Chicago and Key West. M and I took our first big road trip when we were in in college, a month long loop following Route 66 for part of the way. We carried little glass vials with us and filled them with sand and water along the way. They sit in our attic, packed away, their labels have been rubbed off so they are vaguely mysterious, although you cannot mistake the silty Mississippi River water for the red dust of Kansas. As a family, we daydream often about our next road trip.

But there are plenty of adventures to be had close to home. When Laurel was Marko's age, we walked her to and from daycare and thus had built-in outdoor exploration time every day. The same 3/4 mile long journey, watching the trees and flowers move through seasonal cycles. Watching the shadows inch their way further and further across the park and then retreating again as winter approaches. 

Marko spends way more time in the car, way more time on my back or on M's shoulders. We don't make time for 2 hours of walking a toddler to and from daycare every day. If you ask Laurel what she wants to do, she will say watch tv. But once you get her outside, she's very comfortable, curious and observant. I want to be able to give Marko the same gift of time. No lesson plans or nature hike. Just traveling from place to place on foot, at one's own comfortable pace.


And then we got a hamster....

We got a hamster. His name is Jojo and he came from our babysitter, Jessie, who also provided a complete and luxurious hamster habitat and a starter supply of bedding and food. Marko calls him "Ball" and is not allowed to touch him. Laurel is supposed to be in charge of taking care of him, but let's be real....I'm the one who is going to be dumping soiled wood shavings. She did a good job of changing the water today, though. Jojo got off to sort of a rough start when he bit Laurel last night. To be fair, she did put her finger directly between his sharp rodent teeth. There was blood, and tears. But the transgression was forgotten the next morning when the kids woke up; the first thing they wanted to do was check on Jojo. They desperately wanted to feed him again but it wasn't time. They were disappointed that he was sleeping and Laurel cried when I said that he was nocturnal. The thing I love most is seeing them next to each other, peering into the cage.

Happy Siblings Day, to my dear siblings. Pete and Danna, I can only hope that my kids have as much fun together as we did growing up. Love you both so much.


Game Changers

Today while I was at work I had a conversation with a second grade child about honey. She had an old faded copy of a Winnie the Pooh book. She actually looked pretty engrossed in it when I walked by; she was definitely reading the words. I asked her if she liked Winnie the Pooh. "He's kind of a dope," I said, "Always getting stuck in those honey pots." She smiled and then said, "What's honey?"

Later, M and I lay in bed with Laurel, paging through her First Human Body Encyclopedia and looking for the pages on blood. When we got to the part about where blood cells are produced - in the bone marrow - she told us about tasmanian devils and how they eat marrow. When we looked at the magnified photo of the white blood cell, she said, "Reeve has lots of those because he is sick right now."

I'm the sort of girl who wears an "I love books" t-shirt to work, so yes, my kids read a lot. But it's not just about the reading. Bring a wide variety of reading materials and have rich discussions to build comprehension and vocabulary, that's what I tell my Reading Warriors. Also known as "Read stuff your kids are interested in and talk about it." Laurel learned the thing about the tasmanian devils from Wild Kratts, so sometimes "reading" is replaced by "watch a video." Whatever, it's the interaction that matters.

Do you know how hard it is to describe honey to a child who eats all of her meals in the school cafeteria and has never seen a bee hive?

So much word gap, so little time. One of the reasons I am so devoted to teaching teens about reading has nothing to do with the elementary kids they are tutoring now. I want them to understand the extent and complexity of the word gap and make sure they have babies that know what white blood cells are when they are four.