Monday, April 23, 2012

Essential Equipment for Swimming


We have tried a number of different swim floatation devices with our 4 girls over the years, but the one that K is wearing in this picture is my favorite.

This is the swim floaty that K has been using for the past couple of years. I like the fact that it has an actual rubber inner tube inside it, making it very strong.  You can never be too careful around the water, but I feel fairly safe with this one.   

This is the original suit that my older girls used, but I found that the bottom of the suit pulled up & became very uncomfortable, especially under a regular swimsuit.  It was much better with a wetsuit, but I find that the red one without any bottom part stays on just as well as this one, with the added bonus of being comfortable. 

I got both of these suits as hand me downs, so I'm not sure where you can buy them, but for the purposes of searching, the brand names are Swim Ways & I Learn to Swim 123.

When my 3rd daughter was 2, she spent the summer sitting on the ladder of our backyard pool & watching her older sisters swim & only on the very hottest days did she venture into the pool.  She spent most of the following summer the same way.  It was until the summer she was 4, someone gave us some hand me downs that included a little wetsuit. We tried it on her the first time we used the pool the next season & to our surprise, it kept her so warm that she spent the whole afternoon in the pool!  Over the next two months, she spent more time in the pool than she had in her entire life!  From then on I have made sure that my girls have a wetsuit to wear in the pool.  As they have gotten older, they have chosen to wear only regular swimsuits in the public pool, but on chillier days, even my older girls will occasionally don a wetsuit to brave our cool Canadian summer weather in our own pool.

K has had a wetsuit from the time she was a baby & has rarely gotten cold.  Last summer during swim lessons, most of the kids would be blue & shivering by the time the lessons ended & she was still raring to go.  It is amazing to me the difference it makes to their comfort in the water.

Diving into the water......................K doesn't jump in anymore - she dives.  
From my angle, it looks a lot more like a belly flop, but she insists that she is diving:)!

..............and a swimming update from today.....................K swam 2 weeks ago, on Friday & again today.   The difference in the 3 times is huge!  She is still only swimming a short distance at a time, but is swimming further each time & was really using her arms a lot better today. She is so determined & just keep practicing again & again & is even practising floating on her back a lot which, for the longest time, she was very scared of.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Buying Books & Literacy Rates

The start of this is something I wrote in answer to a question, but I thought it might be good to share here too.

We live in the middle of a few different towns & we don't seem to get to any one of them on a regular basis, so getting books from the library doesn't work too well for us - in other words, the late fees were costing me way too much :( !

New books cost so much, especially when you have a voracious reader like K who will often read 1/2 dozen books each day & needs new material to keep challenging her.  Her current neurodevelopmental program goal is for her to read 100 books between her evaluation in early January & the next one in early May.  K is well past her goal - 110 books, which is great, because January to early April is the busiest time of year for us, & often I struggled to get much program done at all. Because she reads so many books,  I needed to find a cheap way to keep up with her appetite for books. I usually buy 2nd hand which means that I don't usually get a whole series of any books for my kids when they are little, besides the occasional favorite that is worth a bigger investment. I do find though, that K has specific types of books she likes such as ones with real photos of other kids, funny books with lots of action & lately, her favorite author, Robert Munsch, whom she asks for by name. I can often find those at 2nd hand stores, so my Robert Munsch library is growing at a decent rate

I do suggest trying to find a local rummage sale, 2nd hand or thrift store. We often get books for .10 or .25 cents.  I buy lots & the odd one isn't used too much, but I can afford to make some mistakes when I'm not paying a lot.  The last time we went, they were overstocked on books & they had a "stuff as many books as you can in a bag for $2.00 deal - WooHoo!   Shhhh.......don't tell my husband about that either! lol

The other thing to keep in mind, which I wish I had given more thought to a few years ago, is how these books can be used in the future. There are a lot of books that are great to read to a child, but have tiny words, or way too many words on each page.  If you are selective, you can find books which can be read to your kids when they are not reading yet, but are also great for our early reading kids.

I buy a lot of the levelled books - some level one, but mostly level two that K is reading right now, & level 3 & 4's if I find them real cheap because K is reading the odd one now, & I know I will be scrounging for them soon enough. It is different for every kid, but K prefers books which have larger print & not too many sentences per page, & I find that the leveled books are pretty good for this..

In the beginning, we chose books with one large word, then a short phrase, & now, although she finds 2nd grade level books the most enjoyable to read, she still prefers books at that level that don't have a lot of sentences on each page.

 I was reading an article tonight about a US study which talked about the number of books in a home & how that was related to literacy rates. I didn't read the actual study, just the article, but it stated that families who were considered low income had an average of 1 book per 300 kids compared to an average of 13 books per child in a middle income family. In libraries, the were an average of 2 books available per child in low income neighborhoods & 4 in middle income neighborhoods.  There was found to be a close relationship between the number of books & the average literacy rate.

I find the 1 book per 300 kids in low income areas to be quite unbelievable & even 13 books per child in a middle income family seems low.  I suppose if the family frequents the library, perhaps they don't need to buy a lot, but even so, 13 books per kid????  I bought 4 books on Saturday & about 12 the Friday before, plus a 10 stories in one book series - That's just in a matter of a few days, & I buy at least a few books each week - sometimes more!

I really think it is important to have a good supply of quality books on a wide variety of subjects - thanks goodness there are enough inexpensive places to buy books that we can have an endless supply!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Questions About Early Reading, Math & Speech

Here are some more questions from a reader .  My replies are in purple.

I stumbled on your blog a few days ago, which is immensely helpful, and am hoping you can answer some questions for me.
My child is 24 months old and is speaking about 15-20 words, so working on speech is a priority for us.
I am wondering a couple of things:
- when did your DD begin to speak single words?

She was about 7 months when she spoke her first word, & if I remember right, she had about 8 or 10 by one year - I wrote it down, but I forgot where - oops.  
- was she reading before she was speaking? if so, how did you know that she could read - did u test for actions or something?
I'm sure she was, but I feel very strongly that testing should be done very rarely, if at all.  I did test briefly, on one occasion when K was about 15 months & was certain then that she was reading some words.  We really didn't test again until she was about 2 & started voluntarily saying words out loud. It was really only in about January that we started consistently getting her to read books for us each day. Until that time, we waited until she was in the right mood to read to us.  I think it is much more important to make sure it is a good experience & that the child does not feel pressured than to have to know how they are doing.  It can be a very frustrating leap of faith, but a lifelong love of learning & reading is much more important. If I was going to try to test, I'd be sneaky & teach action words & model the action, hoping for a response.
-- what things did you think were most helpful for getting her to speak more words?
Probably the most important thing  wasn't anything I did! K is the youngest of 4 daughters & she hears a lot of talking from all of the family.  My next oldest daughter KJ, is a "gifted talker", & K has been known to say "KJ, please stop talking." lol!
Some things that we did that I think helped were:
 - talking to her a lot & explain things to her - we talked about just about everything even as a very tiny infant.  We talked about sounds we heard, we described what we were doing when changing or dressing her, we talked about colours, body parts, familiar objects, foods, you name it - even very uncommon subjects.  For example, last summer just after she turned 4, we  had a conversation about some irrigation equipment we saw on the side of the road.  
- to give her lots of time to respond to us verbally.  Even when she was too young to speak, we would listen very patiently for her to make some sort of noise & have a conversation.

Google Dr. James McDonald's site - his Communicating Partners method is wonderful. He also has an active Yahoo group you can join.

Longvida curcumin & fish oil are two supplements to research that can be helpful for speech.

- i have been doing Glenn Doman's sight words program with physical word cards (only the words - no pictures) for a few months now, and just saw the post on Little Reader. I am curious about why you stuck with the physical cards only for a while, and at what point you transitioned to the Little Reader program itself?

We actually stayed with physical word cards for a very long time.  Until K was about 3.5 years, she would not even look at a flashcard that did not have a picture on the other side!  From age 3.5 to 4, we started to do more word only cards, & only in the last 6 months have we transitioned right over to Little Reader.  We will still rarely do cards, but not often.  We still do home made, laminated books occasionally, but more often to help teach or prepare K for things like her recent trip to the dentist, which, thanks to all the  preparation with her personalized "My Visit to the Dentist" book, went very well.  The biggest reason we switched is that she was getting to the point that she was sounding words out & had so many sight words that her vocabulary was tested at age 4.5 at a 4th grade level.  I felt that it was better to just stick with longer sentences on Little Reader or getting her to read us stories. Even on Little Reader, besides finishing up a series of phonics files, most of what I pick to show her is more geography, science & French words because we are starting to focus more on learning a 2nd language.
This is a picture of many of our flashcards - those are bundles 
of cards, not just individual cards - we have thousands!

- on Little Reader, do u do all the methods each day - flash cards, multisensory and picture flash cards?
- when did you start Little Math?

 When we got the Little Reader program, it was just in it's initial beta testing stage.  The didn't have the semesters yet, so we just made our own play lists.  By the time the semesters were finished, K was too far along in her reading, so I just used some of their files & still created my own play lists &  more & more I find that I need to create my own files to keep her challenged  & entertained

We have puttered with Little Math off & on, but didn't officially get the full program until last summer.  It just seemed like I had too many things going on & didn't really focus on Math.  We also did the Doman red dot cards when K was little, but again, I wasn't real consistent.  Doman dots & Little Math are meant to be done with very little kids - under age 2 for typical kids.  We have & do still use Little Math, but have now gone to a program called Math N' More which was recommended by K's neurodevelopmentalist.  We have been consistently doing 1 or 2 pages a day since about October of last year along with some other math activities & it is going very well.

I recognize you are probably superbusy but would be most grateful for any light you can shed to help me out.
THank you,

The other thing I would like to add is that it is really important to use pictures to help teach comprehension.  I think it is easier to teach to word meaning & develop comprehension at the same time rather than have a child that can parrot back words but doesn't understand what they are reading. Because K insisted on having the pictures too, we accidentally helped her to have really good comprehension of what she reads. She reads directions all the time - it is her job to read directions in her math book & follow through & she does a great job of it.

Good Luck & I'd love to hear an update down the road!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fun at the Science Center!

The science center was a blast - literally!  We got to blast off a rocket ship! We had so much fun exploring & learning at the same time.  It is a wonderful activity for our whole family.  With a 4 kids from 4.5 to 15 years, there aren't as many things that they all enjoy, but the science center is definitely a hit!


K is counting the teeth on this enormous mouth!

The aprons to keep the kids dry?  Ya right!  We took a lot of science center water home with us!

Throwing balls into the vortex.

Balancing a ball in the stream of water.

The floor Piano was one of K's favorite activities - she is 
never allowed to even climb on the piano at home!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

 Happy Easter Everyone! 

Today my girls decorated Easter eggs.  We did dye some eggs a couple of days ago, but today they spent close to an hour grating crayons of various colours.  They put each different colour of crayon shavings into a separate glasses & added boiling water.  When they dipped the eggs into the different glasses, the colour stuck to the eggs creating beautiful patterns.  The girls were thrilled with the results & though all of my readers here, & on Facebook would love to see them, so here they are!


Here`s a closeup.  They look a little lumpy, but the colors are beautiful!

This one is KJ, my 9 year old`s favorite.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fighting back against the winter cold & flu season

K is 4 now, & is finally (knock on wood) having a great year with only 2 mild colds that lasted about 4 days each.

For the last couple of years, to prevent or to help K recover from a cold, we have been using probiotics, fish oil, Nutrivene D vitamins on a regular basis, & add extra vitamin C, zinc, echinacea & elderberry when sick.  K has never been hospitalized for her colds, but they just seemed to drag on for most of the winter. This year, the only thing that I did differently, is when she is sick, I have been removing all sugar, wheat & dairy products from her diet.  I'm not sure if it is a coincidence or not, but I am thrilled that she isn't dealing with the constant colds this winter & will continue this if she gets any other colds.

UPDATE - I actually wrote this in early March, & K has had one more cold since then.  It started about 10 days ago, & we were away at a ski race for a few days at the time.  I find it a lot harder to provide a gluten, dairy & sugar free diet when we are packing lunches & eating at restaurants, so she did not have the benefit of a good diet this time - she is still fighting this cold:(  Bad mommy - I will have to try harder next time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Swimmer is Back!

Last summer, K was doing wonderfully with swimming.  She had just gotten to the point that she could swim about 10 feet or so & even go under the water & retrieve some diving rings before coming up for air. Then the days quickly started to get shorter & our outside pool had to be retired for the winter.  During the first month or so of fall, we were so busy with back to school stuff & sports, that we didn't get her to our local public pool to keep up her skills, then when we finally did, we discovered that the pool was closed for fall cleaning & renovations.  All in all, she probably didn't swim for about 2.5 months.  Just like one of my older girls, this was too long of a break for a just starting out swimmer, & by the time we got her back in the pool later in the fall, she had regressed a little & while still comfortable in the water, she was no longer swimming independently.  My goal was to get her in the pool at least a couple of times a month during the winter so that she was at least comfortable in the pool, then work on swimming again once our pool is set up again in May.  K had other ideas & in the past couple of months has really been improving.  We have been staying at hotels a couple of times per month for ski races, & we always make sure we stay where there has been a pool. Each time, she swims 2 or 3 times, plus a couple of times per month at the local pool, & that has been enough practice to swim a short distance independently again today!  It was only about 8 feet, but she is excited & wanting to practice more.  We live in a rural area with lots of water around, so I will be so relieved once she is able to swim a couple of lengths of the pool independently.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


This morning, my oldest daughter & I were chatting about plans for her upcoming birthday.  Rather than receiving presents, she will be asking all of her friends & family to donate to one of a couple of charities that she is choosing. Of course, Reece's Rainbow came up in our conversation, & my daughter had their website up on her computer, so I checked in on Abbott.  I was saddened to learn that he has been transferred to an institution. I know that this commonly occurs after children turn 4 years of age, but it was still a shock to me.  I have been so behind on blog posts lately & have been planning to write about him again, but I've let too much time slip by & am so sad that it took something like this to get me into action again.

Anyways, another interesting thing happened this morning.  When I checked my blog, I had a couple of comments awaiting moderation.  One was from another mom & blogger at Loving the Crew
Unbeknown to me, she has also been advocating for Abbott & will be holding a fundraiser for him in late April or May. Please check out her blog on the above link & support  her fundraiser.

As of tonight, there is only $2018.00 in Abbott's fund.  Abbott needs 2 things now.  He needs to find his forever family & he needs to have his adoption fund full to help his new family get him out of the institution & safely home as soon as possible. Please consider donating to Abbotts fund.  Most of us are able to spare at least a small amount, but if you aren't able to donate, then please share the link to Abbots page, blog about him or do whatever you can to help his forever family to find him & to help others learn about him so that they can donate too. 

We can all help bring Abbott home!