Archive for September, 2013

Time Shift Your TV – Peg + Cat

Monday, September 30th, 2013

 Peg and Cat

A sweet new series is being unveiled on Monday, Oct. 7, on PBS KIDS.

Peg + Cat follows the adventures of confident little Peg and her soft-spoken buddy, Cat, as they solve problems and learn math along the way.

The show, which features line drawing animation, is a production of The Fred Rogers Company and will likely be a welcome addition to any pre-school viewing menu.

In each episode, Peg and Cat are faced with a challenge that requires them to use math skills to solve it. But it’s all set in everyday life. Sort of.

According to PBS, we can expect their adventures to take them from a farm to a distant planet, from a pirate island to a prehistoric valley and even from Egypt to Radio City Music Hall. (And you know what it takes to get there!)

The show is targeted at 3 to 5-year-olds, but manages to introduce charts and graphs,  while incorporating simple, familiar images, such as cows and pigs.

The series promises to be charming, while also providing a spirited, little girl role model who not only has a sense of humor but who loves solving math problems.

Home (Away) Schooling

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Home AwayThe notions—and methods—of homeschooling have changed rapidly over the years. One can blame educational gaps on test score tunnel vision and underfunding. However, a good deal of research points to the fact that even top students aren’t truly learning. Education isn’t simply remembering facts and figures. That can be important, but it is also crucial for kids to think critically, adapt and, well, really learn something. To achieve that, we may need to take a whole new approach.

On our vacation this past summer to Costa Rica, we met a family that decided to think outside of the classroom—way outside of the classroom. The Shindell family, including dad Colburn (a teacher), mom Deb (a nurse practitioner) and kids Lucia, 10, and Mac, 8, left their home in Nevada and hit the road for an entire year abroad.

We met while volunteering at an animal sanctuary Proyecto Asis in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The family has been documenting their adventures in their family blog. Colburn explained that their mission was to “home school” the kids while traveling and volunteering in real world situations. “The English and History lessons just come naturally,” explains Colburn. The math lessons, he admits, can be hard.

The family’s blog is a fun read, and an inspiration for making big dreams comes true. The Shindell’s cover the good and the difficult, but prove what we know—kids are resilient and adjust. According to their blog, among other great lessons, arachnophobe Lucia, has gotten used to routinely shaking out her clothes and checking for spiders and scorpions, while Mac, a somewhat picky eater, has tried lots of new foods.

Would you ever take a year off to travel with the family? What kind of unconventional methods do you take to enhance your child’s education?

Announcing the Fall 2013 Parents’ Choice Audio Award Winners!

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Fall 2013 Audio

Announcing the Fall 2013 Parents’ Choice Audio Award winners! Fall arrives with lively, hilarious, and touching new music from talented children’s musicians.

As the leaves change color and fall, listen to Lori Henriques’ musings on why The World is a Curious Place to LiveOr try Recess Music’s latest compilation Share, offering fifteen well-crafted songs about the importance of kindness and generosity. There are serious moments, too, including Alastair Moock’s Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids. The album is inspired by Moock’s daughter’s battle with cancer, and he recorded it as a resource for other families facing childhood cancer.

Explore the world with our other award winners, complete with global folktale performances and rock songs about the history of humans.  Visit the complete list of Parents’ Choice Fall Audio Award Winners and find a new favorite.

Time Shift Your TV – Little Discoverers

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Elmo Investigating

© 2013 Sesame Workshop.

We all know that Sesame Street is typically brought to us by a certain letter and number. The focus of the series has always been on education, giving preschoolers a head start on the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

But in the last four years, the show has been shifting to incorporate more engineering and problem-solving skills, notes a recent New York Times article.

Today, to accompany that curriculum and to accommodate the digital kids in our digital world, Sesame Workshop is unveiling a new “digital destination.” The new websiteLittle Discoverers: Big Fun with Science, Math and More, offers interactive Sesame Street games, videos, and activities with a specific purpose. The goal is to inspire young children to investigate and explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts. The site also provides educators, parents and caregivers with a place showing how STEM concepts can be incorporated into everyday life.

Six topics in particular will be available: Experiments, Sink or Float, Measurement, Force and Motion, Properties of Matter, and Engineering

In six mobile games, you can help “engineer” a train track to help Elmo get to Grover, you can “experiment” with a catapult in a Twiddlebug Toss, and you can help determine how much “force” is needed as you launch trash into Oscar’s can. That one’s similar to the popular game Angry Birds, so your kids may already have mastered it.

With studies showing that U.S. students lag behind Asian and European counterparts in math and science, programming designed to getting kids used to sophisticated STEM concepts earlier may help them later in school in becoming more adept in Science and Engineering. Check it out. As with everything Sesame Street-related, Little Discoverers offers a lot of fun accompanied by a lot of learning.


The Atomic Weight of Words

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

I love to watch my daughter swim.
Photo: Laura Fries

Among so many other virtues, we all hope that our kids are thoughtful. We want them to absorb the world around them, understand the meaning and importance of words and actions. We want them to comprehend life. Trouble is, they already do—kids are notorious sponges—soaking in every nuance around them.

Like most parents, I try to keep it appropriate and affirmative. It never really occurred to me that I may not be saying the words my daughter needs to hear, though. Special education teacher and author Rachel Macy Stafford makes a wonderful case for simple but crucial affirmations in her article, “Six Words You Should Say Today.” The article particularly hit home for me, as I also tend to think more talking,  more information, more interaction is the key. But does my need to analyze everything come off as criticism? I realize now that all along, I haven’t been saying what I have really been feeling, and that needs to change. Have you?