Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Can I Teach My Newborn, Infant or Toddler Basic Kindergarten Skills? YES YOU CAN!

Babies are smart! Newborns, Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers, learn faster and easier than you and I.

What can you do to help your little ones learn right from birth??

#1 Sing to them!

Yes I said sing to them. Sounds so simple, but it really is! But don't feel you need to stick to the basic Row Row your Boat or Mary Had a Little Lamb. Of course use these fun songs and what ever song your Mom or Dad sung to you as a baby. But lets get creative! Sing the ABCs, count to 100, count backwards from 100, skip count by 2s, 5s, 10s, days of the week, months of the year, etc.

By doing this you are bonding with your child, comforting them, loving them and educating them. My now when Baby Z was an infant, he hated car rides. Our whole family would sing to him, "The A says ahhh, the A says Ahh. Every letter makes a sound, the A says Ahh!" and so forth throughout the whole alphabet. This helped calm him, but it also helped him learning the letter sounds (phonics) at a really early age.


Little Reader, MemoFlix and Wink to Learn English helped expose Baby Z to so many words. But you don't need to buy DVDs or computer programs to do this if you don't want to. (Though it does help a lot.) Label your house and do little home tours pointing to all the words as you walk by with your baby.

When your out with your baby talk about what's happening. "Oh look! Its starting to rain. Do you feel the drops on your head?'

#3 DVD and Computer programs
Technology is not bad. It can be used for the wrong reasons, yes. However I believe it can be a powerful tool to help educate our children. I know what the AAP's stand is on screen time before 2. Thing is I'm not one to let to government tell me how to raise my children. Yes, I follow car seat safety rules to the tee, but we don't vaccinate. I choice to educate myself, and make a decision for my family. Not blindly follow like sheep.
My personal experience is, if you choose high quality, educational materials, screen time can be very helpful in educating my children. It's something you will have to look at for your family. I should also point out I am talking about real educational materials, like Your Baby Can Read, Little Reader, and Monki See just to name a few. 

#4 Tablets
If you have access to a iPad, take advantage of it! Baby Z learned so much from several apps. Even though many of them were WAY beyond his ability, we did them for him and had him watch. Input, input, input! When he got a bit older I took his hand and made his little hand operate the app. (with his cooperation of course.) Then eventually he was able to operate several of them without my help. This is an awesome way to teach your young child colors, shapes, numbers, letters, letter sounds, sight words, etc. 

Stay tune! I am compiling a list of AWESOME IOS apps for babies and toddlers.

#5 Carefully picked toys

If you step into the toy section at Walmart or dare to enter Toys R Us, you can easily see there are many, many options for toys for your young child. Not all toys are created equal. But there are certain brands that are usually a pretty safe bet like Leap Frog and Melissa & Doug. But the best places I have found GOOD quality toys are thrift stores and garage sales. With a little soap and water they are good as new and a fraction of the price.

Letter blocks, matching games, stacking cups, etc are all great toys for little hands. These toys are perfect for little hands to explore on their own when you are making dinner or need two seconds to eat the said dinner. Also they a great to play together with your child.

Watch for an entry about great education toys that we love!

#6 Flashcards

 This is where I might get some grief. Yes there is a place for flashcards in an infant, toddler and preschoolers life. My boys LOVE flashcards. But its because I do not drill them with the flashcards. I show them to Zakari the same way as I would show him a book.

A few books with looking into at the library or Amazon would be:
How to Teach Your Baby to Read (The Gentle Revolution Series)

How Smart Is Your Baby?: Develop and Nurture Your Newborn's Full Potential (The Gentle Revolution Series)

These are good reads too, but I would focus on reading the first two listed. Then read these if you have time.

How to Teach Your Baby Math (The Gentle Revolution Series)

How to Give Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge (The Gentle Revolution Series)

Now it should be noted that Doman's method is a lot of work. I did not follow Doman's method to the tee. I did make many flashcards. I also used multimedia, little Little Reader, DVDs, etc. 

There is also no need to make the flashcards as large as Doman recommends. Yes bigger is better, but I found 8x11 works well too.  


You can teach your baby to read, count, know basic kindergarten knowledge in toddlerhood. I know this from experience! The best part is they love it! Children are little sponges, and the younger they are the easier they learn. Why not teach them to read when they are able to do so with less effort at one or two instead of waiting till they are 6 or 7 years old. 

Oh but I know what some are thinking. Monique just let them be babies. Tiger mom! Why rush them to grow up? Let them be kids! 

My reply to this is, why hold back our children? My two year old loves to read. He gets excited at the grocery store when he can read the words on the wall. He reads what's in his fruit pouches first to see what flavour he is about to eat. I have by no means forced him to learn. I just enriched his environment. Carefully selected only highly educational programs to expose him to during screen time. Used car time, waiting rooms, potty time, and bedtime to expose him to good quality apps or books with large words.

What did this do? It helped my son who is now 27 months be able to:

  • read any 3 letter word he is presented
  • know all his colors
  • know all his shapes, including shapes like octagon, oval and 3D shapes like cylinder.  
  • know all his basic farm and zoo animals and their sounds
  • knows all his letters and letter sounds. Even is starting to figure out letters like c and g have two sounds.
  • know how to read more words then I'm able to keep track of. (we were in the hundreds not including 3 letter words a while back, my guess is we are now in the 1000s)
  • understands phonics and can sound out new words he has never seen
  • Counts to 20 by ones forwards and backwards(has gone higher but usually only goes to 20 because he loses interest
  • Counts to 100 by 10s and 5s
  • Counts to 30 by 2s
  • knows his days of the week and months of the year
  • and much much more
I'm not listing this to brag, nor do I think my son is special. He has just grown up in an enriched environment and was exposed to this stuff in a fun way. ALMOST ANY CHILD CAN LEARN THIS STUFF TOO! Even children with special needs.

When people asking me, "Why teach them to read?" I ask "Why not!" It opens a whole new world to them. 

A few weeks ago we were at Shoppers Drugmart, and I was wearing Baby Z on my back in an Ergo carrier. We were waiting in line when he noticed the words over the cooler and started pointing at it and yelling, "Water! Water! Water!" I walked up to pay for my items and gently said "Yes sweetie there is water in the cooler." The older woman behind me said with her jaw dropped, "No! He's not pointing at the water in the cooler, he is pointing at the word. I think he just read the word water. Can he read?" I just brushed it off that he knows a few words because I didn't have time to have a conversation. But if I had time I might have gone into details if the woman was open to it. Who knows maybe she has grandchildren. 

The point of this story is, instead of Baby Z just being able to look into the items around the store and try and figure out what they are that way, we have given him another piece to the puzzle. The ability to read what the words are. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Preventing the Summer Slide with Dreambox

This summer has been one of our most structured summers when it comes to doing school with Wes. One program I did purchase this year to use was Dreambox Learning.
My long term readers may remember me doing a review on Dreambox Learning back in 2010, you can read it HERE if you'd like to see what I thought about it back then. The site has changed BIG time since then though. For example, back then it was geared towards K-3. Now it is designed for ages K-7! Also students can work through this program on their iPads.

I'm not sure if its that Wes is now more mature now, or the site has improved a lot, but he is doing AMAZING with this program. Before I thought of it as a supplement. Honestly at the end of June when I opened this account I thought "Oh we'll just use it for the summer then I will cancel the account." Nope, I am going to purchase a year subscription and use it along side Saxon math.

Math is something Wes is really strong in, however I'm not 100% comfortable with how Math is taught in our schools. I know they use the Manitoba curriculum, and I have read though it. But to me it seems like a lot is left at the discretion of the teacher. Each teacher could be pulling methods from different curriculums to meet the Manitoba Curriculum standard, and the teacher the next year could pull from other curriculums. And with the Common Core influence from the US leaking into Canada, I want my son to handle on Math. So I'm using Dreambox to reinforce and accelerate what he is learning in the school system. Then I am using Saxon math in help him get a good grip on old fashion paper and pencil math.

The combination seems to be doing him wonders. We have two and a half weeks left of summer here in Canada, and Wes has completed 36% of the grade 4 curriculum. I know this will give him a good leg up in school come September. This was done by spending 45mins 3-4 times a week.

I totally recommend Dreambox Learning to anyone interesting in helping their child catch up, or get ahead in math.

While I'm not being compensated directly by Dreambox for this review, if you would like a free month trial, leave your email in the comments box and I will send you one from my account. This will allow me to possibly earn free months for Wes to us this program.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Touch Math Upper Grade Workbook Review

Even though Wes is in public school, there are a few subjects I just cannot leave in the hands of the public school system. I think even though your child is in school you should still play an active part in their education. Especially when it comes to math. Even though your child has a wonderful teacher(like my son does) there is no way they can individualize their curriculum based on their needs with 20+ children in class. There is a curriculum that must be followed and with a timeline to meet. While some children grasp the concept after one assignment, another child may need several. So I have decided to support both my son and his teacher and afterschool him.

Afterschooling is when a child attended school outside the home, but the received supplemental teachings at home, in the evenings, weekends and holidays.

When I was homeschooling my son we struggled to find a math program that didn't end up with him in tears. I'm telling you I bought several, but TouchMath was what broke the ice for Wes. He just blossomed when he was finally taught the strategies in a way he could understand.

Here are some of my past TouchMath reviews if you'd like to check them out:

Today I am reviewing The Upper Grade Workbooks on Addition and Subtraction . The workbook consists of 56 pages of student activity sheets that features scaffolding problems that help the student work to mastery. Each workbook also includes a answer key for easy correcting for busy parents.

Wes was super excited when he heard these books were coming in the mail. When he got home and found the package in the mail box he was so pumped he actually sat down and completed 15 pages in one sitting. TouchMath has always been a very inviting to him, and is honestly one if his favorite math programs too,

I loved the fact that the scaffolding method helped Wes realize that if he could add and subtract single digits, double digits were not that hard. Then when adding hundreds and thousands were introduced he was able to smoothly transition.

The writing in the books are clean, crisp and free of distraction, while still child friendly. While the downloadable pages you can purchase from TouchMath, I like the ready workbook that requires no planning. After I correct my son's work and any corrections are made, I circle the page numbers of the pages I want him to do the next day and put it away. The following day when asked to do his TouchMath, he opens his book and knows which pages to do. Sometime he will even circle the number of an extra page or two when he feels like he's on a roll and completes those too.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!! When Little Z is ready for workbooks, we will be starting with kindergarten level workbooks for sure. Hopefully they will have a Preschool level workbooks by then. TouchMath has been a total blessing for my family. The skills he has learned over the years using this program can easily be transferred to other math programs he is using at school. And at $10 a workbook they are VERY affordable.

One thing about TouchMath back when I first started doing reviews for them what it was not easily accessible for homeschooling or afterschooling parents due to the cost. Back then it was designed for the classroom. But over the last few years they have created products like this and others that are smaller, and designed to be used by parents and one or two children instead of a teacher and 20+ children. They really take suggestions from parents and educators seriously. They want to know how the children who are using their program are doing.

Disclaimer: I received these workbook in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any other way.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Long over due update. 23 months and starting to read

Well its been a long time since I last updated. I just felt pulled away from the blogging world and needed to step back for a little while. But this afternoon I felt like I needed to update and maybe start blogging a bit. 

Well Baby Z is now 23 months. Hmmmm.... I should maybe start calling him Little Z instead because he is hardly a baby anymore. Oh how he is growing. He loves to count, sing, dance, climb, jump, and play with cars. Oh I can not forget his LOVE with the piano. He is a very active and busy little boy, but the piano is one time where he will sit still and play the keys. I did something crazy last night and I signed him up for piano lessons in September. Totally for exposure. I don't expect him to be playing any time soon. But if he can spend 10 mins a week with a teacher who can help me use proper terminology, and get the chance to play on a grand piano I think it will help. 

Last month we introduced Sign Language. Back when he was younger I tried to incorporate Signing Time, but he had no interest. Well I threw it on one day when I notice it was on Netflix. Ever since then he’s been singing the intro song and throwing in a few signs here and there. It seems to also have help his ability to label things. Snow, trees, wind, carrot, etc.

Of course we are still working through Little Reader, Little Chinese, Little Math, and Little Musician. We review Suzy Piano, YBCR and MonkiSee periodically. Now that Zakari is chatting a lot more, I notice he is labeling things and I think it is because of the materials he has seen in all of these programs. I also notice he his singing letters, and Do Re Mi’s. They seem very random as of yet, but I know from other children (TmT) this is the first step to perfect pitch. Little Champion Reader is also a daily part of our schedule.

We have been using Teach Me Kindergarden as an input of knowledge, and when he feels like it he sometimes will show me output. He’s really good at letting me guide his fingers over the tracing of letters and numbers. Wes has gotten in some awful habits when it comes to forming letters and numbers. So I’m hoping to avoid the constant corrections by introducing this skill at a younger age. has been a big part of our lesson time as well. I don’t want to miss any of the preschool basics and leave Z unbalanced in his education, and this seems to fill the gaps. Now that it is available on the ipad, Z can navigate the site easily, as he is not ready for a mouse. There is a lot of busy work, like colouring the random pictures in a Paint like activity, but we just quickly color it and move on.

We were doing Hooked On Phonics on the iPad, but they only have 4 levels available, and we have done those several times. Z loves them. I called the company back in September and they told me level 5 would be out in October. Sadly it never came out. I have a feeling I’m going to have to carry on with HOP in binder form.

Speaking of binder, I created a flash card binder for Z. We quickly flip through it once a day or so. So far it includes:
- Follow that dot flashcards
- Backwards counting 10-0, skip counting by 2’s and 3’s
- First Language Lessons(modified for toddlers)
- EK flashcards (right now we are doing organs)
- Prepositions
- Music Notes from the IAHP course
- Telling time (Hours)

We have been working on things like shape sorters, puzzles, etc. But he’s still pretty busy for these activities. I’m looking at getting the Learning Resources food color sorter. It looks like something that we can use to start classifying things. Not only colors, but veggies vs fruits, etc. We also play with the abacus, counting.

Z is reading some single words, knows his letters and letter sounds. Counts forwards to 18, and backwards from 10-5 so far. Also recognizes written numbers 0-10(atleast).  Sings several nursery rhymes. Knows most of his farm animals and their sounds. Working on labeling zoo animals(does know several of them already). He knows about 8 shapes. Also last week he started skip counting by 2s.
We had a breakthrough with colors this last month. I was getting so frustrated and was convinced he was color blind. He’s knows letters, shapes, numbers, etc for months and could not grasp colors. But finally he master Preschool Preps Colors app.  

Another crazy thing I did was add in Classical Conversations to his routine. They now have an app available, so we have been using that as another source of input. I also downloaded an app called Little Solver on the recommendation of another EL mom. Its all about logic and problem solving skills. While I planned on using it as another input resource, he did start attempting to answer some of the problems himself, and doing pretty good at it.

Little Z is now starting to read more and more words that are labeled on his flashcards, also out in public. It is so amazing to watch the lightbulbs click in his head.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What the boys are doing these days.

I got a gentle push again from my dear friend reminding me its been a while since my last update. Honestly the last month I seem to have been getting sick here and there, and well this blog was put on the back burner.

The boys are doing very well. Wes is advancing through his piano book, and doing very well. I started him more on a after school routine. Every evening he is suppose to do 20 mins of home reading for school, and then practice his piano for piano lessons. His teacher doesn't send home any homework and now that he's in grade 3 I see an issue with this. I don't want him to be shell shocked when he starts grade 4 or 5 and starts getting 30mins to an hour of homework a night. So when he arrives home I proved him a pile of books to read. I set a timer for his 20 mins.

Wes struggles with comprehension. He is amazing at decoding words, but what is the point of being able to decode if you don't understand what you are reading? So a while back I found these books. I know he's in the third grade, but I decided to buy the 1st and 2nd grade first. I'd rather him work through a book and have success with it, then start him at the grade 3 level and have it be too hard and have him give up. Also even though the first few assignments in the 1 st grade may seem easy, I think he is still taking something away from it.

I also decided to start taking advantage of our Click N Kids subscriptions. Wes is always wanting iPad/Computer time, and frankly I'm sick of the mind numbing garbage that he's watching/playing. So I have him do one lesson of the spelling program and one of the phonics. Right now he's whizzing though it. I'm bumping him up 5 phonics levels each time trying to find his level. As for spelling, we just started this, but I having him go to the lessons that offer a test of the previous lessons. If he does well I bump him up to the next level that has a test. If he were to do poorly, or not pretty close to 100% I would go back and have him complete the previous levels. 

 So the other day my step daughter came home with her homework from school. She attends a well know college prep school(pre-k to Grade 12). I flipped through the book as I had heard about it from the BrillKids forum. I like them a lot, so I looked into ordering them. I was shocked that they were available on for such an affordable price. Wes is pretty strong in math, but even still I decided to start him off with the second part of grade 2. The second book in the grade to series introduces the children to multiplication, and I didn't feel it would be wise to skip over that piece. Even though we whip through it in no time, its a good solid start. Leaving math to the school system scares me as its so important. I ordered both of the grade 3 books as well.

I know this might seem like a lot, but really it takes him from when he gets home at 4ish till I'm done work around 5pm. One hour and then he has from "5pm-8pm to just be a kid." Plus I think when the day comes that he has a teacher that feels kids should have homework, he wont feel so shocked. 


Baby Z. Oh wow what a character. "Stop don't do that", in his language means, Quick! Do it faster. He is extremely busy and into everything. I use to think playpens should only be for sleeping, and using them while the child is awake is cruel. That was until I met Baby Z. You place him in a playpen with a pile of books, he will happily look through them. Place him on the floor with the same pile of books, he will abandon them and try and knock over the TV, push any button he can find, chew on the table or manage to remove the power socket covers.

While it seems no matter how much baby proofing I do upstairs, he can find SOMETHING to get into trouble with. My downstairs is a safe haven for him. He can go go go and rarely get into trouble. I try to spend as much time as possible with him down there, but there are times I need to be in the kitchen and he needs to go in there. But I'm finding going to other peoples house exhausting. I think I'm going to have to look into training him. Maybe blanket training. I hate the thought of it, but I can't be running after him like a crazy lady. Right now its ok, because he's small and cute, but it wont be like that forever.
Before the haircut

 We took Baby Z for yet another haircut. Last Tuesday I noticed when he was eating his hair was falling in his eyes and bugging him. Well thank goodness it was a friend of mine cutting his hair (I also watch her little girl) because I don't think anyone else would have had enough patience for him. He screamed like she was cutting off limbs instead of hair. Then when she was done his hair and went on to cut his brothers he started sympathy crying. He screamed until we left the salon.  

After his haircut

That being said, I don't want people to think he is an awful child. Far from! Maybe yes, I could take Wesley wherever and he would not get into everything. But Z is an AMAZING sleeper. Wes I had to rock and rock and rock and when he fell asleep I would sit there holding him wondering, is he a sleep enough for me to put him down? Baby Z I just lay him down with his blankie and walk out and he rolls over and goes to sleep. Worse case he yells out at me once to tell me he's ticked off I'm suggesting its bed time. But then stops immediately. Also with the exception of meat, Baby Z eats a lot better then Wes did at the same age. Wesley would only eat baby food until he was 2 years old. Z loves to experiment with new foods. 

We are still doing a lot of the same educational activities were were before. Baby Z has most of the 3 levels of Meet the Sight Words on the iPad down path. And I have introduced Meet The Blends DVD. 

I found a new series of DVDs called Little Champion Reader. It looks like a better made, more complete Your Baby Can Read series. More DVDs, less flashcards and more books then the YBCR set. So I feel back into my old ways of buying impulsively... and I ordered it. So I'll let you guys know what I think when it comes. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Baby boy at the library

Finally!! Baby Z let Daddy see how much he knows his shapes, numbers and colors! He always seem to just goof off and select the wrong answer when Hubby would come around. But today he totally shined during his lessons and showed his dad how much he has learned.

I just cannot get over how much such a young child can learn when they are having fun.

So, I'm not very good with library cards. Ok I right out suck at not getting fines. My current balance is $117. Yep! Can you believe that! Well I tried to sign up Z for a card so we could take some books out for him. LOL yeah they put a limit on his account to 2 books because of me being a delinquent LOL. When I pay that off his card will be released to 50 books. I guess I kind of snickers. Like I'll have $117 to pay that off. She then told me I could pay $20 the first month and $10 a month till its paid off and after my first payment they would release my card. So I'm going back Thursday to do that. They have all these great preschool bundle packs I'd love to take out for Baby Z.

For my measly 2 books I got these two:

They have sandpaper letters and numbers inside. I may actually go buy these. 
Sorry for the short entry. My mind is just turning with all the plans I have for my 2 boys. It has been a very motivating month for me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

16 months, videos of Baby Z practicing Sight Words and Shapes

Well Baby Z and I have been busy! We finally are settled in a routine after moving and have taken full advantage of our iPad. He is now 16 months old. Finally walking.
Right now we typically do:
2 sessions of Little Reader
2 Sessions of Little Math
2 sessions of Little Chinese
2 Sessions of Little Musician
3 sessions of
1 session of Hooked On Phonics app
1-2 sessions of Preschool Prep app- Shapes
1-2 sessions of Preschool Prep app- Numbers
1-2 sessions of Preschool Prep app- Sight Words 1
2-3 sessions of Teach Me Toddler
We also spend a lot of time reading, counting, and just playing.
16 months there seems to have been a whole lot of changes. He is crossing over from being a baby to being a toddler. I cant believe how many words are starting to come out of his mouth, just out of nowheres like:
- Cat(he also meows back at our cat)
- Banana
- Boob (when he wants to nurse. Not great I know, but its kind of funny... for now)
- Octagon
- Green
- Blue
- Play
He's not as big into signing as his brother was. But then thinking back Wes didnt really start signing till he was 22 months, and he was in a daycare located in our local deaf centre. Half his teachers were deaf.
Baby Z had his first experience at the beach last weekend. Lots of new sensory opportunities. But he only tried to eat the sand once LOL. A mouth full was enough for his liking. I thought a few times he was going to have a meltdown, but he never did. We are going back tonight. We have to get in as much beach time as we can before summer slips into fall.

I thought I'd share a few videos of Baby Z. The first is Baby Z practicing his Shapes with the Preschool Prep Shapes app.

This video is Baby Z practicing his Sight Words.