Teachable Moments : Letters

Living with kids, we’re realizing that there are teachable moments all around us! So we’re turning them into a blog series. Example number 1 : BUGS!

I guess it was about a year ago, when Alex was just turning three, that we started to pay more attention to letters. It began with singing the alphabet and spelling his name, and then we started to help him identify the letters all around him : pointing out letters that we saw on daily adventures, spelling words on packages and in store windows, and it’s snowballed from there.

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Early on, we realized that we could minimize a lot of letter confusion if we just stuck to one case, and for now our focus is on uppercase letters. They’re everywhere! ūüėČ

And in this post I wanted to share¬†a few of the fun ways that we’ve increased the letter play in our house.

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The Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies from Trader Joes are awesome. They taste great, and the container contains all of the letters as well as a few numbers. I keep a container of these in the car and they become my go-to snack if we’re out longer than expected and caught with empty bellies. The main game with Alex is just passing him a few and asking him to identify the letters and numbers by name.

I was out of the letter U the day I was taking the first pic, so Luc’s name was spelled with an O with the top chomped off… and that brings me to another fun game – when we’re eating pretzels, Alex will take calculated bites to try to form letters! It’s pretty cute and pretty abstract, but I love the creativity, and I think it stems from eating letters in other foods.

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My mom found the alphabet noodles in the photo above, and she’ll send us a bag every so often (I haven’t found them in any of the stores around us in CO). Just like the cookies, they contain all of the letters and a few numbers. The kids love to eat these with just butter and salt – perfect for still being able to identify the letters when eating. And I find that when Alex has a whole bowl of these in front of him, he’s more likely to try to spell a word, which can’t happen when I’m just giving him one or two cookies at a time.

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As far as non-edible letter fun goes, we realized that the Bananagram tiles are perfect for play. They are plain and uppercase. Win win! I’m sure scrabble would work too.

And below, Alex is showing off his skills at our letterboard. We keep this hanging in the kitchen with a fun saying on it, but whenever I’m going to change the phrase, I bring it down to the counter with a pile of letters and let Alex play.

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At first he was really into matching up the same letters in a row, but then we advanced to copying basic words. I’ll write words he’s interested in on an index card, and then he’ll find the letters and spell it on the board. It’s perfect for keeping him occupied while I work on dinner!

And beyond these “tools”, we’re big fans of reading, pointing out letters in everyday life, and answer Alex’s every question about how this or that is spelled.

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Teachable Moments : an Introduction

Now that Alex is¬†nearing 4 years old and Luc is nearing 2, I’m starting to be more intentional with how we spend some of our time together. While they¬†spend their¬†days playing, I want to highlight more “teachable¬†moments” that challenge the¬†boys to learn new skills, whether it’s¬†physical, practical, and/or academic. And since we blog about what we love and what’s important to us, I’m hoping to share some of these pre-school teaching adventures on the blog.

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We’ve already started some of this work and sharing through the Cooking with Kids¬†series, but I’d like to expand the posts to share some of the work we’re doing outside of the kitchen.

Our Learning Philosophy

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, it’s no surprise that Sarah and I enjoy¬†challenging ourselves to learn new things, and (of course), we love to share what we’ve learned with others. Much of what we do here on the blog is from the perspective of an amateur in that we’ve had no formal schooling in cooking, crafting, or potion-making, yet other things we do from the perspective of professionals (Sarah as a photographer and yogi, myself as a scientist, naturalist, and quasi-economist). Beyond spending years as a student, I’ve also¬†worked as an educator in one capacity or another (volunteering to work with high school kids in urban gardens, being a teaching assistant in grad school, and teaching college courses). All that’s to say that we have many passions, some we’ve pursued through formal education and others we’ve pursued as hobbies.

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As you may expect,¬†we’re keen to pass our love of learning on to the boys. The most important skills that I hope to nurture in them are to be observant of the world around them, ask questions about how the world works, and come up with ideas¬†that try to answer those questions. I’m hoping to raise curious problem solvers. Of course, I’m also hoping to raise kiddos with a social conscious, but aren’t we all? I hope?

What are Teachable Moments?

While they’re still young, I’m not concerned about enrolling the kiddos in a rigorous academic environment, rather, I think it’s fairly easy to engage¬†them in teachable moments no matter what we’re doing from one day to the next. For example, Alex is starting to identify letters of the alphabet and spell simple words. He doesn’t need worksheets to help with this, instead, we’re always finding moments to have him find letters (road signs, cereal boxes, books, etc.). And Luc’s learning is much more basic – he’s learning to form sentences, ask questions, and (of course) he tries to copy anything his big brother does from counting to jumping off the furniture. So we spend a lot of time talking to/with Luc¬†(not at him) to help his language develop. I ask him questions, give him time to answer. Before he was even speaking in sentences,¬†I would really listen when he¬†was making noises at me, because often he had something he was trying to communicate.

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Whatever the subject manner, there’s often a way to relate to it in our day-to-day lives.¬†For example, Calder and I were total dorks when we bought the NPS pass and talked about the utility we get just from knowing that we could go to any park at any time… and when I’m hiking in the mountains, a rock slide makes me want to talk about entropy –¬†the idea that things gradually go from an ordered to disordered state. The bottom line is that there are so many moments in the day where we could stop, observe, and start an academic conversation about a whole slew of topics.

But those are big ideas. At the boys’ age, I like to follow their curiosity. Some days we’re using blocks to see who can build the highest tower, and why does one stay up while another falls? Other days we’re sitting outside for hours looking for bugs, watching where they go and what they do. And other days, we’re mixing food coloring into homemade gak to see what happens when we mix red with blue (purple!), but what if we add yellow and green too (brown!)?

Teaching Resources

Right now, given the boys’ ages, our conversations and teachable moments are really pretty mellow, but they’re there, and more are happening every day – especially with Alex.

I’ve started to look for some resources that I can refer to¬†as I think about fostering a creative, problem-solving, independent environment in (and outside!) our house.

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For the most part, I’ve been leaning on my intuition and ideas from our mom who is a retired teacher, but I’ve also begun to turn to a couple of books:

  • Tinkerlab is a great resource for helping parents to foster a more creative and exploratory learning environment at home. It begins with a few sections discussing the importance of letting kids tinker, how to organize your home, and lists of suggested tinkering supplies for kids. Then the bulk of the book provides ideas for tinkering activities, organized broadly under the topics of “design, build, concoct, and discover”. There’s also a Tinkerlab website bursting with ideas and inspiring posts.
  • The Outdoor Classroom in Practice, Ages 3-7 is a great basic resource if you would like to have some practical help for creating a forest school environment. Admittedly, we aren’t spending our full days outside, but it is a major goal of mine to have a lot of the boys learning and activities taking place outside. This is a month-by-month guide with ideas for introducing children to the idea of a forest school and with a few simple seasonally-appropriate activities for each month.
  • The Kids’ Nature Book¬†This book is out of print, but Sarah picked up a copy for us at a used book store. There are other versions of nature activity books available, but I really love this one. It gives you an activity idea for every day of the year – that’s 365 ideas! Some are super simple (measure the snowfall), while others are more intensive. The bottom line is that you can find an activity that’s appropriate for any moment¬†and age level. I’ll come back to this book in a future post and talk in more detail about how I use it.

In addition to those books, as we all know, the internet is full of ideas, and I have a few Pinterest boards to help me keep those resources organized.

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I’m exciting to start this series on the blog, and am thinking about a variety of future posts covering everything from how we create teachable moments while on vacation to our early experiments with learning letters. I know these posts won’t be for everyone, but I’m hoping that there’s a community of readers who would like to join in this discussion and share their teachable moments.

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Winter Break Snapshots

What a winter break we’ve had! We have one more day left tomorrow, and we’re going to do what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks – spend it outside. It seems like we’ve really hit our stride this year when it comes to embracing the winter. Of course, it’s all about good clothes, a good spirit, and just doing it, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Today, I’m sharing just a glimpse of what we’ve been up to these past few weeks.

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We started our break in Steamboat Springs, CO (one of our favorite ski towns in the state!). We arrived at the start of a snowstorm that lasted well into the next day and maybe the day after? I can’t remember. But we still had a great time skiing and snowshoeing all over the mountain.

On our third, and final, day in town, we visited Strawberry Park Hot Springs before driving home. We had been here once last winter, and it was just as magical as I remembered.

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We arrived home the same day that Sarah and our family flew into town, and then every pitched in and helped us prepare to host a big party for C’s office. There was definitely a moment of “what are we doing?!” the night before, but in the end, the party was awesome, the food delicious, the company amazing, and the music pumping.
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The party was followed by a day of rest and then it was off to the mountains to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad with Santa! We did this last year and I was really excited to do it again. When you arrive at the station, there’s hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts to munch on. Then you board the train and start riding with the excitement of knowing that Santa’s going to come and sit with you to say hi. It’s such a nice way to visit Santa, because there are no lines – you just wait in your seat on the train until Santa gets to you, meanwhile, the train’s moving through the beautiful Colorado mountains.
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Back in Boulder, we did more hiking. christmas_break2016_12

And snowball throwing. christmas_break2016_13 christmas_break2016_14

And then it was off to the mountains again for more skiing and snowshoeing!
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Home for more hiking…christmas_break2016_24 christmas_break2016_25

And here we are, relaxing, making our list of resolutions, and preparing for one more day on the slopes before we’re back to a regularly scheduled week.

I hope your break was full of warmth, family, food, and all of that holiday magic. xo

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A New Season

Hey there, we’re still here! Somewhere.

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As the weather has changed, we’re finally enjoying spring in the mountains and have turned our attention outside. Breakfast on the deck, planting a little bed of veggies, cleaning up the pond, afternoons at the park, which morph into evenings and dinner in the park. It’s all amazing, but it’s pulled me away from the computer, which is both good and bad. I love all of the time in the sun and fresh air, and there’s nothing that puts a bigger smile on my face than digging in the dirt (especially when the boys help), but I do miss documenting our days. So, I’m hoping to get back here, even if it’s at a more relaxed pace over the next weeks/months.

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The photos in this post are from a Mother’s Day hike that Alex and I took up our mountain to the old cabin in the woods. I wanted to spend one-on-one time with each boy on Sunday, and when I asked Alex what he wanted to do, “hike to the cabin” was his idea. It was so perfect. There was only one moment when I threatened to leave him in the woods – three year olds are tantrum masters. But we recovered, and then had a great time exploring that cabin.

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Every time I visit the cabin, I’m in awe of what it must have taken to trek all of the materials to that spot, and I’m also left with so many questions. Who was it? Why there? when did the cabin start to fall apart? It looks like such a quality piece of work, not a temporary shack. And it’s so cool that I wish I could freeze it in time, but I know that we just have to let nature take its course.

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On this particular trip Alex came to the realization that “maybe this was a house!” and “maybe somebody lived here!”. It was amazing to watch his little brain grasp these big ideas, especially as he started to wonder what happened to the cabin, where did its floor go, etc. etc.

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And in other news, little Luc started walking over the weekend! Soon the three of us will be taking that hike together.

And with that, I’m signing off to get back out in the garden. I’ve been working hard in that space and am so excited to share/document the work.

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How to: Photograph Young Siblings

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Family portraits are hard. ¬†There’s a good chance everyone involved has varying levels of interest in taking a great portrait. ¬†I’m usually the one in the bunch groaning, so I’m here to tell you how to make future family shots a little less painful, specifically portraits of young siblings.

It all comes down to making it quick, easy and safe for the little ones. ¬†You’re not going to walk away with fifty amazing portraits, but if you get one great shot, the squawks and squeals are all worth it. ¬†In previous posts, we gave you a primer on photography, newborn portraits and kid candids. ¬†I advise skimming those posts to get a better understanding of light and photography before setting up your mini models.

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24 Hours in Denver (with kids!)

First to set the scene: As last week was coming to an end, Calder and I knew that we wanted to do something fun for the weekend. Ideally, we wanted to head into the mountains and camp, but the weather was not cooperating. What do I mean? The forecast called for rain/SNOW, and that’s exactly what we got! Recognizing that a few days of precipitation were on the horizon, we didn’t want to force a camping trip of any sort knowing that everyone could end up a bit miserable.

We cut our losses and had a flash of genius on Friday when we decided to get a hotel room in Denver for Saturday night. It ended up being such a great decision because with some simple planning we had a fun weekend away from the house, visited new-to-us Denver attractions, ate great food, and came home without feeling overly tired or frazzled (which can happen so easily when a toddler’s in the mix!).

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Today I wanted to share the recipe we discovered for our perfect weekend in Denver (or any larger city), which included:

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Welcome Baby Luc!

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While we’ve mentioned that the newest member of the Live Seasoned family arrived, we thought it was time to formally introduce the little guy! Meet Luc Turning Muir D.

I was 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant (more on that in another post!) when I went into labor with the help of the full moon.¬†Luc arrived on Easter after a relatively easy labor, weighing 7 pounds 2 ounces and measuring 19 inches long. In his short time on the outside, he’s been a champion eater and sleeper!

More about his name ~

  • His first name is pronounced like Luke.
  • His big brother Alex calls him baby Luc, and now we do too ūüôā
  • He’s named Turing after Alan Turing, the inventor of the computer
  • And Muir after John Muir, the naturalist

I hope you’re ready for a few more baby-related posts because we’re having too much fun photographing and caring for this little guy.

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