Reading for Research: Reforemo Challenge Wrap Up

At the beginning of March, when I began the Reforemo challenge, I had no idea that the libraries would be closed and much of the world shut down. Here’s my March 7th post, before the world changed. The first half of the month, I was able to check out many of the books and I still have many of them at home with the library currently closed and the loan period extended. Honestly, the whole world pandemic thing threw me for a bit of a loop, how about you?

Thank you Carrie Charley Brown and Kristi Call for doing this challenge; I hope to catch up and read through the daily posts I’ve missed over the coming weeks.

Here’s a list of the books I’ve read over the past 2 weeks, some of which I’ve researched using You Tube read alouds:

  1. Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli
  2. Vroom by Barbara McClintock
  3. Twinderella by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  4. Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
  5. The Bear’s Garden by Marcie Colleen
  6. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
  7. Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
  8. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small
  9. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  10. Truman by Jean Reidy
  11. How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers
  12. Nine Months by Miranda Paul
  13. Pirasaurs! by Josh Funk
  14. Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell and Richard Jones
  15. On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen
  16. Little Frog and the Scary Autumn Thing by Jane Yolen
Truman

How did I do with the challenge?

So keeping it real, I didn’t quite make it through the Reforemo challenge to read 100 picture books in the month of March, but I did discover a bunch of fabulous picture books in my research and what strikes me above all is the sheer diversity and variety of books out there available to children. It opens up new possibilities for creating books for young children and inspires me to keep writing as each writer has a unique voice that contributes to our diverse and changing world.

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The Lullaby Monsters: Book Swag

I’m excited to tell you, I’ve been working on some other manuscripts while waiting for the final edits and book design for The Lullaby Monsters, a night time adventure about facing fears with Kelsey, Thomas and a bunch of cute monsters. This will appeal to 5-8 year olds and is divided into short chapters for beginning readers.

Today, I decided to do something fun; create some book swag for my readers! With the gorgeous artwork of Paula Nasmith, I’ve created some adorable stickers and book plates to go along with the book. And I’m giving you a preview right here, right now! Check it out…

Book plate sticker
Book plate sticker

I can’t wait for this book to be ready! We’re hoping for May or June. When it comes out I’ll be happily sending out books and stickers. I have a bunch more character stickers that I will reveal closer to the release date. Sign up for my newsletter and learn more.

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Picture Book Research

If you’re a picture book writer, you know that in order to write great picture books, you must also read great picture books. And that’s the thinking behind Kristi Call and Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo Challenge.

The goal is to read 5 picture books per weekday in the month of March for a total of 105 picture books.

Book pile for week #1

Keeping it real, here’s a list of the books I’ve read during week #1: (Is it cheating if I started a day or two early?)

  1. This is the House that Jack Built by Simms Taback
  2. Around the Table that Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim
  3. There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klosterman and Ben Mantle
  4. Snappsy the Alligator Did Not Ask To be in This Book by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller
  5. Chloe and the Lion, by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex
  6. Z is for Moose, by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zalinsky
  7. The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross BurachAre
  8. We Pears Yet? by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Carin Berger
  9. Moon: Earth’s Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
  10. My Happy Year by E. Bluebird by Paul Meisel
  11. Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller
  12. Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore
  13. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
  14.  The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta; illus by Frank Morrison
  15. Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy; illustrated by Ekua Holmes 
  16. MOTH: AN EVOLUTION STORY by Isabel Thomas, Illustrated by Daniel Egneus
  17. GIANT SQUID by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
  18. Most Marshmallows by Rowboat Watkins 
  19. River by Elisha Cooper 
  20. ONCE UPON A GOAT by Dan Richards, illustrated by Eric Barclay

Reading the blog posts that go along with the challenge make it insightful, highlighting what can be learned from looking at mentor texts.

I expect to be making a few more trips to the library this month! And I must say, I am so grateful for the ability to place holds on the books so that they are there waiting for me when I stop in at the library.

What mentor texts are you reading? Feel free to share in the comments.

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At What Age Should Children Begin Piano Lessons?

I get asked this question A LOT.

It depends who you ask but most people begin to think about starting children in piano lessons between the age of 4-8 years of age. It is a good idea to consider the child, their level of interest and their fine motor development. Music lessons can help develop memory, creativity, self-discipline and self-confidence. Lessons can be beneficial for developing literacy, numeracy, and fine motor skills.

One of the benefits to starting early is children can learn quickly and will retain what they’ve learned later in life, especially if they start before the age of 10.

The key is to keep things fun and joyful. Your child must get satisfaction from playing. If getting the child to the instrument is a chore, it might be the wrong choice. Finding a teacher who is skilled in music but also understands child development is important.

Percussion instruments can be a great place to start for a young child.

If a child cannot yet move fingers independently, it could be too early to start. See if your child can place a hand on the table and tap one finger at a time. If this is a struggle, then wait a bit.

Generally, I accept children who are 6 years of age and up for piano lessons and I expect them to practice at home in between weekly lessons.

A music class with movement, games and singing could be more suitable for children who are 3-6 years. The social part of learning in a group reinforcing. And if children catch on to the joy of music at an early age, they will be more interested in learning instruments as they get older.

You can check out this post by Liberty Park Music for more information on learning other instruments and when to start.

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Spreading Joy Through Music

There’s one big reason I teach music for preschoolers. It’s the joy. Music has always brought me joy and I love to share that with young children.

My Saturday mornings are a pleasure as we gather with a small group of 4-6 preschoolers for our music sessions. We sing, we drum, we dance, we play xylophones, we listen, we play games, and we experience the joy of making music together. We use ribbons and scarves and each class ends with an opportunity to try the piano!

Children love our ocean themed music room!

My own children loved the Orff Music at the Brentwood School of Music, in beautiful Brentwood Bay, B.C. with Kathy Criddle when they were preschool age. Now it’s my turn to carry on the tradition as teacher of the program. My son went on to later become an advanced guitar player and my daughter continued with piano lessons for several years afterwards.

Do you think your child would like to join us? Registration is done through Panorama Recreation or contact the Brentwood School of Music. The next set of sessions begins April 4th. Look for “Little Shakers” on Saturday mornings at 9 am.

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Motherhood

Motherhood is a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is… and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.”

-Unknown
a photo of me taken by my daughter

What do you think of the quote? For me, it feels like the writer got inside my head a bit. We do go into motherhood blindly not always knowing what the best choice will be and making plenty of mistakes along the way.

I know I made plenty of mistakes. I could have presented my children with new foods more often. I could have relaxed and had a bit more fun with them. I could have been more hospitable and served as a better example of how to welcome others into our home. ( I do like my privacy.) There were times when I refused to help them, thinking it would serve as a natural consequence, and yet really what they probably needed was more love and caring. There were times when I spoke harshly and let my frustration get the better of me.

And I’ve had to forgive myself for all those mistakes and more. What helps me with the forgiveness is this: I would not want to have perfect parents myself, because if I did, I would have a ridiculously high standard to live up to and would be exceedingly hard on myself when I consistently fell short of the mark.

Moms… be good to yourself. Take some time for self care. Get support. Forgive yourself. And love your children. You will make mistakes but as long as you stay present and take care of yourself, you will be there for your children when they need you and they will grow up well.

How do you care for yourself so that you can better care for others? Please share in the comments.

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Reflecting on the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference

Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, Suzanne Axelsson, from Sweden, shared her ways of approaching early learning with a group of 250 Early Childhood Educators from various parts of British Columbia. The conference organizer, Marayam Nadaaf, was passionate about finding ways to allow people to travel to the conference and thanks to the travel bursary, I was able to attend as were many others who came from outside of Vancouver.

Suzanne explored the idea of weaving dialogue and technology with young children. She showed us her journal of questions, and in the same spirit, I’d like to share some of the questions that came up for me including some questions posed by Suzanne.

Conference Room at Croation Cultural Centre in Vancouver, B.C.

What does it mean to wonder? How can we encourage a sense of wonder in children?

How to we develop curiosity in children? Is curiosity different from wonder?

Suzanne argued that if we set up just the right challenge for children; find the sweet spot between too easy and too difficult, then children will become curious and engaged.

In our play experience with the marbles and clothes pins I became that curious learner as we attempted to create a marble run that would last exactly 5 seconds. Participating in the experience was like being a child when all sense of time falls away and your parents call you for dinner and you think it couldn’t possibly be dinner time already but it is.

I believe it is helpful for us as teachers to put ourselves in the shoes of the children from time to time as we did here at the conference. It gives us a greater understanding of what we ask of them when the play session ends and it is time to move to something new.

More questions that came up…

What does it mean to slow down and focus on children? What more can we learn by slowing down? How can we find opportunities for joy? How can we allow children to explore all of their emotions in a safe environment?

In what ways might children use these loose parts? How might we challenge children with these materials?

What if instead of talking to parents about risky play we talked about play with uncertain outcomes? How can we find ways for children to do their own assessment of outcomes? What kind of social or emotional challenges can be set up with uncertain outcomes? Where is the sweet spot for learning?

What would happen if we try new ways of offering paint? Can we offer 1 color for each child (but not the same color)? What other new strategies or ways of offering materials can we come up with? How will those limitations or different ways of offering support finding the sweet spot for learning?

How do children come to know things? What forms of knowledge might we pursue with children?

“Play is needed to convert facts into knowledge.” – S.A.

What are some of the ways children can use imagination? How might we bring more opportunities for imagination?

“If knowledge is an island, imagination is the coastline.” – S. A.

It flows from this that helping children gain knowledge can assist with their developing imaginations. I think of a child I currently work with who loves animals. She recently told me she was pretending to be “a horse on the Savannah.” To me this illustrates the example as her understanding and knowledge of what it means to be a horse is extended by her understanding of the habitat of the Savannah.

I recognize that my post is full of questions but that is what being a reflective educator is all about. I hope these questions helped bring new insight into your thinking about young children and how they learn, particularly for people who wished to attend the conference but were unable to be there.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. I still have my cold; I think I just need a few more days and it will be gone.

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Have a wonderful day!

Be Gone, Dreadful Cold!

If you’ve been paying attention to my past posts, you know I have been looking forward to the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference in Vancouver, B.C. that happens Thursday, Friday and Saturday. https://authorcynthiamackey.com/2020/02/17/counting-down-to-hundred-ways-of-thinking/

And of course, as timing would have it, I’ve come down with a nasty cold just days before the event. Sigh.

Green Tea with honey to soothe the throat

So now to make the cold go away as fast as possible…

I have done the following:

  • – 3 vitamin C boost drinks with 1,000 mg of vitamin C in each one
  • -warm salt water gargle twice
  • -breathing steam in the mornings
  • -eating oranges
  • -spoonfuls herbal cough syrup ( I had run out so I bought some today)
  • -drinking tons of tea

And I’m out of days to get better as tomorrow I get to take the ferry! Living on an island means lots of ferry travel. Here’s hoping for a restful sleep tonight.

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Have a wonderful day!

Counting Down to Hundred Ways of Thinking!

Okay, how many more sleeps until the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference? I am so excited! Woot! Woot! And spring is almost here…

Spring is coming to Victoria!

Join Suzanne Axelsson from Sweden at our 2020 Conference for two days of playing, learning and reflecting! 

As luck would have it, I seem to be developing some mild flu symptoms just days before this wonderful conference. Ugh! Though I feel lucky for the family day weekend and the extra day to rest. I am filling up my body with vitamin C and hoping for the best! I did get the flu shot so fingers crossed.

Here’s the weather forecast for Vancouver. I know there’s been some snow so I am grateful for the slightly warmer temperatures. Looks like we will see Vancouver in it’s typical rainy fashion on Friday and Saturday.

Looks like we won’t see much sun over the weekend.

These conference organizers are amazing! Just look at what they sent out to everyone. They are so thoughtful. Which Vancouver restaurants should we try?

From the Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House organizers!

Four more sleeps and I get to go and visit my hometown! Yay! Though sadly, I won’t make it to North Vancouver, which is my absolute favourite place to visit. Not enough time. Sigh.

Stay tuned for more conference updates on the way!

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