Monday, May 31, 2010

Educational Theory of the Week: Synthesis

Educational Theory of the Week covers different theories that teachers use and impact our children. They can easily be applied outside of a classroom setting.  

Last week in Bloom's Taxonomy, we looked at analysis. This week is synthesis, or taking ideas or objects and putting them together. It of course is building on the other parts of Bloom's Taxonomy. A child must have knowledge of the objects, understand (comprehension) the parts of the objects, be able to apply different uses of the objects, and then analyze them objects. (Phew. It takes longer for me to write that out than for children to do it).


You can ask your child several questions when working with synthesis from Bloom's Taxonomy.

Can you put these blocks together?
How would you put these train tracks together? 
What plan should we have for going to the park? 
Imagine what would happen in the story next.

With older children, they would use synthesis when they write research papers or speeches. They would take their ideas and research and combine them into one object--their paper or speech. Little kids synthesize in different ways, such as building or mixing paint colors.

Application to Ty, age 3

Ty builds and builds. When his little feet plant on the floor each morning, he is building with his blocks.

He's become better as he ages. His towers once fell, bridges collapsed, train tracks didn't go anywhere, it was frustrating. No longer!

When building towers, bridges, and tracks, a little boy must know (knowledge) his materials. (Here is the run-down using the taxonomy!)

* After he knows his supplies, he can predict/explain (comprehension) what will happen, like that small blocks can't be on the bottom. * He constructs (application) his buildings by taking all of these ideas into account. * He analyzes where more blocks need to be so the individual pieces don't fall. * Finally, he creates (synthesis) the entire project, like putting the bridge over the tracks and the trees and flowers around the skyscraper.


Synthesis is a huge part of everyday life. It is often expected (as a higher order process it is highly desired in the educational and work fields). How do we make sure our children can reach it?

When we build, Ty and I discuss what worked, and what we could do better. The picture at the top of this is Ty deciding he wanted to arrange his buidling's color with a rainbow pattern.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Finacial Friday: Odd and End Savings

Financial Friday covers a few tricks I have found as a SAHM for cutting down on bills since my family is down an income. 
I promised my husband that when I started staying home, I would save money in mysterious ways. (I also promised him that he could be included in a blog, so here you go sweetie). I tried many ways to save money and while some have worked, others not so much. Here are a few of my assignments, and in true teacher style, their grades:

Ironing shirts. (D) My husband takes his work shirts to the dry cleaner to be washed and ironed. That is about $2 a shirt. (Thought process: That is how much a can of starch costs! I can do that!) So, I washed his shirts and set out to iron them. I started off ok, but never finished the first set of shirts. I loathe ironing and my husband thinks I do a messy job, which might be true. Also, I can't iron when the kids are awake. They want to be around me and when they hang out around the ironing board, I am nervous because of the hot iron. It didn't work out and he takes them back to the cleaners. Every once in awhile when the kids are taking long naps, I wash and iron a few shirts. A few.

Cooking from scratch. (B) Staying home with fewer resources (money to buy whatever I want at the store and a lack of time to get to the grocery store) has made me a better cook. I also need to cook FAST sometimes because small stomachs empty quickly. This has left me with odds and ends at home, crying kids, and nothing but my imagination. This works most of the time and I have created dishes I didn't think I had it in me to make. A few failures: homemade bread, spinach noodles, and guacamole made from peas (I read it somewhere). It is sad to throw out the failures, but they are pretty inedible. Most of the time, we do save money from cooking at home, from scratch. 

Buying in bulk. (B+) I never knew this before, but my husband taught me: grocery stores have the price broken down, like per ounce, on their products. When you look at a big box of cereal compared to a small box, the big box probably costs less per ounce than the small box, even though the big box costs more overall. If you buy in bulk, you often save money, which I knew but just didn't know how or why. Because I have more time as a SAHM, I buy in bulk and divide the food between small containers. This also makes traveling pretty easy, as I can grab a container of graham crackers as we run out the door. The only problem I had with this was a few items went bad, so be selective about what you buy in bulk. I bought peaches and divided and froze them, but defrosted they were brown and the kids wouldn't eat them.

Making cards. (A) A few months ago, I went to a bridal shower. As the bride unwrapped her presents, she handed the card to her mother along with the wrapping paper. The mom put it all in a garbage bag. It made me so happy that a complete $1 or more was not put in that bag because I make my own cards. Scrapbook paper, ribbon, glue, stamps, and stickers--I either have the ingredients or can buy them inexpensively. Look at the bins at Wal-Mart or other fabric stores for leftover ribbon, tulle, and sequins. Find out the bride's wedding colors, the mother-to-be's nursery decor, or the birthday child's favorite activities and decorate your card accordingly. My first cards were pretty plain, but they have improved and I am not an artist. Sometimes they are even passed around the party. :)

Those are four simple ways I tried to cut expenses when I became a SAHM. They might work for you or my failures may be your successes. Good luck.

In no way was I compensated for this blog entry. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Teaching grammar has a long history.

Grammar, schrammer. hmmm. This blog post is a bit more serious than my other Wonder Why Wednesday posts. It is about grammar, an important aspect of English courses. Have a child? Grammar will influence him or her. The question is how.

Grammar, or the study of the classes of words, their inflections, and their functions and relations in the sentence, is controversial in schools. Years ago, it was thrown out of curriculums. (This happened around the hippie era). I was not taught grammar in school, as you may not have been, and we turned out fine, right? Sure, but it wasn't without struggle. I understand grammar, but as an English major, I had plenty of catchup work at college. Students who study a foreign language need to understand grammatical terms. To use the dictionary, one must understand grammar. The ACT covers it in its English portion. (Grammar, however, cannot just be taught sophomore and junior year and shouldn't just be taught for a test).  It does show that the ACT finds it important, because it is expected that high school students know it when they enter college.

Those are several arguments about grammar, and I tried to break them down further. There are several reasons grammar is controversial:
  • Should it be taught at all? Does it discourage students from writing?
  • When should it be taught? Should it be taught at the elementary levels or should it be introduced later?
  • How should it be taught?
  • Does grammar influence writing?

Should it be taught at all? Does it discourage students from writing?

As a former high school English teacher, teachers should teach grammar. A knowledge of grammar shapes their writing ability. I'm not alone. In a book review by Phyllis Morris Lotchin of The War Against Grammar by David Mulroy, Lotchin states: 

Until 1996, when he [Mulroy] attended a hearing to set academic standards for Wisconsin public schools, he had not suspected that anyone questioned the value of knowing the rules of grammar. It was at this time that he was directed to the NCTE [National Council of Teachers of English] website, which stated that “decades of research” have shown that instruction in “formal grammar” does not accomplish any positive goals and is actually counter productive because it takes time away from more “profitable activities” (xii). Sensing a serious problem, he set about to write this book “to persuade the reader that formal instruction in grammar ought to be emphasized in K-12 education, especially in the middle grades” (xiii)

David Mulroy, a college professor since 1973, knows of the decline in college students' readiness. On the other end, as a high school teacher, I saw it as well. Students would write and they would say, "something is wrong with this paper." I would explain sentence fragments, split infinitives, and so on, but students didn't speak that language. Would you agree that students need a basic knowledge of mathematical terms for a math class? Same idea with English.

When should it be taught? Should it be taught at the elementary levels or should it be introduced later?

I really disagree with the overall concept of introducing grammar later rather than earlier. Grammar is at the knowledge/comprehension stage at Bloom's Taxonomy. It is often boring, as basic memory tasks are. For instance, I remember memorizing the times table and being incredibly bored, but I needed to know them. Grammar is the same. It might be boring, but it is needed. Additionally, children learn language best at a young age. Isn't that why preschools work with foreign languages?

Years ago, NCTE made a serious error when the organization decided to dismiss grammar. We are in the current crisis we have now: students leave high school, unable to write well, unable to read well, and pay to take classes at community colleges to catch up to college level classes. Again, my ideas echo Lotchin's thoughts:

The results have been disastrous. American students now test as “mediocre” in reading abilities in relation to other wealthy nations. Prof. Mulroy argues strongly that an understanding of how the language works is necessary to read complex texts with understanding. Verbal SAT scores began to sink in 1963 with fewer students showing outstanding verbal ability. In 1996, the College Board “recentered” the SAT scores to camouflage this trend (10).
In colleges and universities, this lack of grammar instruction has had several unfortunate results. Fewer American students now study a foreign language. Too, remedial courses in reading and writing have multiplied, with some universities placing up to a fourth of their freshmen in remedial courses (14). Students are handicapped in both writing and reading. In reading complex texts, Prof. Mulroy argues, we discover literal meanings by “applying the rules of lexicography and grammar” (16).

As someone who taught high school English for almost a decade, I saw many students who began grammar in fifth, sixth, or seventh grade. They were still confused by the time they got to me. It needs to be taught younger rather than older, as facts normally are. To understand a language, don't we need to understand the roots? Isn't that why we teach numbers and letters? Grammar is tons of knowledge and comprehension. It may not be exciting, but it is the nuts and bolts of our language, basically, of our communication.

How should it be taught? 

I agree that grammar taught in context and not with drills/worksheets/practice sentences works best. When a lesson is true to students' lives, they understand it better. Is there some point in which we (parents/teachers) must instill the "unfun" material and connect it to life? (This is assuming that grammar is not fun. Some people think it is). Can we do both?

I think the difference is how you teach grammar. Should it be taught with reading lessons? Sure! Should it be taught in one unit and then put away on a shelf? I hope not. Grammar should be discussed every day as it is such a large part of an "English curriculum." It is a part of writing and reading and should be taught as such, from a young age.

Does grammar influence writing?

This might be a bit repetitive, but parents always asked me this. Grammar is sentence structure and writing is essentially sentences. When you understand the background behind what you do, you typically do it better.

Those are my thoughts on grammar with a bit of research thrown in. This is also part of a larger debate that English teachers have and I have dealt with it for years. I've gone to a NCTE convention and listened to their beliefs. Which, Lotchin states: While the NCTE is still not promoting “hard-edged standards in grammar,” it has declared that teachers need to “know about” traditional grammar (115). The NCTE seems to be changing their ideas. Should schools and parents change as well? What do you think about grammar? Join in the conversation, please, as this will affect your child.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SAHM Triumph: Pepping

I always pat my kids--their legs, heads, and hands. I think kids are calmer when their parents or caregivers touch them. Debra Moore, PhD. repeats my thoughts:

Children instinctively initiate and seek out touch when they need it. In fact, the absence of this behavior is a red flag for possible neurological damage or a possible history of abuse. As we grow older, we may begin to receive less and less touch. We may hesitate to initiate it ourselves. We may come to associate touch exclusively with sexuality. We forget that we still need touch as much as we did when we were youngsters. 

Is this why adults enjoy massages so much? It also makes me wonder if some kids seek out touch, but in inappropriate ways and then get in trouble.

Petting my children does calm them and put them to sleep. It is relaxing and I love it as well. Lately, Ty has began "pepping" me as he pats me. He touches my hair or rubs my back. It is adorable, and I it makes me love being a mommy. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Educational Theory of the Week: Analysis

Educational Theory of the Week covers different theories that teachers use and impact our children. They can easily be applied outside of a classroom setting. 

Last week, I wrote about application. The next step in Bloom's Taxonomy is analysis. Analysis is taking a complex idea and breaking it down. What is considered a "complex idea" of course, depends on the child.


You can ask your child several questions when working the analytical part of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Can you tell the difference between ___ and ___?
What could have happened at the end of the story?
Why would he have done that?
What made him mad? Why?
Have you seen that before? Was this time different or the same?

Application to Ty, age 3

Ty has a favorite book right now, William the Vehicle King. Quite honestly, I'm ready to return it to the library because the second I finish it, he wants me to read it again. It's one of those books -- the ones both parents have memorized. Anyway, to spark things up and keep my sanity, I ask Ty lots of analytical questions about the story which he patiently thinks over.

Basically, there is a little boy who plays with cars and they crash. (This, of course, is why he loves it). As William lines up his cars, I ask Ty what he thinks of the line. Is it straight? Should he watch for the door opening? Is it smart to put cars on a cat? Why would a cat not like cars on it? Do cats like to move around? Why would William do this? Is he in a hurry?

More than likely, you ask these sort of questions when dealing with your child, such as reading books or with his behavior. You probably already ask analytical questions. Also, do you see how analysis questions build off the lower part of Bloom's Taxonomy? Typically, children already engaged knowledge, comprehension, and application, like Ty knows what a car and a cat are, and that cars are rough and cats don't like roughness. 


Here is a struggle of mine -- I almost always relate ideas to literature, former English teacher and all. How can you apply analysis to other areas, maybe math? Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wonder Why Wednesday: Miss USA

I watched Miss USA the other night and because it was on early, my kids were awake. People who know me probably find it odd that I watch this. I find it odd. I wonder why would I watch a beauty pageant:

1. I've always watched pageants. When I was little, I wanted to be in beauty pageants. My parents discouraged this.
2. I like society. I like the way society plays off little actions. Beauty pageants are part of our society and they are interesting when you look at them from a humanities point of view. I find the interactions between women and their beauty and perceived beauty and all that fascinating.
3. I would never be in a beauty pageant now, but I think people (as long as they don't harm someone) should do what makes them happy.

As I watch this, I wonder what my little girl thinks of the show. I wonder what my little boy thinks of the show. True, they are quite young, but I believe information gets through to them. Very few people look like those ladies in bikinis, mostly because everyone else works everyday while the contestants are at the gym. While I don't think I would ever flat out forbid a beauty pageant in my home, I wonder when I need to set the example of, "you know, that show is outdated. Girls don't really do that anymore. I don't feel like watching it." (This is the stuff I think about when I watch Miss USA).

I wonder at what point I need to say, "maybe we'll turn the television off" when they ask to watch it. If I do that, will they rebel? Should I let them watch it if they see fit? I wonder at what point I shape their gender roles and identities in society too much. Can parents do that too much? I wonder.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SAHM Struggle: I'm a zoo animal

The analogy is not original, but my SAHM status makes me empathetic toward zoo animals. My kids stare at me and hang on me. Sometimes their little hands pull my pants down. I try to load the dishwasher, wipe the table, switch the laundry, answer the phone, or pee, and they are watching. I am the oldest of ten children. I like to be alone sometimes, maybe because I was seldom alone when I was younger. I always like to pee alone!

Because my children always watch me, this makes me nervous. Am I eating like a monster mess? Am I working too much? not enough? Being impatient with them? on the phone? Rolling my eyes at the television? I don't want to teach them nasty habits, which I'm sure I have like other people do too. I also want to be realistic around them, because people are, well, real. They should be real. I should be real. I don't want them to grow up and say with an exaggerated head shake and eye roll to the sky, "my mom always..."

Aside from the analytical part of the zoo animal idea, I don't know what to do when I feel like this. I feel slightly cornered, suffocated, and overwhelmed. (I feel exactly like I did when students would surround my desk during lunch break. Students aren't my kids and they are tons older. I would just go to the restroom or lounge. My house doesn't have a lounge). I love my babies and want to help them. Do the kids need extra hugs? kisses? attention? I can't really pinpoint a pattern-they just get like this sometimes. They stare at me and hang on me. My mind goes so fast that I don't know what to do. I don't know what they want or really what I want from the situation either.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Educational Theory of the Week: Application

We are moving along with Bloom's Taxonomy. I skipped last week (and maybe the week before that)--sorry! The mommy job does not understand schedules and between teething and "read this" requests, blogging went to the back of my mind. I know you all understand. (smile, cyber hug)

To review (yep, that's the teacher in me), let's look at Knowledge and Comprehension before we move onto Application. Knowledge is the basic concepts, or the facts your child knows. Comprehension is understanding what you know.

Application is when we apply what we know and understand to our situation, our life.


You can ask your child several questions to use the application section of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Which shirt are you going to wear: the long sleeve or short sleeve?
Write the letter ___ or the number ___.
Explain what happened in the story.
Will you show me how to add these numbers?
Can you show me what happened?


Ty, age 3

A few weeks ago, my hubby and I filled Ty's sandbox with sand for the season. Naturally thrilled, he began playing and throwing sand everywhere. We had just finished planting a garden, and Ty was now handling the sand as he had the dirt. He threw it up in the air and rubbed it on his face. I asked him if he remembered getting garden dirt in his eyes and having to go in the house.

He remembered and I applied that example to his new situation. He applied it too and began making neater piles--he stopped throwing the sand around so much. He applied a previous lesson to a new situation.


One of the biggest ways parents work with their children is to make crossovers with situations. Parents teach that it is wrong to lie (knowledge) and we want our children to apply that idea to lots of different situations. In what way do you use application with your children?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Financial Friday, shopping and coupons

Financial Friday covers a few tricks I have found as a SAHM for cutting down on bills since my family is down an income. 

I spend tons of time clipping coupons, downloading them on my Kroger card and finding them online. One of my SAHM tasks is to cut the grocery bill down. In addition to the above coupon tips, I do the following:

1. I mark specials. If CVS has diapers on sale and they have sent me store coupons, I find manufacture coupons as well. Plus, stores like CVS or Walgreens often have a two day special where they have a %20 off coupon. Drugstores can be more expensive, but with regular coupons in addition to the percent off, diapers, wipes and even sunscreen can be a good deal.

2. I look at the back of stores. See this picture? My local Kroger had a "manager's special" on the baby section. It was hidden way in the back of the store that I accidentally passed. With my extra coupons, this pile was more than %50 off.

3. I get organized. I write out grocery lists on sticky notes. The meat section gets a sticky note, as does the produce section. All coupons are attached to their appropriate sticky note. When I'm done with a section of the store, I put it all away so I don't lose coupons or continue to read over the same list again and again - or combing through the same coupons.

4. I am realistic. Some people drive anywhere for a good deal. If I have to spend extra gas money, tons of time and load my kids into the car for a long trip, I don't count it as smart shopping. I guess it depends on the amount of product you're buying.

Any shopping tips I forgot?

In no way was I compensated for this blog entry. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation

The large and sometimes difficult to dissect action plan from the Childhood Obesity Task Force, Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, is out. I was happy to see it, as I recently signed Ty up for preschool. Within all the paperwork from that day was a really sad example of a menu. Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, corn, fries.. just general starches and processed food with nothing fresh. The hot dogs really shocked me, as I thought everyone regarded those as "sometime foods" and not as a staple in a three year old's diet. Who knew? I didn't know.

I also didn't realize the statistics, either. According to the task force: 

One in every three children (31.7%) ages 2-19 is overweight or obese.

One third of all children born in the year 2000 are expected to develop diabetes during their lifetime.

Overall, medical spending on adults that was attributed to obesity topped approximately $40 billion in 1998, and by 2008, increased to an estimated $147 billion. Excess weight is also costly during childhood, estimated at $3 billion per year in direct medical costs.

Yikes. Those are scary, but the task force thinks that they know what to do, and this is the list:

1. create a healthy start on life for our children, from pregnancy through early childhood;
2. empower parents and caregivers to make healthy choices for their families;
3. serve healthier food in schools;
4. ensure access to healthy, affordable food; and
5. increase opportunities for physical activity.

I feel like I have seen obesity in America change from childhood to adulthood. We all have feelings associated with the problem. Active and healthy children lead to smarter students and happier and productive citizens, and a better world. (I know, I know. I'm a bit corny, but I am a teacher. I believe in all of this!)

I am worried about #3--serve healthier food in schools, especially since Ty is heading to preschool with such a menu. I am going to delve into this a bit more. Anyone want to give me ideas of where to start? Should I contact the preschool? Send lunch to school everyday? Any advice, at all?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wonder Why Wednesday: Sad

I've been gone for a bit, blog readers. This whole balance a mommy and work at home gig is hurting me. I decided I needed a break and have been going to bed at night (woo-hoo!) so I can be the best mommy/teacher to my little monsters. We have played Candy Land and colored and read books and discussed colors and written grocery lists. We have not, however, made it to the grocery store.

So while I am a bit more rested, organized, and happy with my happy children, I of course have wonderings swirling in my head. I wonder why I am sad that I cannot be superwoman and do it all. My blog has fallen behind and that makes me sad. I wonder why I don't have the balance I search for in life. I look at a year ago as I packed my classroom. I have made great strides in this past year. Life is no longer the rush or mess it was when I left the house everyday for work. I'm better rested, but I still wonder: did I sacrifice too much of myself so I would have pieces to give to others?