Friday, July 12, 2013


I am not big on dolls. I mean, I had my fair share of Barbies and Kens as well as baby dolls when I was a kid. But as a parent I don't go out of my way to give my kids dolls. They have some baby dolls, all but one of which were given to Aurelia by others. The one I gave her was the one I loved as a kid. (Aside: I encourage both kids to play with whatever toys we have. If Azrael wants to play with dolls, and Aurelia wants to play with cars, I say, so be it.) We have no Barbies, which I am fine with. In my mind, Barbies don't really send any message I think is valuable. The body shape is completely impracticable and unrealistic. Most dolls are not proportional, this is true. But there are actually women and young girls in the world striving to LOOK like Barbie.That's scary. And while a kid can use their imagination, Barbies have very little  to focus on other than appearance. Plus- Barbies come with lots of little accessories. I already step on Legos on a daily basis.

The other day, we were in a Disney store in the mall, just looking around. Both Aurelia and Azrael were playing with toys they saw, but neither were asking to have one for keeps. We saw the wall of dolls for different Disney princesses, some of which Aurelia recognized and pointed out. Disney and their princesses- that's another category I am not crazy about. I saw all the movies and we owned most of them, sure. But I don't want my kids thinking that is how real life works. You don't just wait around biding your time, until your prince charming shows up. We watch Snow White, Cinderella, etc, but I try to encourage children's movies of all genres, and I reach for educational stuff more than anything else.

Then I saw the dolls for Princess Merida and Queen Elinor (and her bear) from the movie Brave. That's a Disney movie we watched recently as a family (probably over a dozen times at this point) that I can get behind. I really love the message. Merida does not want to get married, and in the end she does not have to. She is smart and spunky and brave. The movie is still funny and still has magic, and the music is great.

I am not sure why, but the dolls were on SUPER sale. Queen Elinor and her bear were originally $20 and we got them for $7. Princess Merida was $15 (I think) and it was marked down to $4.

Aurelia has been calling them her "friends." I hear her talking to them and recreating little scenes from the movie or coming up with her own, so I think it was a decent purchase.

Azrael became obsessed with this little Toy Story car, so that's what he came home with. He zips it all over the house, along with his other toy cars. He loves anything with wheels. I guess the kids are meeting some gender stereotype quota, haha.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Our Giant World Map

So, this is old news to anyone who has been to our house, especially in the kitchen, but I don't care. I still love that we did this and are doing it.

Months ago, we bought a laminated world map- a giant one, it almost takes up a whole wall in the kitchen. We debated on several places... should it go in the living room, we thought? But there ended up being no wall space it would fit on other than the kitchen, right above the table where we eat all our meals. At first, when it showed up in the mail and we unrolled it, I kind of regretted going SO BIG and putting it in the kitchen. I mean, you have no choice but to look at it. But it ended up being an awesome idea.

It is so big, you can see teeny tiny countries and islands that otherwise go unnoticed or forgotten. Chris and I started using stickers to mark places we have been so far. We daydream about where we want to go next. We think out loud, "oh wow, is that where that is?" We learn from it all the time- you can't NOT learn from it, when it is right there in front of you as a backdrop to your cereal or pasta. Since it is laminated, when the kids inevitably get food on it, I can just wipe it clean. I can also use dry erase markers on it, which can be wiped clean as well.

To begin giving the kids an idea of how vast the world is (Aurelia mainly for now, but I plan to do the same with Azrael) I told her we are "theeeeese small" and "located riiight here" pointing on the map at Pennsylvania. I'm not sure if she really gets it just yet, but that's ok, she will. I also taught her between 25-30 different animals. What they eat, what they look like, where they live, etc.

I would teach a few animals a week, going at her pace and using books on each animal I found at the library. I would photocopy a picture of each, tape it to cardstock for sturdiness, and we taped each one to the map over time. All those animals are still there, and periodically we talk about various ones over breakfast. She can now tell me where Africa is, China, Australia, North and South America, the Arctic and Antarctica, etc.

Now that she knows close to 30 animals, I also plan on finding books that discuss different cultures around the world, and putting it into context in a similar way. Of course, I am keeping it fairly simple for her (she IS only 2.) I use lots of pictures and only give her a few simple facts about each animal/topic that I feel she is able to retain.

I can't wait to really get my use out of this map- it is going to be COVERED by the time we are done with it haha.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Public Library

At least once a week, I take the kids to the Phoenixville Public Library. As libraries go, it is the best one I have been to. The kids section of it is spacious but also has lots of nooks and crannies for kids to sit down alone or with a friend. They have a train table, a great selection of books, music, and movies, and computer areas where the computers are geared towards kids who want to play learning games or search for materials. There are tables to sit at and read or talk with other adults or eat lunch. There is a whole schedule of programs to participate in- yoga, story-times and play-times for the younger crowd, LEGO, video game, and board-game get-togethers and movie nights for older kids. Signing up is not usually required (they do have special nature and science programs that require registration.) Most everything is free (or really, you already paid in taxes) except for movie rentals and some of the programs that require registration. The staff is wonderful- all very good with small children. The adult section of the library is pretty great too, but I don't get up there often enough as I usually am wrangling two small kids and sometimes an unwieldy stroller. 

Chris likes to say we are really making the most of our tax dollars with how much we use the library, and I agree. When I go (like I mentioned, at least once a week) we get a stack of new books out, return the ones we've read, and stick around for the story/play-times. The kids are read various short stories, they sing and dance in between the stories, and sometimes there is a craft. I will be sharing some of the crafts in future posts- I think they can be adapted to help teach various lessons for different ages, so I want to keep track of them here for future reference. 

Does anyone else use their public library? What other free kid-friendly places or events do you frequent?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Warning...Disclosure...Disclaimer, whatever you want to call it :)

Hello reader(s)! I am a full-time mom to two AWESOME kids, Aurelia (girl, 2.5 years old) and Azrael (boy, 14 months.) In my completely biased opinion they are smart, funny, gorgeous and loveable. So loveable, in fact, that I quit a well-paying job I liked just to have more time with them. Aurelia pronounces her name "Yea-ya" and Azrael's name "Ayo," hence the blog name. To make the most of my time with them (they do grow up quickly, don't they?) I am testing the waters with homeschooling.

I have no experience whatsoever in teaching children anything. I never even babysat as a kid (sometimes I babysit a friend's kid, but that only started once I had my own.) I finished college with a Bachelor's degree in International Business, which probably equipped me with no tools for working with small children.

You might be asking how I plan on teaching my kids instead of having a school do it. Well, I might change my mind, and it is not set in stone, but for now I am just working on what I think of as toddler/small child basics. ABCs and the sounds they make (leading up to reading), numbers and quantity, shapes and sizes, art, music. I also teach a bit of science. Animals- their names, what they eat, where in the world they live, funny facts about them; plants- the life cycle, how we use them and how we can grow them; dinosaurs- that they lived a long, long time ago, how they behaved. I am starting to think about how to approach religion/faith. (I'd like to give an unbiased representation of the various religions of the world, explain what I personally believe, but also allow them to decide for themselves.)

I don't think my plan would fall into any one category or type of homeschooling (which runs the gamut from religious approaches to unschooling.) I am not sure mine is what you would even call a long-term plan- I am just figuring it out as I go along, although I do plan on following any rules set out by my state.

This blog is not meant to extol the virtues of homeschooling in general, or recommend any one approach to it. While I have opinions on the pros and cons of public and private school, I won't be divulging that now. For now, this blog is just a place for me to share any progress we make, various projects we work on and/or complete, and brag about my kids. :-D