Good reads, good causes

Kayak Anna and the Palindrome Creek: A splashing eco-adventure for readers ages 9-13

This was book was recommended to me by a friend of a friend of the author.

The initiative was spurred by the author's time observing first hand the perils of the lack of clean water.

Sales of this book help provide clean, safe drinking water for children around the world.

Hear new music, learn more palindromes, find out how to start a clean stream project of your own at

And while you are reading for fun and for a good cause, please visit Better World Books where you can get a great deal on books while funding literacy around the world and reduce your carbon footprint -- all at the same time. 

Hopes for Broken Glass and China -- an ode to Artisans

It was bound to happen.  You can't have small children in a house and precariously placed China without something happening.  Yes, one of my grandmother's unique China pieces tumbled to the floor.

In previous generations, the death of ones grandparents happened at a time when their great grandchildren were much older. (So China was likely much safer in earlier generations!) ..sigh... Another downside to delayed parenthood...not so much overlap in the generations.

Oddly enough, just the day before the "great break" I had been searching for someone to repair my grandparents' antique beveled mirror.

It suffered some stress fractures and broken pieces during it's transport out of their house.  We cannot blame the kids for that one!

I was extremely impressed with the artisans at Bruening Glass in Ohio. You can see all the steps involved in how they skillfully repaired this antique glass with tons of beveled pieces.

I was hoping to find something within driving distance -- It'll cost a fortune to ship this mirror. It weighs like a zillion tons.

I hadn't been through all the google search results for the mirror restoration before the "big break." So after the "big break" I came back to the search results and Svetlana's page was the first one I opened...

Learning to write Chinese

One of the great books we checked out at the library is The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann.

It's a really fun book that has a great story AND shows you how to write various Chinese characters.

See more Chinese language resources in an earlier post and anything from Grace Lin.

Try to stay on the outside!! One version of the emotion color wheel

This emotions color wheel has been really helpful for me this week as a mother of a child with a sensory modulation disorder. 

It's hard to keep track of when my child needs to get revved up with more sensory input or when he is on overload and needs respite from stimulation....

Parents reports of sensory kids' challenges affirmed in clinical studies

Just one of many studies objectively documenting what we as parents observe.  Details of this and other studies at the Star Center are also reported in Dr. Miller's book Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder


Sensory-modulation disruption, electrodermal responses, and functional behaviors; Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology (1999), 41:608-615 Mac Keith Press; Daniel N McIntosh PhD, Lucy Jane Miller PhD OTR, Vivian Shyu M, and Randi J Hagerman MD

It was hypothesized that children clinically identified with sensory-modulation disruptions (SMD) would have atypical physiological responses to sensation, and that such responses would predict parent-reported behavioral responses to sensation. Nineteen children with clinically identified disruptions,

Free K-12 Life Science lesson plans

One of the MSU grad students from the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology referred me to this K-12 Life Science project from Oregon State University.  Thanks, Shannon!

There are lesson plans here for a variety of ages on these topics below.  I was impressed how the lessons integrated multiple intelligences and multiple subjects in the science experiments.

Keeping kids on track with a visual "to do" list

Thanks so much to Nancy Peske over at for another terrific newsletter with this great  resource.

This online "Make-a-Schedule" program from the great folks at Do2Learn allows you to create daily schedules with picture cards for our kids (okay, and some of us parents) that need some extra help staying on track with the activities of the day!

It's also great for calming anxieties about what is going to happen next, transitioning to a new activity or preparing for the dreaded medical visits. The cards for those are great...

If you see a broken old level....

Now I really want to scour the thrift stores and garage sales for a broken level.

It has to be broken or I wouldn't feel right doing this!

Check out this Level necklace from Instructables contributor Sunbanks

It's especially cute when adorned by the Instructables Robot.

This was cleverly inspired by...

The snowflake principle

I've recently started reading some down-to-earth useful and insightful blogs about personal finance. A topic I normally find painful at worse and boring at best.

But I've been enjoying reading a very interesting blog called The Simple Dollar, written by Trent, who likes to say he is a normal guy openly and honestly discussing money and is not a financial or frugality expert.

And he's a parent of a young child, so that makes him an expert in my book.

He is a talented writer and his work goes beyond the frugal living discussions and addresses some additional practical and reflective issues. There are tons of free resources here that seem really useful.

Turning plastic, paper, and household ingredients into bling and scholarships

Green jewelry ideas from  These look like so much fun to try!!

Clove necklace and beads from instructables

Beads from wavy-cut paper from instructables

Jewelry charms from #6 plastic from instructables and expanded on at the dabbled blog

Faux pearl necklace from cornstarch clay from instructables

And if you really want to stick with the recycled theme, you can make your own jump rings from used paperclips!

The ultimate repurposing gig can be found at the Fool for Art silent auction.

The John Tyler Community College, employees of Chesterfield county, and area businesses and schools all join in the fun to create items that are made of at least 75% recycled material.

These items are then sold to raise funds for scholarship. The items range from simple to incredibly artistic.

One of my favorites was this adorable doll house made entirely of recycled materials.

Repurposing Clementine boxes

We're coming to some big hurdles in the organizing as we try to clean THE basement. 

It's a giant puzzle akin to the Rush Hour Traffic Jam game in which stacks of things need to be moved and shifted several times to get everything in the new location. 

Oh, where are you Clean Sweep team when I need you????

In the shuffle I'm encountering my odds and ends face to face, including my giant stash of clementine boxes. 

They are just too wonderful to throw away! 

So I needed to find a way to repurpose them and hopefully pass them on in their new reincarnation.

photo by

Here's what I found:

Easy, No Knead Crusty Bread from Mother Earth News

Moms in my area have been discussing how to make the transition to healthier eating (raw foods, non-processed food, sprouting, home made yogurt, etc.).

One suggestion was to make home made break and this recipe from Mother Earth News came highly recommended!  The secret to the crust is in the use of a Dutch Oven.

Slowing down for the kids....

Traffic Calming.  It's a big topic in our neighborhood right now. 

And it looks like many citizens are taking things into their own hands to solve traffic problems in this age of budget cuts.

In our post-war era neighborhood when cars were king everything was designed around the automobile.

We are realizing we need some immediate steps to slow down traffic in our neighborhood for the safety of our kids on bikes and on foot.

Thankfully there are huge efforts underway to promote the Complete Streets idea in which pedestrians, bicyclists, strollers, wheelchairs, and other modes of transportation are given the same importance as the mighty vehicle.

[And let me tell you...if you have a sensory challenged kid who cannot tolerate car rides or car seats and screams bloody murder with every car trip you will SOOO wish you lived in a walkable city!!!]

Here are some great ways to learn more about traffic calming -- the successes, challenges, pros, and cons to different approaches. See also the innovative approach of shared space conceived by traffic engineer Hans Monderman that has reduced traffic speeds by up to 50%.

Or really treat yourself to the tactile sensations of The New York City Street Design Manual.

It not only provides a beautiful overview of best practices in terms of street design, but it also does so on lucious paper if you purchase the print version instead of just downloading the pdf.

[Vintage Car Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid shared under Creative Commons License]

Some good reading for parents...especially with kids on the autism spectrum

Identifying Brain Differences In People With ADHD - Fascinating research profiled on NPR. It helps me to understand why my son craves "Monster Drinks" and can be so hyperfocused and so unfocused at the same time.  I just hope and pray that this kind of research grows exponentially so we can truly understand the underlying neurobiological causes for these challenging behaviors and create effective treatment, or at least empathy for the challenges our kids face.

When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ - Great article from NY Times explaining the importance of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE in parenting and how our society is promoting CONDITIONAL LOVE in parenting.  In many ways we are told to withhold our love or our very presence until our children "behave according to our wishes."  I find this behavioral strategy particularly noxious with children who have neurological challenges. When our kids are melting down and acting out it is really a cry for help, not abandonment. Thank goodness attachment parenting offers a totally different paradigm and has wonderful results associated with it...deeply bonded parents and children and kids who grow up confident and able to face challenges.

Get the future delivered to your doorstep!

It's amazing to see the amount of educational and university resources online. You can sign up for some great email updates.

Here are just a few more to add to the list: - Claims to be "The best free cultural & educational media on the web" - "Discover the Future from Leading ResearchUniversities - An online news source featuring the latest discoveries in science, engineering, the environment, health, and more from North America's leading research universities."

Academic Earth - "Free academic video courses from leading universities"

Free and low-cost resources for Unit Studies

Resources recently mentioned on my UU homeschool listserve:

Living Math! - offers resources for teaching math naturally and integrating math and history in the unit studies

Intelligo - offers thematic lessons that integrate math, science, language arts, etc. within the topic of interest

National Geographic Kids - Free games and activities and studies about people and places

Want to start a charter school in Michigan?

Want to start a charter school in Michigan?  You can find assistance here.

Want to find a charter school near you in Michigan? Look here.

Chinese Language Resources

Homeschool High School Students can enroll in Chinese classes, among other things, through Michigan Virtual High School, a division of Michigan Virtual School.

Michigan State University's Confucius Institute offers some free basic Chinese lessons and offers you a way to learn one new Chinese word or character a day!

Then of course there is the well-regarded Chinese Immersion pre-school through Lansing School District and Michigan State University as one of the Education for Global Citizenship Schools.

Free Civics Curriculum (middle and high school)

"Our Courts: 21st Century Civics is web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. Our Courts is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support."

There are games, lessons, and activities for middle and high school students as well as resources and opportunities for teachers, lawyers, parents, and citizens.

Sports Skills Program for Children and Adults with Disabilities

Michigan State University offers this unique program that may be of interest to families dealing with sensory processing disorders.  Hopefully this resource is available to families near other public universities.

Sports Skills Program (SSP)

Overview. In the Sports Skills Program, MSU undergraduate students provide coaching and instruction in sports skills to children and adults with disabilities who reside in the greater Lansing area. SSP provides opportunities for: (a) MSU students to develop an appreciation of human ability and acquire teaching/coaching skills; (b) persons with disabilities to improve sports skills and physical fitness; and (c) MSU students and faculty to conduct research on physical activity and disability.

Free Curriculum and Resources from MSU

Junior Citizen Planning Curriculum (Grades 3 - 8) and more from Michigan State University. Tons of curricula and resources for land use, mapping, neighborhood surveys, environmental science, legislation etc.!

Learn nuclear science with marbles (Grades 7 - 12) or take a free tour (K-12) of the nationally famous National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University.

MSU Science Theatre peformances for a variety of ages and on numerous topics.

Database of website for online courses, educational games, software, tours and virtual learning from Michigan State University's searchable database of resources.

Help get farm-fresh food into school lunches!

Here are some great links to help you get started  helping your school!

Here are 15 healthy snacks your kids can have fun making and eating.

Quality Affordable Telescope - Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy

The lecturer at MSU's planetarium recommended this link for a good quality and affordable telescope.


The Galileoscope™: An IYA2009 Cornerstone Project

The Galileoscope™ is a high-quality, low-cost telescope kit developed for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 by a team of leading astronomers, optical engineers, and science educators. No matter where you live, with this easy-to-assemble, 50-mm (2-inch) diameter, 25- to 50-power achromatic refractor, you can see the celestial wonders that Galileo Galilei first glimpsed 400 years ago and that still delight stargazers today. These include lunar craters and mountains, four moons circling Jupiter, the phases of Venus, Saturn's rings, and countless stars invisible to the unaided eye. As of August 10, 2009, the kit is priced at U.S. $20 each plus shipping for 1 to 99 units, or U.S. $15 each plus shipping for 100 units or more (see below).

Fenner Nature Center Homeschool Programs 2009-2010

Fenner Nature Center Homeschool Programs
 - Welcome to your outdoor learning lab!

Join us for an educational adventure!

Under the guidance of a staff naturalist, your child will explore the fields, forests, and wetlands of Fenner Nature Center to observe the lessons of nature first hand.

All sessions are on the 2nd Tuesday (3rd Tuesday in September) of each month from 1:00pm - 2:30pm at Fenner Nature Center, 2020 E. Mt Hope Lansing, MI 48910.

Cost is $4 per student per session. Call 483-4224 to RSVP and register by phone.  See Program Schedule below.

Nationwide Volunteer Opportunity Clearinghouse

All for Good helps you find and share ways to do good.
Each of us has a role to play in improving our communities and our country. Small actions add up to a big difference.

Search for your location at and sign up to volunteer!

Foreign Language Classes for Children

MSU is still accepting enrollments for all of our weekly language classes for children in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. Classes are open to children ages 7-13.

Course fees represent $9.00 per instructional hour plus a $25.00 materials fee for the semester.

Multiple-program/child discounts are available (25%). All classes meet in Wells Hall on MSU's campus. Classes will be canceled if the class size is less than 5 students.

2009-2010 Homeschool Classes Michigan Historical Library

Education Programs for Home School Students

The Michigan Historical Museum offers home school parents special days to bring their children to our educational group programs. Choose a program that interests you and enjoy it in the company of other home school families. All programs start at 10:00am. Spaces are limited, call or e-mail now to reserve your space! 517-241-0708 or (See the MHL calendar of events for even more activities for everyone.) See program schedule below.

Homeschooling the distracted learner??

Today we were no more than five minutes into math lessons when my 7 year-old sensory seeker started mouthing the dominoes we were using for class.

Thankfully I had found a helpful website with tips for teaching these bundles of energy!

Sizzle-Bop! is a web haven "Where Highly Distractible People are Celebrated, Encouraged & Empowered."

A New Age of Civil Disobedience

Here are some interesting ways people are finding to "take back the city," especially in an age of budget cuts to city services. 

Seed bombs? Paint guns? Graffiti? Yes, these are part of urban renewal if you can believe it!

[Photo by Urban Wild via Creative Commons License]

Breastfeeding legislation

Save the Date!

Support Breastfeeding in Michigan
Legislative Day of the Michigan Breastfeeding Network Breakfast
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009, 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Capitol Room 426, Capitol Building, Lansing, MI

Please join us to learn about promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding in Michigan. While the American Academy of Pediatrics has always endorsed breastfeeding as the optimal form of nutrition, Michigan falls short of federal target goals for breastfeeding in the early postpartum period, at six months, and at one year of age. Learn about how breastfeeding reduces health care and absenteeism costs.

Hosted by
The Michigan Breastfeeding Network, State Representative Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor,) and State Representative Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton.)

For directions to the Capitol, please visit

Educational Field Trips - Northern Indiana

Mennohof Amish/Mennonite Information Center - Menno-Hof is a non-profit information center that teaches visitors about the faith and life of Amish and Mennonites. Located in Shipshewana, Indiana, Menno-Hof invites groups and individuals to learn about and experience Anabaptist history and lifestyle. Menno-Hof’s multi-image presentations, historical environments, and colorful displays take you on a fascinating journey inside the unique world of the Mennonites and Amish. See where the Anabaptists had their beginning in a Swiss courtyard and how they were persecuted for their faith in the dungeon. Travel with the Anabaptists down the cobblestone streets of Holland and board a 17th century sailing boat on a journey to America and freedom. Take a virtual tour for a glimpse of what Menno-Hof has to offer.

Midwest Museum of American Art - Beautifully renovated neo-classical style bank building 19th and 20th century American Art, with original paintings by Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell.

Center for History - 38-room Victorian mansion, a charming cottage reflecting the 1930s, a gallery that chronicles local history, a gallery of Notre Dame history, a children's museum plus compelling exhibitions.
Currently running a special exhibit on Lincoln along with the Studebaker National Museum which owns one of Lincoln's carriages.

Cabin days

Grades 3 and up
October 13-16, 2009
During Cabin Days, Center for History volunteers, dressed as pioneers, demonstrate cooking, recreation and trades about life in 1830s Michiana. Lively interaction occurs as students, eager to learn about pioneer life, ask questions of the pioneers they are visiting. Students may stop to talk with the Navarre family who are cooking outdoors. They might also be curious about the jars of sassafras root, rosehips, willow bark and leeches (careful, they're real!) that set in rows in front of Doc Hardman. And the school marm always welcomes the children to her schoolhouse as she teaches lessons from The New McGuffey Second Reader.

Fur Trade Program
Date: December 8-11, 2009
Time: 9:30 - 12:30 p.m.
Students will gain insight into the importance of the fur trade in northern Indiana during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. They will examine silver shaped into crosses and animal forms to learn how the European explorers bartered with Native Americans for goods. A view of axes, guns, traps and such household items as a bone needle used in making clothing will help students understand the self-sufficiency of the fur traders.

Civil War Program
Grades 3 and up
TBA (will occur February 2010)

Bonneyville Mill Tours and Programs

Mill Tours:
Bonneyville Mill:
All Grades, 30 minutes-1 hour
The staff at Bonneyville Mill is always happy to demonstrate and explain how water power has been harnessed to grind grain into flour. Mill tours can be geared toward particular areas of interest (History, Science, Social Studies, etc.) when so requested. Please note that the mill operates between 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.. Students are welcome to purchase mill products. Two pound bags are $2.50 for corn meal and $3.50 for wheat flours. Please schedule extra time if purchases will be made.

Awesome Autumn
Oxbow, Bonneyville, River Preserve
Grades: K-6th, 45 mins.-1 hour
Autumn is a great time for a hike with its crisp air and colorful foliage. It is also a time of preparation and change. On this hike students will discover how the plants and animals of the park are preparing for winter.

Meet A Tree:
Oxbow, Bonneyville, River Preserve
Grades: 3rd-12th, 1-1½ hour
Through nature games and a hike, students will learn to identify many of the trees in the park and discover their uses to us and the park’s wildlife.

Wild About Wetlands:
Oxbow, Bonneyville, River Preserve
Grades: 3-12th, 1-1½ hour
What is a wetland? Why are they so important? Why are we sowild about them? Students will find out through hands-on activities and the investigation of the wet and wild inhabitants.

Fun and Games:
Oxbow, Bonneyville
Grades: 1st-5th, 1-1½ hours
Learning can be fun, and games can teach a lot. This activity combines the perfect mixture of games and learning to give the students a better understanding of our natural world. Through hiking and nature games, the naturalist will make your visit a fun and rewarding experience.

The Wonderful World of Insects
Oxbow, Bonneyville, River Preserve
Grades: 1st-5th, 1 hour
How do insects differ from other animals? How do they grow and mature? How do they benefit us? During this program students will explore the insect world through hands-on activities, games and hikes. This program is available from May thru October only.

If We Were Indians
Oxbow, Bonneyville, River Preserve
Grades: 3rd-12th, 1-1½ hours
Step back in time to the life of the Potawatomi Indians. Through stories, facts and activities students will learn of the Indian’s lifestyle and reverence for the natural world.

Elkhart Historical Museum & Rush Memorial Center

Regional Native Americans
Learn about the earliest inhabitants of North America. Discover how the Native Americans of this region lived before and after contact with the Europeans. Program time for this tour is one hour. Grades: 3-12

Story of Elkhart County
See and hear the story of our County from then to now! See the amazing collections preserved in the Elkhart County Historical museum.
Grades: K-12

Pioneer Life
Who were the pioneers? How did their life differ from our own? What's a flail and basket winnow? During this program you will discover these answers and more! Grades: K-12

Hands-on History Stations
Rotate through various hands-on stations chosen by the teacher. Native games, natural dyes, and candle-making are some of the choices! Grades: K-6

The 1840s Farmer
This visiting 1840s farmer will will teach your class about farming and pioneer life with lots of interaction. Grades: K-6

Life During the Industrial Revolution
Learn about family life during the Industrial Revolution. See how the railroads played a major role in expanding the industry of Elkhart County. Grades: K-12

Free admission to participating Smithsonian Museums around the country September 26, 2009

Learn to ride a bike the natural way

The Europeans seem to have great ideas when it comes to children and play.
(Just think about how IKEA incorporates play structures into ordinary furniture and how that Denmark library has play structures devoted to full body and mind learning.)

Here's another one of their great ideas: The Balance Bike!

There are at least two sturdy and popular brands of their balance bikes available in the U.S., including Skuut (shown at right) and LIKEaBIKE (new Kokua model shown below).

These wooden bikes have no pedals and no training wheels. Kids just skoot the bike along with their feet. They naturally develop their balance.

So the transition to a two-wheeler with pedals becomes very easy.

There is never a need for training wheels, which never seemed useful to me as a child learning to ride a bike, or as a parent watching my kids.

If it seems hard to envision, check out this video from LIKEaBIKE.

And the good news is that you can make one yourself!

These bikes are designed for ages 2 to 5, but many older kids can still have a hard time learning to ride a bike. And the price can be prohibitive for many families.

So here is a solution from Kristy and her brilliant husband using some ordinary bikes from a garage sale:

(1) Remove pedals/shaft
(2) Remove training wheels
(3) Let the kids ride!!!
(4) Later, put the pedals/shaft back on the bike

Kristy said it took the her 5 year olds just a couple of months to transition from the pedal-less bikes to the two-wheelers.

And the advantage to this approach for older kids is that the bike is just like the ones their friends use rather than the wooden versions.


Comments from Mandi, owner "Jillians" -- She is a fellow scientist and always does fabulous research on any product she carries!!!

A modified pedal bike (pedal bike with the pedals removed), or other brands that have a large turning radius for the front wheel make it really, really hard to steer for beginners. Maybe for 4 year olds it would be okay, but for 2 or 3 year olds, they really need the front tire to basically go straight, and not turn too quickly. Also, brakes seem like a good idea, but a toddler really shouldn't be going so quickly that they need brakes... they don't really have the control to stop smoothly.

After really falling in love with the whole concept of balance bikes, I did some research for our store and decided to go with Skuut. We've been really, really happy with the company. It's seldom, but when something with a bike goes wrong, they are incredibly quick to either replace the part or the whole bike. The bikes really hold up and they work great!

I've heard great things about LikeaBike, too, so I'm sure it would be great! Striders are great if the bike will be left outside (the wood bikes shouldn't be left outside) and/or if you have a really active child that will be going up and down ramps, doing jumps (I've seen it!), using it in muddy areas, but the handlebars do turn all the way.

Make your own little mini-post office box

This is so cute and you can make it too!

This miniature mail box could be a great addition to doll house play or for making your own model city.

Check out more of these fun paper models from Greg Van't Land.

Fall Activity Guide

The 2009 Fall parks and recreation guide is here! Check out the brand new homeschool classes on pages 12 and 13!

K-6th Grade Science and Math Exploration Days

Saturday, November 7, 2009
8:30am – 12:00pm

Open to all children – Kindergarten through sixth-grade!
Located in the Arts and Sciences and Gannon Buildings on the LCC Downtown Campus


See exhibits from organizations such as the LCC Planetarium and Great Lakes Geoscience.

Events include Craters, Spider Webs, Math Activities and many more. (All events are non-competitive)

The cost is $3.00 per student. To register logon to

Registration deadline for groups of 5 or more children is October 16th.

Sponsored by Lansing Community College

Be a famous writer contest for kids

Enter the Mrs. P Children's writing contest. There are categories for ages 4-8 and 9-13. Check the website for official rules and prizes!

Now THIS is a library!!!!!

I had remembered reading in Mothering Magazine about the way some European countries really emphasized free-play for their children by integrating play places into commercial areas.

But, wow! The way Hjorring Public library in Denmark incorporates play into their library is incredible.

This is a great way to incorporate sedentary and active places into one area which my can't-sit-still-for-very-long son would appreciate greatly.

Why don't classrooms look like this?! I guess this is why many of us with active boys homeschool. They can read while swinging upside-down on their ladder swing.

See more fabulous pictures at

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