Raising a Reader

My kid is at that age where he and his peers are learning to read. Most have moved into basic chapter books, some have moved into full chapter books. My kid is struggling through the books just before basic chapter books. In short he is a bit behind. We’ve put in the time, he has put in the work, but my son still doesn’t enjoy reading. Currently I have him reading the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold. The best he can say about them is that he doesn’t hate them. I think he almost likes them, but he wishes he was reading something more like an early chapter book about detectives and super spies. He isn’t ready for those yet. I wish he was, but he isn’t.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about him not liking to read is that we have done all the ‘right’ things. We have done all the things the articles say to do if you want to ‘Raise a Reader’. We’ve always read him stories before bed and during the day. My husband and I read books both on our electronic devices and in paper copies. We keep magazines and books by our bed and at the end of his. My couch always has a small pile of books, and the dinning room table usually has to have a book or two removed before we can sit to eat. My kid can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story. He will even make up his own stories if someone else is willing to write them down for him.

We did all the ‘right’ things, but my kid isn’t a reader. He is an “I’ll only read if I absolutely can’t get out of it and you make me read” kind of reader. When other parents brag about ‘raising a reader’ I get a little jealous. They probably didn’t do anything more than I did. In many cases they have done much less! I’ve realized though that the problem isn’t that I did something wrong, it’s that I’m looking at it wrong. I can’t force my kid to love reading. I did all the right things, and while he isn’t a reader he is a lover of books, stories, and knowledge. Maybe it was the article title that was wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘How to raise a reader’, but ‘How to encourage your child to be love books’.

My kid loves books. He will sit and listen to us read to him for longer than I am up to reading out loud. He thrives on new facts and knowledge from non-fiction books and magazines. He will retell the story of our latest spy novel over the dinner table. He looks through Dwell magazine and points out the things he likes and the things he doesn’t. We have given him a love of books and learning, and I’ve finally realized that is even more important than a love of reading.

Do you have any young readers in your life? What books did they enjoy when they weren’t quite ready for early chapter readers?

Photo Pocket Insert for my Fauxdori

Photo pocket insert for a fauxdori

I realized a few weeks ago that I don’t carry pictures of my kid with me. As a parent one of the questions people semi frequently ask is what does your kid look like now. Until last week the only picture I had of my son was from daycare … he hasn’t been in daycare for years. If I have my iPad with me I can show more recent pictures, but they are all silly shots. Things like him dressed up with a mask on, or of something he built covering half his blurry face.

These days it is rare for me to be out without my fauxdori, so I figured why not add pictures to it. I found these photo pockets at Michael’s and decided to use them to add a picture insert to my fauxdori. I used duck brand duct tape (I cut about 1/2 cm off the width), to attach two sheets together and ta-da I have a photo insert.

You could make the duck tape narrower, but I wanted it to wrap around one my notebooks instead of using it as stand alone insert. I think having it wrap around one of my notebooks also takes pressure off the duct tape, so it should last longer. The duct tape needs to be wide enough to wrap around the spine of the notebook because the plastic of the photo insert is too thick to curve. I also made sure to pinch the duct tape together in each of the little cut outs for the binder rings the insert is intended for to help keep everything in place.

I’ve been using the photo insert for about a week, and I’m really happy with it. I now have pictures of my family, most recent obstacle style race, my nieces and nephews, and some motivational sayings. Each large pocket is 3×4 inches, so you can get two from a single 4×6. The smaller pockets are 2×2, so you can get six from a 4×6 print. It cost me less than a dollar to print the pictures I needed. Can’t complain about that.

Do you ever print pictures anymore? What is your favourite Fauxdoti insert?

Teaching my Reluctant Reader

Popsicle stick word gameMy son is a reluctant reader. I actually feel like this term isn’t quite right. He is more like a “violently against anything that remotely resembles reading, ESPECIALLY if it has to be done out loud” reader. On a bad day I can spend 2.5 hours getting him to do ten minutes of reading. (these days we are down to 15 minutes of complaining before 15 minutes of work)

His reluctance for reading is particularly hard since we are a family of readers, and we did all the ‘right’ things. My husband and I read both electronic and paper books. We are both big fans of (over) researching new hobbies and skills both online and in library books. When my son was little we went to the library weekly (now it is every two weeks). We have always read him stories before bed. We read to him in the middle of the day when he has had too much TV, but we need to have a calm break. We have succeeded in giving him a love of books … as long as someone else is reading them to him.

Last summer I put in a lot of time teaching my son to read. He made great progress, but he was still behind. Over the course of the school year he made slow gains, but he never caught up. He is still about half a grade level behind. So we are back at our reading lessons this summer.

This year we are focusing on fluency more than getting to a higher reading level. So we are working on sight words, letter recognition, and of course just plain old reading practice. Here are a few things that are making our reading work a little less onerous this year:

  1. Fiddlesticks – He actually LIKES playing this game. We use about 35 words at a time from the dolch list and four red tipped sticks. We usually play for between 2-5 minutes. I write the words on with a black coloured pencil not a marker.
  2. Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold – These are slightly below my sons reading level. They are perfect for fluency practice and read alone practice. Plus he doesn’t hate them (this is HIGH praise for a book he can read himself).
  3. The Alphabet – we have been practicing his printing (when we can since his dominant hand is currently in a sling). Before we start we always sing the alphabet while looking at our alphabet chart. I think part of his struggle to read is a lack of confidence about the alphabet.
  4. b d mouth formation – my son has a really hard time with b and d. He is fine with p now, and doesn’t struggle with n and m, but b d has been a real struggle. Teaching him about the mouth formation has not completely solved the problem, but when he is willing to use the trick he hasn’t gotten it wrong.

What early readers did/do your kids like? Do you have any other word games that might be a big hit?

Fauxdori – Bullet Journal Update

Leather fauxdori with red coverI’m several months out from my last bullet journal update, so I thought it was time to post another.

I’ve been using a fauxdori, with a bullet journal insert, for organizing my personal life since October of last year. I took a break from the bullet journal for most of June, but as soon as July hit I realized how much easier it was to keep on top of things when I was using my bullet journal.

My fauxdori has two elastics in the spine and usually has four inserts, two on each elastic. My current set up is: First my gratitude journal, second my bullet journal, and finally a scrap paper notebook wrapped in a plastic pocket insert. I keep the bullet journal in the middle because I write in it the most, and I can use it while still in the fauxdori. The gratitude notebook I pull out if I am making a lot of notes, and the scrap notebook doesn’t need to be neat or legible. The plastic pocket is from Michael’s Travelers notebook line. I like it, but it is narrower than my other inserts and the zipper pull might get annoying. I’m not sure yet if I’ll keep it long term or not.

I used to keep a novel or writing notebook in my fauxdori instead of the gratitude journal. If I don’t start using the gratitude journal more, I’ll probably switch back to that set up. I could easily keep both, but I find the fauxdori a little too thick with four notebooks in it. Three is my preferred set up.

My Bullet Journal set up is as follows:

  • Index at the front. I don’t index daily logging pages, but use a range for months from the first to last page used.
  • Set up pages:
    • The first page is my priorities for this year.
    • The second (facing page) is My quilt to do list which includes the sizes of my finished quilts for reference. I use this all the time!
    • The next set of facing pages I’ve broken into four sections on each side. This is my future log. I have June-Dec (I started a new journal in May as I used up my previous one), and the last section is for 2018.
  • Month, daily logging and list pages:
    • Each month starts with a set of facing pages. On the left is the month at a glance calendar. On the right I put my goals at the top of the page, then I do a to do list for each week.
    • The daily logging pages are the usual, but I don’t migrate unfinished items until I turn to a new page and can’t see the items anymore.
    • I put my list pages in whenever I need them and add them to the index as per usual.

Do you use a Bullet journal or a Midori? How long have you been using your journal?

Finished Quilt – The Grace in our Stars

My friend Cate decided, at the last minute, to make a quilt for a friend of the family. The friend lives in another country and was in need of some love. She wanted to do something, and sending a quilt is like sending a hug. I offered to help make a few blocks since she was short on time. She took me up on it, and over two nights three of us made a quilt top!

The pictures above are the ones I took over the two nights. The first night is the first five pictures, while the last four are from the second night. We did almost 8 hours of work over the two evenings, but it was well worth it. Until we hit the multicoloured border we almost always had two sewing machines going, plus one person cutting. They say more hands make for lighter work, in this case it was certainly true. This was a record finish for both of us.

I helped sandwich the quilt one afternoon, and Cate finished the quilting and binding over a few days. The quilt has now been gifted and the recipient loves it. Cate sent me the finished picture below once the binding was sewn on.

Pin wheel quilt on black backgroundI love it too. It’s absolutely beautiful. I guess you know you’re happy with a quilt when you don’t want to give it away.

What is your fastest finish for a quilt? Do you ever work as a group on a quilt?

My First Handbound Journal

Floral covered handbound journal.Last night I went to a program about bookbinding at my local library. The two hour session started with a brief introduction, and then we got to make our own journal/notebook. You can see mine on the left. I’m really happy with how well it turned out, especially for a first attempt!

First we had to select the pieces that would become our journals. We needed cardboard for the cover, 36 pages for the inside, thread for the binding, and decorative paper to wrap around the cover.

Next up were the supplies to put everything together. Scissors, glue, needle, pencil, a thimbles, and an awl. In the end I didn’t find the thimble overly useful, and while the awl was great for putting the holes in the cover, I preferred a large needle to make the holes in the paper. The needle I used for threading the binding was curved, and it made the whole process nice and quick.
bound edge of journal

I decided to use one coloured sheet for the outside of each section (in this case six sheets stacked and folded in half). This meant, as you can see on the right, each section of the binding was bright and colourful. In the green sections I used dotted paper, and in the rest plain paper. We assembled the journals using a kettle stitch. It was easy to learn, and once I got the hand motions down, surprisingly fast.

I really enjoyed making this journal, and can definitely see myself making more. I think I’m going to use the plain sheets in this one for some smaller writing projects that don’t need an entire notebook. The dotted pages are going to be used for quilting sketches.

Have you done any bookbinding? Do you know of any great online resources for learning more about book binding?

Spring is Here (finally)

We had a long winter in my neck of the woods. Long enough that my son had a snow day in early April! Now spring is finally here with its rainy days (we are supposed to have rain everyday this week), and on the days of no rain, bike rides, sidewalk chalk, and other outdoor activities abound.

Spring is known for being a time of renewal, decluttering, and cleaning. I have been trying to take some time to think about these things. This winter, I spent a few months in hibernation. Until we had a few sunny days, I didn’t realize how much I had withdrawn from my own life. Apparently it was a rougher winter than I thought. Now that I am feeling present again it is time to get things done.

Years ago I had to simplify my hobbies. I had too many things I wanted to do, and the end result was that I didn’t get much time to do any of them. These days I focus my limited free time on time with my family, sewing, and writing. If I only have time for only a few hobbies, I need to pick the ones that matter most to me. When I sat down and looked at the long list of crafts, hobbies, and other time sinks I enjoyed, theses were the ones that came out on top. I expect they will change over time, but right now my focus is on finding time for each of these things.

For the last month I’ve made a real effort to exercise. As much as I would love to find time for writing and sewing, I know from experience I need to feel good about myself to be motivated to do much of anything. For me, exercise is the key for feeling good about myself (for me! your mileage may vary). Exercise helps me sleep well at night, keeps me strong enough to play with my kid, and allows me to feel productive. Plus it encourages my love of numbers. Now that I have exercise (both cardio and some basic strength) back into my weekly routine it is time to start adding in other things.

This month I want to focus on writing, with a bit of sewing thrown in. I hope to write twice a week for the rest of the month, and get at least two evenings of sewing. I already know what my projects are going to be! I will finish the Jungle Path quilt top, and write a new short story.

What helps you feel motivated? What hobbies are most important to you?

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

I’ve talked before about Camp NaNoWriMo vs Regular NaNoWriMo before. My preference is for regular NaNoWriMo, but I’m doing Camp in April because a few friends are dragging me along for the ride. I set a fairly low goal of 20k for the month. If I meet me goal, I’ll be back on track for the year for writing.

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to continue my NaNo 2016 Sci-Fi project. It has at least 20k left to get to the end, and it is somewhat fresh in my mind. Of course, it wasn’t as fresh as I thought… I spent the first two days of camp rereading the 50k I wrote in November.

On the days I write, I’m making good progress. I write at least two days worth of words when I get butt in chair time. Of course this would be more impressive if I was writing more than every third day. Ya, you might have noticed that math isn’t adding up well. I am currently caught up to day 7… it’s the 11th. My plan is to write another two days worth tonight and then I’ll only be 2 days behind. This in a nut shell is why camp doesn’t work for me. I’m always behind. In NaNo I’m usually ahead by day 3-4 and never drop below par. When I do camp, I’m ALWAYS behind.

I’m determined to catch up. I’m far from out of the game yet. Are you  doing camp this year? How are you doing at meeting your goals?

Critique Group – Part One – Setup

I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:

  • This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
  • Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
  • We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.

Some background
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.

The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.

When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:

  • How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
  • When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
  • What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
  • What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
  • How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?

Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?

Mystery Quilt – Yellow Coin Baby Quilt

I can finally show you the Mystery quilt! Yesterday this baby quilt was delivered to the Mama-to-be at her shower. Now that the proud parents own it, I can share the quilt with the world. The finished quilt is about 33×39 inches.

Front of yellow coin quilt

I laid out the pattern myself, but kept it nice and simple. The small rectangles are 5×3 inches, the large ones 5×11 inches. For the ‘coin’ fabrics I chose four fabrics I liked, in colours that could work for a boy or girl. My goal for this quilt was to keep it bright and vibrant. From each fabric, I cut two large and five small rectangles. To get the last small rectangle, I used a scrap from a fun print that helped tie together the colours from the other fabrics. The layout was random, except for the little snail below, I knew I wanted him along the bottom.

Close up of yellow coin quilt

When it came time to back the quilt, I selected a fabric from my stash. I wanted a dark fabric that wouldn’t show dirt too easily, but that was still cheerful. This fabric in yellow and black was used in my son’s digger quilt and always gets a lot of compliments, so I went with it. I was a bit worried about how the white quilting thread would look, but I like how it turned out.

back of the baby quilt

For the quilting I did a loopy meandering pattern in white thread. This was my first time doing something other than a basic stipple. I couldn’t find a fabric I liked in my stash for the binding, so I decided to try a scrappy binding made from the four main quilt fabrics. I love it! I want to do a scrappy binding for all my kid quilts now. The label (that I’ve whited out above) includes my name, date, location, and who I’ve gifted it to. I like to keep my labels simple, but I feel they add a nice personal touch.

Edges of the coin quilt

Have you finished a quilt lately? Do you like to follow a quilt pattern or make your own?