Military Family Stories

Veterans of World War II rarely speak of their service.  In the case of my father, humility is part of the reason.

SSgt Morgan P. Molloy, Sr., age 91. Tail gunner who flew on B25 "Rhode Island Red."

SSgt Morgan P. Molloy, Sr., age 91. Tail gunner on B25 “Rhode Island Red.”

 “Everybody did it,” he shrugged, referring to his peers in the 1940s.

He is one of a handful of remaining WWII veterans in his town. Read his story, published this week in the Metrowest Daily News.

 If you are a veteran, or have a family member or friend who served in the military, record the story.  Videotape it or take notes as you talk.  Ask to see what pictures or memorabilia they have from that time–that helps to prompt remembrances.

Get your children involved–sometimes they come up with the best questions–because this is how they learn about family history, world history, democracy, and making peace.

Summer Night Sounds

Right now, I’m sitting near an open window and listening to a nighttime chorus of katydids and crickets in huge numbers. Want to listen, too?

How many night insect sounds can you identify? Besides being relaxing music from nature, children find it incredibly interesting to learn about insects and how they create their songs.

Make learning about summer night sounds a memorable experience in your family.  Click here for plenty of insect identification info on a great site.

Birds, Music, Classroom Management

No one has ever put together music with nature’s music like Robert J. Lurtsema.

If you love classical music and lived in eastern New England  from the 1970s to the 1990s, Robert J woke you every morning with these incredible sounds.

He used his own recordings of birds to create a soundscape using, in this case, Ancient Airs and Dances Suite by Ottorino Respighi. At the 5:15 mark, notice the fade from birdsong to Respighi.

Set the mood for your students to settle themselves, focus their minds, and to start the day’s journey on a calm, thoughtful note.

 

 

Thanks to John Lester at http://becunningandfulloftricks.com

 

Wandering Adventure in a Bookstore

Wandering around a local bookstore is a travel adventure to me. Naturally, that was part of my plan when my daughters and I visited a friend in Provincetown.

Talk about the illustrations as you read aloud.

Talk about the illustrations as you read aloud. This is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Illustrations by Graham Rust.

My 7-year old went one way. My 4-year old whined in agony.

“Mom, I’m not like everybody else in the family.” She threw herself on the floor. “I hate bookstores!”

News to me. We went to bookstores as often as the playground. Snuggling at night with a read-aloud, talking about the story as we read, and keeping piles of library books around the house was part of family life.

Listen to audio books read aloud by the author.

Listen to audio books read aloud by the author.

I led her to the children’s section and encouraged her to pick out a book. A few feet away, I sank into the nonfiction.

Soon, a little voice began. It was my 4-year-old, reading a book aloud. By herself. I held my breath. When had she begun reading? I asked her nonchalantly.

“Just now,” she said.

Look through travel books together.

Look through travel books together.

It’s one thing to be a teacher and witness the light bulb moment when children learn to read. When it’s your child, it’s a thrill. But it is not magic.

These are two simple ways to help your child be a good reader:

  1. Keep all kinds of books, magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and e-readers around the house. Kids need to be immersed in print to become good readers.

    Kids love to read other kids' books.

    Kids love to read other kids’ books.

  2. Kids need to see their family members reading. Read aloud to kids and read alone. (Even if reading isn’t your favorite activity.)

When you help a reader grow, you’re helping to build a better world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Wandering

On a weekend trip to Québec City, we visited sites recommended by a travel book— Montmorency Falls, the Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré, the farmer’s market, art galleries and cafés, all lovely and worth experiencing.IMG_3997

Sometimes, though, an itinerary needs to breathe.

My husband and I set off one evening to roam the cobblestone streets that overlook the great St. Lawrence River. Wandering of any kind invites the unexpected, and that’s what happened.

A wisp of song curled down a hill. The melody drew us up a narrow street and around the corner of an ancient stone building. There, in the shadow of Louis XIV, a quartet of singers sang opera.

One beautiful piece after another rippled forth in the sun. There was something for everyone, sort of an opera’s-greatest-hits program. And I melted right into it, shoulders and all. My imagination relaxed and soared.

Here’s a lovely wander for your imagination, the Intermezzo from the opera “Cavalleria rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni.

Grandparents and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

Your two granddaughters come to visit while their mother copes with a new baby. Every morning, you pour mountainous bowls of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes for each one before they come downstairs.

Did you know Kellogg's Corn Flakes has been around for over 100 years? (K.Nollet, 2015)

Did you know Kellogg’s Corn Flakes has been around for over 100 years? (K.Nollet, 2015)

You set out spoons and the yellow milk pitcher. You have firm ideas about the propriety of leaving the cereal box on the table, so you put it back in the cabinet.

Years ago, I was one of those little girls and severely disappointed.  Why?

Because I’d been deprived of one of life’s pleasures–reading the cereal box while eating.

Have you noticed how we all read cereal boxes over and over? It’s entertainment and learning, something today’s grandparents love to provide.

Lots of preschoolers can read plenty on the box because they recognize the logo, colors, shapes, and easy words. Older grandchild will notice the kayaking and Kellogg’s free cruise contest. Why not help them enter?

Do your grandkids know Corny the rooster? (K.Nollet, 2015)

Do your grandkids know Corny the rooster? (K.Nollet, 2015)

The nutrition information alone is full of math and science possibilities—percentages, measurement, minerals, vitamins—and you can practice Spanish and English at the same time.

On the back of the box, there’s a message just for you. “Discover the possibilities” the next time you serve a bowl of corn flakes.

Pluto: A Girl, A Grandfather, and A Teacher

Eighty-five years ago, 11-year-old Venetia Burney sat at breakfast with her grandfather, who was a university librarian at Oxford.VenetiaBurney
He talked to her about the latest exciting news story, that a new planet had been discovered. A suitable name hadn’t yet been found, he pointed out.

Venetia’s teacher had taught her students that the other planets were named for Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. The teacher had taken the students outdoors on a “nature walk” to make a model of the solar system. Clumps of dirt were placed apart to show the planets’ relative distance from the sun.

PlutoWhen Venetia’s grandfather asked her what she’d name the new planet, she replied, “Pluto,” the Roman god of the mythological, dark underworld.

Impressed, he relayed this suggestion to an astronomer friend, who brought the name “Pluto” to his colleagues, who voted in favor of it.

[Listen to a 2006 interview with Venetia here.]

Venetia’s grandfather rewarded her with £5 and wrote a note to her teacher, recognizing the “capable and enlightened” instruction and the value of the “nature walk…[where she learned about the] gloom of distance.”

What does this story teach us? First, when grandparents talk with their grandchildren about current events, it matters. Conversation knits generations together and helps children learn to think.

Second, when students learn interdisciplinary topics like mythology and science, they put together their learning in wonderful ways we cannot predict.milkyway

Third, when a grandparent writes a letter of thanks to a teacher, it is not only recognition, but also a gracious act of goodwill and appreciation.

 

 

 

 

Credits:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

http://mentalfloss.com/article/48673/venetia-burney-11-year-old-girl-who-named-pluto

http://facts.randomhistory.com/pluto-facts.html

http://nineplanets.org/news/an-interview-with-venetia-burney-phair/

 

A Shiver of Sharks

“It’s Shark Week!” The radio voice awakened me with this news, which I thought was an awesome way to start the day.

This tooth is more than an inch long and still quite sharp. (K.Nollet 2015)

This tooth is more than an inch long and still quite sharp. (K.Nollet 2015)

Sharks thrill us with wonder, curiosity, and fear. Once you learn more about sharks, though, the fear usually turns to respect. That’s how I feel when I visit the beach in Venice, Florida.

Notice the different colors. (K.Nollet, 2015)

Notice the different colors. (K.Nollet, 2015)

Prehistoric sharks’ teeth wash up everywhere. One look at these shiny dark triangles and my mind starts organizing a math lesson. Or a science project. Or writing and art. You get the idea.

This summer, why not collect objects from the natural world to bring to your children? It doesn’t matter if they’re from your local park or someplace exotic. Display your finds at a child’s level, add a few books, and watch their curiosity grow.

 

 

N.B. Shiver refers to a group of sharks.

High Stakes Kindergarten

A recent story about kindergarten and the Common Core in The Boston Globe got me steamed enough to write a letter to the editor.

We teachers and administrators must speak out when articles like this one appear. I take seriously my responsibility to cultivate social justice in the world. The Common Core and other state standards do no harm as a road map. It’s when we set children up for high stakes testing that policymakers go awry.

Make no mistake, test prep is everywhere and in every grade. If your kindergartner comes home with piles of worksheets, well, there you have it. Just because a five-year-old can learn to multiply doesn’t mean they should spend time on it. No body of research on young children supports this type of learning.

Children from privileged families in well-to-do areas don’t attend worksheet kindergartens. Children from generations of poverty and illiteracy do. Yet they are the ones who need play the most, to help them develop into socially and emotionally healthy people.

All kindergartners deserve creative, loving, well-provisioned kindergartens—complete with wonderful play areas that include small furniture, blocks, dress-up supplies, tools, and homemaking areas with pots and pans.  It’s hardly an understatement to say that our society depends on it.

Do Pets School at Work, or Work at School?

To mark Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 26), I offer this piece from 2010, published at Lesley University as “The Magic of Mario and G Force.” Learn what a difference pets make in the classroom.

It’s a steamy spring afternoon in a city school. Twenty-six hot first graders in navy polo shirts plop onto the rug to hear their teacher read a story.Brown and white guinea pigs Afterward, she asks her students to write a journal response from the perspective of hamsters Mario and G-Force, the class pets.

Then the magic of this lesson unfolds. As students drift to different areas of the room to write, many of them choose to sit in the camp chairs arranged around the large hamster cage. It has tall rolling legs, bringing it right up to student level—perfect! This means Mario and G-Force participate as full members of the class, offering viewpoints from all 4 sides as they nibble, groom, and snuffle around.girl writing

Students who gather around Mario’s and G-Force’s cage sit as easily in their camp chairs as if they were adults sitting around a campfire, except they have journals in their laps. Voices drop to a murmur as students read Mario’s perspective aloud to themselves or review G-Force’s opinion with a partner.

Where is the teacher during this half hour of student writing? Not at her desk, which is practically invisible. She’s working one-on-one with two or three students as the rest of the class handles the writing on their own.

And their writing is terrific! Children show me some of their journal responses and I see spirited and imaginative writing, wonderful vocabulary, and students who love to write. Mario-G-Force-and-camp-chairs-as-writing-center is a blueprint for success if ever there was one.red guinea pig

For first graders only, you say? Not by a long shot. I’ve been in secondary classrooms with pets and comfortable chairs and they are the kinder, gentler places our adolescents need to support their growth and development.

Try some Mario and G-Force in your classroom. The results won’t disappoint.