Fireflies: August 2012         

Aug 31, 2012

CLIP Review: City by Numbers & Alphabet City

Author & Photographer:  Stephen T. Johnson

It won't be but just a second or two after opening either of these books that your child will be exclaiming with delight, "Oh, I see it! It's right there!"  And the challenge and excitement of searching for letters and numbers has begun.  In these wordless, yet visual masterpieces, Johnson has invited readers to search through city streets and urban landscapes to locate his subtly masked treasures.  Hidden in the dusty windowpanes of an old warehouse you'll suddenly see a number 12 appear.  In the alphabet book, what letter will you find in the criss-crossing of the fire escape?  

Johnson says of his books, "I hope that my paintings will inspire children and adults to look at their surroundings in a fresh and playful way."  After experiencing these books, I assure you that you'll see the world around you with new eyes, as you take a closer look at shadows, patterns in nature, even those crazy little cracks in the sidewalk or twigs from a tree. Letters and numbers are everywhere - just use a little imagination!

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Aug 29, 2012

Art Appreciation: You Are My Work of Art!

From the Author:
You Are My Work of Art”, my new book has been in development for many years. The fine art world is difficult for some to appreciate, the notion being pervasive that it is hard to understand, and beyond the average person to grasp. It frightens many away from something that has always brought me a tremendous amount of joy. As my son was growing up, our goal was to introduce him to the world of art and have him feel it was created for him and speaking to him, no matter what avocation he eventually would choose to pursue.
How does one instill a sense of belonging in children and forever cast away the sense of intimidation that has perpetuated in the world of fine art? How does one connect a young child to the iconic images of the art world, and instill an early sense of joy when encountering great art?
We actively toured museums around the world with our son, and engaged him in conversations about the images and how they related to him and his own world.
I wondered how to share the experience with other children that had limited opportunities for such field trips. The sketches developed over the years, eventually finding their way into book form. The poem followed as the images were assembled, designed to introduce any child (and perhaps even their parent) to 8 famous paintings for the very first time. I hope you enjoy it and look forward to hearing your review.
Sue DiCicco

From Deni:
I found this book a week before heading to DC to await the arrival of my third grandchild.  I immediately fell in love with it, so into the suitcase it went.   It captured what I was talking about in an early Fireflies' post - Training your child to appreciate art.] The author had the same desire that I had as a young mom; to introduce my children to art masterpieces.  Not only does DiCicco introduce major works of art in her board book, she emphasizes a theme that is dear to my mom's heart - that our children ARE our works of art.    

Tonight as I was working on posts for Fireflies, I received a text from Julie Hagan - "You have to see this wonderful book I've found."   Yes, it was You are my Work of Art, by Sue DiCicco.  She then linked the book to a song that was very special to both of us as new moms.  If you know it, the mention of it will bring tears to your eyes.  If you are a young parent (ie you were born in the '70's-'80's), then I'm excited to introduce this song to you, Masterpiece by Sandi Patty.   (Thanks for reminding me, Julie!)   I've posted the lyrics to Masterpiece below.  It has been remastered from when we first heard it (in the '80s) and is on her album entitled, "A Mother's Prayer".
Enjoy, as we celebrate the masterpieces created by God's own hands and placed in ours!

Click here to listen to the song.
Before you had a name or opened up your eyes
Or anyone could recognize your face.
You were being formed so delicate in size
Secluded in God's safe and hidden place.

With your little tiny hands and little tiny feet
And little eyes that shimmer like a pearl
He breathed in you a song and to make it all complete
He brought the masterpiece into the world.

You are a masterpiece
A new creation He has formed
And you're as soft and fresh as a snowy winter morn.
And I'm so glad that God has given you to me
Little Lamb of God, you are a masterpiece.

And now you're growing up your life's a miracle
Everytime I look at you I stand in awe
Because I see in you a reflection of me
And you'll always be my little lamb from God

And as your life goes on each day
How I pray that you will see
Just how much your life has meant to me.

And I'm so proud of you
What else is there to say?

Just be the masterpiece He created you to be.

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Aug 27, 2012

Best Apps: Monkey Math School Sunshine

Ages 3 - 6

This app is from the creators of two of my favorite pre-school apps: “Monkey Preschool Lunchbox” and "When I Go Up!" Join your child’s favorite monkey in math games and activities in a playfully designed beach-themed world. 

Monkey Math School Sunshine allows your child to build fundamental math skills while they are endlessly entertained. Your child will count, add and sort their way through engaging games with uninterrupted play.

ADD IT UP and TAKE IT AWAY Use your addition and subtraction skills to solve math problems. Trusty crab assistants supply multiple-choice options.

PATTERNS  Monkey has a problem: Objects keep popping out of his bucket, creating a pattern - but one piece is missing! Help Monkey by completing the pattern with the choices provided.

SHAPES Is it an octagon? Or maybe a hexagon? Count each side of these shapes and help Monkey figure it out. 

SEQUENCES   Monkey has a group of numbers in the right order, but some are missing. Help him complete the sequence with the correct numbers. 

BUBBLE POP  Monkey is running out of time! Pop all the bubbles that have either the right number or the right amount of objects inside before the time runs out!

LESS/MORE  Monkey loves to blow bubbles, when he does, groups of shells, fish or turtles are inside each bubble! Use your expertise to figure out which bubble has either the most or least objects inside.

BIGGER/SMALLER  Which bubble has the bigger number? Which bubble has the smaller one? Help Monkey figure it out by popping the correct bubble.

CONNECT THE DOTS  Baby Turtle is stuck on the beach and she needs your help to get to the sea! Connect the dots to show her the way. 

WRITE IT UP!  Help Monkey learn his numbers by tracing them in the sand. 

Deni Corbett


Aug 24, 2012

CLIP Review: Where are you going Manyoni?

Author & Illustrator:  Catherine Stock
Preschool - Second Grade

Just as the early morning rays of light appear, Manyoni dresses quickly and begins her journey to a place she loves to be. Her path takes her under massive baobob trees, past bushpigs and noisy baboons.  Manyoni continues on, crossing the fever tree plain where impala are feeding, and soon approaches the Tobwani Dam. There she sees a variety of thirsty animals, drinking from the cool water and resting under nearby acacia trees. 

                    Where are you going Manyoni?

Just as Manyoni nears her destination she meets a friend and together they begin to run - to their school yard. Primitive windowless brick buildings, wooden benches, tin roofs; but to the children gathered there it is a glorious place of learning. They clap their hands with joy.

All over Africa children like Manyoni walk miles to arrive at the nearest school.  The spectacular watercolor paintings of the wildlife in this book were painted when the author spent time in Zimbabwe.  Stock has written an interesting follow up note as well as supplied information on the unfamiliar words in the story to give further explanation.  Each one of her beautifully painted wildlife is again drawn in the back of the book with how it blends with its surroundings. Manyoni's wonderful morning walk will delight both in its meaning and its vivid watercolor beauty.


Aug 22, 2012

Verbal Comm: All Things Bright and Beautiful

[Verbal Communications]
A classic poem, this is a great one to use as a launching off place for other activities.  Young children will be able to memorize one verse, encourage older children to take on all the verses.   This poem lends itself to easy illustrations.  Consider helping your child create a poem book by printing each verse on a separate sheet of paper and "hire" your child as the illustrator.   
CLICK HERE to download a .pdf template to illustrate.

 by Cecil Frances Alexander

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.


Aug 20, 2012

Moments: Nurturing the Nature of God in our Homes.

Do you ever feel like you don’t know where to begin when you see your child struggling with an issue?  Sometimes I feel very black and white. “Right is right and you are not in the right, thus sayth MOM!”  Sometimes I get worried, and wonder if this will lead to major issues later in life. What if they never grow in this area and will that ultimately mean I failed them?  Often I feel more like “Seriously, we just went over this 10 minutes ago, and yesterday and the day before that". (Then I remind myself love is long suffering).  Sometimes I empathize because I know it’s hard to grow up and there’s a lot they are processing. 

I have Proverbs 24 :3-4  in my home office and I read it every day when I sit down to work.  It says, 

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;  through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures."  

I have it in my house because I want my physical home to be filled with wisdom, understanding and the beauty of the Lord’s presence.  But recently when I read it I was reminded that everything I have ever wanted to teach my kids and see them take hold of, comes back to knowing the Lord, growing in His truth, and then living their lives in a way that brings glory to God.

My current prayer is:
"Lord, help me to remember and reflect on Your nature so that I can teach them about Your nature in order that their thinking and mine will be informed and changed." 

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."


Aug 17, 2012

CLIP Review: The Night Before Kindergarten

Author: Natasha Wing
Illustrator: Julie Durrell
Preschool - Kindergarten

   " 'Twas the night before kindergarten, 
    and as they prepared,
    kids were excited and a little bit scared.
    They tossed and they turned about in their beds,
    While visions of school supplies danced in their heads."

If anyone in your house has the "I'm not sure about going to school" feeling, this book is for you! By the second page you will be caught up in the delightful sing-song rhythm of the verses. The detailed illustrations will have even the most hesitant listener laughing.  Miss Sunrise, the kindergarten teacher, has a day filled with such incredible activities that she has a hard time getting the parents to leave! She finally has to gather them together on the "magical rug", then send them away after one final hug. The children wave to them with shouts of how "cool" kindergarten is.  Your child will easily be interested by the busy illustrations and rhythmic text.


Aug 15, 2012

August Masterpiece Response - Olympic Art

Where art meets sports we find the visual expression of the Olympics!  In our last blog, we took a peek at 12 commissioned UK artists' visual expression of the
London Olympics and Paralympics 2012. 

In the photo above, we see my students engaged in creating an abstract Olympic ring painting like UK artist Rachel Whiteread's below.  This is a great project for K-2nd.

Rachel Whiteread

Here's another fun project that can be adapted for K-1 and perfect through grade 4 that relates Kingdom character qualities to the Olympics through art:

 For this project you will need:
  • plastic transparency sheets
  • squares of colored tissue paper
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 or verse of your choice printed on paper & cut out
  • A copy of any Olympian athlete sihouette shape from Dsgn Wrld (enlarged)
  • Q-tips
  • Black Sharpie
  • Black fabric paint (if desired)
  • Mosaic glue, watered down 
  • (Note: regular glue does not work because it lifts off the transparency.  Mosaic glue is used to attach glass/ceramic pieces for traditional mosaics so it's adhesive is strong.  You may wish to try Modge Podge or other decopage glue as well!) 
  • hole punch and yarn/string/ribbon to hang them in the window 

1.  Enlarge a copy of one of the Olympic sport silhouettes above from the Dsgn Wrld link (or give each student a different athlete for variety!)
2.  Place a transparency over the copy and have your students trace the silhouette onto the transparency with a black sharpie.  For K-1s, you may wish to print off the image on the transparencies so all they have to do is glue down the verse and tissue.
3.  Choose a Bible verse and have copies ready for the students.  We used Deuteronomy 31:6 because we were talking about being strong, having courage and overcoming fear, but 1 Corin 9:24 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize" and many others work great too!  Type & photocopy the verse in a shape that will fit the size of your silhouette so it doesn't cover it.  
(I fit about 6 on one page and photocopied them then cut them into rectangles.)
4.  Apply mosaic glue or Modge Podge to the back of the Bible verse and glue onto the transparency without covering the athlete.  You may need to help K-1 with this.
5.  Apply watered-down mosaic glue or Modge Podge all over the transparency.  Using a Q-tip dipped in the glue, touch a square of tissue with the tip to pick up the square and set it down on the gluey transparency.  Repeat until all the transparency is covered with brightly colored tissue!  Some of the students opted to put black tissue paper for the silhouette of the man as below. 
6.  When the whole thing is covered in tissue, "paint" another layer of glue over the whole thing to seal.  
7.  When it is dry, you may wish to trace the athlete with black fabric paint to look like the lead on a stained glass window.   

 We punched holes on the corners and put yarn through so we could hang them in our windows to remind us that when the Light shines through us that we are strong and courageous warriors!

I wonder how many future Olympic athletes will make this project?

To see more Olympic artwork from students plan a visit to the Living Room Louvre !

Written by Laura Bird Miller, artist/art instructor Circle Christian School.


Aug 13, 2012

August Masterpiece(s) - Olympics 2012

Source of photo:  REUTERS / Luke MacGregor
As artists, we often express our hearts by creating a visual interpretation of these thoughts.  These posters were created by 12 United Kingdom artists who were commissioned to create a visual expression of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Since 1912, each Host City of the Olympics has commissioned artwork by local artists in celebration of hosting the Olympic games.  Isn't this a wonderful and unique celebration of the meeting of art and sport

One of my favorites is called "Big Ben 2012," below, by Sara Morris.  Sara is a British-born American artist who is a painter and filmmaker and has always been interested in exploring means of communication.   

I like this piece because it is orderly yet it gives me a feeling of being in a hurry! 

How does it make you feel?  Let's take a look at her piece:

You may wish to try this:  
Display some colorful preK/K building blocks piled fairly high, one upon the other.  Set a clock with a second hand next to it.  On one side of the block/clock setup, display the poster above.  On the other side of the block/clock setup, display a photo of the real Big Ben. 

Then ask some questions to see if their young minds can catch the connection.

Reflection Qs:
1. What is Big Ben?  (A clock tower in London, England.  This would be a great time for a little geography lesson as well!)
2. Why do you think Sara Morris titled this piece Big Ben 2012? (Because it looks like it could be a modern-day clock.)
3.  What do you see in this piece?  (Geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, rectangles, parallelograms, as well as lines and arrows.  Geometric shapes often can give us a feeling of order.  When we stack blocks in Kindergarten, we do it in order.)
4.  What colors did Ms. Morris use?  (Orange(s), yellow-green, blue(s), red, black, white and grey.  For me, these colors also convey order yet with a bit of discord, which gives me a feeling like the clock is ticking!)

Point out that using the stacked shapes, the clock shape with second hand, the lines and arrows, as well as the bright colors, this painting is a modern representation of Big Ben, as entitled by the artist "Big Ben 2012."

How does it make them feel?  Do they like the painting?  Let us know! 

Stay tuned for the next blog where I share some fun Olympic art projects in response to this wonderful artwork by the UK artists!

If you'd like to take a closer look at all 12 of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games posters, you may see them at the UK Mirror website. 

Written by Laura Bird Miller, artist/art instructor, Circle Christian School. 


Aug 10, 2012

CLIP Review: Little Rabbit Goes to School

Author & Illustrator:  Harry Horse
Ages:  4 - 7

When our youngest son left for college 3 years ago his three older brothers asked if he was planning on taking "Ducky" with him. Then they all roared with laughter! Jordan was not amused. Probably because until he was in the second grade, Ducky had been hidden in his pillowcase and snuck to every overnight and campout he had ever attended. 

So if you have a little one heading off to school for the first time, and there's a "security" issue involved, this is the book for you. Mama doesn't think wooden horses go to school, but Little Rabbit says, "Charlie Horse wants to go." But during storytime Charlie gallops over the teacher's shoes. During music he dances acrosss the floor. And when the class makes a cake - oh my! he jumps right into the batter! Just when Little Rabbit thinks his problems can't become any worse, he remembers the sweetest thing that his teacher taught him that morning. You'll have to read the story to find out what it is that saves Little Rabbit.

Just as Jordan kept Ducky safely packed away in his closet here at home, Little Rabbit decided that Charlie Horse was too naughty for school and needed to stay home with Mama. After all, the best thing about a new school are all your new friends!

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Aug 6, 2012

Recipes: The Olympic Rings! [aka Cheerios]

Cooking together can be a delicious learning experience for children and their parents. Kids explore new foods, learn about nutrition, and develop math and reading skills as they measure and read directions.  Each month Fireflies chooses a recipe that compliments the Fireflies theme.    

Announcing a New Fireflies Team Member
We are thrilled to welcome Rachel Skvaril to our Fireflies team.  Check out her amazing cooking & baking skills by clicking HERE!   We'll let Rachel introduce herself & her precious family and share from her heart what it means to create family memories and legacies with your children when she joins us in September.

August: Olympic Theme  
We found several ideas such as making sugar cookie Olympic rings, along with a "torch" ice cream cone treat with "flame" sprinkles.   I also discovered this fun link:  all things Cheerios.      Check out the Cheerios RECIPES and use these mini-Olympic rings to make some snacks to enjoy while watching Olympic events together!


Aug 3, 2012

CLIP Review: Wilma Unlimited

Author:  Kathleen Krull
Illustrator:  David Diaz
Suggested Age: Grades 1-3

This past weekend one of my grandsons brought me a 3-legged lizard "to fix" and a granddaughter was in tears over a ladybug that she was sure had stopped breathing. Children's hearts seem to  "root for the underdog" and have such faith that somehow everything will turn out perfectly. It seemed like an ideal time to begin sharing with them about some real-life "underdogs" who had shown perseverance in times of adversity to turn their lives around. And now with the Olympics, what better place to begin than with a great woman from the past - Wilma Rudolph.  

In 1944, just before turning five, an extremely energetic little Wilma was struck with polio, which paralyzed her left leg. The grim diagnosis was that she would never walk again.  Wilma refused to believe it. But her journey from diagnosis to representing the United States as a participant at the Olympic Games in Rome - as a runner - was long and hard.  What a thrill to compare the illustration of Wilma wearing the bulky, painful leg brace as a child and years later to see her sprinting in triumph over the finish line, making Olympic history at only 20 years old.  Click HERE for a video from the author.

Our children may face obstacles that seem overwhelming to them (and us!).  I hope you will share this book of perseverance and triumph with your children, realizing that, with determination, one can succeed despite the odds against them. 

Oh, on a final note...when we put the 3-legged lizard down - he did run off into the grass.


Aug 1, 2012

August Reflections: Crayons, Chalk, & Glue

Is there any better gift to a little girl who is playing school than to receive a box of 64 crayons, colored chalk, a pad of construction paper and a bottle of glue that isn't clogged up?  Top it off with a trip to the library to "stock up her classroom" with books, and I'd say she's just about in teacher heaven.  I'm blessed to say these occurences were rather common for me growing up.  

Once I began teaching, I must confess that it was still exciting to open the boxes of all the new packages of crayons, chalk, paper, glue and oh! so many lovely colors of paint! Unpacking boxes of new books was almost more than I could handle!

And then I took a trip that changed my life...

While my husband was working for World Vision, I was privileged to travel to Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. During our time there we were fortunate to visit a few schools. Not having any idea what to expect, I was somewhat shocked to find buildings without windows, dirt floors, wooden benches, few tables, and limited books and supplies of any kind. Students of varied ages were  often working together, older children guiding younger ones, some sharing texts, but all were actively involved in structured learning. There was not a discipline problem to be seen anywhere. Each child and student knew what was expected of them and they were doing it. Smiles and sharing were everywhere. 

Lessons were being written on scraps of paper. Pictures were being drawn and colored on sacks. No one seemed bothered. We motioned to the teacher, asking if we could hand out the colored pencils and construction paper we had brought. She readily agreed.  It was hard for me to choke back tears to see the eyes widen and the laughter spread when these dear children accepted our meager gifts with such joy. They began to sing, bow and clap.  I was overcome with an emotion of gratitude I couldn't explain. I knew God wasn't wanting me to feel guilty for all I've been given, but to be truly grateful. And at that moment I knew what that felt like.
Continuing our Olympic theme this month, we will share about some Olympians that overcame great obstacles in order to compete and reach their goals. I believe that many of the children I met in Africa will do great things because of their ability to rise above their circumstances.  Let us not feel guilty, but be grateful for each and every gift we have been given, for every goal we have reached and for every attempt that we have made. For it is only when we have not tried that we have failed.

During the remainder of this month we will be sharing some not-so-typical books about school.  You'll see an African school up close, find out why Cal is "not the readin' type", and have fun finding letters and numbers in some very strange places.  Happy August!

Mary Byrne Kline  
Fireflies Co-Founder
Director of Reading Instruction

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