Monthly Archives: November 2011

Curious and Hungry for Knowledge

Annie and Daughter

My daughter Lizzie is four years old. Her little mind is so curious, so hungry for knowledge. She is more excited about learning how to write than she is about learning to read, but the two skills go hand in hand.

Every day I discover new and fun ways to encourage and feed her reading and writing appetite. It began when she felt the pride of writing her name. Now she recognizes letters everywhere and asks me to help her write words and phrases.

Images, stories, princesses, and heroes are constantly playing in her imagination. She loves to draw herself as Rapunzel and tell the story of how she became a long-haired princess, locked up by an evil Mother Gothel. Each page turned is another point of action in her bustling imagination.

This love for the magic you can unwrap in a book is captured in the Rusty and Rosy software and I am dying to try it out with Lizzie!  It has not arrived yet, but I know when it does, we will spend hours on it.  So far she can recognize letters and knows the sounds of most of them. I can’t wait to see her learn the sounds of all of them and then start putting sounds together and sounding out entire words!

Reading is a passion of mine. I hope Lizzie sees my intense love for reading and catches that enjoyment in her heart too! Rusty and Rosy software makes reading fun, so with their help and my enthusiasm Lizzie will easily associate reading with fun times with mom.

Learning Differences within the Family

As a mom of three kids of vastly different ages I notice the differences in how each of them learn.  Our oldest is a high school student and she has excelled in every subject in her school career.  She has always loved to read, be involved in discussions, and ask tons of questions about the world around her.  Her study style needs some adjustment; test taking is not her specialty.

Our boy is a third grader.  He’s not the brainiac like his big sister but he also does very well in school; he just has to work harder at it.  He’s got a great imagination, loves to tell stories, be involved in every activity, and is a technology lover.  He can master a video game in a few hours but huffs and puffs when it’s time to read a book.  I’ve noticed that he’s easily distracted; his eyes move too fast, faster than his mouth can say the words.  Maybe he’s trying to get through it too get the chore done; maybe reading words on a page bores him. His test scores are on top though so something is working for him.

Our four-year-old seems to be a combination of both.  While she can’t read yet she loves doing writing and math worksheets, leafing through storybooks, and singing songs.  She’s also quite the little gamer.  She can work an iPod better than me and picks up the rules of computer games very quickly.  She’s got a kind heart and will share whatever she has in her hands.  Having older siblings is rubbing off on her well. She’s getting the best of each of them without losing her own personality.

Embracing each child’s individuality in learning and playing is important.  While we all want our children to have a successful future, the path getting there may be different for each of them.   Take a step back and watch before correcting.  The methods may differ but the end result should be the same: joyful, intelligent, imaginative children that want to continue to learn.

Feature photo curtesy of GettyImages.

Fun on a Dime

Michelle Collage Pic

If there is one thing I know, it is that life is busy and at times it can be a little crazy. AND sometimes we forget that we all need a little fun in our lives!

I have always been frugal growing up and have had tons of fun. A couple of years ago, feeling cooped up and weighed down by our living situation I realized that I forgot the basics of having fun! There is a phrase: Those who have time spend money, and those who don’t have money spend time. I am a big believer of this phrase, and the same is true for fun. And thus, I started to challenge myself to look for more opportunities to teach, learn, and have fun at home with my family, spending as little as possible and using my resources and my own experiences from growing up. And thus, Fun On a Dime was born to keep track of all our fun projects. It has since morphed into a site to inspire other individuals and families with fun ideas to enhance their quality time together.

As a family we like to take basic experiences and turn them into an adventure! For instance, we do not just go on a family hike but we try to learn something new about where we are going or look for certain things on the trail. Or we bake cookies together—which is not always the easiest to do with young children—and talk about texture, scents, taste, etc. These are activities we do quite frequently, and it is amazing to see that there is always something new to learn.

I am also a big believer that we as parents are our child’s best teacher. We are their first exposure to the world, and they learn from us, whether we like it or not. And so, I try to stop and enjoy the little things in life with my two kiddos. We ask a lot of questions and then try to go and find the answers. These two little ones are only “all mine” and completely under my influence for so long and then they go off to school. I need to make the time we have count. Now that I have one kindergartner, I am already feeling like he is gone too much and I do not get enough fun time with him! I realize that it is more important now than ever to take the time to have those fun learning experiences. Those are the ties that are going to bind us as a family and keep us close as my kiddos grow older. I hope to share this with other families as well.

Michelle is part of the Rusty and Rosy Star Blogger team and also blogs at

50 Greatest Children’s Books

Child with Books

I couldn’t help but make a list of some of my favorite children’s books. What can I say. I love books . . . of all kinds!

My list includes many of the greatest classics you don’t want to let your child miss out on. Plus, some new books I’ve learned about from my preschool-teaching sister-in-law and her storybook-loving children. You also can find many of these for your ebook reader, some at an incredible price.

The list:

  1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
  2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  4. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  5. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
  6. Stone Soup by Anne Mcgovern and Winslow Pinney Pels
  7. Just Go to Bed (Little Critter) by Mercer Mayer
  8. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  9. The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone
  10. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
  11. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
  12. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  13. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
  14. The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
  15. Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
  16. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  17. The Original Curious George by H.A. Rey and Leonard S. Marcus
  18. Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins
  19. Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson
  20. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  21. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  22. Pinkalicious by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann
  23. Supersister by Beth Cadena and Frank W. Dormer
  24. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieska and Lane Smith
  25. Mystery of the Russian Ruby by Iain Smyth
  26. The Raggly Scraggly No-soap No Scrub Girl by David Francis Birchman and Guy Porfirio
  27. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  28. Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs by Carmela LaVigna Coyle and Mike Gordon
  29. Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
  30. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  31. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  32. Corduroy by Don Freeman
  33. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen
  34. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood and Audrey Wood
  35. The Going-to-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  36. The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola
  37. How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz
  38. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
  39. Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss
  40. Clarice Bean Spells Trouble by Lauren Child
  41. Are You My Mother by P. D. Eastman
  42. Today at the Bluebird Café: A Branchful of Birds by Deborah Ruddell and Joan Rankin
  43. Boy Soup by Loris Lesynski
  44. Go, Dog, Go! By P. D. Eastman
  45. There’s an Alligator under My Bed by Mercer Mayer
  46. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  47. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
  48. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  49. The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  50. There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer

Which stories does your child like the best? Have other suggestions to add to this list? Please share.

Photo source: Stuart Miles /

Counting Rod


Remember when you were learning addition and subtraction? Did your teacher use oranges and apples to teach you about adding and taking away? Did you have to use you fingers to count when you were first learning?

When I was in first grade, my teacher gave all her students a counting rod. It was just a metal rod with 10-12 beads. I would use the rod to better understand the math problems I had to solve. Eventually, my teacher weaned us off the rod so we could do the problems in our head.

For your young learner who may be having trouble understanding addition and subtraction without a visual, you can make this counting rod. It’s easy to make, and your child can help.

What you’ll need

¾ inch round wood beads (at least 12 count)
Wooden dowel
Permanent markers
Hair spray
Mod Podge
Sponge brush

What to Do

  1. Paint with marker 10 beads. This is a great way for your child to help out. Just remember that the marker, while still wet, will smear. Your child’s fingers will get a little messy. You’ll want to have a paper towel to set the beads on when finished painting.
    Tip: You may want to paint one side of the bead, let dry, and then paint the other side.
  2. Spray the beads with hair spray. This will protect the coat of marker you just put on the bead.
  3. Cut the dowel to the size you want. Be sure to leave about 1 ½ to 2 inches for the beads to slide back and forth on the rod.
  4. Glue a non-painted bead to the end of one side of the dowel by placing a fair amount of glue on the end of the dowel.
  5. Let dry.
  6. Slide your 10 painted beads onto the rod.
  7. Glue a non-painted bead to the open end of the rod, the same as you did the other side.
  8. Let dry.

Tada! You have a new math tool for your child. Start using the counting rod by giving your child a few math problems to practice. Show your child how he or she can use the rod by sliding over the amount of beads to match the numbers you give him or her.

Do you have any fun education and craft ideas? We’d love to hear about them.

Announcing Our Rusty and Rosy Star Bloggers


It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of our Rusty and Rosy Star Bloggers.

We are excited to welcome to the Rusty and Rosy blogging team Michelle from Fun on a Dime, Melinda from Look What Mom Found . . . and Dad Too!, Tonya Staab from Create-Celebrate-Explore, Nadia from Justice Jonesie, Julie Meyers Pron from Just Precious, and Annie Shultz from Mama Dweeb.

Our Star Bloggers will be frequent contributors to our Rusty and Rosy blog, providing great insight, tips, project ideas, and more to help in child development and early education. Each of our bloggers has a great voice and creative ideas that we are excited to add to our blog.

Learn more about our Star Bloggers below and be sure to follow them here on Rusty and Rosy.

Michelle – Fun on a Dime

Michelle has been the author of Fun on a Dime for two years. Through this creative blog Michelle encourages families to discover that fun does not have to cost a lot or be very complicated. Michelle received a degree in Recreation Management, which sparked her interest in finding ways to incorporate fun and learning into her own family’s life every day. She has two children, ages four and five, and loves experiencing the world through their eyes. Her motto: After years have gone by, the time you have spent playing with your family will be one of the things you will never regret.

Melinda – Look What Mom Found . . . and Dad Too!

Melinda is half of the mom-and-dad blogging team from LookWhatMomFound…and Dad too! Over four years ago, Melinda left the corporate world to focus on raising her children. Fifteen years of parenting three children has provided her with many experiences that she uses to educate her family on morals, ethics, and the difference between right and wrong. While she believes academics are very important, she holds fast to the idea that an education goes beyond books and grades. Melinda strives to raise children with good hearts, strong principles, and a foundation built on love and respect for others.

Tonya Staab – Create-Celebrate-Explore

Tonya Staab is a freelance writer and the creative mind behind Create-Celebrate-Explore, where she shares craft tutorials, recipes, kids’ party ideas, and tips for traveling with kids. She is a regular contributor at Kidzui, MotherKnows, Blissfully Domestic, and Creativity for Kids, and has been published in the Triumphant Child, Guide to Raising Newborns. Tonya is an Australian-born military wife currently residing in California with her husband and three children: twin kindergartners and a teenager. She feels blessed to work from home, which allows her time to volunteer regularly at her twins’ school.

Nadia – Justice Jonesie

Nadia, a.k.a., Justice Jonesie, is a savvy mom to three children, a lawyer, law professor, and blogger at Jonesie writes about work-life balance, fitness, and her journey through motherhood. Blogging since 2006, Jonesie was one of three justices on the group blog,—a blog about “three moms that happened to be lawyers too.” In 2009, the Justices created Blogalicious Weekend conferences. When she is not working or chasing after her children, you may find Jonesie at the gym or enjoying a chic night out on the town with her hubby.

Julie Meyers Pron – Just Precious

Julie Meyers Pron is a parenting and education writer, who relies on her experiences as a teacher and parent for inspiration. A mother of three children (ages two, six, and eight), PTO Director, former MOMS Club President and Vice President, and a (non-practicing) elementary school teacher, Julie has both experience and knowledge about parental involvement in education. Blogging at a variety of Websites since 2005, including her personal blogJust Precious, Julie is also a founding partner of Just Centsible Consulting and a Principal of Splash Creative Media.

Annie Shultz – Mama Dweeb

Annie Shultz lives in Kansas with her three kids – Lizzie (four years), David (two years) and Lucy (11 months).  She created her blog Mama Dweeb in 2009 to share her writing and life with other moms. She is also the managing editor of 5 Minutes for Parenting and a contributing writer on the Perspectives blog with pediatrician Dr. Greene.  She loves discovering and sharing parenting ideas that help caregivers find success in their role. She has learned that a mother is always learning, always adapting, and forever involved in the most rewarding adventures!

100 Words for Kindergarteners


Have you ever wondered what vocabulary words your kindergartener should be leaning? There are, of course, many words your kindergartener should have at least heard; I recently read that the average child is expected to have heard at least 32 million words by their fourth birthday. But the question is what are the words they should be learning and how can we make sure our child knows them well so they are successful in school?

Below are 100 words I gathered from Rusty and Rosy Reading level 1. These words are actually among over 250 that are taught in the program’s songs, rhymes, and books. These are words that preschool and kindergarteners are learning.

What can you do with this list of words?

Most likely, your child has heard many of the words listed below and may have a fairly good idea of their meaning. But to make sure your child really understands them, you can use the words in your conversations so your child hears the context in which they are used. Seeing and hearing words in context is one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary words because when the words we learn are heard again, we, or our children, can go back to the examples we have heard previously to understand what the words mean.

Some of the words below are words we use every day, while others are used sparingly. You can have fun including words like “dragon” in conversations with your child.

Alligator Back Catch Dock
Athlete Beside Cold Down
Attic Big Come Dragon
Away Birthday Cry Dried
Ax Book Downstairs
Elevator Fix Garden Hamster
Enormous Friend Golf Here
Envelope Frightened Goose High
Everywhere Grasshopper Hill
Iguana Jam Kangaroo Leap
Ill Jeep Kettle Little
Infant Jet Kickoff Lock
Insect Jumbled Kitchen Lost
Mailbox Naughty Opposites Pair
Market Neighborhood Off Paws
Mittens New Oven Play
Moon Pretty
Quack Rain Same Tall
Quiet Rainbow Short Through
Ranch Silly Together
Rapping Stripes Tumbling
Under Vacation Watch X-ray
Up View Weave
Upstairs Visit Web
Yesterday Zigzag
Yummy Zippers

Teach with Stories


Have you ever noticed that you tend to pay more attention to what someone is saying when they tell you a story? Stories have always been a big part of conveying information. I’m sure that the guy, or woman, who invented the wheel had a great story to tell for many years about how the new invention came to be. Or how about the person who discovered the corn? I’m sure that was a great story.

Our children are drawn to stories just as much as we are, most likely even more so. And we can find all sorts of ways to teach them important skills and concepts through story: reading, writing, vocabulary, manners, friendships, honesty, cleaning their room. . . . The possibilities, like in many things, are endless.

Here are just a few ideas you can use to teach your child through story:

Read to Your Child

Even fiction books have a lot to teach. It was someone named Jessamyn West who said, “Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.” I’ve always believed that the fiction books I read have a lot to teach. Although it may be my own bias and defense speaking, I think Clifford the Big Red Dog has quite a bit to teach children, such as the love a girl can have for her pet.

Write Stories with Your Child

Creating stories helps develop critical thinking skills. There are so many components to a story: plot, characters, setting, conflict. . . . As your child creates their own stories, you can teach about these different story pieces. Plus, as your child puts the pieces together to form a story, they will learn to think through and solve problems, an important skill for everything they will encounter in life.

Tell True Stories from Your Own Life

I remember when my parents would tell me about what life was like when they went to school. Many concepts from their stories have stayed with me. Even words from my grandpa’s stories come back to me from time to time, especially from when he told me how he learned the three Rs in school: Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic).

I’m sure there are other ways you can teach your child through story. What do you think? Have a good experience to share?

National Family Literacy Month

Children reading
The N in November stands for National Family Literacy Month. And what better month to celebrate family literacy than a month that is all about families?

With the holidays coming up and families coming together, you’re sure to find plenty of time to celebrate family literacy. And even if you can only squeeze in a few minutes of reading with your little ones between preparing meals, desserts, and decorations, you can find plenty of projects that will keep your family excited about reading.

Here are just a few ideas to help you celebrate National Family Literacy Month.

Lights Out

It’s 7:00 p.m. after a long day. What is the first thing you do? Turn on the TV? Put in a movie? How about turning that tube time into reading time? You can pretend the power is out, find a nice cozy place the whole family can enjoy, and read a book together. Show your family that the best movies come from the imagination and a good book.

Dinner and a Book

Who needs dinner and a movie when you have the best entertainment in a book? Make a simple meal for your family that they can eat while cuddled up in blankets. Maybe some hot h’orderves and hot chocolate? Then settle in for some deliciousness in both food and reading.

And . . . Action

Make your family the stars of their favorite book by turning the story into a play. You can get technical and have a script for all the characters and planned-out costumes. Or you can be more spur-of-the-moment and throw the costumes and dialogue together as you go. Don’t forget the camera. Your family is sure to want to watch their film debut later.

Pencil and Paper

That’s all you need for a great story. Many of the best stories have yet to be told. Members of your family can practice their writing skills and create their own book. For young ones, break out the crayons and let them have fun illustrating their words. You can bind the books yourself, home-made style, or get them professionally bound.

Reading for the Holidays

It’s the time of year when you’ll find plenty of holiday books as you go about your shopping. Of course, you could read holiday books all year long, but that special time, when such books have the most meaning, only comes once. Take advantage of it as you celebrate National Family Literacy Month.

There are plenty of ideas where these came from. What will you and your family do this month to celebrate family literacy?

Photo source: AKARAKINGDOMS /

November: A Month for Learning

Just like October, November is another great month for learning. Besides Thanksgiving, there are a few other historical events that have happened this month.

The following are just a few of events along with interactive activities you can do with your child to learn more. Go ahead! Have fun!

The entrance to King Tutankhamun’s (Tut) tomb was discovered November 4, 1922. Take your child on a virtual tour of Kin Tutankhamun’s tomb. This interactive animation will give you and your child an understanding of what discoverers saw when entering the king’s tomb.

The French Museum, the “Louvre” was opened to the public November 8, 1793. You can take a virtual tour of this place also. Because the “Louvre” is so big, full of many different rooms and art, you can view each room individually, using your mouse to look around.

Inventor Thomas A. Edison announced the invention of his phonograph November 21, 1877. Before television, radios, and iPods, there was the phonograph, a scientific marvel as it was the first machine to ever record sound. You and your child can watch this short video to learn more.

Thanksgiving was first celebrated as a national holiday November 26, 1789. This Thanksgiving, why not give your family a little history lesson about the first Thanksgiving. National Geographic Kids has a great summary of details.

Your child may be young, but you can still teach him or her about history. Even a little learning now, such as a story about a historical event or watching an educational video, will go a long way in your child’s education. Later, when your child is learning about the events in school, he or she will already have a foundation to build upon because of the one or two things you have already taught.

Thanks to John T. Marck, author of “Historical People and Events for November” with About Famous People.

Do you teach historical stories to your child? Which ones do you focus on? Do you use special methods to tell stories and teach? Share with us.

Photo source: Tina Phillips /