Monday, February 27, 2012

Reading Raven Rocks

Before my daughter started Kindergarten, I downloaded a few apps on our iPad to help her get caught up with her ABC's and 123's, as well as story sequencing. She would play around with the apps for a little bit, but soon after, her attention dropped off and she wasn't nearly as excited to play with them as she was with, say, Angry Birds. In fact, she began to equate the iPad with "work" and would put up a fuss whenever I slid it in front of her to do some exercises. She did this with her speech therapist, too, negotiating that if she had to play with Milo the Mouse, she should also be able to play a few rounds of Angry Birds. She's pretty clever, that one.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about a new app called Reading Raven--an early reading app that has so many fun features for kids, they hardly know they're actually learning something. No, really, I kid you not. My daughter absolutely loves this app. It's almost as if the folks who developed the app conducted a focus group of 3-5 year-olds, asking them what sorts of thing they liked. Either that, or they're parents who are in tune with what kids like. (Which, I'm guessing, it's the latter, though I'm amusing myself with the visualization of 25 3-5 year-olds sitting around a table, throwing out ideas). Butterflies and bugs? Check. Balloons and rockets? You bet.

The graphics on the app are gorgeous and super colorful, and the music is not at all annoying, even though each lesson has its own loop. It actually works nicely in the background while kids hear prompts and congratulatory soundbites from other kids ("Keep Going!" and "Amazing!")

Reading Raven has several activities that focus on building reading skills. I love the repetition of it because it doesn't feel repetitive, yet it focuses on simple words with all kinds of drills from word or letter matching, letter tracing, and phonics. One of my daughter's favorite part of the lessons is when she can record her own voice reading a word.

Right now, Reading Raven is only available for the iPad. You can find the app in the iTunes store for $3.99. Today, though, is "Read Across America" day and the app is available for half off!

Friday, February 10, 2012

How do you handle people who become unglued?

Recently, I've found myself in two different -- how shall I say -- "sticky" situations with women who have become completely unglued over something and it makes me wonder if the general population has just raised it's own security alert level from "elevated threat" to "imminent threat". I won't go into too much detail about one that was over a writing assignment, except to say that I overlooked some grammatical errors I should have edited and the person who submitted the content was very embarrassed; but the other was at a restaurant where a woman tried to squeeze her way in between our table and hers, nearly knocking our full glasses over. When my husband touched her back to keep her from doing so, she immediately turned around and proceeded to berate him for touching her, adding that he ruined her whole evening. Then, instead of sitting down at her table, she moved her chair so that it was situated in between both of our tables, so her back was up against our table, causing it to move.

I was horrified. What kind of person comes to a restaurant and behaves so completely irrational? This wasn't a five-star restaurant, but by no means was it a dive. At that moment I thought to myself that I had seen more controlled tantrums from my kids and all the while, I was in a state of sheer disbelief. My husband called the waiter over to ask her move her chair since she would not listen to him, and then she proceeded to go off on the waiter (and us, again). Telling the waiter that my husband "pushed her".

We were almost finished with our dinner and were just waiting on our dessert when this happened. I can't tell you how uncomfortable I felt, and how angry and upset I became -- so much so, that I just wanted to go home. After this woman's "showdown", I couldn't take it anymore, and I called her something that, at the time, I felt justified in doing so. Looking back, I felt like I stooped to her level and I wished that I hadn't, but I was at a loss for words, and my only line of defense was to name call. If my kids knew what had happened, they would have gotten a mixed message. As parents, we tell our children not to let other kids who tease and taunt get the better of them. Here, the taunter went completely under my skin and I let her get to me.

What would you have done, if you were in my situation? Do you also feel as though people, lately, have just become a little more sensitive, maybe irrational? Perhaps just a little more on-edge?