Category Archives: education

Teach Family History to the kids

I stumbled upon this site.  It looks cool, and I hope to try out the workbooks soon.



Usborne Books & More


Highly educational, but far from dry. These are the perfect books for Gramma to read to her kidlets. They have lots of interesting pictures, fun facts in short bites, a wife variety of topics, and written for a wide range of she’s. There truly is something here for everyone. Over 1400 books, and most of them are under 10$.

Check them out.


1 Comment

Posted by on 19 January 2015 in books, education, Grandmothers, learning, Usborne


Tags: , , , ,

Gramma Nettie seeks the treasure!

Children need to explore their surroundings.  Gramma Nettie needs a way to do this.  Here are a couple of free activities for families to get into some outside activities.  By using some free apps on my smartphone, I can take the grandkids out to explore their environment.



The first one I got involved in was GeoCaching.  According to the website,

“Geocaching is the real-world treasure hunt ….”

Players hide containers in hidden locations, and upload GPS coordinates to the website.  Finders use the website ( to search the map for nearby caches. You can use the coordinates on any GPS device or smartphone to get near the location.

But eventually, the player has to stop looking at the device and start looking at his surroundings.  He has to start thinking about where the cache might be.  He has to look high.  She has to look low.  This video explains how it is done:

Be sure to take some sort of small item to trade.  It could be a coin, or a bracelet or those rubber bands in the shape of an animal.  But don’t put food in, for obvious reasons.  Also, take a pen to sign the log book.

This is a very VERY popular sport with about 2.5 million caches worldwide and over 6 million players.  Yes, worldwide.  I have yet to be in an area without a cache.  And to think they’ve been hiding around you all this time!

As an example, check out the Argo Gold cache hidden by one of the counselors.  I haven’t found it yet, but I intend to try again soon.

You can take GeoTours in several continents.  A few that caught my eye was the Bigfoots Search in Bonneville Washington, the Santa Fe National Historic Trail GeoTour, the Schatzheuterin GeoTour in Germany, the Washington State Parks Centennial GeoTour, Thingsites GeoTour, Dinosaur Train GeoTour,  I won’t get to all of them, but they caught my eye none-the-less.

One GeoCacher suggested we adopt a secret hand signal to indicate we are fellow cachers.  Read what he has to say here:


Another growing sport is called Munzee.  I know, it is an awkward name.  It is a variation of the German word for coin, but with an extra “e” added at the end.

This is also a treasure hunt, but without the treasure.  Instead, the player uses a free app on her smartphone to find a hidden QR code.  She then scans it, which gives the distinctive — and satisfying — “ding” and voila! you have just earned five points.

There are not as many Munzees deployed.  In fact, in my own county I have pioneered all but three of the deployments.  It is a lonely job, but somebody has to do it.

An interesting Munzee is the Galerie Trinitas near the campus of Great Falls University.

As a player, you can generate QR codes on the website, print them out and laminate them to deploy.  Or you could purchase some generic sticker munzees to place out and about.  It is a cheap hobby, and I have some of each.

When I deploy munzees, I try to choose a site of interest, or has fascinating history involved.  In my city, there is an old hotel, an old bank and other historic buildings.  There are also lots of old mining campsites in the mountains.

I have placed munzees at the top of mountain passes, and at some photography sites at the wildlife refuge.  All of these are great places to deploy munzees, and then add the historical description on the webpage for everyone to learn.  Again, great activity to get the grandkids out and about.

Choose one or choose both, and get out there for new adventures! — Gramma Nettie



Tags: , , , , ,

Gramma Nettie helps change the world

Grandmothers!  Do you know how important reading is?  No, I don’t mean the mamby pamby stuff that we do because it keeps the kids occupied for a time.  I mean real reading.  Real books that cause children to think, to learn and to try new things.  This is the stuff geniuses are made of!

RedBoy learns about sharks

RedBoy learns about sharks. He is happy. Really!

Jim Trelease is a retired school teacher.  His research has become very important.  He discovered that Phonics is the “how-to” mechanics of reading. But children tend to stop reading for enjoyment before they are even graduated.  Our job is to instill the “want-to” joy of reading. His brochure “Why Read Aloud to Children?” is a great tri-fold primer to get started.  The link is here.

Suzuki’s method of teaching violin is to have the kids listen to music over and over and over before they even touch a musical instrument.  Trelease, without realizing it, says essentially the same thing.  The child learns to speak by listening to words over and over.  The child learns to read by listening to books read to him over and over.

Did you know that the children lose interest in reading for enjoyment about the same time the adults stop reading aloud to them?  This happens about middle school.  But this is when reading aloud SHOULD continue! Children read books at one level.  But they understand books at about two levels higher.  Reading upper level books gets the kids used to the different way the language works, and introduces new words they would never hear, otherwise.

Trelease cites the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study which found that those Kindergarten children who had been read to at least three times per week were at least twice as likely to score well in reading readiness. Did you know that a good childrens’ book is three times richer in vocabulary than the spoken word?  Reading aloud gets those words into the kids.

The Huffington Post had an article about the American Academy of Pediatrics policy on promoting literacy.  AAP wants Pediatricians to encourage parents to read aloud to their children, calling it critical they do so. Gramma Nettie can help by offering books that are designed for parents and grands to read to children of all ages.

The Usborne Lady


Tags: , , , , , ,

Gramma Nettie loves music

I firmly believe music is very important to development of the young mind as well as to the flexing of the older mind.  We have all had that moment when a particular song plays on the radio and we flash back to a special time in our lives.

A variety of music exposes the mind to a lot of great ideas, expanding their horizons and imaginations.  According to PBS (here) music education helps other school subjects, too.  It works for the kinesthetic child who learns by doing things.  This child is using hands and even the body to play music.  He is also expanding his other two learning pathways in the process.  Music works for the visual child as well as the audio child, who learn through seeing and hearing respectively.

The article further states that learning to play music helps the child develop language skills by physically developing the part of the brain which processes language.  Amazing, isn’t it?

The article explains how music education can increase the child’s intelligence, make the brain work harder, increase spatial skills and improve test scores.

I love music of all kinds.  I enjoy a little Bon Jovi or AC/DC or Queen.  I like some Country music, but I tire of song about hopping from one bed to another.  I like eclectic music like Koyoto’s Princess Bride.  I stumbled upon it while searching for the music soundtrack from the movie Princess Bride.

When my kids were little, we played a lot of Wee Sing Silly Songs, and Patch the Pirate songs, and music from the Disney cartoons The Fox and the Hound and Cindarella, or “Ode to a Mother Skunk” from Hank the Cowdog. (click on the title of the song to hear it)

I also played a lot of Bethoven, Mozart, Chopin … but I found Wagner too dark and brooding.  I also will occasionally play some guitar classics, especially from a favorite youtube artist Per-Olov Kindren:

Or, perhaps some Gregorian Chants?


My two favorite instruments to play are what might be considered a Poor Man’s instruments.  The recorder is typically played as a beginning band instrument in fourth grade or so.  Most people do not get to know and love it as an excellent musical tool in its own right.  There are several types of recorders from the typical soprano taught in school, to the smaller sopranino or the even smaller geiklein.  They come in larger sizes from alto, tenor, bass … and even bigger than that:

The recorder is very easy to learn, but one thing I found frustrating is that the really great music requires more than one person.  I tried — during the tape cassette days — to make sound tracks and play with them but the quality was bad BAD!  I also tried playing for some geriatric folks, but to them it sounded screaching, so I stopped playing.

Then I tried playing a dulcimer.  The dulcimer is about the only distinctly American instrument around.  It originated in the Appalachian mountains, and goes by either Applachian dulcimer or the more common mountain dulcimer.  It is sometimes known as the lap dulcimer, referring to the method of playing it, which is to lay it on the lap and strum the strings.

The word “dulcimer” means sweet music, and is very easy to play.  It has three strings (okay, actually it has four strings, but the melody is doubled and played as if they were just one string).  The easiest is to play the melody on the doubled strings and let the other two strings drone.  This is somewhat reminicent of the Scottish bagpipes, but nicer.

Another way to play is to let your fingers dance on all the strings creating chords and beautiful music.  Here are two of dulcimer’s greatest players, Bing Futch and Steven Seifert.  I can only imagine I can play like they do:

My plan as my grandchildren get older is to expose them to every sort of music in the world.  Especially the ones I like, but also the ones I don’t like that much, including Wagner and – yes – the Oompapa music of the Germans



Tags: , , , ,

Gramma Nettie’s influence

My baby has a birthday.  I had to do some quick math to discover her age, now.  I always say that with five kids their ages are always changing, and one simply cannot expect me to remember all of these ever-changing years.


Great Grandmother photo by BillRuth

She is the mother of my two grandsons, and she is very competent at her job.  She was singing “It’s my party and I’ll sing what I want to.  Sing what I want to.  You would sing too, if it happened to you!”  Well, one of her friends pointed out that her words were not exactly what Lesley Gore sang in 1965.  Her response made my heart sing:  “My mother sang it that way, and so that’s what I sing.”

A woman has a surprising amount of influence on her children.  And on her grandchildren, it appears.  According to Susan Adcox, there are several things a grandmother can do to make a positive impact on them, including my favorite — valuing people above things.  Especially when a valuable item is broken, the first message should be “are you okay?”

I remember when I lived with my own grandmother for a year.  She explained how the rain makes the air smell different, better.  To this day, I think of her when I smell rain coming.  She introduced me to swordfish steaks, and to drying cheddar cheese on the counter (although I cannot remember what she was drying it for).  She gave my sisters and me big hugs when we arrived, and waved to us as we left until we were completely out of sight.  She taught me how to play rummy.  She was not perfect, and she wore baggy dresses with aprons and good sensible shoes.  Yet in my mind there was no other way for a Grandmother to look and be.  She was perfect to me. Understanding how I remember my own grandmother, I can appreciate (and, perhaps, guide) the perceptions my grandsons will have of me.

My plan is to influence them by reading to them; by introducing them to music with recorder and dulcimer; and by giving them their own family history so they know where they came from.  I want to teach them to cook what my mother called “soul food,”  usually red beans and rice.  She explained that her mother made this when there was nothing else available; that it was food “to keep body and soul together.”  I think of Momma when I serve this dish.  To me it is great food.  To her, she ate it because there was nothing else in the house.

2012-05-11 18.11.51

Gramma Nettie the RockStar photo by daughter

I want my grandchildren to remember me every time they listen to classical music, or every time they repeat one of my favorite phrases that I learned from my own mother.

Ready or not, like it or not, I am an influence to my grandchildren.  I must choose which direction that influence will take.


Tags: , , , , ,

Gramma Nettie talks Baby Talk

I couldn’t help it.  I held my little grandson #2, as he was looking at me and cooing and talking with me.  And I talked back.  I used his language, and his inflections.  I basically said the same things back to him.

We have been told to not talk baby talk to infants and young children.  The rationale is that talking baby-talk is actually demeaning, talking down to the kids.  Yet, we all do it.  We extend the vowels.  We increase the pitch of our voices, and use a sing-song rhythm.  And we do this because the babies pay attention.  As grandparents, my grandsons have trained ME to talk to them this way using postive reinforcements.  Also known as smiles and eye contact.  These are just as important to me as it is to the baby.

The rhythms and the sing-song speach inflections have research behind them, too.  Jim Trelease “Read Aloud Handbook”  has done a lot of research on how children learn to read.  He shows how rhyming books, and reading out loud to children helps their brains develop, helps their language form, and helps later on with their educational endeavors.

And it all starts with the three-month old teaching Gramma Nettie how to talk to him.


Leave a comment

Posted by on 1 March 2014 in education, learning


Tags: , , , ,