Category Archives: learning


This is a call to Grandmothers out there.  Encourage your daughters and other girls in your life who are of child-bearing age to avoid all forms of alcohol.  Even the small amount of social drinking can cause mental and physical disorder called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  Remember when we young women were advised to take folate to prevent Spina Difida?  This is just as preventable as that!  Why take any chances?  Grammas of the world, we have our work cut out for us.

Dr. Carl Bell, a psychiatrist in Chicago, began sounding the alarm about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder four years ago.

Source: This Chicago doctor stumbled on a hidden epidemic of fetal brain damage | PBS NewsHour

This Chicago doctor stumbled on a hidden epidemic of fetal brain damage | PBS NewsHour


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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.


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


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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



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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


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The Real Mother Goose


The Real Mother Goose 1916 illustration by Blanche Fisher Wright Gutenberg Project

The Real Mother Goose
1916 illustration by
Blanche Fisher Wright
Gutenberg Project

I love the poems from the Real Mother Goose.  I love how the words dance around in a sing-song fashion.  I love how they create word-pictures in your mind.

The Real Mother Goose was first written in 1916.  The 1966 introduction of this hugely popular book by May Hill Arbuthnot describes why it has persisted for 50 years.  The origins of the rhymes themselves are British through and through.  The name, though, comes from France.  Charles Perrault collected eight folk tales which he called “Tales of Mother Goose.”  This was in 1697.  About 100 years later, John Newbery printed a book of 52 verses, woodcut illustrations and even 16 songs from Shakespeare.  This was titled Mother Goose’s Melody.

When you read these verses out loud, you cannot help but to sing them.  The rhymes are catchy, with children learning to follow along with Gramma, then singing them out by themselves.  The child hears the verses, and repeats the verses back verbally.  Some of them also encourage physical movement, such as when Jack jumps over the candlestick.

1, 2, 3 4 5 I caught a hare alive Gutenberg Project

1, 2, 3 4 5
I caught a hare alive
Gutenberg Project

Some experts will explain the dark origins of many of these rhymes.  They may be true, but does it really matter?  The child does not know that “Ring around the Rosey” describes the black plague.  All she knows is that she can dance around and around singing this tune, then she gets to flop down with great drama.

The book has a variety of rhymes to select from: games, verses and people.  Children laugh at the cow jumping over the moon and at all the “funny sounds and bouncy rhymes.”

See how they run! from Gutenberg Project

See how they run!
from Gutenberg Project

But for me, it has always been about the illustrations.  As a child, I was drawn to the darling images but stayed for the words.  Arbuthnot explains that reading this large collection of more than 300 verses will help children know more words than if they’d never heard them read aloud.  Reading this book will introduce the child with a fun introduction to the pleasures of poetry.

The Gutenberg Project

The Gutenberg Project

Reading this book does not need to stop when the child reaches Kindergarten age.  Parents (and grandparents) should continue reading aloud until they are grown up, married and have children of their own.  Of course, I exaggerate, but not by much.

The name Mother Goose means something with, for or about children.  Youtube has the Mother Goose Club of songs and stories for children.  Personally, I find these silly at best.  Libraries have Mother Goose times where a volunteer reads some story to a group of children.  This event is designed to expose kids to reading and books.  But the best use of the name Mother Goose is simply placing the child on your lap and reading the stories to him.  Read with excitement.  Read with motion.  Read with passion.

Here is my version of three of these poems.  I originally intended them for my grandson, but I much prefer to read them in person!

All of the Mother Goose collection is in the public domain.

Here is one version from Gutenberg Project, edited by Eulalie Osgood Grover.

This one is the one I grew up with, also from the Guttenberg Project,  illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright.

Other versions:

The Only True Mother Goose Melodies

Mother Goose or the Old Nursery Rhymes

Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes

I have heard of Mother Goose in Prose, but have never read it.  Perhaps now is the time.  It is written by L. Frank Baum.  Yes, the same man who wrote about the Wizard of Oz.

Walt Disney made a film in 1931 entitled Mother Goose Melodies which I had never seen.  Here is one of those shorts:

{PS:  As I was writing about the three blind mice, my computer’s mouse died.  Is this an omen?}


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



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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.


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