The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

At Choreography by Rae, we read books to kids ages 4-6 five days a week during Storytime Adventures.

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann  is another book I learned of courtesy of A Might Girl

Our kids love reading about animal adventures in the forests, but being a global class it came as no surprise that many of our kids had never been camping. Growing up my camping trips were few and far between: a Girl Scout trip that I was invited on even though I wasn’t a Girl Scout, 6th grade science sleepaway camp, and a camp counselor stint in High School. I think that equals 3 maybe 4 times that I’ve donned a sleeping bag and slept under the stars. My spouse on the other hand has less than fun memories of being the Boy Scouts, trying to start a fire and eating raw food. Pretty sure the food wasn’t supposed to be raw. It’s the lack of experience in camping which makes this books so awesome.

Jennifer K. Mann does a great job showing how the “idea” of camping can be different from the reality and that different is okay. Every kiddo in our class could relate to having a home made forte of some sort (blankets, connecting sticks, magna tiles) and the process of building a homemade forte is a breeze compared to setting up a real tent in the woods. Our main character Ernestine quickly learns that the many adventures that nature holds aren’t that different from things she would do living in the city. 


Lessons to Share

1) Try something new.

Kids can be resistant to trying new foods, a new teacher, and even being the first person to “go” in Simon Says. As Ernestine tries new things, she discovers that many of those new things aren’t as bad as she thought they might. She even discovers a few that she loves! Like eating S’mores.

2) It’s okay to be different.

As a vegan, I’m no stranger to the weird looks you get when someone dines with you and learns that you don’t eat meat. I always warn guests that I’m cooking for what’s on the menu, and I do wonder if Aunt Jackie gave Ernestine a heads up about mealtime, but honestly Ernestine is a kid and probably either forgot how Aunt Jackie cooks or never paid attention. Either way, I was tickled to see cousin Samantha announce that “tofu dogs” are her favorite. I remember giving Tofu dogs to my own niece when she was a kid.

The difference in eating is handled wonderfully in The Camping Trip. No long explanations or justifications, just a simple, this is dinner and this is different. 

Also bonus points for hearing one our kids shout, “I love tofu dogs!”

3) It’s okay to be afraid.

Let’s face it, when kids get afraid, most grown ups are quick to soothe those fears. As a teacher, I deal with navigating kid fears daily. I like that Aunt Jackie doesn’t go into a long conversation with Ernestine on how she’s feeling. Instead Aunt Jackie invites the kids to take a moment to look at the stars. This allows Ernestine to navigate her own emotions and find her own grounding. Aunt Jackie is a pretty smart cookie.

I also like that cousin Samantha offers to hold hands when jumping in the water together. Because let’s face it, somethings feel less scary when you know you have a partner.

4) It’s okay to miss our loved ones.

Ernestine quickly learns that just because she’s not with Daddy, doesn’t mean that she is loved any less.

Representation Shout Out!

  • This book features an African American family
  • Veganism/ Vegetarianism is mentioned without pushing an agenda
  • We never see 2 parents together. This can mean many things or nothing at all. It’s a wonderful way to show that every family is different.

This is an honest review from a book lover and educator. I do not make commission off of the sale of this book. Be sure to check your local bookstore or your local library for a copy. Libby is an amazing App that connects to many libraries throughout the U.S.A.

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck

At Choreography by Rae, we read books to kids ages 4-6 five days a week during Storytime Adventures.

I learned of this book courtesy of A Might Girl while searching for a few extra books to round out Black History Month. Our kiddos loved this fun read, but warning it’s jam packed with lessons that can be overlooked. We’re actually eager to read this one a second time this semester.  The kids loved helping me identify an appropriate household pet. They also loved talking about what they saw in the pictures. In fact, when I tried to save time but not asking about a picture, one 4 year old said, “Ms. Rae you didn’t ask what we saw on the last page. I want to tell you about the picture I liked.” Surely, I couldn’t deny such a request.

If you’re thinking of adding this book to your collection, then go for it. Below are some tips on why you should read this book to your curious kiddos, and you’ll find information what this book is not about. Sometimes grown ups get wrapped up their own ideas and can miss some awesome messages.

Lessons to Share

1) Be curious about Big Words.

My first thought was… “Big words?! These kids won’t understand these words” and I did read a negative review stating that point. What the reviewer seemed to miss was that reading stories is how we introduce young readers to vocabulary. The big words in this book are all given a definition and our main character often asks “what does that mean?” This is a wonderful way to spark curiosity and conversation with your kids. The character Sophia is just like them, she has no idea what those fancy words mean, but she’s asking. Also the grown ups answer her question. They don’t tell her to be quite or anything dismissive. Emoji’s and texting abbreviations are great but I’m also watching first hand a generation that has poor spelling, communication, and vocabulary skills ( I work with older kids and teens as well). There’s also a misconception that people of color wouldn’t understand big words. So thanks Jim Averbeck for giving this smart character some big words to be curious about. 

2) There are many ways to say the same thing. Everyone tells Sophia the same thing in a different way. A nice reminder to kids that there can be more than one word for the same thing and you can ask for the same thing in many different ways.

3) Understanding what is reasonable and realistic.

Sophia asked for something ridiculous. Our kids had a great time identifying what makes a good household pet and what doesn’t. 

Sophia uses very well thought out arguments to support her requests for something that is absolutely ridiculous. This invites our kids to think about what they want and why they want it. Kids see toys all the time that they want, but they can’t really say why it is that they want it. Sophia is showing our kids that if you really want something think about why you want it. Even if it’s a completely ridiculous request you might get it.

4) Positive role models. This book features a family of color. Everyone has an important job and everyone deals with important decision-making daily. Grand-mama doesn’t have a job but she’s no pushover. The fact that Sophia has adjusted her argument to her audience also introduces for young readers the concept of knowing your audience. Recognizing that we don’t always asks people for the same thing in the same way.

5) Don’t over do it.

The story wraps up with “short and sweet” can get you what you want, and this is true. We point out that Sophia gets her requests not because she threw a tantrum, not because she cried, not because she wanted it, but because she thought carefully about why she wanted something and asked in a nice way. Sometimes kids can go on and on, just excited to have a listener or even feeling like they have to provide an explanation to justify what they want. I work with adults in their teens who often give long explanations for simple yes or no questions. This is a very important lesson for young women. Women historically have had to work harder to get what they want. Sophia does a lot of work to address any argument that might not be in favor of saying yes to her request. Ask for what you want, be prepared to say why once you know if more information is needed.

Misconceptions About The Book

1 ) This books send the message that “Sophia should talk less.”

Nope. This character is smart and each person she presents her argument to recognizes this. They even compliment Sophia on her presentation. The also speak to her in an intelligent way. No one belittles Sophia. A friend of mine used to say think say there’s being smart, and there’s thinking smart. Sophia is smart and shows it. She’s thinking smart by changing her argument for her audience. She finally realizes that her family loves her and didn’t need her to provide a long argument on why she wanted what she wanted.

2) This book shows adults shutting down a young girl.

Shutting down is a pretty strong term, but it’s exactly what one reviewer claimed. Kids ask for things all the time and adults say yes or no. What Sophia is asking for is completely ridiculous. For our storytime we went over what is an acceptable household pet. The kids do not expect Sophia to get what she wants. This is what makes the ending fun. Our kids know that they aren’t going to be able to get a unicorn or anything else by crying and saying please. That’s not the point of the story. Kids understand that asking for something ridiculous is going to get an answer of “No” from adults. Sophia is praised in the book for her thought out arguments. Like Grand-mama says, “get to the point.” That’s a life lesson for adults too. I have team members giving long explanations why they want a day off or can’t pick up a shift. Get to the point, because sometime short and sweet will get you what you want.

3) That’s a bad word!

I did have a kid get upset by the word “poop.” I appreciate any book that aims to normalize bowel movements. This was an opportunity for me to remind our kids that everyone poops and for our story we are talking about giraffe poop. We are not using “bathroom talk” to be naughty or silly

Our kids loved this book and the number of lessons learned are plenty.

This is an honest review from a book lover and educator. I do not make commission off of the sale of this book. Be sure to check your local bookstore or your local library for a copy. Libby is an amazing App that connects to many libraries throughout the U.S.A.

Hair Love: a short film that’s big on heart

Growing up a curly haired girl in a straight hair town, I’d spent most of my life at war with my hair. When you’re a kid, the grown ups in your life set the hair rules. The same way grown ups set the rules for whether their kid has rhythm. At some point in my 20’s I let my hair do it’s own thing and my curls thank me for it. I also had to find my own way through dance and it has been my life’s mission to help others create their own rules through the arts.

Whether you have curly hair, straight hair, two left feet, or unicorn wings this movie is for you. I hope you enjoy this Oscar winning film about love, acceptance, family, and patience.

How much are dance classes in NYC?

Choreography by Rae

Dance Your Dreams

How much is it? Not all dance classes are created equal.

By Rae Wilson

The holiday season brings out the shopping warrior in us all. Grown-ups eager to find a deal, don their comfiest shoes gearing up for a weekend of “super-savings.” Not everyone takes the predawn super-sized coffee route. Some prefer shopping from the comfort of their couch clicking on the multitude of offers that have arrived in their Inboxes, promising Black Friday deals unlike anything ever seen before.

No matter how you choose to pursue a great deal, there’s a good chance you’ve done price comparison at some point in your life. The desire to win a deal doesn’t seem to be defined by income or culture. Century 21 in New York City is known for providing “deals” on luxury brands. Digital sellers like Groupon and ClassPass pride themselves on delivering savings year-round with the click of a button. Even the local grocery store offers sales which are sometimes paired with coupons to deliver an even bigger savings. The need to make a deal isn’t new, but long before we think of how much we can save, we must address the question, “How much is it?”

“Asking, “How much is it?” without even knowing what’s being offered is like asking “Are you going to marry me?” when someone invites you out for a drink. Patience Grasshopper.”

As a cost-conscious consumer, I usually prefer to skip the pre-sale getting to know you stuff and just go for the price. Of course, when I’m price hunting that’s usually after I’ve already either a) done some research or b) set a budget for myself. I love a good deal also. Though a recent experiment in purchasing bread provided a strong reminder that the price isn’t always right when it comes to saving some dough.

“If you want to really save some dough, then be sure to look at the ingredients.”

My clients are great. I remember bringing “healthy” rice crispy treats as a reward for my younger students and having an 8 year decline because it was still junk food. When I was 8, I would have eaten anything that hinted at being desert. I love when my students teach me things or remind me of the little things. My bread experiment was born out of my search for a plastic free water bottle for students. I failed at finding a reusable bottle that wasn’t made of metal, but I became determined to further reduce the plastic in my own home. Bread has been a huge part of my diet– just changing a simple food purchase to a plastic free purchase would make a huge impact in my waste reduction.

In order to reduce the amount of plastic in my home, I decided to stop buying things like sliced bread. Knowing what I wanted (good bread that didn’t come in a plastic bag), I did some research.





Sliced Bread in a plastic bag.

Any Grocery Store


Unsliced Fresh Loaf, normally $8, 50% off after 5pm

Farmers Market


Unsliced Fresh Loaf, 1 Giant loaf equals 2 loaves

Polish Bakery


Unsliced Fresh Loaf

Farmers Market


Unsliced Fresh Loaf

Swedish Bakery


Unsliced ½ a Fresh Loaf

Farmers Market

After having done my research I was able to address my budget. I decided to skip the $10 half loaf since it was 3 more than 3 times what I usually spend. As someone who eats a lot of bread, even if the bread was made with water from the fountain of youth it just seemed pricey.

The next step was to try some bread. No I did not seek out those little cube samples that some store provide. I invested in the product. I no longer give free trial classes or sample classes for the same reason I spent a month trying different breads. If I was serious about making the switch to plastic free bread then I would need to get the full experience.

Finding the Right Fit

I gave up on the $4 loaves from the polish bakery, the bread was nice, but the cashiers would get annoyed when I asked them not to put the bread in plastic bags. My criteria had now moved from, “find plastic free bread” to “find plastic free bread was less than $10 per half loaf and would include a good customer service experience.” The bakery has been in the neighborhood for decades and I really wanted to support it, but I moved on.

Next, I tried supporting my local farmers market (a plastic nightmare that’s considered trendy in New York City). After 3 separate attempts to purchase $7 loaves– customer service again became the defining factor. The vendors were too busy chatting and hanging out, to be bothered to take my order. If you walk into a restaurant that has a sign saying “credit cards accepted”, seat yourself, find a menu from another table, and flag down a server, order, and then they tell you the card machine is broken well that’s a lot of hurdles to jump through for a meal. Waiting until I have my card out to say, “Oh I don’t think the card machine is working. Hey, is the card machine working?” Was pretty sloppy stuff. These guys were well into the middle of the day and use a small attachment to a smartphone to swipe. Unless your colleague ran out to buy a new one and you didn’t notice, this was information I should have been given up front. Also, he could have keyed in the card. Point being my willingness to double my usual bread allowance was not enough to make me put up with poor customer service again.

The next vendor at the farmers market was nice. The 50% off bread was big, and it was only about a $1 more that what I spent on Grocery store bread. Sadly, it was also tasteless. I tried many varieties and finally gave up. New criteria, “if I’m going to invest in it, I should like it.”

So how much is the winning bread? For 7.50 a loaf at the Swedish Bakery I get fresh bread in a paper bag, the taste is great, I can request to have it sliced, and the service is great. Considering the convenience and quality I’m paying for I consider $7.50 to be a great deal. Is it more than double what I used to pay? Yes. But because of the great flavor and texture I eat less of it than I did of my old bread. Plus I get really excited to have a slice a bread now.

When visitors to my website, contact me asking “how much is it?” I always ask myself where that person might be in their research phase. The dollar cost of classes is publicly displayed on the website, but the ingredients of what’s included in that price goes far beyond learning to dance. 

This holiday season before you purchase another “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” (um, what’s up with these deals lasting a full week now) think about the value it will bring to your life. Will you be excited to use those 15 Groupon classes or wear those new boots? Will you end up in a crowded class where you aren’t learning much? Will you end up with a teacher who you don’t vibe with and end up ditching the remaining classes? Perhaps, those new boots will just make it through the winter but need to be replaced next year. 

I put a lot of quality ingredients in my classes for those who make quality a priority. For folks who need big name status or super cheap deals, there are plenty of other studios out there for them.

Want to check out my “ingredients”? Click here.

“If you want to really save some dough, then be sure to look at the ingredients. The price isn’t always right.”

Finding a Great Deal in New York City.

When I created Choreography by Rae, I created it with you in mind. Assuming you’re someone who loves a good deal and values quality. You won’t find my classes on Groupon and I rarely have sales. Why? Well, the classes are designed to provide quality and convenience. When I drop prices too low, then usually the quality is the first thing to be affected. I know a lot of studios that charge more than me and a lot of dance instructors that charge much less. When I buy a super cheap deal that’s convenient, I know the quality might be reduced. For me that often means attending someone’s overcrowded classroom (hence I learn less) or a teacher I don’t vibe with. By choosing not to offer you $2.99 bread like so many others or $10 half loaves and boasting my credentials I’m able to offer quality service that is designed help you take the next step in your journey.

"Amazing class. My son enjoyed learning new dance choreography. Rae is very good with her students."
Angela Clemmons
parent of (Jayden, 10 years)