Monday, December 14, 2009

Tot School: B's Song Box

Tot School
B is 27 months old.

This will be just a quick post in the middle of this busy season to show one thing that we have been having a lot of fun with lately. We all love to sing around here, and B is no exception. When he was about 18 months old, we put together a "Song Box" for him to use during Group Time (the way we usually kick off our homeschool day). I printed, cut out, and laminated (with contact paper) some small pictures to represent songs B knew. This made it easier for him to a) remember which songs he was familiar with, b) not choose the same song over and over every day, and c) be in control of which songs he wanted to sing.

This worked great, but, over time, the pictures became quite ratty. Also, the small size made them far too easy to lose. So, recently, I decided to revamp the song box. I printed out uniformly-sized larger cards and used my new laminator to make them a bit more sturdy. These have been a big hit:

Right now we have 18 cards in the box, but I have lots more I want to add! As you can see, the actual box is currently an old shoebox. I want to at least decorate it up a bit, but I haven't gotten around to it yet (and B doesn't really seem to care!).

We've started using the box throughout the day instead of just at Group Time, too. I've found it comes in especially handy when I'm taking care of Baby P's needs. I ask B to go get the Song Box, and he sits right next to me choosing song after song. This has been a great way to interact with him when he might otherwise feel left out, and Baby P is being exposed to music, too! Bonus!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Agile Scheduling

So, it's the middle of the night, and--again--I can't sleep.

We were managing a pretty stable routine around here for a while, we really were! I was feeling great about getting up a couple of hours earlier each day (although I am not a morning person) to meet some personal goals. I was pleased (although exhausted) with being able to juggle the needs of an infant, a rambunctious toddler, and two elementary-aged children. We were even managing to get the household chores done on most days. My schedule was working, and I felt so effective!

But then came the time change, more darkness than I am happy with, and the advent of "hibernating" weather, along with illness for most and sleeping pattern disturbances for too many. Even something as wonderful as holidays and family coming in from out of town send my delicately-balanced plans for our day toppling over like so many wooden blocks.

So, what's a mom to do? I love schedules. I find great satisfaction (and, honestly?, a little bit of magic) in orderly charts that show my plan for each segment of the day. They make me feel prepared for any eventuality.

The truth is, though, that such rigid pre-planning is far too easily thwarted in a setting as unpredictable as a home. Teachers in a school setting have the luxury of specialization--unlike me, they don't have to balance all the roles of mother, teacher, mentor, curriculum developer, educational researcher, playmate, caregiver, nurse, activities director, sanitation manager, efficiency coordinator, referee, menu planner, nutritional adviser, spiritual guide, and so many others it makes my head spin!

Although I'm not discounting the challenges they do face in the classroom, they just aren't the same challenges I face as a homeschooling mom, especially one with very small children. So WHY do I keep expecting to be able to keep a similar schedule?

I know the answer doesn't lie in completely letting go of all schedules and expectations. (That situation will happen sometimes, but I've found it can't sustain itself for long.) It also isn't to be found in fighting harder for my precious schedule, demanding that everything fit neatly into pre-planned half-hour slots on my chart. (I've learned all too forcefully that it leads only to further frustration.)

What I'm working toward is an agile attitude toward scheduling--being able to roll with what comes instead of feeling cheated because it wasn't on my chart. Isn't that really what I want to teach my children anyway? To drop everything to come to the aid of another person? To put others' needs before my own plans? To seek the Lord's will for my day instead of my own? Won't that lesson serve them better throughout their lives than all the academic subjects put together (which we can study tomorrow just as well, anyway)?

I find it far too easy to forget that life is the point here. Yes, schooling is important and schedules can be a great tool, but only as a part of life. If they are getting in the way of living and loving, then something needs to be re-evaluated. I find it helpful to remind myself periodically of this truth:
It doesn't matter what we are accomplishing. It only matters what we are becoming.
Things go much better when I remember this. Even on a day like today when I will need to manage with almost no sleep!

(This post was inspired by some questions posed by Carisa at 1+1+1=1.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jumping for Joy

One of my fondest memories from elementary school is of jumping rope at recess. My friends and I played all sorts of jumprope games, and eventually got into Double Dutch. That was sure a long time ago! Recently, however, N and K both expressed interest in learning how to jump rope. (Um, of course!) We invested in a couple of ropes and went over the basics, then I left them to it.

N picks his rope up now and then and puts in a few minutes of practice, but K has worked seriously hard at learning this skill. I have to smile every time she opens the back door and crows, "Mom, I jumped (X number of) times without missing!!!!" If it happens to be too cold, wet, or dark outside, she'll practice in the garage instead. I love seeing her so dedicated to mastering something. She has made a considerable "jump" (ha! all puns intended) in large motor skills over the past couple of weeks, and--even better--she has seen her continued practice pay off. Success!

Tot School (December 6th 2009)

Tot School
B will be 27 months old this week.

We've had a couple of weeks off from structured schooling--the first intentionally because of the holiday and the second necessitated by family illness. I'm always amazed at how much learning still goes on here at times like these, though. I'm planning a couple of posts to highlight what N and K are doing, but here are a few of the things B has been up to (please pardon the weird pink streaks in the photos--I do believe it's time for a new camera):

"ORANGUTAN" TONGS. This is really just motor skills practice using different types of tongs, but B calls them "orangutan tongs" after a fabulous book of tongue-twisting poems that we love. Here he is using the tongs to move dice of different sizes from one container to another. We have also used them with small blocks and pom-poms, and we plan to use them with other objects in the future. This is an activity we keep in one of his "workboxes" (more on that in another post) so he can get it out whenever he likes.

POPPING BUBBLE WRAP. We had some sheets of large bubble wrap that were a part of K's jellyfish costume for Halloween (patterned after this one). When I was taking the costume apart, all three older kids begged for a popping party! As you can see in the above photo, B was more interested in popping individual bubbles by hand, while N and K were all about jumping and stomping. At some point, B became entranced by this little guy:

"I see a snake, Mommy!" he said excitedly. We explained that it was a worm, then spent some quality time observing its journey back to the lawn. I LOVE how my children teach me to stop and seize the moment!

LIFE SKILLS: CLEANING THE BATHROOM. I've been working with K and N for a couple of years now on learning to do housecleaning chores, and B is beginning to show interest in helping. I have assigned him to help me clean the master bathroom for the past couple of weeks, and he has enjoyed it immensely. I gave him his own little spray bottle of water and a sponge, and let him wipe down whatever he wanted to. His favorites seemed to be the tub and the shower door, as shown above. He did get a bit wet in the process, but he was completely engaged in the task for quite a long time, so it was definitely worth it!

MAKING MARSHMALLOWS. My husband J has become quite adventurous in the kitchen over the past couple of years. A while ago, he attempted making homemade marshmallows. (Seriously!) They didn't turn out like he hoped at that point, but he always meant to keep experimenting with them. Today he found a different recipe, and even I (who am not particularly fond of marshmallows) had to admit that these turned out very well. All three older kids got into the final stage of rolling the sticky cubes in powdered sugar. B was especially happy to help, and he loved J's instructions: "Take one out, drop it in, shake it up, then put it in." B repeated them over and over (with an occasional "put it in" ending up in his mouth instead of the intended container, of course!). I'm impressed at how quickly he picks up patterns of that kind.

As always, I have more to post than I have time for! I'll save some of the other activities for next time. In the meantime, find lots more Tot School ideas here.