Thursday, August 27, 2009

Learning to add

She started figuring out how to add. It was so unexpected. We were stopped at a red light, and she noticed that there were two lights in front of us, and two turn signal lights off to the side. She said, "Mommy, look! Two lights and two lights. There's four!" And she put two fingers up from her right hand and two from her left hand and put them together in front of her. So, we've been looking at other things now and then that we can put together. She mostly notices it with the stop lights for some reason. She was also doing it with some poker chips a few nights ago. I've pointed it out 2 or 3 times when I noticed something she was doing that she was adding together, but mostly she's been noticing it herself.

It's interesting because she can't count to 20 yet, and only counts to 10 without a mistake about half the time. Which is interesting in itself because for a while she could do that, but she seems to have forgotten. But I have read that often kids will seem to lose old skills when they are picking up new ones and then suddenly get them back. Anyway, it just goes to show that the "pre-requisites" for certain skills aren't necessarily required.

She will say things like "Look, mom, two and one makes five." But with her fingers she'll be doing two on one hand and one on the other hand to make three. So, she is starting to grasp the concept, but doesn't always have the right word to match with the number of items. So I'll just smile and say "Yep, three!" and she agrees with me like she knew that all along, because that's what she meant after all, just not what she said. Or maybe she really did mean five, but she trusts me when I say three. It's all relaxed and fun and there won't be a test, so it's easy to just make a mistake and then learn something new and move on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Busy, busy

Wow, we've been so busy I've hardly posted lately! Then we were sick last week- yuck!

Let's see... we went to the Janzten beach carousel with some friends. It's beautiful and E had so much fun!

Our garden is producing massive amounts of tomatoes and cucumber. I love both of those, but there's only so many salads and sandwiches a person can eat!

We went to Powell's- the world's largest book store. I only got to browse the kid's section, since D's brother was visiting and I let them do their thing while I watched the kids. When my mom visits, I want to go back and check out the rest.

E found a book there called ALIVE and it's all about the body. I'm hoping I can find it for her at the library. She can't get enough of body books right now. We got a bunch at the library, but they aren't nearly as good as ALIVE. We've been talking about bone marrow, ventricles, cells, neurons, platelets, tibia, radius, ulna, skull, dentricles, carpels, intestines..... I explain some things in simpler language, but a lot of times she just wants me to read the books.

We've discovered some new favorite movies. E really likes Balto since it's about dogs (another current favorite thing), and we just discovered Harold and the Purple crayon. It's cute! She's also enjoying the Signing Time movies. They are sign language movies that show the signs for different themes. And I have the Wonder Pets song permanently imprinted on my brain- "It's Seweus!" lol

She got to see some new dogs too. I cleaned a house for a friend who has two dogs and E came with me. She's always pretending to be a dog complete with howling like a wolf. She calls all her food dogfood, and I'm just waiting for some stranger to think I'm a horrible mother when she asks for her "dogfood" in public. :)

This morning E discovered that one of her coloring books has letters in it that are the kind where the lines are broken up so kids can write over them to learn how to make them. She thought the was really cool and wrote E, H, I over and over. And she got to go swimming today at an apartment building managed by the same company that we work for. We've had an open offer to swim there all summer and D and E finally did it today. We'll have to take her back a few times again before it's too late.

L is cranky every morning until she gets a morning nap. I think she needs more sleep in the mornings, but gets woken up by a wet diaper and the rest of us moving around. Then she's too busy playing to go back to sleep, but too sleepy to really enjoy herself. Not sure how I'm going to help her with that.... for now I've just been nursing her a lot all morning long. Maybe I'll start wearing her more- she's happy if she's in the carrier and maybe she'll fall asleep that way. And she's climbing non-stop. On the chairs, the table, IN the kitchen drawers. Pulling stuff out of the drawers and turning off the tv. It's the age of perpetual redirecting... But she's SO CUTE and so much fun! She has two all purpose words "Ow" and "Ah Oh." She walks around all day "Ah oh! Ah oh!"

So, that's all I can think of that's happened in the last few weeks. I have some new projects in the works, but nothing I'm ready to share yet. Still, they have been taking up time. And I've been doing more meditating and mindfulness practices, which I'm going to do a different post about.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sid the Science Kid

E got a Sid the Science Kid movie from the library. I watched it with her and it made me think of the difference between unit studies and unschooling. The show is all about how "learning is fun!" and "science is fun!" and the scientific method- question, hypothesis, theory, observe, report, conclude. It's a cute show, and of course learning *is* fun and science is cool. But there's something missing...

First, Sid goes to school. He has a good school- 4 to 1 student to teacher ratio, lots of outdoor play time, and a teacher who actually observes what the kids are interested in and caters her teaching to that. So, as far as school's go- while that's totally unrealistic and I'd almost say impossible- that's a nice portrayal of how school could be in theory. I do like how the teacher is very patient with the other boy who is pretty hyper and not always on track with the other kids.

Here's where it goes off track though. 4 kids are not ever going to be interested in learning the same thing every day, let alone the 20 to 30 in a realistic classroom. That's why schools can't really *work.* That's why they have "classroom management" and lots of rules to keep everyone doing the same thing at the same time and grade levels and the worry about being "ahead" or "behind."

But let's pretend for a minute that the kids were all in sync like that. The difference between the unit studies and unschooling is this- unit studies try to fit all the "subjects" into a given interest. They *use* the kids' interest to facilitate the teacher's real agenda of teaching all the subjects, while trying to keep the kids upbeat about how FUN it is. So, in the episode about the bird houses, Sid's questions about birds gave the teacher and his parents a "teachable moment."

Of course, since the show is created to be educational, Sid went right along with everything they wanted to teach him. And it had to "look" educational. A proper amount of hands on, the right amount of sitting at a desk, the questions all followed the scientific method. There was an element for every learning style- visual, hands-on building, drawing, writing, story telling, singing. He came to a complete finish with all his questions answered and it was properly documented in his journal.

Life isn't always that neat and linear though. So, neither is unschooling. And unschooling isn't about using the interest to fuel something educational. It's about the interest being worth something in and of itself- whatever that interest might be. And the joy of following the rabbit trails that teachers fear are getting "off subject," but unschoolers know that is where learning happens. Connections are being made even if it looks messy.

What if Sid dropped the questions about the birds, when he saw the twigs from which the nest was made? What if he started asking about where the bird got the twigs? And what kind of tree was it? And is that the same kind of tree in Grandpa's yard that the dog sniffs all the time? And why do dogs sniff trees? Bloodhounds have better senses of smell than all the other dogs. For what type of work were bloodhounds first used? Where? Are they still used by in police work? What's a K-9 unit? Where do the criminals go when they get caught? How does the court system work?

What if Sid wanted to stay home from school to build that bird house with his dad? His dad bought the supplies while Sid was at school. What if Sid went with him and learned about the cost of the wood, the different types of nails, the name of the roads they drove on to get to the store, and how the economy was affecting the gas prices. The show portrays Sid's parents as "good parents" who supplement his school learning. His mom is "cool, but now it's time to go to school" where it's implied, the real learning happens.

I just happened to run across this link yesterday that gives a real simple list of the difference between schooling and unschooling. I thought it was pretty interesting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What are our bodies made of?

E has been asking a lot of "what is ______ made of?" type questions lately. When I told her that our bodies are made of water, blood, skin, bone then she wanted to know what's skin made of? What's blood made of? and so on. I took an anatomy class in college and promptly dropped it after about 2 weeks once I realized that another science class would meet the same requirement. So, I was stumbling trying to figure out how to take my limited knowledge and break it down for a 3 year old. And she was NOT satisfied with simplistic answers anyway.

I did some google searching and came up with The Body Systems website. It has a compilation of links that show how all the body systems work. Most of the links were too much reading and not enough pictures for her. But a few of them had good animations.

We spent a lot of time last night looking at those links. Then we ended up on youtube watching a video about angioplasty. That led to other youtube videos including some homebirth movies. It was hard to find any good ones though. Laura Shanley's are my favorite, but they are always getting removed for being "too graphic." It's easy to find videos of hospital births where all you see are the doctors and the woman's legs, and hear her screaming and machines beeping and some misguided husband yelling PUSH. C-section videos are easy to find too- like a baby being ripped out of a woman's stomach isn't graphic?! But they take down all the good ones that show beautiful, peaceful, calm births with- Oh My Gosh- Vaginas!

Sorry, rabbit trail.... back to E's questions. She likes watching birth videos. I started showing them to her before L was born, so she'd know what to expect. The other day we went to the library and I found one movie called In the Womb which shows the baby's development from conception to birth. The other one we got is called Living Body. I was surprised how long both of them held her attention. She didn't really listen to anything they were saying, I think because the vocabulary is over her head. But she kept asking me "what's that? Why is it doing that? How does that work?" so I was able to explain it in easier language. We talked about cells, platelets, veins, bones, baby's skulls fusing, ear drums and balance, and all kinds of other things.

It's funny because the whole "where do babies come from?" question is pretty much answered all ready, and it's never been a big deal. The only piece she's missing is how the sperm gets inside the mommy. I think right now she thinks it's already there like the egg. I'll just keep providing her with little bits of age appropriate information as the questions arise.

Tonight she asked "mommy, did someone build my body?" And I said "Yes, God made your body in my tummy." She said, "Oh, that was really nice of him!" Yes, I think so too. :)