We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are." ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley~

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sneaky Preschool

I was aaaaalmost tempted to start a new blog this week. If I did (but won't) I'd call it Sneaky Preschool.  I use the letteroftheweek.com site, and www.mommywithselectivememory.com every once in awhile. That second site has cool stuff like this:
Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills:
  • Pouring sand, water, salt, sugar, rice, or beans using bowls, funnels, spoons, cups, tubes, rolls, colander
  • Sorting small objects with interesting textures like cotton balls, pastas, sponges, and rocks placing them into egg cartons
  • Pushing objects through a slot like pennies or buttons into a Piggy Bank or container with a slit in lid; pushing pegs into a board
  • Picking up marbles and putting them in a jar; for variety, have child stand up and drop marbles into jar or drop balls or other small objects into container or sack
  • Building with blocks, logs, legos
  • Lacing with lacing cards – poking string through holes and pulling
  • Grasping wooden puzzles pieces and placing correctly
  • Arranging rocks, leaves, beans, cards, pasta, sticks or whatever interests child
  • Picking stickers off page and successfully placing onto something
  • Playing with Play Dough and clay: pulling, pressing, stretching, rolling, pounding, squeezing, pinching
  • Squeezing glue bottles, water guns, sponges
  • Shaking bottles of glitter
  • Beading necklaces with yarn or pasta wheels and lacing string
  • Pushing pipe cleaners into foam shapes with center cut out or push into colanders
  • Marking with fat pencils, crayons, markers, and sidewalk chalk
  • Cutting with child safety scissors which are blunt and fits hand. Opening and closing the scissors as well as cutting increases hand strength.
I wanted to put that there so I could have it for later. I was thinking about how I dislike scheduling for small kids, because it adds unnecessary stress and frustration for both of us, and really in the name of "exposure" and "what-if-he's-the-next-super-star-in-this-thing" that I have noticed myself almost get sucked into a few times. Just ask Jared. 

Case in point: 
A year or so ago, when Lukas and I were still riding bikes all over Davis,CA and I heard of a simple city-run gymnastics class for toddlers. Since Lukas was doing flips off the couch, and had even done somersaults, I thought it would be awesome for him.  It was a good 3 mile bike ride there and he had fun doing the parent & child obstacle course, running down the super long trampoline again and again and again, and was cherry red in the face at the end of each class- smiling.  I was proud of him. He showed strength, coordination, and enjoyment in the gymnastics area that were amazing for his age (but don't forget that his body is like two years older than the baby inside since he's soooo tall and so big.) 

A week ago, at a friend's house, the kids were doing somersaults and Lukas didn't do one. Couldn't do one. I don't know. But those crazy freaking out alarm bells went off, saying "How did you let that go? Maybe we should sign him up for another class! How sad to see that "talent" go to waste? And what of the joy he felt then? What if it wears off and he won't "want" to anymore?  I do let him watch shows now (after getting enough smileys on his job chart) and didn't back then. Have I ruined it? Is he going to love being inside more than outside because there are only outlets inside (reference to book: Last Child in the Woods).

Fast forward a few hours later when Jared tells me, basically, to chill out.

I remember that we're outside hiking a ton. Christmas candy buzz will eventually wear off. He's three for peat's sake. He loves to play. I can just 'play' that again at home.

Fast forward to Monday night FHE. We had pulled off all of the couch cushions and pillows that morning for "tumbling time" where I provided techno music/rap care of my hands, couch bass, and knees,  while Lukas danced around, did somersaults, and flops all over the living room. 

Crisis Averted. (sarcasm)
Why do I do these things to myself sometimes? I'm not a mom to push my kid into stuff, or make him head somewhere "because we're paying for this" (because we're never usually paying for something) when he's in his own little groove. It's not 'bad' it's just not my cup of (caramel latte) tea. We've been asked three different times from different people since moving here to participate in their little preschool co-op. I've declined each time.  He just needs to play. FREE Play. Structured school comes soon enough, and free play has been proven to be the best method to develop language and social skills, says Parents magazine Jan 2013 pg. 102. and the State Preschool Teacher I worked with in Davis. I'll find more (better) sources soon for sure.

To remedy my feelings of feeling accomplishment in the area of my kiddo's learning, though, I generally feel like I do some things to give me the sense that what I teach and do with him matters, and I have something to show for my time during the day. A few homemade posters here and there do the trick for me. "Evidence of Student Learning" we called it in elem school teacher land. It should be called "evidence of teacher's confidence that she's teaching something and the kids are doing work to show that she's teaching something so we can put something on the wall outside the classroom"  There's truth to the "something on the wall" though!

I like to sneak in learning in the mornings.. all nonchalant. While he eats breakfast we chat, and at some point I mention the Bb up on the wall (Because he's eating. He's trapped. He's focused while chewing. I mean, what else is he gonna do? LOL) And we remember which things start with the 'b' sound. We come up with all kinds of things and funny words too.  Then we do some kind of activity to identify the weeks's words or just the letter in print. Either play on the chalkboard for literally a minute, his hand on mine as we write the letters, or we just read together and we yell something ridiculous when we find a letter of the week in print. Usually the books are titled/themed with something that has that letter in it. I just grab a small stack out of his room for the week. Random "B" books. Or we bust out something sensory which is usually messy, i.e. FUN. http://www.mommywithselectivememory.com/2012/02/finally-learning-letters-sensory-way.html

Then he just plays something else (since the glue, etc was playing, right?). My new thing is sneaking over to the piano in the mornings now and play for awhile.  Maybe I can even practice something for me right? (Hello "Dozen a Day!") Usually I play "Wee Sing" songs and just sing em out-loud. And hey, if they start with B, all the better. Often he'll grab instruments and join in, or just keep playing whatever he's playing and hum, sing, or not. Consider it English vocab learning too, right? ("Mom, what's a puffer belly?"- Down by the Station) Then I play the Primary Song of the month and the Primary Song of the Year each morning now (for like 2-3 mins), and sing em. Even if he doesn't then, they'll come out later-- while hiking, or playing in the bathtub. And having worked in primary, I know that those Gunn kids sang those songs at home because they knew em so well, and it wasn't all from church. Otherwise, the other kids would know em better, right! LOL

I'm tryin' to be more purposeful about what I do, and more focused, rather than taking two years to make it through the letteroftheweek.com. haha. But sneaky... sneaky.  (And if he doesn't have ANY interest in that exact activity right then, I'll slip it in during some other time of the day. Because, I mean, it's not 'real' school. I'm not paying for it, and... please.... he's three. lol)

Then, when morning jam sessions are over, maybe it's Visiting Teaching time, or tumbling time (juuuust checking to make sure he's still 'got it') or table time with some random fine motor skill activity (playdough, scissors), or I'll  have him help me with household things, then play. And play hard. Riding bikes, or hikes up mountains. Places where he can notice peace, and animals, and creations, and scream loudly, run freely, go at his own pace, with long stretches of going or lots of stops to look. And I get to do those things too!!! It's super liberating. Less downers, more movement, more fitness, more fresh air breathing, more sunshine on my face (well, most days anyways), more time to think, and relish in the little person I'm with.

And sometimes, we'll even find the occasional carved tree with the letter of the week on it. (Big A, little A)
Can you imagine someone carving that just so a three year old can learn his letters? How considerate and creative of them! He noticed little a and I was surprised. Then big. Then some b's. Then we ate leftover 'B'urritos for lunch. Sneaky sneaky, getting that reinforcement in. Draw a letter in the mud with sticks. Or don't. Or imagine my surprise yesterday when he wants so badly to keep his "V" stick. (Yay, you DO know that letter. Cool!) and I smile at my little boy's nerdy but cool "V" stick and pack it in the trunk, that's full of beach sand and other 'special' sticks.

When 4pm hits, I start thinking about getting home for dinner. Someone's gotta cook. The Man comes hungry at 5 so I need to have hunted, killed, prepared and cooked by then. Since there's mostly fresh stuff, it doesn't take too long. Whew! This was the night we did veggie/bean taco filling inside whole wheat tortillas. Add tomatoes, avocado, maybe cheese inside along with QUINOA of all things, wrap that baby up and enjoy the delicious goodness. (- make quinoa with some chicken broth, or chick'nish which is veggie chicken broth powder and tastes so good AND is cheaper per serving than Costco's organic broth paste!!) And when my kid says "MMMM!! Ich LIEBE Quinoa!" then I feel the sneakiness of learning healthy foods rubbing off. Pack it in a burrito and he likes it. Go figure. He still helps, sneaking in some kitchen common sense about burning faces off, becoming blind from splatters, or bleeding all over from knives, and maybe something about cracking eggs, separating whites, or measuring something. It's messy, but all his "samples" along the way keep his whining at bay. (And sampling freshly cut onion? Really? gross.)

All the schedules and must dos are coming in just 2 yrs. Then it'll be 13 years of school, practices, activities, mutual, scouts, or whatever else the boy finds interesting (and we can afford)... and THEN the time for the long walks in the woods will be kind of over. So I do relish in it now. But there's the itchy question I used to get all the time in Davis, and practically never here: Does he go to preschool? Here kids go because the parents work all day. There in Davis maybe too, but it was also seen as a way of advancing academically.

Now that being said, the boy DID ask about piano lessons (since he has had a man-crush on Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson since he was 18 mos old and asks when he plays the xylophone-- just like Jon Schmidt, huh? LOL) And I seriously wondered.... really? And "what if...." and wasted the evening perusing Suzuki method sites, since they start really early. For now though, he just 'plays' next to me during music time on Family nite, or other random times throughout the day. It's funny to hear the songs he makes up, or repeats from earlier, and the conviction with which he sometimes belts it out. ("Falantiding di do")

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