Search This Blog

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where I Struggle

Ah, a quiet house on a Thursday night with my work email inbox empty.  Who would have thought I could accomplish on a day when Jen isn't home and I took a 30 minute nap this afternoon?  But the peace is really nice.  I even had a pretty great day with the kids, aside from almost burning down the house.  Oven mitts should not be left in the oven while baking cookies.  Note to self: don't work on a math lesson while baking.  In any case, crisis averted and the smoke has now dissipated - cookies even turned out fine!

But I learned something about myself today.  I struggle with unstructured time with the kids.  I sit and plan what they should work on learning each day, generally to not end up doing it and wondering if they're then falling behind.  Then I remind myself that my nearly 5yo can read, write, and walks around saying things like "2+2=4, 1+1=3, 5+5=10" along with "Mom, I can't read that sign, it says Do not block" and that my 2.5yo can trace letters, has memorized nursery rhymes, has great gross motor control, and amazing compassion.  So what could they possibly be falling behind on?  Yeah, that's my mind in its usual overdrive, planning what will happen next.  I'm trying to focus on the here and now, since Carolyn goes to kindergarten in <6 months and I only have 2 more years with James.  But I think that's what gets me thinking about homeschooling as well.  Then I would get to keep enjoying time with them, but that sounds awfully selfish!

I struggle though to think that school will give Carolyn (I'm not sure about James' learning style yet) what she needs to grow and thrive.  Some of what I'm noticing may simply be differences in age and ability, but I see patterns repeating.  When Carolyn was at Cary gymnastics, she was okay but not great.  Her class size was big and she didn't seem to make much progress.  We switched to Lake Zurich and she took off, quickly amassing many new skills.  Her progress seems to have slowed at Buffalo Grove with a bigger class.  Yes, I have considered switching her back to Lake Zurich, but I do think that Buffalo Grove will be better for her in the long term.  Swimming has proven to me that Carolyn makes amazing strides when she has individual attention.  There is only 1 other girl in her class, but she wasn't there today.  With the inidividual attention, Carolyn put her whole face in the water and was "swimming" (noodle under her) putting her face in the water.  This may have been a natural progression, but I think that this close attention helps her focus and work harder.  She even skipped the play portion of the class to keep working!

So I wonder how she's going to do in a school classrom with 20+ other kids her age.  I chuckle a little inside when people tell me they send their kid to preschool for the socialization.  Yes, kids need friends there age or at least similar in age.  But what is my 4 year old likely to learn from other 4 year olds, other than bad manners?  Maybe I'm missing something here, but I honestly think a room full of same-aged children for 6-7 hours a day is a bad idea for all involved. 

As I cooked dinner tonight and after we ate, I read 3 books to the kids about the nervous system.  These weren't super technical, but they also weren't simple versions.  They use the proper terminology - cerebrum, cerebellum, hypothalamus, brain stem, axons, dendrites - and be using various inflections Carolyn thought the books were exciting.  I know she's storing all the information away as well, that's just how she works.  I do think I might change up how we're working through school topics though.  I'm going to keep picking a topic each week, but I'm going to be sure and check out 7 books.  Then each morning before breakfast we'll read one.  This will spread the information (that is somewhat repetitive with slight variations between books) out over the week.  Both kids are loving reading about the human body since they can relate to it so well.  I'll likely be checking out plant books as we get later in March as well and start to think about planting our garden.  I know that's a kindergarten topic, but I love to have the kids learn real things about what we're doing.  It'll be interesting to see what they remember from last year too.

I'm enjoying working with both kids on learning related activities.  I'm not sure what will happen once they start school, although I'm sure I won't stop helping them investigate whatever they're interested in.  In my secret dreams Jon will get a job that allows me to stop working and we'll discover that the kids really do need the individual attention only an education at home can give them.  Then we'll proceed to provide them with the K-8 education only 2 highly educated parents could provide, to send them off to a high school that can provide the finishing touches before college.  But I don't know what the future will hold, so we wait and see.  For the next 6 months we'll continue the exploring through books and activities.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kindergarten Registration!

We've completed another crazy week in our house.  The days at times are quite long, by the weeks seem to pile up rather quickly.  We had a lot of fun this week, while Carolyn tested boundaries and James battled a cold.  It was nice to have Jon home on Monday and he enjoyed attending gymnastics with us.  James is just about ready to start class on his own, but has to wait until he is 3 to do so.  That limit is a little frustrating, but it is what it is.  James got to attend his own story hour on Tuesday (with me and Carolyn) and did fantastic.  I am sure he will do awesome once he turns 3 and is able to attend that on his own as well.  They do a very good job of incorporating movement and listening into a 30-45 minute time slot.  Wednesday we went to the museum and both kids had a lot of fun as usual.  They played in the vet area, which they hadn't ventured into before.  James is working on improving his attention span and staying in one area for longer.  It's fun to see him growing in this regard.  Thursday we had swim lessons and both kids continue to improve.  Carolyn is becoming less afraid of the water and getting closer to really putting her face in.  James is getting braver as well and enjoys jumping off the side and doesn't put up a huge fuss going under.  He even asked me to dunk both of us.  I hate getting the chlorine in my hair, but want to encourage his feeling safe under the water so we went under together.  Friday we had a day of rest with James developing stuffy nose.  Only a couple days though and today he's feeling much better!

Thursday night was kindergarten registration.  It was weird to be in Westbrook to sign my own child up, after having been there as a sub so many times.  I had all the paperwork done and signed Carolyn up for a screening at the end of May.  I hope that helps put her in a classroom where the teacher will push her.  The most difficult part was meeting someone who knew my mom.  The secretary there was helping put everything together and we chatted a little, during which she said she knew my mom and loved her and missed her.  I think our file may be flagged now, but it is always great to hear stories of how my mom impacted those around her.  I do still miss her everyday and these interactions help to bring her a little closer.  I found out that we might be able to get Carolyn into a spanish class before school.  Once I know for sure whether she is morning/afternoon we'l make that decision.  I think it would help her to definitely be learning something new a couple mornings a week.  They also have an awesome program to deliver school supplies on the first day.  Great to see them offering this, and I hope they do it also to help provide for lower income families and help those kids feel not so singled out.  About 6 months before Carolyn is scheduled to start!

Carolyn has really been testing limits lately.  She is trying to give up her nap, but ends up making poor decisions in the afternoon because she's so tired.  We'll be talking about the need to sleep later in the morning if she's not going to nap.  She's also testing on responses when people are talking to her.  So we'll be working on maintaining eye contact and being sure the person knows you are listening.  This is an important skill for her before she heads off to school anyway.  But I do worry about her a bit in regards to learning new and difficult skills in a higher pressue environment.  I'm hoping this is just part of development and in a few weeks we'll be over the hump.  She's also been growing a lot taller lately, so she may just be in the middle of some huge development and having trouble managing herself.

And so we're ready for another exciting week.  It's nice to have a long stretch here where life isn't too stressful.  Hopefully we'll see some job openings pop up for Jon in the next few weeks and have an exciting Spring including job interviews for him.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What a week!

This was one crazy week and I am glad we are entering the weekend.  Although, to be honest, things don't feel like the weekend until about lunch time on Saturdays.  I'll get about half a day of rest before working nearly all day Sunday.  Jon coaching is a lot harder than I had anticipated, and we're only 3 weeks in.  The kids seem to really be missing him too.  But so goes life.

We continued with our learning activities this week.  Carolyn continues to work on writing, this week I had her work on tracing some lowercase letters because she definitely has uppercase down.  She gets the basic idea, but is reluctant to write anything lowercase.  So we'll continue to do more tracing next week.  We did another book from the Bob series, so we've completed 4 of those.  And Carolyn did some more work in her math book.  We've slowed on coloring the numbers to get up to 100.  There are so many things now to color on each page that it takes a while to do each one.  She's currently working on 32 and James has lost all interest.  We had an art day where I encouraged the kids to use different objects to paint with.  They both had fun with it.  We played out in the snow quite a bit and built snowmen for the first time.  We all enjoyed that and used Carolyn's old snow gear and scarf to dress one up.  This morning after playing outside we read all about skin.  I like how the books overlap each other but each one seems to add a new bit to the topic at hand.  They seem to be enjoying reading about body parts.  Next up is cells!  Tomorrow morning I'm thinking either obstacle course or another Bob book.

We attempted bread this afternoon.  I'm not sure my oven is reaching the proper temperature and so while the outside cooked very nicely, the inside was still doughy.  I tried to cook it a bit longer, but it really didn't work out.  I bought an oven thermometer and now I'm going to give it a try to see if temperatures are off or something else wacky is going on.  I really liked the part of the bread that cooked well though.  I'm wondering if this is something that I could make in the breadmaker that we have as that would make it much easier and more likely to make more often.  Could be a great way to get the last wheat hold out in the house out if I can bake fresh bread for sandwhiches each week.  We'll see how it goes.

I've become concerned about Carolyn's level of anxiety this week as she has been asking some interesting questions.  Add in the nail biting, swimming fears, and fear of heights and I become worried that her anxiety is more than just passing curiosity.  I will be keeping a close eye on her over the next few weeks and we'll see how things progress.  She seemed interested in the idea of painting her nails tonight, but I told her they need to get longer.  She was intrigued when I was tapping my finger on the counter this afternoon, and I explained that only works if they're long.  So if the nail biting is not anxiety related, I'm hoping I've found a good way to get her to stop.

Early to be tonight, for I'm simply burned out.  Ready for spring and trips to the park and watching the kids ride their bikes in the yard!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Life is just beginning... 30!

I read a post on facebook this week that talked about someone who wrote a famous book at 40, I can't remember who that famous person was.  Yesterday I turned 30 and I honestly feel like I'm just getting to the best part of life.  My kids are now old enough to truly interact and going places is getting to be more fun.  We still have to work around nap schedules, but I cherish this part of the day as a time to refresh.  I am gaining a bit more independence and over the next couple years I will have more time to focus on me and getting to where I want to be physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Sometimes I actually think that my 40s will be the prime of my life since James will be 12 and Carolyn 14 so very much so independent and when I turn 45 he'll be graduating from high school!  But life seems to truly be falling into place at this point and we're getting rewarded for our willingness to try and follow God's plan.  I'm ready to take on the challenges of being 30 and can't wait to see what God has in store for this year!

Carolyn had a powerhouse of a learning week.  We did reading and writing earlier the week and math towards the end.  She is really enjoying the math workbook that we gave as a Christmas present and starting to memorize some of the math facts.  She seems to have down the idea of adding 0 means you keep the original number and has some random facts such as 5+5 down pat.  It's so cool to see her love working and understanding.  I pulled out the easel this week and the kids spent some time painting with watercolors as well, for their artistic side.  I left it out with the dry erase markers and chalk for them to draw on as well.  Carolyn has started to write sentences on the board at random.  Last night she wrote "The cat has a hat" without any help.  So awesome to see the connections firing away in her brain.

This explosion of learning keeps me a bit worried about kindergarten.  If she's reading, writing, and doing math well above kindergarten level before she starts school, I wonder how it will go.  I'm not crazy concerned about kindergarten since it's only half day and we can of course continue to work at home, but what happens as she gets older?  If she's continuously ahead of her grade how bored will she be until she hits high school?  Will she never really learn to learn difficult concepts and push herself?  This is something I have forever struggled with myself and so it really concerns me.  There are definitely some things I think Carolyn will learn from being in kindergarten, but it's a pretty short list.  The 6-8 months are going to be a bit nerve-wrecking for me as we await the beginning of school.  I'm interested to see if the registration packet will ask about the abilities of the child at all, but I'll be picking that up on Tuesday morning so not too long to wait to find out.

James is finally back to eating a bit more as he had a banana, 2 eggs, blueberries, spinach, and a strawberry for breakfast.  He really struggles to sit down and eat and Carolyn seems to truly try to distract him from eating.  He got on the scale today and I think he may have actually lost weight.  I'm going to be keeping a close eye on how much he eats and how much milk he drinks.  I'm wondering if the milk is what is bothering his stomach and causing a mild case of eczema (sp?)  While I think getting rid of all dairy would be hard, we might be able to replace milk with another form of milk like goat or almond (definitely not soy!)  I'll be keeping close tabs on this and see how things progress over the next few weeks.