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Saturday, October 12, 2013

2 months in to Kindergarten

It's hard to believe it's mid-October already and Carolyn has been in kindergarten for nearly 2 months!  It seems like we've been crazy busy lately, although to most families we're don't do very much.  I'm realizing that as a family we really value time to relax and just be together.  Carolyn and James don't handle constant activity well and require a day to just be, weekly preferably.  It gets hard to manage that as kids get older though.  With soccer on Saturdays and Sunday school, we have been stuck with weeks with seemingly no rest.  Tomorrow, though, we will get a day of rest.  A day to read books, go for a walk to collect sticks, leaves, and acorns, go to the park, ride bikes, just enjoy having no plans.  And I spent tonight putting together 4 different craft projects the kids can do.  I looked through the Oriental Trading catalogue and then sat down with some construction paper.  It'll be a little trickier since we'll need to use glue to put things together, but it'll be fun to put together these projects and then hang them around the house.

Carolyn has an amazing teacher at school.  She is being exposed to some new topics, and I am able to support and enhance that learning by bringing home extra books from the library.  They do continue to plod through the alphabet and phonics sounds, which she mastered a while ago.  But they also are working through Handwriting without tears and she is learning to properly form lower case letters.  They also have the opportunity to do some writing in class.  Conferences are this week and I am looking forward to a conversation of how we can continue to challenge Carolyn and what can be done at home to support her.  We are looking forward to expanded use of the Ipads as well as the year goes on.  We received Carolyn's STAR early literacy score today, 771.  775 is the cut-off between a "transitional" and "probable" reader.  A chart I found online puts her grade level at 1.8.  However, it appears that as the score approaches 900 (the top score), the test is less reliable because the child can read.  This is a pre-reading test and Carolyn is definitely reading.  I wonder if the district switches any of the kindergartners to the STAR reading test after this first round and it's proven the student can read.  We have been exploring poetry lately, to change things up a bit.  Carolyn is enjoying Shel Silverstein and Jack Perlutsky.  I am looking forward to some suggestions from her teacher as well, as it is difficult to find books that challenge her thinking/vocabulary yet have appropriate subject matters.  I was amazed when she read a poem recently that used the word "brigade" and I asked her if she knew what it meant and she said "army".  We can not figure out how she determined this because no one taught it to her.  Amazing that she is able to decode language this early! 

James continues to do an awesome job at home with me doing his preschool lessons.  We start each morning reading books in bed after putting Carolyn on the bus.  I love this snuggle time and I know James is getting some great things from it.  He had a rough start to the school year and some severe separation anxiety issues.  But we seem to have moved beyond this now and he is okay staying home with Jon's dad when I take Carolyn to gymnastics or volunteer in her classroom.  I am very glad that we canceled his soccer and very happy we did not enroll him in any preschool classes.  He is developing at his own pace and it's great to see his development.  He asks to do preschool several days a week, where we read Bible stories, books, trace/color letters and numbers, work on sequencing, counting, coloring, cutting, as well as do gross and fine motor activities.  We are using the ABC Jesus Loves Me 3 year old curriculum, supplemented with some other things, and it is going great.  We are currently on week 18.  Carolyn is also teaching James some of her Jolly phonics from school and he is learning some letter sounds.  He is able to trace very well when he focuses and can form nearly every letter by doing so.  He can identify J, O, C, B, Q, and probably some other letters as well.  Being 3, his biggest struggle is staying focused on the task at hand, but his concentration is pretty good considering his age. 

I sometimes sit back and think about how well my children are doing learning the basics and I wonder what sets them apart.  I never felt like I was doing anything special, just what a mom should do.  I usually put their needs before mine, and I will admit that I am sacrificing money/a career to help them get the best start possible.  We read countless books and my kids can often retell the stories because we read them so many times in one week before new books come home from the library.  I admittedly turn every day activities into learning - counting objects, describing why something happens, or asking my children to observe things around them.  Jon often reminds me that I choose the hard road.  And the main choice that I've made that makes things hard?  My children rarely watch TV or interact with technology.  They can effortlessly work an Ipad or Tablet, they love to play on Starfall or Reading Eggs.  But we put an emphasis on free play and getting outside.  Even on rainy days, they do not get more than 30 minutes of screen time.  Their imaginations are great and as they get bigger they are coming up with their own ideas of things to do.  My favorite recently is using blankets and furniture to create a hideout in Carolyn's bedroom under her desk.  I'm looking forward to what else they'll come up with this winter when I'm no longer forcing outdoor time in the afternoons because it'll be too cold.

Your kids will learn technology... if you make 2 choices to give them the best start they can have... play outside and read books.  The rest will write itself.

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