Friday, July 31, 2009

July Wrap-Up and August Plans

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In the beginning of July I wrote a post about our July plans. Not all of them came to fruition. We definitely didn’t make any progress on patterns, and Anna is still not a fan of coloring even though she takes writing instrument a lot more nowadays for drawing or scribbling. I think our two main accomplishments of the month was finding a general planning approach that works for me, and finding a “learning to read” method that seems to work for Anna, at least for now. I plan to continue with themes of the week throughout the year, and now I actually enjoy planning and preparing for activities in advance, even though I still try not to do anything more elaborate that printouts and cutouts. And I definitely plan to continue with Progressive Phonics reading system. I am encouraged that Anna likes the books and enjoys our reading time together.

Our next theme starts on Monday and will be Things that Fly. We are going to read and do projects with planes, helicopters, balloons, and kites. And the theme will end with our own plane ride to New Jersey, to visit my parents. Our papa will fly with us, but will go off on vacation of his own – to visit his parents in Germany. It will be the first time he will spend any time away from Anna since she was born. I already promised to Anna that we will go to New York City while we visit New Jersey. This is our second theme of the month – Big City. I don’t think that we will spend a lot of time on academic pursuits during our vacation – the goal is for Anna to spend as much time with her grandparents as possible. My father says that he will be teaching her Russian – maybe he’ll have more luck than me. I do admit that every time she sees them she learns a handful of Russian words. We’ll see. I will still be online and blogging, but I am also looking forward to seeing my parents, spending time with my best friends who live in the area and maybe sneaking out for a few trips to New York on my own, if the weather allows it.

School Corner – July 31, 2009

image We are wrapping up our second Ocean week. It was fun, even though Anna was not really interested in any printables except her Progressive Phonics book. We are going through “Short i” book. This book introduced the first “wrinkle” in rule-based phonics – the word I. It’s not even an exception word, but Anna finds it difficult to understand why she has to use short i for all the other words in this book and long i for this one. Clearly we didn’t move to sight reading at all yet, even though she can guess the nouns by looking at the pictures and at the first letter of the word. She sounds out and blends nicely though, and, more importantly, she enjoys our “reading games”, and I always make a point of trying to stop her before she wants to stop.

We read a lot of Ocean books, grew fish out of foam capsules, ate a hot dog octopus and made a couple of projects:

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We didn’t do much on math this week. Anna does count to herself, when she plays, but it’s usually only to 10. OK, maybe I shouldn’t say “only”, after all, she is not even 3 yet :).

Since we spent a lot of time on fish, she learned the names for different inhabitants of the ocean, and some basic facts – what they eat (she doesn’t like the fact that they eat each other, but, hey, it’s a fact of life. We eat them too!), if they live close to the shore or in the deep, how we catch them (fishing poles, nets, harpoons). I am also try to introduce her to non-fiction literature with mixed success:

Whales

I brought this book from the library together with other ocean books, but it’s not a fiction book. When I started reading it to Anna, after a couple of pages she looked at me and asked, Are you talking to me or to you? I admit that some of the material in the book is way above her level. In fact, I learned a few things from this book that I never knew before – for example, that there are two distinct kind of whales – with teeth and without teeth. I moved the book to Anna’s restroom, where we keep a choice of books for Anna to select for reading while she does her business. She is just like the rest of the family – a bathroom reader :) Usually I read her one book, then she looks at another book by herself. With this setup I don’t expect unassisted potty going to happen any time soon, but I digress. She did warm up to this book over time and started to ask some questions related to the content. She especially liked the page that described whale watching and keeps saying that she wants to go and see whales. Hmm… maybe this fall. As for “scientific facts”, she did learn a few from this book that she shared with her kitty:

  • Whales are not fish, they are… whales
  • There are big whales and small whales
  • Their tail is a fluke
  • They can swim very far
  • Dolphins are also whales.

I think that’s enough biology for this age. Now to see what others did this week, visit Preschool Corner

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blogger Template Woes

As you might have noticed, my site template has decided to go all flaky on me. I take it as a great personal offence and a professional challenge - after all, I used to know a thing or two about software. I have already identified a root cause - some images in the custom template that I am using have magically disappeared from their hosting server. I don't have control over that hosting site, as the references to it were in the .xml file for a template, but I still have a trick or two up my sleeve, and I think I can fix the problem if I have about 2 hours to focus on it. In the meantime, please bear with me - my site might look funky if you happen upon it while I am trying out solutions :)

What My Child Is Reading – July 30, 2009

This was our second week deep in the ocean theme. Not surprisingly, we continued to read books related to ocean and its inhabitants.

Swimmy

This book was a winner of the week. I can see why – the language is simple, the story is engaging and the rhythm is very calming. Anna asked very many questions – I always love this. She was disturbed by the fact that Swimmy’s brothers and sisters died on the second page, but it generated some good discussions about “circle of life” and realities of wild life. I loved illustrations, and I am still trying to figure out what technique was used to produce them. Perhaps I should look it up online :)

Finding Nemo

This one might have been a winner of the week, but at some point I “misplaced” it and “couldn’t find it” any longer. I really dislike books made out of the movies (especially out of Disney movies), and I only got it from the library, because I was thinking about watching the movie with Anna. In my mind the movie was rather intense for someone under 3, and I wanted to gauge her reaction by introducing the book first. However, the book is really bad and keeps skipping between Nemo and his father. I know that this is in line with the movie, but it really doesn’t work in a book. Anna was very lost very quickly, but still fascinated with the pictures. Eventually I decided to try out the movie, and after 10 minutes she asked me to turn it off, because it’s too scary. So much for Finding Nemo, we will try again in a year or so.

MSB Takes A Dive

Anna liked this book, but not as much as others. I think it was too much text for her, and too much focus on animal (and human) partnership. She is a little bit like Wanda in this book and doesn’t necessarily enjoy being paired up with someone. Like the other MSB book that we tried earlier this year, it’s quite over her comprehension level. She still has trouble distinguishing truth from fiction, and she couldn’t understand how the kids turned into sea creatures and then back into human kids. She wasn’t interested in the part about how the coral reef grows, but was interested in the parts about looking for the treasure and pretended to look for the treasure in her pretend games later.

Baby Beluga

I am probably the last person on Earth (or at least in Northern America) who didn’t listen to any Raffi songs. I picked up a CD in the library last time, but unfortunately it didn’t have a Baby Beluga song on it. Anna was OK with a book, but not as interested as I thought she will be. I even tried to show her a YouTube video with a song, but for some reason she didn’t even want to watch it to the end. I still think that I will get a soundtrack, try to learn a song with her, and then bring back this book from the library again, because I liked both the book and the song very much.

To see what others are reading this week, visit The Well Read Child.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Let’s Run, Jump and See Things!

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The topic of ABC and 123 Picnic this week is “Jump, Skip & Hop” about physical activities and outdoor games. I have to admit that we haven’t done anything special to encourage physical activity except one thing that is absolutely crucial in my mind: limiting all forms of electronic entertainment to no more than 30 minutes a day. On most days she has none and doesn’t appear to be missing it.

I cannot claim that our girl is especially active. She loves to read books and play with her toys. But her latest motto is a title of this post – it’s a modified phrase out of Swimmy book. She wants to run and jump and see things. All we need to do is to get her outside or start a game of “hide the toy” or “hide and seek”. It’s easy for us to spend some time outside practically every day of the year – we live in a sunny and mild climate of Northern California. Usually we hang around our backyard in the afternoons, visit a neighborhood playground or go to the pool. Usually my husband and I goes hiking with her every week. She still prefers to ride in the backpack, but she is able to walk for a while when she is in a mood for this. We didn’t sign her up for any organized sports classes and don’t plan to do so in the next couple of years. If we go for anything, it will be dancing, she keeps saying that she wants to learn how to dance. She won’t learn it from me – I am born with two left feet. Watching her move to the music I suspect that she inherited this, but I would love for her to be able to enjoy the music and to dance. Only the time will tell.

Expanding Foam Capsules

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Yesterday was one of those few days when I actually did in the afternoon what I said I would do. Anna was in a decent mood despite not taking a nap yet again, and I told her that we will do a special activity. I handled her the package, and by looking at the back she deduced correctly that we will be doing this outside and that we will need cups and water. Both of us were somewhat disappointed that nothing happened right away. I had to shake the capsuJuly28_GrowingFish_1SMles a few times to help them unfold into the shapes, and I had to entertain an impatient toddler  while the capsules grew into… something. I would say diplomatically that some of them looked more fish-like than others. I tried to get Anna to match the foam fish to the outlines on the back of the packaging, but it didn’t go over too well. To tell the truth, I had some problems identifying them myself. But still, it was a fun activity, it contained some learning component (different sea creatures and also how some things get bigger in water), fit great with our ocean theme, and Anna was very pleased with the results. I hope that today we can print with them (expect a big mess!) or use them in another collage.

Open-Ended Collages

So far it’s been a great week for open-ended projects! As Anna’s fine motor skills mature, she gets more and more pleasure of doing things by herself.

July26_OpenEndedArt_SM On Sunday we had a guided activity first - we made an octopus out of a toilet paper roll and construction paper. She chose green tentacles for her octopus, and so we had some scraps of green paper left. After the octopus went outside to dry out, she came back to the kitchen table (it also doubles as our craft area) and started her own project of cutting and gluing pieces of green paper to yellow paper. I think this is as “yellow” as we are going to get this week for the Open-Ended Art Blog Carnival. I really enjoyed watching Anna as she was busily and happily working by herself. I think her favorite craft tool is glue – and don’t you dare offer her a glue stick – she is only going for a “real deal”, and she is surprisingly careful with it… for a toddler :)

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Yesterday we had another burst of open-ended creativity. We were outside, and Anna wanted to do a project. The day before she mentioned a clown fish, so I printed out a few coloring pages. She declared that she doesn’t want to color, and she wants to do a “great white shark” instead. So the following conversation unfolded:

Me: OK, what do you need to make your shark?

Anna (after thinking about it for a moment while skipping around): Construction paper and glue

Me: And scissors?

Anna: No scissors. I will make a shark out of leaves.

Obviously, the leaves didn’t hold well on the paper, but she worked hard on the project (she also chose the color), and was pleased with the result. It’s funny – the moment she deems her project completed, she is not interested in it in the least. She rarely plays or returns to any completed projects, but usually reminds us that it needs to be put “in a safe place for memory”. Mostly we photograph the artwork and then throw it away. I want to make a photo book in the end of the year with each page being her project, a short description (will go back to this blog :)), and a couple of photos of her in the process of creating her masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hi, My Name is Natalie, And I’m Addicted To…

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… Dollar spot sections at Target, Michaels and to a Dollar Tree store. It’s funny, because generally I hate shopping. I only go shopping for clothes, when my current set gets beyond embarrassing and simply doesn’t fit any longer. But I just love to browse through dollar spots and find it difficult to stop myself. There is always that I simply “must have” for my current theme – stickers with ocean creatures, little toy sets of ocean creatures, “grow a sea creature” from foam capsules, “Go Fish” game . Then there is something “for the future” – construction paper, new crayons, glue sticks, foam stickers, puzzles,  workbooks, fact cards. My “for the future” bin at home started to overflow into the second bin and spill into the closet under the stairs. But the funny thing is that I still didn’t introduce to Anna half of the things that I bought for our ongoing Ocean theme. It never seems the right time. I am determined that today I will try the “grow a creature” – I have never seen it in action, and I am very curious how these capsules will look like after transformation. Hopefully all of us will have fun with them :) What is your guilty pleasure?

Blogging Matters

I interrupt regular programming on my blog to report on a few awards I received from my “captive audience” and rave about Live Writer. I love Blogger, but hated the struggle with a “Web 1.0” UI while creating posts. Down with the Blogger during post creation, in with Live Writer. The UI is nice, there is a built-in ability to watermark images easily and one can create posts without being connected to the web – perfect for all those future business trips that I will have to take one day.image

Now on to awards. The first one comes from Susana at Our Homeschooling Fun. I really like reading her blog, it’s full of good recommendations, not to mention giveaways. I am very pleased that she chose me for this award. In following the rules that go along with accepting this award I have to pass it on to 15 blogs I have newly discovered and enjoy reading. I will get to it in the end of this post.

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The second award comes from Eva at Handmade Beginnings. This is another blog that I really like to visit. She has a lot of great ideas and homemade toys for her little girl. I also find it fascinating that she plans to teach her daughter a relatively rare (for America :)) Arabic language. As I struggle to decide how I want to introduce my native Russian to Anna, I am very interested to see her progress in bilingual education. In following the rules that go along with accepting this award I have to tell my readers 10 things about me that they may or may not know, but are true and then pass it on to 10 more blogs. Obviously, being an engineer, I am simplifying matters by passing both awards to the blogs below, and I am sending curious audience to my earlier post – Ten Fun Facts About Me.

So here we go:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Quiet Weekends Rock Too!

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Usually we try to cram a lot of things into our weekends – seeing friends, going places, shopping. But this weekend we decided to keep it very low-key. Anna was sort of anxious lately and it looked like she needs some downtime. So all this weekend she and I were mostly hanging out around the house, the backyard and our neighborhood pool. She still wanted to do projects every day, so we continued our ocean theme with 3d projects – a paper bag whale and an octopus out of a toilet paper. I’ll post about them later. I also bought her this fishing game from Melissa and Doug at TJ Maxx last week, and it’s been a big hit. Anna loved “fishing” and busily cooked the fish she caught in her play kitchen. July26_Gluing_SM

I could also make some observations regarding open-ended projects. It seems that Anna is always more ready to try something independently when she has completed a guided activity and satisfied with its result. Then she is in a good mood and sometimes wants to do more. Yesterday she just went back to our working table after she put out her octopus project to dry and continued for 15 minutes to cut and glue remaining scraps of construction paper to the yellow paper. Hmm…. maybe I can enter this into “yellow collage” open-ended festival this week :)

Surprise Garden

I also observed the first attempt at creative writing this weekend. We have read Surprise Garden book a few weeks ago, and Anna kept talking that we should plan our garden. It’s possible that she was influenced by multiple discussions in our house about making changes in the landscape of our backyard, but last night she grabbed her notebook and pencil and started scribbling while talking to herself, I am going to plan our vegetable garden. Here there will be a tomato bush, and here there will be strawberries. We also need an apple tree and… we need butterfly food, because butterfly need to eat too. And here is the hole where the seeds go. And here is dirt where the seeds go… And a flower bed. Oh, and we also need a chocolate bush to grow chocolates for us. It will be a very good garden! I just felt that I needed to capture this burst of creativity for the future enjoyment.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Don’t Want My Daughter To Be Gifted!

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It seems that many Americans have some sort of unhealthy fascination with IQ measurements. You know that something is up, when parenting sites and magazines publish articles several times a year answering questions from parents of preschoolers wanting to test their children for “giftedness”. But mostly, I think, the parents want their children to be labeled as “advanced” hoping to open new educational opportunities for them. I think most of them would be somewhat dismayed if they had to deal with a truly gifted child. Why do I think so? Because in my mind truly gifted individuals are very different from the rest of us. I had a chance to study with a few of them, since I went to a school that had math and physics specialization, and specialization started in 7th grade. The gifted individuals I encountered had a very intense focus on something and no patience for the rest of the routine life. They didn’t interact well with their fellow students, because they existed in the world of their own. Not every teacher liked them – they asked inconvenient questions too often. They also competed rather ruthlessly in their selected area. All of them, of course, went to colleges of their choice, but I only know of one who became successful in “mainstream” kind of way – he is now a professor of mathematics in Utah. One committed suicide at 20, another had to be in and out of hospitals during his manic/depressive episodes. Considering the odds, I’ll go with “normal” any day – a happy, healthy, intelligent woman who knows how to live in a modern society, how to work in a team of people, and doesn’t carry too much angst that things are not working “the way they should”. In other words… I want her to be me :) Maybe it’s really bad that I don’t want her to give unique gifts, but in my mind it’s they are rather a curse than a blessing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Preschool Decisions

Green_Frog_Room2 Anna was extremely unhappy with her preschool lately. She goes for two mornings a week, and the situation escalated from grumpiness to crying to meltdowns over the course of the last few weeks. I can sort of understand why she reacts this way. Her best friends were older kids who graduated in June, and she doesn’t 7play well with younger kids. It also seems that the school shifted more into daycare mode, when the teachers just get the kids outside and let them play. Anna is not a big fan of this kind of play, she tends to get bored and antsy. It seems that every day she has an episode of crying and asking for papa. Still, we thought that the situation becomes better once the new school year starts, but a different opportunity presented itself. In January I put us on the waiting list of one preschool that was recommended to me by a friend, and completely forgot about it. Suddenly I got a call from that school – they had an opening in their class for 3-year-olds. We went to see the school, and all three of us liked it. This is how I imagined a good preschool to be – a cheery room, a reading corner, dress-up station, art station, blocks station. Toys and books are supposedly rotating every week according to themes. The group is big – 20 students, but they have 3 teachers for those 20, so the ratio is reasonable. I wasn’t in favor of big classes before, but Anna doesn’t get sick easily (and I hope this trend continues). Besides, I am hoping that there must be one or two children among those 20 that she will actually like and make friends with. So I am pretty optimistic about this change – she will start going 3 mornings a week once we come back from our vacation in August.

Friday, July 24, 2009

School Corner – July 24, 2009

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This week we tried a theme week for the first time. Since we went to the ocean last weekend, I figured that we will “pilot” this with an easy “ocean” theme. I went to the library and got a lot of books with various degrees of difficulty. So far we read:

Mr Seahorse Diego Humpback

Curious George Aquarium Kermit the Hermit

We also zoomed through second book in Progressive Phonics for Beginners – sound “e”. I always try to make sure that Anna actually comprehends the words that she is reading. That’s how I found out that she thinks bed is when we are not listening and pen is what we are cooking in. Clearly she is confusing a and e sounds when she hears them out of context. It must be because of the accents in our house – I have lived in US for 15 years now, but nobody would mistake me for a native speaker. At least she is not confused when she reads a word in the context of a sentence like Ted sleeps in a red bed.

We did several projects this week that involved painting, gluing and cutting. We also really tried to do an open-ended yellow paint project. A few people mentioned that it would make more sense to do those art projects in the morning. It would be nice, but I happen to work full time. I leave the house at 6 am and come back at 4:30 pm. So we have to work with the time that we do have. In the mornings Anna goes to preschool twice a week, and lately we had some serious issues with her desire to go. She seems to think that doing projects with mama is way better than doing them at school. She also went to the SF Zoo on Tuesday with papa and another family – is she a lucky girl or what? Anyway, here is what we did this week with arts and crafts:

Open-Ended Yellow Paint #1 Open-Ended Yellow Paint #2

Rainbow Fish Kumon - Let's Cut Paper

Spraying Coffee Filters Coffee Filter Fish

We didn’t do much with math this week. We only connected the dots, fed the fish by giving different fish different number of strawberries and sorted the fish by size:

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To see what others are doing, visit Preschool Corner.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What My Child Is Reading – July 23, 2009

Last week I stopped at the library on my way back from work without Anna and had chance to hunt for books without trying to fend off a toddler wanting to read something right now (and never wanting to stop). As a result, we had a great reading week with many stars.

Ted's Shed

The winner this week is this book from Usborne Phonics Readers. For some reason Anna is fascinated with the books. The pictures are engaging, and the characters repeat between books. She was extremely excited to meet a Fat Cat from another book in these series, and she found the whole project of building a caravan out of a shed very funny. She had some questions about caravans and was shocked to see a donkey pulling it. I tried to explain to her about the time when people didn’t have cars and traveled with horses, but she has never seen it yet. I have never seen the horse pulling anything in our Silicon Valley either :)

If You Take a Mouse To School

Anna and I are big fans of Laura Numeroff books. I brought this one from the library together with If You Give a Pig a Party. Strangely, the school book was a lot more popular with Anna. She had a lot of questions about the events and wanted to have the same bricks as Mouse used to build a Mouse House. My winner was If You Give a Pig a Party, because I really liked how an illustrator brought characters from other books together as friends of a Pig. I think Anna didn’t like it quite as much, because she has very definite plans for her own birthday party and the book didn’t align with them.

This is a sequel to our winner of a few weeks Where Are You Going Little Mouseago – Whose Mouse Are You? First Anna didn’t warm up to this book. I think the idea of running away from home and trying to get different family didn’t appeal to her at all. I tried not to emphasize how scary the outside world looks to the Mouse of this book, but praised her bravery in trying to learn things on her own. Anna certainly liked the ending and always smiled happily at the page where Mouse’s family comes to get her. It’s an excellent book for early readers, and I will certainly get it again from the library at some point.

Mr Seahorse

Anna was lukewarm about this book last week, but really took to it after our trip to the ocean. It makes perfect sense to me – she always likes books better, if she “gets” what’s going on. I liked it when she asks questions about words or events in the book – it means that she really listens. It cracked me up when I asked her yesterday, How are you today? and she replied with the phrase from this book Tip-top, mama! As for me, it was Eric Carle at its best – calming, cheerful and colorful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two Unsuccessful Open-Ended Projects

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The theme of this week at Open-Ended Art was “Yellow and Paint”. Well, on Tuesday evening I got out yellow paint and brush, handed them to Anna and told her to paint whatever she wants. For some reason she always looks really annoyed when I suggest open-ended activity, and missing her nap didn’t help matters. She reluctantly took the brush and made these splashes of paint. After 3 minutes she said that she is done, and that she wants a “real project” now. Oh, she said that those splashes of color are “yellow stripes”. To be honest, “the masterpiece” went to the trash can shortly after this picture was taken.

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Well, I decided to try again on Wednesday. Anna missed her nap again, and her ability to focus plummets when she is tired. I was tired myself – I had late night meetings every night this week, and I was functioning on 5 hours of sleep. Nevertheless, I had a presence of mind to take Anna’s shirt off before starting this project. I took her outside, put some tempera yellow paint into a dish and showed her how to paint with rocks and sticks. Alas, she was not at all interested. She wanted to do handprints. To be exact, she wanted to put her hands into paint and smear it everywhere. I wish I could say that she was enjoying it, but she kept her troubled expression on her face, as if July22_OpenEndedYellow2 she was telling me – why am I doing this? I suppose that this can be explained by my own lack of enthusiasm for this messy project. Did I mention that I was tired, and that the thought of an upcoming massive cleanup didn’t appeal to me? At some point she did try to paint with the leaf, but it mostly meant putting the leaf in the paint, then washing the leaf off in the pail of water, then deciding that she wants to wash the paper in the pail of water too and see what happens. At this point I declared the end to this project and got out the water hose to wash off the worst of the paint.

In retrospect, maybe the experience wasn’t really that unsuccessful. After all, the goal is to focus on the process, not on an end result. However, so far our forays into open-ended art appear a little forced. I keep thinking that either I am doing something wrong, or maybe my daughter is too young for it or maybe she doesn’t have enough exposure to possibilities to be able to create something on her own. I guess I need some guidance and encouragement here. Anyone?

Mission Organization

July21_Organization

The Summer Picnic topic at ABC and 123 this week is Organization. I don’t consider myself an organized person. Then, again, maybe I have very high expectations of what it means to be organized since I married a very organized packrat. Before my marriage I dealt with clutter problem by trying to acquire as little of stuff as possible and by periodic purging of my belongings. Now our house is IKEA paradise with multiple storage solutions and a zillion of containers of every possible size. Also, when we bought our house, every closet came with Elfa organizers from Container Store. I would have never splurged on them, but I surely love them now. We try to keep Anna’s toys and art materials contained to a few areas of the house – her room and our family room that also doubles as an eat-in kitchen. I wrote a post about our attempts to organize our family room – we made good strides, but it’s still somewhat work in progress. I also wrote a post about simplicity in the playroom. Basically we try hard to keep amount of toys and other supplies at manageable levels and rotate them every so often.

I used to be well organized in time and planned a lot of things well in advance. Now I struggle to juggle a stressful full time job, an inquisitive toddler that is all over her mama the minute I come home, chores and my Internet addiction. Until lately our everyday activities and any learning were very much random, based on urgency and energy level of everyone involved. I still like to keep some of this spontaneity in our lives, and I don’t envision going to a “school-like” schedule any time soon. But lately I decided to have a little more preparation and to be more prepared for be more prepared for our afternoon hours together by deciding on a theme for a week in advance and preparing some activities for it. I wrote about it in my post Planning Process. This week is sort of a test – since we went to an ocean on Sunday, our art projects are centered somewhat around sea theme. It feels good not to scramble trying to decide what to do in the afternoon. In fact, I just wish there were more hours in a day (and more energy) to do everything that I want to do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Princesses Need Not Apply… Yet

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I have several confessions to make:

  • This is the first ever picture of my daughter in the skirt. She spent her first 30+ months in pants.
  • She doesn’t play with dolls. She does have one or two, but she is utterly indifferent to them. Her most favorite toy is right here with her in this picture.
  • She doesn’t have any princess dress-up costumes, and she doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in Disney princesses when she sees them prominently displayed in every bookstore we go.
  • She never had any make-up – real or pretend. I hardly use any myself.
  • She doesn’t like to be called “Princess”. She always corrects and says, I am not a princess! I am mama’s daughter and papa’s Mouse!
  • I really-really want to keep things this way. I have nothing against fairy tales, but I rather envision my daughter as Hermione, not Sleeping Beauty. But I am not going to deny her a princess phase if and when she wants to have one. I just want it to be her choice, not the one that is “suggested” by Disney marketing folks. Let’s see how long it lasts. She did watch Cinderella a week ago and informed me that evening that she doesn’t want to be a pilot any longer when she grows up – she wants to be a queen. Notice that she decided wisely to go for a top title :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Painting, Cutting, Gluing

Anna loves projects now. Every day when she gets up from her nap she says that now it's time for a project. Fortunately after reading so many terrific blogs it's easier for me to accommodate her requests. I don't even remember when I found this simple idea of a paper plate sun, I saw it on several blogs and thought that it has just the right level of difficulty and messiness for me and Anna. She likes the painting-cutting-gluing sequence, especially if it also involves googly eyes in the end :) As the first step, she painted a plate using her new sponge brush. I was as excited about the brush as she was - the coverage is bigger and perfect for big areas. She painted two paper plates in no time at all and brought them outside to dry.
While the paper plates were drying, I got out the construction paper and cut strips for sun rays. Christy from Superheroes and Princesses had a good post recently on proper scissors technique. Since that technique didn't work for Anna, it made me review the first page in our Kumon Let's Cut Paper book that recommended a different technique of putting both middle and index finger in a bigger scissor loop. Poof - the magic happened, and suddenly Anna could cut with the scissors that I deemed "bad". She was very excited and proceeded to cut several strips of paper (we used them later for a different project).
Gluing seems to be Anna's favorite part of any crafts project. I think she inherited this from her father - desire to build things by connecting them together. It's messy, but I believe that she needs to practice the school glue vs. the glue stick, because it allows her to control the pressure she applies. I think she really gets better, especially when she is not too tired. I also tried to make her arrange the sun rays in a pattern, but she was completely not interested. In fact, when I tried to "enlighten" her on patterns, she looked me in the eye and said sternly, Stop talking, mama! I don't want to talk about it now. So much for patterns, somehow they keep slipping off our planned activities for the week :)
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of a finished project. Anna was so motivated that she did two suns. Maybe I'll snap a picture tonight and edit this post later :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Field Trips Rock - The Wilder Ranch

It was really hot in the Silicon Valley for the past two weeks. The trip to the ocean was a great way to beat the heat. We can reach the ocean in about 45 minutes without the traffic, and we were lucky today. We left early and beat the crowds. Anna was very excited, when I told her in the morning that we are going to see the ocean. Her first question was, Is it a swimming ocean? I had to disappoint her and tell her that our ocean is too cold to swim and that the waves are too strong. She thought about it for a while, then asked, Is there a baby ocean? It's logical - our pool has a wading pool area, so maybe the ocean should also have a baby area :)
The Wilder Ranch is one of our favorite hiking stops on the coast. The ground is even, the hike is not strenuous, and the views of the coastline are spectacular. And there is also a historic ranch that is sometimes open for visits with a small farm next to it. Anna was quite interested in the vegetable patch - our suburban girl has never seen how vegetables grow yet. I do plan to plant a small vegetable garden next year.
In the hindsight, I think that this particular hike was not well suited for toddler interest. The cliffs are steep, the ocean is far below, and the wind is chilly. Nevertheless, she did walk at least some of the way and enjoyed throwing rocks from the cliffs. Maybe next time we will try something that actually has a beach access - perhaps Half-Moon Bay. I just wish I could stomach the drive - the traffic to Half-Moon Bay really stinks, especially on the weekends.

Friday, July 17, 2009

School Corner - July 17, 2009


This is our second week in Preschool Corner. Here is a sample of "school-like" activities that we've done this week.
Reading - we continue with the first book in Beginner Phonics at Progressive Phonics. There is also an activity book that comes as a supplement, and Anna likes to read the word and then put a sticker on top of the word. She quite enjoys her "reading book", and I always make sure that I stop this activity before she gets tired, so she is not frustrated.
Here is a short clip of Anna reading:

video
Math: We sorted ladybugs by size - that required a little guidance. I got Ladybugs here:
As we were sorting by size I got out a measuring tape to show Anna how we can measure the size with it. She was very fascinated and spent good 20 minutes "measuring" her ladybugs and other objects. Of course she doesn't do it properly, but I think it helps her understand that those numbers on the tape actually mean something.
Arts: We had fun doing an open-ended activity with tissue (tearing and gluing) as part of Open-Ended Art Carnival. Anna was very pleased with her efforts:



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