Just Imagine How Much Cooler I’ll be in SUMMER!

Memorial Day has come and gone and summer has officially arrived.

We traditionally kick off our summer with a trip out-of-town–this year we went to Atlantic Beach in North Carolina, with a last-minute surprise trip to Disney World tacked on to the end. We had a blast and I can’t wait to share more with you about it next week.

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We will be wrapping up our home school year this week. This was our pre-k year, and it was really about trying things out and considering the different options. JC didn’t even really know he was doing “school” things this year, which is something I think I would like to carry over into our kindergarten year. He is definitely into math, science and engineering, which means I will be spending a good portion of the summer learning myself, so that when we hit the fall I’ll be ready! He isn’t reading by himself yet, but he still loves to sit and pore over his books.

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He’s got a lot of sight words in his arsenal–granted, they are words like The Lone Ranger, volcano and the various types of steams trains he loves–but I did manage to get some core words in there, too.

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This is what happens when Disney fans do sight words.

We won’t be completely lazy this summer. Our preschool playgroup has summer activities we’ll be going to once a week, and I’m working on a camp theme for JC to earn “badges” by completing challenges. He really rebels when we sit down and “learn”, so I’m hoping he’ll enjoy it. I also want to do a summer reading program with him.

The biggest event this summer is our move. Being the type A personality I am, I really had to fight myself not to start obsessing and packing earlier this month, but now that we’re back from vacation and June is looming, it’s time to get started. We think we have the location all nailed down, but there are still a few things that are up in the air. So, not stressful at all. Nope.

On that note, my goal is really to relax. Our family has a lot of transition and stress so far this year, and there is still a lot ahead of us. I want to spend a lot of time outside, I want to read a lot, and I want to write a lot. Oh, and there is an ice cream maker sitting in my storage unit that is calling my name. Homemade peach ice cream, anyone?

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I know you’re singing the song now. You’re welcome.

What are your summer plans?

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Peer Pressure: Can it be Positive?

This weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about peer pressure.

JC is a really picky eater. As in, eats only three foods. Luckily for me, they are pretty healthy foods. While I don’t have to worry about his nutrition, I do have to pack up and carry around these three foods when we go anywhere, whether it be a play date, day trip, or vacation. When I brought it up to our pediatrician, she said to make sure he sees other people eating real food–especially other kids.

“They’ll make fun of him for eating like that,” she told me critically.

I have carried around her little nugget of opinion with me for awhile. JC has a little friend who is a really great eater, so the last the time we had lunch with her, I pointed out what she was eating and asked if he would like to try it.

“No,” he said firmly. “I like what I like, mom.” Fair enough, kid.

We have recently joined a preschool co-op, and one of the first things I thought about was that JC will get to see other kids eating their snacks, and maybe he would notice he was the odd kid out. Maybe it would encourage him to try something new.

Then when I thought about it, I wondered if I really wanted that to happen.

Of course, I want him to branch out on his eating. But do I want him to do it because other kids judge him and he feels different? Do I want him to change his ways because he feels left out? I don’t know about that.

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My son doesn’t have a lot of experience with big groups of kids. He doesn’t have any experience with peer pressure or the mob mentality. Is the first lesson I want to teach him that he should do what the rest of the group is doing, and that if kids make fun of him, he should change his habits to fit in? Sure, the outcome would be positive–he might try new foods. Peer pressure, I suppose, can be positive–it can challenge children to try harder and be a part of a team. But I want JC to continue thinking for himself. I want him to fit in, but not at the expense of making his own decisions. So will I continue to encourage him to try new foods? Absolutely? But will I compare him to the other kids? No way. As much as I want this change for him, I want it to be one he comes to himself.

How does your child handle peer pressure? Has the mob mentality had a positive or negative effect on them?

JC’s January: New Year, New Pattern and New Things to Learn

We started pre-k “home school” in August this year. I say it like that for a couple of reasons. One, I think kids of all ages–but especially young kids like JC–learn best by playing and exploring. Two, I wanted to take the years before I have to start reporting to the state to really hone in on JC’s learning style and what works for us as a family…knowing that what works right now may not work down the road. What is working for us right now is Project Based Homeschooling. It allows kids to immerse themselves in what they love doing, and through that, learn the important skills they need. I think it’s a really happy medium between unschooling and a more traditional schedule. Before you write me off as being totally granola-crunchy, let me give you a couple examples of how it’s working for us right now.

JC is really into costumes and imaginative play right now. He got a handful of costumes for Christmas, so we’re doing a lot of dress up. In the past week or so, he’s been a pirate, reading treasure maps left over from a Disney trip, made his own map, and experimenting with a compass; a doctor, giving his animals check-ups and creating his own “big book of boo-boos” a la Doc McStuffins; and a train engineer, building tracks and bridges and combining his many sets. Out of that imaginative play, I got plenty of educational opportunities: we talked about the four directions and what direction our favorite places were from our home, he drew pictures and wrote in his doctor book, and he got a good exercise in problem solving skills (and patience) while trying to figure out how to build a bridge big and sturdy enough to go over his tracks. And all this happened on a non “school” day.

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There be treasure close by…

I guess that’s what I really love about project-based learning at this age–it all happens naturally. It reminds me of the first rule of improv I learned in theater 101: “Yes, and…?” When he makes a suggestion, I get to say, “great! Where can this go?” instead of “sorry, no time now. We have to sit down and learn.” Of course, there are some potential pitfalls. Because this way of learning is so child-driven, it requires a flexible schedule. JC, since day one, has never taken to any of the schedules I’ve tried to put him on…and I personally thrive on a schedule. So one of our January goals is to replace the word “schedule” with “routine” and find a daily pattern. Here is how I’m shaping our days right now.

Mornings are a combination of…

  • Independent play. JC is pretty good about playing on his own, and I often leave “invitations to play” on his kid-sized table: puzzles, a coloring/activity book, a simple construction project, etc. This is one way I’ve found to guide him in how and what he’s learning.
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Some mornings, we do our thing side by side. Work and play, anyone?

  • Errands. Is it just me or does everyone go to Target as much as I do?
  • Play dates/outdoor time/adventure time. We try to get outside at least once a day and do local activities like the zoo or aquarium.

Lunchtime…is often a struggle. JC likes to lunch late in the day, which can throw off dinner and then the evening. I’m trying to find the right breakfast time and combination of morning snacks to get him lunching at a reasonable hour. Our afternoons include…

  • One-on-one time. We left the afternoon nap in the dust long ago, but afternoons are still JC’s needy time. I try to make this time electronic free (unless we’re working specifically on a project/topic that requires it) and we read books, play together, or do an art project.
  • Screen time. JC gets an hour of screen time in the afternoon while I write. Right now it’s two episodes of Curious George.
  • Getting the wiggles out. Usually in the late afternoon we have a dance party or JC rides his trike for a couple loops around to get out the afternoon crazies.

One day a week we have a “field trip day”…we spend the day at a train museum, a park we don’t visit often, or take a day trip somewhere. I try to plan something related to what he’s learning about, but sometimes it’s just an extra long trip to explore a new playground and have a picnic. The best part about it is that even though there’s no “school” time set right now, he is still getting the “reading, writing and arithmetic”. As with all kids, some days are better than others. Most days, it works really well. Some days, it works so well it’s like magic. And of course, there are always days when I want to pull my hair out.

Although we’re using a very child-driven program, JC still needs to be guided. This month, these are the 3 things I hope to expose him to:

  • Introduction of chapter books: I’m really excited to start included simple chapter books into our nighttime reading together. Some of the ones I’m considering starting with are Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne, and the Paddington stories by Michael Bond.
  • Nature in the winter: we live far enough south that it isn’t unbearable for us to be outside playing (most days). I would like to help him discover some of the unique things about nature in winter: why animals hibernate, what animals are still around and active and how they eat/survive, and how the animals and plants adapt to the cold weather.
  • Introduction of a chore chart/system. I’m still not really sure how we’re going to approach this and what the reward will be (coins for the piggy bank, extra iPad game time, etc) but I know it’s time for something.

What is your little one up to this month?