Brain Under Construction

IMG_20170614_200028155.jpg

This is the packaging my 6 year old created for his dad’s father’s day gift. His dad is a particle physicist, so there’s intentionality in this list.

This is how my 6yo rolls. J thrives on new information. Tonight, I asked what he wanted to read for a bedtime story, and he chose an elementary math dictionary, the pages on functions and algebra. We’re not pushing this on him. We’re not hothousing him. I suggested Dr. Frumble’s Bedtime Stories, (aff. link) but he wanted to talk about algebra and to do 78*2*2 in his head.

This isn’t to brag. It’s just the reality of who he is. Like other kids who can ride a bike early, are totally coordinated, musically inclined, socially aware, or have other talents. Everyone has some area in which he or she shines. Some are more recognized and celebrated by society than others.

He started reading at 3, and would sit for hours, reading books and completing worksheets. But that’s time he didn’t spend running, jumping, and socializing with other kids. So we have to make that up now, as those parts of his brain “wake up”, so to speak. It means that we’re practicing some of the same social skills that we are with my 3 year olds, like not taking things without asking. But it’s not wrong. It’s an outgrowth of how his brain works.

He’s asynchronous. Different areas of his brain are developing at rates outside what is typically expected, and because some parts are getting more attention, others have been neglected and are waking up later.

brainunderconstruction

That means that we can be discussing what kinds of metals are best for cars or staples, and the next I’m telling him not to lick his stuffed sheep. (true story)

 

Backwardschooling

We live in a state that has relatively strict homeschool reporting requirements, including a comprehensive year-long plan due in the summer before the upcoming school year, with plans and curriculum for each of the required subjects.

While I’m diligently completing this requirement to convince the district that we take home education for our six year old seriously (we do!), I also wanted to write out how we’ll actually spend our time.

We’re doing school backwards. You know those things that get left behind in order to cram in academics? That’s what we’re doing first.

Games. Lots of games. Time to practice winning and losing graciously, cooperative games to work on collaborative communication.  Logic, reasoning and word games. Math games, spatial exercises, strategy games, musical games. 

Socialization. Oh, the socialization. Family relationships, co-ops, old friends & new ones.  Younger and older siblings. Sports teammates, church friends, and neighbors. Random people at the store, library, and museum. Supported socialization in safe settings, play dates. 


Pleasure reading. Reading “just because”. Reading out loud. Shared reading. Re-reading. Easy books. Hard books. Silly books. Backs of cereal boxes. Reading without an agenda, comprehension quiz, or follow-up assignment.


Movement. Team sports. Walks in the woods. Chasing siblings through the backyard. Impromptu dance parties. Improvised obstacle courses. Beach days in September. Sledding outings in January. Shoveling dirt. Shoveling snow. Shoveling sand. Playground visits. Bike rides. Hiking trails. Trampoline parks. Swimming pools. 


Unabashed curiosity. Reading about whatever topic excites us, asking lots of questions. Museum visits and hands-on science experiments. Testing theories and observing the world around us. Watching bubbles caught by wind currents and racing sticks under the bridge. Turning over rocks (carefully, of course!), following rabbit trails, and catching snowflakes.


Those are our priorities, our primary curriculum. 

The other stuff? We’ll get to it too. If we can manage to squeeze it in! 

What about you? How do you balance what your children need with the formal homeschooling requirements where you live? Or if your kids go to school, what do you do with the”extra” time you have with them? 

A Bit of Unsolicited Advice – off topic

Dear Stay-at-Home-Moms, Work-at-Home-Moms, Earners of less than 50% of the household net income,

I have some unsolicited advice for you. 

I know you scrimp and save, you stretch your dollars to make things work, you put up with things that really don’t work as they should because… because.

 It’s great that you are so careful, that you don’t frivolously fritter away the family’s income, but there is a point at which you can say, stop. This isn’t working for me. We need to find another solution. 

We have a microwave. It’s only 2 years old. It never actually worked right. The door didn’t close easily, and so it would need to be slammed shut. Eventually, the power supply to the microwave started acting up. You’d have to jiggle the power cable or hit the side to make it work. But I always got it to work, so we soldiered on. We tested and replaced the outlet, in case that was the issue. Moved it to a different circuit (behaved slightly better for a few days, then started acting up again). 

For the last month or so, it’s been getting worse. To the point that I can’t rely on it to heat food. I’ll put food in a few minutes before I need to heat it, slam the door closed (now the power is off), and hope that it decides to wake up again before I need it, slamming the side or jiggling the cord every now & then to see if it decides to cooperate. 

On Tuesday, we had a babysitter here, and I flat-out told her to avoid the microwave. It can’t be trusted and may in fact be dangerous. 

Today, feeling guilty for our bad purchase 2 years ago or for squandering our money for not getting it checked out when it first started acting up (before the warranty expired), I ordered a new microwave. 

We have a cesspool. The first few years living in our home, we had it serviced once. $400. They told us we needed to upgrade from our 1961 system to a newer, more sturdy one. We didn’t want to spend the money or tear up the lawn, so the next time we had issues, I called a different company. Another $400, and the same story. We needed to replace our pool. 

Fast forward to last year. Company comes in spring. We have issues. $400. Company comes in fall. We have issues. $150. More company comes. $400. And it still needs to be replaced.

Then, this January, we have another issue. We finally are on the same page and get our cesspools replaced. After literally throwing thousands of dollars down the toilet trying to hang on to our old system.

I should have spoken more strongly, more convincingly, that I was convinced we should make the switch. We’d been seriously talking about it for over a year. But I’m not the primary breadwinner, and maybe because of that I feel compelled to be ultra-careful with our money.

When you see something that just isn’t working, speak up. Before it hits the breaking point. You’re not being heroic by making it work, especially when you know it will need to be replaced sooner or later. You’re just adding undue stress to your and your family’s life.

Let it go. Give it up. And don’t feel guilty about saying it just doesn’t work. 

(I’m preaching to myself right now).

Rules of EngagementĀ 

Right after my twins were born, J, then 3, started driving me crazy. He’d ask for a certain activity. I’d manage to free myself from the other two to get him set up, help him get started, and then walk away. Almost inevitably, after a couple minutes he would lose interest and wander away, looking for something else to do.

I was confused. This kid had great focus and had never had trouble before staying on task. What was different?

After a few weeks of pulling my hair out, I realized that what he was asking for, what he was unable to verbalize at that point, is that he wanted attention. Togetherness. And he was choosing activities we’d done together in the past in the hopes that we could connect again.


Once I realized what he was doing, it broke my heart a bit, but it also gave me a glimpse into how his mind works. He tends to state needs rather than ask for help. (We’ve been working on this). He tends to speak in declarative statements rather than asking questions. 

Right now, his major interests are math & the periodic table, and I wonder – is it because that’s what he truly likes, or is it because we take the time to engage with him on those topics when he brings them up?

One of J’s favorite 3yo activities – balancing alphabet letters on his Little People quarry

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing to or even naturally tending towards certain topics. Many families bond over common interests – from sports teams to TV shows to political ideologies. But I want to be sensitive to the fact that we need to be open to encouraging interests, even if they’re not in our comfort zones.

What does that look like? Still figuring it out. 

Playsilks

A couple years ago, my then 4yo and I embarked on a playsilks experiment. 

I tend to get a crafty idea, make a bunch of them, get tired of it, and move on. (Afghans, mei tai baby carriers, felt Christmas trees, car seat canopies, I’m looking at you!)

The playsilks were a similar project. We ordered about 30 of various sizes from Dharma Trading, used all of them as gifts as well as keeping for ourselves, and then we ordered another 20 or so scarves to do more, since it was such a fun and easy project.

We’ll probably repeat within the next year or two, as my girls are almost old enough to handle it.

The Artful Parent has a great tutorial, so I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel.

What I did want to mention is how fun it can be to play with the color combinations. We have some monochrome scarves and some others that use 2, 3, or even more color combinations.

We use these scarves All. The. Time. Even my 6yo. We dance with them, use them as blindfolds, pretend to be superheroes, wrap our dolls in them, use them as tablecloths for pretend picnics.

They’re machine washable. (I know – the word silk scared me too) and have enriched our play tremendously.

Oh, and there’s also the sensory bonus of rolling in a pile of silk too. Pretty sure that happens on a not-too-infrequent basis.

I love open-ended play objects and that we’re using our own artwork. 

And no, my kids still don’t know that Kool-Aid is actually a beverage. šŸ™‚ 

A Simple Chromatography Experiment

IMG_20170325_154540

IMG_20170325_154024261

I’m a sucker for simple experiments with common household items and dramatic results, and my 6 year old is currently in love with colors. The other day, he didn’t ask his cousin what her favorite color is. He asked what her favorite color group is (primary, secondary, or tertiary – spoiler alert: he likes the tertiary color group the best). And pretty much refuses to have anything to do with primary colors right now. Don’t ask me why. I really don’t know.

When I found this experiment, I knew it was going to be a winner.

Just like she suggests, we drew circles on our filters, labeled them with pencil, and then curled them and placed them in shallow cups so that only the tips were immersed in water.

We used a bunch of different (washable) marker colors on our 4 c coffee filters, and after the initial recommended circles, J also experimented with patterns to see how they would affect the outcome.

We then tried immersing the color in water and discussed why that didn’t work the same.

Have fun, and let your creativity run free!

Happy wondering.

 

 

Spontaneous Generosity – can it be taught?

Our girls are 3.5. They’re used to sharing and taking turns. They’ve had no other normal.

Recently, we’ve been going through a (perfectly normal) stage where they want to claim preference of one thing over another. This has especially been playing out with their seats – at the table and in the car.

The screams and fights at the table were getting bad enough that we considered taking away the coveted chair and instead getting 2 identical options. But we didn’t. Because avoiding the conflict doesn’t solve anything. It just pushes the issue down the road to be dealt with again, over something that might not be so easy to fix. We wanted our girls to have the opportunity to work through it now.

Instead, I made a card and hung it from the back of the chair, labeling with the first letter of each of their names, with the intent to flip it every meal so they would each have equal access.

A curious thing happened. After initial implementing the plan and a couple switches to see if I would notice, they started being generous. E went over to the card when it was her turn and flipped it “to be kind”. I was floored, and my fairness-minded 6yo tried to argue with her that it was her turn, her right. She persisted, and she gave her sister her seat – willingly.

What we’ve been noticing more and more is that when our kids feel safe, protected, that they will be treated fairly, then they are more likely to be generous. When they feel threatened, they cling to what they have. 

This also extends to sharing toys. They’re expected to share most things, but they also each have a few “special” things they don’t have to share. The kids are getting pretty good at expressing what is special and respecting each others’ stuff to the point that they are now willingly entrusting said treasured items to the others, knowing they will get it back.

The process is hard. There will be setbacks and screaming sessions and crying fits as we continue to work through this, but I, for one, am encouraged to see generous hearts.