Examining butterflies at Pacific Science Center with magnifying glass
One of my goals for the year 2013 is to keep better records of what four year old Kidlet is learning, and to plan – on a monthly basis – the things I want to work on with her. I was inspired (and encouraged) by unschooling mother Christina Pilkington (of Interest-Led Learning) to do monthly summaries. I’m sure my format will evolve over time, but for now the important thing is to make a record.
In part because of my Kidlet’s age, I’m less interested in homeschool curriculum style lessons as I am in her experiences and skill-building. The line between unschooling and just plain old parenting is very blurry these days. I’m making note of the things that feel significant at this time. It’s been an interesting experiment, and one I intend to continue for as long as Kidlet is home with us.
I’ve tried to break these down into a couple of approximate categories, followed by my thoughts about this month’s activities, and some plans for February. This is a compilation from notes I made in Evernote’s handy free web and phone apps.
A few explanations:
- We spent eight days of the month in California for a family wedding.
- We spent four days of the month in the Portland, Oregon area.
- We joined a group, Urban Play, with three other Seattle homeschooling families who meet three days a week at downtown learning centers. This is a 6-week commitment and it began the second week of January.
New Books Read (I didn’t start tracking this until mid-month)
Looking at book of riddles
- Count on Culebra by Ann Whitford Paul
- Disney Bedtime Favorites by Various
- Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Jennifer Rofe
- assorted Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems
- Giggle Fit Goofy Riddles by Joseph Rosenbloom
- Henry the Explorer by Mark Taylor – independent child!
- assorted stories from The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter - her favorites are all the stories related to mice
- Baby Loves - baby book comprised of paintings of Impressionist Mary Cassatt
- Scare a Bare by Kathy-Jo Wargin
- The Crows of Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley – as one might expect, a little morbid and snarky
- Pigs in Pajamas by Maggie Smith
- I’m Big Enough by Amber Smith & Layn Marlow – meant for younger children, about a rabbit who loses his blankie, but she liked it, though it stressed her out when he couldn’t find the blankie
- Goldilocks and the Three Martians by Stu Smith – an inventive retelling she got QUITE the thrill from
- Blue’s Clues
- assorted old Mickey Mouse videos (YouTube)
- Doomsday Volcanoes documentary
- Captain Eo (Disneyland)
- Burns and Allen Show - she learned that b&w photography doesn’t mean the tv is “broken!”
- a terrible (non Disney) version of Pinocchio
- Phineas and Ferb movie
- Fantasmic (live at Disneyland twice, and then repeatedly on YouTube for a week)
- Winnie the Pooh Many Adventures movie
- Flight of the Monarchs IMAX film at Pacific Science Center – lovely story about a scientist’s decades-long question solved with the help of many citizen scientists
- The Last Reef IMAX film at Pacific Science Center – absolutely stunning!
- Doc McStuffins – she recently discovered this tv show about a little black girl who cares for her toys; her new favorite.
- Ruby Gloom – also new, she enjoys this show about a “gothic” girl and her assorted “scary” friends who are actually really nice people/creatures.
- Paranorman – she seemed bored by this film
- Toy Story – she didn’t like it; became distraught about the malicious boy next door, and the fight between Buzz and Woody
- Clips from Lion King Broadway production (YouTube)
- 10th Anniversary Les Miserables Special (YouTube)
- Mary Poppins Broadway show highlights (YouTube)
Things Listened to (didn’t start tracking until last week)
After I showed her paintings of Arcimboldo I served her lunch like this
- Cairo Time film soundtrack
- Lupe Fiasco
- Tracy Chapman
- Les Miserables film and Broadway soundtracks
- Lion King Broadway soundtrack
- Talib Kweli
- Huntington Beach, CA- she saw surfers for the first time! Couldn’t stop giggling.
- Disneyland - two days here, her joy was boundless.
- The Getty Museum - there is a small children’s area I’d expected to be larger, more open, and with better temperature control. Showed her illuminated manuscripts (like in Secret of Kells). Talked to her about Jesus and Mary.
- Flight to California involved walking out to airplane and climbing stairs to enter (and back out upon arrival). She was delighted to see plane up close, tarmac.
- Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) – with Urban Play homeschool group. Three visits. Her first periscope, diving helmet, dress up in calico dress and apron, learned about pioneers and Oregon Trail, wagons, painted bottoms of her feet and walked across map of the country, played with green screen, learned how donuts in pioneer days were made with cast iron donut makers, sawmills, voting, neighborhoods, much much more.
- Seattle Art Museum - free play area and kids’ art area – three times
- Woodland Park Zoo
- Seattle Central Library - three visits w/ Urban Play, learned to use computers there to play learning games; played card games with other children, lots of books, acquired library card, learned to ask librarian for help finding books on particular topics, used card to self-check out.
- Pacific Science Center - three visits w/ Urban Play, examined (deceased) butterflies with magnifying glass, volunteer-led demo on planets with ceramic planets, made paper butterfly, learned about singing bowls, learned about how foods have different nutritional values at Wellbody Academy (though she always wanted carrot cake anyway), learned more about dinosaur extinction, IMAX films on monarch butterflies and coral reefs.
- Trip to the credit union to get new checks
- Joined me in my volunteer work tutoring ESL
- Attended her first wedding (Catholic) – 1.5 hours long, she sat (wiggled) through all of it!
- Indian wedding reception - combination of fatigue and really loud atmosphere caused her absolutely epic meltdown – she lost her SHOES! We never found them. Had to leave.
- Met her baby cousin in Los Angeles, formed an attachment.
- Visited friends and family in the Portland, Oregon area; fell in love with a jack-in-the-box toy, sat in a motorboat, experienced her first “tea party,” and drank up all the tea; loved it.
- Went to 40th floor of Columbia Tower, second highest height for her apart from one visit to the Space Needle two years ago; talked about the city landscape.
- Seattle Gymnastics Academy open gym hour
Drawing Mickey Mouse with dry erase markers.
- Minnie’s Bow Boutique (iPad)
- Epic Mickey 2 (Wii) – difficult to play on her own, needs assistance with reading storyline and knowing what to do to advance storyline, requires coordination to operate two different controllers simultaneously
- Mario Kart (Wii) – initially took her 24 minutes to complete two laps of a course; but each subsequent attempt took less time. By 8th or 9th attempt, was down to 1:34 minutes for three lap courses.
- Zingo (board game)
- Dizzy Dizzy Dino (board game)
- Feed the Woozle (a kind of board game)
- Pingoloo (board game)
- Angry Birds (board game)
- Disney web-based games on my desktop computer, mouse skills and screen navigation skills vastly improved.
- Language: learning about figures of speech, how to use them* (see below), memorizing riddles and telling riddles (doesn’t understand most of the puns, but enjoys anyway), increasingly points out how wonderful, delicious, good smelling, etc. things are; also anticipates how “awesome” something is or is going to be, and how much she “loves” things or people.
- Reading: asking often what words on signs and buildings say; reading words she sees in public, like OFF and ON, RED, and NO; asking more how to spell words, and attempts to spell them herself; approaches me to tell me about new words she’s learned to spell; can easily read and write her names.
- Writing: writes her name on lots of things, enjoys writing words – she will ask me for the spelling, made birthday card for friend.
- Rhyming: plays rhyming games with herself and me, makes up songs of words that rhyme.
- Math: can add numbers up to ten, uses her fingers usually, but sometimes without fingers; is beginning subtraction, can take away one, usually gets answer wrong if taking away more than one.
- Science: solidifying knowledge of the planets from Pac Sci visits; preoccupation with physical health from Doc McStuffins (e.g. hydration); learning about gravity, sickness, germs, importance of rest, headaches; had major dental work and learned about cavities, fillings, crowns, and that the anesthesiologist puts you to sleep – and how even medicine that is good for you can can make you feel groggy, unpleasant.
- Patience: still in development, but marked improvement since beginning of month when she would get angry if I didn’t respond to request immediately, now much more gracious, will often correct herself before she flies off handle.
- Grooming: brushes her hair, puts in her own hair barrettes,
- Housework: draining bathtub after bath, putting toys away with fewer complaints, even cheerfulness; wiping up dirty spots on surfaces without prompting, putting dishes on kitchen counter.
- Coordination: suddenly understands left and right – suspecting this may be due to video games; tried to ride a tricycle and other foot pedaled vehicles and REALLY struggled.
- Independence: I let her go off with a group of other children, she demonstrated her ability to stay with the group without adult supervision, had to work to keep up as she is not as fast as the other children; I had to trust she would be okay – very hard for me.
- Social: coping better with children of different temperaments, recognizing earlier on when she needs assistance and when to state her needs to them.
- Caring for others: time with her grandparents’ dog, improving skills and behavior with/around a young dog; has begun asking people questions like, “How are you feeling?”
- Money: began receiving allowance this month, quickly developed understanding that money is a finite resource; used gift money from Christmas to buy herself three items she’d long wanted, used some of her allowance to buy a fire truck; counted out money with me and handed it to cashier, still unsure about the transaction being permanent until we go home with the item, still trying to differentiate between “buying” and “borrowing.”
- Art: drawing more than ever, drew all over her father’s desk – a dozen different renderings of a single creature – sticks with single subject drawings (no “scenes,” either); enjoys using dry erase board and markers; suddenly really enjoys coloring; used to use single color per picture, but suddenly using multiple colors; lots of cake and ice cream making with playdough; discovered glitter glue and is enamored; introduced her to Arcimboldo.
- Music: singing more and more, making up her own songs, learning lyrics to complicated songs, understands singing and performing are possible occupations.
- Drama: no big changes here, just getting more convincing in acting out emotions; I often don’t know if she’s pretending or not.
Pretending to be sad, discovered by herself that she can think of something sad and then look more convincingly sad.
My favorite learning story from the month took place in the car during our drives to and from Portland. She was listening to the song, “Endless Night,” her favorite from the Lion King Broadway musical. She was always asking about that song and why Simba was sad. I started by explaining that the song used the visuals of “night” and “day” as descriptions of his emotional state, that the night represented his aloneness and not knowing what to do, the day represented a clearer outlook, etc. I brought this up with her several times briefly, then began giving her new examples of simple figures of speech, and solicited her suggestions for some. I was driving so just pointed out things we could see through the car windows. After I described the clouds in the sky as being big cotton balls (because they are fluffy and white), she described them as looking like “Donald Duck’s butt.” This went on for a while, describing the sky, road, etc. “The trees are scratchy like brushes, the trees are scratchy like a mop … and a broom!” Then she described the I-5 Bridge between Vancouver WA and Portland OR as “a tunnel with windows.” Later, she told me, “I am like a jelly sandwich because it’s so delicious and tasty, just like me; – but I’m still a person.”
For February: I’d like to focus on reading more to her. I’d fallen out of the habit, and left her reading to just bedtime (which her dad usually does) unless she initiated. She likes to read the same book repeatedly so we’ll probably never have a high book “count,” but I’m adjusting my own attitude about having to read the same book five times in a row. I’ll be more proactive about selecting books for her from the library during weekly trips. I found some fun and simple math (addition, subtraction and number sense) activities; will spend about 20 minutes a day on those. We hadn’t been out in nature much this winter, so planning weekly nature hikes at Seattle parks.