Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Encouraging Week 9/6 - 9/14

My four-year-old is a genius

For me, personally, it's been a weird week. Just feeling ill, achy and low energy and having to force myself to get out of bed in the morning. My car accident injury is flaring up again, and I'm struggling. I know this too shall pass. But it's frustrating. I'd like to be on my A game all the time.

So why is the title of this blog post An Encouraging Week? Because my kids are so amazing. All children are amazing. It's been very encouraging to see how well they've learned with me putting out minimal effort. Not that I want to give up on my A game, obviously. But it's great to see that they learn even when I'm being the substitute teacher rather than the, ahem, shining example of an educator I usually am. *polishes nails* Hee hee.

So here are some of the things we did this week that weren't amazing, but worked nonetheless.

I discovered Baby Loves Jazz!!!

Ella Elephant Scats Like That: Baby Loves Jazz

 It was so reasonably priced on amazon, I ordered our first one, Ella the Elephant Scats Like That, right away. We got it in two days and started using it immediately. We've listened to it every day by popular request.

This is one of the real joys of being a parent: introducing your kids to something you love. In this case, jazz. Scat, in particular, makes me all kinds of happy. And a well-voiced female scat-singer makes this Baby Loves Jazz book/CD super quality.

At first when I put it in, Gilgamesh didn't want to sit down with the book and listen to the CD. He wanted to watch TV. Blah. But I insisted the CD would stay in and the TV off. Gilgamesh didn't sit with me, but once the music got going, Alastor, the two-year-old, started to dance. I love this about him. He just soaks up good music.

So Alastor starts dancing, and I get the idea of giving him some percussion instruments (bells, tambourine, drum, xylophone, maracas). I hand him one and one to Gilgamesh, keeping one for myself.

And we dance. Two times through the CD.

When Daddy got home, we listened to it again. My kids learned about jazz, scat, and the jazz instruments showcased in the book: drums, bass, trumpet, piano, and voice. On the last page, all the instruments play together. The whole thing is kid-friendly and high quality, with songs like "Peanut Butter and Jelly" and "Do Your Ears Hang Low." I even heard Gilgamesh singing "Peanut Butter and Jelly (That's What I Put in My Belly)" randomly yesterday while he colored. I highly recommend this book/CD, and hope to review the entire collection as we acquire it. If I could find a similar program for classical music, I'd be thrilled. Please put your recommendations in the comments. :)

Another thing we repeated this week was the digestive system section of The Usborne Flip Flap Body Book from Sonlight's curriculum.

Flip Flap Body Book (Flip Flaps)

At the end of each page is a flap that reveals yet more colorful illustrations and simple explanations for body parts and systems. Gilgamesh has gotten this book off the shelf no less than three times this week and insisted upon reading it with me. On Sunday, he drew a picture of his body with the "food tube" going all the way from his mouth to the toilet. :) How's that for demonstrating mastery? There's even a little quiz at the end of each section (very easy, suitable for kindergarten age kids). It's more of a review, really. Since he also has a Cat-in-the-Hat-themed body book (which I reviewed here), he got that one out and compared. And there's a third Body Book, which we call the Scary Body Book, because the cover has a hologram on the front that changes between a smiling x-ray of a skeleton and a brain-and-muscle-covered face with eyeballs. Very accurate, and thus, very scary. The actual title of this book is Encyclopedia of the Human Body: Begin to discover the human body.

Apparently it's a DK Eyewitness book, from that collection, though it doesn't say that anywhere on the cover. I recommend it, though it's not targeted at Gilgamesh's age group. It's significantly more complex than the Flip Flap Body Book, which you would expect from anything labeled Encyclopedia. The only reason, truthfully, that I bought this book was because it was $6.99 at TJ Maxx near the checkout and I'm always hunting for great deals on books. But, as often happens with my TJ Maxx impulse book buys, I've been very impressed by the quality of this tome. On page 113, the digestive section begins in full color, photographs and illustrated diagrams, scientific medical terms for body parts, and fun details, like how much an elephant eats and for how long (20 hours A DAY!!!) - very compelling stuff. (That's almost as many hours as a koala sleeps! Aren't you glad we aren't elephants or koalas! There would be no time for watching TV.)

So this week, we learned from all three body books with a focus on the digestive system. Like any kid, Gilgamesh is fascinated by his body, particularly the waste part. :) These types of resources capitalize on that
right from the beginning so he knows his body is interesting and complex (in a good way) and not something boring to be dreaded (anatomy class, biology class in high school and junior high respectively).

Gilgamesh has three working binders for preschool. Well, not exactly working binders. Two of them are working. The other is just a collection:

blue binder: best of his art
orange binder: Sonlight weekly instructor guides/schedules with applicable worksheet papers
black binder: printables, entire Listening and Writing Book printed out. The focus right now is on rhyming words, and hearing the beginning and ending sounds of things. He's also tracing and copying the letters, both capital and lower-case.

There's undoubtedly a more efficient way to keep track of what he's doing, and I hope to streamline it by the time he's five and a half, when we'll start actual Kindergarten curriculum. No worries, I'll tackle it.

For now, though, this system works. Gilgamesh knows when he wants to do something out of the orange binder (mostly read aloud assignments with a few papers for copying and move-around activities), and when he wants to do some papers from the black binder. Throughout this week, he'd request things when he wanted to do them.

I have a personal rule, even when I'm feeling ill. I never turn him down when he a) wants to read a book with me (unless it's a Leapfrog Tag Pen book b/c it's like watching somebody play a video game and really something he's mean to do independently) or b) when he asks specifically for printables. Usually, he'll ask for this by saying, "Can we print something?" He equates the printer with activities. :) Good thing, I guess.

Counting occurs as a regular course. I don't think we could get through a day without counting something. It's just too tempting for a little guy who knows how. Telling time is the same way. We talk about the clock and calendar every single day. More complex math, like addition and subtraction, is still an occasional thing, and something I hope to do more in his Kindergarten curriculum next year (most likely Saxon Math for Homeschoolers). For now, he's still learning the correct way to write a two and how it's different from a five. He does watch Math videos from Leapfrog and sing the songs, as well.

Writing happens naturally, too. I don't think I could keep Gilgamesh from writing. His little brother Alastor even gets in on the game, scribbling circles and hash marks on his page and saying the names of the letters he's pretending to write. Difference is, of course, that Gilgamesh actually is writing letters. In fact, he's become quite ambitious. Today, he wrote me a little story. It went like this:

Help the Dog said (originally written sed) yesterday (originally written yedray) to swim.
(All other words spelled correctly the first time.)

You can see what we're working on now: spelling, vocabulary, and sentence structure - all without a textbook. There's definite room for improvement, but, um, he's four! I'm pretty excited about this new interest in narrating and hope it translates into journaling in the near future. In fact, I already have a special diary (with Toy story people on the front) that locks with a key, and a giant toy story pen, that will be one of his back to school presents for Kindergarten. If he keeps improving and boldly experimenting at this rate, he'll be able to write simple records of his day in his diary within the year. I still have the journal I started (thanks, Mom) when I was six years old. The spellings are... creative. But the content is priceless.

So this is pretty much how we got through the past week. I kept track of some of it in his binders, and other things are just *gasp* stuff he learned without documenting it.

The closer we get to the day I actually have to file an affidavit with the state and start keeping transcripts, the more I (just slightly) panic. But I have a few previously reviewed library books I intend to look up as the time draws nearer that include everything you could ever need to know about homeschool transcripts. I know when these babies are done right, they help homeschoolers get into prestigious and competitive colleges (if that's what they want to do).

You're looking at the girl who wrote in her journal every single day her freshman year of high school. I can keep records. It's just a matter of - what else? - discipline.

How was your week? Learn anything life-changing?

More of our pics from the past week:

Gilgamesh doing his thing with the foam letters.  There's only one of each letter, so after this he got creative, substituting G for O, etc.

Alastor burned himself on the fire pit at the reunion. We didn't know this until the next morning because he was so cool about it (and it was dark). I swear there's a pain threshold disparity in this family. My boys are super tough. You can't see it, but he's actually pouting in this pic. Not because his burn hurts... because he doesn't want a bandaid.

Gilgamesh and I had a nature expedition in the place we call The Garden. He took all the pictures.

Except for this one.

Jasmine: my favorite flowering bush (or vine)

A spider web in the fern

There were many more nature pics. It was a great little intro to nature photography/digital photography. :)

Alastor hiding under the chair doily Aunt Aubrey crocheted.
Hiding and playing "Get me" (which is suspiciously similar to tag) are his favorite things right now.

My knights all together before bed

Gilgamesh's idea of a drive-in theatre. His words, not mine: "They're watching a Dora movie."

Gilgamesh took this picture, too. This is where I sit while the boys play independently, and Gilgamesh brings me his papers to check or to show off, as the case may be. Notice the stacks of books everywhere...

*happy sigh* I have a feeling next week will be even better.

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