Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ideas That Help Me

The most important thing I did during our break was just to play with Raccoon. I spent a couple of weeks seeing what he liked to do, what games made him laugh, and what he asked to do most often. For Raccoon, it's still physical play that he likes best. As soon as he could crawl, there was no getting him to look at flashcards or bits anymore, no matter how much energy I put into it. What works for us now are variations of his favorite games (tag, hide-and-seek) that include word cards or other learning elements. He loves this and is now handing me the word cards he wants, or reminding me when I forget. Even my husband (a total skeptic) has noticed how much he loves doing "numbers" (dot equations) and how much fun we have.

I also spent a lot of time searching for the perfect blog about how to make it all work in our lives. I never found it, but I did read lots of amazing blogs. I can't remember where I found these quotes (sorry there aren't any links), but they stuck in my brain. One mother from a tropical island said something like, "No matter how great an idea sounds, it just may not work with your family's flow." This was a freeing thought that enabled me to let go of many things and to focus on what worked for me and Raccoon. Before, I thought that if I tried hard enough or was creative enough, I could make everything work. I felt frustrated if it didn't, figuring that I was somehow inadequate. Now, I look more at how I can fit an idea into our lives, modifying or discarding it as necessary. I don't need to, and can't, do everything. In one of Raccoon's movies, Santa tells his elves, "Choose the best gifts from each list for the sleigh." That's my priority, to make the best things - for us - fit and leave the rest.

"A little is better than nothing." I have used this thoughout my life, and it is also expressed in Doman's books. Since I tend to be a perfectionist, I feel like things are never done, that I could always do better if I just had more time. It's hard for me to do less than my best, or to not succeed at something. I remind myself that sometimes, things just need to be "good enough." I also tell myself that the most important thing for Raccoon is to do whatever I can right now, instead of waiting to do something better later, or maybe never.

In Glen Doman's books, he recommends 9 to 15 one minute sessions daily in reading, math, and encyclopedic knowledge with breaks in between each session. This doesn't work for us. Raccoon let me know with his behavior that it was way too much. And there was no way I could keep myself organized like that and have the materials in the right place when he was in the right mood. So Raccoon and I do only two or three activity times (morning, afternoon, and evening for about 10-20 min each) or sometimes none at all. Now that we have a semi-routine going and I know that there will be good days, I don't feel so bad anymore about the crazy days. Also, now that we've been doing our semi-routine for about a month, he's begun asking for "numbers" and "words," so I think we have found a balance that we both enjoy. I read a reassuring blog entry about flashcards from "Right Brain Kids" that echoes some of these thoughts (that fewer sessions are also effective and more can be over-stimulating) along with presenting an interesting perspective on Einstein.

I do try follow most of Doman's golden rules as best I can, especially "Stop before your baby wants to stop." In the beginning, I would get carried away and want to do more than Raccoon was ready for. Lately though, it's gotten trickier because he often asks for more, especially math. At first I tried to make him wait as Doman suggests, but then he'd get mad and not want to see anything else. So now I do more the first three or four times he says it (or as long as my prepared material lasts), then we often wrestle-play at the end and I praise his effort (paying attention, listening, whatever was particularly good). If he asks for more after playing, then I run with it. Because of this, I try to have extra words, equations, and bits ready in case he's particularly interested that day. And if he's not, then I'm ready for the next time.

Since my ultimate goal is for Raccoon to love learning and for it to be fun, I design his program content around his interests. Although I'd prefer to spend our time on things he might see in school, he'd rather learn about construction machines, monsters, and clowns. I also now know far more about insects, spiders, and tools than I ever wanted to know. But the other day we saw a spider in its web at a friend's house, and Raccoon knew that it was a thorn spider. That was amazing to me, and he gets so excited when he can name things he sees in the real world (probably why he loves construction machines, we see them all the time in our city). Sometimes I try subjects I like, but if he's not interested we quickly abandon them for other pursuits. One note about this, before babies can move, you have a captive audience, so then is the time (0-7 months or so) when you can do whatever subjects you want for bits, as long as you go quickly and happily, and they'll probably enjoy it.

Another mother who went to the week long course, How to Multiply Your Baby's Intelligence (so jealous!) and blogged about it (but then never updated how she used the info at home!?), said something like, "What they taught us was not a recipe, but a lifestyle." I have also begun to think of my Christianity in a similar way - not a recipe for certain behavior, but a relationship with Jesus. So to broaden things out a little, this whole adventure is about a lifestyle of learning and my family's relationships with Jesus, each other, and the world.

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