Monday, October 29, 2012

Kindergarten Readiness

Below is a copy of the World Book preschool list with Raccoon's incomplete tasks in red and my notes. I first saw the list mentioned here. The details are below, but they pretty much confirm what I already knew. The areas we need to work on the most are fine motor skills and social-emotional development (especially separation anxiety and interactions with others). I occasionally look at lists like this to see if there are any gaps we can gently work on, and to know where we are headed. But in the end, it's just a guide, and my son is an amazing gift, no matter what he can or cannot do.

Colors and Shapes
 * Copies shapes.

 * Counts orally through 10. (can but likes to start at 5)
 * Counts objects in one-to-one correspondence. (can for 3 or 4, then goes out of order)

Reading Readiness
 * Pronounces own last name (gives it when prompted - not yet)
 * Tells the meaning of words heard in story (not sure, he does ask what unfamiliar words mean)
 * Identifies own first name in manuscript.
 * Prints own first name.

 * Knows age and birthday.

Motor Skills
 * Is able to alternate feet walking down stairs (up yes, down not sure).
 * Is able to march (not sure but I think so)
 * Is able to stand on one foot for 5-10 seconds.
 * Able to button a garment.
 * Draws and colors beyond a simple scribble.
 * Controls pencil and crayon well.
 * Cuts simple shapes.
 * Handles scissors well.
 * Able to copy simple shapes.

Social-Emotional Development
* Can be away from parents or primary care givers for 2-3 hours without being upset (not sure, never tried)
 * Takes care of toilet needs independently (can, doesn't always choose to)
 * Is not afraid to go to school (not sure)
 * Knows full name.
 * Dresses self (can undress completely, putting shirt and socks on still hard)
 * Crosses residential street safely (not alone)
 * Asks to go to school.
 * Knows parents' names (first yes, last no)
 * Knows home address.
 * Knows home phone number.
 * Enters into casual conversation (at times)
 * Maintains self-control.
 * Gets along well with other children (at times)
 * Plays with other children (at times)
 * Recognizes authority (at times)
 * Shares with others (at times)
 * Talks easily.
 * Likes teachers.
 * Meets visitors without shyness.
* Able to stay on task.
 * Able to work independently.

I also found this list - 71 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Kindergarten - and we still have quite a ways to go, but there is plenty of time. My "baby" is just 36 months old. :)


Saturday, October 27, 2012

MTR - October 2012

Raccoon does not like having his picture taken. I am glad that I at least have more pictures of him now that I am taking them for Tot School and now Moments to Remember. He currently tolerates the camera as long as it doesn't flash in his face and I don't take more than a couple at a time. Capturing a smile on camera is impossible at this point, so I do some video now and then when he is playing happily, but even that can be a challenge.
Recently, I was looking through our pictures and noticed that although there are some of Raccoon in the last few years, there are very few of him and me together. My husband also avoids the camera, so any picture taking is up to me. This is my first attempt at taking a picture of us reading together, something we do often.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Musings - More About Us

We didn't do Tot School this week since we have visitors and our rhythm of life has been different. Instead, I thought I'd write about some different things that have been on my mind. We've been doing Tot School officially for a little over a month now, even though I've tried to incorporate fun learning activities into Raccoon's schedule since he was a baby. I think a little reflection at this point is good, especially if our Tot School eventually turns into homeschooling for K and up.

* I am getting a better sense for what will flow in and out of our play, and I like that. I'm also figuring out how to choose activities that I'll actually put together, versus other ones that seem like good ideas but I'll never get around to doing.

* My current goal is to expose Raccoon to new information and to have fun together at the same time. He's never been fond of adult-led activities, so I'm not sure how that will work out in the future with his schooling, but for now it's still okay.

* I saw this post on learning styles and at this point, Raccoon falls into the visual/spatial, kinesthetic, logical/mathematical (some), and interpersonal categories. It'll be interesting to see which style dominates as he gets older. And I have to add, could this BE any different than me!? I am strongest in verbal/linguistic and intrapersonal. Ha ha. That explains.... a lot. It also reinforces my doubts of school being a good fit for him in the younger grades, when his self-control will probably not have caught up to his raccoon-ness.

Other thoughts on how I do Tot School in particular:

* A friend of mine saw my blog and asked me how long we spend on each activity. I think she envisioned Raccoon nicely working on things all morning, or something. Ha ha... um, no. Our activities last between 1-5 minutes usually, then he's off to something else. So even if I have 20 pictures, we've probably done 60 min of activities spread out through the day, tops.

*Sometimes on other blogs I see the comment that their son or daughter "worked on it for a long time" and I'm curious how long that actually is. The longest Raccoon and I ever spend on anything is about 20 minutes if he's super engaged and the task is fairly open-ended. As I've mentioned before, he does not like repetition. This affects the things I choose for him because I don't want to spend a long time prepping activities that he'll be through in 1 minute, nor do I want to create elaborate materials that he'll be interested in once, then never touch again.

* Partly to solve the above-mentioned problem, I have started to pass on some of our activities to two of Raccoon's cousins who are a little older than he is. Especially things like the matching activities, tracing sheets, mini-books, etc. They are primarily Spanish speakers, so although the level of the activity is a little low for them, I'm hoping their mom uses it to help reinforce their English. We'll see how it goes, but I feel less wasteful if I am at least passing on the things Raccoon is only going to do once.

* Which leads to... is it a waste of paper/my time if he's speeding through these activities once? I  have pondered this, and I think that they are valuable in moderation, because it does expose him to new things. He often suprises me when he does choose to do something I've offered before with no luck.

* How I pick themes - if it bores me, it's probably not going to interest Raccoon either.

* When do we do Tot School? I am not a morning person, so the earliest we ever start is around 10 am. I like to just have stuff ready so that we can do things whenever we have time, whether it's in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The most we ever do is about 30 minutes at a time.

I'm always curious about what others do and how things work, so if you have a "how we do things" post, leave me a link and I'd love to read it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekly Review - Fall

Raccoon is 36 months
Here's a peek at our Tot School this week. It's been our first full week in awhile, so there are lots of pictures. Mostly the really long posts are for me because I know that when the baby comes in 15 weeks (end of January), everything will be different. I want to remember this time, as crazy as it is sometimes.
I was a little late putting our board together for this week, so we only did it twice. Raccoon's favorite part is the person, (George Washington Carver this week) and the nursery rhyme which we act out. The other things are a spooky maze, along with the verse and "I Can" page from Raising Rock Star Preschool Ii, and a song about George Washington Carver from Scholastic's Famous Americans.
These are magnets from a Melissa & Doug calendar, but Raccoon enjoys playing with them on the fridge.

I saw this idea for a masking tape painting and thought Raccoon would like it. The only crafts he's interested in right now are ones that involve something spooky.

I tried to take the tape off after the paint had dried, but it stuck to the construction paper too much, so I ended up leaving it on. I helped Raccoon with the face on his monster, the spider hanging from the ceiling, the black around the edges of the house, and the orange duck footprints on the left. He called the big black blob a "scary shadow."

This shadow matching activity is from this Fall Fun Learning Pack.

I saw the idea of matching with pipe cleaners here (about halfway through her post).

Raccoon is very interested in maps, and here we put together a museum map with exhibits, then Bugs Bunny took a tour with Raccoon as his silly guide.

This is my version of a noodle sensory bin (I got the idea here). I thought Raccoon would like sorting out the red noodles and then we could make another "bloody" pasta skeleton, but he decided that wanted to keep all of the colors together. The chopsticks ended up being too frustrating for him, but he liked scooping the noodles into the tin with the measuring cup.

I think Raccoon's favorite part was helping me to put the noodles into two jars when it was time to put them away.

Raccoon's Abuela let him play with her button collection, which he promptly declared was his "treasure" and insisted we put it into a "chest." He carried it around all afternoon and even fell asleep holding it tightly.  

Once his treasure was safely packed into the chest, he wanted to dress up in all his pirate gear.

And once the dressing up starts, Spiderman is sure to follow! He just got the mittens and Spidey hat from his Grama and he was excited to finally have the complete costume, right down to his Spiderman slippers.

Raccoon enjoyed putting leaves on this "tree," and we talked about what happens to leaves during the different seasons. We only have wet and dry season where we live, so it was a good opportunity for us to discuss the other four seasons found further north. I got the idea for the box with holes here, then I added leaves from the Fall Fun Learning Pack to go with our theme. (From here on, the pictures are all from my iPad; sorry for the low quality.)
After Raccoon put them in randomly, the leaves fell off the tree for fall, then in the spring they grew back. I asked him to pass me a certain size (small, medium or large) and I put them in order by height.
Right now, Raccon is definitely stronger in verbal ability than math, so I'm always on the lookout for hands-on number activities. I saw this block idea here, although I only did 1-5. After he put them in order, my fingers walked up the stairs and jumped off the tallest stack. He added the chip can because he wanted a bigger jump.
We did the classic baking soda and vinegar "volcano." Raccoon loved squirting the vinegar into the medicine cup and watching it fizz. He asked if it was soda, but tasted and smelled it to disprove his hypothesis. :)
Raccoon is going through a sorting phase right now, so we organized his play food into groups before he went shopping one morning. We did bread/carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, meat/protein, dishes, and a desert section. He decided to start shopping in the desert section first.
Raccoon knows all the basic colors, so I made up an activity for him awhile ago with alternate color words from here (I thought the pdf came with word cards like pictured on the front, but it doesn't). My printer is having another off week so I colored them by hand. The matching part is deciding whether it is the left pair of words or the right.
I got the idea here for matching words to a verse, but we ended up just putting the cut-out verse together on his corkboard. The verse is Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," from RRSP Ii.
Of course, once we got the corkboard out, we had to work on our skeleton and mummy monsters too.
As soon as I read about hammering golf tees into pumpkins, I knew Raccoon would be interested. We don't have pumpkins here or golf tees, so we used a watermelon and real nails instead. Raccoon has loved any kind of tool since he was about one, and he did all the hammering himself.

We called the nails "hair" and then I carved a face into the watermelon per his instructions.

At the end of the week, I saw him doing this on his table and he told me, "I'm making a game for you, Mama." I asked him, "How do we play?" He replied, "With water" (the napkins under the noodles are soaking wet).
It turned into more of a stack-the-fruit game (granadilla and pitahaya if you're wondering what those are). We also made the granadilla into an impromptu "pumpkin" with a noodle face. Afterwards I had to set the noodles in the sun to dry them out, but I like that Raccoon has fun playing with me enough to want to make up more games. Sometimes he gets out his school stuff and tells his stuffed animals that he has "surprises" for them. I love that he thinks learning is joyous and playful.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekly Review - Miscellaneous

Raccoon is 36 months
This is a very long post, sorry! I didn't think we did much for Tot School until I started looking through my pictures. We did something a little different this week. I didn't have a particular theme, but Raccoon watched several videos on YouTube and then wanted to do activities based on them.

When he watched Be My Valentine from the Richard Scarry's Busytown series (very late at night I confess) he jumped off the couch and told me he wanted to make a valentine for Hilda the hippo so that she wouldn't be sad. I had to support such noble intentions and we got out his "arting stuff" as he calls it.

The moose stood in for Hilda since we don't have a stuffed hippopotamus. Satisfied that his valentine and cutouts made her feel better, Raccoon headed off to bed.
Another day we watched We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, and went on our own bear hunt in the park, properly armed of course. Raccoon had no intentions of running away from the bear since he wants to be a hunter like his grandfather.
After watching Curious George's Mulch Ado About Nothing (in Spanish), Raccoon decided he wanted to make some compost too. We put in a banana peel, onion skins, grape stems, and an apple core in his bucket, then Raccoon decided that he wanted to add some water and dirt too. He was disappointed that it didn't smell bad right away like Curious George's compost. I left it outside and he checks on it daily to see if it's decomposed (and stinky!).
We also did a few organized activities, continuing with our spooky theme from last week. You have to check out how one of my favorite sensory blogs turned this pumpkin face page into a magnetic matching activity, brilliant! I used the same idea for the shadow matching activity from this Pre-K Pack. I especially like her recommendation of cutting up advertising magnets, since I can't get plain magnetic strips where I live.

After we did the haunted house, for the first time my son asked if I had more games like this one, so I let my son play with the pumpkin cutouts and matching sheet before I did the magnets. After matching everything correctly, he made up his own game using both sets. Later when he saw that I’d glued the magnets onto the pumpkins, he told me, “We already did that, Mama!” Ah, my son, the king of no-repetition.

Another big event this week (for me, silly mama) is that Raccoon did his first maze. He's done them on his iPad before, but never really seemed to get the concept on paper. I thought he might like the bat and haunted house on this maze so I printed off one. To my complete surprise, he not only got the idea but wanted to do it several times, so I printed off a new one to put in a protector sheet.

Although we're still have printer problems (sigh), I finally did do some of the landform activities I'd planned a few weeks ago. This is him jumping on our couch in excitement, holding his new "map" and a pillow. It's a great landform poster, and the pdf includes the landform mini-books (pictured below) that I used as well. I bought it during one of Scholastic's pdf dollar deals. Sorry, my iPad camera has no idea how to focus on my bundle of energy.

Next he decided that we needed to go on an expedition, and these were the provisions that he wanted to take along - his battle axe, his current best friend "Cheetah," the map, his laptop, and Melissa & Doug's Noah's ark.

Then we made him a boat (a plastic toy box with a rope tied around it for me to pull) for the expedition. Thank goodness we have tile floors. Captain Raccoon would consult his map and tell me where to go. Our couches were plateaus, the floor was the ocean/river, one corner of the room was a cave, etc. And as with all Raccoon activities, the faster he arrived the better!

Later in the week (when I finally finished putting together all of the mini-books), he pretended to be a teacher and "read" or showed each of them to his class of plastic animals.

But mostly this week we just played with toys we have around the house. One of his recent favorites is this set of magnets. I bought them at a yard sale awhile ago and he likes to "go fishing' with them. He builds himself a pole and I put together some shapes (2D and 3D) for him to "catch." Or we make an aquarium with starfish (below), a zoo with centipedes, or whatever. We usually end by trying to use all of them to make one big cage.

We got out his marble run this week as well, which I finally managed to assemble so that it didn't constantly fall apart. This is fun, but sometimes we both get frustrated with it coming apart before we actually get to use it. It's a great lesson in patience (for both of us!) and in "being gentle." This day we were quite successful though and played with it for maybe a half an hour or so.

His favorite toys are actually his plastic animal/bug collection. We have a large basket full of dinosaurs, zoo animals, marine animals, insects, spiders, etc. and he plays with them again and again. I could write a special post just on all of the uses we've found for his plastic animals (habitats, sorting, classifying, carnivores/herbivores, predators/prey/food chains, classmates, spectators, good/bad guys, etc.). These are some of his newest additions, a birthday present from me to him.

And of course there was lots of pretend play! Here's builder Raccoon making a house.

Building Blocks - I made the basic monster and Raccoon decorated it with fences, a giraffe hat, people, plants, etc.

Adding some "thorns" to Mouse's tail.
He doesn't like clipping clothespins to cards, but he loved doing this!



We didn't do any Raising Rock Star Preschool this week and I hope to resume this next week with the letter Ii.

The End!  :)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weekly Review - Sensory & Spooky

Raccoon is 35 months

I wasn't going to do anything special for Tot School this week since our printer was broken again, but one day Raccoon got out his notebook, lined his pencils up carefully, and told all of his stuffed friends, "I can't play, I'm going to do homework." I decided to reconsider and instead of focusing on landforms, I switched to a week of sensory play.

It was a good reason to finally get around to organizing the different materials I have for sensory bins. I keep one bin of just plain rice (the one he's playing with below), and I sorted our other things (pistachio shells, rocks, beads, salt, etc) into some miscellaneous plastic containers. I have a slotted metal ladle that is perfect for this because the rice falls through but it catches everything else, saving me a lot of time. This kind of play holds Raccoon's attention the longest (15 - 30 min) out of any of the activities we do.

For Raccoon's 3rd birthday (this month!) my mom sent him a whole bunch of shells. We visited a friend awhile ago whose son had a shell collection and Raccoon was fascinated, so I asked my mom if she'd be willing to give us some of her extras. She sent two large containers, way to go, Mom!

Raccoon had a great time burying them in the "sand" (rice box), along with using them to dig and pour. It was nice to be able to pull out just my rice box and add the shells to it. If we ever make it to the beach, I hope to bring back some real sand to add to our sensory collection.

What would a sensory week be without some good old-fashioned water play! Raccoon watered all of the plants on the patio (and our dogs), then decided to water himself.
Raccoon loves to make what he calls "pancakes" out of play doh. I roll them out, then we stamp them together and make a great big pile. I thought I would make our play doh time a little more "educational," so I started stamping the letters beside the animals. Raccoon was not pleased and refused to play until I put the letters away. Ha ha and oh well. What you can't tell from the picture is that we're also listening/watching one of Andre Rieu's concerts on DVD. 

Later in the week I decided to add some spooky activities to our playtime. Since it's just him and me at home, we can indulge in his love of scary things without making it too terrifying. Sometimes I tell him stories about a little boy named Peter who has a friend named Pepe, a skeleton who is covered in red paint that others think is blood (Peter helps fix Pepe when the paint washes off). I saw the idea for a pasta skeleton and told Raccoon we were going to make Pepe. I felt excited that Raccoon was into an art activity involving fine motor skills and following directions. He glued on the pasta arms and legs, then I finished placing the rest because he was impatient to start painting with "blood."

Then we did handprints  - one for me and one for Grama.

At first I had to sit by with a napkin handy to wipe the paint off his hands, then Raccoon decided to become a scary skeleton and he painted himself.

The next day as soon as he got up we started working on his "scary house." He painted some "blood" on the outside, then sat down to make an egg carton bat to hang on the inside.

After we hung the bats inside, Raccoon's stuffed friends took turns going inside and screaming in terror. We may continue working on his house next week as all of the spooky activities were a big hit.