Friday, November 30, 2012

MTR - November 2012

My moments to remember are a mix of Tot School and family times, since Raccoon is still so young that we don't spend very much time "in school."

Again, not the greatest picture, but a good memory. Raccoon enjoyed doing this sticker activity so much that he wanted to continue it later with his dad.

First Raccoon wanted to paint his face like an Indian, then we went to the park for a picnic. We took along his castle tent, thanks Grampa!

This may seem like an ordinary, everyday event, but in our house with Raccoon, it is not. I haven't talked much here about his sensory issues since I cover that more on my home blog (under the label SPD), but any type of washing is very stressful for all of us. This day, though, I heard water running in the kitchen and walked in to find that Raccoon had dragged a chair in, and was washing his hands with soap! all by himself. A huge moment for us.
 Family time at one of our favorite parks. He loves racing down the hills on the bike path. There's a thin rope attached to his steering wheel and Daddy helps pull him up again.

Raccoon asked to cook with me for the first time.

"The Gang" - Raccoon and some of his cousins at a recent family gathering.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Socialization Question

This has been on my mind lately, with several friends and family making comments about Raccoon needing time to play with "friends." He tends to be a bit antisocial or veeeeery slow to warm up. Other children, especially if they are younger than him, are often too touchy, too much in his space, and too unpredictable for him to play comfortably.

With Raccoon's sensory issues and food allergies, I wouldn't even really consider sending him to some sort of program, except that he does seem to want to be around other children at times. Last week he came home crying from the park because some older children wouldn't play with him. Where we live, the majority of children are in daycare/preschool from 1+ years old, so it is hard for us to consistently find other playmates. Of course I'm fun, but after watching him with his cousins, I feel like just being at home with me isn't enough. For now, I'm keeping the matter in prayer and talking with my husband about it. I recently received this in a newsletter I subscribe to, and although it does not seem based on research, it does echo some of my questions.

Your Questions About Social Growth

Don't I have to send my small child to preschool or daycare for socialization?

One of the great modern myths is that children need other children to become "socialized." The exact opposite is true. The notion that little children learn how to be civilized from being with each other has little to recommend it. What can a three-year-old teach another three-year-old? Answer: How to behave like a three-year-old.

When we place tiny children together, the result is chaos. If one child is a biter, then other children get bitten and learn that biting may be useful in self-defense. Generally, this is not the kind of social idea that mothers want their children to have.

If I don't send my child to kindergarten, how will they learn to share with other children?

Sometimes mothers are convinced to put their child with other children in what are called "play groups" or "kindergarten" because mother wants her child to learn to share. Mother believes that this cannot be learned at home from her. Sharing is an admirable and worthwhile objective. But two and three-year-olds are not ready to share anything. Instead, they defend their belongings against any and all comers. The "play group" only stays civilized if each mother stands right next to her child and protects that child from all the other children in the group. "Sharing" occurs only when mother pries the beloved toy truck out of her child's grasp and hands it to another child, who then gets a death grip on the truck until his mother says that he has "shared" the truck for long enough and it is pried out of his grasp to be returned to its little, very anxious owner.

If the above scene takes place without a mother with each child, then the result is much worse. Without mother at his side, the child will simply fight to keep his toy or be overpowered by a bigger, more aggressive child. He either learns to fight or to flee. Is this socialization?

Where can my child best learn proper behavior?

Little children do not need other little children to become socialized - they need mother and father. Civilized behavior is learned at home from mother and father. Children learn right from wrong from mother and father and grandmother and grandfather, or they do not learn it at all. The longer a small child spends with his mother each day, the more civilized he will be. The less time he spends with mother each day, the less civilized he will be.

Arrange for your child to spend more time with you every day and less time with other little children. Be consistent, fair, and honest in all your interactions with your child. In a few months you will have a more mature, kind, and helpful child, but, even better, you will be spending precious time with a wonderful companion who will love and support you for the rest of your life.

from the IAHP Newsletter, November 2012, Issue 34  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Alphabet

I was looking at a post Carisa did over at her blog 1+1+1=1 on her set of Animal ABCs. Raccoon so far has not been interested in anything to do with the alphabet, but looking at these, I am going to give it a try. I know that a letter a week is a very common preschool model, and it would give some additional predictability to my weekly planning. I anticipate continuing with Tot School through December and January, then taking a break in February when the new baby comes. My mom is sending me material to make an alphabet book as well, so I will probably combine the two.

I'm not sure how quickly we'll find a new routine after the baby, so I'd really like to enjoy these next two months with Raccoon. I may look at sending him to preschool a few mornings a week next year, again, depending on what things are like with the baby, but I feel torn. Hopefully she will be an easy baby and we will be able to continue to do some things still until June, when we'll be travelling to see family (Lord willing).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Museum of the Month

I haven't done one of these posts in awhile since we haven't really gone anywhere new. But last week we went to an exhibit called "Our Body." It was various skeleton and organ combinations done by medical students at a local university. My husband was grossed out since they were real dissected bodies, but Raccoon and I were fascinated. We even found a skeleton with painted blood vessels, so the exhibit became Pepe and his family. :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekly Review - Thanksgiving

Raccoon is 37 months
I am 30 weeks pregnant and struggling with fatigue, so we took things easy with Tot School and only loosely followed our Thanksgiving/math theme.

This was our board for the week. We focused on Raising Rock Star Preschool Letter Ff. I only do an abbreviated version (the verse, the letter, the word cards, and the book) since Raccoon isn't interested in the other activities yet. Our "map" was the water cycle, our person was Thomas Edison, our rhyme was The Queen of Hearts, and below the letter F, I put a song about November.

I've written before about how much Raccoon likes me to make up stories for him. I saw this suggestion for story cubes, and knew it would be the perfect use for our accumulating RRSP word cards. I have a ziplock bag with all the cards in it, with the newest ones in the front. The stories come out a little crazy since I just incorporate whichever card is next, but Raccoon likes them and I show him the cards as I tell the story. After I tell him a specific letter story, "F" this week, then I shuffle the cards and tell him a longer story with various letters. It's a great game for our long car ride (1 hr+) to church every week.

For example, "Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Peter. He had a flag in his room, but one day he discovered that a flamingo had stolen it! He didn't have any shoes on his feet, so he asked his fish, "Have you seen my shoes?" "No," said the fish, "but I think the frog knows where they are." He asked the frog about his shoes, and the frog said, "They're behind the fan." So he put on his shoes and followed the trail of feathers the flamingo had left behind. When he discovered the flamingo holding his flag, he poked him with a fork and the flamingo cried. "Don't hurt me," the flamingo said. "I just took your flag because I'm so cold and need a blanket." "I'm sorry I poked you," said Peter. "Don't cry. I'll make you a fire to keep you warm." So the flamingo gave Peter back his flag and Peter built him a fire.

I wrote about not being a mathy mom (here and here are two moms who are), so I decided to try more number/logic activities this week. Sorry that the picture isn't very good. In each of the three small containers I put a different number of objects (one rock, two stones, four shells). I asked Raccoon to guess what was inside and how many things there were. Then we lined them up with the tube noodles on the hanger (one-to-one correspondence). I thought we could use the noodles on the hanger as a type of homemade abacus, but Raccoon wasn't really interested.

Puffy paint! I made up one batch and put it in some empty glue bottles that I'd saved.
As usual, Raccoon wasn't satisfied with the activity as is and made up his own "game." He added water and decided it was for painting cups. I'm glad I decided to have him paint on a cookie sheet!
When we first started doing crafts, I was a little surprised that Raccoon didn't enjoy cutting more. I saw that Carisa at Tot School has used these scissors with her son and daughter, so I got a pair for Raccoon. I was disappointed when I saw them at first, having expected something more than just the small spring in the middle, but to my amazement, they were just what he needed. He used to open and close scissors with both hands, but after just a few times with this new pair, he can now use any scissors in our house.
We had to introduce a new rule - scissors are only for paper. In his excitement, he wanted to try his scissor skills out on our couch, his clothing, headphone wires...
TP bowling! I got the idea from this post. Raccoon did it a few times, but wasn't as interested as I thought he would be.
He decided that he wanted to make "monsters" instead, and the TP rolls were the eyeballs. This one is on our kitchen floor, and he made several others in the living room.
Introducing Mousey, Raccoon's best friend since March. Being Thanksgiving week, we watched This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers. Afterwards I found some feathers I'd been given years ago and made Raccoon an Indian headdress. We were having a Goldilocks day, so he decided that Mousey should wear it instead.
Later he wanted to be Squanto and help the Pilgrims plant a garden, so he raided our vegetable basket and used our couch as his "dirt."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weekly Review - Crafts

Raccoon is 37 months
What with one thing and another, I didn't have a plan for Tot School this week, but Raccoon kept coming up with different craft ideas, so we ended up working on some fun projects.

We watched The Magic School Bus Gets Planted and afterwards Raccoon asked me to dress him up like a plant. I taped some cutout leaves on his sweatshirt first and he asked, "Mama, where's my stem?" So I guess he's learning something! This is his fierce face.

Raccoon found a small plastic coin at the park. On the way home, he kept talking about adding it to his pirate coins and painting them all different colors. I offered to draw some paper coins for him to paint, to which he happily agreed.

I was going to cut out the coins first, but after imagining the meltdown as he tried to hold them and paint them at the same time, I took an idea from my mom's preschool class and had him paint them first. Then I cut them out... such a good idea! He carried them around in a plastic bag for the rest of the day. Before bed he decided he wanted to add them to his piggy bank instead of to his pirate treasure.

Another day he decided he wanted to make snowmen, lots and lots of snowmen! I cut out the pieces and he glued them on. He decided some of the snowmen should be like Cyclops with only one eye.

After we were done, he told me what kind of mouth to give each one. I love the middle cyclops with her crooked head. He wanted her to have a mad mouth - she looks like a mom trying to get her little snowman to behave for a family picture. :) 

Most of our activities are done on the go, upside down, jumping around, or otherwise in motion. He wanted to make a train track out of his magnet set, the first time he's ever been interested in anything train-related. We've gone through lots of obsessions, but somehow missed the train one up until now.

My mom sent us these shapes (thank you Mom!). All you do is get them wet and they stick to the window. I imagine that it would work with any type of plastic cutouts. Often Raccoon just likes to stick them randomly on the window, but this time he asked to make clowns. The one he's working on is riding a unicycle.

I found some colored tube noodles at the grocery store and Raccoon enjoyed threading some of them onto some twine with a paperclip "needle."

It was pirate time again this week.... arrrrrrrr!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I couldn't resist the title. :)

But seriously, this link for mazes, which I found on Early Learning with Marta and Eaton, is one of the best things ever. Raccoon likes mazes, but I have trouble finding enough of them at the right level for his interest and fine motor skills (he needs really wide paths). Here I can make my own maze printables, from this...

to this!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Weekly Review - Science

Raccoon is 36 months

Raccoon and I are just starting to feel healthy again, but we enjoyed resuming Tot School this week. I decided to loosely call this week's theme "Science" although many of our activities aren't theme-related. Raccoon is funny because sometimes it doesn't seem like he's that interested in what we're doing, then when I don't plan anything, he asks me for more "new games." 

I signed up for a free trial of Science A-Z and loved it. During the 7 days, you get a certain number of downloads from their website. My favorite ones were the Science diagrams since Raccoon is such a visual learner. Above is their "Forest Food Web," which we looked at by itself first, then we added in matching animals from Raccoon's large collection.

I made a food chain for him and we played a game of who-eats-who. Raccoon decided that the snake should eat chips instead of mice.

We acted out a simple water cycle after looking at a diagram (he calls them maps), also from Science A-Z. I shined the flashlight on the water to represent evaporation, then squeezed water out of the sponge for precipitation. He tapped his fingers on the tin foil to make the sound of rain.
Next we played a game where each food chain thing had to find its beginning letter. Raccoon wanted to make sure his water "map" was in the picture too.


I printed off this Treasure Chest Munch Mat and we used some paper letters as "treasure." We talked only briefly about letter names and sounds since Raccoon is not really interested in the alphabet yet.

 I saw this sticker idea on Learners in Bloom and decided to try it. Raccon is not usually into following directions, but he did really well.

He seemed a little overwhelmed by the whole sheet at once, so I folded it in half, also making it easier for him to have it on his lap. We have not done anything with stickers in a long time, so he surprised me by peeling off the stickers himself (without getting frustrated, woohoo!).

After we finished the 1-5, I asked if he wanted to do more and flipped the paper over when he - surprisingly - said yes. We ran out of smiley faces so used some other little ones we had, but those he needed help with. He got a little sidetracked doing 6-10, so we started playing that the little people were hungry and each one wanted to eat a dot.

We do a lot of things with play doh. This week he enjoyed cutting up different shapes with a plastic knife.
Then he prepared me a balanced meal - fish, a croissant, a salad, and pineapple.
I decided to try this ruler spider web, since I'm always on the lookout for pen/paper things that Raccoon will enjoy without having a meltdown.* It's hard to tell in the picture, but a few days before he had poked holes in the paper with a nail. Here we are connecting the holes using the ruler.
I got this idea from my mom, a preschool teacher. She recommended squishing Fruit Loops, but with Raccoon's corn allergy, I decided that chocolate chips were safer. With the Fruit Loops, you can sort them by color, pulverize them, then use them in an art project. We just ate the chocolate. :)
I mentioned Raccoon's love of plastic animals before, and an activity that keeps him busy for quite a while (15-20 min for us) is sorting them into "families," or we sometimes call them zoo exhibits. He knows all their individual names, so we've moved on to larger categories such as amphibians, arachnids, reptiles, insects, crustaceans, felines, canines, etc.
And of course, we had lots of costume fun, another one of his favorite activities. This week's new addition was the Viking, although when I finished the hat, he thought it looked more like a cow. Oh well.
We also read two mini-books on the acorn life cycle and the seasons from a Lift & Learn Science pdf from one of Scholastic's dollar deals. One of the new things we've discovered are the Magic School Bus videos on YouTube, so this week he watched ones about the rainforest, plants, rot, and our sense of smell. I didn't get our board put together for this week, so we'll pick up with our condensed version of Raising Rock Stars Preschool next week.
*Further explanation of our meltdown struggles...
Raccoon is keenly observant and gets easily frustrated when his work doesn't look "right" to him. When it comes to any type of drawing/coloring/painting, his perfectionism is definitely an obstacle that I don't know how to work around. Most of my pictures are taken in the first 30 seconds of an activity because after that, a meltdown, for one reason or another, often happens. I try to model messing up and trying again, along with praising him for hard work and persevering, but it's definitely an area where we are struggling. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Early Exposure - Reading vs. Math

I overheard a dad saying that he thinks many kindergarteners arrive at school with little to no math exposure, even less than reading in some cases. In his opinion, it is because of this that most schools' math curriculum is very basic until 3rd grade, when differentiation and/or acceleration frequently starts. 

This really made me stop and think because it is true for Raccoon. I am more of a verbal than a mathy person, and this is definitely reflected in the activities that I choose for Tot School. Raccoon is growing up in a language-rich environment. He has just started to bring me things with words on them and ask me, "What does this say, Mama?" So I feel that reading will come naturally for him whenever he's ready. 

What would a math-rich environment look like? We cover the basics - counting, adding, subtraction, shapes, and patterns - but I have often wondered, what do mathy moms do and talk about with their children?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weekly Review - Miscellaneous

Raccoon is 36 months
It has been a light two weeks of Tot School for us since we had visitors for about 10 days and then Raccoon got sick. We mostly played with his favorites (play doh, marbles, dress-up, cooking, etc), but we did do a few new things as well.

We made a pizza restaurant and the customers asked for different size slices. We also did some basic adding (1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2). The pizzas orginally came from here, but I modified them to make them larger.
Sow bug observations - My lesson plan for the upcoming week has a science theme, but I couldn't resist doing this activity as soon as I saw it. This website, Science A-Z, is amazing. I saw it recommended on this blog and checked it out. The sow bug experiment is from the Animal booklet, one of their free samples. Although our South American sow bugs didn't curl up into balls when touched, we still had fun predicting their reactions.

This is an activity we did awhile ago, but I just found the picture. I put Raccoon's alphabet blocks on our printer/scanner and then had him match the blocks to the letters. He really enjoyed this. To make it easier the first time, I only gave him specific blocks for each word, but in the future I plan to have him pick the letters out of a larger set. Raccoon is not generally interested in any type of letter activities yet, but he does like matching, so this worked well for us.

I bought a complete Childcraft how and why library set from the 1950s at a yard sale awhile ago. Unfortunately, most of them got wet and moldy when our ceiling leaked into a closet, so I ended up tearing out the pages that I wanted and throwing the rest away. This is a hat and shoe matching activity that I cut up and glued onto individual index cards.

We added two new costumes to our collection this week - Musketeer and hunter. We stumbled across Mickey, Donald, and Goofy's The Three Musketeers on YouTube, and Raccoon liked it so much that he didn't even mind that the whole movie is in Portuguese. About halfway through, he insisted that I make him a musketeer outfit. I used a glue gun to attach the feather to an old hat of mine, and the top of a soda bottle on a stick for the rapier (Musketeer sword). Thankfully I was able to convince him that a pair of corduroys was better than cardboard pants!