Friday, May 31, 2013

Sneaky Tummy Time

Raccoon did not like being on his tummy, but Robin doesn't mind. With both, I've found ways to sneak in extra tummy time.

1) Flat on the floor - definitely the least popular and the most work for the baby. Nothing sneaky about this option.

2) Propped up on a pillow - When they're little, put the baby in a kneeling position with arms hanging over the pillow edge.

3) On his/her tummy on my chest - I recline against pillows, decreasing the angle as my baby gets

4) On a large ball - put baby on his/her tummy (I also use a blanket or towel to keep them from slipping) and roll very slowly forward, backward, left, and right. Hold the baby securely at all times.

5) Hold the baby securely with both hands and fly them through the air on his/her belly (I put my arm under from tummy to chest, then put my other arm across the chest). Then "fly" them through the house this way. Once they're less wobbly, it's a great way to chase older siblings. We call it "Super Baby."

6) Gently rolling your baby over (first one way then the other), gives them some brief tummy time in the middle.

7) Make it into play. I figure that the more fun it is for them, the longer it will last.

Disclaimer: Use your own judgment about what's best and safest for your baby.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Life as a Baby in Celosia

As with most things in the land of Celosia, I'm not talking about anything remotely "schoolish" for her. At the beginning, almost everything in life helps a baby learn. But I am a fan of enrichment, so what has Robin been up to?

In Glenn Doman's book, How Smart is Your Baby? (horrible title, good book, it is available at most libraries), there are different activities to do with your baby from birth onward. I like the initial red stage activities, I've pretty much skipped the orange stage with both of my kids, and now Robin is mostly ready for the yellow stage. Find some amazing checklists here to help you stay organized and for lots of other tips, visit DomanMom's blog.

I'm just going to jump in where we are right now. Disclaimer: I don't follow the program exactly, but it does help me to be mindful throughout the day about how I can play with Robin and what to include in her environment. So what does the yellow stage look like?

1) Touching lots of different and contrasting textures
2) Learning about objects (mostly fruit) through her five senses - taste, smell, texture, seeing the real thing, a picture of it, the written word, and hearing me say its name.
3) Seeing bits of intelligence every day (large, simple, clear pictures, one per 10 in x 10 in card)
4) Balance activities - tons of fun and both my kids have enjoyed these tremendously.

General ideas from the program I also like (paraphrased by me):

1) Keep baby in the least restrictive environment possible - sitting on my lap vs. sitting in a chair
2) Lots and lots of belly time - get the whole family on the floor with the baby often, or raise the baby up to your level (belly on bed and you on the floor so heads are level)
3) The main idea is purposeful interaction to help develop awareness, mobility, and language.
4) Let the baby move, move, move!

It can be very intimidating at first, but just pick something to add to your baby's life. You don't have to do the whole thing to be successful. Even if it just encourages you to talk to your baby more, look at books together, go on walks, etc, then you're doing a great job. With Raccoon I'd always feel guilty, like I wasn't doing enough, but even from the little I did he benefited. I'm not organized enough to be a full Doman mom, but the important thing is that we like what I do.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Coming out of the Doman Closet

I am a Doman mom. Arg, I just jumped out of the flashcard closet, let me back in, let me back in! Before the bashing begins, I have to say a few things in my defense. If you have no idea what I'm talking about... all the better for me. :)

1) Bits of intelligence are really quite a bit more than flashcards. It's more like the illustrations from a picture book. I think it's the "drill and kill" idea (which I've mentioned before here and here) that people object to, more than the actual material itself.

2) Raccoon LOVED doing bits with me, up until he was about 7 months old and crawling all over.

3) The whole program has a huge emphasis on mobility, which has always worked well in our family.

4) JOY. It's all about joyful learning. If it's not fun, stop it and do something different.

5) I also firmly believe that it works for some and doesn't for others, so the best thing for the child is to have a happy mother who enjoys being with her children (most of the time, ha ha). If it's stressing you out, then it's not a good thing in real life no matter how much it looks great on paper.

6) There seems to be a double standard out there. If your child is born with known special needs, then you are encouraged to do every type of available therapy to help them "catch up." But if they are born normal (as far as you know), then for some, any type of early learning is considered forced and bad. For me, the goal is to help my well children be as well as they can be.

Sample Bits of Intelligence

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Day of Preschool

This may seem like an odd post now that I am more convinced than ever that we will homeschool Raccoon for kindergarten. But my husband and I have officially decided to return to the country from whence we came, so we have a year to live it up in the U.S., Lord willing.

I've mentioned before that my mom teaches preschool and she's awesome. I saw the curriculum she has planned for this year, and folks, it's amazing. I want the best learning experiences possible for Raccoon, and I believe that this one is it for now. And as the Celosia Manifesto says (coming soon!!), "If it's not working, stop." Which is exactly what we'll do if it doesn't turn out to be a good thing after all.

But I'm pretty sure that he'll love it. And it's in the afternoon. As anyone who reads here knows, that is one of my selfish reasons to homeschool, no early mornings for this family. Sorry dear hubby (our one morning person).

Anyway, the point of this post is to share that today Raccoon, Robin, and I will be spending the afternoon at his school. With his high anxiety, the more we can talk about things ahead of time and prepare, the better off we are (most of the time). Having a visual for the both of us is best, so off we go today into the world of preschool. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Letting Go

No matter how good something might seem, it may just not work for your family. I think this is especially true for homeschooling.

"...we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions." Alain de Botton

I am not going to do typical sit-down school with my son. I have known this for awhile, but somehow I keep coming back to it. I need to accept it, the sooner the better, and find instead what will work for us. As a little girl, I would have loved for someone to supply me with endless, increasingly difficult workbooks on various topics which I would have then happily completed. (By upper elementary, not so much. All I wanted to do at that point was read.)

Although it may seem like a trivial thing, I came to this realization (again) about our "school" by reading a post about a program called Reading Eggs (to which I'm not affiliated in any way). It sounds like a wonderful program and has worked for many families whose blogs I read. It would have worked for me as a child, for sure. But my son may never enjoy sitting down at the computer to complete a lesson, no matter how engaging it is designed to be. And definitely not now.

This isn't a bad thing, and at some point in his development there will be a need for seatwork and computer programs, but I have to accept that for now at least, this isn't us.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Museum of the Month

It's been a long time since I've done one of these posts, but hopefully there will be more in the future. There are tons of interesting places to go near our new home. This month's was the KidsQuest Children's Museum. I got free passes through our local library, hooray!

I chose to go right at noon, thinking that there wouldn't be many children there, but I was wrong. It was very crowded and Raccoon soon felt anxious and overwhelmed. Robin was not happy either (see her bored face), but she fell asleep shortly after we arrived.

What Raccoon did enjoy - as much as he could on sensory overload - were the various water tables. He spent the most time connecting various pipes, along with getting thoroughly wet.

We have been to two other children's museums in Maine, but neither one was as busy as this one (at least while we were there). It makes me a little sad that I thought it would be fun, but it mostly just ended up being stressful for all of us. When things are going well at home, or at least whatever is our normal, sometimes I forget what life is like outside our safe zone. It just reminded me that I am still a special needs mommy.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More with Less

"This was a Montessori lesson for me! Children thrive with less choice and they will be creative and engage themselves with less!" - Wildflower Ramblings

About a month before we moved, I started sorting Raccoon's toys. At first I just weeded out the ones I knew he wouldn't miss. Next, I took out the ones he only played with occasionally. Finally I packed up, sold, or gave away all of his toys except for his costumes, weapons, and his plastic animals. I was amazed that he didn't miss nor ask for any of his other toys. There was one day towards the end when he did want something, but when I told him it was packed, that was that (very unusual for my tenacious son!). I told my husband that we should have gotten rid of the extra toys much sooner. Our house was cleaner and Raccoon's creative play was just as vivid as ever. I never would have imagined that the above statement was true unless I had seen it for myself.

We're Back

Hello! Life has been chaotic in Celosia, so we haven't been doing much school. We have successfully moved countries and are settling into our new house. Thanks to my parents and their church, our home has a fully equipped playroom. There are shelves and workspaces enough to satisfy any Tot School mom, I dare say!

These are the things that I want to focus on for May and June:

1) Books
2) Imaginary Play
3) Outside Time

1) Belly Time
2) Sitting Time (currently propped up by pillows)
3) Bits (idea from How Smart Is Your Baby)
4) Books (simple pictures with high contrast, like Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear...)
5) Outside Time

I opened up the cupboard today and found play-doh supplies galore!
"Batman" is putting stickers on paper attached to an easel in our new kitchen.
(I now own a child-size easel! I am so excited!!)

Raccoon has never liked trains or cars much, but he enjoyed this wooden set.
(This is in our new playroom, there is a whole wall of shelves!)

Here's Robin working on some sitting time and playing with her slippers.
Raccoon is 3.5 years old and Robin is 3 months old.