|Matthew deciding to “write” an impromptu story yesterday afternoon.|
I know that I can expect this to happen to me a lot over the course of the next year, but last week it dawned on me that very soon Matthew will actually be in school. He’ll wake up everyday to ironed pants and a packed lunch and he’ll tackle the world a whole city away from my side. (Don’t let me get off on that though because I’ll never find my way back..) This means that I have less than a year and a half left with him all to myself.. Less than a year and a half to prepare him for life outside of my camera’s reach.
Since our Reading Eggs subscription expired at the beginning of the month, I’ve been really trying to give our activities more of an experience-based focus than an educational one. I want to make the most of our time together and at this point, teaching him stuff isn’t nearly the priority that just having fun exploring the world with him is.
We’ve deviated a lot from doing specific themes each week, which I have mixed feelings about. Sometimes being invested in a particular theme really got in the way of more spontaneous learning oppurtunities, which I hold in the highest regard. Then again, not having a schedule of themes to follow has definitely made it more difficult to keep a steady rhythm. I find there’s a lot of seesawing to how deep and for how long we delve into things. Sometimes I wish I were doing this more officially (purchasing an actual curriculum or something), but most of the time I’m content to remember that all of this is really just icing on the cake for him. He’s more than prepared for kindergarten right now and he’s definitely already assimilated any of the concepts he would have learned in preschool. We’re in a good place, where right now it’s cool for us to squander all the time in the world at a neighborhood park if that’s what we want to do instead of cut and paste worksheets. Then again, when we want to cut and paste worksheets, the opportunity to do it is always there too.
That being said, now that spring is here, and Scarlett’s simultaneously reaching an age where she can get a little out of the experiences I lay down for Matthew, I’ve decided to put together an actual list of the activities I want to carry into this next season. It’s not a schedule per se, but it’s a more put-together version of the routine we kind of fell into by chance when we navigated away from the schedule we used to have. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve come up with, broken down categorically for Spring ‘12. Yay!
We paint together at least a few times a week, always first thing in the morning. When I’m not writing, I paint before any of the kids wake up and when he wakes up, he paints next to me. We also use this time for unstructured crafts a few times a week, which means he picks a handful of supplies and just goes to town making whatever he wants without having to follow any specific instructions. (I like the way my internet-buddy Sarah put it: we should prize their creativity because it is theirs, not ours. Words well said.)
|We learned all about the origins of St. Patties |
Day this week (also, my birthday!). Matt's all
into Castles, so he really liked the legend of the
Blarney Stone. Here, we painted our own in the
colors of the Irish flag.
Matthew has an old guitar, a keyboard, a harmonica and a recorder that he plays with all the time without any instigation on my part. As far as I’m concerned, this is a plenty-good foundation for music at four. The only thing I really do here is borrow one CD from the library whenever we go, and try to incorporate a variety in the selection I make. His CD player is going almost as often as it’s not around here… The boy loves music.
We also have song and dance time with Scarlett. This is really just a fancy way of saying that we sing songs that have corresponding hand gestures or dance moves with Scarlett, but it’s good for Matthew because he gets to be in charge of what we sing and to feel like he’s making an impact on his little sis. (Precious, right?)
When the weather gets above 55, we’re (more or less) outside everyday rain or shine. We don’t get out as much as I’d like to in the winter, but we make up for it tenfold at the first sign of spring. We walk trails, visit a number of nearby parks, of course take the occasional zoo trip and ride bikes or skate through the neighborhood. Matthew always helps with the gardening, which we’ll be doing more often now, and everyday the neighborhood kids meet at our house between the time daycare/school lets out and dinner.
I used to really try to make little things like bug collecting and butterfly catching a priority so that he’d have this profound appreciation for the outdoors, but I’ve definitely learned that if you leave a four year old and his buddies to their own devices, they’ll do plenty of that stuff on their own, making it a better experience anyway. Sometimes we take our lessons outside, but as a rule of thumb we don’t turn outside “down time” into a bunch of lessons. I simply provide the space and let him and his friends do their own thing, offering a hand or a pertinent explanation when the situation calls. (For all the stuff I do with Matt, I also believe that children do a lot of important growing when they have the opportunity to be bored once in a while. I don’t want to monopolize his every waking moment.)
Oh yeah, we also attend Tot Skate Lesson on Tuesdays, but we end up doing it a lot less after the harsher winds of winter stop sucking the life out of everything that is awesome about being outside.
One short Bible story in the morning, from a book tailored specifically to three-year-olds. (Each story is only a page long. Morning prayers afterward.)
A few picture book stories throughout the day, both for Scarlett and Matthew.
A chapter or two from whatever novel we’re reading. (Currently: Pippi Longstocking.)
Poetry from our Shel Silverstein collection. I also try to collect different poems relating to whatever it is we’ve gotten interested in lately. Ideally I’d like him to know a wider variety of poets, but I also think it’s nice to have a favorite.
On that note, Matthew is also (kind of oddly) into having articles read to him now. A few weeks back Spencer told me to look up an article about something he heard going on over the radio that morning. (A lobster as big as a 3 year old -- for anyone who knows us personally you’ve probably already heard Matthew talk about it.) Ever since Matthew’s asked me to look up the article and read it to him like half a dozen times. Now, if I find something online or in a magazine I know he’ll think is cool, we’ll make time to read it.
Matthew reads one (level 1) easy reader aloud, start to finish.
(Or) we read a level 2 or even sometimes 3 together. I read a page, and then he reads it back to me himself.
Sight Word Bingo.
Theme word scavenger hunt.
Scholastic I Spy books: perfect because he has to read the riddles - which are at exactly his level - in order to “spy” the objects.
We let our free Reading Eggs subscription run out recently without renewing or choosing to buy just because it was kind of monopolizing all of our “school” time. It’s only downfall was being enjoyed TOO much, which made for a little more screen time everyday than I was comfortable with. Still, he made it almost all the way through to map 10, and finished at a reading age of 6 and a quarter.
I use Math Practice IXL.com to get ideas about what he should be learning at his level, and then try to make up games based on the material he’s ready to learn or practice.
Starfall.com math games.
Pick an activity from a stack of Umi-Zoomi Mighty Math Mission cards.
We also have a closet full of elementary math tools (measuring devices, charts, etc.) that I picked up from our local Becker’s Parent/Teacher Store. Some of the best learning he does is when I take them down and let him investigate all the stuff they can do without any direction at all.
We leave a slot open everyday for doing some kind of miscellaneous activity, either related to whatever kick we’re on that week or not: A scavenger hunt, holiday craft, a board game, a snack recipe, or maybe just a recent Pin.
|I'm always amazed at how much he can actually do on his own as he grows.|
He tells me a story and I write it down. He illustrates the pictures, and every week we pick one to make into a little book. (This actually got started because he’d do it on his own a lot. He’d get a whole stack of paper and draw what almost looked like the same picture four or five times on separate sheets of paper, and then he’d scribble on the bottom, saying that it was a story. Then he’d explain what was happening on each page.) Now that he’s more efficient with his spelling, in no time he’ll be putting his own short sentences to them. (Which, can I just say?, is going to be ADORABLE.)
|A "character" for one of his own stories. A boy|
with paws like an animal.
What we do with this is take whatever kick it is we’re on at the time (volcanoes, nocturnal dinosaurs, bridges, WHATEVER..) and sprinkle it into our reading, math and craft activities.
We’ll trace and then learn to write a few theme-related words.
We’ll read books, articles and poems about it and search videos online.
We’ll make up our own stories affiliated to it.
We’ll record what we’ve learned in his field journal using his own depictions.
We’ll bar graph, add, subtract, measure and categorize relevant objects.
And of course, we’ll craft it!
|A "green" scavenger hunt we took with us on our morning walk. Matthew |
read the words, then taped the treasures we found into a homemade book
where he wrote each word himself at the bottom of the page.
Self sufficiency and chores:
Matthew’s chores are to:
Feed the cat.
Bring the garbage can up from the end of the driveway.
Pick up his toys - which he is terrible at, by the way.
Make his bed.
Help move laundry from the washer to the dryer or the dryer to a folding basket.
Put his shirts on hangers when I’m putting away the laundry.
And in the spring/summer he waters the flower bed with me and picks up sticks from the yard before we mow the lawn.
|Matthew's friend writing "I <3 Math You"|