Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Same same but different?

Time to reflect on what we've tried, what's worked, what's not - one month into our revised schedule. Basically, our weekday "homeschool" time has become a bit more intentional.  It's been mostly fun, often stretching both our discipline and creativity, but I trust there's positive returns from all this!

Weekdays:  "Homeschool" with mom, plus Chinese, music, swim, playdates
Saturday:  Daddy bonding @ Gymnademics, family time
Sunday: Sunday School @ Sunbeam, family time
As/when: Outings at Macritchie Reservoir, Botanic Gardens, theatres, museums, etc

Routine: Besides the usual bilingual words, math and puzzles, I added right brain activity books and printed worksheets this month.  IMO, these are still quite hard for his age, but I'm trying to introduce matching and memorising as a game and build his competence in tracing and controlled colouring.

Themes and special project(s) were around:
(1) Food - new.  Building on B's fascination with our kitchen and groceries (he enjoys role playing cooking!) supplemented by Gymnademics home material
(2) Colours - reinforce. B correctly identifies primary colours, though he can't say them all clearly yet.  Colours also translate into teaching other stuff like shapes, numbers, music et al.  To expand on later

Books: Courage of The Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (great excuse to dig B's torn and tattered copy out!)

Learning thru play: Rather than buy new toys, we made colour sorters and counters using recycled caps and straws. He likes this though finishing them all in one go is the toughest task ;) He enjoys it even more when we mix it up i.e. figuring out how smaller straws fit into the bigger ones, grouping the same colours, counting with sound effects as he puts them in...

Music:  Inspired by Schoenhut pianos, I added coloured stickers to the piano keys to identify the notes (A-B-C) ansolf├Ęge (do-re-mi).  It was easy for him to find buttons on the digital keyboard to press on and now he also knows which keys to focus on (i.e. the scale). He's learning to play specific notes based on colour prompts and hopefully soon, I'll colour code simple songs to help him play by sight! 

Art and craft:  We do this almost every day (crayons, markers, stamps, pens, playdough, paint on paper/easel/canvas/etc).  But once in a while when mommy is motivated, we collaborate on something bigger. This month we made a food pyramid using pictures relating to the new words in his vocab, coloured different segments per food group, added dots to indicate number of servings, etc.  When we were done he said "Yum!" A few days later, while eating his pumpkin/carrot risotto, he even pointed to the pumpkin and said "dot dot dot dot" (i.e. there are 4 dots associated with the "green" segment).

Outing: Culture heaven for B!  We attended FOUR delightful toddler events @ Singapore Art MuseumEsplanade PLAYtimeCircus Minimus and the Gymnademics Big Day Out.

Character: B is unofficially in his terrible twos, and it's time to actively focus on character building.  As his personality and preferences emerge, we need to also model and enforce the right behaviours.
- He now says more words each day (finally!). No surprise, a popular phrase is "no no no" even if he means "yes."  How do we constructively encourage him otherwise?  Also should we consciously avoid using "NO!" in our own speech, esp. with him?
- His sleep has also regressed slightly. From consistent 11+ hours overnight and ~2 hours mid-day to occasionally waking up in the wee hours and/or crashing earlier for his nap. His 18-month brain must be on overdrive!  How can I be sensitive to this, adjusting and accommodating as needed?
- Mealtimes have also become more challenging.  Our eat-anything-yum boy could self feed with a fork and spoon at 16-17 months BUT now struggles to complete meals on his own and even rejects foods he used to like (e.g. tomatoes!).  How to keep trying though it's frustrating, messy and sooo inefficient?

This past Sunday School gave us some food for thought. They taught that gentleness is touching others gently, moderating your strength, helping others, obeying your parents.  This is part of the series for 18-29 month olds based on Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."  Which brings me to the final lesson this month: No matter how much I plan, accomplish or wish I did more or less of, ultimately I need to lean on Him and trust that all will be well. God is the BOSS!  Not B.  Definitely not me. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Plan C = change and continue

Up till a month ago, I was counting down the days to drop B off for half-day childcare, thus freeing my mornings for personal/business projects, pilates, etc.  The list for things to do during "ME" time is endless....  However after visiting said school again to refresh my memory and meet the (new) staff, it became unfortunately clear that this wasn't the best or right solution.  Thinking that having doubts and feeling uneasy was just a normal phase for any mom about to leave their kid for the 1st time, I borrowed a couple of books including Elizabeth Pantley's No-Cry Solution for Separation Anxiety.  After reading the first few chapters, speaking to moms in similar situations, soul searching and even reaching out to various schools to discuss options, I soon realised that my 18th month "freedom" plan was shortlived.

But why?  Simply put, too much has changed in the one year since we registered B there.  To stick with the original plan "B", as I've been calling my extended maternity leave, would be unfair to all fronts.  To B (given his personality and progress at this age), my personal situation (no longer working full time or pregnant with #2 for now), and the school itself which was going through a fair bit of change too.

So, what now?  Plan C is essentially same same but different. Who'd have thought we'd enjoy daily home school, parent-accompanied playdates and selected enrichment (Chinesemusic and gym/right brain) for so long?  But we clearly see the benefit all this interaction and exposure has had on B -- and parents too.  One thing I'd tweak is to perhaps do more with less. That is, to better integrate what he learns in class with our home plan, outings and occasional playdates.  We'll still do some trial classes if anything interesting comes up but I can tell, all this will keep us quite busy through year end!