About me and my blog

miércoles, 19 de septiembre de 2012

Play dough and horses

The best of my intentions to keep an updated journal of our journey in homeschooling* is beaten once and again by a general lack of time and state of tiredness. At the beginning of the week I try to stay until late preparing activities and creating materials but these past evenings I have just fallen asleep while putting M to sleep. That's ok. We have been doing some activities that were not exactly planned but which thankfully turned out all right. 
Getting ready to make play dough: the process in itself was a nice activity
I sometimes feel a bit disappointed I am being unable to keep it all up but I guess that is what being pregnant of a second child while the first one is under 2 years means. Some days ago, my dear husband took M to the National Museum of Art to give me some time to rest. When I saw the photographs I just regretted I had not gone with them. The rest did me a lot of good, though. 

Here is M staring at some paintings at the MACBA
Fall seems to be creeping in. I hadn't really noticed it was getting cooler but after some rain last night it feels like autumn today. I even got my boots out and was happy to find that unlike my summer sandals, the boots still fit my feet. Am I the only pregnant woman out there whose feet seem to have grown? I have been wanting to set up an autumn tray but as of now we only have some pineapples, a tiny pumpkin and a butternut squash. My idea is to create a nice sensory tub for M to play with. We'll see if I get it before it is so cold we can call the season "winter". I still feel comfortable with the weather but I think summer is my favorite time of the year. However, I can admit there is a special beauty in Spring and Fall that other seasons may lack. And yet, funnily, my two children will be "winter kids".

Today we had the first meeting with one of the midwives that might assist us in our son's birth. I am finally starting to visualize this birth and we feel a delivery at home is the option that would suit us three best. One of the reasons I can't bring myself to picture a delivery in a hospital is that M would be left out of the experience and we would have to be separated for more time than we have ever been. As I feel it, this is an experience we don't want to have, if we can avoid it. 

On a weekend festival last week M got the chance to ride a horse for the first time, and a really tall mare it was (notice my husband's head peeping over the horse's withers. He is 1,83 m tall //around 6 feet). I was very excited and delighted to see that she wasn't a bit scared, she just enjoyed it.
Riding a horse for the very first time
In the language department, we have seen some qualitative changes in the way M expresses herself. She is able to construct longer sentences and surprises us with structures such as Subj+verb+object or with the correct use of conjugations (gos dorm // gatets dormen). She is good at describing what she sees. While in a park she told me the other day: "that moto(rbike) falling", and some other day "boy eating chocolate". She often uses sentences including "to" for purpose, specially when she wants to do something or to go someplace "to see papa", "to see Lila -her friend".
She is starting to use some adjectives as well as in "red shoes", "soft pillow" or "black glasses". Her use of connectors such as "because" is still a bit erratic but she surprised me the other day saying "because mama". I've heard her using "enough" and"like" for comparisons, which are also novelties. But the most incredible sentences, in my opinion, were "these girls jumping to eat sausage", "aquestes noies què fan?" qui és aquest bebè?", "meves sabates són aquí sota", and "petita Marina banyat la piscina" (6.9.2012). I wrote down the date 'cause I was really impressed. She seems to retain sentences she has heard and to repeat them afterwards. Her use of pronouns is upside down, "I" being "you" and the other way round. However confusing, I think we are managing to understand her most of the time.

* After some reflection, I have considered it necessary to clarify my use of the concept of "homeschooling". I wouldn't like to trigger a debate around schooling, unschooling, and so on, so I'd better explain myself. M is only 20 months old so it is not really accurate to refer to what we do as "homeschooling". I do it only out of a necessity to give a name to what we do and the thrill of being the one who cares for M development and education. It is truly uncommon where we live for a toddler of 20 months to stay home with a parent, so I have sometimes felt compelled to justify my position. This might be silly but being able to prove all we do makes me feel I am justifying a whole way of raising kids and showing people that staying home doesn't mean "doing nothing, or letting your kids watch TV all day". Well, we don't even own a TV set, ahem...

sábado, 15 de septiembre de 2012

The pleasure of bedtime

Some weeks ago I would have never imagined I would write a post under such a title. It took me a great amount of meditation to come over the frustration that giving up putting my little one to bed had thrown me in. Shortly after we weaned, we found out that the only and -at the time- probably best way of helping M to sleep was pacing up and down. Since I was generally tired and carrying weight was not the most recommendable thing for me to do, the daddy took over. For nearly two months he had been putting M to sleep and I really felt frustrated, not only because I missed those snug moments with my girl, but mainly because she had started to reject my presence during bedtime. Every time she said "mama no, mama no", my heart would break into pieces and I ended up feeling rather sad. I know these things do happen but I had never thought it could happen to me and I was determined to find a solution. The daddy was not happy with the situation either and pacing up and down the corridor, even the garden twice or three times a night was not his favorite activity, of course.
Around a month ago I made my mind up and went away for three days, that is three nights and three naps. I knew that could be a totally crazy thing to do but inside I felt a great conviction I would be able to manage it and who knew, we may be able to establish an easier bedtime routine. I nearly forget to mention that during those two months Marina dropped many naps and that, as you can imagine, didn't help at all. She was waking between one and four times a night.
The first night we were away from home, without daddy, it took me nearly two hours to get M to sleep. I know, it is a lot but I was so very happy she had not complained, not rejected me, that two hours felt like ten minutes. Although it was a bit tiring, I was able to put her to sleep three nights and three naps. Besides, she more or less slept all through the night with eventual awakenings to drink or go to the toilet. On the third day, the daddy came to pick us up and we went back home.
With some exceptions, I have been sharing bedtime with M ever since and we are all happier. We both seem to enjoy our newly adopted routine, which includes shadow play, singing lullabies, and caresses. Many nights the last thing M says before falling asleep is her "mamma" in a sweet tone. She seldom awakes during the night and wakes up very refreshed from a good night sleep.

Up to here it may sound like a love story with a happy ending but the best is yet to come.
During the first months of pregnancy I was not only feeling rather sick but also guilty. At the beginning I felt Marina was too young to have to share my/our attention and as time went by my mama-guilt feeling grew towards the other direction, I feared the tiny baby growing in my womb would feel displaced since once the sickness and tiredness was gone I didn't think much about him. All that time I was craving for a feeling of balance. It was not easy to come to terms with the fact that we would have a baby without having planned it at all. However, a good friend of mine kept repeating that a sibling was the most precious present we could give M and in the end she convinced me. I was no longer feeling guilt, which was fine but now I didn't find it easy to connect with my baby. I was so committed to preparing activities for M, being with her, teaching, bringing her places... The surprising thing of it all is that the one who has brought me back to center and helped me connect with this wonderful baby growing inside me is my beloved 20 month old daughter.
Everyday, when we lay in bed singing lullabies and whispering, she asks me to see the baby (read belly) and she caresses it while gently murmuring "baby, baby". Her sweetness and open-heartedness have convinced me it will be fine to have two to take care of. I am so very grateful for her teachings!

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2012

Our new art caddy

Some nights ago I was wondering whether it was reasonable to buy an art caddy online. Things are the ones I find more useful are not found in Spain but I just couldn't justify the expense when there are so many things that can sub for an art caddy and when our economy is not exactly bursting.
I left the thought in the air and went to bed early, for a change, only to get up again some minutes later and set myself to create the art caddy I wanted for M.
One of the goals was to have all M's "colors" (she keeps calling "colors" anything that writes or paints) stored in the same container. Another was for her to have easy access to them. Last but not least, I wanted it to look beautiful.
With these three aims in mind, I got one of the square baskets we've been using for multiple purposes. It was a bit too deep so I lined the bottom with a cardboard dais to make it shallower. I then got out some sticks from an old fan I had saved for an occasion like this and divided the basket in six sections. I then found some of the sections were too shallow to contain the pencils without them sticking out too much so I dismantled the whole thing again and made a hole for one of the sections to be deeper. I assembled it back and voilà; we had a beautiful art caddy. Maybe not like the one I would have bought but home-made and free. I couldn't wait for M to wake up and see it. My husband objected it was not very sturdy, that M would take the sticks out, and we would have to be picking it up and assembling the pieces back all day, to what I said he might be right but I liked the challenge of offering her an object that enabled both chaos and order. Our previous set-up had not been very successful at controlling the chaos created by our toddler when painting and we had been picking up crayons, pencils and markers from the floor for over two months. I thought the caddy could be a way of modeling order for her and I am happy to say that apart from the wax crayons compartment that she wanted to take out the first second she used the caddy, the rest has stayed in place and she has been putting back markers after using them. Hurrah!!
By the way, this is the way the art caddy looks:

From left upper side clockwise: the first section contains stick crayons, and well, I've removed them 'cause M seldom uses them and they are too fragile. In the center are my attempt at making rock crayons. They have been a great hit and I am so proud of them that I think I will turn all the stick crayons into this. Then there are the Giotto markers, they are great for toddlers because they are totally washable, toxic free and thick. Then the wax crayons; a paintbrush (the thicker and oftener used one was in the sink when I took the picture); and colored pencils. These are the Stadler triplus, excellent for toddler's grip.

martes, 11 de septiembre de 2012

First week of school. Part 2

As a way to illustrate what we did on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I'll wave my magic wand and upload some pics. Again, they are photos I take with my cell phone so the quality is not the best but you can see we are still enjoying color related activities. I hope you can forgive my lack of words.

First thing in the morning before combing, breakfast or any other thing

Pros of suggesting an environment: there you see; second use found to the set of  chopsticks and beads

The next day I changed the beads for more difficult ones to add challenge.

I know, I know: are the colored pens for the mother or for the daughter?
Well, I guess we can share them!!

miércoles, 5 de septiembre de 2012

First week of Tot school. Days 1-3

The idea was to throw a party to celebrate the beginning of our school, but we haven't had time to arrange everything in the way we want, plus many friends were still away on vacation. So, today tot school has started without any previous event.
By "home or tot school" I mean all the activities M and me do in the morning. Activities I have scheduled for our first trimester, that is the next 16 weeks, or until the baby is born.
Having around 16 topics in mind, I will set up the environment for M to learn as much as she wants. I try to plan inviting set-ups where she decides what she wants to do in a way that is connected with the topic that is displayed that week. I won't push her to do anything, just support her in what she decides to do, observe her and let her be.
This first morning, for instance, after getting up and having breakfast, she's been toying around with the first items that were displayed on her shelves:
After some minutes, she has realized the weather was a bit cool and we have headed for the bathroom to get dressed and groomed. Curiously, she has decided to wear a red jumper, just like the bottle she was playing with a second ago. "Red" is the color she knows best. Then comes "blue". And as for "yellow"she gets a bit mixed up sometimes, saying "purple" instead or not saying anything. We did enough activities in the past so that I can ask her now "what color is this?" Of course, here I mean only the three basic colors, although some weeks ago, when I made her rock crayons I was surprised to see that she was able to correctly associate each of the six colors we had.
Already dressed, she has headed for the kitchen on her own account and has come back with a pot of yellow finger paint. I guess something has made her associate the bottles activity with the paint. Although we often draw and paint with a variety of supplies, we have only used those pots of finger paint three times. I have set up a table and brush, glass with water and cardboard outside, and this is what she's made.
Then, we've gone downstairs to load a washing machine; activity she often wants to do all by herself. We've had a snack and we intended to go to the library to get some color related books. M was very excited about the idea of library books but since she has not been willing to seat in her car seat, we've come back home.
Quick lunch and before 12 she was napping.
Today is also my first day of work -ehem- I will be working around 5 hours a week as of now so I don't know if I should call it "work". Anyway, since I am teaching this afternoon, today we're done with school activities.
As you can guess, this week will be devoted to "colors" and I intend to display secondary colors and see how we get along. If you are interested, be sure to check back with us soon.

Notice how empty our notice board and working table look at the beginning of the week:
This is a very easy activity that took me just five minutes to put together. The wooden blocks belong to the box you can see on the right in the pic above. I took three red blocks and three blue ones from the set and placed them in the tiny basket. Then, I painted the equivalent shapes with markers, and voilà. 
 M found the activity on her table and set to work straight away. I actually didn't notice because I was in the kitchen but she had done it right and I noticed it was very easy for her. I regretted not having included yellow and green as I had first intended, but the yellow was too pale for the cardboard and when I prepare things close to midnight I am too tired to look for solutions... She liked it anyway and wanted to play while waiting for lunch.
 In the meantime, as well, I took the opportunity she was so concentrated and interested to introduce "light blue". We toyed with some light blue items and then filled in a bottle with light blue glitter and water. Wonderful activity to foster practical skills such as using a funnel. It's a pity I forgot to take a picture of our new blue light bottle.


However sick and hopeless I felt yesterday, I guess you would call today a "very successful day". Well, M has dropped her nap, but for the rest she has been fine. I had prepared three activities but she has only had time to explore one, which is fine, since the rest will be there ready for her to use if she chooses to tomorrow.
As you already know, if you have been reading this Tot school journal of ours, this week we are exploring colors and doing color activities. It might be an obsession with my profession, but I was a bit worried we don't own any books about colors, so a visit to the local library was a must this week. I really wanted to make one of those books where vegetables, fruits and other items are grouped by color but I haven't had time at all.
We attempted to go to the library on Monday but M didn't want to get into the car. We were far too busy yesterday, and I wasn't feeling well, so we have attempted it again today and it's been a great hit. Both car rides were fine; among the six ore seven color related books we've borrowed three which are quite beautiful; M has enjoyed the kid's space, painted a bit, given her painting to the librarian, gotten her library card, played with the colored cushions.
In the afternoon, after no nap--- we've gone to our favorite park, where we had a date with M's two friends, and both car rides have been fine, which is incredibly good, given the state M can be in after a whole day of activity, no nap and her absolute dislike of cars.
(Sorry for the quality of the shots. For practical reasons, I only use my cell phone.)