Sunday, October 18, 2009


My daughter takes gymnastics classes, but since she moved out of Mommy and Me and into an independent class, she has stopped making progress. I don't mind much - she enjoys it, and that's what is most important. But I also can see that part of the problem is that the instructors don't know how she learns, and they are quick to decide she can't do something. (Like, it took them months and months to figure out that she could do a forward roll). It further convicts me of the value of homeschooling. But I did NOT feel safe teaching her tumbling. I found these instructional videos on teaching preschool gymnastics put together by Flairs Gymnastics in Florida on YouTube (the web address is at the bottom of this). I know that they are standard preschool gymnastics activities, because they are more or less the same exercises she does in class. But, whereas I can't see very precisely how they are spotting the kids and such from the window where I have to watch when she is in class, I can see those things on these videos. I put together a "cartwheel mat" on our living room floor, using paper and tape (without the tape the paper would go flying and it wouldn't be safe). Within 10 minutes she had the concept down of jumping from side to side at home. It is great - my daughter has tons-tons-tons-tons of energy and can go nuts if she is cooped up inside the house. It is now cold outside, and these are great indoor focused physical activities.

Ruler Skills

We are working on the concept of measurement. I got her a ruler, and I made some lines on a page, each line a different color and each so many inches long. On one page I did the lines in order - 1 inch, 2 inches, 3 inches, and so forth. On another page I mixed up the lengths, so they were 3 inches, then 6 inches, then 2 inches, etc. This is what I learned: Before a kid can learn to measure, they have to have the concept of a line having and end and a beginning. My daughter had no idea at first with the ruler. Then I showed her - "This is the beginning of the line, and this is the end. Put your finger on the beginning of the line. Now on the end." Once she understood that the line starts and stops, we went back and put the ruler by the line with the beginning of the ruler at the beginning of the line, and we looked for the number on the ruler next to the end of the line. It took awhile, but she got it. It is so neat to see how accomplished she feels and how much confidence it builds in her when she figures out something like this. And it builds my confidence as a mom that I can figure out how to teach her well.

Basic Reading

So she knows her letters and their sounds really well, and she has the concept of "sounding it out" from the Leap Frog video The Talking Words Factory. She isn't great at sounding it out, yet, but she is interested, and so we're working on it. Recently I made groups of flash cards, using the Hop on Pop book for word ideas. One group I made had the words hop, pop, stop, on, and no. I should have left out no, because the "o" says a long "o" sound instead of a short "o" sound. Otherwise it went fabulous. I showed her the word pop and we sounded it out. Then the other words in turn. She would assimilate the word on the page into her understanding out loud, saying things like, "Hop! Like a bunny hops!" and "Pop! like popcorn!" I thought that was great - it showed she was truly reading, not just putting together sounds. Then I gave her a simple sentence - "Hop on pop." She was totally tickled that she could read it. Then we did "Stop!" I meant it to be "Stop, don't hop on pop," but she said something else like, "Stop! Like you are at a red light and you have to stop!" Another group of words from the Hop on Pop book is cat, hat, bat, and I think mat. Also ball, wall, fall, and all. When we've done all the words from the book, I'm going to let her read it!

THe Twenty-Four Piece Puzzle

At a church rummage sale I found some 24 piece puzzles for ages 3-6. I didn't really think my daughter was ready for them, but I got one to try it out. She loved it so much I went back and bought 3 more. They are challenging for her, but not overwhelming if I guide her through it, and she loves the accomplishment of having actually made the picture. On her Winnie the Poo puzzle, I have her gather all the pieces of Poo, and we locate the eyes, the nose, the feet, etc., and I say, "Does the foot go above the face or below the face?" and things like that to guide her to the right spot for the piece. If I know it is the right piece put she isn't putting it in the space the right way, I suggest she rotate it and show her how the pictures go together one way and not any other way. Then we do Tigger, Piglet, etc., and in the end they all fit together! I think this is really good for her developing a sense of parts/whole and spacial intelligence, but more importantly this is one of the better tools I have been able to find for building the mental capacity for creating visual art. To draw an original picture that you haven't seen or been taught to draw, you have to have the mental capacity to "see" something that isn't there on the page clearly enough to put it on the paper. I've scratched my head over how to teach this, if teaching it is even possible. But to work the puzzle, she is having to "see" what is missing and at what angles, etc. I think that is a good step.

Counting Puzzles

I found a really cool counting puzzle at a church rummage sale. For the number one, it has the number on one puzzle piece, a picture of one kite on another puzzle piece, and the number one spelled out on a third, each of these pieces fitting together. Then a piece with the number 2, a piece with 2 butterflies or something, and the number two spelled out. The puzzle is set up so that the picture of 6 cats only fits with the puzzles pieces "6" and "six." It goes from numbers 1-20. I was really surprised when we got it out and my daughter actually counted 20 items almost perfectly. She LOVES putting the puzzles together. And then we put them in order 1-20, which is another challenge altogether.

Writing Letters

We are continuing to make progress with writing. I make little worksheets for her and we do them together. I draw purples lines on a plain white sheet of paper and then make dotted letters on the lines for her to trace with a soft yellow maker (so when she uses a pen the dots are not so prominently visible). I'm doing the letters in groups. For example, yesterday we did K, P, R, and D. I showed her how the R is a P at the top and a K at the bottom, so once she had mastered motions of the K and P the R was no problem. And the D is just like the P only with a bigger semicircle on the side. Next we are going to do E, F, and L. The F is an E without the bottom line, and an L is an E with only the bottom line, and so once she can do the E she can do any of these letters! She likes to take turns with me on the worksheets - I do a letter, then she does a letter, then me, then her, etc., etc. She is so proud of her work when she is done. She treats it like a special piece of art. I am, of course, super proud of her, too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Emotional intelligence