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

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We found another fun way to work on writing letters.  A friend of mine who is really into crafts just got a stencil maker, and she gave me her old stencil letter book.  It has lots of fonts, and my daughter has had a ton of fun making letters with it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writing letters

I finally stumbled across a method for teaching my almost 3 year old to write letters.  She's been trying for months and months, and so the will is there, but it has been difficult to actually form the letters well.  She just recently got the concept of "connect the dots," and I remembered those old workbooks from when I was in kindergarten in which they would have you trace the letter a few times and then make it on your own. So I made a connect the dots letter P with paint.  Something about using the paint and paint brush suddenly made it accessible.  It became a game.  I would make dots on the page in the order of a letter, describing the motions she would need to do to trace it (e.g., for a D - "line straight down, and a semi-circle to the side") and she would trace it.  We'd do it over and over.  She loves this game.   After doing this for awhile with paint, we moved onto pen and paper, with smaller letters.  Now she still can't construct a letter on her own, but she can trace the ones we have practiced perfectly.  And she thinks it is fun!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Glue Art

My almost 3 year old is super into glue, but I'm not a big fan of letting her use it.  So we came up with a compromise that lets her enjoy practicing her Elmer glue skills without making a mess.  We begin by dabbing little spots of glue all over a sheet of paper.  I help her, and if too much glue gets in a spot or two it is not a big deal.  Then I start cutting out little shapes from construction paper - circles, squares, triangles - in various colors.  Once I have cut one shape out (it takes 2 seconds, she takes the shape and puts it on one of the spots of glue.  I can cut shapes faster than she can decide where to put them on the paper, and so we are both occupied through this process.  She LOVES doing this.  We have made little shape art presents for a lady in a nursing home, as a present for Grandma's birthday, and some for ourselves, as well.  It is easy, inexpensive, and satisfies her desire to explore working with glue.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Goal

So, as I just wrote, we've been working on anatomy and geography in passing, and I am so amazed with that.  Good grief, she's 2.  The only reason I'm doing any of that is that she has already mastered everything I can find that people teach in preschool, and she is still a sponge for more.  It just seems wrong to stop giving her opportunities to learn more when she is on such a learning curve.  This is so surprising and astounding to me that as I continually fish for something new to offer her, sometimes I start to forget the goal.  Reading 1 Timothy 1 this afternoon reminded me - the aim of instruction is LOVE that stems from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  One day this precious little girl is going to launch off into the world, and when she does, what is most important isn't how much knowledge she has accumulated.  What will matter as she makes those early, tough decisions that last for the rest of one's life is her devotion to Christ, the love and wisdom he puts within her heart, and faith to live the life he created her to live.

Human Anatomy

It never would have occurred to me to teach a 2 year old human anatomy.  Of course I taught her things like fingers and eyes and such, but I didn't think about expanding this into internal organs or anything.  A couple of months ago I was at the local children's museum, and in one of the rooms they have play x-rays of the skeletal system that kids can put on an x-ray reading screen and "read" under the light, and various diagrams of the human muscles and bones.  There was a 4 year old boy and his 2 year old sister, and I was astounded that they were identifying and naming things like the skull by looking at an x-ray picture.  And they were loving it.  So I showed my daughter a few of the things.  She thought the "patella" (I don't even know how to spell it) was a fun name for the knee cap and has really remembered that.  Well, I'm 9 months pregnant, and I have a little kids book someone let me borrow that shows the process of a baby growing in mommy's tummy and then coming out.  Probably in part because she is enamored with the idea that a baby is about to come out of me, she is really interested in the book.  I started using the real name for the different things in the pictures - like, umbilical cord, placenta, uterus, etc.  And she has really picked it up.  We've done joints, veins and arteries, and some other things like that, too.  I am constantly amazed what kids this age are capable of learning.  I guess it make sense.  She is actually eager to build vocabulary at this stage.


We have a board game called Ticket to Ride, and the board is a map of the United States with train track spaces over it. The game is way over a toddler's head, but my little one loves playing with the train pieces.  At some point, we made up a game together with the pieces where I would ask for a ticket to one of the states in which we have family, and I would then take a train and move it to that state.  She loved playing ticket holder, and through time, I realized she was learning where the different states were.  I started slowly expanding the states that we went to by train.  I realized the game board map wasn't the easiest to read because of all the train track spaces, and so I checked out a kid atlas at the library.  I started pointing to rows or lines of states and saying their names rhythmically ("North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas!") and when said in rhythm like that she picked up their locations really quickly.  She now can locate about 15 states.  Her favorite list is "Washington, Oregon, Caaaaaaalifornia, and Nevada," which she finds to be hilarious.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Current Interests: Writing/Word Building/Reading, Gymnastics, Social

I wanted to record some of my daughter's current interests and areas of growth at 28 months.

We got my daughter the Leap Frog Talking Word Factory DVD for Christmas, and she LOVES it.  If we let her, she would watch it 5 times a day.  We've limited it to once a day at most, but since we got the DVD she has become incredibly enthusiastic about figuring out how to build words and write.  Her writing is mostly scribbles, but it has become much more precise from her tireless, self-initiated practice.  She can now make a pretty good "M" and a relatively big "O."  Once she somewhat accomplished writing the word "MOM."  As for building words, I am astonished at how she really is getting this.  We have the big letter mats that stick together on the floor like puzzle pieces, and she is engaged for hours making words with them.  Like, she'll say, "Let's make the word 'hat'!"  And so I say, "What letters do we need?" and, often to my persistent shock, she knows.  If she doesn't know, I can make the h sound and say, "What letter says this?"  and she instantly knows and locates the H.  She also likes building words with the Leap Frog Word Whammer.  And then there is always good old pencil and paper - she'll scribble a word and then hand it to me and tell me to write a word, and we'll practice recognizing the words I write.  (As a side note, she is currently playing in the bath tub, making letter sounds into words "C-c-c-c-c-CAT!"  She is so super into this right now.)    

Her other big interest right now is gymnastics.  We enrolled her in a toddler mommy and me gymnastics class just as something to do that is active through the cold months, and she LOVES figuring out new little skills at home.  It is amazing to watch her grow physically - it is like watching her figure out how to crawl and walk all over again.  One day she can't do something, then she sees and wants to do it, then she tries to do it, and then she can do it!

She also is figuring out how to play with other kids.  She's always had a social bent, but being an only-child two-year-old she can be pretty possessive of whatever toy she is playing with.  She has grown tremendously in this regard over the past few months.  She self-identifies new friends who she meets and likes to play with.  She shares without prompting (sometimes).  She is polite when she speaks ("please" and "thank you" - sometimes).  I'm not entirely sure how else to describe this progress, but I see it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Toddler Gymnastics

We started taking little gymnastics classes, and we're having tons of fun working on the activities at home.  I wanted to record them:

1.  Stretches 
- Butterfly:  sitting, put soles of feet together, hold the feet, and bounce knees.  It took her a few times to get the coordination to do the bouncing.
- Forward stretch:  still sitting, stretch legs out in front of body, grab the ankles, put nose to knees and then peek up (peek-a-boo!)
- With legs still outstretched, spread them out as far into "split" position as able, then walk hands forward and "peek-a-boo" up again
- Table - With feet on floor in front and hands on the floor in back, stick up belly to make a "table."  (It's the position for the crab walk).  Today we started trying to do the crab walk (walking on legs and hands backwards with belly stuck up in the air in table position), and she has made great progress.  This is a challenge for this age group, and great for learning coordination.
- Standing, slide down as far into split position as able.  My daughter calls this "making a house."

2.  Tumbling
- Jumping:  Leg strength.  
-  On the floor, we jump for a few seconds.  Then she tries to jump while twirling around.  Very difficult.  But tons of fun.
- Put really thin straight somethings (we use long blocks, at the gym they call them "french fries") on the floor, and have her jump over them. 
- We also put her old crib mattress on the floor and we let her jump on it.  
- At the little indoor gym nearby, she jumps on the trampoline, too.  
- During gymnastics class the kids jump down a really long trampoline and jump into a pit of soft square pillow-like things. 
- Somersaults:  Courage.  I'm unclear if this is really okay to do under the age of 3.  Seems to be a bit of debate over the readiness of the toddler back for it.  On the other hand, I see toddlers putting their heads to the ground and trying to roll forward all the time.  The first gymnastics place we tried had them doing lots of flips (while spotted) and the second place not at all.  At the very least, I'm not encouraging the forward roll until I at least learn how to spot her.
- Handstand:  Arm strength.  The age to introduce this seems to be debated, too.  I let her put her hands on the floor and walk her legs up the wall behind her.  I have her keep her weight on her arms (instead of the neck) by not putting her head down on the ground - she does a true supported and spotted HAND stand.

3.  Bar:  GREAT for arm strength and abs.  
- She hold onto the bar and swings back and forth.  
- I or the teacher bring her toes to touch them to the bar where her arms are - once she can do this herself it will be great for her abs.  
- Have her "push up" (lots of help given) and balance on the beam with her arms straight - she has an amazing ability to balance on this thing, but a more difficult time keeping her arms straight (and issue of strength building)

4.  Balance Beam: balance and leg muscles
- Walk across beam, with someone holding both of her hands to support her.  She does this great, like she's on the floor.
- Walk sidewise.  Step, and then bring feet together, across the beam, facing the side.

5.  Vault 
-  First gym helped her jump and then somersault down a mat.  Second gym just has them jumping off the vault onto a picture of a cute frog on the floor.

6.  Swing: arms
- Holding onto a single rope attached to a really, really small circular swing that gives very little support, swing back and forth.  To stay on, have to use arms.

7.  The new gym has a little bar on the ground that you grab and then kick up backwards.  Very difficult for them.  To help her with this, at home I turned one of her little folding chairs upside down, and there is a bar there just the right size for her to grab.  She hasn't gotten yet the "kick backward" concept, so I have her put her legs up backward on the little table behind her.  Works the arms, gives her the concept of at least lifting her legs backward, and she loves doing it.

At home we:
Practice our tables and crab walk.
Jump on mattress and roll (sidewise, not somersault) off
Wall handstand 
Backwards kick (modified for now)
I put a long thin thing on the floor at let her practice the beam on it.
Jumping over the "french fries."