Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My First Harvest

Not huge yet, but we'll see what happens with the tomatoes, cauliflower, and pumpkin!  This is the haul from the onions and my first few berries :)

Swimming + This and That

We had a swimming breakthrough!  My son managed to move his body through the water independently and he's so thrilled.  He's been comfortable playing in water for a long time, but lacked the coordination to swim.  I'm still not signing off on completely independent water play, but it was fun to see the progress :)

Other things to share:
This week's Objectivist Round Up.
Intriguing video on raising entrepreneurs.
I'm off to Sea Ranch soon, so it's time for my first blogging break!

Cute antics:

• continuing his hatred of the fact that humans must have bowel movements by modifying the Gingerbread Boy rhyme, "I held it in all night.  I'll hold it in all day.  I can.  I can." (You couldn't make this stuff up!)
• asking as we drove up to the airport, "Is SeaTac close to Egypt?"
• while listening to Hobbit, gasping for breath because he was laughing so hard because he found the dwarves surprise arrival on Bilbo's doorstep so amusing.
• making a potion of his hair, ice cubes, and water. (He told me it wasn't Polyjuice potion.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Successful First Day: Mommy School

In my last summer school post, I reviewed past years of Mommy School.  For some reason, I was really procrastinating this year.  However, I am glad to report that I was able to nudge myself into preparedness.  (I'm wondering if the issue of perfectionism might have something to do with it as discussed in the comments of this friend's blog post.)  Anyway, the first day of Mommy School was a full success  and I can now present what I came up with!  Here is our curriculum:

Mommy School
You Pick:
snake game
bank game
addition games (cloth then race)
Cameron Book- practice like first grade, lots of choices!!!
Paint a picture
Mommy Reading
Cameron theatre
Back and Forth (or both)
Computer Learning: Dreambox, Music Program
History: listen to Mr. Powell's stories while hands are busy with legos

My son crossed off as we did each thing and there were lots of laughs and play in the process!  It came in right on time too at somewhere near 1 1/2 hours which still left lots of free play time before lunch and afternoon activities.  

He picked the addition games which involved using the Montessori stair to do two digit addition and then racing to do as many single digit additions as he could in one minute.  I know he's going to love the challenge of getting faster at the basic addition.  In one minute, he was able to do 9 problems which did not involve carrying.  Knowing the way he loves to show off knowledge, I'd bet he'll easily double that by the end of the summer and hopefully have a better quick, memorized response for basic addition.  (All the games are using Montessori math materials.)

For writing, he first picked a topic for his book and then the chapter titles, and then he wrote the first chapter.  He picked parts of the head (odd since he's not usually into biology that much).  His first chapter was about noses.  We brainstormed what he could write about noses.  Then he wrote four sentences with proper punctuation!  (One sentence picture labels are usually his max, but he's really enjoying the idea of having his own book at the end.)

The paint a picture idea is part of the Lindamood Bell Verbalizing and Visualizing curriculum.  My son doesn't have the comprehension issues that he used to when his Hyperlexia led to super decoding coupled with poor understanding.  He paints a picture in his head, but they aren't nearly as detailed as the level of material he can read.  So, he will often miss pieces and especially miss understanding the whole of a scene.  When we completed an evaluation at a Lindamood Bell center, they recommended intensive therapy of 8 weeks (four hours a day at about $100/hr).  We decided I'd buy the book and give instruction at a home a shot before considering a $16,000 investment!  So far, I've been fascinated by the reading and can understand why the techniques are so helpful.  Next, it was my turn to read and we continued reading The Hobbit.  (He was definitely picturing the simple humor of the surprise arrival of the dwarves on Bilbo's doorstep; he was laughing so hard, he was gasping for breath!)  Finally, another aspect of bringing meaning to to the written word is learning to read with expression because the reader is hearing the story in their head, hopefully with the feeling indicated by the text.  The "Cameron Theatre" activity involved reading a Shel Silverstein poem with feeling.  This technique, which I've modified, often takes many repetitions, but it's lots of fun for the goofy in kids :)  While I again find many of these techniques through Autism resources, I can see no reason why they wouldn't bring a delightful vibrance to any kid's reading experience.

We skipped computer/history time today to avoid even a hint of rushing before heading off for a dentist appointment and swimming lesson.  The in-laws arrive tomorrow too and the following week, we're off to visit my parents.  So... a busy summer begins!  I'm glad we're starting off on the right foot :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tool: Safe/Unsafe Test - If you have a dare devil...

As my son was chatting away upstairs, the drift of his self talk entered my consciousness.  The bath was done.  He had dried the floor and now he was going to dry the ceiling.  I was still processing that when I heard something about a stool.  I heard something being dragged.  I had the vivid picture of a wobbly, plastic stool in a slippery bathtub tipping my kiddo through the glass shower door in a grand, shattering explosion.  I voiced my concerns.  My son was clear that such things wouldn't happen.  I then had an epiphany, we discussed my new concept of an "unsafe test".

I described an "unsafe test" as a test where something so dangerous could happen that we couldn't even try it.  My kiddo is definitely in the dare devil, experimenter group and his idea of dangerous and mine may differ.  We had a little chat that evening about things like running across the street in front of a car (even if he was sure he wouldn't be hit) and left it at that for the evening.

Next day, I thought we could enforce this useful concept!  I gathered some pictures.

Rock climbing without safety gear?  He decided the gear made this a safe test.

We had a nice chat about how my parents' dogs sometimes bark or growl, but he'd gained their trust.  He agreed it would be an unsafe test to pet an unknown dog that was barking or growling.

Ah, construction equipment with it's fascinating caterpillar wheels, tons of greece and dirt, big stairs... we chatted about how these machines have all sorts of parts that I don't know about, so I felt safe with him exploring where I could see. (He climbed on the wheels and up/down that staircase = thoroughly filthy, happy child.)

We talked about how long it took for me to think this was safe.  How he'd showed me so many times that he could climb things and have good balance, so that this wasn't an unsafe test.  We also talked about how it would have been unsafe before he'd learned how to climb better.

The deal with this one was that he wanted me to help him get higher.  Nothing doing!  He could climb as far as he could do so alone i.e. within his limits.  It took him an hour to get there, but he was quite pleased with himself and able to get himself safely down again.

That would be a kid at the top of his shelves, winking while bumping his head on the ceiling.  He was a good climber by then, we labeled this a safe test.

This one was fun because we talked about how it was a safe test to dance with the umbrella (as I sang from Mary Poppins "Aint it a glorious day, Bright as a Morning in May, I feel like I could Fly").  But, the key was that we were watching the path carefullly.  It would be an unsafe test to see if he could spin when a bicycle was coming.


The grand finale...

I'll admit my jaw dropped when I turned around from saying good bye to friends to find him on top of my car?!?!?  I had to admit this in the safe test category though; he's just a solid climber!

So... if you happen to have a dare devil too, I hope you find the idea of safe / unsafe test useful.  I'm thinking it will become a regular concept to review in our household :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's the last day of school and I tried a cherimoya!

A what?
A cherimoya!
This tropical fruit tastes as odd as it looks... a kind of pineapple, marshmallow, berryish flavor.

Other things to share :
I'm absolutely loving listing to the Grammar Girl podcast!  I'm going through all the ones still up on the iTunes feed (about 5 minutes each) and I may just get better with all this education!  Here's an example about "Which" Versus "That".
Hyperlexia now has a Wikipedia page.  Cameron certainly started here, but has progressed to much greater understanding.
An amazing visual of the "budget cuts" that speaks volumes! 
This week's Objectivist Round Up.

Cute antics:

• after I mentioned that I still heard the water running in the bathroom, he said "I didn't understand that.  Are you speaking in German or French." (Isn't that the natural cause for a misunderstanding?)
• walking downstairs with his arms full, he dumped everything on the couch and declared, "I have 21 socks and 10 underwear."  (That was how much he needed to be prepared for a hike.)
• and yesterday's Facebook Status-
Rachel is relieved it wasn't worse.  The bathtub stopped and I heard a matter of fact, "I'm sad."
"Do I have to pay?"
"For what?"
"I broke the bath tub."

Note to self: Check bathtub toys.

When a child chooses a rock as a bathtub toy, chipping of porcelain is likely to occur.  After his introductory remarks, I remain relieved it wasn't worse!  
(The lovely thing about allowance is that he can buy the repair kit himself!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hiking Learning

This is what my son wanted:

However, now my son is almost seven years old and over fifty pounds.  So, we learned this weekend that Mt. Catherine has snow still too, just like Mt. Pilchuck.  Based on this in person learning, we decided we will not hike at altitudes over 4000 ft. unless we wish to yet again tramp down a mountain with a child screaming, "CARRY ME!"  My husband has a nice cave hike picked out for next weekend which won't have nearly as lovely a view, but should be much gentler on the ear drums.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Best Memory of My Life

I was reading my friends post by this title and it set me musing on what I might choose for myself.

I considered by son's birth story, but I put that more in the empowering category.

I considered my wedding day and many delightful times I have shared with my husband, but those were later memories in that they weren't formative of my character.

I considered the philosophical crisis I faced in Poland having just finished reading "Atlas Shrugged" and standing before a small mountain of people's ashes.  I vividly remember that feeling of being divided in two wanting to pray but having no idea if that was simply delusional.  I think I would put that moment in the life changing category.

As I continued to consider, I kept coming back to memories of my family's favorite vacation spot when I was a child.  It's not a single memory, more like a mesh of warm, fuzzy, deeply soothing moments.  The place is called Sea Ranch.  It's on the Northern California coast and it is here where my love for the ocean began.  I still find standing on a cliff by the ocean deeply self-nurturing.  It's such a complete sensory experience and so joyful to me that I feel like I literally soak it in.  I love the sounds of giant waves pounding the rocks while the sea gulls give their eery calls above.  I love the feel of the cool spray, the trembling earth, the wind, the sun.  I love the sights of the deep, deep blue Pacific, the bent cyprus trees, the colorful tide pools, and the sunsets that streak the waters with rippling gold.  I love the salty smells and the wood smoke and the musty pine when traveling through a thicket.  I can put myself so completely in this place that I yearn for it when I've been away for a long time. There is nothing like this kind of ocean setting to sooth my soul; it gives me such inner happiness just to experience this particular aspect of nature.  I have lots of happy family memories too of building sand castles, flying kites, roasting marshmallows, and listening to my dad's stories of far away fantasy lands.

So, I think I would put the mesh of these memories as the best of my childhood.  I would say they were formative just in that they supported me being happy with myself.  It became a solid basis for me to enjoy quiet moments alone.  I didn't need popular approval to relish the little brook I discovered that became my favorite high-school homework spot or a small waterfall in the woods surrounding my college.  These aren't sad, solitary memories; they are peaceful, happy ones.  I think Sea Ranch actually helped me develop independence by fostering contentment with solitary happiness.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Camping Trip

Our first family camping trip was such a learning experience, but really lots of fun!  We found the campground easily and our site was awesome, right on the river! Cameron was particularly thrilled because he loved to just stand on the edge and throw stones in the river.  By the end, Andrew was an expert at starting fires in the damp, and they worked beautifully for cooking food in our cast iron pans :)  We had clear weather for climbing Mt. Pilchuck too and there was the bonus of listening to the The Secret Garden during the drive there and back... love the Yorkshire accent!

This week's Objectivist Round Up.

Cute antics:
• tearing around the campground three hours past his bedtime yelling gleefully, "I'M NOT SLEEPY!"

• giving me palpitations as he suddenly plastered his hands to my car window with a loud splat when returning from a play date with his athlete mentor. (Those two are really bonding beautifully!)

Pilchuck Summit View

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I so love anticipating a surprise!  The funny thing is that my husband hates it.  So, when I want to do something nice for him, I have to just present a voila moment to make him feel loved.  He's learned that I love the tingling, delightfully agonizing curiosity of trying to figure out what's coming.  It's so important to have those chats about what makes your partner feel loved because it's often surprising!  Anyway, here are the latest clues (spread over several weeks) and I think I've figured it out! :)
I've said I want it.
Biggish, but carry-able
Coming from a not-long plane flight away
I've seen it in person
Not stone
Consumable, but it doesn't get used up
He won't be able to give it to me for a week after it arrives.  It won't be ready.  He'll need to leave it in Renton for awhile.
It's kind of fragile.
It's not alive.
It's not made of bronze or paper.
It didn't arrive on time, he needs to call Mrs. C.
It's not something you want to handle to often.

and other things to share:
The Objectivist Round Up.
A posture approach that intrigued me.
Cute antics:

• yelling  from upstairs, "This is news!  I'm confused! [Pause for effect]  How did the directions to my game get in my room?"
• remarking, "I didn't drive you up the wall yet!"
• coming downstairs with his footsie pajamas on backwards
• making me rather nervous when he declared with a grin, "I put a surprise in your bed!"  (Five books and a note that I should read them.)
• listening to the story of how his leg got stuck in the crib when he was a toddler, I told him I went to get a saw and he said, "So you could cut my leg apart?"

• responding to my comment that Mary Lenox in The Secret Garden thought she should be able to decide what other people do with, "She's not even a dictator!"
• insisting that we should cut off his legs and get him new ones that weren't tired from the hike. (He wouldn't believe that the nerves didn't reconnect with glue.)
• laughing conflicting instructions as Andrew tried to avoid pot holes, "Take it easy!  Get going!"
• deciding that water play naturally needed to be completed with a halloween hat!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mommy School

My son named our summer study "Mommy School" and it has become a favorite activity.  It started with my commitment to offer continued structure during the summer.  I set up a small desk in our library so we would have a different environment and it didn't take long for him to eagerly dash upstairs after breakfast each day to do "Mommy School".  I didn't include weekends originally, but we often did it then too because he loved it so much.  So, what's Mommy School?  This was my original schedule and he would cross off each thing as we completed the action.

Cameron's Mommy School Schedule
Letter of the day
Pick a sand paper letter and trace it
Construct it with wood pieces
Practice writing it in upper and lower case in the writing book
Read the letter book together

Number of the Day
Pick a sand paper number and trace it
Construct it with the number rods
Practice writing it in the writing book

To the computer!
Make a list of words with letter of the day
Write a story with the number and letter of the day

Read our story together and a book from the bookshelf

Letter of the day: The Montessori sandpaper letters were wonderful for providing that sensory feel of the letter.  The wood pieces are from the "Handwriting without Tears" curriculum which helps kids see the shapes in letters (long line, short line, small curve, big curve) and provides a great manipulative as well.  The writing book was dry erase and allowed him to start by following dotted lines and progress to practicing without the guide. The letter book was from a series where each book had a child character with the name of a letter.  We'd read the book that corresponded to the day's letter. 

Number of the day: The Montessori sandpaper numbers provided the same sensory feel and the rods helped with visualizing quantity.  

To the computer & reading: Yes, he would dash downstairs in a mad rush :)  I was amazed with all the words my little guy could come up with starting with the given letter.  It was such playful fun to build the story together and find pictures online and then print the whole thing out and snuggle down for reading together.  By the end of the summer we had a whole shelf full of his books and we even repeated a few letters because he had more ideas and wanted to revisit a few sounds.  The books were 4-7 pages long and all the words that started with the letter of the day were printed in red (and the number was in blue), so it had a nice visual appearance with the words as well as the fun pictures we'd picked together.

Now this summer is going to be much more complicated.  I'm looking at the History at Our House curriculum and the Visualizing Verbalizing program.  We have some amazing music learning software and math websites to explore.  I found a cool microscope and am interested in potentially adding science.  He is doing spelling with a technique that is supposed to help him see the non-phonetic words in his head (he bounces a ball hung by a stick once for each letter as he spells it both forwards and backwards).  There are social learning projects that often capture his interest too.  So... I'm sitting down to gather all my thoughts and information together and then I'm going to have a good chat with my little guy.  He's much more mature and we'll figure out the plan for this summer.  Lots of work for me to set up for... lots of summer fun!  I know one of my friends is into planning her summer curriculum and I'd be thrilled to hear what you've got planned.  There are definitely vacations in the works too, but that's a different post :)

For a smile, here's the M story (a shorter one) with pictures: