Monday, June 30, 2008

summer break, day 1

J on our morning walk

ferns along the wayside

Zoo Boy climbing our fence

chipmunk on our stone wall

afternoon in the lake

Sunday, June 29, 2008

LAST WEEK of school! Week #36, spring #12

We did it! We completed an entire year of Kindergarten, ala Enki Education. This was our final week of the school year, and we spent it slowly shifting into our summer groove. We morphed our fun Planting Flowers Adventure Circle into a more organic format by taking it on the road and performing the activities while on a morning walk. We skipped, we sang, we admired all the beautiful flowers we found in our yard and others, we ran, we jumped, we breathed in the fresh summer air, we chanted, we jogged, we traveled about a mile each day in about 45 minutes. (Quality, not speed!)

The boys check a hollow tree trunk for residents on our morning walk.

We'll be continuing Organic Circle for the rest of the summer months, adding a dash of Enki Movement Activities here and there as we feel so moved. The "freer" format seems to suit Zoo Boy better at the moment, and it has a certain summer flavor to it that fits in with our more relaxed rhythms.

And, lo and behold, joy erupted when our local lake beach opened for the season this week. J immediately jumped in and proved that he remembers very well how to swim with his life preserver on. (I'm guessing he got the chance to hone up on that skill up at camp a couple weeks ago, too.)

And Zoo Boy enthusiastically joined the swimming fun, although he doesn't seem to quite remember how to make his arms and legs move together to produce forward motion. He's working diligently on it tho!! That is when he's not training hard for his future career as....

....a beachcomber. This is Zoo Boy in his Natural Element. The child was born to frolic along the sandy shores of any given body of water. He'll have plenty of opportunity to do so this summer, as our plans revolve mostly around spending as much time here as possible.

We are taking the month of July "off" from school. By "off" I mean that we're not doing any organized story work. We are, however, going to stick to strong, supportive rhythms so that J's big transition into first grade work (which will happen either the 1st week of August, or the 2nd week of September -- all depends on how ready I feel come Aug 1st! I'd bet money on Sept....) will go as smoothly as possible. So our day will look something like this for the next month:

Wake, barn chores
Dressing rituals (calendar, brushing teeth, sensory integration activities, dressing)
Morning walk/ Organic Circle
Outdoor Play
Settling in/reading time
Bed Prep
Family Story Time (kids selecting books they want to read)
Bed (including the reading of a chapter from whatever book we're working on at the time, selected by me)

I'm also going to be taking the month off from blogging. I need as much time as possible to get ready for the coming school year. But by saying "off", I only mean I won't be posting a log of things we're doing (since every day will be pretty much the same!! How many photos of the kids at the lake can you stand???). I WILL share photos that are worth sharing as I take them, hopefully daily, so please do check in and see what sorts of things we're coming across on our Summer Break!

Happy Summer, everyone!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

J's turn

It only seems fair that I should write about the sorts of things that J is doing these days, given that Zoo Boy was in the spotlight last night.

J continues to enjoy drawing on his magnadoodle, cranking out dozens of pictures a day, which disappear almost as quickly as he creates them, making it difficult to capture them on film. In this particular drawing, he's working on multiple meanings for the same word (one of the current target exercises he's working on in Speech and Language Therapy). Here's two words -- note (a person singing a note of a song, and a note that you would write to someone), and letter (a letter you mail in an envelope, and a letter of the alphabet).

Speaking of SLT -- his SLP and he are both loving working with each other. (In fact, he named her as his favorite teacher recently -- when I said "hey, what about me?" he just laughed and said "you're just a mother!" Hmmmm....) I also adore the SLP, who is gearing up to go for RDI (Relationship Development Intervention, the Autism Remediation program we've used so successfully with J) Consultant Training. I've given her complete freedom to try out any RDI concepts on J, and she seems to be having a blast with him. And I couldn't ask for a more compatible approach to J's lingering language issues.

More and more J's art projects are veering away from simple drawings and "flat" media to 3-D creations. Origami is one of his big favorites -- here's a combination of methods -- he folded an Elephant's head out of paper, then added a drawn body.

He's also taken his magnadoodle drawings into new realms -- here he put the magnadoodle in the sunlight coming through our front window, and he's drawing the outline of the shadows created by objects on our nature table. The finished picture was interesting, but I thought the experimental process of getting the picture was even more fascinating.

One of his big interests for the past 6 months or so is astronomy. He reads in his "Atlas of the Universe" almost daily, and regularly follows up on project suggestions from the book. (I'm not sure the age level the book is intended for, my guess is Grade 6 and up. But he's having no problem at all with the content, and honestly, I've learned a lot from him retelling me what he's read.) His interest in all-things-space has also spilled over into his art work -- here is a magnetic mosaic creation depicting the stars and the Milky Way Galaxy. It's the actual structure of space that he's interested in -- the stars, the planets, the galaxies -- and the legends that surround the constellations that relate directly to the lore of peoples on our planet. He's not shown much interest in space travel or the possibility of life on other planets yet. He's very much looking forward to a meteor shower that will take place in August (or so he tells me -- The Map Man has confirmed that it does indeed happen then, so I guess we'll have to arrange that). He's already said that he wants a telescope for Christmas, and I have no doubt that Santa will manage to get one under our tree.

So I mentioned his reading. His writing is also taking off and getting stronger and clearer every day, without any formal work on it at all yet. (That will come this coming school year.) Math-wise he's got a great grasp on addition and subtraction, and a rudimentary understanding of multiplication and division (although he wouldn't know what those words mean if you were to ask him -- but he understands that to group 12 items 4 ways, you'd have 3 items in each set, or that it takes 4 sets of 3 to make up 12). All of that will be addressed formally this coming year as well.

He can also count money and make change (although he still has no particularly interest in accumulating money, or using that which he has to buy anything -- I guess that's kind of unusual for a 7 yr old, but he doesn't ever really want anything, he's always quite happy with whatever he has). His musical interest is, for the moment, on the back-burner, although of course he still sings daily. I have no doubt that his passion for musical instruments will return and we'll cycle through another musically-intense period of time at some point in the near future.

And here's what J likes doing the very best of all these days. Lying in the grass with a buddy (in this case his friend R), looking up at the sky, seeing pictures in the clouds and daydreaming.

And honestly, I don't think it gets any better than that.

Friday, June 27, 2008

so, what's Zoo Boy been up to?

I've had a lot of comments and questions about Zoo Boy's Thunderstorm song from the other day, so I though this might be a good time to talk about The Boy for a bit and update everyone on where he's at. Five is an amazing age to sit back and observe, the steady achievement of great academic gains even in an non-academic setting are truly staggering!

I had reported some time back that Zoo Boy had learned how to read. For a long time he denied that fact, then eventually admitted that he could read SOME things. But even he can't deny it now -- he's reading things written for 2nd graders, asking J to identify some of the tougher words occasionally, but avidly devouring just about anything in print.

At the same time, handwriting has suddenly made an appearance. At a museum class in May he wrote his name for the first time, following the letters on his name tag. Soon thereafter, he began copying documents (such as the above picture, where he is recreating "Happy Birthday" from a card that J made my father when Grampy celebrated his birthday in mid-May).

He since has been writing on his own, sometimes asking for how to spell words, sometimes just phonetically working it out on his own (which I recently discovered is called "inventive spelling"). Here is a clever little sign he made -- it says "Do Not Open" on the red magnadoodle. The purple one says "Because this closet is full of games and other stuff." (I'm using proper spelling, he did not.)

He's also FINALLY scribbling more than a line or two. This is an artistic breakthrough for him, as he's never really shown a whole lot of interest in crayons or drawing. Here's a little project where he colored a sheet of paper, then cut it up (he's taken an interest in scissors lately too), and glued the pieces onto another sheet of paper to make a collage.

And I had to share this -- his first attempt at captioning a drawing. It says (spelled correctly because he asked how to spell it): Pigeotto's Gust Attack. And, by gum, it LOOKS like a gust attack! (All of you Poke-Moms out there know what I'm talking about, admit it!)

His speech is getting clearer all the time, we've seen a definite improvement since starting Speech Therapy with him, although it might just be coincidence since his Therapist says she can't manage to get any actual speech work done with him (he finds the work too difficult, so she's taking her time building his trust). He seems to be struggling more with sensory issues over the last few months, although I'm wondering if I'm just more aware of his issues now that I'm focusing on remediating them. He loves working (and playing!) with his Occupational Therapist, and she tells me that he's a joyful, cooperative participant.

And finally, Zoo Boy's latest batch of baby birds are ready to go to their new homes (in fact, two of them left today). Admittedly, I do a whole lot of the work involved with the care of the birds, simply because he's just too young. But he visits with them every day, helps me socialize the babies, and is very helpful about carrying food and water dishes and opening and shutting doors for me when my hands are full of bird things. His Cockatiel Fund is growing steadily, I'd say he's about half way to being able to afford a nice hand-raised baby.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

flowery walk

I suppose it will come as no surprise to anyone that the boys are VERY into flowers this summer. Not only are they genetically predisposed to it, but we just spent the last 4 weeks of our Spring Semester talking about, planting, and growing flowers. So it's no small wonder that they have to stop and examine and discuss every flower that they come across on our morning walk. These photos are from yesterday's walk.

They also insist on looking for flower fairies amongst the stems and petals, which always makes me smile. They were even insisting that there MUST be a Poison Ivy fairy as well. Could very well be. His name is probably "Itchy". (No poison ivy in this photo, but there's certainly no lack of it along our walking route.)

We also paid a visit on this bold little red squirrel, who didn't seem bothered enough by us to stop her breakfast. There were actually two of them hanging around on these grape vines, but the other one retreated to a safe perch at the top of a nearby apple tree and scolded us thoroughly while we watched his companion enjoying her feast.

The bulk of our walk was occupied with a game that Zoo Boy made up -- we had to name a flower for each letter of the alphabet. Not only did we manage to do it, but in most cases we were EACH able to come up with a different flower. We were passing these Day Lilies right at the time we were on the letter "L", which helped me out with my choice! (Zoo Boy chose Lilac, and J selected Lavender, which led to a round of "Lavender's Blue, Dilly Dilly".)

I'm looking forward to a summer full of marveling at the splendor of nature's palette with the boys, along the roadways, in our gardens, and in various parks and woodlands.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

camp art

Ok, I had promised two weeks ago that I would post the kids' paintings from camp, so I'm finally getting around to doing it. (Better late than never, right?)

So here's Zoo Boy's watercolor. Very, very different work from him. And he didn't have much to say about it. So....who knows!

J's painting was also a bit of a surprise. When I first looked at the photo of it in progress, I said "what's he so angry about?", as it was just a lot of bold strokes of red. But once I saw the finished product it looked more about joy than anger, so I guess it was all just part of the process.

And since so many people (I think there were two!) asked for me to post mine, here's my watercolor from the conference.

And a little wool lamb we all got the chance to make. Although I don't see how this is a Kindergarten craft -- you should have seen the trouble us parents had making it!

And finally, since I have room to add one more picture, I figured I'd post my led-drawing results. This is part of the 1st grade curriculum -- we read a fairy tale on one day, and draw the story the next (with the parent leading the how-to part) to help bring about artistic digestion of the story. This particular drawing (which is actually unfinished) is about Minnie Minus, part of the 1st Grade Math Curriculum -- you see how her arm looks like a minus sign? I'm getting ahead of myself though, I really ought to post about that stuff at some point....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

thunderstorm, by Zoo Boy

I thought I would entertain you with some photos of the kids enjoying themselves out in our yard after a thunderstorm brought bucketloads of rain down on us on Monday evening. The kids donned their rainboots and their Scooby Doo jammies and had a great time splashing around in the puddles. They also discovered that they could give themselves a shower by shaking the tree branches above them.

At the same time, I thought you might like to take a gander at the lyrics to a song that our budding composer and poet-extraordinaire, Zoo Boy, came up with to celebrate our recent unsettled weather:

Thunderstorm, by Zoo Boy:

A white cloud floats in the sky
It turns dark, and we know why
Plip, plop. Plip, plop.
Rain starts to fall.

Then BOOM goes the thunder
It shakes us down under,
And CRASH goes the lightening,
Its very frightening.

Then plip, plop. Plip, plop.
The rain starts to stop.
Plip, plop. Plip, plop.

It's good, no? I mean, considering he's only 5, I'm sort of blown away. Then again, he's my kid, he sort of blows me away on a daily basis....

Meanwhile, here's what The Map Man and I did after the kids were asleep last night. No, we're not burying a body out there in our front yard with our shovels around midnight -- we're planting several variegated dogwood trees that my herding instructor dug up out of her garden for me to take after my lesson last night. They were bare-rooted and needed to get into the ground ASAP, despite the fact that I got home with them at about 10pm. You can be sure it was cause for a bit of discussion amongst our neighbors! But I trust they figured it all out when they got up in the morning and saw the new trees.

Monday, June 23, 2008

weekly wrap-up, week 35, spring #11

Ok, ok, here's a post already! Sheesh, it's not like I was laying around eating bon-bons, I was busy!!

Anyway, we got back into the swing of things after our 2 weeks of vacation, and attacked our second to last week of our Spring Kindergarten semester. I started off the week by dumping the kids with my Mom (tee hee!) and sneaking off to the amazing Laurel Sanctuary in Union, CT, with my Dad. The Mountain Laurel were in glorious bloom, and a dramatic fog added to the mystique of this really cool place, which is a family favorite destination this time of year. Dad and I then headed down to the famous Variegated Foliage Nursery in Eastford, CT, where we both spent mucho dinero on various variegated plants to add to our various gardens.

Plants and flowers continued to be a dominant theme in our homeschooling week as well. Our seedlings (planted during week 33) are really getting big, so transplanting them will be a priority during the coming week. Excited about all the new plants I brought home on Monday, Zoo Boy insisted that I take him and J to a couple of local nurseries during the week, where they (and I!) selected several more nice specimens to add to our gardens, and they bought more seeds for us to start now that the last batch of seedlings will be moving outdoors. Zoo Boy selected Forget-me-nots again (I guess they are his favorite flower) and Zinnias, while J selected Morning Glories (apparently his favorite) and Moon Flowers. I picked up a package of pumpkin seeds to toss into the manure pile and see what comes of them.

We continued our Planting Flowers Adventure Circle this week, but by the end of the week we moved on to a more organic circle, which is what we are going to use for the summer. The way it works is that we go for a morning walk (rather than having an adventure circle) and do the Enki Movement activities as they naturally come up. For instance, on Friday we saw this lovely Black Swallowtail butterfly on our morning walk, so we did "Waken, Sleeping Butterfly", then walked on. When we passed a flower garden, we naturally burst into "Lavender's Blue, Dilly Dilly". When we came across some little seedlings just starting to grow, we launched into "The Little Plant". When we stumbled onto a puddle leftover from the previous night's rain, we did "Rain". And so on. On a 45 minute walk, we found at least 10 movement activities to do.

On Thursday we hooked up with some friends over at our favorite park. Here J and his buddy Little J check out the butterfly garden.

Our curriculum story for the week was "Milk and Eggs", a folk tale from the Enki Kindergarten collection. It's a very silly story about the mishaps of a man who was sent to market to buy milk and eggs for his wife, but refused to take any means of carrying the milk and eggs home. He eventually decides to pour the milk into his hat, then turns the hat upside down in order to carry the eggs. When he gets home, he shows his hat full of eggs to his wife, who then asks where the milk was, at which time, he flips the hat over only to discover that the milk is gone, and now so are the eggs (all over the floor, that is). J thought the story was hilarious. Zoo Boy didn't get it, even after a couple of readings, so the last day I acted out the scene with a baseball cap, reading the lines of the story as I turned the hat over and inside out. Then he got it, and agreed with J that it was pretty funny.

The four friends, walking at the park on Thursday.

Our Family Story Time stories this week were Bumblebee, Bumblebee, Do You Know Me? A Garden Guessing Game, by Anne Rockwell (a fun verse and a chance for the kids to learn the names of common garden flowers -- a real favorite with Zoo Boy); It's Summer!, by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Susan Swan (I love this entire series of books, they have one for each season); and Jack's Garden, by Henry Cole (by far all of our favorite book this week, as it has a progressive repeating verse, wonderful illustrations, and is a more sophisticated means of learning the common garden plants in addition to insects and other garden-dwelling critters. The kids snag this book daily to pour over the contents).

Monday, June 16, 2008

weekly summary, early summer vacation

The Map Man had the week off from work, and we had a family vacation, of sorts. We didn't actually GO anywhere more than hour's drive, but we still packed the week with fun things. Like the Rock Cats game we attended on Tuesday evening. And a nice walk at Amelia Garden in Westfield, MA on Wednesday (where we saw this really cool statue of 3 kids examining a plant). And doing a lot of catch-up laundry from camp....oh, wait, that wasn't fun!

For the 2nd half of the week, The Map Man and the boys were on their own as I was attending herding clinics. They spent quite a bit of time in the woods -- the weather was pretty hot this week, and the woods were a cooler option. They explored a couple of local hiking spots. (This is Zoo Boy heading down the trail.)

They also spent an afternoon Letterboxing at Crandall Park in Tolland, CT. They found 3 boxes, did a bunch of hiking, and played on the playground for awhile.

On Friday afternoon the kids had a class about Animal Dads, where they learned all about those Dads in the animal kingdom who play a role in raising their kids. They also made a really clever Fathers Day Card, which they of course presented to The Map Man on Sunday. This was their last museum class until the fall, we're taking the summer off from classes, although I'm sure we'll probably go for some visits on rainy days.

Father's Day morning, the kids present The Map Man with his cards and gifts. We spent the afternoon/evening at my sister's family's house laughing and eating (and eating, and eating....). It was a nice end to a great vacation week.

Some of the schools around here are already out on summer break. My sister's kids only have one more week. We've got 2 more weeks in our Spring Semester (would have been done by now if it wasn't for the week at camp and the vacation week). Plans are to do a "light" 4 week summer semester in July, in which I'll start to introduce some 1st grade components for J, and then start the 1st Grade Enki Education curriculum with him in August, while keeping other activities at a lower level that month to make the transition to 1st Grade a little smoother (rather than just hitting him with the full schedule in September). I'll of course be blogging details as we go along! I have no doubt he's going to flourish with the 1st Grade materials, and I'm excited about starting more academic work with him!

Friday, June 13, 2008

ode to Ned's legs

We've been "on vacation" this week, which has included both family and family-minus-one-or-two activities. For the past 2 days (and the next 2) I've been attending herding clinics so I've not been around. The Map Man has been taking photos like crazy of all the fun he and the boys have been having, which I will eventually have time to post (warning -- there's bound to be a glut of posts at the start of next week!). In the meantime, while at my parents' house on Wednesday, my mother told me a true family story that I felt was worthy of going down in family history in a poetic format, so last night before bed, I hashed out the following:

Ode to Ned's Legs

My Grandfather's Uncle, a farmer named Ned,
Lived with Aunt Mary, tho' they were not wed.
I don't have the details, but you can be sure
That back in that day such things caused quite a stir.
And perhaps is why fate came to knock on Ned's door
One day while Aunt Mary was washing her floor
(Which happened to be a great passion of hers),
While Ned headed out to attend to his chores.

When his wagon got stuck on his way into town,
Ned knew he could fix it and quickly jumped down.
I'll spare you the details, it could have been worse,
But Ned should have thought to unhitch his team first
Before slipping down under to push with his legs,
And from that day on forward Ned walked on two pegs.

Except for on Tuesdays, 'round mid-afternoon,
Which is when Mary pulled out her mops and her broom.
You see, those pegs scuffed up the floor as they bumped,
So Aunt Mary made Uncle Ned walk on his stumps.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

take me out to the ball game....

Last night a local homeschooling Mom organized "CT Homeschoolers Night" at the New Britain Rock Cats game (a AA minor league baseball team, farm club for the Minnesota Twins). It was also Jersey night, and the kids all got Rock Cats uniform jerseys, as well as Rock Cats hats because there were more than 300 people in our group (actually, there were more than 500 people in our group! That's a lot of homeschoolers at one baseball game!). It also was Tuesday night, and every Tuesday night at the Rock Cats game, kids eat for free (they got a voucher for a free hot dog and drink at the gate). All for just $5 a ticket -- talk about your family value!!

The homeschool kids got to unfurl and hold the flag on the field during the singing of the National Anthem -- you can actually see J, who was sitting on The Map Man's shoulders, in this photo -- about 2/3 the way across the field of blue you can see someone with a light colored shirt -- that's J! Zoo Boy decided NOT to venture onto the 99 degree field and stand in the sun for half an hour (smart boy!) so he and I watched from our seats.

Then it was time to play ball! We actually only lasted a couple of innings -- did I mention that it was 99 degrees? With high humidity? And no breeze? I'm guessing it's a lot like what attending a ball game in Hades would be like.... Zoo Boy was asking to leave pretty much the moment we got to our seats, and I have to admit to feeling about the same way. Otherwise I'm sure we would have enjoyed the whole experience a lot more.

As it was, J was pretty taken by the game and watched the play closely. I mentioned to him that his Grampy and Uncle Jeff both LOVE baseball (I did too as a kid -- obsession was probably a more appropriate word, actually, before I came to my senses and obsessed over football instead....), my guess is that he'll start picking their brains about the game's inner workings.

Zoo Boy trying to make the best of it. He ditched his shirt within minutes of arriving, and started asking for drinks soon thereafter. Poor kid feels the same way I do about the heat, but J wasn't leaving until he'd seen enough baseball to satisfy his curiosity on the topic. We finally made a run for it between innings. (Dad, you would have been proud, we were the FIRST people out of the parking lot, no traffic at all....)

Hopefully this will become an annual event (the baseball game, not the heat wave!) for the homeschoolers. Other than the beastly weather, it really was a blast!