Tot school conflictions

I have been compiling a list of Montessori items I wanted to slowly make or buy to have ready for next spring or summer. Mostly because I know we won't be doing much in the fall and the main period for these items in Montessori schools is 3-6 so I'd like to have them ready. I'm also trying to come up with a few busy bag type of activities to have prepped for when the new baby comes. Just little things to have on hand so when Dewey is having a rough day and I can't really focus on Lucy, I have a trick up my sleeve. Of course, this means I've been busy perusing the interweb and pinterest in search of fun activities even more so than usual. Which brings up several dilemas:

What to do?

One of the great things about the internet is that there are so many sources of fun and educational things to do with toddlers. One of the awful things about the internet is that there are so many sources of fun and educational things to do with toddlers. I could spent a whole afternoon finding fun stuff to do with Lucy but at the end of the day I would be completely overwhelmed by all the ideas, not to mention frustrated that I spent so much time on the computer that I  never actually got around to doing anything fun with her. I tend to focus on Montessori and Waldorf blogs, not just because I am attracted to the philosophies behind them, but because it helps me narrow my focus a bit. Even so there are still a million ideas that I just won't be able to get around to and trying will only get me farther from my goal of simplifying our lives. 

So we'll be focusing on the math activities at first, in addition to practical life. I tried focusing on one area this spring, in that case art, and it really did help. And I'll be trying to stick with the traditional Montessori activities. While many of the Montessori blogs have different themes each week or two with matching montessori style activities and there isn't anything wrong with that, but it just isn't us - at least right now. So with the exception of sensory bins, which are so much more fun to put together with a theme, I won't be showcasing a week of frog matching and frog counting and frog pinching activities.

How much to do?

I'm struggling a bit with how much to do with Lucy.  I want to expose her to things but I don't want to push her. And I truly believe that what kids need most in their first few years is time to play and explore, not a set list of things they need to learn. Yet sometimes I feel like I'm deliberately holding her back so as to be more "Waldorfian" and that seems counter-productive.

For instance, she loves numbers and counting, which is pretty normal for her age I think. We've been going along with it, asking her questions about things "How many red rocks are there?" or "Can you bring me three blocks?" but I specifically haven't shown her any numerals. I briefly thought about making sandpaper numbers but decided not to as it just seemed a little too much for a 2 year old.

But all my plans were for naught when she learned them herself in the hotel elevator on our trip. Well, she learned up to 7 because the hotel only had seven floors :-) And the first night we got back home, she took all her foam numbers in the bathtub and told me what they were -except 8 and 9, she just threw those behind her, as if to say, ":I don't know what you are so I'm not even going to bother with you *" although she has since learned those as well.

Honestly, I wish I could take credit for it. The concept to symbol relationship is a big educational milestone and she didn't even need my help :-( So last night when I was perusing Montessori blogs and websites, I saw this free summer counters and numbers printable from the Montessori Print Shop and gave in and printed it for her. She loved it. I didn't even have time to laminate it like I wanted to before she took it and started. I only gave her the counters and numbers from 0-4 to start with but each time she would say "again but how 'bout more" and point to the extra pieces I had tried to hide behind my back until we hit 7. We only stopped there because I was hungry and made her stop for lunch. I should be happy about this but part of me just wanted her to go play with her blocks or doll or something. 

I'm probably just overthinking this. I have a tendency to do that. The beauty of knowing I'm going to homeschool is that it really doesn't matter if she is "gifted" (although I will say that I hate hate hate that word), average or even slow. I don't have to worry about if she is "prepared" for preschool or kindergarten. 

And in theory, even if I get those montessori items and she isn't ready for them, she probably won't use them for a while. I think I just recognize in myself a tendency to want to push her ahead to the next big milestone as much as I always want to push myself that same way to. And of course I think she is the smartest, best-counting 2-year old in the world, she's my two year old, I should feel that way. But I don't want my bias to influence my decision making and I really don't want to be one of those crazy moms with flashcards trying to get my 2 year old to learn all these facts. So if I ever bring up the idea of my baby can read - somebody promise to come over here and tie my hands down please!

The results:

Spindle box: (Make) -  If I can find a cheap box somewhere, I might go that route but I really like the roll up felt ones since I already have felt and hot glue and Craig can cut down dowels in about 3 sec (times 45 :-)

Number Rods (Make) - These should be pretty easy to make although to speed things up I might only use one color since blue and natural wood is just as easy to distinguish as blue and red. 

Colored tablets (Make) - I made sets one and two already and she has those down pat but now I need to get around to making set three. 

Dropper work/color mixing (Make) - Well, I'm not going to make my own droppers :-) but I'll make my own "tray" by letting Lucy explore water transferring with droppers and then I can easily color some water and turn it into a color mixing activity. She already loves color mixing with her paint now that I have finally allowed her to use two colors at once.

Pink Tower (Buy) - I've seen people make these but they aren't that expensive and seem like a big pain to make accurately enough to be useful.

Sandpaper numbers (?)  Can't decide if I want to make them or buy them from here. I don't think they would be hard to make but I would probably be annoyed at my lack of quality control.

Binomial Cube (Buy)-  I don't think she is quite ready for this, although I'm not sure I completely understand it myself so once I see it I might decide she is. But either way, if I'm already placing an order for two things, I'll just get this one as well and save on S&H.

Sandpaper letters  (?) -  Again, I think I want to hold off on these for a while although I'm sure she could pick them up easily but I'll go ahead and make/buy them at the same time as the numbers. FYI - We won't starting with the traditional alphabet like you would hear from the song but will be doing the Montessori thing and teaching the letter sounds first.

Knobbed cylinders (Fantasize about). Okay, I would love love love to have these but I just don't think I can justify spending $100 on a single manipulative, no matter how long lasting and wonderful everyone says they are.

Other activities:

Lauri puzzles - Lauri stuff is pretty awesome in terms of quiet sitting activities. 

Homemade necklace kit  with colored pasta and shoestrings - Also good for math if we focus on patterns or sizes.

Sensory bin dump kits (everything bagged so all mommy has to do is empty old bin and dump new one in):
-Garden - pinto beans, plastic bugs (from her birthday), plastic flower or two, plastic sandbox shovel
-Ocean - Colored rice or water beads, plastic ocean animals, felt seaweed, blue aquarium beads (already own), plastic aquarium plants (already own)
-Safari - Cloud dough (we've made this before and she really liked it), lion, tiger, giraffe (we already own), rocks for boulders, sticks

Cutting strips - Lucy loved cutting things a while back but she still needed help holding the paper but would get frustrated if I didn't do it just "right" and always wanted to cut when I was not available to sit and help her so I put them up for a while. I'll probably get them out again soon and by the time baby comes, I expect she'll be a cutting fool so I'll just have a few cutting skill printables on hand.

Other "Tot school" goals

Nature time - I want to keep us in the habit of spending time outdoors. As it gets hotter and I get more pregnant, I really fight this but we both do better when we spend time outside. My goal is at least one hour a day and the weather should be nice enough in the fall that even with the baby, this can still happen. I would love to start a natural journal for myself and whenever I do my bible study, Lucy insists on getting out her bible and notebook so I thought I would get a similar notebook for her. Lately she has been enjoying drawing pictures of what we have been doing and she often writes "lists of num-nums for daddy to get at store when home from work."  (Can you tell who took over the grocery shopping when mommy got pregnant?) and when I ask her to tell me what is one them she "reads" it back to me - milk, milk, raisins, milk, dates, ice cream, raisins, milk. So I think she would enjoy starting her own natural journal although I have no expectations other than her pretending/copying me. 

Music - I  also want to be better about listening to good music during the day, maybe a composer a month? I don't intend for us to learn anything about the composer, just to listen to it during our afternoon activity of the day (cleaning, art, baking, etc). 

*One trait she has that is cute for now, but not something that I want her to keep, is that she doesn't like to try things she doesn't think she can do. She'll just say "I no how" (and yes, it is clearly "I no how" not "I know how." We are working on that :-) 

1 comment :

  1. The overwhelming number of ideas is why I'm leaning towards just using one curriculum. I just can't handle trying to decide what to do and end up doing absolutely nothing after wasting hours on the internet. I'm also not sure that we are going to have internet at home next year, so I need a back-up plan that doesn't involve constant research.

    We really like listening to Performance Today on NPR during Eliza's nap. I'm very lucky that it comes on here from 9 to 11, right after Morning Edition which is cleaning time.

    I have a whole set of classical cds, but I can't seem to do a good job of getting them in the cd player, so Jason is in charge of rotating the cds. He likes to get Zu to repeat the composers' names. I think he might get to be in charge of music education.