Archive for April, 2011

This morning we hiked around Gum Grove Park looking for bugs and sneezing our brains out. Well actually, the only two who seemed to be suffering the latter were myself and my poor niece who has inherited my side of the family’s allergies. My sister-in-law came along and we wore off some calories carrying the babies and pushing the other kids around in the strollers when they decided they needed breaks.

A friend of ours recently took some amazing photos here at this park and I was dreaming about the day when I would have more time to devote to things like photography.

There were very few bugs out to our surprise, so the bug jars only contained a couple snail shells and a single beetle. We saw a whole lot of yellow flowers and large patches of daisies and very tall thistles.

At one point, when my 4yo was walking up the hill a bit, she turned around with an excited look on her face and shouted, “bear!” It only ended up being a large golden retriever. I’m still not sure if she really thought it was a bear or if she was imagining that it was a bear. Her face was pretty funny and she didn’t seem at all worried, just excited, so I’m guessing it was pretending.

We walked along the road at the bottom of the hill to the Heron Pointe Cultural Education Center. We stopped at the end where there was a circular wall with steps leading down inside the circle. The kids ran while I found the ancient artifacts that had been inserted right into the wall. I think my 4yo might be able to find things like that soon. Next time we come down here I’d lke to bring some paper and charcoal or a crayon to let them take rubbings of the designs that have been etched into the rocks around the perimeter.

If you are looking for lizards, this is the place to come. We saw plenty. This one was moving a little slower, maybe because its tail has suffered a bit.

I’m including a gallery with the signs we saw that taught us a little history of the land. I’ve gotten into the habit of taking photos of the signs and reading them when we get home because there just isn’t enough time for me to do this in the moment.

I was surprised at how much time went by as we hiked along. I think I need to find some more parks like this where we can lose ourselves in nature. This was quite a pleasant morning and afternoon.

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“…and you take one away, how many do you have?” On our way to the Getty Museum today, our 4yo was teaching our 2yo some basic subtraction. We also spent the drive predicting what kinds of things we would see at the museum. The most surprising of which was, “snakes!” This was made by our 2yo who happened to be quite correct. We saw a surprising number of snakes, mostly in sculpture.

We met my husband’s sister in the parking lot and rode the tram up to the museum together. Before we boarded the tram a friendly guide told us we would “have to visit the Family Room.” She said it as if that’s the place where we were suppose to go if we brought young kids with us. She was very adamant. I took it as a suggestion until we got upstairs and the “advice” was repeated several more times with the heavy implication that that was where we should really be spending our time at the museum if we had small kids with us.

We all loved the portrait of Jeanne Kefer by Fernand Khnopff. We left with both a refrigerator magnet and a print of this one. The point of the visit was to see the Impressionists. Our 4yo’s favorite was the Irises (yes, she’s brining home the fridge magnet).

The girls held Auntie’s hand for the majority of the visit. They never once touched anything that they were not suppose to touch. I made sure to gain permission before taking photos. A little while later, I missed the sign that said no photos in the Paris rooms. I was scolded for taking a photo there and profusely apologized.

My 2yo ran about 6 feet in front of the stroller and I was informed by the guide-gaurd that she wasn’t allowed to run around and that she would need to be held. So, she sat down in the stroller and that was that. We were again informed that there was a Family Room where we “could take the children.”

Our 2yo was very excited to find a painting with a reindeer. She was quite sure that it was a reindeer and not a bull. It had horns. Everyone knows that horns equal reindeer, right?

It was a warm day, hot really, so instead of eating out on the grass in the sun as we had first planned on doing, we decided to eat at the tables. In the shade it was quite pleasant. We’d brought provolone and salami from the Italian deli in town. Even the baby joined in the feast. She’s enjoying putting that tooth to use.

After lunch, we went to find the Family Room. As we entered the foyer, a man quickly set a large sign in front of us and said, “oh no, you cannot enter now. We are full. A class just came in. I would give them 15 minutes or so. You will have to wait outside.” So we went out to the fountain near the entrance to the Family Room and waited. Family after family was turned down so that the school class could play in the Space for Families (I’m not kidding, this is what they call it).

We waited for about 15 minutes. We waited longer than any of the other families, but the class didn’t leave after 15 minutes and the baby was getting tired of us standing still, so we decided to visit the wing with Italian paintings and artifacts. Afterwards we went back to the Family Room/Space for Families and were welcomed inside and then once again quickly stopped. We were told we would have to leave the stroller outside.

The baby was asleep and I had two bags I wouldn’t have been comfortable leaving with the stroller, so we decided we would not be able to do the Family Room this time. Next time we come to the Getty we will try to get to this earlier in the day. It was at this point that I thought of pointing out that they should probably change the name to Children’s Room, because Family Room is not very fitting.

It was a nice day overall, but I was a little disappointed in how everyone seemed to treat us because we had small children with us. I certainly saw quite a few of the school children get a lot closer to touching the actual exhibits than our girls. Maybe it was just a fluke day. I hope so, because I plan on bringing the kids back on a regular basis.

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Happy Easter everyone!

I just wanted to give an update to our Natural Dyed Easter Eggs post.

Here is how our blueberry dyed Easter eggs turned out. I thought they looked quite black, so I took a photo of them on one of our chalk board pieces.

In case you would like to replicate these, we filled a small tupperware with canned blueberries and simply let them sit in the refrigerator for several days. No vinegar needed!

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My cousin, who teaches at a Montessori school, sent me this link last week, so we thought we would try it out.

Here are our results:

Um, yeah, natural.

I think that’s mostly because I forgot the vinegar and partially because the hibiscus tea I bought was brown and I think that there are pinkish rose colored hibiscus teas out there and that that was the kind to which the writer of the article was referring. See, no vinegar…

…completely forgot.

But, it was lots of fun! And, I totally recommend trying it out, as long as you aren’t expecting any vibrant easter-y colors.

P.S. I’m actually trying out the blueberry suggestion at the bottom. I’ll post again if that turns out well.

P.S.#2 We did it! See the blueberry dyed eggs here!

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This week, every time we went for a walk, our 4yo would start singing the alphabet. She would sing it to various tunes, some learned and some made up, then she would say it without singing. I could still usually figure out a tune she was thinking about because she would say it with a particular rhythm.

So after several walks like this we started figuring out which letters came first. I started by asking easy letter pairs like, “what comes first, ‘A’ or ‘B’?” And then moved on to slightly more difficult pairs like ‘C’ and ‘X’ or ‘E’ and ‘H.’ And then I would be quizzed too. After this we spent a few minutes alphabetizing our names.

It’s fun to find these natural transitions in learning as we go about our day. I’m looking forward to discovering more of them. I have to think about it though. I could easily have walked all the way home from the store just listening to her recite the alphabet and that would have been enjoyable and good, but sometimes I can see the benefit of asking questions and then letting her ask me the same questions back. We make it into a game.

I feel a little silly writing about something so little but, to be honest, I would love it if people shared their little moments like this with me. I think it would help me develop my eye for these opportunities.

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So, there was no need to “strew” the actual iPad. The girls love it. Their friends have them, or at least their friends’ parents have them, so they already knew what these iPad things are all about. They knew we were going to get one. Their grandma got ahold of a new one before we did and they were jealous. They cried when she took it home with her.

I know that many parents might feel that its another device that can be overdone and I bet they’re right on some level. We’ve had ours less than a week though and I kind of don’t know how we functioned before it. I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that we took our first road trip last week and it saved lots and lots of time and space for this overworked, under-slept, passenger seat sitting, navigating, on-the-road mother of three small kids. All I had to do to figure out where we were was push a button and zoom in on the map app. The GPS would pinpoint where we were at inside the RV (in case I forgot which seat I was sitting in).

Back to my original thought though. My husband has installed/strewn several pages of kids apps. Its kind of fun to watch them find the new app icons. The girls love to write their letters and sound out words and play the matching games and counting games and puzzle games and read stories and it just doesn’t end. They play together with it nicely most of the time. They enjoy watching the other play games and figure out what each new app is all about.

For the most part, they can figure the apps out on their own. In less than a week our 2yo has learned all her colors. Before this, my husband was worried that she might be color blind because she so often identified colors incorrectly. She has also started picking up on the fact that letters make sounds. I’m sure that she would have figured this out sooner or later as her sister is always sounding out words, but now when she hears a word like “pig” or if she sees a letter ‘P’ she will shout, “Pig! P-P-P-PIG!”

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I don’t know, I guess when people have asked if our oldest is in preschool yet I’ve figured that my, “well, we are planning on homeschooling” would be enough of an answer.  Apparently its not though. People often still want to know why that would have anything to do with us not sending our kids to preschool.

According to the statistics, children who attend preschool are more likely to learn to read, they tend to read better, they are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.  They are also less likely to need public assistance and be incarcerated as adults.

I can see how people who have heard these statistics and think that these particular achievements are the definition of success (or at least see them as important milestones for a successful life) can think, why in the world would you not send your child to preschool. (I can’t keep myself from pointing out that most of these folks aren’t having babies in January, changing their surnames to names that start with the letter ‘A,’ or only having first-born children. All of which would also give their children a leg-up academically and fiscally.) But, I can see how they would think that even if you are planning on homeschooling, it might be a good idea to send your children to an institutionalized preschool if you want them to succeed in life at least in these areas.

If you are planning to teach your children that learning takes place in the classroom with a teacher and a textbook or occasionally in a library with a book or on a special occasion in a museum with an instructor, well, I guess that it makes sense that preschool would condition those that take part to be better equipped to handle their time in school (whether its the dining room table or the more popular classroom). I can totally see why you would want to give them a head start, a leg up, and a preview of the next 13 years of their life and how that might be beneficial. But, what if you are not planning on ever teaching your children that the classroom (or dining room table) is the place for learning?

Why would I want to condition my children to believe these things?

To be fair. I’m not telling everyone who asks this question that we are planning on unschooling.  I don’t feel that it is necessary for strangers at the playground to know this about us. It is easier to say we are homeschooling or that we are going to be homeschooling and that we do pre-school-y things all the time at home. We are reading to them, getting them excited about learning, taking them places they are interested in and introducing them to all sorts of things that they might find fascinating and want to explore more in the coming years. Our (rather shy) 4yo’s current favorite thing to do when we go new places is to meet and make new friends. We let them (and encourage our kids to) develop relationships with all the people in their lives and not just the 2 and 4 year olds we know. We are carefully helping them develop the social skills that their personalities and ages need to navigate several social situations and environments.

We love our un(pre)school life and look forward to learning so many things in the years to come in a natural, organic sort of way. I love the fact that our kids won’t have to de-school themselves as much as I have had to do. I love that they can keep learning everywhere and that they don’t have to spend these precious preschool years learning how to learn in a classroom. I guess not sending my kids to preschool is a form of censorship.  I’m not teaching them that anyone else is in charge of their education. I’m not teaching them that raising your hand, standing in line, coloring on the “correct” side of the worksheet are all necessary skills to learning new things. Although not sending my kids to preschool is a form of censorship, its really all about freedom. Its censoring out people and systems that want to give these little people lifetimes of educational censorship.

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