Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Freewheeling and Cosmic Adventures

There is a definite shift taking place. Spring IS in the air. Hubby chuckled this morning when I declared I had begun my spring cleaning. I spent most of yesterday washing curtains, quilts and sheets, hanging them to dry in the fresh spring air. He reminded me that it is still winter. Yes, Old Man Winter is sure to make a few more appearances in Nova Scotia, but on days like today, I will revel in the blue sky and sunshine.

I made an executive decision to skip our regular gymnastics class and hit the skate park. Any guilt I was feeling for shirking on our commitment evaporated the moment the boys sped away on their bicycles, wind and sun rosying their cheeks. I am fortunate to have access to this skate park with a glorious ocean view. We usually schedule our visits in the morning when the "big kids" are in school. It does sadden me, however, to see this community park scarred by vandalism and graffiti. On the bright side, it opened up a conversation on the matter......always something to learn with little ones around.

We also took our crafting and learning activities al fresco today. Sheltered by the cool ocean breeze, we tucked ourselves into a cozy corner of the deck and dug out the wool. There has been a great deal of interest in the solar system these days. Chi-Chi's upcoming space-themed birthday party is likely the root of it. While Chi-Chi set to work on his personal wet felting projects, Muffy assisted me with our latest science project while eating snack #3 (he's a growing boy!) I grabbed a felting needle and set to work creating a simple set of felted planets. An old piece of driftwood I had on hand served as a frame for our solar system mobile. Muffy helped me organize the cosmic creations using our reference book, a 69 cent thrift store find. Though far from scientifically accurate, the new mobile is a fun addition to our play space. If nothing else, it serves as inspiration for my dreamy boys as they contemplate space voyages and scientific discoveries of their own.

With the sun warming up his back, Chi-Chi could not resist a quick dip in the felting bucket! He invited me to give it a try and how good it felt. The grass tickling my toes, the warm sun on my face....yes, Spring IS here (almost!).

Friday, 5 March 2010

G is for Goalie!

Bedtime with my sweet boys is a time of day that I cherish. OK, I admit that I look forward to a calm and quiet house once the little ones are nestled all snug in their beds. It is the bedtime rituals themselves, however, that make this time of day so special. Once Daddy has the boys scrubbed from top to bottom, the two little monkeys are separated for a calm wind down to the busy day. Hubby and I alternate each night, ensuring we each have valuable one-on-one time with Chi-Chi and Muffy. I cherish this alone time with each of them. It is a very relaxing time as we settle into a stack of books without distraction. Chi-Chi and I are currently working our way through the Little House on the Prairie series and I look forward to diving back into these childhood favorites from my past. Story time with Muffy is full of cuddles and consistency as he's hooked on a few favorite titles at the moment. There is comfort in the routine for him.

Chi-Chi recently began to express an interest in learning how to sound out words. Pointing to words in his book, he asked for assistance in sounding them out. Little House on the Prairie was certainly not the place to start for this little guy who always seems to choose the most complicated of words to read! I knew we had to start somewhere simple, so I asked for help!

I consulted with the boys' Montessori teacher and she pointed me in the right direction. Not wanting to confuse Chi-Chi,it was important that our work at home be consistent and complimentary to the methods they were using at preschool. A big thank you to dear Ms. M who answered my many, many questions very patiently. I decided to set up a series of object sound baskets as an interesting and inviting way for Chi-Chi to work on his phonetic sounds. Each basket is dedicated to a set of sounds and includes a collection of beginning letter sound objects. I spent a good week digging through junk drawers and scanning dollar and craft stores for miniature sized objects. The tiny trinkets add an element of interest to the learning process and help reinforce the learning of sounds. I made a point of seeking out objects I knew Chi-Chi would find intriguing such as dragons, insects and our dear friend Santa. For anyone interested in setting this up at home, I encourage you to check out the language posts on My Montessori Journey.

I am following Chi-Chi's lead on our sound and reading work. A self-proclaimed book lover, he is quite tickled to be working through the pages of some very simple and basic readers. It's almost as if he has a sense of the magic he can unlock when he learns how to read. The boy who loves to spend "private time" flipping through the pages of books will most certainly marvel at the ability to read the words on his own.

As we snuggle under the quilts and crack open another chapter of Laura Ingall's life, I am transported back to my own childhood. I am once again that young girl with long brown braids (just like Laura!), cuddled up in the bottom cottage bunk. Flashlight in hand, up way past bedtime, I soak up every word of these tales from long ago. The next morning, I insist on cornbread for breakfast (just like Laura!). In a flash, I find myself back in the present, close to thirty years later. Once again, I find myself up past bedtime as my sweet boy begs for just one more chapter. I cannot resist those dark brown eyes. His head on my chest, he listens attentively to each word, soaking up the rich and beautifully descriptive text. He is captivated by stories of bears and guns and the enchanting tunes of Pa's fiddle.

Yes my dear Chi-Chi, let the magic unfold!

Going for Gold!

Like so many people around the world, we are all coming back to earth after much Olympic excitement over the last few weeks. As Canadians and citizens of the host country, the level of enthusiasm was certainly running on high in these parts. Chi-Chi and Muffy have been hockey lovers for quite some time, but the Team Canada gold medal win has sparked an even deeper interest in the game. The fact that we spend our Friday mornings skating on the very rink that Sidney Crosby grew up on, well that is just the icing on the cake for these two! Oh how I love Muffy's play silk goalie mask! Although Mommy is proud of his creativity, she won't be allowing this one on the ice.

The games also sparked some new found patriotism in the boys, perhaps something they had not experienced before. I discovered this great flag project on one of my favorite sites, My Montessori Journey. This blog has become one of my favorite resources for both Montessori specific work, as well as great crafts and activities. The flag templates were easy to print and in no time we had a huge collection of Canadian flags for our cheering efforts. This would be a wonderful project for wee ones any time of the year. There is definitely something alluring about flags in general and the children are simply captivated by them. We used wooden dowels instead of straws as Chi-Chi wanted to make larger flags. This would be a great activity to pair up with learning on other countries and cultures.

No Olympics would be complete without the Olympic torch and a few medals. These were quickie projects that I pulled together during one very wild storm and a power outage. They certainly filled the gap on one very cold and dreary day. The torch is a simple roll of white card stock stuffed with a little bundle of orange, red and yellow wool fleece. Is there nothing wool can't do?? The boys spent hours performing the relay, doing snowboarding stunts off the couch (eek!) and accepting their multicolored medals. After singing Oh Canada for an entire day, sweet Chi-Chi mastered the lyrics in no time. I love the way one activity leads to another, how one moment of learning opens the door to another. The curious and enthusiastic nature of children makes the process feel so natural and organic.

So much activity and excitement around here has left little time for blogging these days. I've been working on some fun projects behind the scenes that I hope to share in the near future. One certain little boy is turning 5 in a few weeks and we are all having fun planning and preparing for the big day!