Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Lego Homeschooling Method

I found my scheduling calendar the other day for all the notes and things I wanted to do with Toby while homeschooling.
The word 'found' maybe indicates how long it's been since I've opened it.
I looked inside and my chest sank as I realized I hadn't made notes since the end of February. We were going to do 'green' projects for St.Patrick's Day and the first day of Spring. We were going to do seed sprouting prior to planting our early peppers so we could see how seeds grow. We were going to talk about trees and maple syrup, but it was too cold at the time for the sap to be flowing.

What the heck had we done for the entire month of March? I felt busy, we must have done... something?

Then I clued in. Toby had been bitten by the Lego bug. All we had done the last month was Lego, lunch, Lego, outside (maybe), Lego, dinner, Lego.

I felt a sinking feeling again as I looked at his word and math sheets that had all but been abandoned over the last several weeks.
We HAD to get back into a routine....right??

I left the office to find Toby, again, at the table with a tray of Lego in front of him.
Our current obsession is a create-and-rebuild Lego truck set, and Mixels.
If you haven't heard of Mixels, it's these little Lego creatures that have three to a 'tribe' and nine to a series. If you have all three form the same 'tribe' you can find instructions online to make a big guy from all of their pieces. If you have all the guys from the series you can do infinite mix variations with all the pieces from them.
For my 8 year old self, this would have been a terrible idea since I treasured every Lego thing I built, and played with it as a toy, never daring to take it apart again.
For Toby though, this is brilliant. He's constantly inventing things in his head and trying to draw them and taking things apart JUST so he can put them back together.

He proudly showed me his new characters and told me all about the things they do to help the other Mixels. It finally hit me as I sat and listened to him for the hundredth time just how GOOD his designs were. Every character was different. Every time.
Maybe... just maybe... he was actually learning something...

Here's what I've finally figured out, just by watching him.
He's learning:

Engineering: the most obvious Lego skill. Everything is trial and error, and every time he makes a mistake, he makes the design better. Supports, locks, braces, everything in the right place to make the design work.

Counting: '2-piece' '4-piece' '6-piece' '4-cube' 'single-square/circle' and  'two-ramp' have all become common parts of our vocabulary when playing. Being able to sight-see those number figures, as well as count how many pieces you need, is something that used to take ages, and now happens almost instantaneously.

Colour: Again, obvious with Lego, but we're learning new colours like burgundy, gold, and the difference between dark grey and light grey.

Balance: Both structurally and artistically. Sometimes the creations are symmetrical, and other times they're not, but he's always figuring out that it can't be too heavy on one side, or that he needs another piece to even it out.

Following direction: 6 months ago he would get through 4-6 steps of Lego instructions, with help, before either skipping ahead or wanting to do something else. Last week he followed online instructions, start to finish, 30 something steps, with no help at all, except to ask for a few pieces he couldn't find.

Focus: Hand-in-hand with the last point, his ability to focus on something for more than 10 minutes has increased SIGNIFICANTLY.

Fine motor skills: What he got frustrated and cried about a few months ago, he now does with determination, accuracy and care.

Hand-eye co-ordination: He used to hand-off Lego pieces to me that "Just don't work" after one try, and now builds with precision and speed.

Physics: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction". ie: when you push a piece down really hard on one side, and the other side isn't braced, everything smashes and/or flies across the room.

Creativity: When he first looked at all the lose pieces and began sticking them together, he gave up pretty quickly without instructions. Now every time he makes something it sparks an idea for something else and his general creative instinct grows stronger. Today he told he in immense detail a scene he wanted me to make out of food for his snack, and what foods I should use. He's never done that before.

~      ~      ~

This is a tow truck with a spare tire and special turbo jets so it can haul heavier loads, and flames shooting out the back so it can melt the ice on the roads on slippery days.

The big guy is the combonation of the three red guys.
The one on the left I started, and Toby figured out the rest.

More guys

The two on the right were started by Anthony.
Toby did the rest.

The three 'Max' combination guys, and little friends Toby made out of the extra pieces.


The three grey guys that Toby followed the instructions for, almost all by himself.

More made-up critters





So, what do you think? Is 'The Lego homeschooling method' a thing?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mom Olympics

With the wrap up of the Olympics for another few years, I thought I'd pitch my idea for some Olympic events, specifically for parents.
How many events would you enter? What are you the best at?

Event 1 - The Floor Routine: Participants are put in an enclosed ring with 100 tiny Lego pieces, 100 Rice Crispies, 20 Marbles, 10 dust bunnies and an eleven-month-old. Clean the floor in the fastest time to win. Points are deducted if the baby eats some cereal. Disqualification occurs if the baby obtains any of the other items.

Event 2 - The Multi Task: Participants must make their way through  a course of randomly placed Duplo bricks, while holding an overflowing laundry basket, talking with phone tucked under one ear, and balancing the smoothie you just made on top of the laundry basket. Points are deducted for each stumble. Disqualification occurs if you drop anything. The stairs in the last leg of the course have brought down many-a professional.

Event 3 - The Stress Test: Participants are placed in an enclosed room with a dog, a two year old who is an hour overdue for a nap, a six-month old, and one broken toy. Whoever lasts longest without losing their mind wins.

Event 4 - The Biathlon: Participants jog on track with jogging stroller. At each check point participant must stop, change baby's diaper, and toss diaper into appropriate receptacle. A missed shot results in a  one minute penalty added to their time.

Event 5 - Backwards Day: Participants bend to the whims of a 5 year old through a backwards obstacle course. Participants must successfully build a Lego set with the instructions upside-down, crawl backwards through a fabric play tunnel, run backwards through a series of hula hoops, and sing any nursery rhyme backwards that the child comes up with. Points deducted for hesitation or inaccuracy.

Event 6 - Silence: Participants are faced with a hallway rigged with laser alarms. Crossing a laser will sound an alarm and wake the baby, resulting in disqualification. Maneuver the hallway as quickly and accurately as you can. Follow up events require you to be holding either a bowl of cereal or glass of wine. Lose points for spilling, disqualified for sounding alarm.

Event 7 - Strategical Lifting: Unload a car load of groceries, diaper bag, sleeping eight-month-old, and bag of new baby clothes in one trip. Points deducted if baby wakes up before you make it to the house. Disqualification if you drop anything.

Event 8 - Wrestling: Change a dirty diaper on a mobile toddler in the fastest time. Points deducted for diaper contents spilled. Disqualification if toddler escapes the arena unchanged.

Event 9 - The Dash: Participants are handed a container filled with contents resembling vomit, set to explode on a timer. Proceed to dash through hurdles course and land container safely in designated area before contents erupt.

Event 10 - Triathlon: Participants engage in a grueling bed-time routine. First leg of the race is bath time where child kicks/splashes/plays/screams while participants try not to get soap in their eyes. When the baby is dried and dressed they proceed to the second leg of the race, which is the bicycle portion. Ride around track with baby in bicycle car seat until baby falls asleep before proceeding to last leg of the race. Once baby is asleep, remove baby from bicycle car seat and speed walk to the finish line without the baby waking up.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Homeschool: Olympic week.

I think I"m going to try to post once a month about homeschooling just to make myself feel like we're accomplishing things.

After not doing much of anything for a while, THE OLYMPICS CAME.

Our family has always watched the Olympics. Always. We're not huge sports fans, but something about the Olympics is exciting.

Leading up to the opening ceremonies we talked about the Games, and Russia, and Canada.


We've also realized that Toby's obsession love of mazes translates well into map reading. After looking at the globe for a while, we pulled out some local maps and Toby and Grampa developed a game of "If you're here and want to go there, what's the best way?" Also a built in scavenger hunt to find all the churches/boat launches/schools/walking trails/parks listed in the legend.


We read a few book about Russia...



...and Toby thought the 'onion roof' label for the architecture style was hilarious, so we decided to make a Russian building



We used masking tape instead of paper mache because mess. And this was faster.
Lots of painting to be done
Pretty good!! The only thing I did was the white lines, because certain other little people insisted that I put my touch on it.

We watched the entirety of the Opening Ceremonies, which I wasn't expecting Toby to sit thought, but he did!
Grama and Toby made Olympic cookies

We're recording Canadian medal standings















We went skating (Toby for the first time) to get an idea of how much work it takes to work up to the jumps that the figure skaters do.
Needless to say, Toby opted for the sleigh ride after about a minute.



Things I've leaned this month:
There's a two hour window of opportunity to actually do book-work between dinner and bed. The rest of the day, don't even try to convince him.
Toby is quite possibly going to go to the Olympics for long jump. He's jumping about a meter or more from standing at age 5. In the summer I'm going to start actually measuring and not just counting squares on my rug.
Toby can do mazes in seconds.
Winter is lasting a long...long time...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hi, I'm 5. (Also 100th post!)

Hi there. I'm a 5 year old.

You know that food I've liked since the day I could eat and ask for all the time and can't get enough of? Yeah, well I don't like it anymore.
Also, I don't care how much cocoa powder you put in the smoothie, it only tastes good when sipped through a green straw.

I used to like helping you in the kitchen? Oh, well, I will I guess... If there are chocolate chips involved.

Contrary to your belief, NOBODY writes in lower case letters anymore, and the letter 'E' does indeed have six lines protruding from it. You just don't know anything.

That Hotwheels car I just got? I can't find it. I was only playing with it RIGHT HERE and NOWHERE ELSE, and now it's GONE. Oh...yeah that's it, I thought something felt funny under my leg.

Speaking of cars, we're going to make one today ok? I have plans right here. We just need some metal and wood and stuff from the attic. Maybe some string.

Go Outside???!! I don't care that I wanted to 5 minutes ago, THAT WAS BEFORE YOU PUT MY SOCKS ON THE WRONG FEET!

Go Inside???!!?? Frostbite is a myth, get your facts straight, mom.

I don't believe you when you say that I used to love washing my hands and playing in the sink. Sink water is like snake venom and soap is like acid and I will not use either, and I'm pretty sure you're just making up these 'germ' things you keep speaking of.

Yes, I'll absolutely turn the TV off after this next show... Oh wait, I meant this one... Awwww I forgot this was on today!...Ok ok for sure after  this....one.....um.... can I have a snack?

OH YEAH, I have the FUNNIEST joke ever for you... ok, Knock knock (who's there) Lamp (Lamp who?) PFFFFTTT not LAAAAMP, I said SLAAAMMMMPPP. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, ok ok, here's another one...

I don't know why I went through a phase of only wearing button-up shirts. You shouldn't have let yourself get over-excited, because now I hate them, and I'm pretty sure this t-shirt looks way better than anything I own to wear to that wedding in the spring.

I CAN DO THINGS MYSELF. GO AWAY. DON'T HELP  ME. I CAN'T DO THIS. I NEED HELP.

Yeah I like bedtime because I like books and cuddling, but some nights I'm pretty sure that my bed is a portal to the underworld and if I don't stay up for several more hours screaming that I'm not done playing yet, I'm going to get sucked into the evil vortex of sleep.

Yes I like bubble baths. No you may not wash my hair. Yes I enjoy repeatedly dumping this bucket of water on my head.

There's a thing crawling on the other side of the room and I can't go in that room at ALL until you go catch the horrible crawly thing, but please don't hurt him, he's so cute, can we name him and keep him in a jar as a pet?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Adventures in Homeschooling?

Depending on my mood the word 'homeschooling' is either this huge floaty relief of a word, or a giant lead elephant climbing up my back.
I'm still not sure which it really is.

I still think I feel the need to over-plan things. I feel the need to 'be a teacher' and make everything about learning. I keep trying to cram his head full of educational things that he probably doesn't need to know until grade 1 or 2.
I have to keep reminding myself that a) he's only in kindergarten, and b) that's not necessarily the point of homeschooling.

However I do know I need to have some level of planning so make myself feel like we're accomplishing something.
I've made a calendar full of theme weeks that will at least give ME a starting place. Each day I write on the calendar what we did so that when I have moments of hopelessness I can at least look back at the proof that something was accomplished.

This week's theme was 'snow'. Conveniently it snowed over 2 feet, so we had a lot to look at.

We made winter scenes on our windows


















This one is a blue firework exploding into the shape of a guy flying an airplane.



















We made snowman prints with cookie cutters and talked about 'biggest to smallest'.















We made snowflake cookies.















We talked about what snow is and how snowflakes are made.

We read snowy day type books.















We tried to freeze bubbles outside, but the best we got was a cold wobbly bubble that imploded in the wind.















We went snowshoeing.



















We recorded the french words for 'snow', 'ice', and 'cold', because Toby seems obsessed at the moment with knowing the french words for everything.

We did some train track engineering















We made a snow castle out of toilet paper tubes and egg carton, but according to Toby it's now a stage for his cars to perform plays on (or people too if they want, he's just corrected me)
































So far I've learned that Toby loves science, likes number and math stuff, and really doesn't like lower case letters. Or being asked to try new letters at all. Unless he's making a card for someone.

It's only week one and part of me feels like I've overdone it, and part of me feels un-accomplished.
I supposed we both have a lot to learn.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Things I've Said...

Things I've said I'd never do that somehow seem to have happened....

- Have kids
- Get a tattoo
- Get married before I'm 23
- Get divorced
- Breastfeed (maybe not totally true, I just didn't think I could so I wasn't getting my hopes up)
- Co-sleep with my kids
- Take my kids to a restaurant before they're 4
- Live at my parents past college
- Have my own business
- Homeschool

Friday, December 6, 2013

Perspective

Thinking about the whole Toby drama thing... and a thought came to me... A comparison of actions...An analogy....albeit maybe an extreme one...but one that hits it for me..

Why do I want Toby to go to school? Because I just...want him to. I want him to enjoy it like I did. I want him to make friends. I don't want to let people down by taking him out. I want him to be 'normal'.

Why doesn't he want to go? Because, he's told me over and over, there are too many kids. It's too noisy. And so it's not fun.

I tell him/myself that he'll grow out of it. He'll come around. He'll get used to it. It's fun when you're there, you've just forgotten.

But now... What if, instead of talking about school, we were talking about him being gay.

Would I still say those things to him? No. If his future-self confided in me and I said "I hear you, but you're wrong, don't worry you'll come around." what kind of a person would that make me?

School shapes your whole life, and right now, to him, school means stress and anxiety and fighting with mom. Do I want that?
Yes, he's 5. Yes he might change his mind about school. But is it worth ignoring his feelings right now?

Food for thought.