Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Little View of Tania's World

She looks so much older than 7, but she really is very much a child. She really is still interested in serious play. I still hear her in her room talking to her dolls. I'm seeing lately that she really is not ready for school-type learning.

So what we have in this picture is a restaurant that she has created. See the little pillow? That's the roof to the entrance. That little box near it is a piece from her dollhouse that is now a hostess stand. A bottle of nail polish is the hostess. She sits on one of the dollhouse chairs. To Tania's right, she has put down a Judy Moody book and The Twits as the dining area floor. You can barely see it, but a set of paints serves as cafeteria seating, and there are two tables that some finger puppets are sitting at. That little green guy by her leg is the waiter. Behind her is a tray of food. The beads in front of her are being made into various food dishes.

See that guitar in the picture? It used to be a pink Barbie guitar. I walked outside the other day and Tania was in the process of painting it red. You see, "Pink is not very rock n' roll."

Tania has also created an entire area that replicates the baby area that I have for Talula. She has this little day bed in her play area of the living room. Today, I walked out there and Tania was in the bed pretending to sleep next to her baby. Talula sleeps right up next to me, so Tania was copying me. She even had a little nightstand with a fan, a journal, a pen, and some books, just like mine. She has taken the little clothes that Talula has grown out of and started using them for her babies.

Other than that, Tania has been going to the beach, to the pool, hiking, and to see the horses. Today, we are going to a bridal shower.

Life is busy. I'm not sure what things she is learning lately, but our home is peaceful at the moment and Tania is happy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Talula is learning, too!

Talula was one month old on the 22nd. She's doing a great job holding her head up to stare at her new friends. We took her to the doctor yesterday and she weighs a whopping 11 pounds, 13 ounces! She's gained over 4 pounds since birth, more than half her original weight. Breast milk is the most amazing potion ever invented.

In other news, Tania has been extremely busy playing at the beach. She's been out with the visitors almost every single day, and spent the night at her friend's house one night. She's been to the Polynesian Cultural Center, where she attended a luau and learned about Polynesian cultures. She's been hiking at the Hau'ula trail and swimming at the Hau'ula Beach Park. She's been to Kailua beach almost every day. She's been snorkeling in Waimanalo. Sunscreen cannot even keep up with her. She's sort of reddish-tan even though she has had to get out of the water every 30 minutes to reapply. She doesn't look half as red as the visitors, though. They look like skin cancer, just waiting to reveal itself.

When Tania has not been at the beach, she's been on the computer. She's all about these girly websites where she can print out paper dolls or create virtual outifts. She informed me that when she grows up, she wants to be a fashion designer.

It got me to thinking: What if she does grow up to be a fashion designer? What if I fill her days with grammar, literature, history, math, and science, and she grows up to be a fashion designer? What if I fight her to get her work done, chatising her for her lack of interest, scolding her for rolling her eyes, and she grows up to be a fashion designer? What if I spend a good chunk of my day in frustration, trying to get her to enjoy the books that I enjoy, the subjects that I enjoy, and she grows up to be a fashion designer?

Even worse, what if in her heart, she wants to be a fashion designer, but she grows up to be a literature professor or a lawyer or a journalist?

When I was a kid, I loved art and fashion. I won art contests all the time. But the more people told me how smart I was, and the more my parents focused on getting me an education in the subjects that would take me somewhere in life, the more I doubted my abilities in the areas I actually enjoyed. I think that people believe that you are either smart or artistically talented. And that if you are both, you should run with the smart thing and forget about the artistic thing.

So I have pretty much decided to ditch the Classical method. I still want to purchase all of the books that I was going to purchase, but I don't want to require Tania to learn anything that she has no interest in. We will continue math and language for a while, so that she can do well on the state-required tests. The history books will just be read to her as stories. We'll keep the science books around the house for when she has science questions.

This is all very scary for me. I'm a very controlling person by nature. But I've raised my girl to be stubborn and opinionated, to question authority, to be independent, and she has shown me that she would very much like to direct her own education. We talked about the language and the math, and she agreed that she wants to do well on the tests so that she can continue to stay at home. We talked about the history, and she agreed that it would be fun to learn as a bedtime story, but that she still wanted to draw pictures for each lesson, but only if she felt like it.

I think that this will give us a great deal of freedom to do the things that are very important to us. And I think that our new way better reflects the title of this blog: A Learning Way of Life.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Building Cities and Other Beachy Fun

We took Joey's friends to the beach in Waimanalo yesterday. It's the beach where Joey and I fell in love. Awww...cherish. It was really windy, and the surf report said that the waves on the east side were 4 to 8 feet.

Joey and his friends had some boogie-board fun. It's fun to watch people get pounded by the surf.

Tania had no interest in going in the water, but she built a little city in the sands. There was a playground and a cemetery. The cemetery had "rhinestones" where each person was buried. She was very proud of herself. She took some of the materials with her when we had to leave.

Talula and I sat in a chair the entire time. She slept in her sling, as usual. It was nice to be sitting in the breeze though.

We had to leave abruptly because the rain clouds were coming in pretty quickly. As soon as we got in the car, the rain started. Whew!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not up to Much Lately!

It's just do any sort of schooley-stuff lately. Yesterday we walked to the library to check out some books that correlate with Tania's history lessons. We are studying ancient times right now, so we got books about ancient Greece, Egypt, Africa (yes, I know that Egypt is in Africa, but they have separate histories), India, and Israel. I couldn't find any about Mesopotamia, which I found strange because civilization started there. I'll look harder next time. Tania checked out some books that personally appealed to her as well.

Joey carried Talula in a sling and she slept the entire walk over there and until I had finished selecting books. I just had to take her outside, boob her, change her diaper, and put her back in the sling. (I carried her home.) They sure make cloth diapering easy for being on-the-go nowadays. We have gotten to a point where we only use Fuzzi Bunz. I just don't have it in me to learn how to use prefolds and all the various covers. Well, you just bring a little waterproof diaper bag and throw the dirty one in there and you're good to go. We bring the Ziploc of our cloth wipes with the special potion (water, pure aloe gel, lavender oil, and tea tree oil). It's no harder than dealing with disposables.

Well, we have also have had guests in town since July 6th, and they will stay until the 27th. They are friends of my parents and they brought a little friend for Tania to play with - an eleven-year-old girl. Tania adores her and they pretend they are spies or play on the slip-n-slide most of the day. They like to spy on Joey. They put on disguises and carry newspapers with eyeholes in front of their faces. Today, they took Tania with them to the beach. So she has been having a blast.

Joey went to pick up his friends from the airport today. They will be staying for a week. So we have a full house. It's fun though. Tania loves having a lot of people around. She'll play herself to death, though, if we don't stop her.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

Whew! I had to read this book again after having some frustrating moments with Tania and her schoolwork. I was on the verge of turning into "Mommy Dearest" because Tania's whining and complaining has been driving me crazy. Everything is, "Do I have to do this now?" and "Why do I have to do that?" I just want to bring back the old-fashioned beating sometimes. But since the law wouldn't be on my side, I have to find a better way. (Obviously, I'm kidding. I wouldn't beat Tania because I love her, not because there are any legal barriers.) I read this book a while ago, but had fallen out of the habits encouraged in it, so here I go again.

I guess the basic premise of the book is that children react to the way that we treat them and speak to them. The book gives four important tools to use when your child is talking to you: 1) listen with your full attention (turn off TV), 2) acknowledge that they are saying something (mmm..., mm-hmm, oh...), 3) name the feeling that the child is feeling (I bet that made you feel angry), and 4) offer a fantasy (I wish I had a magic wand that could fix your broken toy). These tools actually do work. It's just hard to keep up the habit of using them, so I am again trying to incorporate them into our lives. I used them today, and things went a lot more smoothly than they do when I yell and give completely useless time-outs.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Singapore Math

Singapore Math

We have been using the Singapore Math program for about a month now. I guess the main selling point of this program is that it is the program used in Singapore schools, and children there consistently score high on math tests (much higher than children in the United States score). The program is said not to just teach math, but to teach how to think mathematically.

I started Tania at the beginning of the First Grade series, because the program is taught much differently than the program she learned from in school. In the first grade, students learn basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Most programs in the United States teach addition and subtraction, from basics to advanced, then move on to multiplication and division. This program seeks to show the relationship between addition, subtraction, multiplicaton and division by teaching them all simultaneously throughout the first few years.

The program uses kid-friendly pictures, but there are no manipulatives. Some children learn fine this way, but many children need manipulatives in order to learn math concepts. I think I would say that just about any child could use this program, but different children might need different supplements to fully benefit from it. Tania is a "logical-mathematical thinker," much like I am, so she doesn't really need manipulatives, but I have added addition/subtraction and multiplication/division tables for her to memorize. I know that a lot of homeschooling parents think those sorts of tables are useless, but I still use that memorized information most days of my life. Memorizing those tables made more complicated math courses easier as well. I didn't have to waste time figuring out components of math problems that I had already memorized. And I think that as long as children are memorizing the tables along with learning the mathematical concepts of what they are memorizing, the information doesn't become useless.

A lot of the contents of the First Grade series are extremely easy for Tania, but some of its contents are new material (like multiplication and division). She'll be finished with the first workbook next week, and finished with the second workbook and all of First Grade by the first week of August. Then she'll be where she needs to be in order to begin the Second Grade. We'll be able to take a couple of months off to just enjoy the remainder of our time in Hawaii, then set up in and get to know Portland without the pressure of schoolwork.

Tania actually really likes working on math. She always asks to do math before doing any other subject. I think she likes it because it's sort of "schoolish," what with the workbook and all. She likes to get graded. It's bizarre. I think she also likes the coloring she gets to do in the workbook. It's really set up to be attractive to children.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fourth of July Festivities

We had a fabulous Fourth of July! Joey had to work during the daytime, but Tania, Talula and I went to watch the Kailua Parade at our cousin's house. Tania rode her bike and I walked with Talula. Tania had to wear her baby in a sling just like her mama. Strangers thought she was pretty cute.

The parade was okay. I always expect parades to be all clowns and floats and guys on stilts, but the groups that participate are mostly veteran groups, political candidates, churches, and sports teams. But each group always has someone passing out candy to the kids. You should have seen Tania's loot! (I secretly threw it away this morning. She'll forget all about it. That's my move on Halloween too.) It was a hot day, though. Talula and I got really sweaty, but it was totally worth the walk.

In the evening, we had a little barbecue at our house. About ten people showed up. We barbecued and drank beer and had watermelon. The kids ran around and popped firecrackers. At 8:00, the fire department puts on a fireworks show out at Flat Island in Kailua Bay. We all climbed onto the roof and watched the show. It was pretty spectacular, but I was distracted watching Tania. She was sitting with her two best friends. One of them is moving away in a week, and of course, we are moving away in September. The three girls were telling each other that they were best friends and that they would be best friends forever, and it just really broke my heart. I really hope that they do keep in touch forever. I wonder if I am doing a terrible thing by moving Tania to a whole new state and away from her best friends who she has known since she was three years old. I just wonder if this will be a traumatizing part of her life that she looks back on with pain.

Well, I don't want to end this on a sad note, so I'll say that we had a wonderful Fourth of July. Today, Tania and her cousin are visiting a hotel in Waikiki that their little friend is staying at. He's a nine-year-old boy, and they both have a crush on him. (Shhh!) Tania painted her fingernails blue and white this morning and had me put her hair up in a pretty hairdo.

I feel like my heart is going to explode because my kids are so cute.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

"Animal School"

I came across this slide show/movie thingie yesterday called "Animal School". I think the movie shows the incredible differences between children in a really neat way. Here is the text:

"Once upon a time the animals had a school. They had to create a curriculum that would satisfy everyone, so they chose four subjects: running, climbing, flying, and swimming. All the animals, of course, studied all the subjects.

The duck was very good at swimming, better than the teacher, in fact. He received passing grades in running and flying, but was hopeless in climbing, so they made him drop swimming so that he could practice climbing. After a while he was only average at swimming, but average is still acceptable, at least in school, and nobody worried much about it except the duck.

The eagle was considered a troublemaker. In his climbing class he beat everybody to the top of the tree, but he had his own way of getting there that was against the rules. He always had to stay after school and write, "Cheating is wrong," five hundred times. This kept him from soaring, which he loved, but schoolwork comes first.

The bear flunked because they said he was lazy, especially in the winter. His best time was summer, but school wasn't open then.

The zebra played hooky a lot because the ponies made fun of his stripes, and this made him very sad.

The kangaroo started out at the top of the racing class, but became discouraged when was told to move swiftly on all four legs the way his classmates did.

The fish quit school because he was bored. To him, all four subjects were the same, but nobody understood that because they had never seen a fish.

The squirrel got an A in climbing, but his flying teacher made him start from the ground up, instead of from the treetop down. His legs got so sore practicing takeoffs that he began getting Cs in climbing and Ds in running.

The bee was the biggest problem of all, so the teacher sent him to Doctor Owl for testing. Doctor Owl said that the bee's wings were too small for flying and they were in the wrong place. The bee never saw Doctor Owl's report, so he just went ahead and flew anyway. I think I know a bee or two, how about you?

The duck is the child who does well in math and poorly in English and is given tutorials by the English teacher while his classmates are doing math. He loses his edge in math, and only does passably well in English.

The eagle is the child who is turned into a troublemaker because he has his "own style" of doing things. While he is not doing anything "wrong," his non-conforming is perceived as troublemakeing, for which he is punished.

Who does not recognize the bear? The kid who is great in camp, thrives on extra-curricular, but really just goes flat in the academics.

The zebra is the heavy, tall, or short, self-conscious kid whose failure in school few realize is due to a sense of social inadequacy.

The kangaroo is the one who instead of persevering gives up and becomes that discouraged child whose future disappears because he was not appreciated.

The fish is a child who really requires full special education and should not be in the regular classroom.

The squirrel, unlike the duck who "manages," becomes a failure.

The bee, oh the bee, is the child who the school just feels it cannot deal with, yet, against all odds, with the backing of his parents, has enough self-motivation to do well even though everyone thought he couldn't. I had the pleasure of knowing many bees.

Your child is a unique blend of talents, personality, and ingredients nowhere else to be found.

Some children are skilled intellectually, others are blessed emotionally, and many are born with creative ingenuity.

Each child possesses their very own exclusive collection of gifts.

The kids didn't come with direction booklets.

Effective parents are always learning, studying, and customizing the instructions for their individual child.

Each and every child is as unique as their fingerprints; a sparkling diamond of unparalleled beauty.

Don't let your child be a kangaroo!"

Tania seems to be sort of a duck-eagle-kangaroo when it comes to school, but we'll help her to be a little bee that defeats everything and buzzes on through life as her own person with her own unique way of doing things.

I am really excited to see what Talula will be like. If there's one thing Tania has taught me, it's that a child is born with their own personality! It can be cultivated through the way they are raised, but they are born with an identity of their own. Talula might be a completely different type of animal than Tania! I'm excited to get to know her.