Weekly Wrap-Up # 13: The One with New Life

The girls' friend and my former daycare charge, Hallie, was with us for two more days this week before heading off to her first day of public school for the year. So, as we continued our overview of North America, we enjoyed her participation with us in several more of our activities. For example, all the girls (including the little ones) made Coup Sticks, a Sioux-style craft used for storytelling. In our case, each girl drew pictures of and then gave an oral "report" about some of her favorite summer activities.

They also sang and danced to - and got worn out by! - Uhe' BashoN ShoN, an Omaha follow-the-leader song.

And we decided to wrap up Hallie's time with us by having a good, old-fashioned, all-American picnic lunch, complete with hot dogs, chips, ice cream and apple pie.

But, as much as I enjoyed hosting Hallie, I was also glad for the advent of a more routine schedule starting on Wednesday. We once again pulled out the math and spelling books, among other things, and I re-implemented our complete, newly-revised workbox system. And I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the days went; we accomplished basically everything I'd planned for all four girls without anyone (least of all me!) ending up in tears!

I was particularly happy with Reciprocal Review, a new activity I started for Rachel and Abigail in order to get their learning time going around 9:00 each day as I did the main K4 work with the little ones. So that is how they'll now start pretty much every day - helping each other practice spelling words, math facts, and the like - while I am otherwise occupied. I think they enjoyed being entrusted with doing a learning task all on their own with each other, and I like that it's yet another way to foster unity and cooperation between them.

Later in the week, each also had the opportunity to narrate another story using a lesson from our new language book, Language Lessons for the Very Young, as a jumping-off point. While their first stories were based on picture study, these gems flowed from our work over the past couple of weeks with Robert Frost's famous poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

The Snow-Covered Tree
by Abigail (Age 8)

One night, Suzanne was riding her horse through the woods on a snowy evening when she fell off the saddle and into the cold snow and got buried! When she came out, she was all blue because she was so cold. And then she looked up, and her horse was gone. And she started to walk through the woods, and she found out she was lost.

And then she said, “Oh, drat! Where can my horse be?”

Her horse had found its way to the house, and her mother was frantic about her. And so her mother went out into the woods to find her. And snow from a snow-covered tree fell down and buried her!

Then she found her daughter and took her home to warm her up. And, when she was in front of the fire, she got too hot. So she went outside, and she got too cold. And then she went back in and got too hot. And then she went back out and got too cold!

She went into her bedroom, and it was just right. And then she slept all through the night until her little brother pushed her off her bed, and she screamed, “O-o-o-o-o-w-w-w-w-w,” especially because she fell on a tile floor.

And then a big bump grew on her head, and soon it healed.

And her father came home from chopping wood. And then her father said, “Hello,” and went to bed.

Then she went to her room and fell asleep. Then her brothers went to their room and fell asleep. And her mother and father went to their room and fell asleep. And the moon came out and the stars shone and the whole family dropped off to sleep.


Rebecca’s Ride
by Rachel (Age 9)

One night, Rebecca was riding her horse through the woods on a snowy evening. She had to get home before it got dark. Then suddenly a squirrel scampered in front of her horse, and her horse reared. She fell to the ground with a thud. She thought to herself, “Drat! I don’t like squirrels!”

Then she climbed back on the horse and started riding towards home again. Then suddenly her horse turned a sharp corner into the woods. She picked up a stick and yelled, “Go back, go back! This isn’t the way home!” And she hit the horse sharp with the stick so he would turn around.

The horse instantly turned around and started back. Rebecca had been wearing a red shawl, but it fell off when the horse reared. She thought to herself, “Ooh! I’ll have to go back for it. It’s my mother’s shawl.”

Then she noticed the horse had something in its mouth. It was the shawl! Then she started trotting towards home.

And, when they got home, she told her mother all about the bothersome day she had had. Then her mother scolded her for being home late. And she went to bed without tea, for they were in England. Then she went to bed and slept soundly through the night.

Then the next day, she had to go to market. It was snowing again, and the horse slipped and fell, and she fell to the ground and got her dress all muddy. “Oh, drat!” she thought.

Then, on her way home, she stopped at the bookstore and bought two books and put them in her saddlebag. Then, when she got home, her mother greeted her kindly this time because she had not been late. She handed her mother the basket of things she had brought from the village. And then she went to sleep – with tea this time. She had a few cakes and tea and then went to bed.

Monday was the big day for N. and Anna: their first day of Four-Year Old Kindergarten with Miss Tina!

Now, the more I've learned about early childhood, the more I've advocated against starting academics "too early" - because pushing a child into structured learning beyond her developmental level clearly does more harm than good in the long run. And most four-year olds - as well as many five-year olds - are simply not ready (despite the push to the contrary by educational "experts"). But I've also learned that readiness is an individualized thing. And these two girls both happen to now be ready for "something" a bit academic, probably in large measure because they've basically functioned as "younger siblings" around here - observing Rachel and Abigail read and learn - for their entire lives. So I don't believe there's any huge reason to "forbid" some structured learning when kids are clearly ready - as long as it remains "light" and developmentally appropriate.

And, in My Father's World from A to Z, the My Father's World kindergarten program, and the Handwriting without Tears Pre-K materials, I've found just what Anna and N. need.

We began the MFW K Creation unit this week, through which I introduced routines such as the Daily Calendar and Hundred Chart, and began reviewing all the letter names for both upper- and lowercase. The girls also got a "fine-motor workout" each day through cutting and coloring components of their Creation Numbers Posters and Creation Books. Last spring, neither was really ready for cutting, but - while they still needed my help on the curvy parts - I was duly impressed with their diligence and skill now.

MFW K includes a built-in handwriting component. But, though I think it would be appropriate for many five- and six-year olds, I knew it wouldn't quite work for my two little four-year olds. So I revisited an old friend, Handwriting without Tears, the wonderful curriculum I used with Rachel and Abigail from the beginning, and I think it'll be perfect.

This week was just an introduction - learning about and having fun with the wood pieces that are integral to the methodology and then beginning to work on the all-important "big girl grip." And, though holding a crayon (and, eventually, a pencil) in that way (as opposed to the clenched-fist grip typically used by younger kids), was new, both girls did great. Anna said, "It makes my hand tired," but - as you can see - she enjoyed the effort nonetheless.

On Friday, we also celebrated the return of Tegen, the little four-year old boy I care for on a part-time basis. He usually comes only on Friday afternoons, but, because of his mom's schedule this week, he was able to come for the entire day, and everyone enjoyed the reunion.

Now, even with all that excitement and fun, our biggest Teachers' Tots news of the week is something even better: the much-anticipated birth on Wednesday of N.'s brother, Little H.! I got to meet and hold him in the hospital on Thursday - he looks a lot like N. and is adorable. And Mom and Dad report that he generally appears to be pretty mellow and calm...which, if it stays, will be a very helpful character trait once he comes to join our Teachers' Tots crew around November 1.

Of course, a new physical life in this world is a beautiful thing that can't be topped by much. But this week we marked perhaps the one thing that can beat it: the anniversary of a new spiritual life - in this case Rachel's - who welcomed Jesus into her life as her Savior and Lord on September 1, 2006. I was privileged to be the one to lead her in prayer right in the middle of our breakfast time that day, a memory I hold as dear as her physical birth in 2001. I also have the privilege of seeing her grow daily - physically, cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually - into the young woman the Lord has designed her to be. She is, of course, one of the two most cherished blessings of my life.


Harter said...

Wow, Tina! It sounds like an awesome week!

Jennifer said...

Tina, would you elaborate on how you are doing the reciprocal learning time. I'm intrigued.

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