One day this week, my middle son, who is 6, decided he wanted to learn to play the recorder. Since this was what he wanted to do, he was really focussed and learned half a scale and a little tune. He then wanted to know how to write down the music he had learnt, so I scored it for him and told him about time signatures, crochets, quavers and minims. He has been practising daily ever since and making up his own little tunes and discovering further notes. It is liberating to be able to go with the flow and follow a particular interest without time constraint.
With warmer, sunnier spring weather, the boys have been enjoying increasing time in the garden with particular interest in mud pies and digging. Many stone 'fossils' have been 'discovered' and uncovered. Our lawn is a shadow of its former glory, but then as a wise man once said, 'We are raising boys not grass!' It is nice to wake up to a sunny morning and to be able just to seize the opportunity and go outside. My eldest son had wanted to do a sponsored cycle ride to raise money for the earthquake crisis in Haiti. He had prepared a sponsorship form on the computer, and collected some sponsors, so had been anxious to get out and complete his challenge. Last Monday was the first really springlike day we had had, so we all headed down to Stowe Pool where he proceeded to push himself to 12 laps of the lake, whilst his brother did 5 and my youngest managed 2 with plenty of duckfeeding and spring picnicking opportunities. It was a good morning's work!
We have signed the boys up to a maths website - Mathletics - to which they can log on and complete challenges at thier level, progressing at their own speed. I am sent a weekly report by email telling me how they are getting on and I was surprised that they had each logged on for 2-3 hours voluntarily last week with good results. They like the instant rewards for correct answers, and I can see how important their concrete knowledge is in understanding the questions. For example, there were questions on rate of fill depending on the shape of a container, and it is clearly a child's concrete experience of pouring water into containers in play which enable him / her to conceptualise the problem. If we push for the abstract knowledge when a child is too young and may not have had sufficient concrete experience, we should not be surprised when s/he cannot understand. Or perhaps something which might be learnt very quickly and easily at a later point becomes a point of difficulty and struggle because the child is not ready. At worst, the child may then feel a sense of failure, and conclude, 'I'm no good at ______' which could do real damage to future learning in that area.
Today, my middle son had a rip in a pair of favourite jeans. In a recycling book, he found a design for a bag to be made from an old pair of jeans, so we made that together. It just needs a handle and can be personalised with badges and patches as he wishes. His brother decided to make pompoms today - a tedious task, but one he pursued with patience and persistence.
My youngest boy's interest in phonics continues. Today he completed an alphabet puzzle with his brothers helping and teaching him, and he enjoyed playing with some simple words using the alphabet magnets we have on our fridge. He is a real storyteller, and loves to draw pictures and then make up long tales to tell us about what is going on. I read stories with the boys every afternoon and evening, and at the moment he likes to tell stories of his own at these times.
I have noticed an improved atmosphere in our home. The boys seem to have rediscovered their friendship and are getting along better together and taking care of one another. This is really a good thing to see. This weekend we spent a lot of time trying to reorganise the space and flow in our home (which is quite small) to better accommodate our new lifestyle. This included a great new set of shelves in our kitchen to help organise all the books, toys, puzzles, art and craft bits and bobs in such a way as we can all find things and know where to put them away. Good organisation definitely helps to create a less stressful home, especially when we are there together for much of the day.