Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Proud mommy-bragging :)

Basbusa turned 18 months last week, and it's incredible how fast she is picking up new things these days. Her sweet little hands no longer look like soft little starfish, but suddenly have become much older-looking, and every day she gets better at squeezing, twisting, poking, and picking-up.

She's "reading" books independently more and more frequently, and seems to find plenty to look at and point out to herself even without me sitting by to participate and admire.

She has become so accomplished in the matter of pouring and spooning! When we started about two months ago with activities like rice-pouring and lots of water-pouring in the bath, the mess was generally so plentiful and widespread that I never dreamed that she'd have mastered it so soon, especially since we've only concentrated on it specificially a handful of times, and all the rest of her practice has just been real-life experiences. I can hand her a regular cup of milk or juice, and know that she won't spill it unless she gets distracted, and knocks it with a foot while reaching for something else with her hand. She adores helping me make porridge in the mornings, and transfers oatmeal from the giant container into the saucepan with a cup-measure, with only a spoonful or so ending up on the floor. And in the bath, she's a pro, pouring from cup to container to squirty-frog and back again. She's even trying to wash her own hair!

She's such a caring little mama to her dolls and animals. Her Baba let her pick out one of those super-cheap-and-tacky baby-doll sets at Walmart, with a little six-inch plastic dolly and a host of accessories like a potty, a ride-on-duck, some bottles, a bowl with a spoon and fork, etc. Basbusa spends fifteen minutes at a time feeding the baby, sitting it on its duck, putting it to sleep, and wrapping it up in its blanket.

She's doing so well with the potty training! When we go out, I now leave her in undies (rather than a diaper) more often than not, unless I know it will be a very long trip with no access to a bathroom. But we haven't had an accident outside the home yet, and she's doing just fine peeing in restaurant and store bathrooms. At home she almost always uses the potty rather than peeing on the floor. The only two things to watch out for are when she's watching YouTube with Baba - an activity she finds so enthralling that it crowds out everything else - and when she has had massive amounts of juice to drink :)

My sweet little munchkin is getting so good at please and thank-you (well, "so good" in the sense that she said her first un-prompted "please" yesterday, and is happy to repeat "thank-you" when reminded). And as she starts to get the hang of putting sentences together, she's coming up with such heart-melting little statements. Like today at breakfast: "Mama. Kiss. Basbusa kiss mama. Mwah!!"

She's a huge fan of mobile phones, and is starting to recognize numbers as a result. She loves picking out a number on the keypad and seeing it come up on the screen when she presses it. Her favourite by far is the number zero, and she also knows six pretty well (although she sometimes muddles it with nine). Yesterday, I thought I'd introduce a new one, so I started by asking her if she could find a three. I was expecting to have to show it to her, but she went right to it and pressed it!

And also yesterday, she was drawing on a pad of paper, and, as usual, passing me the pen every so often to draw something for her while she watched. So, on one of my turns - having drawn enough cats to last me a lifetime - I drew a letter س , and asked her what it was. She immediately replied, "sssssssssssssssss!". Well, hey! Great! So what about this one? و . "oooooooooooooooooooooo!", she replied. I was almost afraid to push my luck, but tried one more. How about this one, Basbusa? ب "b! b!", she said. Then she took the pen back and started trying to draw ب's of her own :) Awwwwwwwwww, sweet adorable darling little angel-cupcake.

Monday, January 11, 2010

tot school: coin-hunting in rice, and a snowflake thank-you card

Since playing with rice is still by far Basbusa's favorite tot-school activity, I thought I'd introduce a new twist to it this evening: coin-hunting. I took three pennies and a quarter, and drew around them on an index card, as a visual indication of how many things Basbusa had to look for, and how big they were. Then I hid the coins in the bowl of rice, and Basbusa excavated carefully with a cautious index finger until she found them. She put each one onto a dot on the index card, so that she knew when she had found them all, and then we put the four coins back into the rice again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Basbusa loved it, both the finding and the hiding of the coins. She seemed to think it was magical, the way they sank down and disappeared beneath gently-jostled rice :) From my point of view, it was fun for her; it was more sensory exploration with rice; it was a little tiny bit of one-to-one correspondence by putting the coins onto the dots; and it was a chance to talk about big and little as we found either pennies or the quarter. (In other words, my kid played with some rice. I'm not sure whether or not I've gone completely insane with this tot-school stuff.)

Next up, we made a thank-you card for a beautiful set of mini-books which Basbusa received recently. I used this fantastic post from Valerie at the Frugal Family Fun Blog as the inspiration. Amazingly simple and amazingly pretty given that it's created by a toddler! You just use a few bits of tape to make a snowflake on a piece of paper (or a card, in our case), go wild coloring over the whole thing with blues and purples, and then peel away the tape when you're done. (Basbusa scribbled with markers rather than using paints, though, to reduce mess and drying-time.)

Although I love how it turned out, this was totally artwork-for-mom's-sake rather than for Basbusa's. I did the folding of the card, I taped the snowflake, I chose the colors, and I did most of the snowflake-tape-peeling when she was finished. Very cute, but I must remember that making messes, not artwork, is the point, when she's still so young!

tot school philosophy: unschooling?

Hey, what about "unschooling" for my 18-month-old....? Bing! The little lightbulb above my head just lit up! Took me long enough, considering that "unschooling," in the case of tots, would be also known as "just letting them play around." Only took me about six months of research to stumble over the obvious!

Just to clarify what I'm talking about, though, the article that finally flipped that lightbulb switch for me was this one: the acceptance speech given by a guy called John Gatto when he was accepting the "Teacher of the Year" award for New York City. I found the link on one of my favorite Montessori blogs, What DID we do all day?, but apparently it's a cornerstone of the justification for homeschooling or unschooling for many homeschoolers.

I'm not planning either homeschooling or unschooling, but all the same, I was really interested in his emphasis on the value of allowing the child to pursue her own interests and pick up skills along the way, rather than schooling the child in skills which will be applied to real-life situations at some vague, far-off date. I was pretty convinced by his argument that this kind of learning will probably stick in her mind much better than learning which stems from a pre-set curriculum. Plus, it sounds like I could be more sure that I'm not force-feeding my toddler with random "academic knowledge" if I make sure that the activities I offer her are based around things she is currently interested in.

So what does that mean for us and Tot School? Well, it provides an answer for all my previous worries about what I should be doing when I offer a tot school activity that Basbusa doesn't get the hang of: I should be putting it aside and not even giving it a second thought! So the new plan is to offer lots of variety, but absolutely encourage her to play with the ones she likes best, rather than re-suggesting the ones that she "had difficulty with." And look for ways to base lessons around her current favorite things, whether that be pouring water, cutting bits of paper, or the Hungry Caterpillar. And look for ways to make her favorite activities even more fun and appealing, rather than looking for ways to disguise the ones she doesn't care for in order to trick her into liking them.

Whew! So glad I got that one sorted out in my head! I never felt comfortable doing anything remotely resembling "pushing," but was worried that I was causing her to miss out on all kinds of valuable experiences by not trying to direct her towards activities she's not interested in right now. And even in our tiny smattering of experience so far, I can already see things that ring true from Gatto's article: I was astounded by the number of things she discovered during our rice pouring activity. And although most of my attempts to introduce her to the names of colors have been giant flops so far, she does happily point and say "pink!" when I ask her if she want to wear her pink diaper or her blue one. So, looks like she does get more out of "real life" situations.

We did more rice-pouring last night :)