Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Boy and his Bike

Lesson: Some things are easy to learn... Others take time. Teaching a child to be patient with the things that take time can be stressful!

The past 6 months or so has been filled with tasks that Zilla first deemed to be "impossible". When children get near the age or 6 and prepare for Elementary school they also reach a point where they can physically and mentally learn a number of key skills. The problem we've run into is that that age also comes with some stubbornness. The sturbourness which helps a child not to give up when working on the new skills can be the same sturbourness that stops a child before really giving a new skill an honest try!
With Zilla, learning to read is one of those things. Last summer he was really against any work that encouraged him to read on his own. Now he is reading any hiragana that he sees. He did the same thing with learning to tie shoes. I knew he could do it for a while before he decided he could do it on his own. Today's conquered challenge is being able to ride a bike.
Zilla's journey toward bike riding starts about 5 year ago with a tricycle which was handed down from some friends. The trike was small for a long legged boy so he never really got knack of peddling. When he was 2/3/4 years old he used a balance bike. As he grew he also learned to balance, turn, and brake. He learned about judging speed and distance on that bike. For many kids the transition from a balance bike to a regular kid's bike is a quick and easy one. Zilla, however, had a mental block to get past. From media exposure he had a strong idea that he needed training wheels for a. Long time. I knew he could go without them but convincing him to give it an honest try, without training wheels, took about six months. We tried one training wheel for a while, I raised the training wheels up as high as they would go... He was still riding tilted so a training wheel could catch him... until yesterday!
Yesterday we did a little bargaining and took the training wheels off. It was not easy to convince Zilla to give the bike a few tries. Even after a few runs with nearly no parental help he still was lacking in confidence.
Today when Zilla came home from school one of the first things he asked was if he could try the bike again. Within minutes he was hiking on his own. I don't know what happened during the day but something helped him to clear the mental block and voila! The boy can ride a bike!
And to think, just yesterday, he was sure he'd never be able to do it...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Busy Hands

Lesson: When the kids are busy doing something productive mom's life is a little easier.
At 3 and 6 both Zilla and Mega are experiencing a time of wanting to do handy work. As long as I can keep them supplied with activities it is pretty quiet around the house!
Mega has recently been interested in not just playing with the dollhouse but also with roll playing whole days including picking kids up on the bus for for yochien/preschool and visiting the doctor. She is also working on knots - how to tie and untie them.
Zilla loves making things and has been asking to sew petty much daily since visiting grandma (and her sewing machine!) in summer. In recent cleaning some of the plastic forms surfaced so Zilla is very pleased!
Another activity which keeps their little hands busy is the Busytown Seek & Play puzzle. We love that after you put the puzzle together there are cards that you can take turns reading to ask a question to the other players. All the answers are on the puzzle and often the closer you look the more answers you'll find!
Thanks to the recent era of busy hands and engaged minds my days have been on the peaceful side! Lesson learned! (For now...)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Kids Work Space

A few people have asked recently about the space we have for the kids  to work at/in. Here is what the main area looks like. This is in the kitchen, in a nook sort of space.
The key element here is having a good table and chairs. This table has a 65cmx65cm top. It is a good size for two young kids to use for projects. The table is about 55cm high and the seats of the chairs are at 30cm.  Even if you have only one child I highly recommend having at least 2 chairs so that you can sit with a child to work together.  
Recently we had some friends over and 4 preschoolers were able to comfortable eat a meal at the table. Instead of buying additional chairs 2 of the kids sat on milk carton boxes. It worked out very well!
Next to the table is the shelf where we keep a variety of art and homeschool items.  The easel in the back is portable so we take it outside for painting. Inside we use the white board regularly.  Up along the walls are a number of cups which contain supplies which require supervision when used. With a toddler in the house it is great to have them visible but out of reach.

Art clipped to a curtain with clothespins - a great way to brighten up plain curtains and display recent projects.

Hooks up high work great for displaying the latest art while keeping it safe from curious little hands.

This has a bit of a close-up of the shelves. The drawer set in the middle holds craft paper, origami paper, stencils, crayons and each child's personal pencils, erasers etc.
Each child also has a set of file drawers into which worksheets go for homeschool time.
The other things on the shelves include coloring books, notepads, kids magazines and various activity books.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter Break Activities

Zilla is on winter break and Mega is so glad to have him around!
I've learned that the key to a pleasant time off of school is to be prepared. Busy kids are less likely to go looking for trouble or pick fights with each other.
Our winter schedule is very busy with activities which keep us near home but as parents not aways avalible to focus on the kids. There are many things to consider in balancing life so we've learned to do what we can to make holidays special for the kids in a way they appreciate.
Here are some of the things the kids have been enjoying:
In preparation for the season I finally found time for the chalkboard paint project I've had in mind for a while. It makes use of an otherwise dea space in the house and give the kids a place to draw freely or practice writing. When you live in a small place like we do these spaces can also be sanity savers when you want to have a little time alone.
Legos are a key to many of our activities. From building cars to castles the open ended play makes them a favorite!
Plane + Park = Fun
Knitting - Zilla has been working on a knitting project at school where the kids use a cut off soda bottle with chopstick pieces taped on to make a sort of loom. For Chrstmas he asked for knitting needles so he has been working on learning how to knit the "real" way.
Magformers and oversized coloring books provide a great change of pace in play.
And, to top off a day a bit of play dough time is always welcome!