Tag Archives: play

Realizing Science

Motion: A change in the position of an object in relation to time.

Velocity: Speed in a given direction

Displacement: The shortest distance from the initial to the final position of a point. Or the volume or weight of fluid displaced by a floating body of equal weight.

Acceleration: The rate of change of velocity over time; or an increase in speed.

Time: A measuring system used to sequence events.

Consistency: A degree of density, firmness, viscosity.

Our life provides endless opportunities to learn about the way our world works. From the moment Ella/Agatha wakes up in the morning (time), until she goes to bed at night, she’s in constant motion. At times she merely wiggles while she sits and reads a book, or watches a show(velocity). At other times she jumps up and races around the house (acceleration), only to slow down (deceleration) long enough to grab a bite to eat. She might be sitting at the table and need a glass of water from the counter, but instead of taking the shortest possible route, she first runs to the living room, then passed the front door, throughout the pantry, and back in to the kitchen to get the water that had been only 3 feet away from her in the first place (displacement).

As she’s drinking her water, she drops an ice-cube into it. Then she might spy a strawberry and decide to drop that in as well. After each addition she tastes it and observes for changes in colour and consistency. With each addition she also makes note of the water level in the glass (Displacement).

Periodically she’ll make note of how dark it’s getting (Time) or reference some past or future event that has meaning to her.

Science is all a round us. We don’t need to force it on our children, but we can bring it to their attention. A few well asked questions can do more than hours of instruction in a school setting. Right now, I don’t usually mention definitions, unless it really does help the understanding or discussion, those can come with time. Once she’s explored a subject and understands it, then a definition would broaden her perspective without offering more confusion.

During the day, I may point out something to see if the girls noticed it – for instance  the water level rising with each addition to the glass. But other times I won’t bother. A lot has to do with how many times an experiment’s taken place. The first few times I won’t interfere – after all, they need to test, test, and re-test to see if they get the same result each time. However, there comes a point where I like to see if they’re actually getting anything from the mess they’re making.

“What do you think will happen when you drop the potatoes in to the glass?” Depending on the answer, I may encourage them to consider other alternatives. “Will there still be the same amount of water in the glass? Will it still be the same colour?”

“What happened when you dropped the potatoes into your milk?”

“Was that what you expected?”

“Wow, what caused your water to turn grey?”

“I filled your cup half full, that means there was as much water in the glass as empty space, so how did it get so full?”

“How did the carrots get on the ceiling?”

I don’t need to drill my children to make the lessons ‘stick’. But a few questions here and there can help broaden their world as well as lead me in new directions for fun activities for us to do together. For instance, hmm they really like mixing things together – and throwing what they mix. I can find all kinds of things to mix together cornstarch, food colouring and water – then bring them to the park and let them fling it all over – the snow will cover it up soon enough. And hopefully the carrots will remain on their plates next time.

Science is all around us. Sometimes we just need to realize it.

 

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Sibling Bonding

Everywhere I turn I hear parents lamenting sibling rivalry. I hear them asking how to get one child to leave the other alone. I hear them saying they don’t want the four year old to touch the baby, but then in two years they get upset when the six year old doesn’t want the two year old around.

When Agatha was born, we had our fair share of ‘problems’ as we navigated from one child to two. Our poor little Agatha was bumped and bruised, cut and scraped so many times. But she was so in love with her big sister (when she wasn’t afraid). We eventually figured things out and the relationship improved.

Now that Cordelia’s here things could be very difficult, but instead we find things even better than before. Our two big girls are so excited to help and share, and Cordelia is so in love with her sisters. She can’t get enough of them. There is no fear, there are no cuts or bruises, just love.

How did this happen?

First, the girls were involved with the pregnancy. They came to appointments, they helped us choose names, they touched my belly, they talked to the baby, they hugged and kissed her while she was still inside. They were present at her birth, and were invited to hold her as soon as I was willing to let my baby out of my arms for the first time.

When Cordelia came home with us, we encouraged the girls to hold her as much as they wanted. We’d sit them at the couch and hover. After all a newborn baby is rather floppy. As Cordelia became stronger, we hovered less. Now Agatha holds Cordelia on her own all the time, Ella carries Cordelia around the house. Whenever they want to do something with each other, or the baby, we try to find a way to help them play together, to accomplish their goals.

Some ways we do that include: playing tag with the girls, and tackle games. I carry Cordelia and chase the girls around the house. I’m sure to give all of them plenty of chance to see each others faces. In the beginning, I’d point out the huge smile, the look of intense pleasure, on Cordelia’s face, now we just play. They all have so much fun together. They all get a chance to be on an even playing field. As Cordelia gets bigger I’ll add in soccer. I carry her (when she’s bigger I’ll hold her hands) while she runs and kicks the ball, and the big girls try to get the ball away, or Cordelia tries to get the ball from them. They aren’t competition games because there is no win or lose. The whole entire point is to have fun. It doesn’t matter who has the ball because everyone’s playing together. As they get older these games could translate into competition, but for now it’s bonding.

During the day I spend a lot of time interpreting for the big girls. They rush over and pick Cordelia up and she whimpers. I point out the sounds, and let them know she doesn’t like that. I then offer a suggestion for what they could do that’d she’d likely enjoy. As she gets bigger, I’ll also help her figure out words to use so she can let them know on her own that she’s unhappy with a particular turn of events.

Right now it seems as though the most important part of having a positive experience with their sisters is me helping them figure out what the other means. They don’t have the knowledge base to figure out on their own that certain faces or sounds mean someone else isn’t having fun. They also don’t have the ability to put someone else’s needs or desires above their own. It’s my job to advocate for each of my children.

It doesn’t matter, for the most part, what happened, who started it, why someone’s crying, or anything else that divides the children. What matters is figuring out how to find a solution that preserves respect. It matters that they learn new methods of communicating, and playing together.

One day they won’t need me to step in as often as I do, one day they won’t need me to point out when someone else cries. One day they’ll take these skills and use them on their own, in the ‘real’ world. But for now they’re little girls playing together, loving each other, and loving life.

Is there something your family did – or does – that helps promote bonding between children, particularly children of vastly different ages and abilities?

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Unschool Life

When someone walks into our house, they see a home well lived in. Some people may see the paint on the floor, or the million-and-one pom-poms scattered from wall to wall. But others race in, unaware of the clutter. Instead they find one station or another and begin working.

 

At the dinning table we have crafts of one sort or another. Right now we have popsicle sticks, pom-poms, paint, feathers, and the glue-gun. We’re all working on a structure of sorts. We hope anyone who comes to visit will help build it. Though so far no one’s really shown that much interest in the crafts.

We have crafts supplies in various places around the house. We believe availability will increase the girl’s desire to create, as well as their ability to express. Right now the girls enjoy working at the kitchen table. It’s close to where I spend the majority of my day. There’s also easy access to food, music, and shows.

Over the past few months we’ve seen our girls blossom in their ability to create masterpieces using the materials available to them.

We try to keep snacks available at all times.

Beyond the stuff we strew around for the girls to use, they also find other items to play with, and new uses for old toys. Here are the scissors and Ariel wig Ella first used to practice hair cutting on.

 

 

 

We’ve moved bean-bags to the living room so the girls have a comfortable place to sit while watching shows or playing Wii. They also provide a place for the girls to climb and jump. Otherwise they climb on our recliners – I really don’t want our recliners broken, and I don’t want someone hurt by them flipping over the back. Now there’s a place for their BIG activities right there in the heart of the home.

 

 

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The Hidden Danger of Toys

There’s nothing to do, but take it away. Someone gave Agatha a doll for her birthday, and she can’t have it. The head is disproportionately large, the eyes are huge, the one arm is stitched on a little crooked, and it has a cute little cupid bow mouth.

It has to go.

It’s nothing like a real baby and I’m concerned she’ll be upset because her eyes aren’t as large, or her mouth isn’t as small. I’m much too concerned for her mental well-being to allow her such a toy.

Everywhere you turn there’s another danger facing our children. One of the biggest, it would seem, are toys.

Don’t let your children play with a pretend phone, or their imagination will shrivel and die. Don’t let your child have a play sword, or a stick won’t be good enough. And what ever you do, don’t let your daughter play with Barbie, or she’ll forever feel inadequate and end up with an eating disorder.

I know what the studies say, but I think researchers are causing fear and panic where there needn’t be any.

No, I’m not taking any toys away from my children – unless you count the million and one bite size pieces Cordelia finds everyday.

Parents believe children are capable of turning a stick into a sword, a cane, a catapult, a bow and arrows, as well as a dog named Rover. Yet they can’t believe their children are capable of realizing a toy is nothing more than just a toy. For that matter they can’t believe their children will be capable of pretending a stick is anything, and everything, if they’re ever exposed to a real toy phone, or sword, or dog named Rover.

They use children from several generations ago as an example. “Our fore fathers never needed a toy, they just made do, and look at the fun they had.” But our Fore fathers only had stories about things they had experience with to some degree. A knight fighting a dragon was easy to imagine when they’d seen real fighting. Today’s children, thankfully, haven’t seen real fighting. There’s a lot today’s children haven’t experienced. Inherited memory only goes so far.

Through books we introduce our children to one idea or another. Mummies, pirates, kings & queens, as well as deep-sea diving and any other thought they care to explore. But sometimes they need an image in order to internalize it.

A toy sword is fabulous. They suddenly KNOW what the word ‘sword’ meant. From there any stick can become a sword, because they have the basic outline in their heads.

If we believe, have seen, that our children are capable of such a degree of imagination, then why are we concerned that a toy will interfere? To some extent a child may demand the specific toy in order to play, but I believe that’s more likely with older children, rather than younger children. A young child is still discovering the shape of the world. A hazy image can be anything. They have no basis on which to say it’s something specific because there experience ‘vocabulary’ is still so limited. But an older child knows that each item in the world has a true shape. And older children know that adults use the true shapes, not the hazy shadow children must settle for.  An older child insists on taking the first step into adulthood. A stick can no longer be a dog named Rover. A stick is just a stick, maybe a sword or a cane. In order to be a bow, it needs a string. As the child ages their awareness increases. Their willingness to remain blind to the true shape of the world diminishes.

Nothing can change that, not a million toys, and neither will the refusal to give toys. children are natural scientists, natural philosophers. The true shape emerges no matter what.

A Barbie is disproportionate. But a child knows that’s not the true shape of humans. I believe humans are more at fault for the poor self-image of children. A child told at five or six that’s she’s chubby may see a Barbie and wish she were thinner. But without the comments made by people, the thought wouldn’t occur to her that any shape other than her own is the true shape.

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Someone Broke Her Funny Bone

The girl’s discovered a new game – thanks to Daddy. For the past several nights we’ve had to play doctor. Before you get concerned, it’s not that kind of doctor. First someone must be injured in some way (pretend), then Mommy or Daddy give an ambulance ride on our back (Eoo, Eooo) around the house a few times. Then we diagnose the injury.

“Oh, no. Someone broke her funny bone. There’s only one cure…Tickles.”

We then proceed to tickle from head to toe, briefly. We stop and ask if they’re okay. They dissolve into fits of giggles and declare their funny bone’s still broken. This goes on until Ryan’s completely tired out and ready for bed. By then the girls’ve received enough love to allow daddy some space.

When it’s time for bed, everything runs smoothly. They ask for their story, they fall sleep. Easy. They’re secure in our love – and that makes all the difference.

We have many variations on this type of game. Another one we play quite often has been around since Agatha was about 6 months old. I’d hold baby in front of me, facing out, and we’d chase Ella around the house. When we caught her, baby would tackle Ella and we’d tickle her. Then it’d be Ella’s turn to chase us. I’d periodically turn so baby could see Ella, then with a squeal we’d turn and flee. This game helped the girls bond in such a wonderful way. It also wore them out in such a wonderful way. We now play this with Cordelia chasing the big girls. It helps put them all on even footing. It’s a game that allows everyone to play, and there’s no competition because everyone WANTS to get caught. After all, that’s the fun part.

We have many fights during our days.  “She took my toy.” “I want her toy.” “She’s sitting on me!” the list goes on. But ultimately those dissolve into nothing when faced with the many ways our girls do play together. They’ve both had moments where they don’t like the other – and that’s okay – because they overwhelmingly love each other.

If children can move beyond conflict by playing with each other, don’t you think parents can move past conflict by playing with their children?

 

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Pretty Maids All in a Row

The girls have been so excited to go to ‘camp’ this summer. Each girl has two – one week long camps. I thought they’d enjoy them – Groovy Girls, Fairytopia, Playpalooza, and Bike something or other.

Each day they’re so excited to show us what they’ve made. We smile and say something like “Oh such a pretty shade of green”. Despite the fact that apparently only one colour was available to begin with, since every leaf (that’s exactly the same shape) is exactly the same colour. We say “Oh I see you spaced the stones the same distance apart.” Only to be told that the ‘teacher’ helped. Yeah. We realized that. We know what our children can create. And we love what we see. But the items they bring home from camp – I don’t want to display those on my fridge. I don’t want to keep them. My children didn’t make them. I really despise it when someone tells the girls the ‘right way’ to create. Whether that’s telling them how to colour a colouring page, or how to hold a crayon or where to place their googily eyes. Sure give them information. If you blend those colours of paint together, it’ll become the same brown as your other picture, then we won’t see what colours you used. But don’t tell her the leaf can’t be an alien, and it can’t have eyes, or if eyes are allowed, don’t tell her they have to be placed in a certain spot.

If that was all, I might be able to relax, but it’s worse. From what I can tell the only purpose of these camps is to prepare children for jail school. In order to go to or from the playground the children needed to walk in a straight line. Three years old. Together wasn’t good enough. They had to walk in a single-file, ruler-straight line. You might wonder what the big deal is?

Well the big deal is that they spend fifteen minutes outside. Of those fifteen minutes I saw them take five minutes forcing the children into the line. One child was slightly off centre. Everyone stopped until he was directly behind the child in front of him. They paused, and made sure everyone was straight before they continued. Then they paused because one child left too much space between him and the person in front of him. Everyone had to stay straight, with eyes ahead, until the boy caught up. Then they paused to assess the line. One little girl was too far forward, and was almost beside the adult leader. The leader got down to the girl’s level and pointed out the error of getting out of line. The girl had to get back in the straight line, before they continued, every one had to repeat that they would “walk in a straight line”. What kind of line? “A straight line”. That’s right, the leader told them to repeat after her, then she asked the question and waited for the children to respond. Three year olds were being treated that way. I was tempted to go over and get Agatha right then and there. But there’s a rule about that.

When camp was over and the door to their rooms opend, the first parent stepped inside. Then the next, then me. Did any of the children come running over? Nope. They were such good little girls and boys (please note the derision – there’ll be a post about that horrible word soon). They remained laying face down on the carpet until their parent touched them. Until that moment they were not to get up. Even if they saw their parent.

I don’t want an automaton. I don’t want my child walking in a straight line just because someone told her to. There wasn’t a street to cross, sure there’s a lake and I can understand needing to be sure the children stay close. After all a group of twenty three year olds can be unpredictable. But there were at least five leaders there. It would’ve been okay if the children walked beside each other, even if they raced to see who’d make it to the sidewalk first. But apparently five adults can’t figure out a way to respectfully move children from point A to point B.

I wanted my children to have an opportunity to meet new children. I wanted them to have fun. But I can see fun is not the correct word. I’m not even sure what word to use. Everything was so structured I don’t think there was time for fun.

I’ll leave on the words of Robert Frost:

 TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,        10

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.        15

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.        20

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Direction

I’m still discovering just what this blog will be. Some of it seems to be parenting advice, or at least a reminder to myself how I wish to parent. Some of it’s admission of guilt, for myself, for my family, and for those out there who may think they can’t do it because on that one day (or week/month etc) they yelled or parented in some other manner that was less than respectful or gentle. There’s also the unschooling aspect. Where I show what it looks like in our home, and what we want it to look like. This blog is also a keeper of records. A diary for me, and a school journal for the girls.

If I write things down, I’ll be able to keep track of where they’re at compared to where they’ve been. It’ll also help me see where they’re going. I’m still unsure if one aspect of this blog will win out, or if it will continue being a hodge-podge.

Feel free to weigh in as to what you’d prefer to read, I’ll take your thoughts into consideration.

A month ago, even a week ago, if Ella played with play-dough all she did was mash it together into a great big ball. Then a couple days ago something changed. She pulled out the play-dough and began rolling balls, logs, spheres, cylinders, and sticking them together. It doesn’t matter what the above sculpture is supposed to be, what matters is that a body, legs, tail, and face were clearly recognizable. Whether using paper and crayons, pipe cleaners, or play dough she’s beginning to create recognizable figures, she wants to. And she’s sensitive about comments made prior to completion. She doesn’t want us to look at her work until she’s finished.

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