Monday, May 19, 2008

Independent Play

I felt so bad today. For most of the day, the twins played independently. While I believe in the importance of independent play, in fact I highly value it, I do like to be actively involved in their lives. Maybe it’s because I’m an older mom and I know how fast time can go by, but I feel like every hour with them is so precious and I don’t want to miss anything that I’ll regret later. That said, they did seem to have a great time playing together. It wasn’t like they were every whining or upset that I wasn’t playing with them more. It’s just so extremely hard some times to balance the housework, cooking and being with them. They definitely are my top priority out of those three, but still the other two have to get taken care of some times as well.

For the most part of the morning, they played with their blocks, pretend food and animals, Legos and bounced up and down on the couch cushions.

This afternoon I worked on writing a list of things to do with them each day. It’s not like I want to have some “lesson plan” (God forbid!) for the day, it’s just that I have so many great ideas for things that I think are important to introduce the them or that I think they would love to do, and then I forget them. It’s just nice to have an idea of different things to do so I can quickly go from one activity to another when they are ready to go on. I also aim to have a balance for them. So far this includes reading, math, science activities, music, art, cooking, sensory activities, and nature play.

The kids had a great time with Steve tonight. They get so active at night sometimes. They wanted Dad to read Fox in Socks read over and over again. Before they went to sleep, they also went outside to look for the moon before they went to sleep.

Tw0 Year Old Checkup

My babies had their two year old doctor’s appointment today. I was so glad that Steve could be with me because Alexa was really, really, really upset. She screamed her head off when we put her on the scale. Jared took things in pretty well until came down for the shot. I was a bit disappointed to find out they are still in the 5th percentile in weight, but the doctor said she thought they were healthy because I give them vitamins and DHA supplements everyday.

It was really warm today for a change so we spent the rest of the morning playing outside. We were so impressed with how far Jared can hit the tee ball. He will concentrate for such a long time, putting the ball on the stand, hitting it off and then running off grab the ball for another round. Steve raked up garden so we’ll be ready to plant really soon.

We went to the nearby woods in the afternoon. I was a little wary at first because last time we went there, Alexa, and Jared to some extent, was super clingy. I was afraid we were going to be carrying them the whole time like before. That definitely was not the case this time! Alexa loved exploring everywhere she could. We walked down to the edge of the pond to look at the geese and she walked right up to them. I’d expect that of Jared but not Alexa. Then she went marching off across the open field, following after the robins as they flitted from place to place.

At the end of the open field, there is a line of trees that lead back into the trees. We were so excited to see three deer. Jared and Alexa loved climbing over logs, shuffling through leaves and holding onto sticks as we followed the deer deeper into the woods.

After dinner, we went outside again. Some highlights included: drawing with chalk on sidewalk, riding scooters and walking in between the bushes.

Change, Cheese and Craters

From the time the twins were one until they turned two, they loved going to while they ate breakfast in the morning. Before they could talk, I’d show them five new letters a week. Then as they started to know they letters, they’d yell out letters for me to click on. It just occurred to me this morning that we haven’t even looked at the letters page in a few months. Now they just want to stay on the book page. It’s like they went from not knowing any letters to reading words without me even realizing it. I never would have ever guessed it could be possible this young before I had them.

This morning they wanted to play with money. Steve has a little basket of change on top of his dresser with spare change. They love to climb on top of our bed, spill the change out, put the coins in between their toes, and just shove it around the mattress. When they start flinging it behind the headboard, that’s when I start distracting them with something else.

Jared wanted me to read to him throughout the morning, so it was like spray down the counters, read a book, barely finishing wiping them down, read a book, try to wipe down the mirrors, read a book. Alexa had a great time play pretending, putting animals on each other’s back and feeding them milk from her sippy cup

Late afternoon we went outside, played on swings and in the sandbox. Before their nap we read a non-fiction book about the moon and talked about its waxing and waning, how the moon is a satellite. We also read Yellow Moon, Apple Moon, I Like Stars by Margaret Wise Brown, The Shape of Me and other Stuff by Dr. Seuss, and How to Make a Book by Aliki.

In afternoon, we watched a Reading Rainbow DVD about milking cows and how cheese is made. Then we went outside again. I love when we get to go outside for a long time. I dragged out the sidewalk paint and they absolutely loved it! Jared found some rocks and we painted those as well. Alexa was cute! She was actually afraid of the arts. I don’t know where that’s coming from. We’ll have to help her with that.

After dinner Jared did so great with hitting line drives off his T-ball stand. Steve read them books tonight: Goodnight Moon, Green Eggs and Ham, Go, Dog, Go! We went outside to look for the moon, but it was too light to see it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

First Time in Sunday School!

It was the twins first time going to Sunday School today, and Alexa was really clinging. I couldn’t pry her off of me, so I wound up staying the whole time. Jared was pretty independent, though. Besides getting slapped in the face by another girl, he took everything else pretty much in stride.

I was actually glad I had to stick around. It was interesting to see what they were going to do. The more I took it all in, the more it solidified my decision to have to kids learn at home with me. Not that anything was that bad. It’s just little things like having the kids color pre-printed coloring pages instead of being allowed to free-draw. I cringed when I saw the teacher take one boy’s sheet, glance at it, hand it back and tell him he needed to color some more on the other side of the page. What is that! They also used cookie cutters to play with the play dough the entire time, and were served two Oreos for a snack. I don’t mean to sound snobby or uppity, but Oreos at 10:00 in the morning for two year olds? I don’t get it.

They did have a good time listening to the story and learning the verse. I also loved them getting a chance to hang around older kids, something they didn’t get to do in the nursery.

After their nap, Steve’s parents came over to check out the swing/slide/teeter-totter set they helped buy for the twins’ birthday. Jared and Alexa loved getting pushed on the swing by their grandparents. Jared also had a great time exploring by the bushes near the back fence. Every time I see him back there, I think I’d love to get inside his head to know what he’s thinking. He just looks so enthralled, like he’s a true explorer discovering a new land. Alexa was in her element after we came in to eat pizza later in the evening. She dragged out all the animals and told us the name of each animal.

Toddlers Who Can Read


The kids were a whirlwind of activity this morning, climbing over the edge of the couch and sliding down, hiding socks and clothes in the toy box, measuring cups under the couch, and their play food in I don’t know how many places around the house. At least they are at a stage where they play together very well.

This afternoon we drove out to my sister’s house, about an hour away from us. Her house is bigger then ours, and the twins love running around in a huge circle through the front room, the dining room, around the kitchen, through the living room and circling around the front room to where they started.

Jared was such a ham. He’d stop in front of us sitting at the dining room table, yell Bye-bye and then make his little loop til he came back to us again. Then he’d be at it again.
My sister has this huge foam alphabet puzzle. Jared especially loved fitting the letters into their correct spots. I love to see his little forehead furrowed in concentration.

As for Alexa, she impressed my sister’s husband’s brother-in-law with her reading abilities. My sister has all these cards with words on them. Alexa kept taking words off the stack, reading them and handing them to him. He came up to me at the end of the evening and, after complementing me on how beautiful the kids were (always nice to hear!) he commented on how amazed he was that Alexa could read so many words. I didn’t even tell him that she could identify and sound out all the letters of the alphabet from 18 months, and could now read simple books if you put your finger under each word. Again, I know that she does seem to love words much more than a lot of kids, but I do believe if more babies and toddlers were introduced to letter sounds and words in context , you’d see a lot more toddlers reading and it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Fun with Grandma

For the next three days, I’m gonna play catch up with this blog. I wrote down sketchy notes but I forgot what we did most of the day. Not a great start to my goal of recording our learning experiences throughout the day, but I hope to get better.

I know my parents came over this afternoon and watched the kids while I went grocery shopping. My mom usually comes every Friday afternoon. I would love to take the twins shopping with me for the experience, but they won’t stay in the stroller anymore and I definitely wouldn’t be able to carry or watch them both while shopping.

My mom said they played with these number containers she made for them. She put different numbers on the outside of empty containers. The game is to put the correct number of shapes in each container. Also, there’s this website that shows an animated Santa and reindeers singing I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas that my mom said Jared wants played over again and again. Not something I’d choose for him to listen to for that long, but he does have an amazing attention span for such a little guy. Jared also impressed my dad with hitting from the tee ball stand. Jared will set the ball on the stand, swing back far, and hit the ball dead center, not even touching the stand, with a line drive across the room.

I‘ve complied a list of books for gifted readers that I’ve created through several different books, including My Best Friends are Books. So far every book I’ve checked out that has been recommended for the two year old range has been a hit with Jared and Alexa. They both were excited to see a few new books I’d picked up for them on my way home this afternoon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Beyond the Fence


On days like today, I love having twins. The first few months I don’t think I could have said that too much. The days and month blurred into each other; my senses seemed to dull with each passing day. Today, when I see them wrestling with each other, flipping over the arm of the couch, collapsing on the floor on top of each other and exploding into giggles, I know that those sleepless months were worth every bit of joy I now receive.

It was a pretty decent day today for a change (we’ve had quite of bit of rain and cloudy weather lately), so we rushed outside while we could. They headed for the sandbox and stayed there for a while. By now, they’ve spilled most of the sand on the concrete or shoveled it up, walked over to the recycling bin next to the house, and dumped it in there. Alexa poured the little bit left in the bottom over her arm and rubbed the sand into her skin. Jared tired quickly of this and headed out to the bushes in back by the fence. Our bushes are pretty high, probably 12-15 feet or so, so they must seem like trees to him. He loves to weave in and out of them, pull on the park, gather up stones and stare at the sky.

Between the slats in the fence, I can see past the empty lot and into the field of the schoolyard where the kids are playing. I see the youngest kids rush out of the building like they have finally escaped their cages and are trying to make the most of their freedom before they are caught again. I cringe when I see the teacher herd them back together to do proper exercises and make sure they follow all the rules in an organized game of kickball. Looking back at my children’s faces, seeing their intense concentration and freedom to explore their world, I feel blessed beyond belief to share this moment with them and give them a life where they can continue to live this way.

A quick note: they watched an episode of Bill Nye the Science guy today on Ocean Exploration. I wasn’t sure how they would like it; the back of the DVD cover said 4th grade level, and they are obviously a bit under that. However, they (especially Jared) soaked it all in. We were able to discuss underwater pressure, marine life on the bottom of the ocean and land formations. They also saw a few scenes from Reading Rainbow about a cranberry farm, how to make a fiddle, and clogging.

Play dough, Van Gogh, and Reading Rainbow


We started off the day with the usual Starfall. They absolutely love It’s the best website I have found that shows kids the letters (both upper and lower case) along with the sound the letter makes. Before they were two, they would pester me each morning to go to the beginning level screen that would go through the letters. Well, we usually don’t go to that screen now since they both know all letters and sounds for a while now (Alexa since 18 months and Jared for the past two months.) Now they love to go to the books. Each page of the book will be on the screen with a simple sentence. When you click on each word, a voice will read the word, sounding out the word first. Anyway, they watch/read these books every morning for about twenty minutes.

The morning filled up quickly with play dough creations. We bought them a Playdough pack for their birthday. They really love to play with play dough, although at this point I think they love stabbing at it with a knife, tearing it apart and combing two different colors, or hiding it in little pieces all over the house. The pack came with pre formed cutters, which I would rather they not use. The rolling pin was fine, but I want them to form their own creations. Using a mold doesn’t take much creativity and thought. Susan Striker in her book, Young at Art, really does a good job of explaining the thought behind not usually the moldings. While they played, I put on the CD titled Classical Emotions Ecstasy. It’s a great compilation of arrangements by Handel, Schubert, Mozart, and Strauss among others.

Before their nap, we always have a reading time. Many times it lasts 20-30 minutes. They really have an amazing ability to concentrate on books for a long time. Some favorites today were: Fox in Socks, Monet and Van Gogh books, Go, Dog, Go!

After their nap, they watched an episode from Reading Rainbow on how milk and cheese is made. During their snack, we looked at the Numbers and Colors book from Your Baby Can Learn series. It’s a flip up book where on the front flap you with find the numeral (say 1) and then the word of the picture that is underneath (say a hot air balloon). When you flip up the flap, you see one hot air balloon and the word one. They fight each other on who will be first to touch the pictures on each page.

My Introduction


Well, my babies turned two today! I guess I can’t say babies anymore. Since they will probably be our only children, I try to make the very most of each day, to truly soak up all I can of then, but still it seems to be going by way too fast.

For those reading this blog, our twins, Jared and Alexa were born preemies, at 32 weeks. They were 3lb, 2oz (Alexa) and 3lb, 15 oz when they were born. I had the joy of one born vaginally and one C-section. After watching them with feeding tubes and in incubators for five weeks in the hospital, we were finally able to take them home.

All in all, they have been pretty healthy considering where they started from. A few ear infections, some bronchial problems, and a slight case of pneumonia is all we have had to go through so far, thank God.

Throughout this blog, I’d like to explore the philosophies I have regarding education and how to develop your children’s potential. This is not to say that everything I do with my children will always be perfect or that I won’t make mistakes along the way. It’s just a way for me to chronicle how and what my children learn, and what I can do to encourage their curiosity and wonder of the world.

So, on their first day of being two, after finishing breakfast, they did one of their favorite activities: playing in the water. They scoot the kitchen chairs up to the sink and play with bowls, cups and spoons under a small trickle of water. They’ve been doing this pretty regularly for about six months now. It’s amazing how they can just fill up a cup of water and pour it into an empty cup over, and over, and over again. Even more amazing is how well they take turns and usually don’t fight.

After that, they played in the flour, sugar, rice and sand. I just pour each into a different bowl, give Jared and Alexa spoons and let them go at it. Again, like the water, pouring can keep them busy for a LONG time. Jared took the bowl of flour, crawled under the table, and started to eat it. He looked so adorable with his sticky, flour face. Sensory experiences are so important for this age.

Another great sensory experience for toddler is drawing with chalk. Jared and Alexa absolutely love it. They were given a lot of sidewalk chalk for their birthday. I’ll write more in detail about my beliefs on the importance of early art experiences, but for now I’ll just say that they do something with art every single day. I love chalk because it is so easy to wipe off just about everything. They love drawing all over the walls in their rooms, the doors of the house, even on the floor. It’s a great way for them to have free range to experiment on how it feels to write on difference surfaces without leaving permanent damage! Alexa holds pens like an adult; actually she has for almost six months now, and loves to draw whenever she gets a chance. She’ll draw these big circles, stab at them with her finger and announce “circle.” It’s too cute! Jared definitely doesn’t quite share her passion for drawing, he’s more into organizing and rearranging the colors when they draw, but he still enjoys the tactile experience. They both have known all their colors for a few months now.

Besides playing with chalk this morning, they also took out their play food. Alexa LOVES to play with the food. She mainly loves to take each piece out and tell me what its name is. For her, naming real objects has been the best boost for her vocabulary. They also have a lot of play animals, and she will take each one out, hand it to me, and tell me its name. For their birthday, they received even more small plastic animals, so now she’s learned new names like lobster, hyena, buffalo, seahorse, and stingray.

Before their naps, we have a daily ritual that we always stick with. The main part is reading. I will write about their journey with books, letters and reading, but for now I’ll say that we usually read for about twenty to thirty minutes at a time. They snuggle up in my lap and we go through a big stack of books. Dr. Seuss is probably their favorite author. Right now the current Seuss favorites are: My Many Colored Days, Fox in Socks, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Green Eggs and Ham. There’s also a series of books titled Mini Masters. Each title is based on one of the Impressionist painters such as Monet, Degas or Van Gogh. It will have a picture of the painting with prose to go along with it. They are one of my children’s favorite series. I just love it when Alexa says she wants to read “Nay” or Jared hands me a book and says “Day-ga.”

Another ritual is after they get up from their naps, I usually put something on for them to watch while they drink their milk. I’m not a big fan of T.V. for kids, but I do find a few DVD’s really useful. They have watched a series titled Your Baby Can Read since they were eleven months old. In the past few months, I have introduced a few more that they really love. Today they watched an episode from Reading Rainbow on DVD on farm life. While I hate to stick them in front of T.V. even if it is a DVD that is worthwhile, I do feel good about watching it with them. They have really learned a lot from our times together. For instance today we watched and talked about pigs, shearing sheep, boa constrictors, tarantulas, and livestock shows.

This is only my opinion, but I seriously wonder how parents can stick their kids in front of mindless cartoons when there are so many better programs out there, programs that will get them thinking and show them a little bit more about the world. Believe me, I know how there are times when you need even just fifteen minutes to get something done, so you have your kids watch something. I’m not at all criticizing that. It’s just a choice you can make. Just like to choice whether to give your child a whole wheat cracker or a cookie as a treat in the morning. I’m all for relaxing in front of the T.V. at night to mindless shows once in a while. Most people need to do that or some form of non-thinking activity. But young children have an incredible capacity and need, a real, deep need, to learn, not to be entertained (o.k. sometimes a fluffy show once in a while is fun, too). We need to give credit to children. Even two year olds can comprehend and enjoy watching how a cranberry farm works or how fun it looks to clog. They don’t need to watch flashy colors bounce around the screen or animated characters zip around in order to sustain their attention.

O.k. I’ll move on.

When Steve (my wonderful husband) came home, we went to McDonald’s for dinner. It was a special treat because they’ve only eaten there a few times before. They absolutely loved watching the kids play in the playground area. They are a little too small to run around in those spiral tube slides, but they really enjoyed watching the other kids. There was a very small section for smaller kids with a little slide which they enjoyed. After dinner we stopped by Jewel to pick up a cake. We saw a woman from church and stopped to talk for a few minutes. During our conversation, Jared pointed out a circle. She seemed a little taken aback. She said, “Did he say circle?” and then just as quickly she said, “Oh, that‘s right. You’re a teacher.” It kind of bothered me. So, because I taught public schools (not a great experience at all) before the kids were born, that’s supposed to be the reason why my son might be able to point out a circle? Like I wouldn’t have told him the name of a circle, say when he was playing with his shape sorter, if I hadn’t been a teacher? Why because it is a more “academic” type of thing to know does it seem surprising?

Anyway, when they came home they opened up a few presents we had saved for their actual birthday (they had opened the others at their birthday party with family on Saturday). We had bought them a toy boat and truck, stickers, three dinosaurs, and bubbles.

Well, those were some highlights of the day. I really didn’t think this post was going to be so long. I don’t think I’ll be able to write this much every day.