Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Twigs, Turtles, Tigers, and Trains

Tt is for Twig

“Mommy, what’s our letter this week?” Little Bear asked as we sat down to tackle Monday’s work.

We had abandoned our letter of the week activities over the summer, and I hadn’t really planned to resume them. After all, I reasoned, Little Bear knows her letters and Baby Bear has no real interest in letters at this stage. But Little Bear really wanted to do a letter, so I told her we’d stopped on Ss. “What comes next?” I asked.

“Tt — turtles!” she replied. “And teeth and toothbrush and toothpaste and …”

She came up with an impressive list of Tt words on her own, but we both agreed that such things as toothpaste and toenails weren’t all that fascinating. So we sat down together and brainstormed a list of animals and favorite things that started with the letter Tt — toads, turtles, tigers, toys, trucks, trains, tractors, teddy bears, and T-Rexes. Then, we turned to the shelves and pulled a stack of related books:

Over the course of the week, we’ve enjoyed the books above and a small mountain of others. Little Bear has especially been enjoying the Frog and Toad books, and her interest in the characters led us to compare and contrast frogs and toads. We did the same with toads, tortoises, and terrapins, squeezing a second science lesson out of our unplanned letter of the week activities.

On the math front, Little Bear spent yesterday morning collecting twigs, comparing their lengths, and arranging them from shortest to tallest. When she grew tired of playing alone, she asked me to help her. We raced to see how many twigs we could collect in one minute. We counted our finds, and we compared numbers to see who found the most and who found the least. On a more traditional note, Little Bear sorted Teddy Bear Counters by size and color, then used them to make patterns.

She traced the letter Tt in her salt box, outlined Tt using tacks in foam board, used a twig to write T’s and t’s  in the dirt, and practiced writing Tt on her MagnaDoodle. She had handwriting worksheets in her workbins yesterday, but informed me that she’d rather just write in the dirt.

On Wednesday, we spent part of our pool time hunting for things that started with Tt. Yesterday, we played a riddle game, where she had to solve a riddle, then tell me whether the answer started or ended with a /t/ sound. We also practiced spelling -at, -et, and -ot words. Today, we had a /t/ word families spelling bee while splashing around. (Hey, swimming pool spelling bees may give new meaning to “active learning,” but she’s most focused when both her body and her brain are engaged!)

Gross motor activities have included tossing a ball, throwing a frisbee, twirling around, and running to touch whatever Mommy named. For fine motor work, Little Bear has practiced her tracing skills, practiced drawing and cutting triangles, and practiced squeezing toothpaste onto a toothbrush.

In the social studies realm, we’ve reviewed different types of transportation, giving extra attention to forms of transportation that start with Tt. The girls have spent hours playing outside with their dump trucks and have pushed their wooden train all around the living room and dining room. Last but not least, the girls used their red Duplo tractor to move bales of “hay” around their Duplo farm. Did you catch that, Papa? Their red tractor. They may be young, but they’re never too young to learn that real tractors are Farmall and International Harvester red, not icky ol’ John Deere green!

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Remembering the Things that Count

A year or so ago, I “met” another mom of two on an Internet forum. Her children were just a little older than my own, and we shared several interests, most of which involved our children. We both liked good books, cute clothes, healthy food, and open-ended toys. We traded tips on kids’ craft kits and swapped recipes for Moon Dough. We were both committed to homeschooling. More than anything else, we both wanted to be the best moms we could be and give our kids the best lives we could give them — a common goal among moms, but also a challenging one.

It’s tough to be gentle, loving, patient, kind and forgiving when you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since the first trimester of your first pregnancy, when you’re hungry (because some small person ate half your meal), when you’ve got a migraine (which inevitably coincides with a small person’s discovery of volume buttons on electronic toys), when you’re cleaning up the 387th mess of the day, or when you’re dealing with a behavioral issue that you’ve confronted time and again.

It’s even tougher when, like my friend, you’re dealing with Stage 4 colon cancer.

Yet somehow, she managed to push through the pain and suffering and pour her life into the lives of her precious children. Amid hospital visits and treatments, she was forging ahead with plans for kindergarten. A month ago, we were comparing plans for the year and talking about all the fun things we wanted to do with our kids in the upcoming months. Then, she took a turn for the worse. …

Early this morning, as I tried to coax a teething toddler back to sleep, I got word that my friend was nearing the end of her hard-fought battle. And suddenly, “yet another sleepless night” didn’t seem so bad. Instead, it meant that I was privileged to have another night with my children and another day of health to care for them.

As I’ve gone through the day today praying for my friend and her family during what might be their final hours together, I couldn’t help but wonder how different my interactions with my own children might be if I knew I was facing life’s end. One thing I know for sure, I wouldn’t be fretting over spilled milk, toys scattered around the living room, or pizza stains. I’d spend every minute I could holding my children close, loving them, making memories with them. I’d tell them once again how special they were and how privileged I was to be their mom. I’d point out their strengths. I’d encourage them to follow their dreams. And I’d point them to the One who loves them infinitely more than I can love.

Then it dawned on me that I don’t know what the future holds. I have no guarantee of tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. The imprints I want to leave on the hearts of my children need to be made now; the words I want etched in their minds need to be spoken now.

My heart breaks as I think of my friend’s young children having to bid farewell to the mother who birthed them and who loved them with every fiber of her being, yet I’m confident that her love will live on in their hearts. She’s made sure of that. I pray that I can learn from her example and live each day with my children as though it may be the last we have together.

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Our Not-Back-to-School Day

Public schools in our area kicked off the 2012-2013 school year today. Since we’re following a looser, year-round learning approach, we didn’t really have a “first day of school” this year. We did, however, spend this morning enjoying a not-back-to-school celebration of our own. With most of the town’s juvenile population back in school, we headed to McDonald’s (a rare treat in and of itself) for breakfast and a morning of uncrowded play at one of the few indoor play areas in town:

So excited!

Sisters and friends …

By the time we got home, both girls were ready for naps. I read several chapters of our current read-aloud, Little Pilgrim’s Progress, to Little Bear while I nursed Baby Bear to sleep. Midway through the sixth chapter, I felt Little Bear’s head slump down on my shoulder, and she was out for half the afternoon.

As the girls woke, we headed back to the recliner for more snuggle and story time. The girls took turns choosing books for Mommy to read and happily listened as long as my voice held out. Then, Baby Bear pulled Ruff’s House, a tactile memory/matching game, off the shelf,  and convinced both me and Little Bear to play with her. At 16 months, she doesn’t really grasp the idea of making matches, but she loves pulling the bones-shaped playing pieces out of the dog house, examining the textures, and putting the pieces back in while Mommy and Big Sister make matches. Next, the girls turned their attention to puzzles, Duplos, and drawing on the iPad while I started dinner.

Little Bear tackled four new puzzles in Can You Find Me? and two more exercises in Mind Benders Beginning Book 1 (PreK-K)while dinner cooked. She loves both of these books — to the point that she begs to keep going, then asks to go back and revisit the puzzles we’ve already solved whenever we hit our “quota” for the day. (I’ve ordered sequels to both, but would like to make the current volumes last at least a couple of months!)

Princess to the rescue!

One more puzzle solved!

After dinner, we pulled Camelot Jr. off the shelf and worked through five puzzle cards. Each puzzle begins with castle blocks and gulfs between a knight and a princess, along with pieces that must be manipulated to bridge the gulfs. In theory, the knight then rushes in to rescue the princess. But we’re not exactly raising damsels in distress. … Little Bear loves the story The Paper Bag Princess, and as often as not, Princess Elizabeth goes to the aid of Prince Ronald — or a more worthy knight!

Last but not least, we read Frog and Toad Are Friends, which of course, prompted Little Bear to question the differences between frogs and toads. She’s asked this question before, and given how much she enjoys the Frog and Toad books, I have no doubt she’ll ask it again. So tonight, along with giving her my standard “frogs live in or near water, while toads live on dry land” answer, I took time to Google it. Next time she asks, I’ll be ready with a handy chart that compares the two, plus this slightly more detailed answer.

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Smiles, Sunshine, and Lessons for Mom

Little Bear had a doctor’s appointment near one of our favorite parks this morning, so we stopped by afterward to let the girls run and play. As I watched them, their morning play became school for mom. So what lessons did my sweet girls teach me? (Or at least remind me of?)

(1) Learning is a lifelong process. Take it one step at a time.

One step at a time …

(2) Take risks and try new things. Embrace challenges. Climb to new heights. There may be bumps and bruises along the way, but the view from the top is worth it.

Climb to new heights!

(3) Sometimes you’ll hit a rough patch. It’s OK. Just hang on for dear life until you regain your footing.

Hang on!

(4) The rough patches are just that … patches. They’re temporary. Don’t give up! Work through them and keep going.

Keep on going!

(5) We all have limits. My 15-month-old might want to climb just like her big sister, but her little legs can only stretch so far. She’ll get there in due time, but “due time” doesn’t mean “today.” (In the same way, my 4-year-old will learn to read in due time, develop better listening skills in due time, etc.)

We all have limits …

(6) Pause to enjoy the things so many people overlook. Don’t get so wrapped up in the busyness of life’s playground that you miss the tranquil beauty of the river walk. Never be too busy to enjoy the sunshine on your shoulders, the wind in your hair, the grass beneath your feet, or the gentle voice of the river in your ears.

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy …”

(7) Gratefully accept help when it’s needed. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. The best times are often shared times.

“I couldn’t have done it alone.”

(8) Savor life’s successes! Pause occasionally to celebrate how far you’ve come.

Savor success.

(9) Above all, take time to enjoy the journey.

Enjoying the journey …

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Zoo Adventures

We paid a visit to the Abilene Zoo this weekend, much to the delight of both girls. Little Bear loves animals of every stripe and size, and Baby Bear seems to be following in her footsteps.

First up? Flamingos. Of course, seeing flamingos by the dozen made Little Bear ask whether flamingos could fly, why they stand on one leg, what they eat, and how long they could keep their heads underwater.

Flamingos …

Two giant tortoises hid from the Texas heat, taking shelter beneath a rocky ledge. The girls weren’t able to get a good look at them, but Little Bear allowed they were “big enough to ride!”

“Sorry, kids! No rides today!”

A little further down the path, however, the girls found a giant slug that did welcome young passengers:

“Climb on!”

Of course, the girls enjoyed seeing zoo “regulars,” including rhinos, zebras, lions, a Bengal tiger, a cougar, ocelots, monkeys, otters, birds, and creepy crawlies galore.

Breakfast time in the rhino pen …

Little Bear’s favorites …

Who’s the most colorful fowl around?

But the highlight of the morning was the opportunity to feed some of the animals. We purchased crackers to feed the giraffes — always a favorite activity. (Well, for everyone except Baby Bear. Baby Bear loudly expressed her outrage over the fact that a hungry giraffe stole HER cracker!)

“Got anything for me?”

The giraffe bridge was full of would-be giraffe feeders, though; so we saved our last handful of crackers for the hungry ducks clamoring around the observation pier. The ducks welcomed the tasty tidbits, or at least tried to. As it turned out, the ducks had  serious competition from some hungry carp:

Hungry mouths …

The fish were not only crowding around the pier with open mouths, but were actually leaping up out of the water to catch bites before they hit the water. I think we could have spent the entire morning on the pier with no complaints from the girls … although Little Bear did pull herself away from the feeding frenzy long enough to observe some snapping turtles, a l-o-n-g water snake, and a trailing family of ducklings. Baby Bear mostly enjoyed climbing up and down the stairs all by herself.

Mommy’s little big girl!

We knew we’d have a fair amount of ground to cover at the zoo, and we wanted to see everything before we were enveloped by the midday heat, so we rented a push cart to wheel the girls around in. Little Bear opted to ride more than Baby Bear, but both girls eventually decided that they wanted to run free instead. Oh well, at least Daddy got some use out of the rental!

Taking Daddy to the zoo …

Push!

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Critical Thinking and Chocolate Chip Cookies

We’d planned to wrap up our ocean theme study today, but plans changed abruptly when Baby Bear had a run-in with the baby gate. The gate won. Baby Bear emerged with a golf ball-sized knot in the middle of her forehead, and we spent the morning at the pediatrician’s office. Thankfully, she seems to be OK, aside from a big bruise and a headache, but by the time we got home, half the day was gone …. along with our “plan.”

Naps, pool time, and chocolate chip cookie baking (Little Bear’s reward for leaving the pool …) filled the afternoon. But by evening, Little Bear was asking when we were going to “do school.” She wanted to do something that involved working together, so I pulled a couple of our new critical thinking books off the shelf.

We started with Can You Find Me?, a book of word and picture puzzlers designed to help prekindergartners build thinking skills across the content areas. Two of tonight’s challenges required her to listen to a series of verbal clues, then pick the picture that best matched the clues. The final one required her to look at four animals — a chicken, a cow, a fox, and a zebra — and determine which one was least like the others. She completed all three exercises with ease and confidently explained the rationale behind her answers. She declared that she loved this book, and she was not at all happy that Mommy only let her do the first three pages. Mommy’s only complaint is that this $16.99 book has only one puzzle per page. I too love the content, but will have to “ration” out the activities to make the book last longer than a few weeks.

Our next pair of activities came from Mind Benders Book 1 (PreK-K). This one is not as visually appealing as the first one, but it guides children through a logical problem solving sequence. Tonight, for instance, Little Bear had to match three characters with their homes using two factual statements. The first statement told her which character lived in the widest house. The second character told her which character did not live in the smallest house. Using those two statements, she completed a yes/no matrix to determine where all three characters lived. Given that she’s just 4 years old (and a young 4 at that), I was not at all sure that she would grasp the matrix concept. She grasped it immediately, however, and solved the second puzzle with no assistance. Once again, she wanted to know why we had to stop after just two puzzles, and once again, my only complaint is that this book includes only 44 activities. To extend the life of the book, I’m planning to give her a supply of Y/N bingo chips and let her use those to complete the matrixes instead of actually writing in the book. Hopefully, she’ll be content to work through the same puzzles several times over the course of the year.

Wrapping up our evening’s fun, I pulled out our Beyond123 BambinoLUK Starter Pack. We’ve got several brain training activities books to go along with this European classroom staple, but tonight, I just wanted Little Bear to learn how to set up the work tray and use the self-correcting tiles. We went through three matching activities of progressing difficulty before she decided she’d had enough. She liked this product, but didn’t love it quite as much as the books. Fatigue probably played a part in her waning interest, and I’m hopeful that she’ll want to use this tool more tomorrow after a good night’s rest. Her biggest complaint seemed to be that she had to follow a series of steps and follow them in a specific order to get the “correct” end result. From a parent’s perspective, I thought the product was well-designed, easy to use, and versatile. I want the girls to have fun while they’re learning, but I don’t mind exposing them to the occasional product that forces them to slow down and “follow the rules.”

Overall, I’d give all three of these products a 5-star rating and would recommend them without hesitation. I’m just hoping that Little Bear doesn’t finish half our planned PreK curriculum before Labor Day!

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High Seas Adventure

Little Bear developed a fascination with pirates several months ago, so as soon as I mentioned an ocean theme, she immediately asked if pirates would be a part of it. With that request, our ocean theme took on a life of its own. We’re still learning about the ocean, its inhabitants, beaches, shells, sand and whatever else captures her interest, but we’re also learning about the golden age of exploration — and piracy.

I realized going into this study that Little Bear’s perception of pirates was somewhat skewed. She saw them as jovial characters who sailed around in cool ships, talked to parrots and wore colorful clothes. Much I love her imagination and innocence, I felt it was time to break the news that pirates weren’t all that nice.

We started by reading an abridged version of Treasure Island that was supposed to be suitable for younger readers. As we began reading, I realized that Treasure Island was a lot darker than I remembered. The editors of the adaptation we read did a good job of preserving the heart of the story while toning down the more violent scenes, but … well, it’s a tale of piracy, of mutiny and murder on the high seas. And while I probably won’t read it to the girls again until they’re both well past the preschool years, it did change Little Bear’s perspective on pirates!

After Treasure Island, we turned to several tame-by-comparison non-fiction books about piracy throughout history and famous pirates and privateers. We also enjoyed some lighter fictional reading, including Pirate Pete and The Barefoot Book of Pirates, both of which earned a spot on our wishlist of library books we’d like to add to our own library.

Along with reading about pirates, we’ve enjoyed some pirate and buried treasure play. Little Bear especially enjoyed playing with a Pirates Ahoy! miniature sandbox I’d picked up on clearance last year. I’d researched these miniature sandbox sets before purchasing and had heard good things about them. After buying one, though, I had second thoughts. I just couldn’t bring myself to give Little Bear an *indoor* sand toy … so I stuck the unopened set in our gift closet, where it sat because I also couldn’t bring myself to give anyone else’s child an indoor sand toy. Desperate times call for desperate measures, though. I needed a ship and a treasure chest for planned activities, and this set included both. So I took a deep breath, opened the box, borrowed the items I needed, then turned Little Bear loose to play with it … on a mat … atop a tile floor … behind a baby gate. Restrictions not withstanding, she had a blast:

Pirate sand play

Surprisingly, she did, in fact, manage to contain most of the sand to the mat, and I’ll probably actually let her play with this toy in the house some more over the next couple of weeks. I’d be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t looking forward to cooler days when sand play can move back outside where God and nature intended for it to be!

On a more academic note, we downloaded pirate printables from 2 Teaching Mommies and Over The Big Moon and have had a blast with these free resources. Given Little Bear’s age and abilities, I actually only printed the tracing worksheets, cutting pages, and one probability game. Sequencing, sorting, and spot-the-difference activities we did on screen. (Hey, color ink is expensive!) We also located pirate safe-havens and countries that endorsed privateers on our globe.

Last but not least, Little Bear got the pirate-themed lunch she’d been begging for — a peanut butter and rice cake pirate, cheese toast treasure map, carrot and black olive swords, skewered tropical fruit, and a treasure chest buried along a {chocolate} rocky shore. It wasn’t gourmet, but it was relatively healthy, and it delighted my sweet girl:

A pirate’s lunch

We’re continuing our ocean study this coming week and will probably read through most of our pirate books at least once more time before returning them to the library. I’m also hoping we find time to …

    • make patterns with glass gems and plastic doubloons,
    • dig for plastic doubloons in the “real” sandbox,
    • see how many glass gems it takes to sink the girls’ toy boat,
    • follow a map to find a treasure hidden in our yard,
    • do some pirate-themed Do-A-Dot painting pages, and
    • create and solve story problems using our gems and doubloons.

Regardless of how much of the list we get through, our high seas adventures will certainly be remembered as both eye-opening and entertaining!

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Seashells, Seashells

We’ve spent today exploring seashells, much to the delight of both girls. Little Bear loves to explore nature of any kind, and Baby Bear was overjoyed to be able to handle the shells (large enough not to be a choking hazard) just like her big sister.

The girls began the day with free play. We had one large scallop shell, so the girls enjoyed piling it high with other shells. Little Bear carefully counted, stacked, and balanced them, trying each time to beat her previous record for number of shells stacked. Baby Bear simply enjoyed playing a classic fill-and-spill game, piling a handful of smaller shells onto the scallop shell, then lifting it up high and cackling with delight as they clattered to the floor.

Stacking shells …

Smallest to largest

Moving on to more formal learning, we sorted the shells into groups of similar shells, then read What Lives in a Shell? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) and matched shells with the animals that previously inhabited them.

We sorted them by size, sorted them by color, grouped them by 5s and skip-counted to 25, and used them to solve simple addition problems. We paused to read A House for Hermit Crab, then used the shells to create subtraction story problems. Little Bear’s contribution? “There were three pretty shells on the beach, but a hermit crab came along looking for a new home. He moved into one of them and ran back into the water. How many {shells} were left?”

Of course, Little Bear also wanted to “make things” with the shells, so she formed shapes, formed letters, and tried spelling out her name. She ran out of shells on the second letter of her name, so I introduced the concept of initials, and she settled on forming her initials instead.

Little Bear and I took a break and hit the pool while Baby Bear napped. Then, we headed back in the house for drinks, snacks, and more reading time. We sat down with a stack of five beach- and ocean-themed books, of which Little Bear’s favorite was On the Beach (Usborne Lift-the-Flap). Reading, however, took a bit longer than planned. Baby Bear has now figured out the story time routine, so she makes sure to insert one of her favorites after each of Mommy’s selections. (How many times can one read Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? and Peekaboo Farm in a single day?)

After story time, we headed back outside for active play with friends, then back in for some quieter play. By 8:30, sleep had claimed Little Bear. Baby Bear, however, was still going strong and wanted to play with the shells yet again. This time, she dumped the basket of shells, examined them one by one, put them back in the basket, and dumped again. This game continued until I held a shell up to her ear. She clapped her hands, grabbed the shell and tried to do it herself, then tried to listen to two shells at the same time:

Listening to the “ocean” …

Both girls are now asleep, the shells have been picked up one last time, and pirates are on the plan for tomorrow. I suspect that little basket of shells will see much more use in the days and week ahead, however, whether for “school” or play.

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Learning Through Life

It finally happened. After a week of postponing the inevitable, we finally had to go grocery shopping. (In my world, strawberry-spinach smoothies beat going shopping in triple digit heat … until one runs out of spinach!)

It takes awhile to get two small children fed, dressed, and out of the house. Grocery shopping with two small children in tow isn’t exactly a speedy process either, especially when one of the two little ones is a 26-pound toddler who’s cutting molars and just wants to be held. One look at the clock told me that we probably weren’t going to get much formal schooling into the day today, so we made the most of the opportunities life offered us.

We started our grocery trip in the floral department, looking at and identifying the beautiful cut flowers. Little Bear fell in love with a bunch of daylilies and begged to get them, so I pointed to the $9.99 price tag. Price alone doesn’t mean much to a 4-year-old, so I explained that we could get the flowers or we could get a pound of strawberries, a pound of blueberries, a pound of cherries, half a watermelon and three nectarines for the same price. Little Bear quickly allowed that she’d rather have the fruit.

Moving on to the produce department, the girls helped hunt for the fruits and vegetables on our shopping list. Little Bear counted out apples and squash, discovering in the process that “half a dozen” was another way of saying “six.”

In the dairy department, we compared cheese prices. Little Bear decided that individually packaged string cheese was too expensive and that plain old white American slices were a much better value. Mommy agreed! In the paper goods department, Little Bear hunted until she found the on-sale 16-roll pack of our preferred brand of toilet paper. Then, it was time to hit the bakery department where Little Bear got to choose a doughnut (chocolate frosted with sprinkles!) as a reward for her helpfulness and great behavior.

Once home, Little Bear entertained her sister while I put groceries away. After some lunch, she asked to play on ABCMouse.com, where she completed a couple of alphabet review lessons and enjoyed some online stories. Ever the multi-tasker (much like her mother …), she also managed to build a Duplo village while listening to those stories.

Then it was time for more practical learning. Today was a laundry day, so Little Bear helped me sort clean clothes according to their owner. She matched pajama tops and bottoms and grouped Daddy’s socks into pairs of two.

Our work done, we headed outside to enjoy some pool time. Three toddler meltdowns (I’m suspecting an ear infection …), one too-close encounter with a ginormous wolf spider skittering across the surface of the water, and two bee stings later, we’d had more than enough. We retreated to the apartment, ate an early dinner, doused ourselves with lavender water to repel mosquitoes, then headed back outside (where it was still 95 degrees …) for some evening play time on dry land.

There the girls enjoyed examining the flowers on our butterfly bush, the only one of our potted plants that’s survived the summer’s heat.

Tiny fingers, tiny flowers …

Play time!

The girls played ball, chased each other around the yard, fed the birds, and dug in the dirt. Little Bear rode her bicycle, while Baby Bear climbed everything she could find to climb.An hour of play left them hot, dirty, and exhausted — ready for baths and bedtime stories! Tonight’s read-alouds included …

… and a whole slew of board books. Baby Bear would not rest until almost every book in her basket had been read. Then it was off to bed to rest and recharge for another busy day, Baking Day per Little Bear’s request.

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What Really Counts

As another week comes to a close, I’m overwhelmed by the realization that my children’s greatest accomplishments this week have come not through formal instruction, but through play, conversation, day-to-day life, and normal development. So what have the girls accomplished this week?

Solving Zoologic puzzles …

12. Baby Bear has figured out what “clean-up time” means and happily joins in the process.

11. Little Bear and I got a chance to play Zoologic together one day while Baby Bear slept. I *thought* I was going to help her with some of the more complex puzzles, but to my surprise she solved two of them faster than Mommy!

10. We’ve had a blast reading about pirates, privateers, and explorers of the 17th and 18th centuries. We’ve read a stack of non-fiction books and just finished Treasure Island last night. Much as I love beautifully-illustrated picture books, it’s a joy to see Little Bear’s understanding and attention span increase to the point where we can share classics with her as well. As an added benefit, our study seems to have given Little Bear new motivation to brush her teeth because she doesn’t want “pirate teeth”!

9. Little Bear turned to me in all seriousness last night and asked, “Mommy, why did pirates take things that belonged to other people?” I tried to explain piracy in historical context, noting that people throughout history have enriched and advanced themselves at the expense of others, etc. Then I asked her if she understood. “No,” she replied. “It’s not nice to take things from other people! It makes people sad. You shouldn’t make people sad just to get more stuff.”  … Ah, the wisdom of a child!

Dress up and dance!

8. I discovered this week that Baby Bear recognizes at least a dozen body parts by name. She can’t say the words yet, but she loves touching her hair, ears, eyes, mouth, and more while playing “Where’s your _____?” with Mommy and Big Sister.

7. Little Bear has spent countless hours creating and constructing with her Duplos, MagnaTiles, and Konstruk Tubes. I love watching her develop her imagination, hone her motor skills, solve problems, and follow complex patterns all while playing and having fun.

6: Baby Bear is beginning to exhibit signs of potty learning readiness, including going potty all by herself one day. (Too bad the lid was down!)

5. Little Bear has started asking to read to me instead of just listening as I read. She’s also offered to read to her baby sister on several occasions. Now, her “reading” consists of reciting or retelling familiar stories. But she’s associating words with meaning and retelling stories with detail and expression — a huge step in reading readiness and oral language development!

4. Baby Bear has developed an almost overnight fascination with books. She suddenly cannot get enough of them. Each time I sit down to share a picture book with Little Bear, she comes running with a couple of her board books in her hand.

3. We rescued a ladybug from imminent death in the swimming pool. We gently set it on dry ground, then watched as its wings dried and it flew away to safety. Little Bear loves all living things and is still talking about the tiny bug we were able to save.

2. Little Bear introduced her baby sister to someone as “my forever friend and the playmate God made just for me.” Yes, they still tussle at times. But Baby Bear adores her big sister and seeks to imitate her at every turn, and Little Bear is beginning to recognize that baby sisters are pretty awesome people … even if they occasionally knock down your Duplo house or chew up your artwork.

1. Baby Bear learned to say “I love you!” and has taken great delight in using her new phrase on Mama, Daddy, and Big Sister.

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