Yesterday was a really lovely day (Youngest's 4th birthday, for those of you who don't know) - nothing too mad was planned, but that didn't stop all three boys being in a permanent state of hyper-excitedness :) We had a lovely time at craft club, sharing out the coconut mice we made on Monday, plus making blackboards, playing with friends, designing and constructing castles (as well as random flying things - I love how just letting them loose with card, scissors & tape never fails to inspires their imagination to create things beyond the given task!). Youngest did the blackboard but wasn't interested in the castle - was a bit too hyped up to concentrate on anything for that long... he did paint a couple of pictures and made some cars out of lego though (we usually take a big box of lego along to share with anyone who's finished early or is waiting for paint to dry etc). Middle thoroughly enjoyed the construction process as usual, and just kept cutting, sticking & creating until he realised what he was making... it turned out to be a "dust-catcher" for Youngest's birthday (!), ie a frame of card with stickytape stretched across the square opening - they had lots of fun seeing what would stick to it. Eldest made a great fort to use with his little army toy set, and a "flying stick", and then came in to the other room where he ended up reading a book to a friend's little girl - it was a very sweet moment. After that we came home for lunch then went to see family for more presents. What an excited little boy! Much playing with presents after that, and then (evenutally) bedtime. Youngest actually slept through until the early hours of the morning, he was so tired (he usually wakes at around 10pm).
All the boys were up early again this morning though - so not tired enough for a lay-in! Fortunately as I have said, we had nothing much planned (we rarely do). Eldest and Middle spent some time on MathsWhizz, but Youngest is still avoiding Reading Eggs - he has hit a 'game' that is quite a stretch for him (he can do it but really has to concentrate) - his learning is just moving up to the next level of understanding, that's all, and if we were in school I would feel obliged to coach him through this stage, but as we're at home, I'm not bothering - I figure I'll let him have his break and come back to it when he feels ready to tackle it, by which point the learning should hopefully have consolidated in his subconscience. For me, it's the same as when children have phyical growth spurts: they don't grow at one consistent rate; they plateau for a while and then suddenly gain an increased appetite and seem to grow several inches over a week). So is it with their learning: they can plateau and appear to be not learning very much or growing in ability, and then seemingly out of nowhere their interest/ desire to learn greatly increases and they 'suddenly' grasp what they've struggled with before. It's all down to natural readiness. It's a theory I'm confident in and have seen played out enough times before, so I'm enjoying having the freedom at home to let him back off and not worry.
Also today Eldest spent a long time designing and creating a set of about twenty 'Top Trumps' cards of weird creatures of his own invention. To some it looks like 'just playing' until you stop and realise how much went into it - D&T (making a game), drawing (the illustrations), ordering facts, Maths (working out different quantities to give for each factor) etc.
Eldest's "Imaginary Creatures" Top Trumps
Not bad, for a couple of hours' playing (and to think I used to have concerns about his ability to concentrate...!) Meanwhile, Middle and Youngest had a lovely long time also playing with one of Youngest's new birthday toys - a Playmobil set. Role play is just great for expanding vocabulary, stimulating the imagination, working out the world around them and how we fit into it etc. In fact it involves multiple skills: physical, cognitive, imaginative, creative, emotional and social. I know I'm at risk of sounding like I'm trying to justify their playing - but it doesn't really need justifying (or shouldn't). I was just thinking again about the value of play - it's something I try to focus on every now and then as I think it's vital to give children the space to learn through play, but the structure-loving part of me (my teacher-head) sometimes needs reminding!
The rest of the day was spent largely on practising sorting skills and learning about hygiene - ie tidying up! They all helped with the housework - dishwasher, laundry etc, and then they got to work on their bedrooms. Middle and Youngest still need help focusing on what they are doing, so I tend to stay with them and ask them which set of toys the are going to put away next. They did quite well today - they're definitely learning! Eldest is fine on his own anyway - he doesn't usually need my help, although I thought it was very sweet that Middle went to help him so they could both play on the Wii together afterwards (Bribery/ motivation, who cares? It worked!) I even got to do a much-needed major laundry sort! All of the boys seem to have had a physical growth-spurt over the summer (they often do), so I've been going through all the clothes they have grown out of & sorting them into three piles: a charity rag-bin pile; a pile of Youngest's too-small clothes to give to a friend with a son younger than my lot, and a pile of Eldest's & Middle's too-small clothes to put by for my younger two to grow into. That third pile was then sorted by size into boxes & put in the garage for next year. Phew - not my favourite job, but very satisfying to have done :)
All of that has just made me think (thinking is good!). The evidence of physical growth-spurts was easy for me to see: it was a mountain of out-grown clothes dumped in my bedroom (now nicely sorted - yay!). The evidence of growth-spurts in a child's learning is maybe not so evident to a Home Ed rookie like me, but I am fully confident that I will see it. I think this blog will help - already as I look back over old posts I can see how one or more of us have grown and moved on. Also I am keeping loose records of the boys' "work" (for want of a much better term), so I can now see for example that Youngest has started to properly read, in the sense of seeing a word and sounding out the letter-sounds until he recognises what the word says. Middle can now tell the time, among other things, and Eldest's ability to concentrate has greatly expanded, since he's been given the space to follow his own interests and choose what he wants to concentrate on.
So it's been a good day again. Very different from last week where we had lots of activities going on al the time - but still positive, still growing, still happy... just as we like it!