Monday, July 30, 2018

New School/Playroom

As I've mentioned, we recently moved.  One of the things I absolutely love about the new house, is that it gave us room to have a dedicated school/play room (we gave up having a formal dining room for it). It is where we will do learning shelves with Archer, where we put Xander's desk and where we will leave a big open area for building and playing.  The "work" on the shelves will rotate, as well as the toys stored in here.  I find toys get played with more if I don't have them all in sight at the same time.  The rest of the toys are in the basement. 

The woods don't all match, but I was trying to go with what we already had.  The only furniture I purchased for the room was the white IKEA BESTA shelves on the left that we will use for Archer's "work."
For now, we have the baby gym and crawling track out in the main area.  We have the stimulation cards in the crawling track and it is elevated using a Hilltop (I bought these on super sale intending them for Archer in the future, but Xander plays with them quite a bit too).
The far wall has our old shelving unit with bins for toy storage.  On the open shelves I have a bunch of board books.  The two light colored shelves are IKEA TROFAST shelves we used previously.  The one on the left has mostly sensory bin tools and some empty space I am sure we will fill.  The right one has school supplies, Xander's workbooks and worksheets, some activity books and Archer's stimulation cards.  The top has a white board  I got on clearance from Target a while back.
To the right is Xander's desk.  Although, to be honest, he's getting a bit big for it.  Soon, I'm sure he'll do most of his school work at the kitchen table and Archer will take over the small table.  Next to the desk are our Magna-Tiles (and a bunch of other accessories from other brands).  That tub won't live there always, but we brought it up from the basement since Xander has been using them a lot lately.  The baby gate blocks off the kitchen and stairs, so that the dogs can't get in to the play room and the baby won't be able to get out.
The playroom leads into what Xander calls the "Library."  It is intended to be a formal living room, but we made more of an office/library.  My desk is in there, so that I can use the computer while the boys play (or at least that's the intention once Archer is playing more independently).  It has two sets of IKEA BILLY bookcases, where we still our books like I talked about in this post.  We've had to add a third bookcase to the basement, in addition the books in both of the boys' rooms.  Some women buy designer clothes/bags, I buy books for my kids. Luckily my husband is a nerd too, and encourages the book buying.
I'm sure I'll adapt these rooms as out needs change in the future.  I feel beyond blessed to have the space for the kids where we can focus on playing and learning together.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Xander Update 7.5 Years

I've been doing a lot of updates on Archer lately, and realized I haven't updated about Xander in quite a while.
Xander is seven and a half and just finished second grade (you can read about his transition to kindergarten/first grade here).  He liked school, for the most part, but definitely wasn't challenged enough, even with a special MTSS group he was in.  His teachers were wonderful, but also human and having to deal with a room full of kids.  Honestly, I should have done more to supplement at home, but between having a new class, being pregnant and moving, I dropped the ball.
This summer, we've stepped up our game again.  Here are some of the supplemental things we're doing.

He did a lot of STMath, for which he has a subscription through school.  He also continued to do his Christian Light Education workbooks.  For the summer we bought him a subscription to Elephant Learning.  It claims to advance students 1 year of math.  I'm not sure how accurate the claim is, but Xander really seems to enjoy it.  We have not yet decided if we will continue it during the school year when he has access to STMath again.
Xander LOVES to read.  He will easily spend hours a day doing it (below are pictures of how I typically find him on a summer day).  He always takes a book or two with us when we run errands.  Recently, he has been devouring the Rick Riordan books.  Because he tends to speed read, I purchased some reading comprehension worksheets he does occasionally, just to make sure he's comprehending what he reads.

When he has the patience for it, we also do read-alouds.  Currently, we're working out way through Harry Potter.  We haven't made it that far, because he'd usually rather just read himself.
The media specialist at his school (who is also his MTSS teacher) said that while she has him work with Chromebooks, she is not allowed to teach the kids keyboarding because it is something they do in middle school.  I thought that is a bit ridiculous, since I want him to learn good habits from the beginning.  We got him a one year subscription to Keyboarding Without Tears.
Xander has started piano lessons.  He used to watch a lot of Hoffman Academy videos and we had Teaching Little Fingers to Play books, so his teacher was able to bump him to the second level right away.

I've recently introduced Xander to grid style logic puzzles.  He loves them and is getting better all the time! (We've been using Logic Safari Book 2).  He also has a lot of logic games like Rush Hour and the Laser Maze that he plays.

Games and Movies:
We still try to play a lot of games as a family.  Moving and a new baby have made it hard, but we're getting back into it.  (You can see just a few of the games we play in my Games for Brains series of posts).  My dad plays chess or cards with Xander most weekends.  Xander and my husband have also become a little obsessed with the Perplexus balls.  I'm afraid they're going to want to beat them all!  Xander still watches a lot of his educational DVDs and shows on Netflix.  I'm a big fan of the Disney Imagineering ones and he loves Mathtacular (even though I find them very dull).

Friday, July 20, 2018

Cookie Colosseum

Xander has been reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus series (again and again and again).  He has become a little obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology.  To try to feed this interest, I suggested we try to build a Parthenon out of cookies.  He liked the idea, but decided he'd rather build a Colosseum.

We started out by Googling some pictures of the Colosseum.  I also found an illustration in our Encyclopedia of the Ancient World and dug out our toy Colosseum from his World Landmarks Toob.  We also found a two episode documentary on the Colosseum on Amazon Video that we watched.
We used the Betty Crocker Gingerbread House Frosting recipe as our mortar and wafer cookies are our stones.
I had him start by trimming some down and start figuring out a layout before actually frosting them together. Then it was time to start building!  He ended up cutting the wafers into thirds for supports and then using a whole wafer with the corners trimmed as the top of the arch.
He was pretty proud of his final creation. It was a little wonky looking, but I was impressed with how long it was able to hold his attention.  He is not a kid who loves arts and crafts.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

2 Month Update

Two Months!  It doesn't sound like that long at all, but I still feel like keeping a tiny, helpless human alive that long is an accomplishment.  Babies are hard, but SO worth it!

 We still haven't started any sort of formal early learning plan yet (although, I just ordered some PlayWisely home curriculum and am excited to start).  We just kind of do "learning" activities depending on his mood (although, honestly, at this point, he's learning no matter what he does).

Social/Language Development:

Archer is so much more fun now.  He makes good eye contact and will often light up when he sees me.  He becomes very engaged when I sing him songs, particularly ones that have arm motions (itsy bitsy spider, the elephant song, etc.).   He also really likes it when I sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes to him and point to his body parts along with the song. Sometimes, he likes being read to, but only if I'm very animated.  I also try to narrate or describe a lot of what I'm doing, partially for vocabulary exposure and partially because it is weird to be interacting all day with someone who doesn't speak.

He wants SO badly to talk.  He is getting better at cooing, although, sometimes you can see that he really has to struggle to get the sounds out.  His little brow will furrow and he'll scrunch up til he can do it.  We're working on turn taking, where he'll coo and then we'll respond and so on.

Physical Development:

He still goes in his crawling track, just not as much as he "should."  Spit-up is still an issue.   In general, I'm trying to avoid putting him in baby "holders" all the time.  Unless he's sleeping or we're out and about, I try to either be holding him or have him on the ground.  That way he can move and learn how to use his arms and legs.  I'm definitely not perfect, though!  The bouncer has gotten us through a lot of meals.
He loves looking at his mirror.  It is one of the things I can do to make tummy time more tolerable for him.  Looking at his stimulation cards can also hold his attention for a while.  My friend got him some baby paper, which is awesome.  I put that down next to him to encourage him to use his hands while on his tummy.  He's also got a couple of the Taggies crinkle toys.
 Archer does seem to really enjoy his baby gym.  He's working on being able to hit the toys on purpose (he does it on accident a lot).  

Visual Development:

We use the crawling track and baby gym for this a lot too.  I usually prop some books up for him to look at while he's in there. He really seems to like his book of animals, which surprised me, since I thought it might be a little hard for him to make them out.  I try to do either black and white images or real photos.  Cartoons are just such an abstract concept, that I try to avoid them when I can.

We've also been working on eye tracking.  I use a toy or something in which he is interested, then move it back and forth for him to track.  I also go up and down.  He is getting so much smoother and rarely goes cross-eyed anymore!

I've noticed that when we do these kinds of focused activities, Archer is so much more content.  Maybe he gets bored if he doesn't have enough stimulation?  Regardless, we're having a blast watching him learn and develop!  

I'd love to hear what activities your babies have enjoyed at this age.

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