Monday, 27 June 2011

1970's lapbook part 1

Last month I discovered my old Sindys, Pippas and Barbie in a box we'd had in the loft. I decided that Iona was now old enough to play with some of them, although I didn't feel I could trust her with my beloved Sindys or proper Pippas, so I gave her the spare clothes, and Barbie (who was a late addition to my family) and a couple of imitation Pippas:
Iona was absolutely thrilled, and loved trying to dress (but mainly undress) the dolls:
We talked about how different the clothes were from those we wear today, and Iona quickly learned the word "flares"! This led me to think "Why don't we do a lapbook about the 1970's!".

We started off by putting "Mummy's Pippas and Barbie" under the 1970's on our timeline which leads up the stairs. I also bought our own copy of a book which Iona loved to bits when we borrowed it from the library some months ago, Before I Was Your Mother, as it talks about a little girl's mother being a little girl, as I was in the 1970's.

We did various activities, which I will detail later, then yesterday, when reading another library book about the '70's with Iona, I was reminded that decimal currency was brought in in 1971. I explained to her that the coins we use were first used in the 1970's, and showed her how to make coin rubbings. We've talked about money a bit before, usually when checking what's in her piggy bank, but this is the first time that I've systematically shown her all the coins (except 10p, which we couldn't find one of anywhere in the house). She really enjoyed making rubbings of all the coins, although she needed a lot of help to cover each one - if I hadn't stepped in we would just have had circle shapes vaguely around each one. Today, I decided I wanted to make her a set of 1p coins that we could use to play shopping. In order to help her in identifying real coins I tried to make them as realistic as possible. I got a sheet of thick card, drew around a real 1p ten times on it, drew the 1p design on them, front and back, coloured them with a brown crayon, then cut them out. To stop Iona drawing on them (which she was keen to do), and to make them last a bit longer, I wrapped them in sticky tape. Iona was very pleased with them, and insisted on spending the evening "buying" things from me, which was good practice for her counting skills as I made her give me the correct number of 1p's for whatever price I quoted up to 10p. I considered using real 1p coins for this activity, but at such a tender age Iona is already very aware that money is valuable, and wants as much as she can keep for her piggy bank! Of course, I could use coins from said money box, but then I was concerned that, once playing with them, she might forget their value and insist on keeping them in one of her toy boxes, bags, etc. and that we'd end up losing them. Overall, I think I made the right decision to make cardboard coins, and so far I'm very pleased with the result.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A wonderful poem

Someone posted this GK Chesterton poem on the Early Years HE yahoo group last week, and it expressed my feelings so well I just had to repost it:

Songs of Education
III. For the Creche
Form 8277059, Sub-Section K

I remember my mother, the day that we met,
A thing I shall never entirely forget;
And I toy with the fancy that, young as I am,
I should know her again if we met in a tram.
But mother is happy in turning a crank
That increases the balance in somebody's bank;
And I feel satisfaction that mother is free
From the sinister task of attending to me.

They have brightened our room, that is spacious and cool,
With diagrams used in the Idiot School,
And Books for the Blind that will teach us to see;
But mother is happy, for mother is free.
For mother is dancing up forty-eight floors,
For love of the Leeds International Stores,
And the flame of that faith might perhaps have grown cold,
With the care of a baby of seven weeks old.

For mother is happy in greasing a wheel
For somebody else, who is cornering Steel;
And though our one meeting was not very long,
She took the occasion to sing me this song:
"O, hush thee, my baby, the time will soon come
When thy sleep will be broken with hooting and hum;
There are handles want turning and turning all day,
And knobs to be pressed in the usual way;

O, hush thee, my baby, take rest while I croon,
For Progress comes early, and Freedom too soon."

- Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Well dressing

Today was a busy but interesting day. Firstly, I took Iona to a local fire station, which was having an open day. She was very excited when I told her she was going there, as she's fascinated by all sorts of alarms, and also emergency vehicles. Once there she was shocked by the display of what happens when you pour a cupful of water over a small chip pan fire (to be fair, so was I even!), and refused to go anywhere near any other displays. However, she loved seeing the fire engines and was very interested in everything, asking me a couple of questions to which I didn't know the answer and which I had to collar a fire fighter to answer for her. All good practice for her at learning from others in the community.
After that, we rushed into an arts centre in town, who were having a do-it-yourself mini well dressing session for children. For those who don't know (as I didn't before I moved here), well dressing is a tradition from the Midlands of England which is said to have arisen as a way of giving thanks to God for safe water in a time of the Black Death (see this article in Wikipedia). We managed to arrive half an hour before the end, and had a lovely time with a very helpful lady. For only £1GBP we were given a tray of terracotta clay and access to loads of materials, as well as good instructions. Iona chose a cookie cutter and helped me use it to make a teddy shape in the clay. The lady then told us to use peppercorns to outline the teddy. After I showed Iona and explained to her what to do she quickly got the hang of it, and only needed occasional reminders not to put the peppercorns outside of the line. I was surprised how accurate she mostly was, although I helped her by doing some of the outline as I think she would have got bored before it was finished. Likewise, with the red gravel, I helped her to fill some of it in, but again she didn't need much correction. Finally, Iona was able to choose her own flowers to outline the teddy, and she was able to pull the heads off and push them into the clay mostly by herself.
She was justifiably proud of the result, and I was really impressed with how well she concentrated, after quite a long afternoon already, how well she took instruction and how independent she was.
The lady who taught us said they are planning to run some more, different sessions in the summer holiday, and if they are as good and as cheap as this one was I certainly hope to take Iona to them.

Potty training as an analogy for education in general.

Well, at last Iona has begun potty training! It happened nearly 3 weeks ago, on the Monday. I'd previously tried to teach her to use the toilet, with a training seat on it, after the potty didn't seem to inspire her when she was very young. Meanwhile the potty languished in the bottom of the pile of soft toys in the living room. On the Monday morning she rediscovered the potty, said she wanted to do a wee on it, and did! Since then we've barely looked back. It took a bit longer to get the hang of doing poos in it, but she's mostly able to now, especially if I remind her where to do it. There have been a few accidents, so we've tended to put her in nappies when we're out, to be on the safe side, but overall it's been remarkably easy. She's basically potty trained herself!

All this seems to me a lot like the whole process of education. We prepared her as best we could by reading books about using the potty, talking about it, becoming comfortable around it, then when she was ready she just taught herself. In the same way, I think, especially with things like teaching reading, maybe I just need to learn to relax and trust that, if I provide every opportunity for her to learn, she will do so in her own time.