Why I don’t want School teaching my kids about gender

Now that I’ve caught your attention I want to clarify that by “school” I don’t mean a specific curriculum or something teachers teach.  I mean “school” as a whole.  As an environment beyond lessons.

School is the place where children learn about gender rolls.  It’s where they learn that boys can’t like pink and girls can’t like math.  Where they learn that boys must be rowdy and girls demure.  Where girls must play with barbies and boys with dinky cars.  Where if you still play with groovy girls you’re a baby or you cry you’re a sissy.  Where the backpack you once loved was for babies and the dress you adored was ugly.

Now of course it’s not usually teachers teaching this, but it comes from the children themselves.  Things they’ve learned from their parents or from TV.  School is the place where children learn that there is a “normal” that they must fit into or be an outcast.  I don’t want my children questioning their gender.  I don’t want them to learn to question who they are.  I want them to just be who they are.  I want them to like what they like and play how they play without reference to gender.  I don’t want their dreams crushed because little Suzy said “girl’s can’t be astronauts” or Billy said, “Those shoes are dumb”.  Eventually my children will learn society’s norms for gender but I hope by then they’re confident in themselves.

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I Sea 10 Game

It seems we’re really into games lately.  Maybe it’s the age.  I’ve heard age 4 can be unfocused and distracted and that seems to be where we’re at.  So games go over well.  This one I highly recommend.  I’m planning to eventually teach my children to do calculations on the Japanese abacus.  This requires them to know their sums up to 10.  So I got this game.

I paired it up with the Montessori addition strip board.

I set up the board with all the pairs that add up to 10 for reference.

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Then we turn all the numbers over so the fish are up.  To play we turn over one fish.  Then we see what number it pairs with to make ten.  We scan those that are turned over and if we find a match we take them out.  If we don’t, that number is left turned over and the next person goes.

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Today we played twice and Pumpkin 1 was starting to memorize pairs that go together.

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There are also sharks for the game but I removed them because right now Pumpkin 1 gets too upset about having to put things back.  We combine our pairs together as she doesn’t do well with competitive games at the moment.  It’s much more fun to play cooperatively right now.

Our Peace Corner

A Peace Corner is a quiet place a child can go when they’re feeling out of control or overwhelmed or just want to cultivate peace.  A Peace Corner is not a time out.  It’s a place for a child to go on their own accord so as to regain some composure or calm.  Creating and teaching a child how to use the Peace Corner is part of fostering emotional intelligence.

I’ve wanted a Peace Corner for a while after seeing a lovely one here.  However, space is limited in our home and I couldn’t figure out where to put it.  We’ve eventually needed more shelving though, so that caused some rearranging and a space opened up.  I moved the kitchen set from this corner.  I put the fridge in Pumpkin 1’s room as a cupboard.  The kids almost never played with the fridge.  IMG_0665

After a lot of thought and planning in my head and a little rearranging we now have this:

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It’s a combined Reading/Peace corner.  There’s a nice mat, some cushions and pillows and a blanket to make it cozy.  There’s books on the shelf and I (I mean my husband) made a rain gutter shelf.  I have a lot of gutter left and may add another one under it.  However, note to others thinking of trying it, it’s not exactly cheap depending on your set up.  The gutter is, but the end caps are $5 each.  You need the end caps to keep the gutter from bowing forward.  It’s not hard to put up, cut, glue the caps on, screw it into the wall (making sure at least one screw is in a stud, and if you have drywall you’ll need to use drywall studs).  I really like the way it looks though and that I can put the books forward facing.  I’m not sure yet though if I should give up leaning space for another shelf or not.  A shelf above that one would be too high.

Above the peace corner I made this simple mobile.  I love watching the birds glide around, they go pretty nicely when the furnace turns on.  It’s very relaxing.  You can see my post about it here.

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This is the Peace shelf.

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These are the items currently on the shelf.  We have this book about feelings, with simple text for young children.  A knobby ball for sensory stimulation and massage.  A massage roller.  An Eye Spy bag.  DT’s Rainfall Rattle for auditory and visual relaxation.  A tension ball we made from balloons and flour and DT’s Tricky Fingers to help focus.

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We also made these water and oil bottles for a relaxing visual.

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Then we have a Kimochi set.  The bucket is full of different emotions that can be placed in the Kitty’s tummy and used to discuss and express feelings.  If I didn’t already have this I would love to have the Express It! Buddy from Discovery Toys.

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There are still a few things I want to add.  I’d love to have a Finger Labyrinth.  I can print off a paper one for now, but would like a wood one.

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And I really want a Buddha Board.  Right now I’m afraid Pumpkin 2 might ruin it so maybe when he’s a little older.

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There are many different things you can use in your Peace Corner.  Look for items that are calming, relaxing and encourage focus.  Also items that give simple sensory feedback are great.  As well you want ways for a child to discuss, express and learn about their emotions.  Depending on your child you could even have a plant or a fish, a rock garden, a mini water fountain, a terrarium (I might try that), there’s so many possibilities.  If your child is old enough get them to help you in the planning and setting up the Peace Corner.  Teach your child how to cultivate a sense of peace when upset.  You can do this by having them sit with your there and showing them how to use the items.  Talk about how they make you feel inside.  Gently encourage or ask your child when they’re feeling upset if they want to use the Peace Corner, never force them to or make them.  It has to be their decision.  The Peace Corner is not a time out.  Model it to by using the Peace Corner yourself or creating your own.  You don’t need a lot of space or fancy objects.  You can probably fine many items to use around your house.  Starting young will reap many benefits in the long run.

Educational Games We Love

I’ve started building up our stock of educational games.  I’m trying to make it part of our routine to play a game together as a family after dinner.  Games are a great way to learn and reinforce concepts in a fun way.  When Pumpkin 1 is in a funk and doesn’t want to do any school activities, she’ll always agree to a game.  They’re also great for social skills and teaching team work, taking turns and critical thinking.  With Pumpkin 2 only 2.5 I’ve tried to find games he could join in too.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug:  I think this one is the most loved one of them all.  It’s made by Peaceable Kingdom and is a cooperative game rather than competitive.  There’s different ways to play from simple to more challenging.  It’s won a number of awards.  Pumpkin 2 is able to play it quite easily.  It teaches counting skills, colours and shapes.  I’d say it’s great for about age 2/2.5 and up.  It’s available at Mastermind Toys.

 

Hoot Owl Hoot:  Pumpkin used her Christmas money to get this one.  She likes owls.  This game is also by Peaceable Kingdom.  Pumpkin 2 requires some help with this.  It’s more of a strategy game though they don’t have to quite get that to play.  I’d say it’s better for age 3 or 4 and up though Pumpkin 2 can play with my help.  It has also won awards.  It’s a great team work game.  It’s available at Mastermind Toys.

 

Feed the Woozle:  This is also a Peaceable Kingdom game.  This is Pumpkin 2’s favourite.  It’s a great one for toddlers.  It teaches counting and body awareness, motor skills and balance as well as taking turns and team work.  The snacks are pretty silly which the kids love and there’s different challenge levels for each age group.  Discovery Toys carries Feed the Woozle.

 

Jungle Jive:  This one is great for developing core strength and balance.  Balance is key for learning to write.  It’s tricky for Pumpkin 2 but that doesn’t stop him from trying!  Discovery Toys carries Jungle Jive.

 

Raccoon Rumpus:  This one is a great toddler and preschooler game.  It’s very simple to play.  It’s a good introduction to games and taking turns.  It teaches colours and you can discuss different jobs people have.  It’s available from Discovery Toys.

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Shelby’s Snack Shack:  This is a really good one for counting and 1 to 1 correspondence.  It’s also great for fine motor skills, the pincher grasp and finger strength.  Both my kids are able to play it and enjoy it.  I’d say it’s perfect for ages 2.5 and up as long a supervised due to the small pieces.  It’s available here.

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Memory Game:  There are lots of memory games out there.  I really like this one because it looks so nice and is great quality.  It has a bunch of different cards so there’s many games in one.  It took a bit of playing for my kids to figure out that they had to remember what they saw and for Pumpkin 2 to not try to turn everything over, but now they can play it nicely.  Great for ages 2 and up.  It’s called Memory Moves.

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Bus Stop:  This game is one I don’t get bored playing (that’s important too).  It’s too advanced for Pumpkin 2, he just tries to drive the bus card over the board and messes everything up.  But it’s perfect for 4 year olds.  It teaches counting, dice number recognition, and simple addition and subtraction.  My only negative is I think the buses would have been better if they had been done like a ten frame so children could see the amount of people in their bus without counting.  We purchases our game from Amazon.

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Our Solar System, with a Printable

Pumpkin 1 has been fascinated learning about our solar system.  She has decided she wants to be an astronaut and go to Mars.  She tells the daycare kids, “I’m going to go to Mars one day”.

I have been learning so much about the Solar System that I didn’t know.  Like that there are at least 5 dwarf planets including one between Mars and Jupiter called Ceres.  And that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are made up of a gas and have no solid surface.  I got this book from Amazon and it’s amazing.  It’s perfect for Kindergarten age and is full of colourful pictures.

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We also have this solar system from Discovery Toys.

It’s great to show how the planets go around the sun but I wish the planets turned around too and a moon going around earth would be awesome.  The planetarium part is disappointing.  We used to have a planetarium as a child and I loved it (though it was my brother’s).  I’ve been hunting for an affordable one for my kids.  I decided to go with this one because it’s affordable and has ok reviews.  We should get it in the mail soon and I’ll review it for you.

I wanted 3 part cards that had all planet on them but I couldn’t find any so I made my own.  That took a lot of work but I’m very happy with the results.

(The blanket on the carpet is to protect it from accidents from Pumpkin 2, who is pretty much toilet trained except when he’s too involved in playing.  I can just pick it up and throw it in the wash and the carpet is safe).

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It has the 8 large planets and 5 dwarf planets as well as the major moons.  Pumpkin’s favourite moon is Callisto because it looks sparkly.  There is also the 3 types of galaxies, other items in space such as 2 asteroids, comets, stars and meteoroids and nebulas (they’re so beautiful I had to include 3).  Each card as some info on the back.

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You can download the cards for your own use below.

Solar System Cards cursiveSolar System 3 part cards

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When you print them out print the planet pictures first (the odd number pages) and then print the information on the back (the even number pages).  These can be your control cards.  Then you can print off a second set of the picture cards and cut the labels off along the line.

The Solar System chart is from here:

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2013/11/27/why-there-are-and-should-be-eight-planets-in-the-solar-system/

Image credit: NASA's The Space Place, via http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/ice-dwarf/.

I also printed off the symbols for the planets.  Astronauts need to know that too of course!

I just printed them off from the below site and cut them out.

 

Planet Astronomical Symbols

Though I try to avoid screen time, space is just something you have to see.  To see objects floating in space and see what life is like on the International Space Station, is just not something that photos can do justice too.  Pumpkin 1 loves to watch videos of life on the ISS.  Chris Hadfield, who is a Canadian, has some excellent ones.

 

Pumpkin also liked watching the female astronaut wash her hair in space.

 

I’m really glad Pumpkin 1 lives in this generation.  50 years ago being an astronaut wouldn’t have been open to her being a girl.  Now she can dream big space dreams.

Hebrew Lunar Calendar

Our family follows the Hebrew Lunar calendar for religious holiday dates.  I wanted to start teaching Pumpkin 1 the Lunar calendar so I put together this.

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The pocket chart is this one from Amazon.  The pictures below is for that week’s Parsha reading from Chabad.org 

I made my own cards to use in it.  We start a new month on conjunction but the great things about this calendar is you can set it up any way you want.  You can download the cards for your own calendar through the link.

Hebrew lunar calander

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It’s hung with removable Command hooks.
Pumpkin 1 is always asking what phase the moon is in now.  We check the moon out the window at bedtime.  I’d love to get this one day.  It automatically syncs with the moon outside!

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But of course nothing beats the real thing!

 

10 Sums

Pumpkin 1 wanted to do an activity with the glass gems so I set up this.  She wanted to do it over and over.  I’d put some gems on the board.  Then she’d have to add the right number bar.  I’d write it on the chalkboard.  She’d add the rest of the gems to equal 10 and the number bar and I’d write it on the chalkboard.

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Introduction to Addition

So our new math materials from IFIT arrived quicker than I expected.  I was very happy with the quality.  I’ve always been happy with my purchases from there.  Pumpkin 1 was excited to use them.  I realized after that I should have done the change game before addition, though it’s not necessary.  However now that we’ve done addition I think I’ll stick to static addition (no carrying) and then introduce changing once she’s confident with addition.  I’m planing to teach her to add from left to right than right to left since that’s how you use the soroban.

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So first we did two amounts on different mats.  The wooden cubes and squares and the large and one of the small number sets are all from IFIT>

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Then we moved all the materials onto one carpet to “add” them together.  It’s such an ingenious way to teach addition and really gives a child the concrete, hands-on experience of it.

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I’d been struggling on how to move forward with language and the moveable alphabet with Pumpkin 1.  Someone suggested trying the Montessori Pink Series.  I downloaded the card set for free from The Helpful Garden.  It went over really well.  Pumpkin 1 was really into writing the words.  I think it helped to have them sorted by the vowel.  It was too hard for her to hear the different vowels so this way it’s easier for her to break down the word to write it.

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Later I caught her trying to sound out words in a learning to read book.  We’ve looked at the books before but she hadn’t figured out the concept of sounding the words out so I put it aside.  It’s exciting that she’s transferring the knowledge to other areas.  It’s hard to trust the Montessori process because it’s different than what’s traditionally done, but it really works!

 

Discovery Toys Catalogue

Check out all the amazing toys that can enhance your hands-on homeschooling experience!
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Discovery Toys products have won many awards.  Check them out here:

2015-16 Catalog Product Awards List 100215

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Montessori Inspired Math

Pumpkin 1 is just starting to be ready for math at almost 4.  Majority of children aren’t ready for math until that age as their brain hasn’t developed that somewhat abstract thinking skills needed for math.  Math has always been a difficult subject for me but I love the Montessori method of math since it’s so hands on it makes it much easier to understand.

We’re doing a combination of Montessori and Right Start Math.  You can read about the Right Start Math approach here and here.  And a video review by another homeschooling mom here.

Since I still want to use many of the Montessori math materials I am creating my own bead bars, chains and cubes with the Right Start principle of 5+.  Here is what my beads look like.

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So you can see for 6 it’s 5 dark and 1 light.  9 is 5 dark and 4 light.  The 5+ concept helps children to visualize the number.  You can visualize amounts up to 5 but after that you have to group them in your mind to be able to visualize.

Today I was working on helping her understand that the beads and the abacus are the same.

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She has always loved the hanging bead stair since she was little.  If you don’t have one I highly recommend it.  Today she was actually counting the beads past 5.  Usually she just rhymes the numbers off without 1 to 1 correspondence after 5 but today she insisted on counting every bead bar carefully.  When you start to worry as a mom that they’re not getting something, just give it time.  A few weeks older can make a ton of difference.

We’ve also been working on some geometry.  Today we did triangles and quadrilaterals.  Pumpkin 1 loves this geoboard from Discovery Toys and I do too.  It’s huge so it’s easy for her fingers to use, unlike the smaller ones.  I made triangles and quadrilaterals on it and she’d tell me which it was.  She also likes to just make pictures with the elastics.

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Last week I was teaching her (and learning myself) the different types of triangles.  The geoboard was also perfect for this.

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Pumpkin 2 likes to use the other side which is the Giant Pegboard.  Toddlers love to fit things in holes.  You can also do colour and shape matching and patterning and counting and so much more.  It’s just so versatile. You can purchase one for your family here:

http://www.discoverytoys.com/PublicStore/stores/pumpkinsandme/AMCA/product/Giant-Pegboard,621.aspx#sthash.PnGUdXcA.dpbs

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We’ve also been doing shapes on the light table.  I use this set of shapes on it and we put them together to make other shapes.  They’re like mini constructive triangles.

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I’m really enjoying homeschooling in math because of the awesome manipulatives available.