Watching them learning stuff

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E (age 6) and I are doing Five in a Row again. I’m tired, so it’s an easier way to manage, just like when Astrid was new. We started this week with The Story of Ferdinand and so far we’ve been doing the topics through conversation, which is working fine for her. She’s a very switched-on, thoughtful, articulate child, really. The selfish little horror. I think she’s got about the perfect balance for Being Six Years Old. She’s a delight.

As long as you don’t try to read her reading books while she’s using them to teach herself to read. If you do it FOR her you are HINDERING her ability to LEARN how to do it FOR HERSELF. YOU HAS BEEN WARNED.

I got L (age 8) the Beyond Five in a Row set and she has read almost the whole curriculum manual already – in three days – and most of The Boxcar Children and she and E made a Lego boxcar today and acted out the book very carefully – L read the book, said to E “And now you say ‘must be five blueberries’” and E said “Must be five blueberries,” and L said “‘Or even ten’” and E said “Or even ten,” all very obediently. Never works for me.

A hasn’t been in hospital or seen by paramedics for over a week. Her last one was mild concussion from jumping on the bed. She likes jumping.

No dread today, only eagerness, and lots of enthusiasm when I asked them to demo how long they could balance on their balance bikes with their feet off the ground! (The answer is, long enough to start using pedals as soon as we put them on). They even SUGGESTED biking to the library, instead of walking.

The toddler (2 year old) is identifying letters when she passes street signs, and demanding “What dove dat shay?” of almost all written matter.

The 6 and 8 year olds are creating a binary counting system for a stuffed hedgehog, because it can’t count past 2 yet.

The 6 year old has somehow made me explain single-cell reproduction and evolution using only my hands long after bedtime in the light spilling in to her bunkbed from the open bedroom door.

The 8 year old seems to have sorted out fractions and percentages herself and is working on probability. She’s a bit careless with basic addition and subtraction, but can do it when she focuses. Money is no longer a mystery to her (though she can’t quite understand that the physical notes, coins etc have value; they are just numbers and tokens to her).

History and animals are still the biggest hottest things in town.

I just heard them yelling “Should we turn the gravity on?” “Oh yeah, I don’t want to cling onto this chair forever.” “Of course, I’m trying to steer myself upstairs and -” “Aughaughaugh!” “- gravity’s on!” “Phew.”

We were supposed to go to the hospital for a tedious checkup thing today, and I was going to enliven it with a visit to the Museum of English Rural Life again, but the toddler has possible chicken pox so that was out. I cancelled my appointment, the sun suddenly came out, and this happened:

Digging up our Grow Your Own Potatoes bag.

Finding a recipe…

… and following it…

… and finally, serving it to their adoring and hungry mother. It was delish, actually, and there’s more dressing left over for later.

I was so impressed and pleased that I decided to dig out their corner and make it nice again:


The eight year old and the almost-six year old can go to the supermarket, crossing the main road at the lights, and buy a few items from a written list, and bring back the change.

I must remember to use this superpower for good. Not evil.

Mental arithmetic at the dinner table. It turns out that the 7yo can add and multiply two-digit numbers, which I think I knew but had been doubting since yesterday, and add fractions, and the 5yo can add single-digit numbers if the 7yo shuts up long enough to let her get an answer in edgeways.

I’m not at all sure why the 7yo hates writing down anything to do with arithmetic but if her mental arithmetic can carry her this far I’m sure it’ll all be fine. She’s pretty good at knowing roughly where the answer needs to be, too – if the 5yo guesses “a hundred!” while the 7yo is doing a calculation, she says “No, silly, it’s [bigger|smaller] than that!” long before she’s reached the actual answer.

Right path, I’d say. Fractions all boil down to cake, too.

The children and I have been watching Blue Planet, and Linnea wants to know if there’s a series called Green Planet. What other nature documentary series do you think we ought to buy on DVD for hours of enthralled viewing for everyone from age 18m to 37y?

I’d like, after the slog of illness, Christmas, New Year, more illness, DIY, etc, to get back into blogging.

I thought I’d start by getting a little more up to date.

This week, we started Monday by doing Bananagrams before breakfast; the seven-year-old (L) mainly sees words I don’t, and vice versa, and the five-year-old (E) was fascinated by how many words she could make by going through the alphabet and sticking each letter in front of AT. It all petered out before I won, which was good.

We did some sewing. It turns out that E is a natural at cross-stitch. She also made a dress for a wooden spoon doll, hemmed and all. I sewed a sort of dreadful buttonhole around the neckhole, which may or may not stop it from fraying. I can’t tell. I’m not a good sewer (er…)

We made a menu for their café, where they priced things very oddly, especially E. Thirty cupcakes for the cost of one piece of cake, whole raw peppers on the menu, that sort of thing. But it depended on what we had in the play food baskets, apparently, and that was that.

In the afternoon E invited N from two doors down over to play, and they played separately but in the same room for a longish time. Meanwhile L was doing jigsaws – she’s sticking to really, really easy ones, and I’m not sure what she’s doing with them, but it involves telling stories. L has grandiose animation feature film plans. We Shall See; she has roped an adult friend in to help, so you never know what could happen.

Today we got up and tidied frantically, which ended up being great. E got breakfast out for us, which was lovely because looking at the kitchen before I tidied it made me feel completely stopped. The children made lunch (potato salad and tuna sandwiches) and sort of cleared up afterwards. They got out the air-drying clay to make iceberg models (?!) and later did a lot with Lego. There was reading. And writing. I can’t remember which day they spent ages with L teaching E how to write “POO-BUMS” but it took ages and the lesson, well, stuck.

Part of our evening pickup involves gathering all the piles of paper, sorting them into used and unused, and returning the unused to the paper drawer. I’m not sure how long this will continue before I get completely tired of it. We did find E’s map of the Pacific ring, so that was nice.

And the 18-month-old (almost)? She’s fab. She’s talking, more and more, though I don’t think many people other than me and the other two children understand her, most of the time. She dances. She hides and makes jokes. She’s very good at stacking toys and shapesorters. She, like her sisters before her, likes to be naked and takes all her clothes off at every opportunity, leading to… well, I’m glad we replaced the carpets with laminate. Very glad.

And I’m still learning huge amounts. If I could learn how to go to bed at a sensible time and get enough sleep, instead of Internet FOREVER, I’d be golden.

Last night was the end of a very hot day – 29C or so, the first of October! And it was a cloudless night, so at bedtime, instead of sending everyone to bed, we brought them out for a walk around the block and into the (dark, unlit) playground. I actually think we’d have seen more stars from our back garden but it wouldn’t have been as exciting.

We saw patterns, some of which we could name and some we couldn’t; the children saw their own patterns, and then Linnea lay on the ground and just looked, until she couldn’t any more, and gave up. There’s something overwhelming about a sky full of stars, how far away they are and how many there are and how clearly we seem to be able to see them – when actually what we see isn’t anything like what’s really there, the freezing expanses and the burning masses and the warm summer wind settling on our bare skin while we’re down on the dewy grass. The juxtaposition is too much.

So today we bought a diary and she’s writing one-word entries only about the happy things in each day.

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