Watching them learning stuff

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Linnea will be five soon, and Emer is two and a half. So today’s trip to Eclectic Games was more interesting than they were when both children were much younger.

Linnea played with Chocolate Fix and did the first six puzzles quickly enough to surprise the proprietor, and Emer played with a Rattlesnake game involving magnets. Magnets are marvelous toys.

I was interested enough by Linnea’s concentration on Chocolate Fix that I really want to buy it for her, now. But will I wait and give it as a birthday present, or just get it right now for her immediate gratification?!

They also had a go at learning to use a vending machine, and Linnea condescended to write some letters on a card for me, though they didn’t make much sense to me. (AXIA, if anyone is wondering. She really likes an X).

Linnea is four years eight months old now, apparently. I find it hard to believe, myself. And
what is she doing?

She’s definitely learning to be more conciliating in her interpersonal relationships – children who cry or shout at her are very likely to get their way unless she’s totally confident that they will still be her friend tomorrow. She clearly offers compromises and gets upset when they aren’t listened to.

Her favourite protest at home is “You are a Gnoring me!” and her favourite insult is “Now you are nuis-less,” (also “Don’t be so nuis-less.”) She’s toying with “You’re a stinky poo,” too, but that’s for fun rather than to express unhappiness or frustration.

She’s more and more interested in learning to read and write but still not interested in being Taught. Similar with maths – she’s adding, subtracting and multiplying single-digit numbers all the time, but doesn’t like us initiating a session of it, though we’re expected to drop everything and answer “what is seven nines?” at her lightest whim.

I gave her window crayons recently and she drew some lovely stuff on the bay window. I must brave the cold without my gloves and photograph it. It’s very bold and confident; there’s a house and a snail and a sun and some waves.

She’d like to learn to knit but doesn’t like how fiddly and difficult it is. She has short needles and lovely mixed-colours yarn, thanks to Nana, but hasn’t stuck it out as far as knitting a whole stitch yet.

Her grasp of anatomy surprises us sometimes – she told us over Christmas that her ribs are the bones which protect her heart and lungs because her heart and lungs are soft and squashy and bones are hard. Presumably that was in a book or on telly but I didn’t know she knew it.

I said “I like spending time with you, Linnea,” today, and she responded, thoughtfully, “But not when you’re cross.”

True enough. Don’t like much when I’m cross.

We help out at a local travelling cooperative market (local, organic and/or fair trade foods) from time to time. This morning we went to help them set up in their town centre location; Rob and Emer went first and Linnea and I came along later.
Emer helped face the goods forwards on the shelves, largely off her own bat (no, we don’t ask much of a two-year-old, but she tends to offer a great deal) and Linnea put out scoops for the dry goods, set paper bags out by the various sets of weighing scales, and even priced things with the price-gun, very carefully and effectively.

Usually when we shop Linnea selects foods and brings them to me to weigh, or counts eggs into half-dozen boxes for me to put in the bag. Emer carries things around.

I don’t know what they are learning from this, but it’s valuable, useful work, so they must be learning something. And they like doing it.

We were negotiating pocketmoney. I said, “How many is twenty?”

She held up her hands, fingers spread out, looked at them, and said, “Two tens.”


Sometime, I will scan in the diagram she drew for us to make her a baby brother. I think my favourite bit is the pubic hair; her father really likes the egg in one colour with the swirls of a contrasting colour around it to symbolise the baby growing bigger and bigger.

She likes to write her name and her sister’s name, in secret. She doesn’t like doing it when I suggest it. That seems reasonable…

Dinosaurs. We are all about dinosaurs at the moment. Rob and Linnea both know 67 times more than I do about them. I don’t think either of them would be terribly impressed by the cardboard pterodactyl costume in which I once incarcerated my sister.

And Linnea still swears up and down that she cannot read. Nope. Can’t. I don’t mind much since she has conceded that she can keep her underwear dry all day and all night. The whole reading thing is so emotionally loaded – it’s like I have a responsibility, as an early-reading bright parent, to have an early-reading and bright child; early reading is in fact often used as evidence of brightness, and its lack implies… Hmph.

I do realise that number two daughter is getting far less art input than number one daughter, presumably because I have less time to keep the house clear enough – hopefully the new wipe-clean flooring (replacing, of all things, acrylic-mix beige fitted carpet!) will help me allow them more messy art. Though I will never become reconciled to washable (hah!) markers.

Emer is learning make-believe much faster than Linnea did, and it’s because she watches Linnea doing it. She copies what Linnea does – hard-legged plastic animals prickle their way up my shin and down my thigh and across the vast plain of my abdomen. Emer says her animals stop for mama milk; Linnea tells me to stop talking and be a lake.

Emer went from half a dozen words in daily use to thirty or more in less than a fortnight. She’s experimenting with little two-word sentences. She has hauled out all her old words (she used to learn a word, use it for a week or so, then put it away while she learned a new one) and is working on some more.
Linnea likes to read signs, when we’re out, and responds incredibly badly to criticism – correction or criticism (sometimes it’s hard to work out which I’ve perpetrated) can result in a total lockdown and refusal to attempt further academic-type work.
Emer doesn’t always want to learn what Linnea wants to teach. Linnea is learning to cope with this.

We were adding up – I must get workbooks soon, I am running out of ideas – and suddenly Linnea decided to stop using the little Cuisenaire blocks and skip straight to writing the numbers in, filling the blocks in afterwards.

She finds it frustrating that she can’t write her numbers accurately enough.

I think I need to design or obtain worksheets with dot-to-dot numbers and letters, and do something about worksheets for doing sums. As I was drawing little boxes for her to fill in I vaguely remembered having something similar for school but I’m not sure where to get it; none of what I’ve seen in high street stores hereabouts is appropriate.

Twenty-five minutes of solid sums is as much as she wanted to do today. That seemed like a lot to me – I was getting tired of facilitating her.

Learning, obv.

Mainly, learning stuff I didn’t know my kid could do. Like rearranging the jumbled letters of words to get the right spellings. She did “apple” for a friend recently.

And she counts. And plays complicated role-play games with numbers. And draws eyes with pupils, irises, and lashes. She repeats words accurately when asking strangers to explain themselves (today’s word was “concentrating” as in “Look! Look at my am concentrating!”) and likes to help women dress and undress their (usually sleeping) babies.

The baby kid – minnaun, máis é do thoil é – is learning to signal aye and nay, and said “Hello” to me today. It’s a word she hears often enough, I suppose.

“There was food in the kitchen of our rocket, and there was plates, and a table, and a bathroom, and a other room, and a dining room. Oh no! You agotten your space boots! There! Now, Emer’s space boots. There! There. That’s a only thing for a frog.”

Dressed in saggy, soggy nappy, and a sleeveless vest (undershirt for Americans): “You watcha me do my ballet?” Then she held her arms out in fourth position and her legs were – well, sort of like a plie from second position but with the left foot raised, very Indian Dance looking. Then she did roly-poly arms, then a drumming move. “My have two – three moves!” she declared.

We cruelly made her have a new nappy anyway.

In The Night Garden is a new CBeebies TV show, made by Ragdoll, who also made the Teletubbies. It is entirely incomprehensible, impenetrable, and dreamlike, and Linnea adores it so much that I have managed to find time to have her watch it four times in a day. Twice.

It contains the phrase “Isn’t that a pip?” which is apparently good, though in my lexicon to give someone the pip is bad.

I don’t like the phrase “home-schooling” because I don’t like the verb school unless it’s applied to fish. I don’t much like “training” either, applied to children.

I home-educate. That is, I offer my children opportunities for learning, and sure enough they learn. Linnea finds opportunities to learn that I hadn’t seen coming; that’s what being two is all about! I provide a safe environment, up to a point, and plenty of interactions with people who are not exactly the same as us. We have books, a kitchen, a garden, and pets. We have television and radio and art materials.

When my two-years-ten-months-old daughter, just the other day, walked into the room with a sippy cup of water, with the lid on, I asked my guest “Did you fill that for her?”

No, he hadn’t.

Later she walked in with some bread and butter. The butter was not exactly spread, more daubed; we discovered that that was because there were no knives readily available and she used the handle of a teaspoon.

I am so proud I might die.

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