WonderWorks Pigeon Forge to Offer Educational Opportunities for Fall 2020

PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee – (August 19, 2020) – WonderWorks Pigeon Forge is offering a range of new educational opportunities for the fall of 2020. With both in-person and virtual options, WonderWorks is expanding upon current programs and adding new ones to be a part of the new education “normal” 2020 is bringing. These programs come at a time when many parents and teachers are searching for additional educational opportunities for their students, to help enhance the virtual and homeschool learning environment many families are opting into.

“We understand the educational experience this year will look different, but we want to be a place where education meets entertainment,” explains Ed Shaffer, general manager for WonderWorks Pigeon Forge. “We’re excited to offer our new virtual Learning Labs, as well as the Sm-ART Art Contest.”

Educational opportunities being offered by WonderWorks this fall include:

SM-ART Art Contest – WonderWorks Tennessee is launching an annual Smoky Mountain art contest for local student artists. All semester long, students can submit their artwork to be featured in the iconic upside-down house. This year’s contest theme is “Time to Think.” Submissions will open on September 8, 2020. Selected winners will receive four free tickets to WonderWorks to be able to see their artwork on display in the gallery. Additional information and submission forms can be found online: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/art-contest/.

Virtual Learning Labs – New this year, WonderWorks will offer Professor Wonder’s Virtual Learning Labs which cover in-depth explorations of topics such as the principles of pressure, the states of matter, severe weather topics, the water cycle, adaptation, and more. This program was developed as a way to meet the needs of teachers and students looking to enhance their distance learning experience during these unprecedented times. More information can be found on their website: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/virtual-labs/.

Homeschool Days – WonderWorks expanded their Homeschool Days for the fall. This event will run every weekday in September through November, excluding holidays. Homeschool Days include reduced ticket prices of $12 per person for homeschool families, or $10 for groups that book ahead of time. Additional classroom activities, lesson plans, and scavenger hunts are available upon request. More information on Homeschool Days is offered online: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/homeschool/.

“Engaging the community while meeting educational needs is something that we’ve always strived to do,” added Shaffer, “and we’re not going to let these unprecedented times change that.”

WonderWorks has adopted new COVID-19 safety protocols, including reduced hours, enhanced cleaning efforts, social distancing measures, employee health screenings, and employee personal protective equipment (PPE). Guests are encouraged to review all safety procedures prior to their visit: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/covid-19.

WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge offers 35,000 square feet of “edu-tainment” opportunities, billing itself as an amusement park for the mind. It offers over 100 hands-on exhibits covering natural disasters and space discovery, an imagination lab, a physical challenge zone, a far out art gallery, and a light and sound zone. WonderWorks is open daily 365 days a year. For more information, log on to their website: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks, a science-focused indoor amusement park, combines education and entertainment. With over 100 hands-on exhibits, there is something unique and challenging for all ages. Feel the power of 71 mph hurricane-force winds in the Hurricane Shack. Make huge, life-sized bubbles in the Bubble Lab. Get the NASA treatment in our Astronaut Training Gyro and experience zero gravity. Nail it by lying on the death-defying Bed of Nails. Conquer your fear of heights on our indoor Glow-In-The-Dark Ropes Course. For more information, visit their website: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge.

Back to School With Jane

This is a sponsored post. Thanks to Jane for providing the free back to school items for review! All opinions are my own.

Jane is a daily deal site for the whole family. I got the opportunity to shop on Jane for some back to school items. I bought some backpack tags and a first/last day of school card set. Shipping took a little while on the tags – because they’re custom – and the cards arrived very quickly. I’m very happy with the quality of the items that I ordered. And my kids are super excited to have some cool Back to School items.

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First off, have you ever tried to get 3 excited kids to stand still for a picture? It’s basically impossible! I did get their bag tags attached to their bags but they weren’t shy about moving around while I was photographing. They’re apparently all ready to go!
IMG_20170725_103351 IMG_20170725_103226 IMG_20170725_103104I am quite happy with the tags. They’re a nice thick plastic and my kids names and my phone number are printed on so I don’t have to worry about the information getting lost somehow. This is perfect for if my child looses their backpack or if my child gets lost while at co-op, preschool, or other school activities.

They each picked out their favorite color for the tag. And I think that the tags match well with their backpacks.

Plus the kids are super excited to have their names on their backpacks. I’m sure their teachers are going to appreciate this as well!

The next item I ordered was the First Day of … / Last Day of… cards. The front of the card has The First Day and the back of the card has The Last Day. They come in a deck with preschool to college so I’m basically set for the rest of my life!

I just love the bright colors on these cards! Though, after we took pictures, the kids wouldn’t let me have them back. They insisted on hanging their posters on their walls.

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I’m fairly certain preschool is going to have their hands full with him. I was going for a nice picture and this is what I got!

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She’s all ready for first grade. Her reading and math have both actually improved over the summer so she’s definitely ready to have a great first grade year!

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And this girl is all ready for fourth grade! I’m not sure I’m ready. Seriously, how do I have a fourth grader already? It seems like just yesterday she was a baby.

We had bunches of fun browsing Jane and finding some fun Back to School items. They even have some back to school t-shirts that I suggested to the kids but they thought the posters were way cooler for some reason and since it’s all about them being excited about getting back to School, I got them what they requested.

Kindergarten Book List

Picking books for a Kindergartner can be hard. Because not all of them read. Or, if you have one like my 5yr old. She can read, she just doesn’t want to. So, what do you do to inspire reading? Here’s a few suggestions.

And I would love for you to comment below with a book your Kindergartner (or past Kindergartner) has just loved. Because I’m always looking for new books!

Just One More by Jennifer Hansen Rolli – While not exactly at a Kindergarten reading level. My 5yr old just loves this fun book about a little girl who wants “just one more” of everything until she runs into trouble.

According to my 5yr old she can read it all by herself – which mean’s she’s memorized it. Any time a Kindergartner reads, even if it’s memorized, is good, because she’s still looking at the words as she goes.

This book basically lives on her bedside table so she can read it every night before she goes to bed.

This is another book that sits in a stack by her bed.  She just loves Shopkins. While she still can’t completely read this alone, I’m always happy to read it to her and her older sister will often read it to her as well.

Both of my girls are crazy about Shopkins so this is actually a very popular book with both of them.

While not something she can completely read alone yet, it’s so important still to be reading to your Kindergartner. So find something that she loves and it’ll help a lot with her reading skills.

My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza is a favorite book with not just my Kindergartner but with all of my kids as well. It is a hilarious story about a little pig that “accidentally” shows up at wolf’s front door.

Wolf thinks that it’s his “lucky day” but is it?

We have re-read this story so many times that I have lost count.

If you’re looking for a book to read to your child that you won’t mind reading over and over, My Lucky Day is perfect. It’s cute, funny, and entertaining.

A Mud Pie for Mother by Scott Beck is another super cute book about a little pig.

It’s Momma pig’s birthday and little pig just wants to make her a mud pie. But when he sets out to do this all sorts of problems ensue.

In the end, little pig find the perfect gift for Mother pig.

This book actually has plenty of smaller words that your Kindergartner can read. You’ll have to read a few and she can read a few. It’s a fun and cute book to read together and help your Kindergartner work on her budding reading skills.

Barbie’s Cupcake Challenge is a tad bit advance for a beginning Kindergartner. It’s a level 3 Step into Reading, so it’s very likely that my child will be able to read it by the end of the school year.

My 5yr old told me that this one is one of her favorites and I’m happy to help her read things that she enjoys. There’s plenty more Step into Reading Barbie books out there and they’ll make great incentives or rewards for the next couple of years!

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3rd Grade

Everyone says that 3rd grade is a leap. And I would definitely agree.

I would add though, that even though it’s a leap. Pushing my 3rd grader to achieve has not been extremely hard. She was definitely ready for 3rd grade.

Heading into 3rd grade? Here’s a few differences I’ve noticed between the first couple years of school and 3rd.

  1. You must be reading – everything for a 3rd grader assumes that the child is reading on or above grade level. A lot of books are for 3rd to 5th graders. It’s really important that your child be reading on at least grade level or you can have them there before the end of the year. Even her Sunday School teachers assume that all the 3rd graders are reading, capable of finding a specific page in their Bible, and can follow along while other kids in the group read.Just a quick plug for reading comprehension worksheets. If you want to know how your 3rd grader is doing reading, these are awesome! The ones I have give her 4.5 minutes to read a one page story and answer 5 questions on the back of the page. She’s usually done with about a minute to spare. It’s been great for increasing her reading confidence. And for increasing my confidence in her reading. We done one a week and it’s like a quick little test just to check that she’s where she should be at with her reading.
  2. More Independent learning – it’s assumed that a 3rd grader is capable of achieving some things on their own with minimal assistance. I can help her understand instructions as needed but unlike K-2nd her school work is not designed for me to be standing next to her assisting every second.I’m not saying I just hand stuff to her and tell her to figure it out. We definitely walk through new concepts and challenging concepts together. For example, multiplication with more than one digit in the multiplicand. Sometimes she gets it, sometimes she doesn’t. So, I walk her through problems as needed. But sections with concepts that she already knows well, I tell her to do them and grade them when she’s done.There’s even a couple of subjects, handwriting, spelling, Bible, and sometimes English, that she’ll tell me she wants to do on her own without any assistance. She does them well on her own and lets me know if she doesn’t understand something. So I’m happy to let her do it.
  3. More Independence – This kind of goes hand in hand with point #2. It’s perfectly acceptable for me to drop her off at dance lessons and return 2 hours later to pick her up when her class is over. She can handle her class change, shoe change, and between class water and snack on her own.  And I’m not alone in this. None of the moms of 3rd graders are sitting in the lobby for their child’s entire dance class.
  4. Critical Thinking Skills – You can teach a kindergartner critical thinking skills every day and most of them just don’t fully get it. In 3rd grade, you actually have a chance. A 3rd grader can handle thinking through things.In math, this would be your story problems. In science and history it’s your open-ended questions like what happens if we do something different? Or why do you think this person did this? No more blank looks of “what are you talking about mom?”. My 3rd grader has lots of opinions about how science experiments should turn out before I even finish telling her what we’re going to do.
  5. More Steps per problem – She’s expected to remember all 11 capitalization rules and find all the missing capitals in a sentence. In math she is doing more complex problems like long division. We still practice our addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables because she needs to get faster, but it’s assumed that she at least knows how to do this.
  6. Independent Thinking – 3rd grade is where I’m seeing a lot more independent thinking. More questions like why is this actually a rule? And why do we do this this way?I just love the questions! I want my children to ask questions. If I don’t know the answer, we look it up. Sometimes the answer isn’t what she’s expecting. (sometimes we just do something a certain way because that’s how I like it, there’s no other reason). Sometimes it’s fun (like is the cheetah or the ostrich faster?). But, overall, it’s an increased awareness and curiosity about the world around her. A greater awareness of how others around her are feeling and what they might think about something. Or the realization that just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it.

I really just love this age! We can finally have more interesting conversations and she likes to sit and talk with me about what’s going on in her life. It’s such a fun age of discovery, asking questions, and engaging more.

 

Kindergarten Necessities

So, you want to homeschool? You’re starting with your Kindergartner, and you have no idea what you should do. You start researching curriculum, you even buy a bunch. There’s not a lot of Kindergarten – compared to other grades. But you still manage to get quite a pile.

Your Kindergartner is less than thrilled. Teaching reading is frustrating. And don’t even get me started on math! Your child doesn’t seem to be learning, and is definitely not having fun. Actually, what is a Kindergartner supposed to learn? If you do a google search, you’ll find a huge list of Kindergarten readiness and even more lists of what your child should know by the end of Kindergarten. It’s overwhelming.

So, let’s start at the top. Kindergarten is from German and literally translated means “Children’s Garden”. It’s supposed to be a time of learning, fun, and adventure.

But how do you do this and still teach the necessary academics?

For starters. What exactly is necessary in Kindergarten? When I was a kid, it was reading, writing, and math. And lots of time on the playground. And even then, it was less than is expected of my kids now. It was totally normal for half the class to be reading by the end of Kindergarten and the other class to just not quite be there yet. But, everyone would be reading by the end of first grade. Nowdays people want their kids to read before they start Kindergarten (check out those Kindergarten readiness lists I mentioned) Speaking of reading, what exactly does that look like for a Kindergartner?

I have 3 academic goals in Kindergarten for my kids. Reading, Math, and Writing. We cover other subjects like history and science. But not in a formal book learning manner. My Kindergartner often sits in while I’m working on history with my 3rd grader. She definitely participates in any and all science experiments – because those are always cool. And we do lots of fun field trips like the local symphony orchestra, replicas of Columbus’s ships, the local science museum, zoo, etc.

But as far as formal teaching. I can’t effectively teach anything else until my child can read, have a basic understanding of numbers, and write legibly.

Because Kindergarten shouldn’t be frustrating. And you should be working with your child at their pace. Here’s what I do. It worked well with my now 3rd grader and it’s producing a non-frustrating year for my Kindergartner.

1. Reading – I love, love, love Hooked on Phonics. I tried it out for my first child and I’m just loving it! Did I mention how awesome it is? The preschool level is all about learning your letter names and sounds – my 3yr old loves to get his book out and “do school” with us. He’ll get out crayons, markers, etc. and trace letters for a good 30 minutes and we’ll discuss the sounds and letter names that he’s tracing.

The K level is all about short vowel words. It’s divided in segments that are easy for a young child to handle. My 5yr old who insists she can’t read, is reading these books just fine. And since each lesson builds on the past one, your child will be reading more and more without realizing how much they actually can read. – Seems to be a common problem in my house. “I can’t read that!” declares the child. Who then reads it, and is shocked that it was way easier than expected.

We barely made it into the 2nd grade level when my oldest decided that she didn’t need them any more. She reads to herself every night when she goes to bed plus other reading for school and such throughout the day. She really didn’t need any more teaching on how to read by this stage, so we dropped it. I do have the books through 4th grade in case I need them though.

One awesome things about hooked on phonics, if you’re on a tight budget, these books can usually be found at your local library and you can just keep borrowing them over and over as you need them.

One other thing that has really helped our reading is these blend ladders from Abeka. We work on a sheet a day – sometimes the same sheet for a couple of days. And it’s great at helping kids get comfortable putting two sounds together. It’s always amazing to me how my children’s reading makes a huge leap forward at the exact same time that reading blends becomes easy.

Education2. Math – My favorite math is Abeka. It’s possible that this is because this is the math I grew up with. However, it also seems to work well for my girls. The pages are colorful. And everything is in short segments. There’s one clock, 5 addition problems, 5 number order problems, a color by number, etc.

Here’s the thing about math. I know Abeka is this way, and I assume a lot of other math curriculum is this way as well. They repeat the same thing every year. So, if your child doesn’t get it completely the first year. Don’t stress, they’ll get it next year or the year after. If you’re child is way behind, I would be concerned. But if your Kindergartner is basically on par with their peers and can generally do their math with assistance from you. They’re just fine.

For my oldest, I spent the entire Kindergarten year explaining what addition and subtraction are. She figured it out just fine by 1st grade. For my current Kindergartner, she already knew this somehow. I think my oldest must have taught her. Teaching her math is so easy! Addition, subtraction, number sequence, telling time, and patterns are all Kindergarten skills.

For you parents with a struggling Kindergartner, the key is just perseverance. Keep teaching them and they will get it. How do I know? you ask. Well, I would classify my current 3rd grader as struggling in math until this year. K through 2nd grade was just hard. She’s very literal and just struggled if you changed anything (like 5+2 and 2+5 being the same thing was hard for her to grasp). This year, in 3rd grade – which is WAY harder than previous grades – things seem to have finally clicked. Math isn’t her favorite subject, but she’s no longer struggling with it – and we’re already doing long division 1/4 of the way through the year. (actually, spelling somehow tops the list as “most hated 3rd grade subject”).

So, if your child is struggling, just keep patiently explaining it to them over and over. Sometimes it’s just a matter of their ability to analyze things catching up with what you’re trying to teach them. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a great motto for math.

3. Handwriting – First things first, don’t stress if you can’t read your kindergartner’s handwriting. It’ll be a few years before most kids can really hold a pencil perfectly. The key at this age is that they’re at least trying to form the letters and numbers properly. Writing some numbers and letters backwards is perfectly normal. Just keep modeling the right way to write and they’ll get it eventually.

I did get a writing curriculum – just the worksheets – because I like having a curriculum. But, to be honest, my Kindergartner’s best writing practice is done on this dry erase book. It’s $4 on Amazon and has free shipping if you have prime. Well worth the money, in my opinion. She’ll spend a good deal of time each week tracing, erasing, and re-tracing her letters. I’m perfectly happy to let her do this instead of her handwriting curriculum. The goal is that she learn how to write her letters and any method that she likes is good with me.

Fall Break

As a homeschooler I don’t usually plan to officially take fall break. I usually plan something the week before or the week after because there’s no crowds on those weeks.

This year, however, with no extra curricular activities, no co-cop, and everyone talking about fall break. My kids decided that fall break was a must. We were needing a break anyways, so I got a lot of organizing and cleaning done around the house, and since the weather was beautiful the kids spent a lot of time outside.

Really, if I’m going to take a fall break, this is the way to do it. So, what did we do?

1. I replaced my huge desk with something smaller. This desk took me several hours to build but it was totally worth it. My previous desk was pretty flat and not well designed for how I like to use a desk.

This one is great. Things are way more organized. And I’ve gained several square feet of space in my den. Horray! I’ve been working this year to clean some things out and better organize. I have a few more things I need to swap out in my den and then the room will be way more organized and useable.

With all the building and moving, and organizing, this took up two days of fall break. The kids took my boxes that my desk came in and hung out in the yard making posters, boats, beds, houses, and all sorts of other things. They’ll probably get another week of play out of these boxes before they are destroyed and I throw them away.

img_20161014_1414569002. We met friends at the Aquarium one day this week. The kids had a blast looking at fish, petting crabs and jellyfish and watching the divers feed the fish and such. Plus it was lots of friend to see some out of town friends again.

I have promised the kids another trip to the aquarium this winter because they want to go back – and they have discount days for locals sometime in January.

3. The kids played outside a lot! The weather was beautiful this week. Dry, and in the 70s. Just perfect for playing outside all day. The kids spend every minute they could outside, which aside from being good for them, also means they didn’t mess up the house that much and it was way easier for me to get things cleaned up and organized.

I’m also loving having the windows open and airing the house out after a really hot summer!

What did you do for fall break?

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Christopher Columbus Project

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This year, my 3rd grader’s history book is divided out into different historical figures. It’s all American history and since I love teaching history by studying significant people in history I’m super excited about her history this year!

I’m using ABeka Grade 3 history, and we’re loving it!

Our first Historical figure was Christopher Columbus. Sometimes we’ll do a special meal, or watch a fun movie (like Pocahontas when we were learning about Jamestown last year), or something else fun.

For starters, I checked the the Nina and Pinta sailing schedule to see if they’d be in town this year. Check out their info here. I got to see them a few years ago, and they’re awesome! They are in town this year (Horray!), but not until October. We’ll see those later, which will be fun, but I wanted something for right now, while we’re studying Columbus.

Also, I wasn’t doing a special meal, I mean, what was I going to serve the kids? Dried bread and old apples? There’s really nothing appetizing about the food on ships in those days.

So, I hunted on Amazon and found this model ship puzzle. It’s of the Santa Maria, which was Columbus flagship on his first trip across the ocean.

It says it’s for 6+ so I figured that it couldn’t be terribly difficult. Plus it had pretty good reviews from people who had done this with their children.

So, I purchased it. It turned out to be a really great Christopher Columbus craft. Every day, while I read about the book, and while we discussed what we’d learned, we would work on the model. And, we finished it the day before we finished reading about Columbus.

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The pieces are interlocking. Some people said they ended up using some glue, but we didn’t need any. Everything is well numbered, and the ship is pretty easy to put together. I could have done it myself in an hour. It took way longer than that because I was helping the kids do it, but it was easy enough that they had fun, and got to do most of it themselves.

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Plus, since we did one step a day, no one got frustrated or tired of working on the Ship. And, now that it’s done, it’s really a pretty impressive model. For $12 I would say this was a great deal. They have more models, like the Mayflower, when we study about the Pilgrims, I just have to decide how many ship models I want to end up with at the end of this school year. Because, based on my Amazon wish list, I could end up with a whole fleet!

They’re inexpensive, and a great project for the kids that keeps them excited about what we’re learning in history.

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This post does contain affiliate links.

This Year’s Curriculum

I know you’re just dying to know what curriculum I’m using for my kids this year. Actually, if you’re still trying to decide on what you’re using, you probably are at least curious.

Reading / Phonics

I am just in love with Hooked on Phonics for early readers. My kids love it. It makes reading fun. And they seem to pick up quickly as well. Teaching reading can be so painful and Hooked on Phonics really isn’t. My Kindergartner is doing the Purple Books which is Kindergarten Level and my Preschooler who is pretty certain he wants to read (I mean, everyone else is, so why shouldn’t he) is participating with her and doing the Red (preschool) books. My Kindergartner likes to help him with his preschool books. They have fun, and she’s getting extra phonics in. It’s working so well for me.

My 3rd grader is loving these Lego DC Comics books. She’s reading well but is still afraid of chapter books. At this point, I just need to find something that she likes to read and we’ll make great progress. I got her a couple of these for her Birthday and she’s so excited. She read 4 of them in one evening. They’re writing more so I should be able to keep her supplied with these for a little while. And hopefully when she’s done with these she’ll be ready for another chapter book. I keep touting the Bobbsey Twins so maybe by the end of the school year I’ll get her reading them.

Also, I’m using Abeka 3rd Grade Reading and Comprehension sheets. It’s timed reading with questions that she does once a week. She’s needing to focus on reading all the details so these along with all her fun reading should hopefully have her reading really well by the end of the school year.

Math

Abeka Kindergarten for my Kindergartner and Abeka 3rd for my 3rd Grader. I like Abeka math and it’s working well for my girls. We’re also working on addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables with both girls. Using flash cards and number charts. My oldest needs to get faster and the younger one needs to learn them. Plus, this is more fun with two or more.

So far, multiplication is best explained as boxes of popsicles. I have 1 box of 8 popsicles and that equals 8 popsicles. 2 boxes of 8 popsicles equals 16. I’m not actually pulling boxes of popsicles out of the freezer, but it’s about the concept of groups of items.

I’ve also gotten play money and we’re playing store a lot this year because the girls can count money but they can’t figure change. So, we’re going to focus on some money skills and have fun at the same time!

English

Abeka English 3rd for my 3rd Grader. The kindergartner is doing hooked on phonics and english/grammar really isn’t useful until she has some basic reading down.

I also have a fun story starter book this year. Something the girls can work on together or separately. Just thinking creatively is an important skill that I want to work on before they reach higher grades and actually have to write stories.

History and Science

Abeka 3rd grade History, Science, and Health for these subjects. The Abeka text books are fun to read and she loves these subjects. We’re usually done with these books early.

We also enroll in local science classes at our Science Museum and Zoo. They have lots of great age appropriate classes and my kids love them! And the girls are in a lego robotics class this year as well. I love that the kids get to do lots of hands on science!

I’d love to hear. What curriculums are you using this year?

Back to School

We’ve had a super busy summer. And covered many, many miles between my husband traveling for work and me & the kids traveling for family stuff. I had a sister get married, a brother come home on leave, my parents moved, two sisters graduated, and we threw in a few miscellaneous things just for fun.

I’m still finishing up my summer. It’s still HOT here in August – like in the 90’s, so we’ve got another good month of summer weather to go. I don’t even feel like starting school. But it’s that time of year, and since it’s important that we not fall behind, we’ve started school.

Part of the reason for starting when public school starts is because I’m required to do 180 days, and in order to get those all in plus all the fun things we like to do. I have to start on time. My books arrived Saturday, and we started Monday. Which means, we have plenty of days in our school year to still take breaks this month and take several trips to the local water park this year. Actually, the best thing about the water park this time of year, there’s fewer and fewer people there, by the end of the season we have the park to ourselves.

My kids all hate the cold, so come Christmas break, they don’t want to go outside. This means I have several extra weeks of school already planned in and we end early every year because of this. And snow days are school and then game days because there’s nothing else to do.

You ever had bored kids inside when it’s 10 degrees outside? It’s miserable! So, we do school instead. And play outside extra in the summer.

I think my kids are ready for school. They’re ready to see their friends at lessons and co-op and they’re super excited to be moved up to the next grade in Sunday School. I’m ready to see all my friends again too.

Summer was way too short, but we’re ready to move forward with things like learning to read, learning to multiply, and as many science experiments as I can stand. My 7yr old has requested that she be allowed to “blow things up” for science this year. I’m thinking the usual volcano, and a few other experiments like that. It’ll be a messy year for sure, but we’ll have fun and learn a lot!

P is for Play

I can’t tell you how many studies I’ve read this year that say that our kids need to play more. Or how many articles I’ve read this year telling me how much more play kids in the Neatherlands and France get than kids in the US. If you believe everything you read, lack of playtime has caused every childhood ailment that our children experience. From being sick more often because they aren’t getting dirty to getting poor grades in school because they can’t focus. I’m not saying that there’s no credibility to any of these. What I am saying is that there’s so many studies and articles out there it’s next to impossible to figure out actual fact from fiction, and reliable study from something just thrown together.

I do think play is an important and integral part of childhood. And that children should be encouraged and free to play, explore, and create with minimal rules.

1. Play is an important part of social development – Watch children play. They learn how to interact with each other. How to handle disagreements. And in pretend play they even act out (practice) making decisions in real life. It’s always interesting to me to watch my children play things like store and see what they’re choosing to buy and what they’re doing with it. Without play, where else would children learn these skills in a stress free, child led environment?

2. Minimize your handling of play disputes – I will interfere if the kids are being mean to each other (like the older girls squirting their younger brother with the garden hose), but for many play disputes I encourage them to work it out. Arguing over a toy? Well, they can either give it to me for safekeeping or figure out who’s going to play with it. It’s important for them to learn to work through problems like sharing, considering other’s feelings, and being polite to friends.

A lot of actions have their own consequences. If you won’t share with your friends, most likely, they’ll just decide to go play with something else. And that’s not fun for anyone. I try to allow them to see and experience their own consequences. I do draw the line if it’s a safety issue or I see that a child is just simply being unkind and needs a minute to chill and redirect.

3. Play is important for physical development – I remember climbing on top of the monkey bars and balancing across, jumping off the swings, and that awesome merry go round thing they used to have at playgrounds. It’s in play that I watch my kids try new things. We just pulled the slip and slide out for the summer and the first day they very carefully sat themselves down and tried to scoot down the slide. By the middle of the second day, they’re getting running starts and just flying down the slide (and by flying I mean that they are making it from top to bottom in one try which is quite a feat because the biggest hill in our yard is really pretty flat).

The important thing is that they’re learning their own limits. They’ve learned that no one can stand all the way down the slide – though, they keep trying. The fastest or preferred way down seems to be on their knees – there’s a pool of water at the end that no one wants to put their head in. And running starts are the fastest way down.

Play is the best way to learn how high you can leap, how fast you can run, and when to stop.

4. Please, don’t hover – There is nothing more amusing to me at a playground than watching some other mom hovering behind my almost 3yr old as he climbs up a slide. I just want to walk up to her and say, “lady, he’s been doing this since he was 18 months and hasn’t fallen yet, I think he’s ok”. But, no, I just watch, amused as he climbs to the top, changes his mind, and backs back down the steps, to run off and try a different slide. All the while this poor, paranoid, parent is standing ready to catch him if he falls.

I will admit, I did stand behind him at 18 months until I was sure he could do it. But these days, he’s climbing the jungle gym so I’m not concerned about his ability to handle a slide.

I’m not saying, don’t supervise. I’ve seen plenty of that too. You know, the kids who’s throwing sand at all the other kids and there’s no parent to be found to intervene. If your child is going to hurt themselves or another child, by all means, do something.

But, there’s no need to stand behind your 3yr old while he climbs a slide, especially if you’ve seen him do it thousands of time before. It’s a lot of work for you and does nothing to enhance your child’s play.

For me the point about play is that my children get the chance to play, create, and imagine without me giving directions. I want to see what they come up with, what they think, and how they choose to handle life. All those studies aside. Play is a very important part of childhood. Because what is childhood without play?