Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another Milestone!

Izzy brought me a BOB book today, Dot, and wanted help reading. Well, she managed about 80% on her own and we were both thrilled! She is well on her way now.

To celebrate reading her first book, mommy's birthday on Monday (and the fact that we are in the final stages of kitchen disaster - the backsplash went up yesterday) we walked across the street to Swiss Chalet.

My baby is growing up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Free-Range Mama in Training

Izzy wasn't feeling well this morning so my hectic Tuesday turned into a very relaxing day. I spent some time reading some articles on sites that I haven't been to in a while. One of them was FreeRangeKids and it reminded me of a recent situation.

I signed Izzy back up for dance at the Y. They have a pretty terrific schedule during the week. In theory, I could drop Izzy off for 45 minutes of dance and then a volunteer would come collect her from the studio and bring her (and the other kids) to the big gym to play for an hour. Alternately, Alex spends 45 minutes in the gym and then can come to dance for an hour. Now Izzy is still coping with some separation anxiety so I have to stay for dance and we skip gym altogether - hence the leaving her in theory part.

Last time we were there we were running in a bit late. I took both kids to the dance room to make sure Izzy was on time. Then I was struck with a dilemma. I couldn't leave her while I signed Alex in at the other side of the building and taking her with us defeated the purpose of running in to get her there on time. I looked at Alex and asked him if he was okay getting himself there. Sure! He was thrilled. Heck, he was half was out the door without me before I even asked.

I gave him his card and told him to ask the guy with the clipboard (the one we parents use to sign our kids in and out) to hold it for him. Then away he went.

As I sat watching Izzy I started asking myself, will I get in trouble for sending him without signing him in? Did he make it there alright? Did he tell the supervisor why his negligent mother wasn't there to drop him off? I could see the exit from where I was sitting in Izzy's room and started noticing how busy the place was. I saw that he could have easily slipped passed me and out the front door. Then years of exposure to CNN and Law and Order started these niggling little thoughts that were hard to quash. The what ifs... We all know what they are. The usual horror and fear about kidnapping and molestation. So this bad thought would pop into my head, my heart would race a little and I began fidgeting in my seat. Then I would reason it right back out. Sure, something bad could have be happening but it was extremely unlikely. I kept resisting the urge to grab Izzy and run down the hall just to make sure he was okay.

My boy will be 7 in a couple of weeks. He is pretty tall for his age. Looks much older. I trust him. In general, I trust humanity too. It is humbling though - this feeling of not being in control.

At the end of dance class, this very large, male volunteer coach came into the room with Alex and a few other kids. The boy was red-faced, sweaty and grinning like a fool. He had just spent the past 45 minutes running and playing. It was no big deal for him. This "incident" at the Y seemed out of the ordinary to me. A moment I will probably remember for a very long time. If it happens again though, I will be much more relaxed. I have learned that the hard part is trusting everything to be okay. When it is okay then the next time it gets easier.

Fear. It is the most insidious predator parents face. Unfortunately I feel it is a battle I will be fighting for a very long time.


I feel like Izzy is right on the cusp of reading. What is so interesting to me is how differently it is happening for her, at least, compared to Alex.

Alex was pre-reading for quite a while. It started around 2 1/2 and since his dad was beginning to read at that age, it was sort of expected. Not that we thought he had to read that early. Just that a boy who isn't even 2 having full sentence conversations with you and being able to express his feeling and frustrations through words sets the bar pretty high. It really didn't take until 3 1/2 but around his 4th birthday he graduated to the Magic Tree House books and never looked back.

I didn't teach Alex to read. I read to him, of course, be he gets all the credit. I remember bits and pieces of how it came together. There was the constant asking about what that sign said and what that paper said. He was relentless for a while and I couldn't wait to get past that phase. One of the first signs he read on his own was "The Beer Store". Too funny! We usually buy all our liquor from the LCBO (a government run liquor store - you can only buy booze in Ontario at those two places or small wine outlets run by the vineyards) so it was funny that it happened on one of those rare trips. I spent what felt like a long time right on the edge of waiting for it to happen. It wasn't gradual like I assumed it would be. It was like a flood gate that had opened. Someone recommended that I show him some Calvin and Hobbes, which he loved, and that induced him to read on his own.

Basically Alex went from asking me what it said to reading it back to me. I wish I knew if or what the middle step was but I don't. He watched a lot of the Leap Frog dvds on reading and letters but that was about it. I also own early reader books but didn't pull them out for him until it was too late to use them as learning tools.

Now I have Izzy and we are getting to the part where she asks, often, what this or that says. That is pretty much where the similarities end though. She is a kid who will only take life at her pace. She won't be prodded along even with level one princess books to entice her. No, she comes to me with the early readers and tells me what we are to work on together.

I see a system coming into play. She loves to write and will sit beside me for hours asking how to spell words. She has memorized quite a few of them now. I think she is breaking these words apart (by knowing what they are at first) and is now beginning to apply some of the rules to words she sees written elsewhere.

There is something methodical about this girl. She doesn't do things by accident and works until she achieves perfection. I get a kick out of seeing her learn through spelling. Especially since Alex could read so well and is only now catching up to his grade level in spelling. She will be a fantastic speller. Izzy reminds me a lot of myself at her age. I was a champion speller in school - winning end of year prizes. I also have a hard time moving on to other sentences until I feel the one I just wrote is up to snuff. That free-form writing was agony for me. There are a lot of similarities between the two of us.

It really is fascinating, watching their little brains go through these processes. They never do what I expect of them. I think she will be reading before her 5th birthday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tired, Busy but Happy...Mostly

I am a big fan of all or nothing and well we are up to our eyeballs in *all*. It starts innocently enough but then I seem unable to stop myself.

So right now we have (I am thinking by day here) piano, gym, dance, art, gym, a group play-date, beavers, co-op, more gym, swimming lessons (starting up again this week) and are about to add in french class and 2 hours of chess each week. Oh, and I am supposed to find some cheap dance or gymnastics through the city for Miss Iz. This is on top of play time with friends and neighbours, people popping in for a cup of tea, errands, chores, stuff I do for the condo board (which wants me to consider becoming president in the coming term!) or ------schoolwork!

I added something here and another thing there and voila! Chaos!

It sounds worse than it feels like. Some days are crazier than others. Many of these activities come in smaller chunks, like 6-10 week sessions and then break for a bit. I do better when I am busy. I need some sort of schedule to keep me moving along. I don't feel overwhelmed because I know that these are things we chose to take on and we can just as easily choose to drop out.

Still, for the first time in my life I am looking forward to summer vacation :-)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Izzy's First Trip to the Symphony

That is Roy Thompson Hall in behind Miss Iz. The concert was called Paddywak. It featured more modern music, which isn't my favourite but any live orchestra is pretty fabulous sounding to me. She enjoyed herself but preferred the more traditional music the concert started with.

Alex and I have had season tickets to the Toronto Symphony Kid's Concert Series in the past. Most of the kids at the concert were school groups (we went with a group of homeschoolers) and there was one moment I will remember forever. As soon as the lights dimmed, the audience quieted right down and then orchestra started to play. The audience of mostly children let out a soft gasp. Izzy was among them. It really does take your breath away. Nothing beats a live concert hall with a full orchestra. Absolutely nothing.

Back to Math

Alex has a hard time transitioning back into work he deems difficult. Meaning he whines and moans about how "haaaaaaarrd" it is and that he is too "stupid" to do it. This is not only annoying but clearly wrong. We both know it. It started because he doesn't like to write and pages that he went over orally took minutes while the ones I made him write down the answers took forever. Not sure what the answer to motivating him is. It isn't exactly my, or Rob's, forte. I cringe a little inside anticipating many years of "Alex, do your work"...."but it is too hard"..."you either do it for me or for a teacher at school"...and so on.

On the other hand, there is Miss Iz. I told her she couldn't start the workbooks until she could read, write and recognize her numbers up to 12. She could count, of course, and recognize some numbers but I figured we'd have to work a little together before she was ready for Miquon. Ha! She showed me. She taught herself what I requested in about 10 minutes and then did 7 pages of math sheets. What a girl!

I think it is part perfectionist and part competition. Alex can read and read very well. She can't yet. She can, however, blow the pants off him in writing and she knows it. She practices to be better. When she heard Alex complain that math was too hard she decided to show him up. I would bet that just through sheer determination she will be doing the same work as him in a year or two.

Below is a picture I took after she went to practice her numbers. After writing a 3 backwards over a picture she drew of the family (complete with ages written above our heads) she went downstairs and wrote out 31 as many times as she could fit on the sheet. That is my girl. Relentless.

For the record, it is Rob who is 31!

I was impressed!

Had to share. My kids aren't big on drawing so I was really surprised at last art class when Alex spent more time drawing than socializing. Not too shabby!