Category Archives: Education

Time Out for Education…

Show me the Berries!

I think many people equate education with school, and there is much to be learned in school. But, an education shouldn’t begin with school. Our children shouldn’t wait until age 4 or 5 or 6 to start learning. An interesting Washington Post article/blog post writes about how our public education system is out of whack beginning at age 5, and yet so many studies emphasize the importance of learning from birth to 8. It might not necessarily mean our kids should start school at 2 or 3. I think it means that we, as parents, have a big responsibility in being our kids’ first teachers. Summertime shouldn’t be a time out from learning. On the contrary!
We had such an incredible experience last weekend in the Poconos with Harriet. (Thanks so much, Harriet! 😉 ) We spent about an hour walking in a trail in the woods, and it had a great impact on Malachy. I just finished reading Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Men (an excellent read!), which also stressed how boys (children) learn so much better when they are able to use their five senses.

Thousand Legged Worm... a Millipede! YUCK!
In the woods, Malachy was able to see, hear, touch, feel, and taste! Harriet introduced us to huckleberries, Indian Pipes, and minty wintergreen leaves! 😉 Then Malachy found a thousand legged worm… a millipede… EWWWW! 😉 He loved being outdoors with nature.

Time Out for Apologies…

Apologies...
Apology Letter 1

When I picked up Malachy from school today, his teacher had an icy popsicle in one hand and his school bag and lunch bag in the other. I think I said, “Yay,” out loud but she said, “Nope.” She told me how Malachy got in trouble twice today. He ran off during Sports Day and didn’t listen to one of his teachers. Then, instead of listening to his new art teacher during art, he just did what he wanted. So, the teacher said he couldn’t have the popsicle until she talked to me. I agreed 100%.
It’s never easy punishing Malachy, but at the same time, if we don’t, then he’ll think it’s okay not to listen. It was a quiet walk back home, as he rode in his stroller (since I told him not to talk to me just yet). He knew how upset I was and apologized when we got home saying, “Dad, I apologize. I’m really really sorry.” After a shower, I had him write a few apology letters. He wrote four. He was really good about that. He knew how serious his violations were, and he definitely showed remorse.
I made a deal with him. If he has a good report tomorrow, then maybe, just maybe, he’ll get his icy… 🙁

Apology Letter 2
Apology Letter 3

Time Out for a Birthday and a Report Card…

Having a child around when it’s your birthday definitely livens up the party. Shien got me the biggest balloon, thanks to Malachy’s direct orders. Speaking of direct orders, we had his Parent-Teacher Conference on my b-day today (now, yesterday). His teacher’s comments on his report card read, “Since our last meeting, Malachy has shown a greater interest in art activities. He is adding more details to his art work. Malachy is reading above a kindergarten reading level. His comprehension of the text is also advancing well. Academically, Malachy is progressing well. I would like to see his social skills continue to develop. For example, Malachy often refuses to participate during movement and singing activities. He enjoys play activities when he is leading the playing. However, when asked to play or join in activities where there may be a prompt for him to follow through on, he often refuses to participate…” To me, that means that he’s doing well academically, but he needs to learn that he can’t be in charge all of the time. 😉
As soon as he wakes up, he has a plan, and starts telling Shien and me what he thinks should happen. “Dad, take all of my stuff out to the living room. I’ll go to the bathroom first, and then you can make me a snack. Mommy can sleep longer…” So, it was no surprise to learn that he loves to be in charge at school, and when things aren’t “right” for him, he’ll let you know. His teacher told us that last week, they had a birthday party for one of the authors they were studying, Rosemary Wells. They made cupcakes. Well, when it was time to eat the cupcakes, Malachy just sat there looking at his cake, while everyone else was eating. When asked why he wasn’t eating his cupcake (about 10 minutes had gone by!), he told her that they had to sing a birthday song to her first. Otherwise, it wasn’t a real birthday. So, the teacher had everyone stop and sing happy birthday to the author. Then, Malachy was okay and started eating his cupcake. Unbelievable.
This morning, he thought EVERYONE should stay home because it was my birthday. After all, Mommy’s birthday was tomorrow, and since it was on a Saturday, there wasn’t school. So, logically, on my birthday, there shouldn’t me school either. He didn’t want to let me go to work, and he thought he should stay home and Mommy, too. We’re always trying to explain to him that things can’t always go according to his plans or reasoning. His response is often, “Why?” Our response? Aiya!
In terms of his academics, the teacher assessed his reading, and they had reading levels up to the end of Kindergarten. So, Malachy passed that level, and since they didn’t have assessments for past Kindergarten, they weren’t sure exactly what level he’s on. He also got a spelling assessment, and he spelled almost every word correctly! Scary. 😉

Time Out for Writing…

(Pulled from my YouTube archives…He was 2 years, 2 months at the time…)

I came upon this online article yesterday, Your 3-year-old timeline: Name writing | BabyCenter, and it disturbed me quite a bit.  It addresses writing for 3-year-olds and starts off by saying, “It’s exciting when your child’s scribbles begin to look more like real letters.  Some threes even start writing their name, or a few letters of it.  But writing is one of those developmental milestones that varies from child to child.  Don’t stress out if your child isn’t even interested in writing.”  It goes on to say a parent might still not know the child’s dominant hand for another year or so, and that it’s hard to control a pencil due to lack of fine motor skills.  In terms of child development and literacy, I feel that we grossly underestimate what our children are capable of.

To me, it’s about exposure and practice and expectations.  If a child isn’t given the independence to try to hold a pencil or to feed him/herself at a young age (before 24 months), then those skills will not have the chance to develop as quickly.  If you provide them with the opportunity, they will embrace it.

I had to look back at our library of photos to see when we first let Malachy scribble away.  He was less than a year and a half.  Before he was two, we knew he was a lefty.  He started eating with his left hand and writing with his left hand.  We never forced him to write.  Pens, markers, crayons and lots of scrap paper (found a use for junk mail!) were always around for him if he chose to write.  And boy did he choose to write! 😉  When he started school, his writing was way better than his coloring and drawing.  In fact, he had to practice his coloring and drawing MORE THAN his writing!  Most kids draw a picture and then try to write something.  At school, he would write something, and then try to draw it!  😉

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Lately, he’s been writing lots of notes to people.  On Sunday, he was upset that Grandpa and Uncle Chris had a father-son brunch.  They wound up coming to the same restaurant we were eating at, about an hour later, but sat at another table.  Since he couldn’t sit with them, he wrote a note to his uncle saying, “Dear Uncle Chris, I wish you were over here.”  He proceeded to get out of his booster chair and handed him the note.  Then he wrote a note to his Grandpa.  “Dear Gong Gong, I wish you were over here.”  Again, he asked to be excused and handed his grandfather a note.  In a way, it was therapy for him, too, helping him to get over the anger he felt earlier that they were not eating with him.

Two weeks ago, after we came home from school, he wrote me a note telling me he hoped I took care of Jimmy, and just handed it to me.  I think kids get it.  If you show them that writing has a purpose, then they’re going to want their voices to be heard.  Before long, they find their own reasons to write.  Gotta’ let them write, and believe they are ready BEFORE they’re 3!  If they can talk, then they can write.  🙂

Sometimes, when he goes to Whole Foods with Mommy, he’ll write a Grocery List while she gets ready, and then he checks off the items at the store.  He writes countless notes to his uncle and his girlfriend about how he misses them and loves them.  One evening, he made a label for each of us.  On my note, he wrote, “Dad is a fixer.”  On Mommy’s he wrote, “Mom is a good friend.”  Every day, on his way to school, he’ll ask Mommy for scrap paper and his clip board, and he’ll just write notes on his way to school.  Age 3, and he’s writing more prolifically than Daddy.  Aiya!  🙂

Malachy's Note About Jimmy
Shopping with Mom at Whole Foods

Time Out for a Read Aloud

A couple of weeks ago, I believe Uncle Chris was having a conversation with Malachy about sharks and whales and dolphins.  (I wish we tape-recorded all of the conversations they have had!) That made me think of a non-fiction book that I had read once to Malachy.  So, I took it out, and asked if he could read it to his uncle.  He started to read with lots fluency and inflection, and I was like, “WOW!”  Where’d he learn that?  I guess it was from me and Shien reading to him night after night, watching Sesame Street every now and then, and having amazing conversations with his uncle and family and friends.  And now, with going to school, he’s just surrounded by books and language.  He’s always loved his letters and words, and talking, too!

So, that night, before bedtime, I asked him if I could film him reading (Uncle Chris had requested it, too), and so, he read and read and read, and made all sorts of connections and conversation.  Another Malachy Classic! 😉  I had to break it into 3 parts on YouTube, because they only let you have 10 minutes at a time. 😉

Reading at 3, better than me!  Ai ya!   🙂

Time Out for School

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It’s hard to believe that Malachy is 3, and he’s in full-day PreKindergarten. I keep thinking how things have changed for kids today. Today’s 3 year old is like yesterday’s 5 year old. Grandma (Po Po) rightly questioned us about rushing him into “growing up” too quickly. We felt that if we didn’t put him into a quality school, then he’d fall behind. We felt he was ready and he has definitely shown us he could handle it… better than we could have ever imagined.

One thing that I kept in the back of my mind was Po Po pleading with us not to get caught into the mode of waking up and rushing him and hurrying him to get ready for school. So, I promised myself that we would try to give him some happy home time before beginning the day. Yes, in the beginning, there were some tears… him on the outside, me on the inside. But, after a week or so, he was okay… better than okay. He soon accepted that Daddy had to go to school for work, and he went to school, too, as did Mommy. Yes, there are days when we are tired, and it’s hard to wake up, but at the end of the day, we’d always meet again.

It melts my heart whenever I come home and he asks, “How was your day, Dad?” Good… very good.

Time Out for Reading

Reading to Malachy
I remember speaking with a colleague of mine one evening, when I was in the Aspiring Leadership Program. He had a daughter just a few weeks younger than Malachy. He told me about how he read to his daughter every night since she was a “baby.” Here, at 4 months, I was thinking I had missed so much time reading to Malachy! What was I thinking? I was a teacher, too, and I wasn’t reading to my child! So, from 4 months onward, we have missed only a handful of nights. (And the only excuse was that we had come home late from a gathering, and he had knocked out.) Before bed, and after brushing, we have read to him and with him EVERY night. The book of choice? The one we read the most? Goodnight Moon, almost every night, for over a year. We also read The Very Hungry Caterpillar many many a time. He loved it, and we loved it. And, before age 3, he started to read! I never would have thought that was possible.

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