Yesterday I bought a sunhat in a sale for Benjie/Isaac (you can never have too many sunhats/gloves/socks – they get lost so easily!) and Benjamin so loved it he wore it in the evening with his pyjamas, went to bed in it (although he did take it off to go to sleep), and then wore it all morning playing out in the playhouse and still insisted on wearing it to Ferry Meadows this afternoon.

My camera comes back with Granny on Saturday – if he’s still wearing it I shall post a photo of him!

Spaghetti bolognese for tea tonight, and, yes, Joel ate it voluntarily.

Flat Play Dough

We had a really slow child-focused weekend and Benjamin seemed much happier by the end of it. His stammer has virtually disappeared. I think I noticed him get stuck slightly once today, but that was all.

Joel is possibly eating slightly more, but nothing very spectacular. I shall try another spaghetti bolognese tomorrow. He seems to like raisins.

Play dough has been the in thing this week. Benjamin has had a book out from the library, which features two characters in a block of flats, so he has been making blocks of flats out of play dough for his toys to live in.

Codling Village by Susan Hill

Benjamin found a children’s book by Susan Hill in the library. It is a sort of Miss Read for children. A chapter book set in Codling Village. It has little stories about village life and village characters. He loves it. So much so that Matt has found one on ebay and ordered it for him, so that he is not too distraught when it goes back to the library.

Feeding Joel

I (Matt), must add to Justine’s post below. It has been incredibly hard to get food into Joel. When I get home one an evening Justine tells me how she got one or two teaspoons into him. Then I feed him for tea time and it is a struggle with every mouthful. I eventually worked out various things that would give me a good opportunity to get the spoon in. There was the jump in quickly whenever he had a bite of bread, or jump in quickly when he put a toy in his mouth. However these were interspersed with try to jump in quickly and only end up with tightly closed lips. He seems to like drinking water from a baby cup, so I developed the jump in quickly just before the cup went in his mouth.

However I kept ending up a bit concerned that this ‘force feeding’ approach might not lead him to be positive about food. I am so relieved that he is eating better. Let’s hope it caries on! Having said all this, I’m sure it isn’t an uncommon story (“There is nothing new under the Sun.”).

A breakthrough

Up until now Joel has continued to show no interest in eating, and every spoonful has to be slipped in while he is distracted. Tonight I had forgotten to get anything ready so I quickly liquidised a portion of the spaghetti bolognese we were having. The first spoonful went in. He opened his mouth for more. Then again. Then again. He has never volunteered an open mouth for food before. He ate a whole 10 month old sized portion. We could hardly believe it! Now we need to find out whether he will eat other things, or whether this is a spaghetti bolognese- specific response!

Benjamin has developed quite a stammer suddenly over this last week. He has done this once before, and we ignored it and it disappeared quite quickly. He ends up repeating the first word or two of a sentence, sometimes 8 times or more,before moving on to the rest of the sentence. So we are again assuming it will be a temporary thing. But I did notice tonight that he wasn’t making much eye contact with me, so perhaps some more one-to-one attention is called for?

But it just seems so hard to find spaces in the day. Even though in some ways things feel easier now that Benjie and Isaac play so well together, the day still fills itself with Joel and meals and laundry etc etc. A measure of the lack of pauses is that my new-for-Christmas book remains unread – an unheard of event! I think tomorrow I shall see if I can gain some spaces by not turning on the computer.

Yesterday Isaac was entertaining himself by walking around the kitchen with a cardboard box on his head. Benjamin decided he would help him out by taking a chop stick and punching out some eye holes for him, while he was still wearing the box!!! Fortunately I noticed this before he actually pierced the cardboard!

Rewarding Benjamin with 2 chocolate buttons for getting to the toilet to do a poo seems to be working well, and we are probably about 80% successful now. Today, however, we only had 1 1/2 buttons left. I gave 1 to Benjie and ate the remaining half myself (Isaac being in his bedroom for rest time and therefore unaware that chocolate buttons were to be had). Benjie went off for his rest time, but later I heard unhappy sounds coming from his room. I went to investigate. He sat on my knee crying, and eventually said “Isaac usually has chocolate buttons too.” I tried to explain that we had run out, but this didn’t seem to help. He only recovered when I said I would e-mail Daddy and ask him to bring some chocolate buttons home. When Daddy came home I opened the packet and gave one to Benjamin saying ” here’s your other button” and he immediately turned and gave it to Isaac! It was a lovely moment, and I feel quite amazed at the depth of emotion Isaac’s “lack” incurred in Benjamin.

From Ambleside Online

The text below is taken from Ambleside Online’s Frequently Asked Questions…

6. How soon can my child start Year 1?

Young children may be impulsive, need to move and have trouble focusing enough to listen to an entire story and narrate it. Charlotte Mason knew this and therefore recommended that children not do formal school until they were 6 years old. She said that no child under six should be required to narrate. They would gain more from playing, exercising their limbs and getting to know their environment first-hand in a casual, natural way by being outdoors.

Some children still aren’t ready at six. There is nothing to lose and much to gain by waiting until a child is ready. More is required from Ambleside Online with each progressive Year, so the child who is not ready for Year 1 at age 6 may not be ready for Year 2’s more intense history at age 7. Some children need a year or two more to mature. One Ambleside student wasn’t quite ready at age 6; he couldn’t keep still and was easily distracted. He didn’t start Year 1 until he was 8. Two years later, he is in Year 3, reading most of the books himself and enjoys school – a couple years made all the difference. Had his parents insisted on making him sit still for school at age 6, it would been a struggle for both the student and his parents and he would have quickly learned to dislike school. How do you know if your child is ready? When he can listen along and follow a story and tell enough about back to convince you that he comprehended.

In the years when a child’s readiness is still developing, there are things you can do to prepare him for Ambleside Online. Severely limiting TV watching will help his mind to reach its intended potential and help his ability to focus attention. Jane Healy’s book Endangered Minds explains the relationship between the visual information of TV and a child’s attention span. Help your child become less dependent on visual images by reading him chapter books with few pictures – perhaps Peter Pan, Pinocchio, fairy tales, or E.B. White’s books. These sorts of books encourage him to form pictures in his mind as he receives auditory information. Get him used to hearing well-spoken language in the form of poetry and well-written stories like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series, nursery rhymes and classic children’s poems, A.A. Milne’s Pooh classics, and James Herriot picture books. Cultivate an interest in growing things by planting a garden (or even a potted plant) or watching insects. Listen to music together, including classical music by Mozart and Bach. Go for walks and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature together. Help your child learn to be observant.

What about a child who is advanced or already reading at age 5, or even 4? Should that child begin Year 1? Although a young child who is able to do formal schoolwork may reflect well to onlookers, list members overwhelmingly said no. None of those parents who waited regretted their decision. Some children did start early and did fine – but many of those parents said that, if they had to do it over, they would have waited. One mother started her 5 year old in Year 1 with success, but, due to family needs, had to stop and start Year 1 again the following year. Her daughter got more out of the books a year later. Even a precocious child will benefit from a little maturity, and will gain much by waiting. Don’t think that waiting a year means your child isn’t learning – the very young brain is programmed to grow best by learning from its environment – watching and participating in routine family life, learning about numbers through day-to-day activities and math games, use of linguistic skills through natural conversations with parents, hearing good language modeled by listening to well-written books, and free play. If you desire some kind of history exposure, your child may enjoy hearing books from the Childhood of Famous American series for fun.

One benefit of waiting is that it gives you, the parent, more time to learn about Charlotte Mason’s methods – she herself said that, without understanding the “why” behind her approach, a Charlotte Mason curriculum was little more than just another booklist.

There is more information about this age group here.

not doing too well with this camera. we took it to granny’s yesterday and left it behind. so it will be another 3 weeks before we can put any pictures up!

Joel has his 8th tooth just coming through, and is just starting to stand on his own, and has discovered he can climb stairs.

New Year’s Day Run

I (Matt) took Benjy and Isey to the little trains today. They have a few of the trains running on New Year’s Day. We turned up and were standing around chatting to people, to be told that there were four trains on the track if we wanted a ride. As the run was a ‘members only’ occasion there were not many children to be passengers (apart from the big children that were also enjoying the rides). We were quickly offered a ride behind ‘Toby’.

Toby was made by one of the members. He said that he had been making a steam engine, but it had taken rather longer than he intended. When Grand-children started to approach a lot quicker than the engine he decided to make an electric instead. This turned into two Tobys. He has two Grand-children, so two engines made sense and I guess it was a lot easier making them the same. He had both of them running today and they look just like Toby the Tram Engine. He is thinking of calling the second one Timothy.

After one lap riding behind (what we later found out was called) Timothy, I was offered a drive. So we set off with the boys sitting behind me. Then the boys were allowed to drive under my supervision. It was very easy with Benjy, as he just did what I asked him to do and responded fairly quickly. Although when coming in to the station he had to be helped to slow down a bit quicker. However when Isaac had his first go he started off with the train in reverse gear and thrust the controller on to quite fast. I was very quick to stop the engine using the controller and my feet! I think I had been lulled into a sense of security by how easy it had been with Benjy. Isey proceeded to learn how to drive well and after a while was responding well to me saying ‘faster’ or ‘slower’.

Having been round a few times we got off so the boys could run around. We raced a few trains and Benjamin won every time. (That gives you an idea of the speeds involved.) We then went back to the station and were offered a drive of another engine. This one is green, apparently it doesn’t have a name, it is number 5601. This had a diferent method of control for the boys to get used to and a button to press to make it do a bee-boor sound. Benjamin was characteristicly gentle with the throttle and Isey turned the knob a lot less gently. We quickly found out that the engine had a lot of power and that I didn’t want Isey to take it to full speed.

I tried to teach them to look ahead down the track to see if there were any engines ahead so that they could go faster/slower as appropriate, but this was mostly lost on them – maybe next time.

When we were leaving Isaac was very lovely as he was totally in his own little world. I couldn’t work out if he was being a train or a plane. I don’t think I have seen him so gorgeously far away, yet also quite responsive. It was very child-like and happy.

I forgot to take the camera! Oh well.