Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catching Up

We've been back in NC for some time now, but things got off to a shaky start what with Chris leaving for training again and with my surgery. So that explain the yet another long break between the posts.

Things are almost back to normal now:

I pretty much cut down on all the detailed planning for our homeschool that I did for the first couple of months. It's mostly because apart from math and reading, nothing else tended to happen as planned. M sets up his own pace here. I figure, since he follows along with math and reading, I can reciprocate by following his lead in all the other subjects.

At this point our daily school work looks something like this:

Math - first, we do 2-3 works sheets of logic and reasoning problems. He's working through a problems marked for ages 5-6 now although it's definitely not effortless. Since many of these problems require connecting the dots, drawing circles, coloring and otherwise putting a pencil to paper, he gets to work on his fine motor skills.

More Math - then we do "counting math" for 10 minutes or so. We are still staying within 1-10, but mostly working with numbers between 5 and 10 - adding, subtracting, even dividing. Also working on the concepts of odd and even, zero, and half of something (works so well with M's current interest in matching quantities of just about anything to his age, 4.5). We still use a lot of manipulatives for this math.

Reading - I'm grateful for a Russian cartoon called Smeshariki. M loves it (ok, I do too 'cause it's so funny). More importantly, he is a lot more willing to read now. The key is to have a reading primer book that's built around the cartoon. Thankfully I do have this book (having borrowed it from my cousin). So every day we practice reading two-letter combinations and then move onto longer words. M is a bit more fluent now, blends much better and is not particularly scared of long words. At least he was fine reading "воронка" and "мухомор" and a few other longish words. We are even trying some very short and simple sentences now.

More Reading - generally we end up our school with a reading session where I read chapter books. It can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on M's mood. He always loves this part of our school. The coolest part for me is that now he recognizes small-print letters in the books and points them out to me. He can even read some of the book titles, especially if they are short and the typeface is simple.

Everything else - this includes building with Legos (he actually prefers little blocks now and is not very interested in Duplos at all). Or it can be tinkering with his rather large collection of spare parts and junk. Or it can be playing with an even more sizable collection of rockets and robots. Starting this week, it's all about making decorations for Halloween.

Other than homeschool, he goes to soccer once a week and loves it so far. We also go to playgrounds, have playdates with his friends, and generally fill up our time with all sorts of interesting things, such as going to a Lego festival (actually, Chris took M there since I was in the la-la land thanks to Percocet).

Thankfully, Chris took quite a few pictures plus M told me all about the gigantic Lego StarWars sculptures. I think it was seeing these sculptures that made him re-consider Legos as a building medium. Before the festival he wasn't too keen on Legos. But afterwards, if he gets a new idea for building something (like every 5 minutes), he says that he can do it out of Legos. Because, as M put it, "you can build everything with Legos".

Finally, he's back to the idea of being an astronaut. Which means wearing his space suit, helmet, gloves to the playground and carrying an American flag ("so I can stick it into the ground like astronauts on the Moon and my friends will understand then"). So after running around the playground for a while and sliding down the slides, M decided that it was time for him to fix the rocket (the big slide). So here you see him clinging to the side of the rocket, trying not to float away into space while performing extensive (took him like half an hour) repairs on one of the boosters.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

World Maker Faire 2011

We went, we saw and we loved it! And I can't believe we almost didn't make it to the Faire. Our plans kept changing, but as I mentioned before, all's well that ends well. So here we were, in Queens, going to see... Actually, we weren't sure what we were going to see. Except we knew there would be robots there.

Sure thing, almost right at the entrance, there they were. And the best part was we could touch them, pick them up for a closer look and even play with them!!! Pretty awesome, right?
Most of them didn't resemble people, not even a little bit. So when M saw this little guy, he was practically jumping for joy.
But the fun didn't stop there. First, we came across AnnMarie Thomas' Squishy Circuits. And she was there her own self! A while ago we made a couple of circuits and played with them. We built a couple of circuits using just some LEDs and a motor. So while at AnnMarie's display we concentrated mostly on the motor and the buzzers. This was one of the busiest displays too. One of the things that I really liked was that the Squishy Circuits seemed to attract just as many girls as boys. Also, kids were very active and unafraid to try things. After all, most of them already had plenty of experience with playdough so this probably didn't seem like a whole new thing to them.
All in all, M got to play with quite a few toys and kits aimed at teaching kids the basics of electrical circuitry. The one that really stood out, IMHO, in addition to the Squishy Circuits, was this one above. Basically, it's just black conductive paint. This particular paint is specially formulated to be non-toxic and washable. So you paint with it, wait for the paint to dry, then hook up a battery to one end and an LED light or a buzzer or whatever, to another end. Or you could paint little (or big) wooden blocks with it, attach some mini-LEDs, mini-switches, etc and turn any block set into a circuit-building set. Pretty cool!

Over here on the picture the paint was used to draw pictures of musical instruments. Then kids could play music just by touching the pictures.
I was very happy to see Thinker Linkers at the Faire. M already played them at our local Maker Faire where he spent quite a long time building some very large and complicated structure. This time he was more interested in finding more robots. Still, he stopped by Thinker Linkers area and worked with Chris on assembling "a house for a robot". I really hope Marbles, our local kids museum, will add a huge mega set of Thinker Linkers to its collection of building toys! And if not Marbles, then maybe Durham's Life and Science Museum then even though it's a drive for us.
In the spirit of the Faire, we made not one, but two things - an LED throwie and this recyclables weaving craft. Guess which one took more time, more components and was more complicated?
 And while you're guessing things, guess who in our family has the biggest head. Oh, but before you fall of your chair laughing, I am much taller than this in real life... at least 3 inches taller. Ok, maybe 2 inches. Still...
This was just about the best part of the Faire. Or at least right up there with all the other awesomeness that was going on. You see, the Faire was happening at the New York Hall of Science and the ticket to a Faire included admission to NYHS. Let me just say, if you are looking for something kid-friendly and amazing to do in NYC, put this destination at the top of your must-do list. Just make sure to leave plenty of time to explore the place.

NY - Pictures Only Edition

I am hopelessly late with this post, so it's going to be pretty much pictures only.

So this one is of M on a deck a couple of days before Hurricane Irene went through the area.

And this one - a few hours before the hurricane. Notice the difference? Yep, this gave us (mostly Grandma, really) something to do. We (mostly she) were busy clearning the yard and lemme tell you, it never looked this nice!

Then there was also plenty of baking with Grandma (she's trying all those no-gluten recipes). M actually created his own recipe for a crispy cracker-like bread and mixed dough. Then we baked it and, surprisingly it was very good!

We did spend a few days post-hurricane without electricity, which at my parents' house also means without water. And M did get sick. But all's well that ends well. So we celebrated with a little get-together.

Also, grilled with Grandma
And tried out Uncle's motorcycle
Then one day, tired of staying in and our the house, I offered M a trip to the Bronx Zoo. And he said "NO WAY!". And that's how we ended up at the Intrepid instead.

And it was a huge win for all of us (Grandpa, M and myself) since we all enjoyed it. First, we looked at all the airplanes on the flight deck
Then we climbed all the way up to the captain's bridge for a nice view of the Downtown.
We then went to the lower decks where there was a museum with a very hands-on area for children (and yes, their parents). And as it turned out, there was a life-size model of Mercury landing capsule, complete with all the buttons and switches and all that. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you can guess what M was busy with for the next hour or so.
Nothing else could match the excitement of the capsule. Not even going onto a real submarine!
And the next day we also went fishing with Grandpa. Let me tell you, last time I went fishing, I was like in elementary school and it was boring. But this time we went to this little pond full of sunfish and in 4 minutes we caught 4 fish.

They were tiny and we were too glad to release them back. M liked fishing, but not the fish themselves who seemed to scare him with all the flapping and jumping. Plus they were cold and wet and slippery and overall not very pleasant to touch, as M noted.