One-on-one and Habit Training

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One-on-one Time has been rough lately. I love Morning Time, and the boys do, too. But One-on-one Time is a struggle. Even so, there is room for grace here. And I’m going to tap into that.

First, the most important thing I have learned about how to homeschool, is a lesson I wish I could have learned a long time ago to apply to my life in general. Again, Charlotte Mason’s ghost comes and taps me on the shoulder, saying:

The mother devotes herself to the formation of one habit at a time, doing no more than keep watch over those already formed.

One habit at a time. My days are filled to the brim with bad habits. I’m trying to break them with good ones, but it’s so easy to be overwhelmed, and to not know what to focus on. And to think, here I am, this imperfect person, trying to instill good habits into my children? How is that supposed to work? Here I am with all of my own faults and bad habits, and yet it’s my job to teach good habits to these magnificent human beings? Where do I even start? (Well, going to bed at a decent hour would be a great place!)

I start with one thing at a time. One bite of that enormous, gargantuan elephant at a time.

The same notion applies to that of running a successful homeschool: if you try to begin everything all at once, it might explode in your face—all of it, splat!—and then you are left thinking you’re incapable, that your children’s lives are going to be ruined, and there it is: complete and utter failure, a sticky mess that seems impossible to mop up.

Coming back to what Charlotte said, forming one habit at a time, the simplicity of it is almost maddening. And yet, it’s the most logical way of approaching pretty much everything in life. Start doing one thing at a time, just one thing. When that thing becomes a habit, when it no longer seems unnatural, then you start working on the next thing.

Morning Time is successful because it’s a habit now. We started with Morning Time, and we keep at it (most days), and it’s simply habit. (And we have our own little rituals within Morning Time, which help solidify the habit, but that’s a different post.) Granted, as the children’s needs grow, Morning Time will evolve, but for now my confidence in Morning Time is soaring, and our daily feast has a high success rate. Even on the days when people need to be reminded to be cheerful, or the baby doesn’t take a nap, or due to a rough morning we put it off—so it ends up being more of an Afternoon Time instead—the feast is still a bright and glorious spot of our day. (And let’s not ignore that it’s brimming with riches, that doesn’t hurt either. There is much joy to be found in the riches; teaching phonics on the other hand, and waiting for a child to just finish reading that last half of a sentence in a BOB book, well, not as chock-full of joy.)

We are not there yet with One-on-one Time yet, it still feels like going uphill a bit, but we’re getting there.

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I’m recognizing my mistakes. The lack of solid preparation (the house is still in chaos, and homeschool supplies are everywhere!), the rhythm and routine, and most importantly, trying to teach one child to do something else while the other child is having their individual lessons with mom. They are so little, and learning to do things separate from each other is stretching them. And yet, I’m hoping to lay down the rails for this aspect of our homeschool, to make it another habit that comes naturally.

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.

I adore that quote. It takes pains to endow children with good habits; it’s not meant to be easy.

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This past week we started doing One-on-one Time before Morning Time. The lessons are incredibly short, and since a lot of the lessons are simple games or activities that are setting the children up for independent work, we can accomplish them easily (most of the time), even when George is roaming about. I’d like to say that we’re done with everything before noon, and are spending the afternoons outdoors, doing our Nature Study. But we’re not there yet, and with naps still being highly important with the baby, this “ideal” is not a reality. This is a slow motion season in my life, and I’m learning to be content with the pace. Soon enough the pace will quicken; it’ll feel like I’m watching my kids on fast-forward, and I’ll be begging to return back to slow motion.

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Anyway, with temperatures cooling down, I am much more inclined to try to spend copious amounts of time outside. This is the next educational habit on the docket: to grow our love and appreciation of nature.

Our Daily Feast

Here, in this tiny blog corner, technology conspires against me, and it tempts me to wash my hands of all my efforts. I have no idea why my photos aren’t showing up on this page; it vexes me since a lot of effort was spent in posting those pictures, and now, there they are, sad empty squares on a screen, devoid of color, and life!

How utterly dismal, indeed. But I shan’t bore my future self by lodging all my technological woes here. Instead I shall bolster my blogging spirits, and buttress myself with the idea that it will not be for naught! Soldier on, friend! If I have learned anything from this summer of despair, this summer of tempestuous destruction, this summer of hard living, it is lessons of insuppressible endurance! Lessons of change, and hope, and empowerment! Step back, foul fiend, of Internet hurdles! I shall rise up and blog again! Pictures or no pictures!

(In terms of documentation, I feel inclined to note this week’s homeschooling hiatus, a necessary break while I try to muster up some sort of livable situation in our nearly unlivable house. Many a box has been purged, many a room has been upturned, but all for the hope of a brighter future of organization, and for the reducing of time spent searching for resources showered about the house. When I come up for air, I will share photos here, on this very blog that refuses to approbate my photos. And, I add a bright note, that our kitchen countertops were installed today, so we are now moving in the right direction!)

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I read somewhere, someone describing Morning Time as their daily feast. An apt way to describe Morning Time, for it is truly a hearty feast of ideas. I want to detail what our Morning Time currently looks like, but I confess I tend to overwhelm even myself with wordy descriptions, so in the style of some old school Cindy Rollins blogging, I will proceed with a list of some of the things we have been feasting upon this summer. I aim for brevity, for conciseness, though we all know well enough this to be a fool’s paradise.

Indeed.

(Keep in mind I intend on using Ambleside Online as a sort of overall spine when my oldest is six—with our own tweaks and adaptations here and there. Right now we are doing our own modified Year 0, and it mostly happens during Our Daily Feast, altogether. Each little lesson is short and brief to train the children’s attention, as Charlotte Mason taught. Short lessons requiring active, focused, and engaged effort trains the habit of attention, while a laborious hour of drudgery trains a mind to wander, to dawdle. As a child ages, the lessons grow in length.)

Forgive lazy formatting and structure, future self.

Hymns.

Praise to the Man (this is being taught during Sharing Time at church, and it’s a great one, so we’ve chosen to practice it at home, and oh boy, has it had some sweet practice! And some additional made up verses!)

America the Beautiful (during the month of July)

I Stand All Amazed

I intend to start reviewing past hymns as well, but the boys have a tendency to sing ALL THE HYMNS THEY KNOW if I am not careful. And although it helps bring in the Holy Spirit, the purpose of Morning Time isn’t to sing hymns for the duration.

Scripture Memory Work.

Articles of Faith 1:4 (They already know this one, but we are also trying to sync scripture memory work with the scripture of the month in Sharing Time, and this was the scripture for June.)

Paragraph three of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Also taking a page from Cindy Rollins, I intend to pick two scriptures from previous memory work every month to review, starting next week.

Scripture Reading.

Right now we are slowing working our way through Exodus in the morning. That Pharaoh has a hard heart, doesn’t he? (We read illustrated Book of Mormon stories at bedtime, and I plan on rotating between the actual scriptures and illustrated versions.) It’s important for the boys to hear the language of the KJV, so in Morning Time I don’t read from a children’s version, but straight from KJV, and will do likewise when the Book of Mormon comes into rotation for Morning Time.

Math.

Math comes next, because it’s fun and engaging, and sometimes reading the scriptures isn’t, at least for a three and five year old. So turning our brains to math is the perfect segue. We always start with a number sense routine, some choral counting of some kind (since John is only three, we mostly are sticking with Classical Conversations skip counting songs, because they are popular around here), and right now we are doing MEP Reception lessons in Morning Time. The Reception lessons are quite below Charlie’s level, and yet I feel it’s still important to start at the beginning. John’s able to keep up with the concepts easily, and they both enjoy it. We also do math during One-on-one time anyway, so this has worked out very well. And even though Reception seems to be too easy, it has brought to my attention a few things both boys didn’t know, things I thought they already knew. Once we are done with MEP Reception, I may or may not continue with using MEP during Morning Time, and just move on to MEP Year 1 during Charlie’s On-on-one math lessons. Either way, math will keep its rightful place during morning time, because it is filled with truth, goodness, and beauty. When we stop using MEP during Morning Time, there will be plenty of math games and activities instead.

History.

Our History Loop this summer has consisted of the following:

Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Edward Eggleston

Turn of the Century: Eleven Centuries of Children and Change by Ellen Jackson

The Story of Our Church (an old copy that my grandmother read to my father that has been passed around)

I hope to incorporate personal family history stories, and wall timeline work into this loop. Those things require more effort than opening a book on the shelf though, but I hope to add them in coming weeks. Only time will tell.

Folk Songs.

I haven’t spent a lot of time yet picking out songs, and those listed below may or may not be considered folk songs, but I’m putting them into this category.

Yankee Doodle

I Love You, A Bushel and a Peck

Little Bird, Little Bird

Minstrel Boy

Poetry.

Ooey Gooey

There Was an Old Man with a Beard

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Reading also Robert Louis Stevenson’s, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and A.A. Milne’s poetry. I am working on shuffling through a Poetry review as well for the poems we’ve memorized.

Life Skills.

Cookies: Bite-size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthral

Jokes from joke books. Lauri Manners cards. Body safety talks. Memorization of address and phone numbers. I have revamped a whole Life Skills Loop schedule that we haven’t started using yet that will include things like excerpts from the SCM habit training books (which are a gold mine! and they’ve been sitting on my shelves untouched for years. As much as I want to be a complete minimalist, and get rid of all the stuff, it’s so wonderful when something that I didn’t find useful before suddenly leaps out at me when I’m ready for it).

Civics.

Every morning time we read through an important document or speech in bits and pieces. Everyone enjoyed The Declaration of Independence, illustrated by Sam Fink. We will read that one at least once a year. How funny it is to hear a five year old ask, with such grief, “King George took away their legislatures?” And then you nod, knowingly, with a, “isn’t that just the worst thing ever?” look on your face.

Nature Study.

The Green Kingdom by Childcraft

I have been lazy about Nature Study in these past few months, and I’m geared up and overjoyed to start up with some great new reads next week.

Literature.

Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (MASSIVE favorite around here. Even the one who is highly sensitive to “scary things” appreciated the illustrations of the creepy giants, and the foul fiend Apollyon, the bones and eyeballs! How fun it is to hear them talk about their playthings carrying great burdens on their backs, and spring up with delight when we read elsewhere how Benjamin Franklin read Pilgrim’s Progress. I’m glad I didn’t hold off on this one since it’s been enjoyed and is referred to often in other media.)

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

We will start Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti next week. We read a ton of other stuff outside of morning time, but I won’t go into those here other than to say A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter anthologies are fought over to sleep with at bedtime.

Geography.

Children Like Me: a Unique Celebration of Children Around the World by Anabel Kindersley (and as I look up the name of the author on Amazon, I see that another volume of Children Like Me is coming out soon!)

Wonderful Houses Around the World by Yoshio Komatsu (such a perfect little gem of a book.)

I’ve been lazy otherwise about geography. There’s so much I want to do here, including incorporating our Pin It maps, but I’m not entirely sure that will be a Morning Time activity. Perhaps it will be tucked in our Extensions Loop which is learning outside of Morning Time and One-on-one time–a loop schedule that hasn’t really found a place in a daily rhythm yet. Anyway, there’s a whole cornucopia of books I hope to bring in on the Geography Loop, and until we start doing Paddle-to-the-Sea, our Morning Time Geography Loop might just be books, and not map work. Oh, and geography songs.

Picture Study.

I Spy: An Alphabet in Art by Lucy Micklethwait

I am gearing up to study one artist at a time more in depth, like suggested by Ambleside. This has been a great little primer though, I feel. And I may just keep to books like this during Morning Time.

Composer Study.

We are absorbing Dvorjak right now. But my kids really just want to listen to Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King over and over again, so I have to sort of sneak other stuff in. (How many dollars would I have for every time the three year old whines something like, “I don’t want to listen to Mozart! PUT ON GRIEG.” A lot of dollars, I tell you.) We don’t really do Composer Study during Morning Time anyway, so I don’t know why I’m bringing it up here. Maybe because starting next week I plan on using Can You Hear it? by William Lach during Morning Time (a book that will tie both music and picture study together, killing birds and stones and what have you), and then just playing certain Dvorjak pieces randomly through the week when our day calls for a bit of music in the background. Exposure breeds taste, right?

Literacy.

Logic of English lessons. Slowly. Like half a lesson, and completely ignoring the handwriting part for now, since again we work on that skill individually. Again, we do individual phonics work during One-on-one lessons, so I have discovered that this is the place to teach mini LOE lessons, kind of like how I’m using MEP. I plan on scheduling more games as part of a literacy loop altogether that correspond with the lessons.

Foreign Language.

Haven’t really bothered with it this summer. Next week, we will start our Latin chants again, and I hope to start learning and teaching some songs in both Spanish and French. This is one of those things I have yet to find a trustworthy resource for yet, since my own experience is lacking, so it’s more work in preparation. Because parlez-vous français? Non. Not at all.

So that’s it with Morning Time. I will try posting about One-on-one time next week.

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Courage Take

I’ll let you in on a secret about teaching: there is no place in the world where it rolls along smoothly without problems. Only in articles and books can that happen.

-Ruth Beechick

The new school year began in June for our family. One of the best perks of homeschooling is picking your own schedule. Schooling year-round makes the most sense for us, with the general idea being tied to the Sabbath scheduling plan: six weeks on, and the seventh week off. This allots for more weeks off during December–a month to be devoted to Christmas traditions, celebrations, and seasonal studies–and a few extra weeks off in the month of May, preceding the beginning of the next school year. This is how it is all mapped out, quite prettily, I daresay, and then everything is roses and butterflies, tulips and ladybugs, and other such pleasant things.

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But then, oh yes, but then. The crisis hits. In truth our crisis began before our new school year did. Our crisis started the first week of May when I discovered water had been pouring through the kitchen floor, down, down, into our basement below. Subsequently after viewing such a disaster, I witnessed the water damage’s aftereffects in the form of sweaty mitigation men, wreaking havoc upon our home. It was quite horrific, seeing these strangers arrive somewhat uninvited, to crack off granite counter-tops, to tug and pull and drag cabinets out of sorts. They sledgehammered the sodden sheet rock, and tore back the carpet. They hacked, cut, then removed a large rectangle from our hardwood floor. The stench of burnt oak saturated our nostrils. It was an ugly, ugly sight.

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Only to get uglier. Now, over two months later, nearly all kitchen appliances reside in our living room, we have no working kitchen sink, and our house excretes the tenacious odor of floor varnish. Needless to say, we are living in chaos. Every room is a topsy-turvy disaster, an absolute sinking ship. And, to add insult to injury, our street has simultaneously been under construction. The baby is lulled to sleep by jackhammers, dump trucks, and other machinery. We often have early morning callers, pounding upon our door, ordering us to park our cars half a block away unless we wish to be confined, jailed in our own homes for that particular day. Imagine, carrying much needed groceries with two small children and an infant in a baby carrier, while weaving in and out of cement mixers and backhoes, grouchy construction workers, etc., a street away from your home, in 100 degree heat. It feels like some sort of grueling choreography: you are on stage, dancing around shifting obstacles, unaware of what steps should be coming next. And the audience doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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I almost wish I could have said, Enough. We are not homeschooling through this crisis. But here are the facts: homeschooling is the only thing keeping me sane. It yields the brightest fruits of my day. It provides full, restful joy, collaborative awe and wonder. And that’s the secret, isn’t it? To find rest and joy, awe and wonder despite all of life’s trials and tribulations. To acknowledge, to absorb, to drink in the beauties and blessings God grants us, despite the ugliness of an evil world.
This, this crisis, has been the greatest of gifts. I know now my own ability to homeschool during a crisis. The days aren’t exactly pretty; certain duties and tasks have fallen by the wayside. It is all so gloriously imperfect, and yet it’s given me a greater resolve to press on with courage, to pick myself up, accept my failures, and see them as opportunities for growth. This has been a lesson in hope.
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And really, as far as crises go, this is a relatively small one in the grand scheme of life. We are healthy; my husband has a job; we have support. But it would have been so easy to just call it quits and give up, nevertheless.
I can’t help but be reminded of the best kept secret I’ve learned during my homeschool journey:

Parenting is difficult no matter how your children are educated. It’s the teaching and learning together–that is what is truly enjoyable; it is one of the best things about parenting. Why rob myself of the best parts? The teaching and the learning? Every parent has to do it to some extent, but homeschooling permits parents to experience at great length the best kind of leisure with their children: the riches. What Charlotte Mason refers to as the riches. All the riches of an education, and we have the time to do them altogether. Everyday. The nature study, the picture study, the composer study, the literature, the art, the creation of handicrafts, the histories! Even science and math! How I love being the one to prepare a rich feast of ideas before the hungry minds and hearts of my own children. Even when they need baths, and haircuts. Even when there’s a dirty kitchen sink on the living room floor. Even when the poor middle child gets bit by a dog, or stung by a wasp. Even when the firemen show up at your house to tell you to evacuate due to a broken gas line. Even when preparing meals without a working kitchen feels two parts adventure, one part violating, we are in it together, learning and growing.

I’m not saying to not allow yourself breaks. That is another post in itself, how homeschooling is a lesson in mercy. And we have taken days off when necessary, never mind the perfect Sabbath schedule. But there’s something rather glorious about the battle, about soldiering on, about fighting the good fight despite the flesh wounds, despite the broken shields and dented swords. How effulgent and majestic it feels to persevere, to forge ahead through the trenches. And to do it side by side, with the people you love the very most. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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Pre-disaster.

Excuses, and Other Drudgery

Of course, one year has past since I last posted here, and what a year it’s been! I haven’t written anything for so long, and I’ve missed it dearly. So, naturally, blogging is the first step. Besides, my desire to talk and discuss the subject of home education has far from dwindled, and what better place to drone on about it? One reason for this blog’s abandonment was a lack of vision for what I really wanted to blog about. Yes, homeschooling, of course, but there are really different types of homeschooling blogs, and I needed a focus. Instructional? Philosophical? A diary? Also, even though I have paid some monies to WordPress, I discovered they still run ads at the bottom of this page, which irks me to no end, specially due to the fact I have no control over them. Or maybe I do, but I don’t think I do; but, that is a headache for another day, one I wash my hands of for the moment. So never mind that.

First things first, last year, George was born.

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Rather than delving into the details of his first eleven months, I will remark on how homeschooling with a baby isn’t that hard. At least not when the baby’s asleep. When he’s awake, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and other such hyphenated adjectives, well, that’s a whole different kind of story. And yet, when George graces our lessons with interruptions, I can’t help but be reminded of how all teachers, at home or inside institutions, are all gifted with such opportunities for practicing and acquiring patience. God is there, in the interruptions, too, perhaps even more so than during the most perfectly smooth of lessons. He is there, reminding you of Him, through these delightful, little crawling people. What a gift.

And I shall say this, we are reading a lot of classic Winnie-the-Pooh these days, so I am writing this entire post in my A.A. Milne narrative voice: British, a little upper crust of sorts, and quite cheekily, if I may say so.

The Baby Is the Lesson

Lovely layer puzzle by Beleduc may be found

Lovely layer puzzle by Beleduc may be found here.

This blog has been neglected due to the fact that I’m massively pregnant. I have seven more weeks to go. Charles and John were both winter babies; this is my first summer baby, and things aren’t very pretty to say the least. I’ve been extra sensitive to heat, and my legs are quite swollen by the end of the day. As much as I don’t look forward to the absolutely sleepless nights, I am eager to have our third boy exit the womb (when he’s full-term, of course.)

We’ve been spending a lot of time away from the house, which has been exhausting, but necessary, and sadly, I haven’t been documenting our adventures very well. I am putting forth a bare bones effort right now: 1) grow a baby, and 2) keep the other two happy and fed. You won’t find me doing much else. Our house is a disaster; meals are a sad affair; I haven’t pulled a single weed all summer; and a couple of people aren’t getting their daily baths anymore (I won’t name names). Needless to say, the boys are thriving. On the homeschool front, they are always learning, and I try to incorporate a few lessons here and there. We’ve been attending a weekly science workshop for preschoolers at the city library in Salt Lake, and lots and lots of time is spent outdoors. Our co-op is in summer mode, meaning we have park days, but no classes, so we still meet up with friends at least once or twice a week. I have also started doing lessons from this wonderful little book I picked up at a homeschool conference I attended in May. The boys enjoy it, and the activities are easy to prepare.

Charles is so excited for baby brother to get here; John is a little more apprehensive, I believe. They often incorporate a pregnancy storyline in their play, and they love to hug my belly.


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Loose Parts

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John (age 2) spent nearly an hour playing with Keva blocks, and small wood slices, or “tree cookies” as they are often called. He said he was making a train, then a truck pulling a trailer—the tree cookies were the wheels.

“Loose parts possess infinite play possibilities. They offer multiple rather than single outcomes: no specific set of directions accompanies them; no single result is inevitable.” -From the book, Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children.

One of my objectives for our play room has been to allow ample opportunity for loose parts play. The book mentioned above is chock-full of inspiration, providing many brightly colored photographs on loose parts play. It has made me think about creating loose parts invitations with intention, to consider aspects of line, design, color, and to seek out sensorial opportunities rather than just making it a free for all. Lately, when it’s time for a change, I’ve been grabbing whatever first comes to mind, switching out materials on a weekly basis. (I hope to put more thought into soon; however, even when it’s been so haphazard, there’s been some wonderful play happening.)

Loose parts play sounds so cheerful, in theory, but I will admit, the one issue I have with loose parts play is this: there can be a lot of clean up involved. So be selective about what materials are available at one time, unless you’re willing and ready to track down a lot of pieces (mostly if a two-year-old is involved). And yet, with long periods of self-directed play, a lot of learning is happening; sometimes you have to embrace the mess, especially when the child is so creatively invested.

More on loose parts can be found here, from one of my favorite blogs.

Felt balls, wooden cubes, glass stones, and translucent Geometric Solids. It's so pretty; who wouldn't want to explore?

Felt balls, wooden cubes, glass stones, and translucent Geometric Solids. It’s so pretty, who wouldn’t want to explore?

Pirates, tree cookies, sea shells, Magnatiles, and aquarium gems.

Pirates, tree cookies, sea shells, Magnatiles, and aquarium gems.


This post contains affiliate links.

This Week: Making Room for Spontaneous Learning

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This week we went to the zoo, attended the Tulip Festival, and of course, had our weekly art and gym co-op. A lot of our time was spent outdoors, playing and exploring, climbing and running. It’s easy to assume there wasn’t a lot of learning going on, but funny enough, with little to no effort on my part, a lot of learning still happened.

I failed to take very many pictures, but here are some highlights:

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Fractions.

Charles built some towers with our cardboard blocks, and he started a conversation about how four blue blocks equal one red block, and how two green blocks are the same as one red.

Learning place value.

I had a moment of intuition: I planned on doing a certain activity, but felt it wasn’t right. We did some spontaneous math instead. While doing this work, Charles said, “I really like this.” Typically when he gets excited about something, he jumps up and down, or his voice increases in volume with enthusiasm—behavior that sometimes distracts from the work at hand. So when he just grinned at me, and simply verbalized his enjoyment by saying, “I really like this,” it made my day.

First, we grabbed our math blocks and some number cards. I made a number with the cards, and asked him to show with the blocks how many ones, tens, and hundreds were in that number. Then, he built the numbers himself, and read the numbers to me.

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He didn’t want to bother with the math blocks after doing that a few times; instead he read the numbers and explained how many thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones were in the numbers. Over and over again. The bigger the better. It surprised me how quickly he caught on. And he absolutely loved it.

Let’s not forget about John.

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I have been allowing John to handle more materials usually kept out of his reach. He loves doing this version of The Silence Game, and I find it helpful with teaching patience, concentration, and mindfulness.

The boys have had some beautiful interactions this week; they feed off of one another’s imaginations, and have great conversations. I am grateful they are such good friends. John is always eager to learn more from Charlie, and Charlie is a kind and patient teacher. Most of the time.

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