Wednesday, July 24, 2013

School and stuff

Our day started bright and early when Miriam fell out of bed. Andrew put her back to bed and got up for the day since he had to leave the house by 6:30, anyway, to help sort food for the bishop's storehouse. I got up soon after that because I had to have Rachel up and moving by 7:00. Miriam apparently never went back to bed and was eager to get up when I went into the girls' room to wake Rachel. And I guess we made so much noise getting ready that Benjamin decided to begin his day as well.

Thankfully he slept through the night. That was not the case the night before when he joined me and Andrew in bed. I woke up in the middle of the night and instead of having my little boy snuggled comfortably beside me I found, to my horror, that I was clutching his ankle. The rest of his body was dangling over the side of the bed! And he was fast asleep!

I don't know how or when he and I managed to get in that position, but there we were, his head mere inches from the floor. I always put extra pillows on the floor when Benjamin's in bed with us because our floors are hardwood, but Benjamin hadn't even made it that far. I was worried about how long he'd been dangling upside down, but there's no way to know for sure. He seems fine though...

After we dropped Rachel off at the bus we came inside and got some laundry started before going out to do some weeding. Andrew came home while we were weeding and decided he'd mow the lawn. I took the kids inside because Benjamin was acting like a baby who needed a nap. After several failed attempts at getting him to go down, I decided to lie down with him. He takes his best naps that way.

When Andrew came in, Miriam was happily watching Tangled and Benjamin and I were snoozing away together. He showered and then took a little catnap in Miriam's bed while she prepared an elegant meal for him.

The rest of the day was spent working and playing, as days are usually spent.

I picked Rachel up from the bus stop (while Miriam and Benjamin were both napping (crazy! I know) and she wanted to play outside, so Benjamin and I went outside with her while Miriam stayed inside to help Daddy make blueberry pancakes. We enjoyed watching a very brave butterfly sip nectar from our zinnias. That butterfly didn't have much in the way of street smarts, and it has battle wounds to prove it (both its "tails" are missing). Whenever we approached it it would flit over to the next flower or ignore us altogether. Ordinarily butterflies aren't this brave...

Rachel even reach right out and petted it, though I told her that butterfly wings are very delicate and aren't meant to be touched. She allowed it some distance after that, though she wondered if she could catch it. We decided against it since the butterfly was so happy in our garden.

Rachel's been enjoying the school year so far. Right now they're in the middle of "Kindergarten Color Days," where the school sends home a calendar for the children indicating what colour the kindergarten classes will be studying when. To support the kindergarten classes the entire student body does their best to arrive at school color-coordinated. It's just a fun little thing they do that everybody gets excited about. Today was green day. Tomorrow is orange day.

The colors are pretty easy, though we did have to send Rachel to school in the church dress she got for her birthday since it was the only grey thing she owned. I don't know what we're going to do when we get to shapes! My friend Aimee said her son duct-taped the shapes to his shirt last year... I'm not sure I'm that energetic. We'll see.

Rachel is very proud to say, "We do it to support the kindergarten classes. We already know our colours."

I still can't believe how old she's getting. Here she is giving Benjamin a lift so that he can watch the butterfly (which is sitting on that orange zinnia if you can't make it out). He finds butterflies fascinating.

We played horseshoes for a while. It's still so odd to me that PE is a "special" class that Rachel goes to once a week for 45 minutes. Her PE teacher sent her home with a note that said, among other things: "To ensure that your child gets at least the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily, he or she will have 30 minutes of recess daily at school and will be encouraged to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity outside of their school day. I encourage you to allow your child and better yet participate with your child in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity each day."

I have no problem encouraging my children to be physically active. Miriam, Benjamin, and I did ABC Yoga today while Rachel was at school, and then Rachel and I went in the yard and played horseshoes after school. We routinely do physical things (yesterday and Monday we went to the pool) as a family. And, frankly, I don't know how I would make it as a parent if outside time didn't exist.

Honestly, though, we can only give our children 30 minutes of recess each day? And only one day a week where they go to the gym with an instructor and actually learn how to exercise? That's the best we can do?

I'm not going to say that Canada is the best example of what can be done, but I will give a shout out to them (Hi, Canada!) for their QDPE program. That stands for Quality Daily Physical Education. That means that everyday Canadian children in public schools get more-or-less regimented physical education. I'll admit that some days the quality of instruction was lacking and all we did was run laps around the gym. But we studied all sorts of things, from cross-country skiing to basketball to ultimate to lacrosse. Curling, gymnastics, dance, jumprope, football, soccer, skating, swimming, track and field. We had PE everyday. And we also got recess.

Physical activity is not only good for your body; it's good for your brain.

I don't think the question here is if we can afford to give our students time to be physically active during their school day; it's whether we can afford not to.

This year I'll just be thankful that Rachel seems happier with recess. It's much more child-driven. She gets to choose what to do and who to play with. I'm thrilled to bits about that because recess at her old school sounded like the prison walks that Bates went on in Downton Abbey. Seriously.

Anyway, I don't mind having to exercise with my children. But I do wish they'd do more with the kids at school. Last year I was always so frazzled trying to squeeze in dinner and physical activity and reading time and journal writing and homework and chores all before bedtime. It just didn't seem possible to do all that in the 3.5 hours I saw Rachel between getting off the bus and going to bed.

So this year we've moved bedtime back an hour since Rachel doesn't seem to require much sleep and was always in bed awake for at least an hour after putting her to bed anyway. We still try to get her in bed around 8:00 but then she still has an hour to read to herself and write in her journal and get good and tired before "lights out."

And tonight we got some of the best news ever!

I went to the parent orientation and her teacher announced that he doesn't typically assign homework. Everything he does in his classroom is based on research and research shows that homework in elementary school is, at best, pointless. So, aside from reading he has no regular homework.

Can I get a whoop-whoop?

After spending so many hours sitting in a desk, my girl does not need even two minutes of homework to do at home. We can find our own enriching activities to do, thank you very much! Her activity of choice is usually reading.

Funny thing about her school library... The librarian won't let her check out chapter books. So she reads chapter books at home and chapter books in her classroom but when she goes to the library and asks to check out a chapter book she's told she can't and is pointed to the picture books.

Rachel loves pictures books, but she was also looking forward to seeing what chapter books she had access to at school.

Her teacher said that children at her age should be given literature that is at their level or even a little easy for light, enjoyable reading. They should be interested in the book and know most of the words. Rachel can read almost anything though. When we do family scripture study she reads things like "notwithstanding" and "verily, verily" without even stumbling. She reads aloud fluently and when she reads on her own she's able to demonstrate adequate comprehension (at least in my opinion). I think she's doing just fine with chapter books; we'll see what her teacher says when he sends home her reading report (which should be soon).

We always do a graduated story time, anyway, with some short books for Benjamin. He's then welcome to get down and play or stick around for the picture books Miriam (and sometimes Rachel) have picked out. Then Benjamin and Miriam are both allowed to play or stay while we read a chapter or two from whatever it is we're working on. Right now we're reading The Magician's Nephew.

And then the kids go to bed and read in their beds. We're getting plenty of reading done over here, which is good because according to Rachel's teacher, children who read a lot learn a lot.

Tonight after we'd finished with the picture books, Miriam and Benjamin played in the boxes from the canning equipment that came earlier this week. I couldn't help but pause story time to take some pictures.

Miriam eventually moved into her own box. She was rocking in it to make it move across the floor.

With the box all to himself, Benjamin decided to practice standing (my foot's on the box to keep it from tipping over when he'd inevitably fall over). He was doing such a good job!

Both he and Miriam had a bit of trouble getting to bed tonight (probably due to Miriam's nap and Benjamin's second nap) but they did finally make it there. Rachel's the only one who has to be up in the morning and she was asleep soon after turning out her light. 

Here's hoping the rest of the school year goes as smoothly!


  1. We still have a month until school begins. Sigh. It's been fun having the kids around but they need more structure in their days, as do I. I'm glad Rachel is enjoying her year so far. Sounds fun!

  2. I keep thinking about Mrs. Bienert and all that homework, because some kids have nothing to do but sit and watch TV..."I didn't expect Nancy to actually DO all of it!"

  3. That is my favorite picture I've ever seen of Andrew. :)

    Great butterfly pictures!

  4. I hope I'm a better librarian at my upcoming new job and let the kids who are ready for chapter books in first grade go ahead and check them out. As an early reader myself, I can understand needing better and more challenging reading material.