Monday, April 28, 2014

Runaway Imagination and More...

Conversations with Eli have gotten to be very....interesting.  His imagination has been running away with him a little bit lately. Yesterday, he told Patrick that he wanted to kidnap all of Santa's reindeer and eat them for dinner. Then, he wanted to replace them with cows (that Eli would teach how to fly).  THEN he would eat the cows....and build Santa a flying car.  This was out of the clear blue...and has become very typical.  Last week, he wanted to cook and eat the Tumblebus...and he said that he would cut the tires up really small, so they wouldn't be too chewy.

Notice a theme?  Most of his imaginary play is with cooking/eating food; the rest is generally about building or making objects.  As each day passes, his play gets more creative and complicated. He went from only making "pancakes" with his play dough to make different types of meatballs, pancakes, okonomiyaki, eggs, etc.  He also loves to pretend to play baseball.  Not so much running the bases, but throwing the ball with great aim and trying to hit the ball when it's pitched to him (we use a small foam bat and foam ball). He was in hysterics last night when he connected with the ball for the first (and second) times ever.

I tried to interview him for a new post to see what kind of crazy answers he would come up with to my questions...but mostly he got very silly and answered all except one of my questions with "peanuts."  The question he answered was "what do you want to do later?"  He wanted to watch a movie (right now he is loving The Jungle Book).

He's also into working on his reading words. I supplemented his Montessori pink words with two phonics books that feature Elmo and Cookie Monster....he is LOVING those....and is currently teaching himself beginning/ending word sounds from the books.  I thought about starting him on the Dolch sight words, but generally, when I interfere with his independent learning (especially in reading) he gets irritated with me : ).  He is also loving to write letters and words. For about a week now, his favorite new letters to write have been "H" and "F".  We recently made a birthday card for his grandpa.  I had Eli write "Happy birthday Grandpa" by himself. I wrote it first, in large print, on a piece of paper. Then Eli took a stack of index cards, wrote one letter on each card (using different colors of notecards and markers), and we used metal brads to connect the cards. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Counting with Eli

Eli has been interested in counting again lately. I knew that he was making progress with his counting, but didn't quite realize how high he could count. That is, until last night, when Eli was practicing. He was bored because adults were talking and he started counting to himself and being silly. I kinda tuned him out for a moment, but when I realized that I was hearing "41, 42, 43..." I paused. When Eli got to 49, he continued "21, 22, 23...". I kinda broke him out of his counting by explaining that FIFTY comes after 49, not twenty, and helped him continue for a few numbers. He laughed and said I was silly, then started over again at 1. I listened to him carefully (while pretending not to listen at all). He got stuck at 17. I tried to help him, but he growled playfully and said, "I can do it myself!". He started the sequence again at 1. After saying "12", he began saying "one-three, one-four, one-five, one-six, one-seven, one-eight, one-nine, twenty."  He continued to 49 again.  I was still in surprised silence from hearing him describe the teen numbers (in terms of how they are written) instead of using their names. I did explain the names for the numbers in the teens, and then started talking to Eli about skip counting by tens (so that he can learn the names for numbers in the 50s, 60s, etc). He really wasn't interested, so I decided to wait for another day. He then asked me if I could count to 100 : ). I told him that I could, and that one day I would teach him. He likes to put his number cards in order (usually smallest to biggest), and I've started working with him with Montessori bead materials (mine set is a mixture of decimal mods and homemade materials). 

On the literary side of things, Eli has been very proud of himself for really getting good at writing his letters. He has a hard time with letters that have a lot of curves (like capital "B"), but letters that are formed with vertical and horizontal lines (like E, F, H, L) are easy for him. He is learning to manage letters with diagonal lines (like X and A). He is truly learning how to put together words, but mostly with letter tiles (he's not hand writing words other than his name).  He is still learning that letter order matters (and that they should be placed left to right). This will come as his reading improves, though....and already has dramatically improved over the course of the last year. He likes to work on sounding out simple words. We often ask him what he thinks words start with or end with by their sound, and he's usually right : ). Spelling words (slowly) for him often improves his pronunciation since Eli really knows his letter sounds. Montessori materials really seem to appeal to him and allowing him to use them when he wants has dramatically increased the rate at which he's learning.

It's alarming how quickly he picks up information.  If you cannot tell, we've been using a lot of Montessori materials and techniques lately. I'd actually started with this last summer, with sensory activities I found on Pinterest, but we've snowballed into using a lot of "academic" activities, too.  I like that (educationally) everything is decided by Eli...what he wants to work on/learn when he's ready/interested in working on it. We have materials set up across the room from his toys, so he can always choose a learning activity or free play time with his toys. I've also been reading a lot about Montessori's methods, and they are very, very effective for Eli. We plan on continuing using these methods for as long as possible, and I will try to start posting some of the activities that we use often.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Oh My, Oh Me, Look Who's 3!!!

Oh me, oh my, how time flies by!

What a delay in posting about Eli's birthday!  I'm very sad that this post took so long, but here it is at last : ). 

Eli at 3:

He is 26.5 pounds and almost 3 feet tall (he needs another quarter inch or so). He's actually gaining on the growth curve; when he came home he was well below 3rd percentile for height/weight.  By his 2 year old check up, he'd reached 3rd percentile. Now we are around 5th percentile for height and weight.  Yay!

He is very, very independent and confident. He likes to do things by himself as much as possible, and we encourage him (within reason).  This includes dressing himself, making some choices about his clothing (including choosing many of the clothes I buy for him to wear), and making choices about his lunch (occasionally helping make his lunch).

He has a strong, innate sense of responsibility. No joke. Eli is very careful and listens to/follows directions very well. Usually.  Recent exception: at his 3 year old check up, where he followed directions until about 10 minutes into his physical. Then he decided to get goofy....really HYPER and in, the doctor won't be forgetting us any time soon.  But usually, I have a child who doesn't mind cleaning up toys (and even places his clothes in the dirty laundry at the end of the day), treats breakables with respect, and who remembers his lunchbox and backpack every day. 

He adores routine and order...and freaks out (just a little) when we don't follow our routines.  Eli loves his routines. I've posted (and pouted) about this before. Nothing in this arena has changed. Sometimes Eli melts down when our routines change, and sometimes he accepts our explanations.  It often depends on how tired he is, as to how he reacts.  To date, breaks in routine and NOT allowing him to do certain activities independently have been the only true tantrum triggers.

He has a lot of respect for plants and animals.  He is very gentle and sweet with our pets and with other animals. He has become proud of his "bossy" voice that he uses with the horses and dogs...and is thrilled when they immediately obey him. He loves to play with the cats (and has been known to play 45 minute long games of "chase the stick" with our cat, Z). He loves being near the horses, and is learning to ride. He enjoys being around our dogs outside, and especially likes walking Rocky. He is also very gentle and caring toward his garden plants. Eli is very consistent with reminding me to help him tend the garden, and it was truly adorable to watch him plant spinach. He carefully took each of the 9 plants from its tiny plastic starter pot, dug a hole, placed the plant in and "tucked its roots in", all the while telling the plants to get some good rest so that they could grow good tomorrow. He has also celebrated each day that our azaleas have a few more flowers : ). He has become able to tell some plants apart by their leaves/flowers, and usually uses the correct names for the plants he knows. When he was picking out plants for the garden, I told him we had room for 3 types of plants (1  pack of each). We got what he asked for, then he asked for more plants (he really seemed to want dusty miller and begonias). I explained that we didn't have room for more which point Eli found his inner Tetris-master, rearranged the plants in our cart and said (rather exasperatedly), "There, now there's room for more." I got the giggles, but managed to explain that we didn't have room at home for more planting. Eli's still a little peeved that I didn't plant any cucumber.  BUT he's very proud of the plants he picked: spinach, chives, parsley, and Impatiens.  And yes, he picked out what he wanted...and in true 3 year old fashion declined all of my suggestions.  And yes, somehow we came out with 4 plants instead of the 3 I'd planned...I do love Impatiens, though....I don't think it was a hard sell for him.

He is experimenting with new, not-so-cute behaviors (thankfully, none of this has lasted very long).  This has included biting, pushing, kicking, hitting, and/or body slamming other kids his age...and he has experimented with not telling the truth a few times, too. Eli seems to be learning what honesty is. I don't think he truly understands the concept yet...but we are definitely making progress.  For the most part, he was telling us that he didn't hit (or kick, or...) when he actually did.

He is very sweet....and very stubborn. 'Nuf said.

He loves logic and when things "make sense." He also loves puns/word play, and is a bit of a 'smart aleck'.  Seriously...and sometimes he gets frustrated when he really thinks he's right about something and he isn't.  He often wants explanations for how things work and we often here the question "Why?"  Sometimes, Eli's just trying to make conversation, but oftentimes he really wants an answer to his "Why?" Last week, my husband got tired of Eli asking how straws worked and explained the physics of creating a vacuum. Eli enjoyed this!  I don't think he truly understood the explanation - but he likes to have a genuine answer.

He talks....a LOT.  As in, he talks all the time...sometimes in his sleep. Sometimes, it's cute. Sometimes I need a break.  The funniest part is that Eli was initially referred for speech therapy when we came home from Korea...because he really wasn't speaking (even in Korea, he was saying only 2 words).  Patrick and I decided to wait a few months to let Eli adjust before jumping into anything, and for us, it was the right decision. A couple months later, Eli began speaking a few simple words, then jumped into putting together sentences almost overnight. The wildest part is the amazing clarity and diction he has for his age....and his ability to repeat himself or explain his meaning in other words when his listener doesn't understand.  The biggest issue here is that Eli often interrupts or talks over people; we are working with him to understand how to take turns in a conversation.  I think this is going to be a challenge for him...

He has a wonderful singing voice.  I love hearing Eli sing. He sings songs from school (which are okay), but he brought tears to my eyes today when he was singing the chorus of "Place in This World" (Michael W Smith, but also sung by the VeggieTales) with the CD player. Such a clear singing voice combined with Eli's innocence...and such a powerful message in the song...I am actually starting to cry again thinking about it.

He has a fantastic memory.  No kidding.  Better than mine. Eli can remember events from 6 months to a year ago. He can tell you about an episode of Batman that he saw on TV a year ago without any trouble. The game "Memory" is no challenge at all...this has come in very handy for shopping lists : ). It's the true reason Eli learns so quickly.

He likes to use tools, put things together, and figure out how things work.  Eli could spend the day in a hardware store, browsing and playing with tools and learning how to use them. He loves to put things together, use a hammer, screwdriver, paintbrush, a name it.  My grandmother got him a pull-a-part plane for Christmas. He has pulled it apart and put it back together numerous times. His favorite part is that it has a plastic "drill" to put in the large plastic screws and bolts : ).

He is a beginning reader/writer. Eli began reading almost at the same time he began speaking. He started only with sight words that he specifically asked for. He then began reading the alphabet (lower case first), and developing new sight words from memorizing their spellings. Then he started to learn high-frequency words in his favorite books (such as green, eggs, and, ham) and learning beginning phonics (letter sounds). Lately, Eli has progressed into sounding out words, recognizing two or three word families (like words that end in "at": cat, rat, bat, hat).  He enjoys occasionally trying to write letters or words, but often likes to use magnetic letters or letter tiles to make words that he sees in his books. He can write most letters of the alphabet fairly clearly, but lately he's not been interested enough in writing for me to see what he can do. Like many things, he goes through phases where he's really interested and wants to do nothing else...then he is not interested at all for a time.  We are generally careful to wait until he wants to work on reading/writing. There are a few apps that we have gotten, though, for long car rides or for long waits, that he LOVES...and they are reading based.

He has great number sense.  Seriously. I love it. Currently, he's using it to learn to dial phone numbers, tell time, and figure out counting patterns. While Eli often still gets stuck between 15 and 19 while counting, he can occasionally make it to 30. I started showing him how place value works with Montessori-style decimal mods, but he was only interested for a few minutes, and hasn't looked at it since. Hopefully, he'll get interested again soon. Like everything else, he kinda cycles through times when he's interested and times when he's not.

He adores his family....and dearly misses Lee, Miyu and Emma (in Japan).  His respect for his Grandpa and Grandma borders on hero-worship.  Seriously. And his current favorite afternoon activity is practicing dialing everyone's phone number just so he can talk to them.

He truly loves movies - and going to the movies.  Any movie.  He can repeat parts of movies, summarize them, and remember them months after he's seen them.  We recently rented "Frozen" on our DVR (LOVE, LOVE that movie).  Patrick and I hadn't seen it, but Eli had. He realized a few minutes into the film that he'd seen it before with his grandparents at the theater. He still thoroughly enjoyed watching it again, but he knew what was going to happen before it did!

He really, really wants to go fishing.  He keeps asking. We're not sure why he has such a sudden interest - it's been nearly a year since he went last time (we didn't catch anything). Someone might be getting a fishing pole from a certain Easter Bunny...

He loves being a part of the 'big boy' Sunday school class at our church.  He had been in the 2/3 year old nursery until recently. We decided to let him move into the 3/4 year old group at church. He loves, loves, loves it. And while our 2/3 year old children's church teachers are awesome, he is learning even more from the "big boys' class".

Oh, and last - but not least, as the cliche goes, - Eli has boundless energy, eats like a grown man, loves to go places and explore EVERYTHING...