I should’ve known better. Just because she “mastered” something a few months ago doesn’t mean I shouldn’t return to it. But that’s what happened. As soon as Isabelle mastered basic patterns, I stopped working on patterns at home. Because, you know, there are about 50 other things that need to be worked on. I should’ve revisited them, at least a little bit, but patterns seemed to slip my mind since other things like /l/ blends and writing uppercase letters seem to be more top-of-mind these days.
Yesterday, we were playing with pegs at home. There was a purple peg, then a blue peg, then a purple peg, then a blue peg. “What comes next?” Isabelle couldn’t answer. She didn’t realize the purple peg would come next in the patterns. We tried again with different colors. Again, she was unable to correctly answer which peg came next. My heart sank. Why couldn’t she generalize the pattern work we had done several months ago to what she was working on now?
This morning, I walked into Isabelle’s play room where she was playing with Legos. I inserted myself into her play using errorless teaching to help her with identifying patterns with the Legos to minimize frustration. It worked, but she didn’t really want to do patterns.
“I don’t like patterns. Patterns are not good!” Isabelle declared.
“Oh, I love patterns. Patterns are so interesting. And they’re everywhere. Look at your dress. The polka dots are in a pattern?”
“Yes, they are. They repeat over and over again.”
“Oh. Well, I still don’t like patterns. Patterns are not good.”
“I used to teach my fourth and fifth graders about patterns. They loved learning about patterns. In fact, I have a book I use with kids when I work in schools about patterns. It’s a book for bigger kids so I’m not sure you’d be interested in it.”
I gave her a sideways glance. She was looking at me so I continued.
“It’s a book about patterns for big kids. I used it with some six- and seven-year-olds this year. Would you like to see my big kid book on patterns?”
I was expecting a no. But instead I got a “Yes! Show me!”
Even though we were going to be a little late for camp if I showed her the book, I hustled to my office to grab I See a Pattern Here by Bruce Goldstone. She loved the full-color photographs on the first two page spreads, which is all we got to this morning since it took her awhile to complete the bead patterns, using the errorless teaching method, on the page spread pictured above.
“Would you like to look at more pages now?”
“After camp. Let’s do patterns after camp.”
“Okay,” I said. “Go get your socks and shoes on.”
We got through two page spreads of Goldstone’s book with no yelling and no tears. We have a long way to go, but at least she was willing to work with me this morning, right?
I slept with a night light every night until I was 12. And not one of those four-watt jobs. I mean a lamp that pumped out something like 40 – 60 watts of light into my childhood bedroom while I slept.
I was afraid of the dark until the summer of 1989. I attended a summer camp that didn’t have electricity in the bunks. And I don’t mean no overhead lights. I mean not even a single electrical outlet! I slept with my flashlight for the first four weeks of sleepaway camp. By the middle of the summer, I stopped hugging my flashlight like a stuffed animal and set it on the shelf behind my head. I didn’t like the dark for a long time, but by 1990, I stopped wasting electricity and switched over to a four-watt night light in my bedroom.
More than 25 years after I’ve gotten over my fear, I have to admit I didn’t understand what was so scary about Indian Echo Caverns, where I took Isabelle on a tour with one of her preschool friends today. After all, there are over 1,700 lights inside of the limestone cave. And I was right there, holding her hand the entire time.
Her unease turned to discomfort when the guide turned out the cavern lights (with advance warning) so we could experience true darkness. I held both of her hands just before the lights went off. Three or four seconds into the darkness she cried, “I wanna go home!”
The guide sensed her unease and tried to placate her by saying something. It didn’t work. She cried again. “I don’t like this!”
I bent over, felt her curls touch my lips, and kissed her head. “You’re going to be fine. The lights will be back on in just a minute.”
It was probably only 20 more seconds, but it felt like we were in the darkness for an eternity. As soon as the lights flooded back on, I looked down at Isabelle. Her body was leaning against my belly. She cocked her face towards the ceiling and just stared at me. She wasn’t crying, but she looked so small. And then she smiled a half-smile and said, “I didn’t like that, Mommy.”
“I know, sweetie. But you’re fine now. And it’s light again.”
She recovered quickly. She asked to leave a couple more times, but made it to the end of the tour without any real hysterics.
I don’t know if I would’ve been as brave as she was when I was her age.
Isabelle has been thinking aloud a lot., which is great. I want to hear what she has to say. I really do. But I am trying to reframe what she’s talking about. Why? Well, that’s because she has a keen eye for spotting and pointing out portable toilets (That’s what she remembers from the concert we took her to on the West Lawn of the Capitol in May. Not the incredible music or the tributes to those who have served our country. Nope, she remembers the portable toilets she saw.) and trash on the ground (Ever since Earth Day she’s been agahast whenever she sees litter.)! I bet you’d be a little frustrated if your child was constantly pointing these things out, wouldn’t you?
This afternoon I decided enough was enough. I embarked upon a new motto, “seek beauty,” when we’re out and about. It’s very simple. Look for things that are beautiful in the world. Notice those. Share it with the other person.
Here’s a listen to our first conversation about seeking beauty. (NOTE: I hit record when we were in dead-stop traffic. I pulled over to the side of the road to end the recording.)
American Flags. Flowers. Houses. Now those are things worth noticing. I still heard about one more portable toilet (which I ignored) on the way home. And she did point out some rubbish on the ground, which appalled her. But she also noticed more pretty flowers and a neighbor’s American flag on the ride home. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll talk her into this seek beauty thing after all.
Why do “Mommy, look!” Isabelle ran towards me with a paper in her hand. “I drew a picture for you.”
It’s not a picture, I thought, it’s just some letters.
“What did you write?” I asked, reframing what was on the paper.
“I wrote b’s,” she beamed.
“Are you sure you wrote two b’s?” I asked.
“Yes. I write uppercase B and lowercase b,” she declared.
“You did write an uppercase B, but this is not a lowercase b.” I pointed at the letter in question. “That’s a lowercase p.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
There were a million different ways I wanted to answer that question, but she wouldn’t find the humor in any of them so I went for the high road. “Yes, I’m sure. Let me show you what a lowercase b looks like.”
At that moment, I figured Isabelle would run away. [We’ve been having a rough time with compliance (her’s, not mine) since I returned from my week away at the Highlights Foundation.] But she didn’t. She followed me to her craft table where I grabbed a marker and showed her — on the same sheet of paper — what an uppercase B and lowercase b looked like.
“I have something I’ve been keeping on the mantle that can help you tell the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters. Want to see it.”
She surprised me — again — when she said, “Yes!”
I retrieved the framed Kit Chase ABC print I framed and stuck up on the mantle in her playroom for someday. Today was that day and, by golly, I was tickled pink. We went through the entire alphabet, noting the uppercase and lowercase letters that were the same and the ones that were different. I thought she had it by the time we arrived at Zz. But I wanted to link it to what she was doing at her craft table. So, in typical writing teacher fashion, I said, “So today and any day you’re trying to write a lowercase letter, you can look at this chart if you’re not sure what it should look like. This chart will remind you of what each lowercase letter looks like. I’ll leave it on your craft table so you can check it when you’re unsure of what a lowercase letter should look like.”
She’s a long way away from writing lowercase letters independently since she’s still trying to master writing uppercase ones. Nonetheless, her curiosity led to me giving her a tool, which I hope will help her as she wants to do some more writing.
I’ve driven a few hours north of my home to write (read: hopefully finish my book) at my home away from home this week.
I’m here with two fellow Slicers: Michelle Haseltine (who is also doing an Unworkshop with me) and Lee Ann Spillane (who won TWT’s #SOL15 Commenting Challenge and happens to be here this week)! Margaret Simon was supposed to be Unworkshopping with Michelle and me, but she had a family emergency she had to attend to. (We miss you, Margaret!)
It’s 8:30 p.m. on night one of my Unworkshop. I haven’t done a lick of work yet since it took me longer than usual to get here today. My goal is to finish my book and send it to my editor by Friday. (It’s due to him on July 15th.) And that should be possible since I’m in the editing and polishing stages. Plus, it’s super quiet here!
Isabelle sent me off with one of her stuffed animals (again) so I have another little project to work on this week. Somehow Hop-Hop will have to have some kind of adventure this week. Not sure what that will be yet. Right now, I have to focus on getting my writing done!
With that, it’s off to work I go. I hope I emerge on Friday having birthed a book. We’ll see…
You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t have time to write a real slice of life story today. I’m in the midst of revisions for my forthcoming teacher-education book. It’s 95% written (YEA!), but needs lots of revisions! That’s what this week and next are for — revision and editing. (I’ll treat myself to writing the acknowledgments — so I can be 100% finished writing this book — as soon as I revise two more chapters.)
Right now, school is out. My mother has come into town to save my tuchus this week. Isabelle is spending the morning with my mom so I have a quiet house in which to work. However, it isn’t all-revision all-of-the-time. There are so many other things to do, which I don’t have the time to write about right now. At least not this week. Such is life.
So you’ll excuse me for not writing a true slice of life this week. As I sit here, still wearing my pajamas at 11:48 a.m. (because that’s what writers can do when they work from home!), this is all I can muster up.
Okay, then. Back to work!
On the last day of preschool
I forgot to take your picture.
But it’s okay
since you swiped my phone
and took 31 selfies
when I went upstairs
to brush my teeth.
On the last day of preschool
I drove myself to Starbucks
ordered an iced white mocha
and read a professional teaching book
for over two hours.
On the last day of preschool
I exercised in the middle of the day
because my hand
hurt too much
for me to sit and write.
And I don’t know when
I’ll have the chance
to do that for a LONG time.
On the last day of preschool
I ate my lunch
and devoured popcorn
because you weren’t watching.
On the last day of preschool
I gathered your rest mat
and change of clothes
and bathing suit
and wet towel
and loaded them in the car.
And even though everything
needs to be washed
it can wait ’till tomorrow.
On the last day of preschool
I held your hand
when we ambled to the car.
I wondered if
you will hold my hand
on the next
a year from now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about preschool writing ever since my TWT colleague, Dana Murphy, shared her daughter’s writing on TWT last week. Maddie, Dana’s older daughter, is about 14 months older than Isabelle. Maddie starts Kindergarten this fall. Isabelle has another year of preschool to go. Developmentally, these girls are in different places.
I know better than to compare Isabelle’s writing to Maddie’s.
But I’ve been coming back to Maddie’s writing quite a few times since Dana posted it. (I even shared it with my husband, who was impressed and amazed by the words Maddie wrote on the page. I was impressed by that and the level of detail in her illustrations.) And every time I do, I wonder, will Isabelle be able to write like that by this time next year?
Now here’s where I’m going to stop to talk directly to my parents, in-laws, and husband who I know will be reading this in the next 24 hours. I am not comparing Isabelle to Maddie. If I’ve learned anything about parenting in the past 4+ years, it’s that I should never compare my child to anyone else’s. Isabelle learns at her own pace. She always gets there — in her own time. My purpose for posting this in a public forum, not on the family-only blog, is to get some feedback from other early childhood educators I know. I’m hoping to get some suggestions from them about how I can work with Isabelle at home. Anyway, back to my post.
Back in October, Isabelle received her journal in school. We had the pleasure of inscribing the first page. Here’s what one of her early entries looked like:
I went into her classroom in November and February to work with her on her notebook. November’s trip was a semi-disaster since she didn’t want to work with me. February’s work was better. Take a look:
Better, right? She drew the picture and talked with me. I wrote what she said and labeled the faces.
Here’s a small sampling of her work from February – present:
We had Isabelle’s parent-teacher conference with her teacher today. She made note of some things that show progress in the area of writing:
- Isabelle has developed a more positive attitude to non-preferred tasks, which includes anything that requires her to sit at a table — like writing.
- Isabelle is becoming more confident and in control of writing utensils.
- Isabelle has become more interested in writing. She has been creating illustrations that are more representational and often tells about events of experiences from her own life.
These are all FANTASTIC things, some of which I’ve noticed progress with at home. But I’m worried.
- I’m worried because Isabelle had no interest in starting an at-home story journal with me a few months ago. (I’ll try again once school is out this summer.)
- We’ve been practicing oral storytelling at home since I know talk is the step before drawing and writing.
- I’m worried the journal work she’s doing now isn’t showing a clear trajectory of growth (as evidenced by the 5/29/15 piece, which feels like a step backwards). While I see growth from November, I’m still concerned.
- My personal goal for Isabelle is to be able to tell a story across three pages in the early part of Kindergarten. (I realize that’s over a year away. A lot can change in a year. This video represents what my expectations are of Kindergarten students.)
- I’m worried that she isn’t using what she knows about stories (and we read a lot of books!) and bringing that forth in her writing.
And I know she’s only four. And I know she has another year of preschool. And I know she needs to play and socialize and learn how to ‘do school.’ And I know she may grow up to be more like my husband (a math and science person) than like me (the ELA/SS person). And I know I don’t want to force her to sit down and write because that would kill the joy of writing she may find on her own in a year or two.
I know all of these things, but, yet, I worry.
My daughter was an uninvited guest at a gay wedding and I’m 100% okay with that.
Let me backtrack: The three of us traveled to Washington DC for Memorial Day Weekend. After spending Saturday walking all over the city (i.e., from Georgetown to Foggy Bottom to the White House to the Smithsonian Castle to the National Gallery to the Metro Station and then back to our hotel!), we needed to take a little rest before dinner. Isabelle didn’t want to nap (Shocker!) so we allowed her to play quietly while we laid down.
I heard beautiful string music coming from the courtyard outside our hotel room. I peered out the window and discovered a wedding procession. “Isabelle, come look! It’s a wedding!”
Isabelle scurried over to the window as the flower girls made their way down the aisle. Next came the ring bearers. “The bridge will be coming out next!” I squealed.
The music didn’t change as a young man walked down the aisle escorted by a slightly older woman. Where was the bride? Once the tuxedo-clad man and the woman who was escorting him down the aisle arrived in front of the minister, the music stopped and the minister had everyone sit down.
What’s happening? Why is everyone sitting? Is there going to be some kind of break before the bride walks down the aisle?
I looked at the minister to see what he was doing next and that’s when I realized there were two men — both in tuxedos — standing in front of him. A same-sex wedding. How would I back-track from the bride thing and clarify to Isabelle what was happening? And that’s when I made a connection to a book I’m thankful she picked up in my office and has had us read to her over 50 times.
“There’s not going to be a bride,” I started.
“No bride?” she asked.
“That’s right. Remember how Stella had two daddies in Stella Brings the Family?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Well, this wedding is kind of like Stella’s family. Before Stella her daddies probably got married. This wedding has two grooms and no bride.”
“Okay,” she said.
Isabelle watched the wedding for a few minutes and then went over to the hotel room desk to color, peeking out the window every few minutes to spy on the wedding. She returned to the window for the recessional and then watched the new family’s photo session after the ceremony was over.
* * * * *
On the very day Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage, I assumed the wedding taking place in our hotel’s courtyard was between a man and a woman. It’s 2015 and I feel badly for that, but my assumption is probably because of the way I saw marriages growing up. I didn’t have to have a complex conversation with Isabelle about why there were two men at the altar, rather than a man and a woman, since she knows families look different from ours. We’ve had those conversations because we read Stella Brings the Family to Isabelle after she begged me to read it to her once I finished writing craft lessons for it for my forthcoming book. Initially, I thought the content would be too sophisticated for her, but reading the book led to important discussions. I realized reading Stella to her at age four was a good decision since it allowed her to learn about different family dynamics.She accepted the same-sex wedding. Unlike those who oppose gay marriage, she doesn’t think there’s anything weird or unholy about what the two men were doing in the courtyard of our hotel on Saturday afternoon. I’m sure she’ll have questions about gay marriage as she gets older, but for now, she accepts it. And I am thankful.
Isabelle accepted the same-sex wedding she witnessed. Unlike those who oppose gay marriage, she doesn’t think there’s anything weird or unholy about what the two men were doing in the courtyard of our hotel on Saturday afternoon. She saw two people pledge their love to each other as she watched from our room. While I’m sure she’ll have questions about gay marriage as she gets older, she accepts it now. And I am thankful.
My kid, on the other hand, is four going on 94! And I’m not sure I should brag about that. She’s the kind of kid people often refer to as “an old soul.” Case in point, this morning, after she guzzled her chocolate milk at breakfast time, she said, “I’m cold.” But it didn’t end there. A sweater was not within reach (She always requests a sweater if she’s cold!) so she snuggled into me until she warmed herself up.
- Isabelle and Molly walked into the park holding hands. Sarah and I pushed their strollers (which you HAVE to bring to Hersheypark since it’s hilly and kids get tired from all of the walking). We noticed them lagging behind. I turned around and noticed Isabelle and Molly chatting it up with a throng of people trudging along behind them. (How kind it was for no one to try to pass them!) There were about 20-30 people being held up by two four-year-olds who were just looking around, chatting, and enjoying the scenery. The girls didn’t have a care in the world about who they were holding up. And while I could say Molly was equally responsible for walking slowly, I know she was being a good friend and keeping up with Old Lady Isabelle who prefers a slower pace so she can take in the world.
- Isabelle and Molly, both four, insisted on holding hands most of the time they walked around the park this weekend. It’s a cute little girl thing to do. But it reminds me of my grandmother, who Isabelle is named after, since she always liked to hold my hand or my arm in her later years when we walked together.
- Isabelle doesn’t pay attention while she drives. I took her on the Classic Cars at Hersheypark and her eyes were everywhere except for on the road on which she was driving. Thankfully, there’s a track to keep drivers like her from going astray. Google “‘century village’ ‘pool’ ‘car'” and you’ll understand why this relates to older folks.
- Isabelle loves rides that spin around (not so old ladyish), but she detests roller coasters (because she’s an old soul).
Long, lingering hugs. Those are the kinds of hugs my daughter likes to give. It doesn’t matter if you’re a character at Herhseypark or a friend, Isabelle will give you lots of hugs — repeatedly. It’s hard for her to stop hugging, especially when it’s time to go. Kind of like the way my grandmother never wanted to let us go when it was time for us to depart after visiting her.