Sunday, September 28, 2014

Parenting Month 47: What class should I take?

Over the past month, as we have been preparing for T's fourth birthday, we've been finding out that a number of his peers have started attending various enrichment classes. This being American upper-middle class suburbia, this includes various sports, dance, art, music, and other subjects.

Drawing on the chalkboard
Drawing on a chalkboard at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
We are aware of some options. At various points over the past few years we have thought about things like swimming, kung fu, or ballet, but in the end we have not done anything about it.  Our tiger mom/dad credentials are in jeopardy! So we started to think about it.

Realistically, we are looking at the weekends, as noone is silly enough to try to do anything with pre-schoolers at night. So that means Saturday/Sunday morning/afternoon.

Next, look at what we do now. Saturday mornings Grandparents get A, S teaches, L takes T and does one of two schedules  (1) go to a museum followed by lunch (museum often includes running around a nearby park or the sports zone (if the science center) or (2) Home Depot/Lowes project plus park/playground/Barnes and Noble.  Saturday afternoon is a nap, then play in the afternoon (which often includes things like drawing or piano)  Sunday morning/afternoon has church then grandparents take T for nap and play. A is with us in the afternoon and goes with L when S teaches.

So we have really three time slots to use. Sat morning is when L currently takes T out. Sat afternoons are naptime and when S gets to play with T. Sun afternoon is a naptime.  

Now, someday, Sun afternoons will be taken by chinese school, but right now that is not going to work since T is too tired. Next question is what would the current schedule be replaced with.

There is a piano hanging in the sky. What a strange place to put it.
There is a piano hanging in the sky. I can't play it because there is no bench to sit at.
A class for a preschooler is generally 1/2 hour.  Figure 45 min~hour to get to whereever it is (including any packing/prep to go), and the same amount on the way back.  So a class occupies a 2+ hour time slot.  Currently a Sat morning museum trip is 45 min each way, 1 1/2 hours there, 1/2 hour for lunch.

Realistically, a class would be replacing the Sat morning trip, or Sat afternoon. (Sun afternoon is being reserved for a future chinese school, as all the chinese families in the Pittsburgh metro area have seemed to have decided to coordinate their schedules that way) i.e. it either replaces the core of daddy school or eats into mommy school. So what would that tradeoff look like?

Currently, daddy school bounces between the Natural History Museum, Art Museum, Science Center for science and culture, Home Depot and Lowes for hands on woodworking projects, and leavened with playground or walking in the woods time (with a bookstore being the backup). Mommy school currently consists of piano and working through a workbook.  Grandma/grandpa school focuses on drawing and going to the park/playground/swimming.

But while a class would focus on learning skills and doing things with others, we are probably getting more than just learning skills. We get a chance to learn and push T in the things we do with him. In museum trips we get to be a safe harbor for helping him interact with the museum staff and others. In the various stations we get to push him to do the things that are just a little harder than what he can do (and does at preschool), and we get to celebrate when he gets it done. At Home Depot and Lowes we can push him to do things harder, and he can see some of the other parents doing almost the entire project so he can tell that this is different. And we can link what he does without outside the house to inside the house, where he enjoys putting things together.

In the end though, we are going to do what we are doing for now, and the real reason is practicality, we think that signing up for a class and committing our schedules (we take advantage of the flexibility to change from week to week) is too much hassle over what we do now.  And we somewhat think that the time we spend with them is something we both enjoy, and we may actually know something about what we hope T is learning.

Look at all of the birds in the lights
Let's count how many birds are up in the lights.

In other news, the "I can't do it" period for T seems to be subsiding. We've been fighting the recent introduction of that phrase by encouraging and celebrating competency, in anything and everything. And he gets a kick out of doing things like playing piano (he has two songs down), drawing (every now and then it looks like something), LEGO (he is starting to be able to figure out the instructions himself), and tools (we (well I) have started letting him use a knife and scissors in the garden and to prepare food. And he is astonished at it, when he is done it is almost like he is thinking "did I just do that?!"

We are starting to think that T is actually reading. We have always figured that when he was reading, he actually just memorized the book in question or is making up a story to go with the pictures. But these past two months we have observed him figuring out words to books that were new to him, and at the museum reading out animal names that are compound and figuring them out (e.g. ground hog).  Also using phonics (i.e. sounding out the letters in a word, then realizing that this is close to a word he knows).

T has become a lot more talkative in the past month, both at home and at school. One reason is that he is now one of the older kids in his class, and he has been more comfortably talking around the younger kids (he likes to play teacher and explain things to them). Another is that he is just a lot more social, probably just a part of growing up. And there is a girl a few doors down that he plays with, and she has been a non-stop talker upon getting home since she has started kindergarden.

A is also a babbler. She likes to babble when she is happy, and she also has the big eyes that like to look around like T did when he was a baby. But we also see the benefit of not having colic. A got to the looking around at the world and babbling around earlier than T did. Generally, no colic leads to a very happy and easy to care for baby (grandpa is very happy, at this time, he was pretty sure T did not like him).  We also think A is being sneaky. She clearly is figuring out different people are better for different things. It is most obvious with grandma and grandpa.  Grandpa is better for carrying. Grandma is better for playing and sleeping.  And A is not shy about making preferences known.

Next stages.  Mommy and daddy school is starting to get more directed. Mommy has several workbooks and curricula.  Daddy is going to introduce drawing across all the museums that we go to.
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