Our early learning curriculum

May 10, 2013

in Early Learning, glenn doman, Home schooling, Kodaly, Literacy, Maths, Raising children, Reading, Singapore Maths

What are we doing on a daily basis? I wish I had a set structure already, but it is impossible with such young children, so on a day to day basis it still seems random and haphazard, even though on a weekly or monthly basis I feel we get a lot done. For example today, I baked a cake with my 2.5 year old daughter, took both kids to the library, took my older daughter to her ballet class (the baby was watching), then a friend from her ballet class came over for a playdate. While I brought the baby to bed, my toddler helped her daddy unload the weekly shopping, and then she played quite a few apps on the ipad. I’ve discovered a nice sorting and matching app that is great and she enjoys a lot. Then we read a lot of books together and she also finally fell asleep. So even though it was all random, it was a good day. But it still helps me to know there is more of a method and a structure as they grow up, and using certain programmes and having an idea of the longer term plan helps me get over the bad days. I like to keep it flexible on a daily basis depending on the weather and how we’ve slept though! Whenever it’s nice outside we try to spend all time outdoors, and when the weather is bad (which happens very often here!), I try to do educational games at home. So here’s our programme:

Physical development
I’ve been very much influenced by Glenn Doman’s book Fit Baby, Smart Baby (previously called How to teach your child to be physically superb). So this means lots of tummy time for the little baby and it has worked wonders. She could turn front to back at 3 months and back to front at 4 months. She can also stand with minimal support already (just holding her hands for balancing) and almost sit. She is crawling already at 4 months as well. We bought a yoga mat so she can move around better. For my 2.5 year old daughter, I make sure she spends minimal time in the buggy – we only use it at noon when we want her to fall asleep! Otherwise, I walk to kindergarten with her leaving the buggy at home, so she gets a 30 minute walk that way. The days she’s not in kindergarten, we go to the playgrounds a lot where she loves climbing frames. She’s extremely good with them now through lots of practice. Even at home, I let her jump on and off the sofa as much as she likes and we do silly things like crawling on and off the sofa together, chase each other through the house. She also does ballet once a week which she loves. We also like to play ball but she still can’t catch a ball, her reaction is too slow. Long term, I’d love for both my daughters to do martial arts so they can protect themselves. There are classes starting for 4 year olds, though most serious karate schools don’t recommend starting till 6, so we may just do ballet and gymnastics till then to build flexibility.

Musical development
When my first daughter was born, we always played music in the background, mostly classical music (a lot of Bach while she slept) but also world music (Khaled, Cesaria Evora, Charles Aznavour, Rokia Traore…). I spent hours and hours singing songs to her for bedtime. Many lullabies but also Spanish love songs that are soothing (I loved singing Antonio Machin’s Cuando me besas and Angelitos Negros). As she grew up, we attended a few music classes where I learnt all the English nursery rhymes which was very useful for me (Incy Wincy Spider, Grand Old Duke of York, Row your boat and so forth). She started ballet lessons at 2 years and love them. We have a guitar at home and play with it together. Sometimes she is silly and wants to throw coins and lego into my guitar, but she has also learned to hold it and to play the strings. She’s very curious about the guitar. She takes toys and tennis rackets and pretends they’re a guitar and starts singing songs on them (“hello, everybody!!! hello, everybody!!!”). We will start on BrillKids” Little Musician programme very shortly. This is set for two years. In two years, my daughter will start weekly Kodaly lessons at a famous music school here (I know it sounds crazy but you actually have to sign up about 3 years in advance!). I still like to play classical music in the background although I must admit we are doing it less consistently now. I will dedicate a separate post on all my favourite pieces one day. I love Eastern European classical music that has a lot of rhythm and fire. Like Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody, Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody. I like playing Chopin and Mendelssohn and Max Bruch. Bach is mainly for sleeping and relaxing. We sing a lot together as well, my little one loves it, as soon as I start singing she starts laughing, it’s very cute.

I started reading with my babies from very early on as I described before. We probably spend an hour per day reading children’s books. The books change over time. For a few months, we were reading Gruffalo over and over again. Then Don’t Forget the Bacon over and over again. Then the Topsy and Tim books. Now my daughter loves Peter and Jane books (which are sort of like flash cards using the English language’s 100 most common words). We go to the library every week to keep changing books because I get bored very quickly! We also have many books about animals and my daughter’s animal vocabulary is great, she knows words like aardvark, macaw and chameleon. I’ve started making flash cards and try to do them at least once per day but it doesn’t come naturally to me, I still feel a bit stupid doing this (and I am hiding them as my family would kill me if they found out!). I have checked out the Little Reader software trial but felt it was not interesting enough for my 2.5 year old so I will just read proper books with her, even if this means she might learn reading later. I let the older one watch Monkisee videos on youtube now and she loves them – I might buy the DVDs though again I am not sure. I come from a very literary family so I am still not fully comfortable using computer based reading apps, even though I believe it speeds up learning. It worries me that it captures children’s attention so much more. I have noticed as soon as I started letting my daughter use the ipad more (a couple of months ago, also because now there’s another baby and sometimes I need to distract her so I can bring the little one to sleep), her interest in books has diminished massively.

We haven’t done much maths yet, other than counting to twenty and counting objects. Now I am starting to familiarise her with the concept of addition and subtraction and I notice she gets it. The other day she said “there’s three babies; two and then another one”, I was very proud. We also sing songs like Sesame Street “Counting till Four”, “1,2,3,4,5, once I caught a fish alive” and “zoom zoom zoom we’re going to the moon, 5,4,3,2,1, go!!”. These ones we sing for the baby every day as well. I am taking it easy here at the moment as I was extremely good at maths so I am comfortable about what to do later on. My mother and my aunt always gave us lots of maths exercises and games when we were young to learn number bonds and times tables, so I know where to get started when they’re a bit older. Once she is about 4 I want to start with the Singapore Maths programme (I will probably skip the kindergarten books and just start with the school books). The textbooks are really expensive here, but luckily I have friends from Singapore so I am hoping they can pick the textbooks up for me in Singapore next time they go. I am researching lots of maths apps as well. I had a lovely adaptive Fisher Price maths calculator that gave me question increasing in difficulty depending on performance when I was a child, and I am trying out a few maths apps myself now to find the best ones for my kids. For maths, I have no problem believing in the benefit of using technology. I also just purchased the book “The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics” which I will use to teach myself more strategies that I can later pass on to my daughters (even though I only want to introduce them to shortcuts later). I have also purchased a Soroban (a Japanese Abacus) after seeing amazing videos on youtube (like this one and this one).

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