Forgiven

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Yesterday I totally lost my temper with Nish. He was whining…and whining. Basically i was tired and felt he was being so difficult about everything. Refused to go to the bathroom before his swim, then wanting to go but not going..then screaming about his swim suit..Finally i blew my top and was really not nice in how i yelled at him.

eventually got all three boys changed and we got out of the building to head to the pool. Nish stopped to pick up a gorgeous paink frangipani flower for me and gave it to me with the biggest og smiles like nothing had happened. I sat down and gave him the biggest squash i could.

We need to be 4 yrs old too sometimes…and be able to see that someone loves us even though they may have shouted or been mean. to know that at the bottom of it all, it is okay. no ego hassles…no long term grudge holding…all simply sorted with a beautiful flower and a gorgeous smile…

Art inspired by books

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We have this lovely book called Peely Wally by Kali Stileman. We’ve had the book for a while now and several months ago we had done some art and craft inspired by the illustrations in the book.

Today, after a long time, Sid suddenly remembered Peely Wally as he looked at the piece of art we had done inspired by the book.

he suggested we try it again. So i diligently took their old sheets of painted paper and cut up some stuff for them to stick. Nish joined in and Amu was not to be left out. here is what they came up with. I made a few suggestions but allowed them to work at it how they wanted to. Tomorrow i want ot have them write a story about the picture…

But, it is nice to see that the boys are looking at and appreciating illustrations in their picture books…illustrations contribute in so many ways to stories, adding details, nuances, irony, parody, humor…extending the pact between the reader and the book to a level deeper than the just the narrative.

here is an image of what the boys came up with this evening. It is surprisingly neat given that all three worked on it together!
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Yummy snack…healthy too!

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Three boys = lots of random snacking. “What can I eat?” is something i hear at all times except at the table when they ought to be asking the question. Especially when i pick them up from school or summer camp they want something interesting to snack on in the car.

I am not a fan of junk food…chip type stuff on a regular basis is a no-no..yet i can only hand out that many apples or carrot sticks :)

Anyway, tried out something as I found a lot of white chocolate lying in my fridge. Wondering what to do with it (had bought it to make stuff over christmas but did not use any of it)…i thought i would try and make some healthy-ish snack with it (starting point it after all chocolate).

So basically, in a bowl, i took some rice crispies (had got them from a baking shop earlier), muesli, almond slivers, raisins, pumpkin seeds and some m&m’s i had lying around. Then i took about 180 gm of white chocolate, added a tsp of oil to it and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. took it out, stirred it a little and put in for another 30 on high. that was enough to melt the chocolate. I poured it over the mix (which was about 1 1/2 cups but i had not measure exactly. I realized when i did batch 2 that it is easier to pour the mix into the melted white chocolate and then mix it up well. I then dropped small spoonfuls onto a baking tray lined with butter paper and put it in the fridge to set for 10 minutes.

Super easy and a really delicious snack at the end of it. You can play around with what goes into the mix…kinda like trail mix in white chocolate. The boys and their friends demolished the first lot in the car when i picked them up and asked for another batch…so i have obliged.

am putting in a couple of pics…IMG_8284

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Report cards and reflections

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My baby went to preschool for almost 9 months…and his year of discoveries, explorations, friendships and exponential development was captured in a 2 page checklist and a small narrative paragraph. His folder gives me the tiniest glimpse into what his days might have been…but most of the artwork in there (too little and too neat) looks incredibly guided. Lucky for me my little chap likes to chat and generally babbled about his day when i picked him up…so i knew what songs they were singing or that he could count a little. Yeah…i guess at the end of the day, he is the report card.

I am not interested in a checklist which codes with a little tickmark whether my child is able or unable to do something. And this is where i find value in the portfolio system…as well as a more organic student led report system which can be ongoing.

The latter is something I experienced in the twins’ previous preschool- By the Sea (https://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/a-school-full-of-memories/)

At BTS they had a really nice system where parents or caregivers could come into school on fridays to pick up the kids. On Friday, kids would take their parents around the school, show them all that they had been up to…what they liked, what they were interested in, who they were playing with, special things in the school…and so on. So all through the year I had a really nice sense of what was happening with the boys. This was very informal and while it really was not set up to be a sort of report on progress…it was in effect exactly what it could be. And so, I got 2 incredibly interesting versions of the week because my twins were on such different trajectories…From one i found out about the imaginary play corner, another led me to the books they were reading…one showed me all the pictures they had painted (each one so starkly different from the other, beautifully unguided and imagined by the kids with complete ownership). another showed me what all he was doing in the sandpit. It was all with so much excitement and a sense of pride. And it created a wonderful connect with the teachers and staff as well!

The formal interactions for discussing kids progress over the year was also a wonderful experience. Teachers had detailed documentation and notes and it was such a lovely conversation. A lot more fulfilling than a checklist – i assure you…and it certainly captured the child and his growth in a much more competent and meaningful manner. This coupled with their bag of ‘work’ that came home every friday was great to give me a good glimpse into how they were developing and what they were learning.

Why do I feel that a portfolio is important? (first of all because i do recognize that there is worth in a progress report if it is done right and not as yet another task on a list of chores for the end of the year). Here are components I feel that a good portfolio tries to capture:

Assessments:
Things that capture the learning that has taken place …objectives that have been set up and met and a sense of how one arrives at this.

Children’s work: It is important for the portfolio to showcase authentic examples of children’s work. As a parent of a preschooler, I do not care so much about receiving a portfolio of art and craft that it obviously adult planned and executed and painfully guided in order to have a beautiful finished product. Like i keep on saying in my blogs…learning is largely in the process and not always so much in the product. I don’t expect the paper doggie to have two perfectly glued eyes…i know my 2 1/2 yr old cannot do that unless he is really REALLY guided and made to. I know he prefers giving most creatures three eyes (don’t ask me why…he does!)
Authentic independent art and craft work show me right away how is doing with his fine motor development, his cognitive processes, his imagination and creativity, his ability to take risks and try something he wants to. Teacher art work makes no sense for me to have in a portfolio.

Narrative is important! It tells a story, it provides a real context for what is happening and how it is taking place. Narrative for me is NOT a 3 line paragraph stating the obvious…”XYZ enjoys school and playing with his friends. He is social and likes music. It has been a pleasure having him in class” So impersonal if you think about it…applies to half the class and gives no real sense of anything does it?

Observations – if a preschool is set up right, with space for discovery, experiential learning and independent time, the teacher is actually able to spend some time making notes and observations. Especially if the desired student-teacher ratio is in place. These observations are really important to understand development and then validate the assessment criteria and objectives met in the first component of the portfolio.

Reflections: Along with the child’s work and teacher’s observations, it is important that the portfolio capture to some extent the student’s reflections and thoughts as well. This also brings us to the importance of conversations in the preschool classroom..most teacher-student conversations are directions, instructions or reprimands. There is very little authentic ‘conversation’ happening in a lot of preschool classrooms. It is important for these to take place for a variety of reasons…but yes reflections is one aspect these conversations can bring out.

Pictures: This may be an added cost, but it is good to have some images that capture some of the child’s experiences over the year.

This probably take more time than your standard checklist but it is something that needs to be ongoing and probably not something to be filled up over a couple of days and many cups of coffee. This is a year in the life of a child entrusted to you. Stand up for your self and your work, your children and your philosophy and share the wonders you work with parents and other teachers.

Let the report be something the next teacher can pick up and really understand the child with so she can plan and work with this student to the best of her abilities. Do it for your self, your students and for a more constructive learning and growing experience!

And thank you teachers for doing so much with my kids…i maybe critical of checklists but that does not take away from what you do with the kids, the hours of planning, infinite patience and oodles of love!

an evening at the beach

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myfourboysandme:

As summer break is coming up, here are some old posts that i am reblogging so we can have some ideas for things to do with kids this vacation.

Originally posted on myfourboysandme:

finally an evening without any rain…i would not go so far as to call it clear skies…but at least the grey clouds were not threatening to burst into showers anytime soon. So, we decided to hit the beach…off again to chowpatty!

We went well equipped…digging material – spades, shovels, bucket rake and we also took a sheet for the baby. The baby of course had very little intention of staying on the sheet…but it was used by me and my mum at least. The twins started out by digging and destroying (i thought of Calvin and Hobbes as i watched Sid gleefully destroy ‘mountains’ and ‘houses’ and ‘cakes’). 

Then Nish pulled out all his dinky cars that he had stashed away inside the beach toys bag and spent nearly the next half hour parking them in the san, around little mounds, in holes and in his crocs. 

In the meanwhile…

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Word Bingo

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The twins have started reading a little and I decided to have a fun bingo game to get them excited about it. It is super simple to set up. I took 2 sheets of paper and put their name on top of one each. Then on the paper I drew a 3 x 3 grid. In each cell i put a CVC / CCVC word (hut, bug, stop, plot, etc). So each of them had a sheet with 9 words on it. Most of the words were the same – but put a few different ones on their grids too. Then i made of list of the words on my paper, put in a few that were not on their list too. I gave the boys their papers and asked them to called Bingo each time they got a word. (Since this was their first time at the game figuring words out in a game too – i made the bingo part fairly non-challenging).

i was actually fun and the boys enjoyed searching for their words and calling Bingo with great gusto. It took some time to get started because Sid’s first response was to simply state that he did not have the word without really checking…but once he got the hang of it it was fun! Next time will make it more challenging and ask them to call Bingo when they find 3 words or something.

Will try it with number too one of these days. And I guess you can spiral it to meet your needs – math problems, countries and capitals, opposites, history dates…anything you may want to prep kids for or practice in a fun manner. I am sure this would make for a fun class quiz too!

The Process…

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We love art..at least all of us at home enjoy playing with paints and paper. It is always about the process for us…we often don’t have a fancy product to show for our explorations with paint and other art media. I have very few paintings framed on the wall…a lot of our art is cut up for other craft type activities. And yet…the exploration…the experience lead to interesting outcomes, perhaps not visible on paper but very much in the discussions and conversations that accompany and follow the activity.

Day before the boys were sitting and painting – excited about a new art set they got for their birthday. Since Amu had taken half the colors, nish and sid were left with blue, black and white. Nish played around, mixing white and blue to make lighter and lighter shades of blue. He was pretty excited to discover that the more white he added, the lighter it got. He knew he would get a lighter shade by adding white, but now he was able to explore degrees of light blue!

And then his little Eureka moment was when he added some black to the blue paint and discovered that he got a darker shade of blue. It was so cool to see that little light bulb moment!

So, once again…so much learning in the process…and the product? Well, here is all we really have to show for it:

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A fun and simple birthday party

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I like small birthday parties…simple ones that focus on the birthday child and his friends and the things he likes. I am not big on party entertainers and fancy decorations…it’s not about being frugal..it’s about looking at what one really needs ..and in our case simple works just fine.

The boys turned 4 this weekend and we did a small celebration at home. About 10 kids (and our 3 boys)…al the kids at the party were neighbors – children the boys see and play with everyday. The set up was simple. We had a sort of theme – superheroes because all three boys and into super heroes. So, I basically cut up adult tshirts to make capes and used felt to make masks for all the kids. I put these into a tub at on a chair at the door so each kid could pick one up as he/she entered. We had red, blue and yellow balloons all over the room and a spiderman bunting that I picked up in a party shop.

I put out our tractor mat, car mat and a lot of vehicles to go with those in addition to a kitchen set and some yummy scented playdough (a ball of chocolate playdough and another one that was orange colored and scented – https://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/delicious-scented-playdough/ , https://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/all-that-glitters/ – two playdough recipes) and we were set.

Food was again – simple…mac and cheese, raagi crisps, carrot and cucumber sticks and hummus, fresh popcorn, juice, potato chips, jello…and of course, cake! Everything (except the potato chips and juice) was made at home. We used the children’s everyday plastic ikea plates and glasses instead of disposable ones to minimize wastage.

The cake was easy to make and great fun to decorate. Made an enormous chocolate cake (round), made icing with butter and icing sugar and drew a spider web in white on the cake. Then, using marzipan, i colored the marzipan red, rolled it into a ball and then flattened it to make a spiderman face which again i decorated with white and deep blue icing. Placed the spidey face in the center of the web and then wrote happy birthday Sid and Nish across the web in blue.

Very tragically I have no pictures…because (ok i kicked myself enough already) i had taken the memory card out of my cam earlier that day and forgot to put it back in. So we took tons of pictures…but did not actually take them!

The kids had a blast. Since the majorty were boys, they were super happy with the tractor mat and cars which they played with for a long time. Then it was onto the play dough and I am so glad that I had kept the play dough out in the balcony because boy did we have a play doughy mess at the end of the party! But the kids kept busy and the adults could sit down and have a sane conversation without having to bother at all with the children!

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We also had made a spiderman pinata and I gave the boys plastic raquets to try and break it. Lots of jumps and whacks later one of the mums punched the pinata and it exploded confetti and candy all over the kids…of course there was a scramble to collect as many as possible! I loved how one little girl ignored the cansy and chased after the flying confetti instead.

After the pinata was broken

After the pinata was broken

The boys were so happy and excited all evening – i am glad we kept it simple and focused on them! I enjoyed every minute of it too!

I am asking my friends for pics…some of them were taking photos on their pones…so hopefully i will have a few to put here in a day or so!

Stealing childhood? A rant

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I was in a bookstore the other day when I came across flash cards for 1 month old and 3 month olds. That was not a typo…I did not mean to say years…i wanted to say months…as ludicrous as it sounds, we need flash cards for newborns and infants. So they can identify 58 pictures by the time they are 5 months old and read a hundred sight words by the time they are 2…or whatever. Why on earth? Is there any research that shows that a baby who can identify pictures at 5 months is likely to be more successful than one who doesn’t even start trying to do this till much later?
Apps on the Ipad, television shows, early tutoring classes, flashcards and workbooks, special help for preschoolers…what are we trying to achieve? Our kids have so little time outside of the world of formal school and then structured living by societal rules and norms, why can’t we let them have their few years of free play and exploration? Their time to discover the world by lying on their backs and watching the sun and the moon and the stars…the birds on the trees and flowers and plants? Why can’t we allow them to be who they are, to discover themselves through the experiences with all that is around them..why define them to fit into the boxes we want them to fit into?
As we rush between school and tutoring and classes, between a zillion camps and flashcard piles and competitive exams..are we forgetting what and who they are? children! Can we plesae step back a little bit and give them their childhood back? Please?

What makes a superhero???

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The boys are big time into super heroes…spiderman, superman, batman and a bunch of other ones. It’s more because of their peers I guess – they have not watched a single super hero cartoon or anything and we don’t have any books with them either. yet, the boys love these men of steel with their incredible powers and cool outfits. They dominate so many of their conversations and often creep into their imaginary play.
Sid loved the batman costume our friends gave him and sometimes even wears it downstairs to play. This year for their birthday they wanted a party that had superheroes as a sort of theme. I decided to go with it and have tried to work the theme into their little party tomorrow with all their friends from our building complex.
Since Sid was so keen on Superheroes, I tried having a conversation with him about them. Here is how it went.

Me: So you like superheroes
Sid: Oh yes I love them!
Me: What is a super hero?
Sid: He is like spiderman or batman..he can fly even
Me: So, what makes him a superhero?
Sid (with absolutely no lead time): His clothes…he has a cape and a mask
Me: That’s it? Just his clothes?
Sid: Yes i think so
Me: So anyone can be a superhero if they wear the superhero outfits?
Sid: Yes anyone can be a superhero
Me: If you wore a superhero costume you think you could fly?
Sid: Yeah…i think so…but i will be a super hero then
Me: What do superheroes do?
Sid: They fight bad people…they catch them and then shoot them sometimes or tie them up (sudden pause and deep thought) Then…does that make them bad people too? Because shooting is not a good thing right?
Me: Yeah i don’t think it is a good thing
Sid: So superheroes are actually BAD? (deep thought again) But they only catch the bad people so that we stay safe and don’t get hurt so they are not so bad.
Me: So you think they are not bad then?
Sid: Yeah … i can be a super hero too. If you push me high on the swing then i can fly.

And cut….end of the discussion as other conversations took over! However, it was interesting to see how simple it was to turn into a superhero…decided to take that and tie it into the plan for their birthday party…so have made superhero capes and masks for all the kids. Let’s see how many metamorphose into superheroes tomorrow!

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