Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Tuesday in Detail

I have been trying to write a detailed post about our preschool for weeks. Something like this or this.

As I have said many times, I consider our whole life an education, and am reticent to call one block of the day "preschool." The kids are involved in everything we do and are absorbing information and honing skills all of the time.

Nonetheless, we do have a few times set aside each day for academic and artistic activities. As a public service to my readers (and as a memento for me) I took notes on our activities this morning (Tuesday).

Our day is loosely structured by task (see here for our full routine). Other than assuring that Agent 002 gets on his bus, we do not worry about what time it is throughout the day. In fact, I neither wear a watch nor have a clock visible for most of the day, so none of this is precisely timed.

I start my day packing lunches and serving breakfast. The Agents dress themselves and sit down as they are ready to eat; the Cousins arrive just before 7 ready to eat breakfast. This morning I pulled out a bag of waffles that I had frozen a month ago. As each person was ready to eat I popped a waffle or two in the toaster.

Agent 002 is usually up around 6 with me; for only the second time this year I had to shake him awake at 7 to make sure that he was ready in time for his 7:25 bus. Although he was still drowsy as he dipped his waffle sticks in honey, he was outside in plenty of time.

Since I was alone for nearly an hour this morning, I got the chance to make lunches and mix up bread dough before the breakfast rush began. This really helped me to have a much calmer than average morning.

The girls play while I tidy the kitchen. This morning they built a "doghouse" by draping towels from the mudroom bench. Agent 004 walked her dog (Cousin F) though the house. Cousin P alternated between playing with them and hugging my leg. When he joins in, the girls call him the "neighbor."

Once I have completed my morning routine, the girls clean up their toys. This is usually just before 8am.

Ten minutes later (or 15 if one of the girls balks as she did this morning) the four of us convene in the Red Room. Cousin P sits on my lap and Agent 004 and Cousin F sit on either side of me on their mats (repurposed baby blankets). We start with the sign of the cross, then a sung prayer. Cousin F chose the prayer this morning so we sang six verses of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." After the standard first verse we sang "He has the flowers and trees in his hands, "He has Baby P in his hands," "He has F, 004 in his hands," etc.. They really enjoy having their names in the song, and I hope that they get a sense that God cares for them. Cousin P babbled along with the song and gesticulated madly this morning.

He went off and played in the pool of rice while F, 004 and I looked at the calendar together. I reminded them that yesterday was Monday, September 29th, then asked them to tell me today's date. They told me that today was "Tuesday," but it took some prodding (and counting it all out) for Agent 004 to tell me that "30" is the number after 29. She then noticed that there is no "31" in September, so we looked ahead to the October page in the calendar.

After the calendar, we cut one link (#32) off of the paper chain that shows how many days until Halloween. It was Cousin F's turn to cut. She then taped the link onto her wrist as a bracelet.

Agent 004 led us in a singing, pointing rendition of the ABC song. She used a straw filled with rice as her pointer, and did a perfect job of matching her pointing to the letter we were singing. Cousin P came over and pointed at various objects on the wall as we sang.

This seems like a lengthy routine as I typed it, but in reality only 5 or 6 minutes had elapsed since we sat down for prayer. After this group time, the kids sit down for table work.

I strapped Cousin P into a booster seat and gave him a small bowl of paint (flour, salt and water), a paintbrush, and a piece of construction paper. This is one of his favorite activities so he happily sploshed for about 4 minutes before I removed the paints and gave him wooden blocks to stack. This activity was much shorter-lived (90 seconds?), but I let him sit for an additional two minutes while I worked with the girls at the table.

We pulled out individual blocks from the bucket and identified the shapes together. Agent 004 then did two worksheets applying her knowledge of three-dimensional shapes. Other than confusing spheres and cylinders, she knows them very well. Cousin F redid a lesson in her Kumon Tracing book.

Cousin P played happily in the rice pool for the next twenty minutes. He poured rice through toilet paper tubes into a metal coffee can, giggling at the metallic tinkle each time. He also shook a peanut butter jar that one of he other children had filled with rice. He would occasionally move his feet back and forth to hear the rice rubbing against the bottom of the pool. Sensory bliss.

For floor time, Cousin F dressed the lacing bear (Melissa and Doug Lacing Bear Dress-Up), then moved acorns from one basket to another with a spoon. She attempted a shoe lacing activity (Alex One, Two, Tie My Shoe), but put it away quickly in frustration and asked me to set up cornmeal tracing.

Agent 004 did a dinosaur puzzle, then stacked blocks into a wall. She tried to remove one block at a time Jenga style, but was getting frustrated because the whole stack would fall. It took her a while to figure out that this only works if the stacking is with overlapped layers. She wanted to use the Brown Bear felt set, but balked at cleaning up the blocks first. By the time she had cleaned up it was time for our morning activity. In fact, F and P had already gone into the living room, and she was only allowed to join them once the blocks were cleaned up.

Our schedule says that our morning activity on Tuesdays is housecleaning. What this really means is that the kids watch a short movie while I try to catch up on laundry. We popped in Cousin F's library selection from last week (Teletubbies - Bedtime Stories and Lullabies). I dumped the clean laundry on the loveseat and folded while they watched, danced, and occasionally grabbed something that I had just folded. I did not finish, but I did manage to go through 2/3 of Mount Washmore. In case anyone was wondering, the Teletubbies are INANE! This is the first (and probably last) time we have ever watched one of these videos.

As the video was winding down I heated up a pot of homemade chicken soup with rice. We ate that and crackers for lunch. As soon as I had finished my serving I started reading our lunchtime book selections -- Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months (of course) as well as Leaves. It was very cool that Agent 004 noticed when I inadvertently skipped a page. She did not know which month comes between March and May, but she did know that one was missing.

Like usual, Cousin P started to doze in his high chair while I read. The girls are responsible for cleaning the kitchen while put Cousin P down for nap. Don't be too impressed by this fact -- after they bring their own bowls over to the counter, one of them wipes down the placemats with a wet rag while the other one puts away stray items. They don't accomplish a whole lot, but I think it is good for them to have some responsibility commensurate with their age.

Once the kitchen was cleaned we messed it up again. Our after lunch activity is often unstructured art, but today we made two small pans of peach cobbler. This project was inspired by the appearance of two cans of peaches in heavy syrup in our pantry. I just couldn't stomach giving them something so sweet as "fruit," so I figured that we might as well use it in a dessert.

The girls chopped butter while I collected the other ingredients. I tried to save time by creaming the butter and sugar right in the baking dishes. Not such a good idea, especially if a three-year-old is manning the mixer. I'll need to wash the butter off of the walls and cabinets tonight....

After a potty break, the girls went upstairs to their beds. They each grabbed a stack of books, then settled in as I sang three songs -- A Place in the Choir, Puff the Magic Dragon, and Red is the Rose. As I type this both Cousins are sleeping soundly, but Agent 004 is playing quietly with the Littlest Pet Shop in her room. I take that back -- Cousin F is awake but playing quietly in her bed. I went upstairs once to get her out of Agent 004's room.

Quiet time is my time, but there is a lot of work that I should be doing. Not typing up the nitty-gritty details of my life, but living it. I did manage to run the dishwasher as well as bake the peach cobblers and a loaf of rye bread while I have been typing, but I did not make the salsa or tortillas for dinner like I should have, nor did I finish folding the laundry. Oh, well.

I freed the girls around 2pm. I brought all four laundry baskets up to put clothes away as well as set out pajamas and clothes for tomorrow. P woke up while I was working and I brought him up to play. They chased each other through the three connected bedrooms. I admonished P for opening the drawer to Agent 002's private toy stash several times.

We came downstairs and had snack. The girls cut bananas, feeding some to P as he requested it. "DAT!" We also had pretzels. I put clothes into tomorrow drawers and emptied the dishwasher while they ate.Cousin F and Agent 004 went outside (my only involvement in their preperation was to spray the bug spray). They pretended to put leaves back on tree like in lunchtime story Leaves. P was still chomping away at snack. I met Agent 002's bus. He waved a note from his teacher in front of me. She said that he worked very hard in school today and did a wonderful job in his handwriting book. He ate snack, I cleaned up snack, 002 went outside, I got P ready and dumped the compost.

I worked on vegetable beds while the kids played on swings. This is one of those projects that would probably only take 20 minutes if I did it undisturbed, but I have been working on it for the past two weeks. P splashed in abandoned flower pots and dug holes in the garden.

Two of the kids were getting out of control, so I took a break to read Reader's Digest on the glider swing knowing full well that I would not be alone for long. Agent 002 pulled his reading books out of his bag and read us a book (This is Pickles). The girls LOVE when he reads to us.

I rolled up one of the garden hoses, interrupted 437 times to direct P away from the front of the house. I really need a fence.....

Agent 002 started spearing leaves with a stick. He called them marshmallows. Then he built a fire ring out of stones, filled it with logs and pretended to roast marshmallows. The girls joined him and admonished P when he got too near, "No! It's hot!"

They went back on swings. Gnats were something fierce. Even with coating of bug spray I could see bites on Agent 002's face. I later realized that one intrepid gnat had climbed inside of my shirt to bite my upper arm.

My sister arrived around 4:45. We went inside with her to update my calendar with some of her schedule changes and to get her a peach cobbler to bring home.

The Agents continued to play outside while I started dinner. They came in a few minutes later to watch Curious George on PBS.

George ended (as far as they know there are two George stories each day. I have not lied, but have selectively withheld the information that there are in fact four stories each afternoon). I was still working on dinner. Agent 004 pretended to be a be a ghost and chased Agent 002 through the house. Then she noticed me shucking corn and wanted to join in. Agent 002 was disappointed that I had no more ears for him to work on.

Once the corn was in the pot, the Agents went back to their play, this time taking care of their babies. They wrapped Baby Pink Bear and Grover blankets and pushed them through the house in doll strollers. Agent 004 "read" them a few books. At one point Agent 004 told me that she needed to go to a meeting and left her baby with me. "Grammy, I am going to a meeting, you take care of my baby."

Mr warillever came home as I was finishing the salsa. At this point (5:35) I decided to forgo making tortillas from scratch for a 6pm dinner, and emptied a half bag of corn chips into a bowl instead. I really should have been working instead of blogging this afternoon. The corn chips were a fine accompaniment for refried beans and salsa anyway. The cobbler was very good.

During dinner mr warillever told us about the new cases he is working on. Agent 002 told us about his playground escapades and made sure that mr warillever read the wonderful note he brought home from school.

The Agents cleared the table. Mr warillever went downstairs to do some work on a heating vent. Agent 002 took a shower independently while I swept the kitchen, mudroom and back hall. Agent 004 put away stray objects from around the kitchen, then sang along with the Fridge Phonics and paged through some of the books in the book basket.

I cleaned the bathroom while Agent 004 took a bath. Agent 002 played with the Word Whammer. He finally seems to understand that putting a vowel in the middle is the easiest way to build a 3-letter word. He even sounded out a few of the words before the machine read them to him.

Mr warillever brough the Agents upstairs for book club. I scooped lumps from cat litter, brought the garbage and recycling to barn, then sat down at the computer to jot down the second half of this post.

My day is not complete yet, though. I still need to fold a few more loads of laundry, find all of the library books to be returned tomorrow, and take a shower. Hope to be upstairs by 11.

In reality I got upstairs at 11:35, then read (The Omnivore's Dilemma) for the next 45 minutes. All in all a very good day.

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