Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hot Cross Buns

Typically, I say he won't play nicely for a video and he does this...

Soft Mozart

Music is Nikki's big love. He still periodically asks me for a violin (the other day he wanted a trombone, too) but I have decided that he will not be starting any other instruments until he is 5 or 6. This is partly because there is no Suzuki teacher (or anyone else who would take on a three year old) locally and partly that the only instrument I feel even vaguely able to teach him is the piano - despite never learning it myself, there are loads of videos in the SM forum that let me figure out the correct fingers to use before I do a song with Nikki.

We are getting back into a rhythm with our Soft Mozart lessons again. It has taken a while to get back into it since all learning went out out of the window before Christmas, but he is now once more in love with his keyboard.

He has developed a general idea of which notes are where on the keyboard, and though he is still very dependent on the key guide, he looks at the right note almost every time. He often sings along, too. His favourite is definitely the Guess Key game, which familiarizes him with the note sounds and where to find the keys. He would play all afternoon if I let him.

We are now just starting Gentle Piano. This is the core program of the SM software, but Nikki hasn't really wanted to do it before. I think it is because there is less fun animation and a slower, specific pace that he isn't too keen on following. When playing a tune in Gentle Piano, you have to keep a hold of a note until the note moves up the screen (which, I guess, teaches note duration without adding the confusion of different note shapes for the absolute beginners) but Nikki is impatient and gets frustrated if he presses the right note but it doesn't move on because he didn't hold the note long enough. So we took a long break from the Gentle Piano and let him keep practising the notes and having fun, rather than turn piano practice into some form of torture.

So, back to the present, Nikki is now willing to at least try a song a few times on the Gentle Piano game. He plays the right hand of Hot Cross Buns with one finger very well and is trying very hard to figure out how to use the three fingers he is supposed to but they don't always listen to him.

He enjoys ordering his do-re-mi cards and singing along to the Note Alphabet song and I really should actually print off the Kingdom of Tune book to read with him (bad Mummy!).

Hopefully now that we're back in regular practice, we'll finally see some impressive progress with his Piano-playing abilities. I might even get it on video!

Chest Infection

We are now suffering through our second chest infection in three weeks, so sorry for the lack of posts but it is really hard to type anything with a poorly toddler curled up in your lap and I have had to spend my evenings catching up on all the daytime chores that I couldn't do with a toddler in my lap so no time for blogging...

I do have lots of photos and things to say as soon as I get more than five minutes' peace so stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bread Pudding

Nicholas doesn't like bread crusts. In less than two weeks, I collected over 9oz of bread crusts, simply by removing the edge of Nikki's sandwiches and toast, rather than have him waste them on the plate. There is only one thing worth collecting bread crusts for - bread pudding!

I really don't like wasting food, so I suspect making bread pudding will be something of a constant while Nikki remains crust-phobic. Fortunately, it is something all my family enjoys, so I won't be having to eat mountains of bread pudding by myself!

I used a different recipe this time, and I probably wouldn't use it again with Nikki because it calls for soaking the bread before "squeezing out the excess water". Have you ever tried squeezing water from soggy bread - it doesn't work. Especially if you are three! My mum said I should have put the mix into a muslin before squeezing, but I think it will be easier to just use my old no-soak recipe in the future!

Nicholas enjoyed squeezing the bread, though! 

He also helped me measure the ingredients (by reading the numbers on my scales - I cook in pounds and ounces, which makes it really easy for him as they are almost always single-digit whole numbers). Once we mixed all the ingredients together he carefully smoothed over the top.

He also insisted in putting it in the oven himself (as he made it). Unfortunately the dish was too heavy for him so he had to settle for pushing it deeper into the oven and closing the oven door.

The end result looked (and tasted) great, but since Nikki decided to invite Grandma over for afternoon tea to taste-test his masterpiece, I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished pudding! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saxon K

Since we took a fairly long break over the holidays, we have only covered 27 lessons in Saxon so far. As we have progressed a bit further than my initial review, I thought I'd share my views on the program so far.

It is slow. Almost painfully so. It is written as a textbook for six year olds, and so far there has been nothing more difficult than counting to ten. We have only just started out with introducing the concepts of addition and subtraction, and even then it is in a vague, story-telling way.

I can't imagine using this program with a six year old.

As it is, I manage to complete each lesson with Nicholas in 10-15 minutes. Almost half of that is spent doing things not dictated in the book (such as reinforcing the pattern of the 'month' - currently using aeroplane counters; it can take 5 minutes to 'land' them all in the right place) or simply playing with the manipulatives.

I know he is only 3, but I feel like the lessons are too slow even for him. He really enjoys his maths time (and often reminds me if we don't do it first thing) but I think that he might lose interest if the pace doesn't pick up.

To give you an idea, one lesson from this week went something like this:
Watch me choose four counters in one colour and four in another and make an AB pattern. Your turn. Repeat two more times. End Lesson.

So, I'm going to try doing 2 lessons back to back, so long as I feel he is in the mood for another lesson when we have finished the first. This shouldn't add much more than 5 minutes to our maths session, but the increase in pace should challenge him enough to keep his focus.

Don't get me wrong, the book is thorough and has enough repetition to make sure each concept is mastered, but it seems most suitable for preschoolers, and even then the pace is questionable. The topics covered are mostly making patterns - with coloured counters or pattern blocks - and mastering recognising numbers to ten, counting with one-to-one correspondence, in fives and tens. Most of this I have seen in workbooks aimed at the 3-5 age group.

I will keep on with Saxon, since Nikki enjoys it. It does look like there will be some more challenging concepts coming up in a couple of 'months', like introducing the value of coins and using a ruler.

So that this post isn't entirely boring, here's a picture of Nikki practising graphing with dinosaurs:

Note: The textbook is designed to cover 12 lessons each month. When I write 'month', I am referring to a group of 12 lessons, not a calendar month. 

Painting Snow

Wow. How easy it is to get out of the habit of blogging, and how hard to get back into it!

I meant to post about this when we still had snow, but as it is still winter I guess it doesn't matter too much!

Nikki had a wonderful time 'painting' the snow with Uncle Harry. The 'paint' was simply water with food colouring in a spray bottle. I think I diluted it too much, as it took a bit of effort to get a strong colour on the snow, but it was great fun!

We had to wait for Harry to get back from school, so it was pretty dark (despite being only 4pm) but the boys didn't seem to mind!