Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Random Wanderings

Halloween was really good. The girls were both butterflies. This was probably the last year in which I could make them match- and I also thought a good year to have them match, to minimize meltdowns from Petunia about differences in costume accessories. So I talked Pumpkin into being a butterfly by telling her that I'd get her a leotard (a "ballerina shirt"- something long coveted) and letting her choose the color butterfly from the options available on Amazon. She chose purple. And then I picked the most unbelievably adorable monarch butterfly costume out for Petunia, and I even ordered a set of butterfly wings for myself. (Helpful hint: do NOT search Amazon for "adult butterfly costume," unless you mean "sleazy butterfly costume." Search for "adult butterfly wings" to find a pair of Large Red Butterfly Wings that worked out beautifully, although I found maneuvering down hallways in them difficult.)

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of Pumpkinfly

 and Petuniafly:

We had tights for Petunia, too- but I don't have a decent rear photo of her in those. I do have a very, very cute photo of her running across the playground to us at our daycare's Halloween parade. She was walking around the circuit like she was supposed to until she caught sight of us. Then she took off running across the playground, with a huge smile on her face. That pretty much made my week.

The actual trick-or-treating went well, too. Pumpkin said "Trick or treat!" and "Thank you" and "Happy Halloween" at every house, with minimal prompting. Petunia said "twi-twee" everywhere, endearing herself to pretty much everyone. I called my husband and told him to be ready to capture that on video when we got home. But she wouldn't do it at our house, preferring instead to try to unload her candy into our candy bowl. She is not at all interested in eating candy, but she absolutely loved trick-or-treating. After almost every house, she said "more" and toddled off after her sister to the next house.


I carved a pumpkin on Saturday, so that our house would be appropriately marked as welcoming of trick-or-treaters, and because Pumpkin likes having one. Petunia was fascinated by the process. Pumpkin was not, but she did get her hands on our camera for the first time, producing some really arty photos (as well as some random photos of the sky). I think Santa needs to bring her a camera. Or maybe he needs to bring Mommy and Daddy a new camera, and we can just give her the old one. We'll have to think carefully about what to ask him to bring.

I really like this one.


Helpful tip #2: If you screw up and draw a line across the teeth of your jack-o-lantern with a sharpie, you can remove that line with rubbing alcohol.

Here is the final product, in all its glory:


On the way home from day care yesterday, Pumpkin told me: "Mommy, three fours makes twelve."

I was quite surprised by this, because although she has figured out addition, I'd never heard her extend it to multiplication before. I asked her how she knew, but she couldn't say. So I asked her how many four fours made. She thought for a minute, and then answered "16." We got up to six fours and then we got home.

She is also reading now. She can read The Foot Book pretty much all by herself, and tonight she read Cookie's Week to me with very little help. Halfway through, she confessed that she was using the pictures to help her get some of the words (she was also sounding some out). I told her that was OK, everyone did that, and that the more she practiced, the more words she'd learn, and before we knew it, she'd be reading books without any pictures, just like Mommy does. To her credit, she refrained from telling me that I read lame books and should get some with pictures.

Mimi and Boppa, be warned: she's looking forward to impressing you by reading lots of books at Thanksgiving.

Anyone with suggestions for other easy books to read should put them in the comments, because I'm struggling with that. I think she might be able to tackle some more Dr. Seuss, if I choose carefully. But I'd like other ideas, too.


We didn't set out to teach Pumpkin to read (or, for that matter, do multiplication) before kindergarten. "Everyone" says that is a bad idea, and conventional wisdom predicts that now she will be bored in kindergarten. But she is interested, and I refuse to prevent her from learning things she is interested in.

Besides, I dispute what "everyone" says. I knew how to read when I started kindergarten and I remember loving the letter workbooks we had. There was one for each letter and they had a textured letter on the cover. I think there were various activities inside, perhaps including cutting (which I was not as good at- and, to this day, my family teases me because I cannot cut a straight line).

So it will probably all be OK.

Particularly if we go with the Spanish immersion school- which is what Pumpkin wants. We've explained that the teacher will only speak Spanish, and she might not understand at first. But she says that she doesn't care. She wants to go and learn Spanish so that she can go back to day care and speak it with Miss M., one of her favorite teachers.

We've told her that there is a chance we won't get in to that school, and she always pulls a pouty face when we say that.

We haven't told her that there is a chance we won't even try. It is time to get serious about this school choice thing. I've started trying to figure out how we're going to evaluate schools, and so far, I have a growing list of questions to ask on visits, but nothing more. Readers who have already been through this exercise (particularly in California!) are encouraged to give me helpful hints in the comments. Its only fair- I gave you hints about how to handle jack-o-lantern mistakes!


I have meatier posts planned soon, I promise. But I'm getting slammed at work, for reasons that I (of course) can't post about (at least not yet). Suffice to say that the choice about Pumpkin's kindergarten will be made during a whirlwind of work activity. But so far, it isn't spilling over into home too much, except in that I can't find the mental energy to write thoughtful posts. That is a symptom of the fact that I haven't organized the giant boatload of work that has landed on my desk, so I'm holding a bunch of disorganized "do this, but do that first" thoughts in my head. Once I sort that out, I'll have more mental space, and will post interesting things soon. I have a post full of righteous indignation at some internet feminists on behalf of my husband (who remains blissfully ignorant of how he has been maligned- or willed out of existence, really) and another post about how I stay happy (downright chipper!) in the face of the sexism that pervades my field sort of written in my head, and I should type them out before they get swamped by thoughts about merging databases, revamping applications, and other random crap. Don't hold your breath, but feel free to tell me which of those topics you think I should write about next in the comments.


  1. Anonymous4:45 AM

    Yay for reading!

    What you want at this stage are these Random House books from the "Step into reading" series. She's on step 1. These are GREAT easy readers and many of them are hilarious too. (Hot Dog and Too Many Dogs were favorites... there's also one about a cat that keeps trying to catch things, but ends up getting kibble instead that was a big favorite... we have a ton of these though and B&N and Amazon and Scholastic all carry them).

    The Bob books are really boring. Dr. Seuss she'll be able to do soon (his alphabet book is especially rewarding, Maggie got it for him shortly after he started reading), most likely, along with related books Big Dog Little Dog, and Take me to the Zoo. Once they start, reading really takes off for many kids.

  2. Such cute costumes, especially that they were matching!

    And that's awesome about the math and reading. I agree, why would you not let her pursue her interests just because "everyone" says she'll be bored in kindergarten? Good on you!

  3. Bored in kindergarten...well, that was fine. This whole bored in first grade stuff is kind of a bummer, but I refuse to tell my child to stop "inventing" negative numbers or multiplication. How would I stop it anyway?

    Biscuit books (about a naughty yellow dog with a girl who loves him) are great. I think they are leveled readers or Step Into Reading. The library has tons of these. We'd get 2 to 5 out per week. He wanted to read them over and over and over and over (and over and over) again until he was really fast and fluent.

    A little more advanced were Henry & Mudge and the Weird School series, which he liked a lot (though sometimes the potty humor was a bit much for me but since he was no longer reading out loud by then, it was fine).

  4. I think if your child is bored in school, it's up to the school to fix that. and if they can't or won't, then it's up to the parents to figure out a better spot. I so do not believe in "preventing" a kid from learning stuff they're interested in, as if you could even do that.

    Good luck with picking schools. That is not something I'm looking forward to so I'm happy to have preschool sorted out and i'm putting my head in the sand about the rest.

    Love the matching costumes!

  5. Mo Willems has a series of Easy Readers, featuring Elephant and Piggie. They are really funny, and quite clever. Honestly, other than those, my son (now a second grader plowing through books that challenge 6th graders) did not like easy readers. I think they bored him, content-wise, so we stuck to picture books and muddled through (he was in pre-K when he learned to read). If she hasn't already read them, the Sheep books are good (Sheep in a Jeep, Sheep on a Ship, etc). Dr. Seuss, esp Hop On Pop, was good too.

  6. Man, here I am reading your post thinking "my almost 4.5 year old isn't reading or multiplying yet, now I'm worried" and then I get to the part where you worry that it is too early! So I'm laughing about how we parents all manage to stress about something.

    I think you're doing the right thing following her interests, and to echo what others have said, if she's bored in school later you can work with the school to address it...

    Le Petit loves to look at books on his own, and "read" text to himself that he's memorized. Since he's learning two languages at once (and they are in the letter and basic sound recognition stage in French at his school) he hasn't developed many of the pre-reading skills yet. I'm thinking of buying a book and starting to work with him in English. But I'm also worried that'll interfere with his French reading. I'll have to do some research about bilingual kids and all this, I think.

  7. "To her credit, she refrained from telling me that I read lame books and should get some with pictures." lol

    Love their costumes! We carved pumpkins for the first time this year and it was so fun I can't believe I've never done it before. Your jack o' lantern turned out very well.

    I could read right around my fifth birthday which was mid-year kindergarten. I have this expectation that Tate will be the same. It's hard managing expectations. It's frustrating the "bored in kindergarten" is even a possibility for kids. I hope we can stick with Montessori through first grade. He isn't bored there at all.

  8. paola3:23 AM

    Those costumes are too cute, especially Petunia's. Trick or Treating is very popular here too and the kids were up for it, but we had a little too much on our plate with starting swimming lessons and getting back to school. Maybe next year.

    Noah was supposed to start grade 1 in Italy this year, but because of our move, he has actually ended up in grade 2 here in London and so is waaaaaay behind with reading. Like 2 years behind the others who are even writing projects and having regular spelling tests . He is coping amazingly well and battling along; it's me that is panicing for him ( un-necessarily).

    Here they do something called Jolly Phonics, where letters or letter pairs are associated with sounds. There is a little song and and action assoicated with that sound. Noah sounds out the word doing the action of the ant crawling up the arm for 'a' or the beating of the drum for 'd'. He has always been a kinesthetic learner needing to take things apart and touch them and so this action/sound association works for him.


    Noah is learing French at school and has already taught Zoe to count to 14 and the words for memebers of the family. I am amazed how quickly he has picked it up actually. Maybe due to bilingualism, or that spongy brain they have at this age. They do not write French though. I was wondering why and came to the conclusion that it may just interfere with their learning English. You won't believe this but in Italy ( at least in the school my friend's daughter goes to), they learn to write English, but they write it 2 wyas , the proper way and the way it is pronounced in Italian, so 'cut' is written 'cat'. All because they don't want to confuse the kids with a second language!!

  9. Anonymous4:57 AM

    You've probably figured out how we feel about holding a child back. As if holding a kid back will actually keep hir from being bored in school. http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/i-blame-the-american-education-system-part-1-of-many/

    I bet if we helped all preschoolers to learn math, I wouldn't have so many graduate students terrified of numbers. And the world would be a better place. Imagine a world where nurses knew when they were about to give the wrong medication doses and rechecked their calculations. Where college-aged girls didn't pick the major that forced them to take the fewest math classes. Where companies didn't mess up your billing (except on purpose, of course). Where the government made decisions that, even if you didn't agree with them ideologically, were among efficient solutions to problems rather than inefficient.

    Besides, as we've said before... Reading = sweet sweet quiet at home.

    I call BS on the Harrison Bergeron imitators. And American anti-intellectualism. It is a crime to keep something as wonderful as reading or math away from a kid. Like denying water to a thirsty person.

  10. I agree with what others have said, though we're not "there" (where you are) yet. But this, "I refuse to prevent her from learning things she is interested in," made me laugh: it sounds so obvious (and virtuous!) when they are preschoolers. I wonder if the same will be true when they are teens.

  11. They are both entirely too adorable. The cutest backs of butterflies I've ever seen :-)

    Definitely look into the Step Into Reading stuff. There are about a million of them--you can find them at most bookstores, amazon, and sometimes even in bundles at Costco (look around holiday time if you're going there, they're usually on the holiday program). Oh, and the library of course.

  12. @Paola - wow, I'll have to admit, teaching English with an Italian phonetical spelling baffles me somewhat. But it does indicate that it might not be the best idea to go ahead with teaching reading in English to my son... hmmm... at least he has a good teacher this year, and not the same one he had last year who wasn't a good fit at ALL. (That's a whole long blog post I've been meaning to get to, but haven't yet)

    @nicoleandmaggie - Amen! In my personal experience, part of the problem is that in grade school in the US (and perhaps even more in middle school and early high school) being ahead of the curve is poorly considered. Most of my peers (and even one particularly obnoxious fifth grade teacher) made fun of the smart kids. Seriously, you can see why I fled. Maybe my experience is unique...

    France has the opposite problem: an exaggerated meritocracy where students are ranked by their ability in a limited number of subjects, mainly math and science. The whole system is built to winnow and select, and the elite go to the same handful of schools... kind of a replacement for the Ancien Regime, if you will. They certainly don't care much about students' self-esteem.

    I'm simplifying, of course, but you get the idea.

  13. In addition to all of the great suggestions above, take Petunia to the library and see which kinds of books she is drawn to. Might not be just the "kids" books only. I loved flipping through the grown up encyclopedia when I was a preschooler - my dad was cool enough to let me explore, and that's how he found out some of the unique areas of interest to me, like worms apparently.

    @Parisienne - The method we used to teach DS to read in English was "Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons" by Siegfried Englemann, along with the Starfall website. Preschool is teaching him how to read in Spanish in a way that sounds pretty similar to how your DS is learning French - so far there doesn't seem to be any mix up of the 2 in his brain. I wouldn't worry to much.

    As for the school choice discussion, don't believe everything you hear. Don't automatically conclude a school is not a fit for your child until you've actually set foot in it for yourself, and have met some of the staff. Duh, right - but you'd be surprised how often people do it.

  14. Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! I've made a list to take to the library. I'll be buying some, too. We have a house full of kids books, but only about four that are at the right level for Pumpkin to read right now.

    As for the other 4.5 year olds who aren't reading yet- I wouldn't worry AT ALL. I think different kids get interested in different things and that leads to them picking up different skills at different times. (Wow, that's a lot of differents!) Pumpkin's always been a bit of a language girl, so it isn't surprising that she's started reading.

  15. My friend erin works for a publisher (i think?) and writes a lovely and very stylish blog, I'm not sure if you could pick up some tips from her?

    I've been meaning to mention her to you anyway, I love reading her blog, and yours and somehow feel the two of you should be aquainted...

    Lovely costumes!

  16. @parisienne - Re: the smart kids getting made fun of here in the US, that was totally my experience too. I nearly fell out of my chair at work when a coworker who grew up in India told me that the kids at the bottom of the class were the ones people made fun of there. Wow!

    I mean, yeah, that probably isn't great, because there were probably undiagnosed learning disabilities, etc. there, but what an interesting reversal and motivator to actually do well.


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