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Children

Golden Awards, Dojo points and behaviour colours

Children, — November 2018

Helen's school has a "Golden Assembly" each Friday, in which one child in each class gets a Golden Award. Every Thursday she asks me, a bit wistfully, questions like "do you think I'll get the Golden Award tomorrow?". And now she's started talking about it at other times, too. (more…)

mathematics approaching 6

I never did end up running any kind of pre-school maths circle, and once the children started school there hasn't really been spare time in the week for such a thing. But some of my thoughts about teaching mathematics from two and a half years ago have progressed.

One of my principles is to try to avoid things that will be covered in school. (more…)

don't make your child read

If your school tells you your child is supposed to read to you four times a week, but they don't want to do that or don't like doing that, don't make them read. (more…)

reading at 5¾

I got a new kindle for my birthday, so I deleted everything off the old one except the children's books, renamed it, and voila! Helen now has a kindle. And she read her first book on it - Roald Dahl's The Twits - pretty much in one sitting. (more…)

graded readers

Helen's school uses Oxford Reading Tree graded readers, as do apparently 80% of English schools. ("Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.") I mostly ignored these when she brought them home, since she was happy to read them at school and we had more interesting things to read, so I missed the clear "Stage N" on the back covers and it was a while before I realised these were graded into quite narrow bands. (more…)

reading at five and a half

An update on Helen's reading, following on from reading at five. (more…)

5 to 15?

If we moved back to Australia and then came back to the UK in ten years, I don't think any of Helen's friends would remember me. I'm just not that salient a part of their lives. A more interesting question is, would I recognise them after ten years away — what are all these little children going to be like at fifteen? They all seem as distinctive as anything now, but the evidence on personality persistence is limited, and tends to only involve broad features of temperament.

Anyway, whenever I think about planning the future, I try to imagine what Helen will be like at fifty and I realise that I have no clue.

my formal early education failures

My plans for formal early years teaching all came to nothing. (more…)

there's more to literacy than being able to read

It's amazing how fast, once you can read, literacy becomes part of your life, and it becomes almost impossible to stop yourself reading text if its in front of you. (more…)

reading at age five

These book updates now cover the books Helen is reading herself (with a bit of support) as well as the books I am reading to her. (more…)

books books books

Helen got 33 books for Christmas and her birthday: 8 from me, 9 from Camilla, and 16 from friends and family. Helen and I have also given everyone books for Christmas and birthdays (more…)

reading takeoff

Books + Ideas, Children — December 2017

We have take-off with the reading! Helen was doing some of the words in the easier books I read her, but a couple of weeks ago there was quite an abrupt shift: now she's reading the books and I'm helping with the harder words, or when she gets stuck. The major constraint now is motivation, and how fast she gets tired - I can almost see her thinking as she puzzles out words. (more…)

books approaching five

Books + Ideas, Children, — November 2017

This will probably be my last book update before Helen is reading herself, though I expect to be reading to her for a long time as well. (She's at the point where she can, if motivated, puzzle out pretty much anything with sensible orthography, and with the early reader books — Russell Hoban's Frances books are current favourites — I'm now helping her with the hard words rather than getting her to read one or two words.) Here are some of the books we've enjoyed since my last update. (more…)

learning to read at Larkrise

Helen's school is pretty keen on getting the children reading. (more…)

leaving nursery 2 (Julia Durbin 2017)

Children, — September 2017

I got most emotional about Helen leaving preschool three days before it happened. When I took her to nursery on Monday, we found that her name tag had already been taken from her bag hook. (more…)

leaving nursery (Julia Durbin 2017)

Children, , — August 2017

When Helen leaves her nursery (Julia Durbin) in September, she will have been there for just short of four years. There have been month-long breaks for trips to Australia and shorter holidays, and she only goes to nursery four days a week, but that's still 30+ hours a week for most of her life — all her life that she has any memory of. And she is part of a tight-knit community in her preschool, the break up of which will be a huge change to her life. [The comparable adult experiences I can think of would be shifting from one hunter-forager band to another, or retiring after having worked in the same job for one's entire life.] (more…)

loved the Wee-Ride, can't fit a tag-along to my bike

Four years ago I posted here looking at moving-child-by-bike options, but I never followed that up. I ended up with a Wee-Ride centre-mounted seat, which I've been really happy with over the last three and a half years. (more…)

Greek mythology for children

I started reading Greek mythology with Helen a few months before we visited Crete and the Cyclades, beginning with the D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which she picked after I read her one story from that and one from the D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths. (more…)

from grandfather

I can remember my father Hansen taking me to the Sydney university Coop bookshop (then in the Transient building) and buying me a proper Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator. That was over thirty years ago — I'm not sure exactly when, but it must have been before I started uni — but the calculator still works perfectly (and I think I've only had to change the battery once). (more…)

Coombe Hill walk

Children, Travel, , — April 2017

Helen and I did a really nice walk in the Chilterns yesterday, from Coombe Hill down to Wendover and back. This is a loop of about 6km, with maybe 130m down and then up, offering a good variety of terrain and views. (more…)

book update at four

We're into short novel and chapter book territory now, so I thought I'd give an update on what I've been reading with Helen. The first short novel Helen really got into was Otfried Preussler's The Robber Hotzenplotz, which we started on Boxing Day (it was the Christmas present of one of her cousins) but finished the next day, she was so excited by it. (more…)

Balinese music - Legong dance

Children, Travel, , — January 2017

Yesterday I set Helen up with the iPad, only to have her come to me after five minutes saying "Enough iPad, I want to watch some Legong Dance". And so we watched nearly an hour of Legong Lasem and Barong Taru Pramana. (more…)

book update, approaching four

Books + Ideas, Children, — November 2016

An update on the books I've been reading with Helen. (more…)

the transport geography of early childhood

Walking with Helen to the Cowley Rd Tesco yesterday made me think back on how her development and changes in transport modes have affected our experience of Oxford's geography. (more…)

books at three and a half

Somehow I missed doing a book round-up at three, so here's one at three and a half (more…)

give me the girl

Give me the girl until she is eleven and I will give you the woman...

Neither Camilla nor I are that keen on religious schooling, but I had suggested before, only half in jest, that a good Jesuit-run school would be an attractive option. And now I've seen the closest thing I'm likely to see to this for girls, in an Open Day visit to one of Oxford's private preparatory schools. (more…)

numbers are exciting!

I've seen some surveys where mathematics ranks as the favourite subject of a plurality of primary school children, ahead even of art, and I'm starting to see how that could be. (more…)

teaching mathematics

I was planning a rant about the dangers of formal assessment of mathematics in primary schools, the insanity of streaming maths classes based on knowledge of times tables at age nine, and suchlike. But there are more than enough depressing stories about the UK education system at the moment, so I've tried to make this a more positive piece, about some of the things I think children should learn about mathematics in primary school, along with a random collection of ideas for actual teaching. (more…)

Three

Children, , , — February 2016

Our little girl (she was "a big little girl" for a while, but now insists she is "a big girl") has turned three and moved up to pre-school. The room change was a bit stressful for the first week, but she seems to have settled ok now, I think largely because her best friends have all moved with her. (more…)

little friends

Children, Life, , — December 2015
photo

Moomin and Koala Bear are best friends

Helen has made strong attachments to some of her peers, far stronger than anything I remember from my own early life (though I have very few memories from before school). Reminding her that she'll get to see her friends once she gets to nursery, or that we're going on a playdate, is almost always a big motivation for getting dressed and leaving the house. And having a friend refuse to hold hands with her can be enough to make her burst into tears. (more…)

early second language learning

Books + Ideas, Children, , — November 2015

I've tried speaking in German to Helen a few times in the last week and she's really fascinated by it. If I stop she says "say something" and wants me to keep going, and this morning she requested some German quite spontaneously. And Camilla and I have started thinking about the options for her to learn a second language. (more…)

an extra day with Helen

Children, Life, Oxford — November 2015

I had had to take the day off work to look after Helen yesterday, since she was home after after having had the runs at nursery the day before. But we had a really good day. (more…)

A tale of two schools

It's early days yet, even for the UK where children start formal schooling between 4 and 5 years old, but we've already started thinking about schooling for Helen, and as part of that we visited two primary schools. The first was our local state school, the one we're actually in the catchment for and (since it's just around the corner) could be relatively confident of getting a place in (due to a baby boom, there's such pressure on schools that even being in the catchment is now no longer a guarantee of a place). The second was the prep school for a prestigious private Oxford girls high school. (more…)

NCT class followup

Children, Life, — August 2015

Our NCT (National Childbirth Trust) parents' group wasn't so useful in providing an immediate support circle, largely because Helen arrived early, before the classes had even finished, but it did provide the foundation for a longer-term social network. We have made friends with two additional parents with similar aged children, in the same demographic (they have NCT groups of their own): I met Parker's mother through a cycling advocacy mailing list and Frieda's through her blog. But I've also spent many afternoons or mornings with Helen in East Oxford playgrounds, meeting interesting parents who I never saw again. (Though perhaps if I'd had no existing parents' group I'd have got better at asking strangers for their phone numbers or email addresses.) (more…)

the Story Museum

Children, Oxford, , — August 2015

I finally got around to taking Helen to the Story Museum. This is all about stories and learning from them, and runs regularly changing exhibitions. Last summer Helen seemed too young at one and a half to appreciate their 26 Characters exhibition (though it ran until February and if I'd thought about it again I'd probably have taken her then). The downside is the price: it's £7.50 for an adult and £5 for a child, so that was £12.50 for me and Helen. But there's a lot of fun stuff and we ended up staying there from 1pm to 5pm when they shut (including maybe an hour for afternoon tea in their cafe), so I'd have to say it's worth that. (more…)

toddler book update (two years old)

Following on from the previous post on baby/toddler books, some of Helen's favourite books - the ones that have been read dozens of times - at two years and two months (more…)

Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna

The lullaby I use most regularly with Helen is the song "Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna", one of the few songs I remember from my own childhood. (more…)

language at two

Children, — January 2015

Her vocabulary grows apace, but Helen has made little progress with syntax or morphology, with most utterances consisting of just two or three words lacking any inflection. (more…)

toddler jigsaw puzzles

Children, , — October 2014

At first I was skeptical that Helen would cope with jigsaw puzzles, especially as she had a lot of trouble even with the little two-piece puzzles we tried her on first. But she's really taken to the two 24-piece puzzles she has (more…)

colours! shapes! phrases!

Books + Ideas, Children, , — September 2014
photo

the pink magnet pair is "mummy",
the orange one "daddy",
and the blue one "helen"
(I don't know why)

It's just over two weeks since my last post on language development, but in that time Helen has:

  • produced her first two word phrases: "more cherry" and "daddy book". (more…)

the language explosion

Books + Ideas, Children, — August 2014

There's supposed to be a spurt in language acquisition around 18 months, and Helen is doing that pretty much right on schedule. (more…)

baby + toddler books

This is by no means comprehensive, but I thought I'd write a bit about some of the books we and Helen have enjoyed most over the last year or so. Some of these have been given to us or recommended to us by friends and family, some of them I found reading online reviews and lists. (more…)

teaching small cardinal numbers to a toddler

I occasionally play at teaching Helen the cardinal numbers one to five, not in any organised fashion but every so often when she seems alert and curious and there are no more obviously interesting things for her to play with (more…)

not all birds are ducks

Children, , — May 2014

As well as "mama" and "da" and "bye bye", Helen has spoken approximations to "duck", "up", "ball", "cat", "dog", "bird", "banana" and (at nursery) "nappy". (more…)

the joy of walking

Children, — April 2014

Helen's been walking between Camilla and me for some time, and using walkers, and for the last week she's happily walked to other people. But now she's getting up all by herself and heading off without anyone in sight! We have a toddler! (more…)

a proto-toddler

Children, — October 2013

Helen went to Australia a baby and has come back a kind of proto-toddler. (more…)

cycling with a baby/child

Children, Oxford, , , — April 2013

It's early days yet, but I'm starting to look at the options for moving Helen around by bicycle. The basic choices seem to be a front-mounted child seat, a rear-mounted child seat, a trailer, or some kind of front-load cargo bicycle or tricycle (bakfiets-style or modern variants on that). (more…)

photos of Helen

Children, , — February 2013

This post is just for comments on the photos of Helen which I'm putting online elsewhere (I hate all the WordPress gallery options, because I want to edit text in a real editor). (more…)

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