Category Archives: school – pre K

Advice From A Five Year Old

Advice From A Five Year Old

We were at the playground the other day and one of the kids there… well. He’s a bit of a dick. He’s 7 or so and enough of a bully that the other kids have completely turned on him. It came to a fever pitch a few weeks ago when every single kid on the playground (maybe 10?) cornered him, chanting a name-rhyming-taunt. His behavior hasn’t improved since then, and has included stealing Niko’s shoes, shoving him down, and slapping him on the back of the head in passing. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that 1) his mom doesn’t do ANYTHING about his behavior other than mild “now now, CHILD’S NAME, that’s not how we act” (when, uh, obviously it is?) and 2) Niko gets along with that kid’s younger sister and likes playing with her.

So anyway, most recent playground outing, those two kids were there with one of their babysitters (and their babysitters are much more hands on and disciplinarian than either of their parents) and Older Kid was being a real terror including chasing people around and kicking them. Like, kicking them in the chest/arms, aiming for their heads. Babysitter pulls him aside and starts trying to reason with him. “You shouldn’t kick and hit your friends!” “Oh, it’s ok, he’s not my friend.” “So you were just… you were just attacking him? Child’s Name, that is NOT right.”

It was at this point that Niko butted in, all concerned.

“You know, Child’s Name, if you weren’t so HORRIBLE all the time, maybe everybody wouldn’t HATE YOU.”

While true, that’s not really an appropriate thing to say, you know?

Later on, that child tried to join in an impromptu soccer game. The other kids ignored him entirely as he chased them around, tried to hog the ball, and bragged about how long he’d been playing soccer on a team (again, he’s S E V E N, it’s not like he can possibly have been playing THAT LONG), eventually breaking down in tears when everybody managed to keep the ball from him. Every single kid in the group was one he’d physically harmed that day, as best as I can tell with no provocation whatever.

It’s kind of hard to watch. It’s like watching someone repeatedly bashing their head against a brick wall trying to get through the wall when there’s a door right there. Unlocked. Not even fully closed. Just push it open. I don’t know why he acts the way he does… is he acting out? Terrible at reading social cues? Ignorant? A massive entitled jerk? He’s in a Gifted school, so at the very least he… uh. Takes standardized tests well. I just don’t get it. And it’s hard to watch my kid deal with that, with him, with this out of nowhere aggressive and hurtful behavior. He wants to teach that kid how to be friendly and have friends and get along with everyone and I don’t think there’s any seven year old on earth eager to take social lessons from a five year old who insists his REAL name is Raptor because he has TOE CLAWS and IS A RAPTOR, DUH.

WELL THANK GOD I HAVE ALL THE PARENTING ANSWERS AND MY CHILD IS PERFECT, AT LEAST.

In other news, we’re finally repainting Niko’s room over the holiday weekend. We have all the paint and supplies, including spackle. We’d been putting this off because we want to gut his room, upgrade the wiring, and install soundproof insulation and possibly refinish his floor but… if we wait until we have the money and time to do ALL THAT it will never get done. So we’re going to screw the wall back to the stud where it’s pulling away (yaaaay hundred old buildings wooooooo), spackle everything up, and slap some paint on. It’ll look a lot nicer when it’s done.

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The Worst Thing About Starting School

The Worst Thing About Starting School

Until he started school, we’d never taken Niko to the doctor for anything other than scheduled check ups. He had no big illnesses, no big accidents, nothing. I mean, he whacked his head HARD once and I debated taking him in, but there was no urgent YES MUST GO IN NOW moment. Then he started school and started getting sick all the time. We’ve taken him in twice for illness since August and I expect that we’ll take him in a few more times. A very nice and helpful nurse assured me at our last visit that after the first year’s exposure to germs he’ll be back to hardly getting sick at all. Which is lovely to think about, considering that Winter Vomiting Sickness is apparently sweeping through Niko’s school right now, and there’s a lice outbreak in his classroom even as we speak.

That’s not the worst thing about starting school, though. It’s irritating and sometimes a little bit scary, but it’s not the worst.

The worst thing is that Niko is now exposed to 17 other kids on a daily basis– kids with a variety of backgrounds and behaviors and lifestyles. And while it’s great to think that kids can get together and teach other things good habits and behaviors and ways of being, the truth of the matter is that kids are jerks and they only pick up negative things from each other.

We’ve seen all KINDS of negative behavior that’s totally new and frankly some of it utterly baffling. Also making an appearance: whining. He flirted with whining briefly about a year ago but we were able to nip it in the bud. Now it’s a daily thing, nasal and drawn out and as irritating as fingernails on a blackboard is to most people. And I know EXACTLY the kid he’s picked that up from. He’s picked up some very bossy turns of phrase, and has started demanding things instead of asking for them. It’s like my kid is channeling someone else, some other personality; acting as a medium to the most irritating ghost in existence. I hate it so much.

And, you know, my kid is far from perfect and I cringe at the thought of the other kids bringing home his less than sterling habits (which include screaming fits, I’m sorry to say, and also licking snot off his upper lip. I’m not sure which is worse.)

It’s really frustrating to see certain behaviors that we’ve worked hard on establishing go completely out the window the first time he interacts with other kids.

Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

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Thankful for… a 504 Plan

Thankful for… a 504 Plan

When i entered Kindergarten I was already reading on a 2nd or 3rd grade level, could write, knew all my letters, could count pretty high and do basic addition. I was also socially awkward, clumsy, and super bored by the class. The kindergarten teacher took stock of the situation and decided I was developmentally delayed, and had me assigned to a special ed class. My mom found out over a year later, based on something I said. She went down to the school, raised hell, and had me actually tested, at which point they offered to skip me a grade or two based on my test results. This would have been pretty disastrous, actually, as I hadn’t actually learned anything in that year or so. She pulled me out of that school and enrolled me in a (private, religious) school at my grade level, where I was incredibly behind in math and remained so until Geometry class in high school, where for the first time I had a teacher who encouraged me and didn’t dismiss me as just a girl (literally, I got a lot of “well, of course you don’t get this, you’re a girl” and “oh well, you don’t really need to know this, you’re a girl.”). Skipping a grade or two with that level of math deficiency? Ugh. Horrible idea.

Nikola has asthma. It’s mild, and it’s cough variant, so he’s never had a classic wheezing panicked asthma attack. Instead, he gets this weird cough that to me is very distinctive but most people don’t notice it as unusual. He takes montelukast/singulair every night and uses a rescue inhaler a few times a year. For instance, we gave him a dose before bed tonight because he has a cold, so it was kind of a preventative thing. He may not have needed it, but you know. It might help him sleep better. His teacher is aware that he has asthma, and when he had his sinus infection, she called me to get him early one day because he had an asthmatic coughing fit in class. It wasn’t a big deal, and if I hadn’t told her I’d be near by and to call me, she probably wouldn’t have and just would have informed me of it at pick up.

She told me that because he has asthma he’s eligible for a 504 plan.

The term “504 plan” refers to a specific section of the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibiting discrimination of special needs students from federally funded schooling. It covers accommodations like peanut-free lunch rooms or tables, wheel chair ramps, ASL interpreters, special keyboards, and similar. Since he has asthma, which can require medication and can be triggered by specific things, he may need accommodation. So the school social worker, school nurse, his teacher, and I sat down at a meeting to discuss his needs.

I got a written notice and had to sign a form saying I consented to the meeting before the meeting was even scheduled. Once I signed the form, I was given an appointment date and some paper work about what a 504 plan is, and some confidentiality information. The meeting went well and everyone seemed on the same page about providing Niko with the best care they could. The school takes asthma really seriously and all teachers and staff have been trained in asthma care and on dispensing asthma medication from a variety of inhalers. I stressed that he had COUGH VARIANT asthma and so doesn’t have typical wheezing etc and everyone seemed to know what I was talking about. They talked about potential accommodations he’d get during the full day program next year, including when he’s in gym class (eg, be able to take a break from physical activity to catch his breath, being able to get water as needed).

While in the meeting, I brought up some concerns I had about his speech (he has trouble saying sh, ch, f, v, and some r sounds. For instance, he says “doll” and “girl” in very similar ways), and about some fine motor difficulties he has with his hands/fingers. His teacher said that upon me bringing it up, she remembered that he had some fine motor issues but since the kids are so young, they mainly focus on pincer-grasp motions which he’s great at (he is) and she was quick to reassure everyone that while he doesn’t consistently hold a pencil in the “correct” grip, he also doesn’t hold it in a fist. IE, it’s not super serious but they can look into it. So they arranged to have an informal session with the school’s speech therapist and occupational therapist to assess his speech and fine motor skills.

They were really responsive to my concerns and I feel like the meeting was a positive thing.

I know that a LOT of people have difficult and stressful 504 and IEP meetings, but I’m super happy at how ours went. Part of this, of course, is that his accommodations are super minor and, at least so far, don’t cost any money. But I got the feeling that the school he’s at is very concerned with extending educational opportunities to all students to the best of their abilities and meeting every need they can.

And, of course, the meeting made me think of my early education experience and the high handed way that a single teacher decided I had special needs and, without consulting or informing my parents, had me shunted into a classroom where I did nothing but pet bunnies and watch film strips. We weren’t even allowed to use safety scissors. Times have changed and there’s a lot more legal protection for kids and parents. But the more closely I look at Niko’s school the happier I am with it. It really feels like his teacher, the staff, have his best interests in mind.

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2nd Day of School and our Toy Experiment

2nd Day of School and our Toy Experiment

We successfully made it to the 2nd day of school.

Yesterday, the teacher said we had to go to Door Blah and the teacher’s aide would be there to take the kids inside, and we parents were to just drop our kids off and bolt. There were no adults or kids waiting outside (maybe we just missed them?) but there WERE a lot of parents bringing their 3 and 4 year olds inside so I took Niko inside. He had a hard time getting into the classroom because the doorway was thronged with adults just chillin’ so I helped him inside, got his bag put away and his name tag on, etc, gave him some kisses, and left. Some other kid was sobbing and screaming so hard he was gagging and sounded like he was about to barf. Poor kid! Poor parent! Niko was chill.

On the way home, I fretted about my knee and how it hurt and how I couldn’t wait for our insurance to start up in November so I could get an MRI done and see if there’s tiny chunks of bone floating around scraping shit up or what, because I’ve been dealing with knee pain for a LONG TIME, ever since we were rear ended in 2003 and my knee slammed into the dashboard of our car. I forgot to get it checked out at the ER, and it’s been bugging me ever since… for TEN YEARS. So I’m walking home, kind of limping a little because my left knee aches, and my right hip starts hurting because I’m walking funny, and I decide to take a short cut through the alley, and suddenly there’s a snap and searing pain in my knee.

HA HA FUNNNNNNNNN. I said a lot of cusses and general inarticulate NOISES and babies, if I had insurance, I’d be chillin’ in the ER right this very second. But I don’t have insurance, so I hobbled home with the aid of a fence post I found lying in the alley NO LIE and now I’m sitting on the couch with my leg up a bit. Our house mate has agreed to fetch Niko from school and I’m hoping I remembered to put him on the authorized adult pick up list. I’ll have to call and see.

If worst comes to worst, he can probably handle drop offs and pick ups for a while, so I’m glad I have someone I can rely on to be totally boss and helpful. But I’m super pissed at my knee. It’s been hurting more than usual since my mouth blew up, like having inflammation in my mouth was an excuse for the rest of my body to go to hell and act up and hurt and be shitty or something. I absolutely was not expecting this level of searing agony, however.

But whatever.

I was trying to get Niko to help me clean up his toys the other day and he basically refused and we had YET ANOTHER talk about how he needs to respect his toys and belongings and if he can’t do, if he can’t be responsible for his own things, maybe we should put them away. And he agreed to that. So we boxed up most of his toys over the weekend. He’s kept out his wooden trains and train tracks, his musical instruments, his puzzles, 4 stuffed animals (he has two garbage bags full of other stuffed animals) and coloring books and art stuff (most of which is kept in a cabinet out of his reach). It’s been a lot easier for him to keep this toys picked up, and at the end of the week we’ll see if he wants to cycle out something else. This is working very nicely so far and I’m not tripping over stuff as much or feeling as resentful about having to clean and reclean constantly. We set a timer for 5 minutes and anything he doesn’t get put away in that time goes into time out. We haven’t had to put anything in time out. It’s nice.

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1st day follow up

1st day follow up

I should note that Niko spent the morning claiming he was “too cranky” to go to school and coming up with different reasons not to go to school. He picked out his own clothing, rejecting my button down shirt options for an Aquaman t-shirt. He’s thrilled with his (dinosaur) back pack and lunch bag (which he probably won’t be using for school). He dawdled on the walk and collected leaves, but had a good time at school and speaks positively of it and is looking forward to going back tomorrow. We walked down Kedzie, initially to take the bus home, but then he suggested taking the train home and we did even though we only took it for one stop and we walked about as far to it as we would have walked going home.

We made special going to school cookies, which are sugar cookies with images stamped on them, you know the ones, they’re in the dairy section of grocery stores and come packed flat. No big deal, but also very special. Once home, we put on a puppet show. My babydoll had gone to school for the first time and enjoyed it, but Niko’s panda bear had stayed home all day and “made cupcakes all day.” “and then what?” “and then I ate all the cupcakes until it was nap time.” Well. I know what kind of life I’d prefer, frankly.

Nesko surprised us by coming home HOURS earlier than he usually does, which is super great, and now we’re watching a dinosaur documentary, and then clean up and bed time. It was a pretty good day in all.

I think tomorrow I’m going to take a book and hang out at the Dunkin Donuts until Niko’s done with school, because it’s going to be hot again tomorrow and I don’t know if I want to do all that extra walking in the heat. I really wish there was a library branch close by to the school.

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First Day Of School (ever)

First Day Of School (ever)

Today isn’t just the first day of school in Chicago, it’s Niko’s first ever day of school. He’s starting preschool at our neighborhood school. Since Chicago is so big, there’s a bunch of little (and medium and large, his school is actually pretty large) school buildings and you default into a specific school based on your address. But there’s also Selective schools that, for higher grades, are Gifted or STEM or International Baccalaureate or various flavor of Charter or what have you. It’s incredibly hard to get into Selective schools in Chicago. Like, there’s literally hundreds more kids who qualify for and want to get into separate Gifted programs than there are available slots (Niko’s school has a Gifted track, but I don’t think all neighborhood schools do). We are going to have to do some serious thinking while Niko is in kindergarten about what kind of school we want him to go to for first grade and on, because generally speaking if you don’t get into your first choice school in first grade (or 6th or freshman year or whenever the school’s lowest grade is) you’re never going to get in. There’s just so much competition, so many students waiting to get in. Which means a lot of kids start really specific types of schooling (STEM, Classical, IB, a school with a fantastic music program, a school with an emphasis on physical education, etc) when they’re like 6… which is ridiculously early to make those kinds of decisions. So we might just go with the flow and keep him at his neighborhood school and supplement at home and with museum memberships and stuff. But then if he’s at a neighborhood school, will he get into a competitive high school and then college? I kind of resent that I’m feeling pressure NOW, when he’s FOUR, to do everything right so he has a successful adult academic career (which, I mean, that assumes he even WILL go to college and not just, like, become an auto mechanic or electrician or something else he’d go to a trade school and apprentice for).

I have an Anxiety Disorder and tend to spiral into alternate universes of WHAT IFs at the drop of a hat, so I’m trying really hard to just… Let Go and focus on the important thing right now, which is to shepherd Niko through preschool. The school is being less than helpful by waiting until super late to send out official notices (including school supply lists, nearly creating a financial issue for us), and not telling us ahead of time which door in a building the size of a full city block we should enter for his first day of school. I mean, if they’d just included the notice “Use door X which is on street Y” we wouldn’t have started the first day of school literally soaking with sweat and flushed from walking 4 additional blocks, quickly, in 90 degree heat. I’m also a little peeved that I signed him up for morning classes and they plunked him into afternoon, which take place riiiiight when he’s normally taking a nap. But there were too many kids signed up for AM so whatever.

But now we know what door to go to and what to do if he wants to eat lunch in the cafeteria first and we plan to have donuts or ice cream every Monday after school, and we know for sure which class he’s going to be in and which time, and that he’s going to have 3 field trips this year (the zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier). He’s got his own cubby and he’s met most of his class mates (and WOW there is a girl in his class who is a future Homecoming Queen/Lady President) and he’s gone on record as saying he won’t cry tomorrow when I drop him off and leave him there. So we’ll see how it goes.

School is a half mile away so unless I hang out up there (at the school? at Dunkin Donuts down the street?) I’ll be walking 2 miles a day to drop off/pick up. I’m not looking forward to doing that come winter. But we’ll survive.

Niko Dressed Himself

Niko Going To School

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Reading Wednesday

Reading Wednesday

Are you on Goodreads? I am!. Why don’t you head on over and check out my reviews.

In the meantime, here are some books that Niko especially enjoyed.

What books do YOUR kids enjoy? What books do you enjoy reading to your kids? What books stand up well to the “read this book 50 times in a row” test? Hit me up in comments!

"The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish"

“The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish”

“The Day I Swapped my Dad For Two Goldfish,” by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, is the charming and seriously weird story of a kid who swaps his dad for two goldfish. His mom objects (of course) and he has to follow a chain of swaps to get his dad back. It’s a little adventure story. The illustrations are really something else. I bought this book in 1997, WELL in advance of having kids.

"Shimmer and Splash"

“Shimmer and Splash”

“Shimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World Of Sea Life,” by Jim Arnosky, is a lushly illustrated book by an artist/naturalist who really looks like he loves what he’s doing. This is a fantastic introduction to the ocean and the life in it, although it’s also very text heavy, so it can be hard to sit down and read aloud in one sitting. We usually read sections of this book, or Niko looks at it himself. Arnosky has written a lot of books about ~NATURE~ and I want to get more of them for Niko. NOTE: I won this book in a giveaway at Bebeh Blog.

"Dogs On The Bed"

“Dogs On The Bed”

“Dogs On The Bed,” by Elizabeth Bluemle & Anne Wilsdorf, is a rollicking, goofy, rhyming account of what happens when you have a bunch of dogs in your bed. It also made me miss having a dog, while being glad I’m not dealing with a bed-stealing, shedding, slobbery, fur furnace any more. A mixed bag! The illustrations are absolutely charming and expressive and the writing is playful and fun. This is a book that lends itself well to reading outloud, and expressively. I think the people who will most appreciate this book are people who love dogs and have more than one of them. A really fun read!

dinothesaurus

“Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings,” by Douglas Florian, is a playful and quirky book about dinosaurs. Unlike a lot of dinosaur books for kids, the text isn’t just rhyming. No, it’s actual straight up poetry, playing with line breaks and stresses and language. The poems are bouncy and fun, a joy to read aloud, unlike most stilted, predictable rhyming couplets you see in kidlit. The illustrations are likewise unique and crafted, vaguely reminiscent of Dave McKean’s painting-collages, but simplified. Toward the back of the book is more information about the dinosaurs mentioned as well as a bibliography of texts for more and deeper reading. If you’ve got a dinosaur lover for a kid, this book is a good addition to your library.

"It's Time For Preschool"

“It’s Time For Preschool”

“It’s Time For Preschool,” by Esmé Raji Codell & Sue Rama is a scripting book for kids entering school. A lot of kids don’t handle change or the unexpected well, and giving them a script and telling them what to expect can be very helpful. This book opened a lot of discussion and reassurance, and I’m going to pick it up again before Niko starts school this fall.

What Lives In A Shell?

What Lives In A Shell?

“What Lives In A Shell,” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld & Helen K. Davie, is a book about shells and the animals that live in them. Some live on land, some live on water. Some are large, some are small. This early science book, designed for pre-k and kindergarteners, is a nice introduction to shelled animals. The text, and sentences, are short and engaging and the illustrations are clear and attractive. The book stands up well to repeat reads. It’s a great introduction to science book. I’m very pleased with this series.

get_wet

” I Get Wet,” by Vicki Cobb & Julia Gorton, is a solid science book about the science of water, including some fun and easy hands-on experiments kids and adults can do together. The text is simple and easy to understand, with some interesting artistic typography in places. The illustrations are fun, too.

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Writing Readiness

Writing Readiness

When Niko and I went and enrolled him in pre-k, the teachers asked a few questions about his skills and if we read to him at home etc. They mentioned that it would be helpful if we could work on him writing his name. I think I’ve mentioned before that we have been working on teaching him to write, and I figured I’d tell you some of the stuff that worked for us.

Pencil Holding

I thought about getting some of those triangular finger positioners that you can slide onto pencils, but decided to skip it. Like a lot of really little kids, Niko has a hard time physically holding a writing utensil. One of the things that helps him hold his fingers the correct way is to put a little something in the palm of his hand for his smaller fingers to curl around. We initially used a bit of wadded up tissue, which he objected to. I picked up a little baggie of pom poms from the Target dollar bin and he likes those a lot better. We don’t have to remind him as often to hold his writing utensil the correct way, it’s becoming a habit with him.

Making Lines

There’s a few things we’re doing to teach him how to make straight, slanted, and curved lines (IE, letter components). One of the earliest things I did was draw dots on a piece of paper and have him draw a line from dot to dot. It was a fun thing that we did together, and we’d take turns making the lines. You could also use stickers or something for the “dots.” This ties in to later activities like connect-the-dots and draw-a-line-to-match games.

There are worksheets you can buy from stores or print from the internet that have dotted lines to trace, making up straight, diagonal, curved, etc lines. Donnayoung.org, Kidslearningstation.com, and Shirleys-preschool-activities.com all provide free, printable worksheets.

A web search for “connect the dots” (we use google image searches) will give you a TON of free, age-appropriate connect-the-dot activities. We usually use dinosaur themed ones.

The Right Paper

Beginning writers need very wide ruled paper. You can buy packs of it at the store, or print it off from the internet. We’ve mostly been printing off what we need. Graph paper might be helpful for some kids to help with spacing. I make big dots sometimes showing Niko where to start and end a line.

Getting And Keeping Interest

Niko’s a bit of a perfectionist and he gets frustrated and upset when he isn’t good at something. He’s really resisted learning to write, and we’ve had a LOT of talks about how nobody’s perfect at things the first time they do them, and that the only way to BECOME good at something is to practice and do it over and over again. We praise him for trying, and point out where he’s improving. But it’s still hard getting him interested in writing! Here’s some things we’ve done in addition to the connecting dots etc.

We write words based on his interests: trains, dinosaurs, etc. He wanted to decorate a card board box and turn it into a rocket ship, so I told him the letters and he wrote “rocket ship” on the box. I tell him the letters, or write down for him to copy, dinosaur names. And, of course, his own name. FORBIDDEN/funny words are also great. Among the high-interest words for him are “naughty” words like poop, butt, fart, etc. He is VERY interested in owning those words. He also likes funny words, and writing letters to people.

We label his drawings, both with him writing words on things he’s drawn and with me writing words on things he’s drawn. He’s already engaged with the picture he’s drawn and sometimes he’ll stay engaged while we write on it. He also likes to turn drawings into letters and write messages on them, and to write his name on them.

A white board. I picked up a Crayola white board in the Target dollar bin recently, and we have some dry-erase markers already for some dry-erase work books he’s completely uninterested in. It’s very wide lined, and he seems to be more comfortable writing on it than on paper. I don’t know if that’s because he can erase mistakes quickly & completely, or if the marker glides along the surface better, or what. But he’s very interested in it and has been “writing words” (the letters H, T, and I mostly, in random combinations) and drawing all over it.

Accessible Materials

Markers, Crayons, paper, his white board, chalk, and a chalk board are accessible to him at all times. This wasn’t always the case (he’s WAY less likely to write on the walls/floor now) and we’d have to change this up if we had younger kids in the house. But being able to pick up writing utensils and paper at will help keep him interested and keep him practicing without making it a chore.

Creative Options

There’s letter shaping you can do without pen (or marker, crayon, etc) and paper. You can bend pipe cleaners into letters; make letters out of playdough or clay; trace letters with a chopstick or finger in sand or flour or sugar etc; make letters out of glue and sprinkle glitter or sand etc onto them; make letters out of blocks; make letters out of string. You can do this to introduce letters or supplement them, depending on your kid’s interest and physical ability.

Making Words and Words In Everyday Life

Some other things we’re doing with him involve manipulating letters into words in different ways, like letter magnets and letters cut out of paper. I also wrote some letters on duplo blocks with a black marker, and he can snap them together to make words. Decals or stickers would also work for that if your handwriting is shaky.

We read to him for about 30-40 minutes a day at least, and he has ready access to his books at all times. He also sees us reading a lot. Just reading to your kid is super helpful as it teaches them how writing works (for ex, in English you start at the front of the book and read left to write from the top to the bottom).

He tells stories and I write them down and then read them back to him. This emphasizes the importance of writing and reading and gets him involved and interested. Kids love to own their own words, their own stories. I have a little note book that he picked out and I’ll ask him questions (like, what are 3 things you did today, or what are 3 things you like to eat and why) or ask him to tell me a story. Then I write down what he said. Sometimes he illustrates it, too.


Niko’s not a calligraphy master, not by a long shot. But he’s getting more comfortable writing letters as opposed to drawing them, and getting more confident. School starts at the end of August and we hope to have him comfortably writing every letter of the alphabet by then, and knowing how to string letters together into a single word (IE, in order and all on one line).

What are you doing or have you done to help little kids get comfortable with writing? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t worked for you?

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Niko’s enrolled in school (finally!)

Niko’s enrolled in school (finally!)

After playing a bit of phone tag I finally managed to set up an appointment to come down to the school Niko will be attending this fall to enroll him. I had to bring his birth certificate and his medical card. If we didn’t have state insurance we would have had to bring other documents. The school wasn’t overly concerned with proving our address, I think, because it’s not a super great super desirable school. I’m not saying it’s a bad school, but some CPS neighborhood schools are HOT SHIT and people lie and scheme to get into them if they don’t live in the neighborhood.

The school’s 4 blocks (half a mile) away, which means I’ll be racking up 2 miles of walking a day once he starts, between drop offs and pick ups. We left early today to get to the appointment, because 4 year olds can be jerks on walks, and he kept insisting he was feeling pukey and needed to sit for a moment in the cool, cool shade under a tall, tall tree. Ha ha, what? Only he DOES barf when he gets over heated sometimes, only it usually involves 1) a car or 2) massive running around.

Despite our frequent stops, we got to the school early to enroll this boy.

It was interesting. The staff made 2 basic assumptions about our family, based largely on the neighborhood: 1) that we’re on state insurance (which is true, and we might continue to be on it (albeit paying for it) when Nesko’s eligible for insurance through work, we’ll see) and 2) that we don’t speak English at home (which would be true if my FIL had his way). Most kids coming into that school take a language fluency exam to determine which level of ESL classroom they’ll be in, but Niko’s really fluent in English (it’s his primary language) so he’ll just be in the English speaking class. School starts toward the end of August, there’s a class size of 22, and instead of buying supplies off a school supply list we outfit Niko with a book bag, give the school paper towels and tissues and hand soap, and pay a fee. That fee covers school supplies and a school-branded t-shirt they wear on field trips and for gym class. There’s two preschool classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and it lasts 2 1/2 hours. I signed him up for the morning class so he can come home and take a nap. I got a good vibe from the staff we met with. They seem very open, friendly, and caring. It sounded like they required Niko to be present (as opposed to “you can bring him if you need to” or whatever) but they didn’t really interact with him and instead he played with dinosaurs and then a really cool dollhouse while I filled out paperwork.

There was… a lot of paperwork.

I was kind of nervous or something… I’m dealing with some ~~ANXIETY~~ lately and being thrust into a new situation of enrolling my baby in school kind of ramped that up… and my hand writing was AWFUL. I was like “ahhh what am I dooooing I’m writing illegibly…. hand stop that. write nicely. hand! what the fuuuuuuck. I CAN PENMANSHIP I SWEAR IT!!!”

The regional gifted center is directly across the street and has a pretty nice (and completely unshaded and thus hot) playground. After all the boring paperwork I took Niko over there and he played with other kids and ran around for almost an hour.

My only concern with the enrollment process was that they asked some personal medical questions — which I understand the need for– but in a very public way. So you ask me, you know, is there any history of mental health issues in the family and I say yes… and I didn’t go into my own business because I was flustered but everyone around me (including other parents) heard what I said. And they asked why I had a C-Section. Some other medical stuff. Internets, you know I bloviate endlessly about the horrific mysteries of my gross body, but that’s somehow different from dropping info bombs in front of the parents of Niko’s future classmates. On the internet I discuss shitting my bed immediately after having a C-Section. In real life, I try to abstain from the grossity. Given the set up (a bunch of grown ass adults crouched on tiny chairs around circular tables in a class room) I don’t see how that could be prevented, though.

The teacher he will probably be having next year asked that we practice with him writing his own name. He’s gotten good at his nickname, but we’ll work on the whole name.

We need to get him a physical and dental visit and have the appropriate doctors fill out paperwork, but don’t need to do a vision or hearing screening (the school handles that), which is nice. They also offer flu vaccines.

Anyway, after the enrollment and playground playing we stopped at Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins for ice cream (which, as usual, turned into a donut) where I realized I didn’t have 1) my bank card or 2) my transit card. WIN! THIS IS WHAT WINNING LOOKS LIKE! Luckily I had a $5 Visa Gift Card that had enough of a balance on it to pay for our donuts, and when my emergency transit card turned out to be expired the driver just waved us through. Now Niko’s sitting around in the living room in his underpants, eating ice cream and playing with dinosaurs, and what I thought was a sunburn on his arms is pretty much faded, whew.

So.

Preschool in August.

Wow.

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THE PITS!!!

THE PITS!!!

I was cutting up some cherries today and Niko objected. He could just eat them whole! The way he eats grapes! And carrots! No no, I said. They have pits, I said.

He looked at me like I was full of shit.

He actually gives me this look a lot, because I say all kinds of crazy shit like “you can’t eat a box of granola bars for breakfast” and “don’t paint the rug” and “your fingers don’t belong up your butt.”

“MAMA,” he said, “a pit is something YOU FALL IN. It is IN THE GROUND. It is a BIG HOLE that you fall in and get lost in.”

So we had a conversation about cherry pits (and peach pits), and pits that are holes in the ground, and arm pits.

Later on I tucked him into bed for a nap and then took a shower. As I was drying off I heard a big thump and then sad noises. He made his way into the bathroom, sniveling.

“Oh, Niko, did you fall out of bed?”

“No. I tumbled.”

Well there you go.

He also had a freak out when I wouldn’t let him eat an entire bag of dried cherries. When I wouldn’t open the bag, he reassured me that it was ok, he’d open it himself. I put it on a shelf. He flipped his shit. Among the insults he slung at me? “YOU ARE NOT A PERSON!” I… do not know where that came from.

He is, in general, in a “I’ll do it MY! SELF!” mood where everything but pulling up his own pants is concerned. He’s pretty much toilet trained except for sometimes he pees on his bed when he wants a bath (RAGE METER FILLED. WHY WOULD YOU DOOOOOOO THAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT) and he’s wet the bed twice overnight possibly because he’s had a nightmare. So we’re back to pullups while sleeping, even though he’s totally dry 99% of the time. He also likes to get himself “a nice cool fresh glass of water.” AWWW ADORBS. I FORGIVE YOUR URINE ANTICS.

IN OTHER NEWS, I was all on top of things and ahead of the game, and took Niko in for his dental exam and check up/physical and got his school forms filled out so I’d be all ready to enroll him… and I’ve lost those forms. CRI CRI. No idea where they are. I guess I put them someplace safe? So safe they’re safe EVEN FROM ME. Good job, me. Good job.

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