The last few days have found us relaxing as best we can, times of work intermingled with some house play and good walks. Yesterday I had time to sit with Kiddo while he played with a tape measure. I've recently reintroduced the unit blocks to the play area and so he spent some time, smoothing them with his hands and then measuring the longest ones. We then moved onto measuring the school table and he had a blast as we called out "Four feet! Three feet! Two feet!" as the tape retracted into the black plastic case.
Later we moved on to some cooking: rosemary Parmesan biscuits. He helped me bring in some rosemary, shave the cheese, dump in ingredients, and roll/cut out the dough. Kiddo is a lot of fun in the kitchen, even if we do have copious amounts of flour to sweep off the floor.
Today we took a family walk up and around Mount Tabor. We found the charming little hollow where the violets are blooming and collected some different mosses. Kiddo decided he wanted to "look for a dry leaf", which Joe helped him find and pack into his Exploring Bag. It's a leather fanny pack I picked up at an estate sale years ago; he wears it round his neck and crams all sorts of treasures into it. I like that he's interested in leaves, seed pods and 'prickly balls'--the seed pods from the Sweet Gum trees. We gathered a stroller basket full of the pricklies the other day. I am loving these walks... on Friday we even had time to stop for a short beer at Belmont Station while Kiddo took a short nap in the stroller.
Life is good. I'm glad to have such fulfilling work. I'm realizing that while the lesson plan is a nice reference, there's nothing like working directly in the thick of what the kids are doing. Sometimes this means being extra flexible and moving activities around, and I'm learning that less is more. The children just seem to know what they want to do, and I'm going to use some of this time to refocus on the classroom environments. Now that we've had a month of playing in the space, I will be making some small changes to try to encourage longer spans of play in certain areas. Playdough is still the hands-down winner when it comes to keeping children engaged for any length of time, and like blocks, a teacher can do a lot with playdough in terms of using it as a teaching tool. Letters can be created, items can be made and counted, stories can be acted out as the children create props or recreate the different elements or actions of the story onto the clay. I recently ordered a dvd on block play through the Community Playthings website (you can find it in their Resources section) and was amazed at the preK programs which based their curriculum around block play--nearly everything can be taught through unit blocks. This is what makes these open-ended toys so much more valuable than any sort of electronic device. Kids don't need computers or the latest gizmo--the best teaching toys have been around forever. We just need to rediscover them.
The best of all this is having Joe home. He's been pretty wonderful. He works the same hours I do from the home office, revising the resume and getting himself out there. The farther we move away from our situation with his old job, the happier I think we are. The outstanding issues are still unresolved, but we've discovered some time together and are determined to make the most of it while it lasts. He won't be home during the day forever, so I'm trying to enjoy it despite the lack of discretionary income. We have food, we've got the roof over our head and we're all healthy. Who can ask for anything more, truly?