Sunday, 28 July 2013

Bring out your junk

Every so often Jack's class starts a project where they build something. Letters will go out a few days before and Jack will usually mention in passing that we've got to supply the materials. Mostly the materials they ask for is junk i.e. clear plastic bottles, bottle tops or half an egg shell.

The problem I have with this is that Jack often suggest and sometimes will insist on keeping a hold of junk so that he can create things at home. And it's very difficult to get him to get rid of things as it is, he's very, very sentimental. The school seems to think that we just have endless supplies of product packaging hanging around the house. I have the tendency to hoard things if I'm not careful. I hang on to software, electronics and documents like it's made of gold (I suppose some of it is), I generally just hate throwing that kind of stuff away. But I don't hold on to cardboard boxes, bottle tops and pringles tubes just in case I (or Jack) are feeling creative. I dread when shows like Art Attack come onto the TV because it's impossible to get the exhibited projects out of Jack's head.

The latest is a musical instrument, after which they will be making a lighthouse. Thankfully Jack was only interested in making maracas and I love pringles so it was a good excuse.

I don't want to quash Jack's fascination with artistic recycling. I love to see him create things, anything at all really. Every creation is a little hint to how is mind works and is developing. Just ask him, he can make virtually anything out of a cardboard tube, sellotape and a piece of string. He wants to make robots when he grows up and I will do whatever I can to help him get there, but I'd like to do it without a house full of trash.

Perhaps I'l teach him to program, then he can make things that take up less physical space.

Sunday, 21 July 2013



For the past five weeks I've been attending a maths class at Jack's school. The purpose of this class is two fold. First: to give parents an idea of what math techniques the kids are being taught in school and how they are being taught them. Second: to help parents brush up on their maths as well, it's a practical skill after all, and encourage them to enrol on a math course at their local college.

Now, I don't suggle with math, not only have I been knee deep in advanced calculus and trigonometry for the last three years, but I've always been good at math. I only struggle when the math involves being written down. I like math. I like it because of the solidarity, the right answer is the right answer, it's not down to any interpretation.

I enrolled for this class knowing that the way that I was taught math in school was very different to the way Jack was being taught. I thought that it would be good for the future when I will undoubtedly need to help Jack with his math homework. With an overview if how he's been taught I should be more equipped to help him. Also the kids got to join us for the last half hour of the class, when Jack heard about this he was pretty insistent.

The class was good over all, I spent most of the class whizzing through the work and then helping the others, or giving brief lectures on things like the Monty Hall problem. What struck me most is that Jack is being taught techniques that I used to get into trouble for doing. Number bonds, for instance, I became quite notorious in my class for using number bonds to do math in my head, though I didn't know it at the time, it was just how I did it. In 7th grade I got bumped ahead into pre-algebra (9th grade) only to fail it spectacularly and get pushed back into the math class that was for the slow 8th graders. Number bonds, place values, and other similar techniques are the main cause for this failure. I could do the math in my head, but they wanted it on paper. If I did it on paper I got it wrong or got lost.

Now a days schools in Britain have realised the value of being able to do math in your head and are trying to teach it from as early an age as possible. All the written techniques that I was taught are not taught until year 6 or later. Some of them, like touch points, aren't even taught anymore.

Throughout the course I learned all of the terms and techniques that he's going to be taught over the next six years and already I can see their use. Jack and are regularly doing little math problems and it's changed a lot lately now that I can encourage him to use what he's been taught, we're a lot more productive and it's one more thing that we can do and enjoy together.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Stories from way back when.

05-08-2009 - I stumbled across this post from back in 2009 that doesn't seem to have ever made it on here.
So here it is.

Lately we're getting little stories.
Once upon a time there were three bears. Little bears, little teeny weeny bears. And I'm Jack.
This is the first story that Jack ever told. Loosely based on the three bears but I don't think we're in any threat of legal action.

Once apon a time where were three Jack-Jacks. They can fly. They all fly together. They fly really really high. 
Jack-Jack is a toy figurine of Yellow Jacket, probably the lamest semi-superhero every conceived. But one of Jack's favorite toys.

When I'm a big boy I'm going to get a car. And if you need me nanny just call and I'll come straight 'round. For anything at all, even shopping. And it's going to be green.

This is baby-ceritops, he's just a little baby, aw. He's sad. He's lost his mommy.
Usually the story ends there, but often in the case of baby-ceritops he does find his mommy.

These stories puzzle me a little bit, in fact a lot of his stories do. Jack is a very happy child most of the time, ask anyone. Yet a lot of his stories are sad. Children losing their mothers, things getting broken and so on. It's strange for me to think that my 2 year old can even conceive a sad story. I suppose because most stories that he's heard have some sort of trauma in them it's just natural development but it still seems a little strange to me.

There's another string of narratives we get from Jack is rescues. These are often short dialogs recited when he's playing, each character even has a different voice.
Helicoptor: Hello.
Victim: Hello.
Helicoptor: Are you... Do you need recuing?
Victim: Yes I need rescuing.
Helicopter: Oh.
Victim: Can you rescue me?
Helicoptor: Yes I can rescue you.
Victim: Oh.
Helicoptor: OK. I'll come and rescue you in a minute.

Dream Stories.
Last night Jack had a dream. It doesn't sound much like a bad dream but it woke him up in the middle of the night, and then he told me all about it in the morning.
There were bugs, lots of bugs. Lots and lots and they flied me away. They flied me away to their hole where I chased them. He then proceedes to demonstrate the various chasing and fighting methods used against the bugs.

Jack is no stranger to a bad dream. We have a few nights disturbed by terrified screams. Normally the bad dreams are monster related. He'll tell us about monsters coming to get him, or roaring at him. Sometimes he dreams about Mommy or Daddy shouting at him, which I must say is really hard to take.

The ghost has even made an appearence a couple of times. Helen and I are convinced that our house is haunted part-time. But that's a story for another time, no-good football stealing... anyway, Jack has dreams that the ghost, often referred to as 'The Man' or 'The Little Man' has come into his room and looked at him. Once the ghost scared him pretty good, Jack didn't tell us what the ghost did to scare him so but he didn't want to sleep in his room alone for almost a week afterwards. But generally The Man just comes in and looks at him.

There are good dreams as well. One time when I came to bed late, I checked on Jack as normal. When I opened the door he sat up, every parents worst nightmare. It was too dark to see if his eyes were open or get much of an idea of just how awake he really was but not wanting to take the chance that he'd go into a fit if I just tried to slip out I carried on as I normally would during a bed-time check. I quietly laid him back down in his bed and pulled the quilt over him.  On my way out of the room he spoke, I thought I was going to be in for a sleepless night at first until I heard what he was saying.
Mmmm that's nice. Yummy Yummy in my tummy. Num Num Num