Dollars and Cents

I’ve found another reason to Legos. Not that I didn’t have plenty of reasons to love Legos already – they are good for hours of entertainment, they teach spatial relations, they are great for small motor skill development, they demonstrate the importance of following directions (and following them in the correct order), but I have found another. They have taught my son about money. Well, yes, the interesting sets cost a fortune and that is a good way to learn about the value of money and how to save it, but that is a topic for another post.

My son recently decided to start his own Lego business. The business plan goes something like this: he gets out the Lego bricks he already owns and builds something, he then describes its various features to me and tells me what the price is, I agree or start negotiations based on the value I place on the benefits and features he has described to me, he then collects his coins and gives me the Lego creation or comes back with a lower price or a better description of the benefits to try to talk me into the higher price, then we start over again at the beginning. This has been going on for a week or so now and let’s just say that I now “own” a lot of Legos.

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I am loving this game for several reasons. The first reason is that he is playing with his Legos again! We got stuck in a phase of only building new kits purchased at the store and not creating our own structures. That is a quick way to empty your bank account! The Legos, which were previously an item which was played with daily, began to sit untouched for weeks at a time until there was a new kit to build. Instead of playing and creating, my son was wandering around the house, bored and unable to find something interesting to occupy him. The Lego business has rescued him from the doldrums and from the claws of consumerism.

The second reason is that he is learning about the value of the various coins and how they compare to the value of the various bills. This has worked against me in his pricing scheme (he used to accept my offer of 4 pennies instead of 4 quarters in negotiations), but has been a great way to teach him what a nickel is and that you need five of them to make a quarter. We haven’t done much formal math yet, but he is getting a great head start on the mental math of adding, subtracting and comparing values.

The third reason is based in his entrepreneurial spirit. He comes from a family of several generations of small business owners and looks to be suited to business ownership himself. This early venture is the first of what I am sure will be a string of businesses. The first main hurdle he is working to overcome is the idea that once you sell something to someone you no longer own it. Keeping the pieces he has already sold to me from becoming part of new creations to be sold again has been hard. They are still living in the play room and in plain sight when he is building new sets. Eventually, when the game has run its course and the Lego business closes up shop, I will give them all back to him and not make him pay me for them, but while I am still “buying” Legos from him, I am trying to impress upon him that I will not buy the same Lego twice. It’s a confusing leap for a five year old!

The last reason is that he is learning excellent negotiation skills. This kid was born a good negotiator – if you tell him to do (or not do) something you better have a reason (and a very good one at that) at the ready. His ability to question authority and to seek consensus at the age of five amazes me. Some days, I would love to pull out a “because I said so” and be done with it, but most days I appreciate how useful this skill is going to be when he is adult and he is arguing with someone who isn’t me. Determining the value of his work and recognizing that different people will value something more (or less) than others has been an interesting side effect of the Lego business. If you want to get rich, as he most certainly does, you need to produce something which not only you think is awesome, but that other people are willing to give you money for.   Another confusing leap for a five year old.

So there you have it, my unpaid glowing endorsement of Legos and the myriad benefits associated with starting your own Lego business. ~P.L.H.

Words Fail

As I sat down to write this morning, I saw the headline about another terrorist attack in France.  Another.  These acts of violence–whether domestic, abroad, politically-motivated, racially-motivated, or simply undefined–leave most of us angry, sad, or at the very least, unsettled and uncertain.  Here, in a quiet neighborhood in the northeastern US, I can easily see the world as pleasant, safe, and rich with beautiful opportunities to learn and work freely in any way I choose.  These are true qualities, and I give thanks for them.  It would be easy to see myself and my life as largely unaffected by recent tragedies (gun violence, bombings, terrorist attacks, protests gone wrong).  After all, in my little world, the biggest problems revolve around reading aptitude, sibling squabbles, and whether or not the recycling goes out this Tuesday.

But those feelings of security–while comforting and lovely–only last until I take one small step toward seeing myself as a citizen of the WORLD, instead of only as a citizen of my city.  When I find the bravery to look beyond my family and my house, my neighborhood and my church, I risk the pain and fear of the scary world out there, but I open myself to grow in love and compassion.  I set myself up to learn and to stretch my mind and my heart.

The stretching, growing, and learning is what I want for my children, too.  Of course, I pray for their safety and always hope that they will not come face to face with tragedies like the ones we’ve seen in the news, but I also wish for them to know the personal–and potentially global–benefits of seeing their fellow human beings as travelers on the same journey, as brothers and sisters.  That shared experience comes with risk–a risk I find worthwhile.

Wishing you Peace in these trying days.  ~*~Erica~*~

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Planning

My husband took my son for the day earlier this week so that I could think about and plan our first few weeks of school for the fall. I have done a lot of reading and I have a ton of ideas, but if I were to have to sit down tomorrow to lead our first day of school, I had no idea what I would say or do.  The theory of homeschooling sounded like a great idea from the safe distance of a couple of years. Now that kindergarten is looming and theory needs to be turned into action, I am getting nervous.

I am planner by nature. I like to know what is coming next and to know how I am going to get from here to there.  I like to have a solid plan and preferably and solid plan B and plan C to fall back on. I would prefer for those plans to be presented in a bullet pointed list. That’s just me and it always has been.

The mother in me knows that homeschool is going to be messy. Our days are not going to fit into my neatly organized plan and go unfailingly according to schedule.  The planner in my shrinks in horror at the prospect of that mess and feels the compulsion to make lists. So I sat down and made lists.

Veteran homeschoolers will most likely laugh at the image of me surrounded by four curriculum books with three documents open on my laptop screen trying to cobble together a daily schedule of goals and activities. I will probably laugh at this memory in a few years when I have the experience to know what I am facing come the new school year.  We are just starting kindergarten though and I am a newbie.

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After a few hours of this my head hurt and I felt even less prepared than I did before I started my quest to tame the homeschooling beast.  The ideals of Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, unschooling and project based schooling I started with are all still swimming around in happy chaos in my head.  Though the document I drafted is 15 pages long, I still feel ungrounded and unsure of what we are actually going to do.  Part of me feels like I have planned too much – too many activities, too many subjects, too much structure. Saying that my son is not a fan of structure would be a drastic understatement.  The other part of me feels like there is no way what I have planned to going to fill our day (or even an hour of it) or teach my son what I think he needs to know.  It’s hard to move forward from a place like that.

I realize that flexibility is going to be a huge part of the adventure we are about to embark upon.  Some of the things on my painstakingly developed schedule will work and others will be downright rejected by my son who has plenty of opinions of his own.  I planned four weeks – enough to get us started, perhaps enough to determine what is working and what isn’t working, hopefully enough to at least give me an idea of which direction I need to take this project next!

How do you address the planning process? Do you follow a curriculum you purchased? Do you un-school and not need a weekly/daily plan? Do you re-use material from older siblings? Do you trust that everything will work out in its own time and refrain from torturing yourself like I am doing?  Finally, and I’m thinking that the answer to this question is a resounding “YES”, am I over-thinking this?

Mixed Ages

One of the many joys of homeschooling is being able to use your time as you’d please. Your days are more flexible to structure in a way to meet your family’s needs.

A second homeschool joy is regularly playing with kids of all ages. What a beneficial experience it would be to regularly spend time with senior citizens. Seniors have so much to offer to our young kids. 

One thing that we schedule into our days is an every other week visit to my grandmother who lives in an assisted living community. The girls’ call their great grandmother, Gigi.  It’s about an hour’s drive from our home. We arrive early to visit a bit and then have lunch together. These visits not only bring joy to my grandmother but to the other folks living there who love seeing a young face and all the energy they have to spread around. To be honest, our visits have become not so fun. While my grandmother loves them, she is not the best at interacting with them and the kids pick up on this. We have discussions where I try to gently navigate telling them how important these visits are to Gigi and how we want to be sure to soak up our time with her as we never know how much time we have with somebody   on earth. It’s doesn’t bring out the enthusiasm I wish was there.

These not very exciting visits were prompting me to want to think about how to better their relationship with Gigi and all older folks. So I organized an intergenerational play day at the community she lives in. My thoughts were to create a mutually beneficial day for the older guests and the children. The children could bring joy to the older folks and build relationships. The guests could enjoy the fun and energy the kids brought to day. 

My idea was to be outside and let the kids run around and play together as the guests watched or joined in. I put out beads for necklace making in hopes of guests and kids working together to make necklaces for themselves or others. A joint activity they could focus on and hopefully conversation could open up around this. The morning went well and the kids warmed up to folks a bit. My hope is a regular play day will lead to relationships being built.  

Naturally the girls took a break from beading to perform a play they threw together followed by a few songs from Sound of Music for the guests. This was something we plan to do monthly. It was great for the kids to connect two of their worlds by sharing this experience with their friends. 

~Kate