Incentivise me

You know that feeling?….the one where you have been on holiday?

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Where you have slept in for days, drank many a casual coffee, or baileys, or cold pressed coffee with baileys…where you have not done housework but have laid around, played with the kids, gone to bed early some nights and late others…and generally forgone any structure to your days….until it’s Sunday evening. And you have to return to work tomorrow morning. You know that feeling? The one where you know you have to get up early the next morning, you have to deal with the traffic, you have to deal with PEOPLE, you have to perform to certain standards placed upon you by others. You know that feeling of, “I REALLY don’t want to return to all that yet…I’m not ready… just one more day….just a little more freedom….” But instead, you suck it up, give yourself a kick into gear and get back to work. Because you have to. Because at the end of the week (or month, or fortnight) a certain amount of money is given to you for carrying out those duties. You return, because you are incentivised to return.

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Well this morning, Indi needed to be incentivised. She needed to be incentivised to return to school. She needed something to help her 5 year old brain deal with the loss of freedom, the loss of sleeping in, the loss of hanging out with Mumma, the loss of choosing her activities throughout the day, the loss of free play. She needed something else to focus her mind on when the anxiety started telling her that getting back in to her school routine was too hard, too scary, too much. She needed something to help excite her when she told me she was too tired to go to school, that she would miss me too much all day (I think she threw that one in for good measure), that she didn’t know if it was sand and swings day and she HATES sand and swings day…

So I incentivised her.

I told her to wait right there in bed as I had something to surprise her with. Something that she could earn this week. I told her that I had all those feelings too, but that school was important and something that she must do. I told her that I had something she could think about to get rid of the things in her mind that were making her feel sad and not capable….

And I pulled out of the top of my cupboard….

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a Shopkins Pack.

I brought it to Indi, still curled up in bed denying that she was going to school, and I told her, “If you are able to carry out your morning routines each day this week then you will earn this Shopkins Pack. That means you have to get ready for school and do all your morning chore-chip chores without whinging about them, and you have to do your best not to worry about school, for 5 days, then on Saturday, you can open and have this Shopkins Pack.”

Indi “eeked” with delight, inspected the Shopkins Pack…and got dressed for school. We put the INCENTIVE up on the kitchen windowsill where she would be able to see it all week and remember what she was working towards. She completed ALL of her morning chore-chip chores and even had ten minutes to herself before we headed out to school. She smiled in the car and I silently high-fived myself for being on-top of this.

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And everything was peachy….

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Until we got to the school gate and anxiety kicked in again.

She clung to my legs, she sat on my lap and wrapped herself around me, she switched between wanting to play with a friend to not wanting to leave me. Last year she liked to be at school early enough to watch what was going on around her. This year it seems this just allows her to worry. When it was time to line up, the silent tears flowed down her face, and her legs wobbled trying to hold herself up and walk towards her classmates. Her Teacher Aide took her hand and lead her inside to ‘help’ get some things ready before the rest of the kids came in. Once she was in the classroom and busy ‘helping’, her brain switched from worry, to order. She had a role, she had a routine and ‘fitting in’, no longer mattered. She would be fine and I promised to be there waiting at 3:15 when the bell rung, to pick her up (I’ll deal with her reluctance to go to after-school care tomorrow, tomorrow!).

So this week I will continue to incentivise her mornings. We will get to school just before the bell to reduce worry time and I will hope that she finds her confidence in her school routines again. This term, I will (try to) find a balance between incentivising her and placing expectations of behaviour on her. This term I will remember that her brain is wired differently to mine, and I will (try to) be understanding of this. This term I will (try to) teach her strategies to help her remain in control of her emotions and to help her plan for her days. This term we will get back on top of the school routine…and then we will have school holidays…and start all over again…

What strategies do you have in place to help transition your child back into their school routine? Leave your tips and advice in the comments.

Feeling like a reader

I wanted to show you this example of Indi, reading. I think it is a good example of what we are working toward achieving with many of our students.

Today, Indi felt like a reader.

She was able to read her book to us, from start to finish, with no ‘tricky moments’. Yes, of course it was largely memorised. Yes, of course she used the pictures as cues for some of the words. But the main things I want parents to understand is that because she had already done the hard work in decoding the words and in learning her sight words, she was then able to enjoy READING it to Mum and Dad with no, ‘tricky moments.’

Indi was able to feel like a reader. Indi was able to enjoy the story. Indi was able to enjoy SHARING the story. And for any student (regardless of age), isn’t that what what want them to experience?

So what has been done to get here?

  • She has been learning her sight words via flash cards at least every second night (many children need to do this each night, but Indi has a good memory so doesn’t require as much repetition at this stage). The sight words in this book were: the, my, is, said,
  • She went on a ‘picture walk‘ through the book before reading. This is where she looked at the pictures and identified what she could see about them (in this case naming the animals).
  • She had talked about, looked at and decoded the ‘story words‘ before reading. In this book they are: nose, long, longer
  • Now read it it her Learning Coach.

These activities meant that when she brought her book home, although by this stage the story was memorised, she had actually done the hard work already and it was time for her to enjoy it. Notice however, that she is actually reading and not just ‘reciting’. She is reading the words at the same time that they are being pointed to (our next step is to have HER pointing to the words as she reads). At the previous stage, she would recite rather than matching each spoken word with its written form – that’s ok, she still felt like a reader, which is the purpose of our efforts!

This process is one of the BEST ways to build confidence as a reader.

So when we send books home with your child and you can see that it seems like it has been learnt off-by-heart….it probably has! It probably has, because they have already worked hard with us using all the strategies mentioned here as well as a few others, to decode the words. Reading it to you at home is their opportunity to feel like a reader and to enjoy sharing this moment with you!

Be careful, it’s catching!

When Indi arrived home from school yesterday she wanted to, ‘do some learning like the big kids’. So while they logged on to access their work, she logged in to her Reading Eggs and spent the next hour quietly working too.

I love how, given the right environment, a desire to learn becomes contagious. I love how we are able to build the self esteem of learners who were previously embarrassed about their work and ability so they are able to feel truly successful, and I love how our students are proud of each other, of themselves and become role models for others.

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Snacks, snacks, snacks

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Food for thought: we have noticed an increase in sugar and/or salt loaded snacks lately. Although, yummy (for some), these are not appropriate foods to be consumed for learning. The reason for this is it gives a short term sugar high, which is followed by a crash, both of which are disastrous for focus and learning.

good for thought

Remember that the snack you are providing your child is meant to fuel them for learning. The work we do here is intensive, and we need to make sure we are fueling and nourishing our children so they have the best chance to make the most of this time.

Water and nutrient rich food are the best snack choices. Here is a link to an easy to read article, with some great ideas for packing a lunch box and snacks.

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/packing-the-perfect-lunch-box/

And if you are really short on time, here are examples of Indi’s lunch boxes – Indi is ‘sensory’ and so food has always been something we have had to carefully manage. These are all quick and easy:

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Yum Yum, feel free to share your healthy lunch boxes and snacks with us! 
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Family Organisation and a 4 Year Old

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With Indi starting school (kindy) this year, one of my aims was to become a little more organised. Knowing that for the past four years, mornings have been ‘our time’, I figured being out the door by 7:45am three days a week was going to be a challenge. For my own sanity I want to have a little more structure to our household so that weekends aren’t taken up with endless chores. I want to simplify daily needs, to not stand in front of the fridge in the evenings and wonder what on earth we should cook for dinner (or why everyone needs to be fed daily!). And I really don’t want to be that mother who is so very tired of the sound of her own voice constantly nagging her child to get ready, hurry up, get a move on….

So Indi starting school has been my major motivator. I want her to learn self regulation, responsibility, time management and I figure that this year is the time to walk her through these life lessons. She attends school (kindy) 5 days a fortnight, so this seems to be the perfect opportunity for us to trial and measure some new family organisation strategies.

Stage One: School Organisation

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I took to Pinterest to get some ideas on how to set up an area for her school bag. The aim here is to make sure that everything has a place and everything is in its place; no running around in the morning trying to find a missing shoe or where her school hat has disappeared to. We have a list on the fridge door to remind us what items need to be taken to school on any given day (wear sports uniform on Mondays, take library bag to school and home on the last kindy day of the week, homework goes to school on the first kindy day of the week and back home on the last kindy day of the week etc). When she comes home in the afternoon she takes her lunch and bottle out of her bag and puts them on the kitchen table. She then hangs her bag on her bag hook, gets out of her uniform (shorts usually get folded and worn again the following day and shirt goes in her washing basket), and puts her school shoes in the container underneath. If it is a homework day, her homework bag gets hung up on her bag hook also. Sun screen is kept in the container with the shoes for easy use, as are kindy sheets (sheets go to school on a Monday and return home for washing on a Wednesday). Our set up needed to be small as there is no space in her bedroom for extra furniture or an elaborate setup. Her school uniform hangs neatly in the centre of her wardrobe. I have found washing and hanging on a hanger has eliminated the need to iron (I’m sure senior years will be different). Her small bag which is used the other two days of the week (for family day care) sits next to her shoe box. We are three weeks into school and this system has been working a treat.

Stage Two: Simple Meal Planning

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Both hubby and I work from home and as lovely as this sounds, it can sometimes mean work happens constantly; there is no real finish time. Hubby has largely been responsible for dinner (I’m a lucky woman!) but to share this load a little more we are doing a very basic meal plan. We go to the markets (fresh fruit, vege and meat) and supermarket each Sunday. When we unpack our food I simply write up the basic meal for each night on the fridge chalk boards. This small act has meant that we know what we are doing each evening without having to think about it. Along with this I also write where Indi is each day, what time she needs to be picked up and by whom (this helps hubby know when he is on school pick up).

Indi planet box

Indi’s lunch is the second part of simple meal planning. I find that if I make her lunch the night before, our morning flows 100 times better. Indi has always been a little difficult to feed. She eats well but is extremely picky/sensory. We use the Planet Box Rover as foods touching other foods was an issue and I was getting sick of washing little containers every day.I’ve currently got a stash of homemade banana piklets and cookies in the freezer which I can quickly add to her lunch. Im looking forward to the day when mixed foods is no longer an issue and she will eat mini quiche and vege meatballs!

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Stage Three is quite a major one and is a combination of teaching Indi about family responsibilities, self management, time management and money management.

Thanks to the wonderful Amber from Mollydag Made, we have created some colour coded chore chips for Indi. The magenta chore chip disks represent tasks and chores that she needs to do to either be ready for her day or because she is part of our family and has responsibilities to help our family function well. Green disks represent chores that she can earn money for. The yellow chart is for her morning tasks and chores. The blue chart are afternoon tasks and chores. The orange chart are weekend chores. The yellow chart is in order of tasks that best suits the flow of our morning. When she has completed a task she places the matching chore chip next to it.

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This year is about walking her through the chores and tasks so that she learns good habits as well as teaching her expectations around how to carry out the more difficult tasks. The aim is that next year she will be more independent and need less of mine or her Dad’s guidance with them. So far, so good. She likes the new amount of responsibility. I like that I can refer her to her chart rather than just nagging to do a task. She loves the visual aid of seeing what she has achieved.

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Stage Three, part B: The Money Side

Not all green chore chips are compulsory, but she is learning that if she wants to earn some money, she needs to do something helpful. Money doesn’t grow on trees! We are trying to make sure she doesn’t have an ‘entitled’ attitude (we’ve all seen the generation who expect to be paid because they turned up to work, rather than being paid because they are working hard or well). At the moment, we complete most of the paid chores together. I’m teaching her ‘how’ to complete them. But what I didn’t expect, is that we are actually both enjoying this time! She doesn’t comprehend the value of the money she is earning as of yet, so there is no set amount around them. It could be anywhere from 20cents to $1. Obviously, as she grows, this will change. When she earns her money she puts it into her piggy bank. Her piggy bank has 4 compartments to it, and this is how we intend to teach her about money management. The compartments are: spend, save, donate, invest. As she doesn’t have comprehension of the value, she currently shares out her coins to each compartment. Over time this will change; for example, investing might be 30% of money earnt. But for now, when we are at the supermarket and she wants the Ninja Turtle Mashie, she can only have it if there is enough money in her ‘spend’ compartment!

So there you have it. 3 small yet significant things we are doing in our home to help with family organisation and creation of positive life long habits for a 4 year old.

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I would love to hear your tips on how you keep your family and children organised.

Links to purchase the products we use (oh, and no, this post is not endorsed by anyone, I’m sharing because I love them and they work well for us so perhaps they will for you too!) :

Games to Go by MollydagMade

Money Savvy Piggy Bank

Chalkboard labels from Officeworks

Planetbox lunchbox from Biome

Chemical free cleaning with Norwex

School Readiness Discussion

Part 2

School Readiness = cognitive development + social skills + emotional skills + physical skills

SOCIAL SKILLS are crucial if a child is to make a successful start to school. Academic learning cannot take place if a child cannot socialise with their peers or participate in collaborative activities in a classroom. Social skills need to be explicitly taught to children.

NUMERACY: being able to rote count is not an early predictor of mathematics success. Too often parents are lead to believe that their child’s ability to count in an indicator of their mathematical ability, when in fact, it is more of an indication of a child’s working memorry. The ability to rote count requires the same cognitive skills involved in reciting a nursery rhyme.
(Note from Kate: I’m not suggesting not to teach your child to rote count, Im suggesting that this does not mean they will be a master mathematician)
Current research suggests a child’s ability to recognise patterns and structure is more of a predictive of their subsequent mathematical development in the early years. Children need to be able to copy, continue and create simple patterns with concrete materials such as blocks, handprints, shapes, leaves, stickers, coloured lids, before introducing counting patterns.
Incidental learning or finding the teachable moment in everyday life will help children build a strong foundation which will better prepare them for school and improved mathematics function. Cooking developes measurement skills, setting the table allows opportunities to see patterns and discuss the number of various objects, sort the laundry according to darks and lights, match socks, unpack groceries, plant seeds (counting), cut food into portions….there are so many everyday experiences that will set them up to be better mathematicians…but remember to TALK about them whilst you are playing, as giving them the language is just as important!

What activities do you do at home which encourages numeracy?

comment from Lyn:  At the moment Miss S has a collection of coins totaling about $7. She brings them to me at least once a day and it’s a perfect ‘teachable moment’ right there with her interest level at its peak. We run through the name of each coin and different ways of combining coins to make the same total. We practice skip counting in 5s and 10s and we discuss the concept that the coins have values (she is still grasping the idea that eg 14 coins does not equal $14, and that 100 c equals $1. We revisit this concept each day)

School Readiness Discussion

School Readiness = cognitive development + social skills + emotional skills + physical skills

We are going to share this week, some extracts around school readiness and what it means. We are happy to have some (respectful) discussion around this and your examples of how you have/will/are preparing you child for school.

Monday’s School Readiness Discussion
Starting school involves a complex interplay between a range of developmental domains. A child must have cognitive (academic) competencies, in addition to social, emotional and physical skills. Too often we focus on a child’s cognitive development when considering is a child is ready for school. However, it is more important to consider the child’s overall development before determining if they are ready to start school.
‘A Parent’s Guide to School Readiness by Dr Kristy Goodwin’

In preparing our own Indi for school, our main objective was to ensure that she was ready emotionally and socially. Yes, we have the skills and resources to ‘teacher’ her, and were even told at our pre-enrollment interview that we could focus more on helping her hold her pencil and form letters…but our decision was to focus on helping her develop as a human We now have a little girl who is excited and ready to go to school. She follows her morning routine, and there are only smiles when we drop her off and pick her up! She holds her pencil just fine without being first taught at home, and she loves practicing her ‘writing’ as she sees it around her all the time…as for the specifics of academic learning, they will come through her wonderful teacher and with support at home. But because she is emotionally and socially READY to be at school, her learning will happen far more naturally.

Thoughts from Tam (reader and teacher): As a teacher (still feels weird saying that! :p) I watched two mothers quickly try to get their children into prep this year just after the prep birthdate change. I was asked to write a letter of recommendation for one child (totally ready for school) and wasn’t even consulted at all for the other (totally not ready, socially emotionally or academically). Consult the professionals that work with your children! They know them almost as well as you do.

Thoughts from Lyn (reader and teacher): In the French curriculum children don’t learn to read until 7. The two years leading up to that are heavily focused on oral language development and social skills.

Tuesday’s School Readiness Discussion
Children need to develop confidence and resilience to be successful learners. Some things parents can do to develop emotional skills are: model and praise confidence, discuss how you can bounce back from adversities, support your child when they experience disappointment or setbacks (do not shield them from them), encourage children’s efforts (process not results based), use praise honestly, encourage calculated risk taking (eg on play equipment), develop their emotional vocabulary, model how to put things on a ‘catastrophe scale’.
‘A Parent’s Guide to School Readiness by Dr Kristy Goodwin’

Some phrases you will regularly hear in our home are:
“Well done, that’s awesome”, “what a pity, such a shame, now move on”, “I understand you fell that way now what can we do about it?”, “nice effort, I’m proud of you!”, “too bad so sad”, “have a look around you and see if you can give it a try”, “how does that make you feel?”, along with plenty of “I love you” and “and love you very much but your behaviour right now is unacceptable”.

What phrases do you use to help develop your children’s emotional skills?