Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I have a kindergartner?!

This past year, our family has had a lot of changes, including a huge job change for Mr. River. It was not just a change in jobs but also a change in shifts. So all of our schedules changed quite a bit. Although Baby Bear is still in preschool, we couldn't keep both girls in the program and wound up enrolling Blue in a transitional kindergarten (TK). TK is essentially the same as what kindergarten used to be. It emphasizes social skills and very basic academic skills (learning letters, beginning reading, etc). When California's kindergarten age cut-off changed, they implemented the TK program for the kids who used to be old enough for kindergarten but are too young now. So the kids who would've been nearly-5 upon entering.

Blue fit the age requirements and, after doing a walkthrough, I liked the program. I tried to find charter programs, but very few have a TK. (As a side note, the charter, magnet, local schools, choice schools, etc are very overwhelming!) The TK still emphasized play-based learning even though it also incorporated more sit-down, formal academic instruction. I would have rather kept her in the more play-based prekinder program, but that just wasn't an option. 

So unexpectedly, I now have a kindergartner!  She will go to the "standard" kindergarten next year, but she is loving the program so far. 

In September, with Baby Bear entering preschool and Blue entering TK, I got a bit excited with all the back-to-school buzz and tried to better organize the girls' corner in the living room.  Here is the result:

The table isn't anything new. We bought Blue a "Jr" Little Tikes picnic table for her first birthday and used it for everything. Snacks, puzzles, lunch, crafts, cooking, everything. When Blue was 4, her legs started to get a bit long for it, and it was a bit crammed for both girls at the same time. So this fall, we upgraded to the normal Little Tikes picnic table. When I bought it, it was on sale for about $40 off and included an umbrella - which we used for the girls' sand/water table to replace the old worn out one.  So it was a good deal! The table fits both girls perfectly with plenty of room for friends :) Here is Baby Bear using it to work on their Melissa and Doug fishing puzzle. 

The calendar and color wheel I've actually had for a few years. I purchased them at Lakeshore Learning, but I just never could find the wall space for them (my desk used to be at this spot). Blue and Baby Bear already know their colors, but the mixing of colors is something they're still learning. And it just looks so cheery! I really wanted to have a calendar at Blue's level; she already knew the days of the week but she loves to look at the big calendar for upcoming days. So this worked out perfectly. I used a 3M velcro strip (cut down to squares)  to make the days easy to rearrange each month. When I volunteered at a preschool at college, the teacher used like thumbtacks in the calendar, and punched holes in the days to hang on the tacks. I really liked that, but didn't want 30 thumbtacks at Baby Bear's eye level.

The artwork was a caricature done at the zoo and I love how it came out! Cheetahs are still Blue's favorite animal, so the cheetah was her request.

The white board/bulletin board used to be in our kitchen. I needed a whiteboard for Blue, though. Her teacher is working hard to address and challenge the kids at their own level, and Blue was put into the small group that is receiving sight words. It's pretty informal; Blue receives three words every two weeks for her to find in books. If she knows them after 2 weeks, she receives 3 more. If she doesn't, no big deal and she'll just keep what she has. If she loses interest in them, no big deal. I like the approach. And Blue is extremely excited about reading and picking it up like crazy. It was almost like she was a fuse, just waiting to be lit. Everywhere we go, she's trying to sound out words, spot sight words, write things out, etc. It's amazing to watch. So I wanted a space to be able to write those for easy reference. I also badly needed a bulletin board though; the school sends home papers every week for upcoming events. I've never been the most organized person, and this was definitely testing my limits! The bulletin board made it much easier :) 

Finally, this past weekend, I picked up the wall file organizer at ikea. It's metal but has rounded edges so not too sharp, and I liked that it included many more slots than most (for the same or less cost). We wound up only using four of them. One for important school papers (i.e. parent email lists, etc). One for weekly homework (Blue gets one page a week, it's more for the parents than for her). One for completed school papers that have come home (I go through these about 1x per month to sort what to keep or discard). And one for the girls' artwork. Blue is in a phase where she'll easily produce 5-12 drawings and "letters to friends" a day, and I was going a bit crazy with the piles of papers it was producing. I wish Mr. River had mounted it a bit to the right, but alas I wasn't here when he put it up so I can't complain :)

So long rambles short, that is our corner for the girls! This is also adjacent to the area of wall we use for the monthly theme, their artwork, our felt wall, etc. They also have their own craft cabinet (Rubbermaid type pull out drawers) with craft supplies like crayons, watercolors, pencils, stickers, etc) but that is kept across the room.