Monday, February 18, 2008

It is interesting to watch your kids learn. My kids are somewhat similar of course but also different. Aidan and Quincy are both good at puzzles but both "learned" them differently. Aidan clearly looked at the outlines of the shapes he was working with, rather than the image itself. He would challenge himself by rotating the puzzle around. When he transitioned from wood holed puzzles to true jigsaws he had to relearn how to do puzzles - or at least to actually LOOK at the picture on the pieces! He is very able to easily pick out visual things - hidden pictures for instance. He also did complicated mazes by age 3 or so - well beyond his age. Quincy always looked at the picture so jigsaws were no different for him than wooden puzzles. He also has more willingness to stick to it than his brother. His hand control (writing) was not nearly as good as Aidan's and thus while he liked mazes and seemed pretty decent at them, he couldn't begin to do the much older aged ones as he couldn't stay in the lines. Both kids have good spatial abilities including rotating puzzle pieces around to fit correctly (something I noticed at the preschool that many kids struggled with). Aidan I understand more in some ways (and get much more aggravated at) as I think he is quite similar to me in some of his academic abilities and learning style. He learned to read shortly after beginning kindergarten (when the short vowel sounds were explained to him). He came home one day saying "I can read!". He could! He had figured out how to "decode" and how to join the sounds that the letters made together. He also was quite adept at figuring out a word from context - or substituting another word that began with the same sound that fit in context! So he was just before he turned 6. Quincy still isn't solid on those short vowel sounds and is not particularly adept at joining up sounds to sound out a word - and yet he is possibly now a better reader than Aidan was at the same age. We have a bunch of early reader books. Mostly they are books that he knows well but I am surprised at how easily he can "read" them - saying the word as he moves his finger along. We read for about an hour this a.m. Something somewhat unimaginable to have done with Aidan at the same age (he got frustrated and mad at me). Quincy actually gets mad at me if I help him out! He asks very nicely to stop reading when he is tired of it - compared to Aidan who just used to start whining at loud volume. I have noticed that he is very good at taking words he knows - "book" and extrapolating that to many similar words "look, took, cook". Clearly he is going about it somewhat differently from his brother but he seems to enjoy reading and is becoming fluent surprisingly quickly (when he reads he also puts expression into it which is cool). We've also been playing board or card games with the kids from a very young age. Aidan was playing Go Fish with us in New Zealand before he was 3. I would have said Quincy was not quite as precocious as his brother in this regard - but now seemingly he has passed his brother. He can be quite aggravating to play a game with - he has this unbounding kinetic energy that gets activated and he spends the majority of the game leaping around and seems to pay little attention to the game itself. Yet somehow he seems to win more than any other family member... I still whup them in Blokus (a new game from the Thompsons for xmas - spatial and strategy and fun) but I recently played Quincy in Othello. Now as far as I know, he has only played it a few times. I didn't set out to let him win nor to even be particularly easy on him. I was aiming to get to the corners first. Hah. In short order he had me over a barrel and clearly in a losing place. He was pretty thrilled at the outcome and ran and got the camera to preserve evidence of my trouncing. See picture. I was white.
The kids just learned chess a few weeks ago and again have played the game just a handful of times. And yet... Quincy seems to be quite dominant. He appears to not pay much attention to the game but makes some really good moves. Poor Aidan, he is so competitive and yet Quincy looks to be heading towards more dominance in games than we would expect especially given the age gap. He has won Monopoly and Life more often than not, but I had discounted those as they have a large luck element involved. Quincy also seems to have a real head for math. Both kids are good at math and find school fairly easy. Aidan has impressed me with how he is now able to independently do his homework (and they have surprisingly much of it). I have even popped into his classroom at recess to find him there (to my surprise) - apparently finishing up classwork that he didn't quite get done. I have mixed feelings about that as I want him to be out running around - but I also like that he takes the initiative to finish up his stuff.

Yet another school holiday. At least we've all heard of President's Day. Last weekend was extended by Lunar New Year holiday and another just because day tacked on (Professional Development for the teachers officially I think). We took the opportunity to head to the slopes. Pete rented us a huge 4,000 sq. ft. home in Yosemite West - which is geographically located in the middle of Yosemite Nat. Park but on the edge so you can only access it through the park but the homes are physically outside the park (is my understanding). Anyway - it is on the side of the mountain at the base of the turn off for the skiing area in the park - Badger Pass. I love that place. It is the ultimate in mellow mountain especially on weekdays. I can only imagine what Wednesdays must be like (deserted!) . It is rare when you have to wait in line for your lift. Group lessons generally consist of yourself and the teacher. Weekday specials include all rental equipment, lift ticket and *group* lesson for $29 for kids and $39 for adults. I took a lesson last year and again this year and have to say I feel so much more solid on the mountain. So solid in fact that I was able to ski down the mountain (on the easy slope) while videotaping the other skiers! (I was very impressed at myself). The Reiff cousins joined us as did our friends the McGees. All of us had 2 kids and they all know each other well. Maggie and Seamus are buds in preschool now and Ellie, Quincy and Gracie all were best friends in T-K last year. Aidan knows them all of course although they are all younger. Lessons got Quincy, Ellie & Grace all off and able to snow plow their ways down the easy slope and even the easier intermediate slope. Aidan is starting to parallel out of his turns and cousin Phil showed him how to ski backwards. Back at the very large house we had some good meals (each family took a dinner and breakfast) and the kids had fun playing pool and sledding. Phil even managed to find a zipline up the hill from the house. We had had a series of winter storms in January culminating in a 4' drop of snow the weekend before we got there. The weather turned remarkably balmy for our trip so we had the best of 2 worlds - a ton of really nice skiing (and throwing snowballs) and really warm conditions. Lunch in short sleeves. I did see a snowboarder in his trunk undies and no shirt. Yosemite was beautiful as usual and there was still a couple of feet of snow on the ground in the Valley itself.