Sunday, June 16, 2013

On hiatus

I meant to make this post about six months ago, oops.

This blog is currently on hiatus while we are spending this year traveling around the world! You can follow our adventures over on Seven Continent Smiths. :-)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some notes about mathematical thinking

It's been interesting to watch Carter's concept of place value begin to form. It's one of the most important foundational concepts for elementary mathematics, and so I've been really interested to see how it falls in place for Carter.

Everything still centers around counting for him at this point. He can count to well over 100 and can correctly read numbers with up to 3 digits without assistance, but needs help when there are thousands (or more) involved. That is, he can look at 371 and correctly read it as, "three hundred and seventy-one," but if that number is, say, 49,371, he needs help.

He can add and subtract on his fingers and has committed many of the within-10 addition and subtraction facts to memory. (Note that I don't believe in flash-carding kids; this has all happened organically and in a child-led way, as has all his learning.) He can use his fingers to add and subtract within-20, and I've been trying to guide him towards the counting-up strategy rather than the count-them-all strategy he uses now, but he is still a bit reluctant to try that without help, which tells me he's not quite ready. When the numbers get bigger than 20, we get out the place value blocks and use those to add and subtract -- and that's when I have to contain my excitement, because place value is so cool and so important!

It's very clear what his ZPD is right now, and when I have a chance (and when he's in the mood) I will pose problems that push that cognitive ceiling up a bit. But he's so focused on writing these days that math has taken a back seat. We played with place value ideas this morning a bit, but what he really wanted to do was write numerals. So he wrote and I made representations with place value blocks, something that reinforces those concepts well.

He does know how to represent numbers as sets of 100s, 10s, and 1s with the blocks, and he can decompose higher units into smaller ones - though not in the context of a computation just yet. Still, it's good to see that progress in his thinking. My goal is to help him have a very solid conceptual foundation for mathematics. And it's also fun to use his development as an example in the courses I teach, heh.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012


He has better handwriting at the age of 4 than I had at the age of 8. I don't even know.

And I was worried a few months back about his fine motor skills and the fact that he had never written at all. I guess that worrying was a bit premature. :-P

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Notes from Carter

One of the cool things about Carter being able to read and write is that it gives us a whole new way to communicate. He has an email account and has been emailing Nana and his cousins, but he has also used it to email me. I was out of town last weekend and we were able to email each other. I loved it! I sent him little emails throughout the day, and he occasionally wrote me back.  For example:

Mommy I
Miss You

So sweet! I love it the way he presses return after every word. ;-)

He also knows how to email me pictures from within iPad apps. Here is one he sent of Rainbow Dash. (Those things coming out of her head are tears. She's laughing so hard she's crying, apparently.)

He also has a writing paper app that he can take screenshots in and email them. Here's one he sent me when I went to work on Monday:

It's so, so cool. :-)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Handwriting practice

Carter's handwriting has really come a long way. But then, he practices A LOT. ;-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, October 26, 2012

Picture post

Me and Carter a few weeks ago. Love this picture!

Compare to one of the first pictures of the two of us:

Amazing, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writing in cursive

A couple of weeks ago, Carter decided he wanted to learn to write in cursive. And so he proceeded to teach himself. I printed out a cursive alphabet and he spent hours copying it. When he'd mastered the letters, he started asking for examples of how to join up the letters to make words. He did this completely on his own, and it's just amazing.

It's definitely done in his own unique style, but it's readable! It's really cursive! The whole thing has kind of blown my mind, really. I'm not even sure kids need to learn cursive at all; keyboarding seems a much better skill. And then my 4-year-old goes and learns it on his own.

Here are a couple of videos:

YouTube Video


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I haven't posted here in a while, I know! It sort of fell off my radar this year. Since I lat posted back in January, Carter has grown and learned so much! He's 42.5 inches tall now, apparently finally above the 50th percentile for height.

He's also reading and writing now, which is quite amazing to watch. He's only been writing for a little over a month; prior to that he'd never even written a single letter of the alphabet! He became obsessed with the solar system over the summer and the desire to learn more about it seemed to be the catalyst for a huge cognitive jump. One day about 6 weeks ago, he picked up a marker and wrote "solar system" -- having never before even written a letter of the alphabet!

And then writing became his obsession. He will seriously sit at the table for hours at a time, writing words over and over. He writes on lined paper, on the driveway with chalk, on the whiteboard in his room, with his finger on an iPad app. A pencil and paper suddenly provide hours of entertainment.

Part of what has amazed me about this is how it's all come completely from him. We never pushed or made him sit down and do it. We don't really give him much guidance now about how to form letters or to spell words. He's learned to type words into the Google search bar to figure out how they are spelled! It's a fantastic example of whole language learning.

He's also starting to write stories, which I love! Here is a video showing one:

YouTube Video

I love it! I can't wait to see what he'll become interested in next. :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 9, 2012

Birthday in Disneyland!

Yesterday was Carter's 4th birthday. It's hard to believe it's been 4 years, though in other ways it seems like Carter has been around longer than that! Carter hasn't really expressed any interest in having a birthday party yet and so we really wanted to do something to make his birthday extra special. After thinking about a few different options, we decided to take a weekend trip to Disneyland to celebrate.

We flew to LA on Friday afternoon and checked into the Disneyland hotel, a place we've never stayed before. Though Doug and I used to go to Disneyland a lot back when we lived in Tucson, it's been more than a decade since we've been here. This area has changed a lot! The Disneyland park used to stand alone, surrounded by parking lots. Now there's another park and a Downtown Disney area, and it all looks so different than I remember. But it's very compact and that's a nice change from Orlando. It's a quick walk from our hotel to the monorail station, and then the monorail takes you right into the park, bypassing the entry plaza. That's nice first thing in the morning! We spent most of three days in the park (we spent one evening in the California Adventure park, but otherwise we stayed in Disneyland), and I took most of the pictures on Carter's actual birthday on Sunday.

Here we're riding the monorail at 7:00 am -- yay for Extra Magic Hours!


For some reason the minimum heights of many rides were different here than in Orlando, and Carter was able to ride everything except the Indiana Jones ride. He got to ride Space Mountain (which he's too short for in Orlando) for the first time, and he loved it! We ended up riding it 4 times over the course of a few days.

Carter also enjoyed riding Star Tours, the Matterhorn, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain (on which we got soaked first thing in the morning, brrr!), and Pirates of the Caribbean (the Disneyland version is the best there is, IMO). Two rides were completely redone for Christmas, to my surprise: It's a Small World (the characters sang "Jingle Bells"!) and the Haunted Mansion (reimagined as The Nightmare Before Christmas). Carter was a little perplexed that the Christmas decorations were still up and kept saying, "But Christmas is over." Heh.

After spending some time in the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, this view of Disneyland from Main Street seems to be missing something:


Sleeping Beauty's castle is puny compared to Cinderella's in Orlando! It's strange to look down the street and not see that huge castle dominating the park. Disneyland is far more compact than the Magic Kingdom as well, and that makes the park feel very different.

Carter liked riding rides, but Tom Sawyer Island is always a great place to spend time.


We never did ride the steamboat this time, unfortunately!


Carter also had fun playing on this fire truck.



We spent a lot of time in Toon Town, where there are lots of things to play on.



We did the mass birthday party at the Plaza Inn, which Carter was honestly too tired for. In retrospect we could have skipped it!



Everyone got a little cake to decorate.



Needs more sprinkles!


The final result, which he wasn't interested in eating:


And then there was a surprise visit from Mickey and Minnie!


We ended the day early on Sunday and spent the evening in the hotel room. We can see the park's fireworks from our room, but Carter fell asleep an hour or so before, so he missed them. Doug and I were kind of glad to have an evening to relax, though! We pushed it too hard on Sunday and should have taken a break earlier in the day, in retrospect.

We decided to do the character breakfast in the hotel this morning. Here Carter is hanging out in one of the Autotopia cars in the lobby.


We got a picture with Pluto. There were lots of other characters roaming around, but somehow we didn't get any other pictures.


The Happy Birthday button got Carter lots of free desserts this weekend!


We rode lots of rides today and had fun in the park. He and I made our own lightsabers, and we're going to have a lot of fun with those when we get home! Carter seemed to be done in mid-afternoon, so we headed back towards the hotel. We took him by a make-your-own toy car store in Downtown Disney, and he picked out a flatbed truck with very basic features. (He named it Sally and says it's a space flatbed truck.) He had fun watching the guy put it together.


We've been hanging out in the room ever since, and he seems to be enjoying having some quality time with his toys. As Doug says, "World class amusement park: miss. $20 plastic toy: hit!" It's been a fun weekend, though. One of the things that's been really cool on this trip is that Carter is now old enough to ride some cool things, and he actually likes those rides. Space Mountain was one of the first rides he went on (which, for those who've never been to a Disney park, is a fairly fast roller coaster ride in the dark), and when he came off of that grinning, I knew he was going to be able to ride everything! It's definitely more fun for me and Doug than it was a couple of years ago.

Carter seemed to enjoy the trip, but on the actual day of his birthday he wasn't very happy about turning 4. He kept saying, "I'm not really 4 yet; I'm just turning 4." He also said that after he turns, 6, he'll turn 3 again. He seemed a little distressed about being a year older, and he seemed worried that being 4 means he's a big boy now. I think I may have stressed him out about this birthday! :-/

And it seems like a big birthday, somehow. It seems like he's a big boy now in a way he wasn't before. 3 is still a baby in a lot of ways but 4 is a child, no doubt about it. But hey, he can still be a little boy for as long as he wants. I don't mind. :-)

And now, we're off to ride Space Mountain one more time before the park closes...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas in NC, part 2

Happy New Year! I meant to get more of these Christmas pictures posted before New Year's day, but didn't manage it. I'll combine Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so there will be a lot of pictures in this post. Fair warning!

We spent Christmas Eve at my Dad's and Barbara's house. My mom and Rick, Donna and her family, my step-sister Lynn and her family, and step-sister Nicci and her boyfriend and his parents were all there as well. The kids had fun playing together, and there was an impressive spread of food, as always!

Here is Emma all ready for Christmas:


Carter and Emma played some "tunes" on the piano.


All the little kids had somehow lost their pants once time to open presents came around!


It was fun to watch them all open presents and get excited about new toys.



Here is Carter with Uncle Chris, trying our a megaphone gift from Nana.


Carter opened one gift and would have been happy to stop there. It actually took a while to get him to open something else! Which says a lot, really. He wanted to open a little airplane playset while we were still at Dad's house, and we told him that we would open it when we got back to Nana's house. He fell asleep on the way back, and then slept until 9:30 on Christmas morning! When he woke up, Mom asked him if he wanted to see what Santa Claus had brought, and he said, "Did he bring my airport from Papa's house?"

Once in the living room, he completely ignored the pile of presents, went straight to the box with the airplane playset, and insisted that we open and assemble it. It was a good 15 minutes before he could be convinced to open any presents!


There were lots of toy tractors for him to unwrap:



And a big fire truck from Grandpa and Grandma Smith.


John Deere was definitely the theme of the morning!


He also enjoyed this crane from Nana.


We lounged around and had a brunch of red velvet pancakes. We headed up to Mount Airy in the early afternoon for the family gathering at my Aunt's house. My mom's parents and both her siblings and all my cousins were there. It was a big crowd, but fun as always!


We got the kids to sing a little before we started opening presents. Sort of...

Here they are waiting patiently for the gift opening to begin.


Then it was a blur of paper and boxes for a while!


After the presents were unwrapped and played with, one of the kids decided it was bathtime, and the next thing we knew they were all naked. So, into the bath they went!


After that we all just hung out and enjoyed each other's company.


Carter had a great time playing with his cousins. I have such great memories of these family get-togethers when I was a kid, and the Christmas ones were so very special to me! I can remember being so excited and everyone laughing and enjoying each other's company. I really hope Carter has similar memories of Christmases spent with family!

We lingered over conversation and full tummies, and then finally set out to go back to Greensboro to my Mom's house. I'm always sad that Christmas is over. It's a holiday I look forward to for months, and then it seems to pass by so quickly! And Mom and I realized too late that we'd forgotten to get a picture of all the kids with my grandparents, and we were both sad about that. It's so rare that ALL of us are together like that, and we definitely missed an opportunity to get a photo. :-(

The holiday wasn't over yet, though. We still had an awesome gift left: my dad and Barbara had gotten us a night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord as a Christmas gift! I'll write all about that in my next post.