Thursday, August 28, 2008

State Fair

This morning I took Joseph and Tommy to the Nebraska State Fair and we saw some amazing things, as it should be at the state fair. When we first got there we saw this sand sculpture.

Having an art background I was of course totally impressed by this, but Joseph preferred the thing next door which was a big pool of water with people trying desperately to get their unwilling dogs to swim so that they could compete for who was the fastest, etc. We sat there for a while and watched while we ate our sandwiches. Through out the day this was the theme; the simplest things pleased Joseph, and I just went along with it. Its fun to see what gets a three year old excited.

Later on we had fun trying to milk the fiberglass cow. They fill it up with water from an opening in the top, and then you pull the teats to get the water to come out. This is supposed to be like milking a real cow, though I don't know how accurate it is of course, since I have never really milked a cow. The guy in the blue shirt in the background seemed to have experience and also that it was a pretty good model. Doesn't Joseph look like a perfect future farmer?

In the same pavilion this guy was sculpting a block of cheese. Once again, I thought this was pretty neat, but Joseph didn't really get it.

Finally, at the end of our visit we went to the exotic animal petting zoo. This was Joseph's favorite, along with the birthing pavilion where there were animals (pigs, sheep, cows, chicken, and mice) who were about to, or had very recently given birth. The petting zoo had all kinds of animals for which one could buy feed and give to them with little shovels.

We had so much fun that we are going to go again and this time we might actually see a show or two, and maybe even shuck some corn. After all, it wouldn't be the Nebraska State Fair with out corn shucking, now would it?

Monday, August 25, 2008

New House

The time has finally come; we are buying our first house! I just checked the realtor's website and the photo isn't there anymore, so I can't post any images of it. Perhaps I will go take a photo to post it. (Ha! Another good excuse to drive by!)

I will miss our wonderful landlords and neighbours, but not the mice that are quite populous here lately. This summer I was feeding the birds, but as things got busy lately I stopped, and so now we have a bunch of fat, hungry mice rooming around. At first they were only outside, but now we see them inside too from time to time. Trapping them is easy because they are so fat, but Jim has to be sneaky about it because Joseph has lately gotten sensitive about mice and what happens to them.

Which leads me to my next topic. Lately Joseph has been listening to Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle, and he really loves the main character. It is amazing how good his attention span is; he listens to the whole story (two hours worth) everyday. He doesn't listen to it all at one time of course, but he does listen to it in order. He loves it so much that he will just lie on his floor listening too it. Thinking about this gave me the brilliant idea to try listening to it with him when it is nap time. Lately he is so obstinate about falling asleep, but he really, really needs it, and his lack of napping is quite painful for all of us at dinnertime. So my plan is that we can listen to the story together at quiet time while lying in bed, and maybe, just maybe he will fall asleep. Brilliant, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Friedrich Froebel and Blocks

I'm not sure what got me started, but I have been studying the origins of Kindergarten lately. The inventor of Kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, had a very different idea of what Kindergarten should be from what it is now (at least what it is now in America,) but his ideas are still very useful. His method involved giving children a series of twenty "gifts" and occupations that all would build on each other. The early gifts were mostly some combination of blocks that related to each other mathematically, and the occupations would be arranging the blocks, and later on other materials, to make harmonious and aesthetically pleasing arrangements and constructions. Maria Montessori was greatly influenced by Froebel, and so that is why Montessori programs include physical math. Froebel thought that children should do these types of activities from the time they were what we would call preschool age until seven or eight years old. It is a shame that contemporary Kindergarten, as well as the later lower elementary school years, are so focused on academic learning. There is definitely something to the idea that if a child plays with unit blocks, then they will intuitively understand math at a much deeper level later on, and so this argues against the worksheet and drill type instruction that is so common nowadays. Interestingly, it seems that many successful architects, as well as other creative types, went through Froebel Kindergarten programs.

So, all this theory led me to buy some standard unit blocks, and Joseph really likes them. I haven't had too much time to play with them with him yet, but I am really looking forward too it. I do think that our set is pretty basic though, so I am sure that I will be buying some more complicated shapes sometime in the future. You can't build a very interesting road without curves, for instance, and roads are what Joseph likes to build.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ancient Chariot

I opened my yahoo mail, and this article was on the front page. I wish there were more news stories like this. It is so much more interesting than politics or sensationalist crime stories. If you click on the photo you can see more images of the Chariot. Reading this article reminds me of when I went to study art and art history in Greece. Wow, that was a great time! I hope to go there again someday. For the moment I can dream through this article.