This winter we made a large effort to declutter the house. This was partly inspired by a couple parenting books I’ve been reading, and also a result of just trying to simplify our lives. The first things to get organized were of course the masses of toys, which have expanded slowly like molasses well beyond the play room. While some of this is to be expected, we were overdue for an overhaul. We took about 2/3rds of the toys away. The broken ones got thrown away and the ones that don’t see heavy use were put in the basement, with the idea being that the current small set of toys could be rotated out for those lesser-used treasures (after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I realize I need to do another pass. Highly recommended reading!).
One great benefit of this reset was that I could put out Dashiell’s desk, with all of his beautiful writing supplies (thanks much to Shelli for the nice pencils with grips), right in his playroom. I set it up attractively to get his attention, with colored papers and shiny objects. He responded right away and started writing more. For some time I’ve been writing him letters and putting them in his lunchbox, for Willis to read to him.
Now, he is starting to pick out many words on his own. I’ve had a tally going on the chalkboard of words he can read! Last night while reading a word he recognized, to, he explained to me that there is a word spelled t-o-o and a word spelled t-o and that they mean different things but sound the same. Earlier he had told me that when the C and H are together they’re pronounced “ch.” He also recognized words that start Tr, like truck. Some weeks ago, he let me know the the letters in the word spot are the same as the letters in the word stop. So they are!
Here is a grocery list penned by D:
Translation: Milk, bananas, cheese, peanut (butter)
In the same vein, Jeff the Amazing got a clever idea to generate mazes that were shaped in a name. He wrote a computer program to do this! Weren’t we surprised when D was able to quickly solve this beautiful “Dash” puzzle:
Jeff promptly made a more difficult version, with all 8 letters of his name–and it too got solved! Jeff made mazes for each child in D’s class and handed them out…thank you Super Dad!
Along the same lines, we’ve been reading a very sweet book called Dear Bear by Joanna Harrison, which is about a girl who is scared of the (imaginary) bear she is sure lives in the broom closet under the stairs. Through an exchange of letters, the girl gradually overcomes her fear of the bear:
Dashiell is intrigued by the old-fashioned tradition of writing the author’s location in the upper-right hand corner of the letter. I am too. What a treat it would be to receive a proper paper letter. I used to love getting letters from Grandma (Betty) Edwards, who would type them on on official bank stationary.
Although those days are long gone, the spirit of hand-written correspondence lives on in our favorite books (think books by Alexander McCall-Smith). So I was delighted when teacher Betsy asked up to write letters to our children that could be included in their term-end project: