Here is a “brain dump” about what I’ve been doing with my little boys, ages 4.5 and 2 months.  I will refer to them as H. (the older) and E. (the younger).H's letter to Santa

H’s biggest accomplishment, recently, has been finally to learn to write not only all of his numbers, but all of his capital letters as well.  Learning the numbers has made it a lot easier to go through a math workbook (Singapore Kindergarten Math B).  But he still isn’t that excited about math, so we don’t make quick progress with it — I’m not forcing him to do it, I’m just asking if he wants to. If there was any doubt that he has learned to write, well, a letter to Santa proved it.  I had to sit with him, and give him some hints (mostly, asking leading questions) about spelling, but it was 90% H sounding things out.  He made a list and didn’t spend too much time on the polite pleasantries, but hopefully Santa won’t mind too much.

The next day he got a “Thank You” note card out of my desk and was busy scribbling away on it.  Without my help, it wasn’t exactly perfect, but I was impressed anyway.

For bedtime reading, we have been reading Old Yeller lately, and have only 40-50 pages to go there.  We also started Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which reminds me once again about just what a difference a year, or even six months, can make.  We tried out Charlie about six months ago, and even though it definitely seemed within his abilities, he wasn’t interested in it.  Then a few days ago, we started watching the movie (still haven’t finished doing that — the superior Gene Wilder version), and then suddenly the book seemed really cool.

We got Lollipop Logic today in the mail, and H did six pages in a row, he was so excited about it.  (He has seen my logic books all collected up on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in my office, and asked me for a logic presentation, which I made, so he has decided he is interested in logic.)

Also, we’re doing Rosetta Stone Latin, we’re probably an hour into it or so, but split over a half-dozen sessions.  I had the old Rosetta Stone program (Russian), and the new version absolutely kicks the old one’s butt.  It’s a very kid-friendly program.  I don’t know if H. is going to have the motivation to stick with it — I hope so.

Of course we’re continuing to do various other stuff, reading a whole variety of books.  Recently finished several books about Greek mythology and ancient history.  (Usborne, the book publisher, is absolutely wonderful, they make loads of different topics, and classics, accessible to kids.)  I know this all must sound very hard-core, but if he isn’t saying “yes” to a book, I’m not reading it to him.  So even if he occasionally takes long math breaks, that’s OK, he’s still learning huge amounts.  But if we had not done various presentations and read various simpler treatments of topics in advance, he wouldn’t be able to handle this now.

I’m sure I could go on, but that’s enough for H for now.  OK, one other thing — we got him a cheap digital camera.  He’s been learning about that, and he can even upload the pix.

As to baby E., well, I was surprised that even shortly after birth, I was able to lie down next to him and hold the iPad a foot away from his eyes or so, and show him various flashcard-style presentations, and he ate it up.  He pays close attention for five or ten minutes…after that, I stop whether he’s flagging or not.  I’m not going in any sort of systematic order through the various card sets we’ve bought, though I wonder if we should be.  Then starting about two weeks ago he started cooing, especially at this set about cats.  E. is quite a bit more interactive than H. was as a baby.

I also did this: I took my digital camera around the house and took pictures of all objects that I thought were familiar to E.  Even pictures of Desitin, the changing table, the trash can, etc.  Then I simply group the pix together into logical groupings, put then in a folder, and import them into a PowerPoint slideshow.  Putting names on the pix is easy.  (To make it fast enough to work with, I have to reduce the file size, which ppt does automatically if you know how to ask it.)  So I’ve sat E. in front of the computer, 2-3 feet away from the screen, and shown him these presentations.  He likes them, too.  H. likes them even more.  I made a presentation of H. illustrating various emotions, too.  This was lots of fun.

I can’t wait until we have written the software that will make it possible to highlight the parts of words as they are being read — we’ll make it possible for you to match up parts of a word to different points in a waveform.  The goal is to do this matching automatically, thus allowing people to match digital books with audio books, so the currently-being-read syllable is always highlighted.  Anyway, more on that later.

Of course, I’m reading E. some actual books, but frankly, the content of the books we read isn’t that different from iPad apps.  But we’ll be doing more of that as he gets better at sitting upright in my lap and staring in the direction of a book.

Haven’t started Your Baby Can Read yet.  I don’t think he’d be able to see our small TV screen.  When are babies able to focus 15 feet away?