When the news started developing about coronavirus and how it would affect our lives, my biggest panic wasn’t for our business. It was rather in response to the prospect of schools closing and how that would affect every aspect of our lives (including our business). Simply put, while I think I’m a really good mother I do not think I am a really good preschool teacher. I lack patience, I have no idea what expectations are realistic for a four-year-old, and I am not an arts-and-crafts person. What was I going to do at home with Nolan all day (and how would I get any work done on top of this??)
I am happy to report that after (only) seven weeks of this, I might finally have settled into a groove. Here are the tools that are helping me eeek by in this new role:
Nolan has “school” five days a week between 9:00am – 11:00am. What this means is that he needs to have eaten his breakfast, completed his chores, and gotten dressed by 9:00am each day, at which time we sit down at his little table and start our lessons. We allow him time to play on his own before school starts (but only after he completes his chores), but then at 9:00am he needs to drop his trains and come do lessons. Emphasizing the routine (first, you get dressed, then you do chores, then you play, then school) really helps him understand and control his morning within the confines of the schedule. Whenever we deviate from the routine, we regret it.
I have come to learn that Nolan is best in the morning and by about 11:00, he’s done focusing. He also works in about 20-minute increments, so I try to plan his lessons in spurts of 15-20 minutes while allowing a little extra time at each activity in case he gets really engrossed. I always start with a lesson that requires him to sit and listen to a more abstract concept (like how to assemble letters into words), then we move into games or arts and crafts.
Games are a wonderful way to practice the skills of staying focused and following instructions. Our rule with playing games during school is that Nolan has to follow the rules and stay on task (no building towers with the puzzle pieces). Nolan loves a game called “Hiss” where the objective is to create really long snakes out of playing cards by matching them up by color. When we play “Hiss” for school, we also ask him be responsible for counting the cards, identifying the colors, and we talk about other things like what snakes like to eat, are they vertebrates or invertebrates, and where snakes are often found. By just talking about what you see in the game’s characters and relating them to the world, you’re helping them understand concepts they might otherwise push against if you just sat them down for a typical lesson.
I signed up for this cute subscription service from KiwiCo that sends you a box of age-appropriate projects to do with your kiddo. They have boxes geared towards age groups ranging from infants to adults and you receive a new box each month containing multiple craft projects, a sweet little kids’ magazine that Nolan went nuts over, and a thematically-related book. Nolan is signed up for the “Koala” crate and this month’s theme was Rainbows, so I also ordered him this crazy contraption that we now have hanging in our sunroom. I am much, much better at playing games or doing lessons on letters than I am constructing arts and crafts projects, so the KiwiCo box has been a total relief to me. All the components of the project are included in the box so you don’t need to spend an hour prepping bits of paper for a three-year-old to tear up, and the projects have been easy to follow and dare-I-say even kind of fun for me to walk him through. Highly recommend this for filling in time on a rainy day or during a week when you just can’t get those lessons together.
An unpleasant realization we had with Nolan is that he is a total jerk after watching movies. He was very good about earning them, but as soon as the movie would end, he would lose his mind, throw a tantrum, refuse to go to bed, etc. Enough was enough so we banned movies completely, which was too bad because we had come to rely on them at the end of a long week as a way to sit together as a family and, truthfully, zone out before bedtime. What I came to discover works even better, though, is listening to movie soundtracks! Now, his reward for being a “very good boy” is that every few days, I’ll promise some hot chocolate and his choice of a soundtrack to listen to in its entirety. He takes his shower, gets into his “jammies,” and I’ll start the soundtrack to The Little Mermaid, or Charlotte’s Web, or whatever other movie we have seen before, and we will sit on the couch and listen to the songs together. We will talk about what’s happening in the story and he will imagine the movie to the music. When it’s over, he’s calm and ready to read books before bed instead of being wired up and all over the place. I highly recommend this evening activity as our days grow longer!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.