Tuesday, May 14, 2013
We are in a homeschooling rut, no doubt about it. My oldest daughter is 5 and my youngest will be 4 in November, so really, they aren't even old enough for "real school" just yet. But my girls seem to thrive on that little bit of "schooling" we do every day and we haven't done anything regular in a few weeks. The reason for this? We pretty much finished up the curriculum I used this last year. I have family coming to visit Japan for the first time in a few days and will have visitors for roughly another 4 weeks. I really hate to start a whole new year of school right before our schedules get changed by visitors and sightseeing... and... don't most kids have a summer break?
So anyway... I've been trying to focus more on creating a daily rhythm. I've done this before and I think rhythms are bound to change. There is always some tweaking that can be done. I prefer to create "rhythms" rather than "schedules." Our rhythm is a general order to our day, written down, and posted on the wall near our calendar so that they girls have a visual of what comes next. Unlike a schedule, it isn't tied to set times. That way, we don't worry about finishing/starting something "on time." For me, that just creates more stress.
As part of our updated daily rhythm, I wanted to try incorporating a "circle time." So far, circle time has been a big hit. The girls look forward to it and I feel like it starts our day off on the right foot.
Here's what our circle time looks like:
Circle Time begins after our "morning routine." We've gotten dressed, done a few chores (making beds, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, brushing teeth, etc.) and had our breakfast.
To begin, we light a candle and then have a "mindful minute." Our mindful minute introduces the practice of meditation. I do not meditate regularly, but I'd like to develop the practice and I also think my children could benefit from meditation. For our mindful minute, we sit with legs crossed, with or without our eyes closed, and try to be as still and quiet as we can for one minute. Eventually, I'd like to sit longer, but with a 5 year old and 3 year old, a minute is about as long as we can manage. The only suggestion I give the girls is to try and feel their breath coming in and out, or to try and feel their heart beating. In the future, I'd also like to get a bell or Tibetan singing bowl to signal the beginning of our minute.
Next comes our "Sun Salutations."A few months ago, the girls were taking a "Mommy & Me" yoga class and we were introduced to a fabulous song (and album, really) by Kira Willey. We play "Dance for the Sun" and myself and the girls do a few sun salutations to get our bodies moving.
Now it's the girls' turns to each pick a song or fingerplay to do together. Usually, they pick the same song each day ("Monkeys Jumping on the Bed," for example, or "The Wheels on the Bus") but if it's what they love, I don't mind. It's amazing to me to watch the joy they get out of singing the same simple songs every day.
We settle back down in a little circle and I try to have a book picked out that might plant some seeds about having good character, good behavior, or just living well. Lately, I've been reading a short section from this book.
Then, we end our circle time by stating our intentions for the day. For my children, this usually translates to an answer to the question: "How will you try to have a good day today?" For me, it provides an opportunity to show my children that their mother is human and imperfect. I want them to know that I struggle with things just like they do. Many days, my answer is always the same: "I want to practice being calm today - even if I might feel angry or sad at times." To my amazement, my oldest daughter has reminded me a couple of times to remember that I wanted to be calm. And the reminders come at exactly the right time.
On days where we skip our circle time, there is definitely a noticeable difference in our morning, and sometimes, the entire day. With young children in the house, I often feel like I'm behind - like I'm rushing from one thing to the next. Having even 10 minutes to sit together and intentionally think about the day ahead does wonders for me, and my children seem to enjoy it as well.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Here's the specific info:
Hamagin Space Science Center
5-2-1, Yokodai, Isogo-ku, Yokohama, 235-0045
Open: 09:30 - 17:00 (during summer vacation -18:00) admission until 1 hour before closing
Closed: 1st, 3rd Mondays each month (open if holiday), Dec.29 to Jan.3, and occasional maintenance
Closed: 1st, 3rd Mondays each month (open if holiday), Dec.29 to Jan.3, and occasional maintenance
Admission: Adult: 400 yen; Elementary student / Junior high students: 200 yen
Space Theater Admission: Adult: 600 yen; Age 4 / Junior high student: 300 yen
We took the train and it was a very easy and quick ride. It was maybe 30 minutes of travel and when we arrived at our final stop, the museum was only a 5-10 minute walk and very easy to find. There IS some parking, and one reason I took the train was because I had heard that parking is scarce and can be expensive outside the museum. Plus, my kids just really enjoy the train. If you go by train, the nearest stop is Yokodai Station. It cost me only 400 yen for myself and my kids to enter, because they were free (age 6 is considered "elementary school"), and because we went on a weekday, the place was virtually empty.
The museum was a total of 5 floors, plus two basement floors down below. We started at the top and worked our way down. As soon as we stepped off the elevator, the kids loved the place. They loved the dim lights, the decor, and of course, all the buttons to push. Although everything was in Japanese, many of the exhibits/stations also had English translations written to the side.
On this floor (5th), there was also a presentation about rockets from one of the staff. We had no idea there would be a presentation, if they're scheduled at certain times, or if they just decided to do it because there were a lot of kids there at that time. But, be warned - the entire presentation was in Japanese (not surprisingly!) and some of the younger kids lost interest. It was a fun demonstration, however, about how to build rockets out of everyday household materials.
Our kids were having a blast with all the buttons and exhibits, but they went wild on the 3rd floor. We walked into a huge play area! It had a soft play area for the little ones and huuuuuge climbing area for the big kids. The climbing area had ladders, tunnels, walkways, and slides. We spent a LOT of time here. There were also some "rides" for the bigger kids, showing what it's like to maneuver in space.
|Preschool kids had to have an adult go with them into the climbing area.... so, of course, I had to get in on the action!|
|One of our girls is up there in that cube!|
|Having a ball!|
|Nothing in this room moves, but the second you step inside, you feel like it's flipping over. It was pretty cool.|
Everyone in our group packed lunches and I'm glad we did. The museum has a cafe on one of the basement floors, but it was closed that day and my kids would have been cranky little monsters if I hadn't brought our lunch with us. People from our group went down to eat in the cafe's seating area when kids started getting hungry and then headed right back up to finish going through the museum once they were done.
|My little scientist.|
As if one play area wasn't enough, the lowest basement floor has more play areas for the kids. Though this space was smaller, it had learning stations and a giant robot playground that my kids swear was the best part of the whole museum.
We stayed much longer than we originally thought, but it was because our kids were having such a great time. This was honestly one of the best science museums I had been to - even in the States - for younger kids because of all the play area. And for roughly $4-5 dollars for the three of us, you can't beat it. There was also a large playground in a park right outside the museum, but we skipped it because our kids were bordering on exhaustion when we left. It was a hit, however, because Thing1 keeps telling everyone they need to go back with us. Definitely check it out!
Saturday, May 11, 2013
"Golden Week" refers to a week in May in which several Japanese holidays coincide. Many Japanese get the week off of work, and for that reason, you'll be told to avoid doing many "touristy" things during this week. We had never experienced Golden Week, but decided to be adventurous and go on a free tour of some shrines and temples in nearby Kamakura on the Saturday before Golden Week officially started.
This is what we stepped into when we got off the train....
On our way to our first shrine, we passed a small shop with LOTS of little stacking dolls. The girls immediately wanted their picture taken.
Our first stop was the oldest shrine in Kamakura, Amanawa Jinja. It was founded around year 710, but the exact date is not clear. It's main object of worship is the Sun Goddess "Amaterasu." Check out this website for more info.
|Thing2 was making a friend. :)|
This lovely Japanese lady was our tour guide and regularly gives free tours to the military community simple because she enjoys it. This was our second tour with her and our girls remembered her fondly. They liked walking with her and "leading" the group. I can't tell you how much I appreciate people like her.
Our next stop was Gokurakuji Temple, built around 1259. Sakura trees lined the walkway to the temple and I'm sure it was gorgeous during sakura season.
|The sakura trees.|
Our final stop was Jojuin Temple, built around 1219. It was up on a hill and had a gorgeous view of the bay. The temple is also known for its 2,250 hydrangea bushes (blooming in mid-June) that flank either side of the stairway leading to the main gate of the temple.
We also had a special visitor with us for the tour. His name is Toshi and he is the creator of a Must Love Japan, a fantastic website for tourists. He makes videos about all sorts of places, and we got to star in a few of them about our tour today!
We had walked 4.77 miles by the end of our tour and we couldn't wait to catch the train and head home. But we were not prepared for what we saw when our train pulled up... Oh, that's right. It's Golden Week....
The Hubs insisted we squeeze on and if he hadn't had a death-grip on my backpack, I totally would have given up trying to get on. I was handling the squishing well-enough, but I looked down to see Thing1 literally being pushed into some man's behind, and she was freaking out a bit. The doors started to close and members of our group were pushing me into the train! Once the doors closed, we were able to relax a little bit and lean against them, but this is what it looked like inside:
What an authentically Japanese experience!
|Look at all the people across from the train station!|
I'm so glad we squeezed onto the train because the rest of our group ended up walking back a long ways to another station. And our kids would have died. By the time we got back to our housing community, Thing2 looked like she was on a death march. I'm so proud of them walking such a long ways and for being so well behaved on our tour.
Next year, I think we'll just stay home during Golden Week, however.... ha.