Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tears of Joy

Last night, after Liam had gone to bed, we heard him cry out for a tissue - a ploy he often uses to prolong bedtime.  "Get it yourself.  You know where they are!" my husband called.

But then I heard it, genuine sobbing - nothing put-on, something deeply sad.  We both hurried to his bedroom to see what it was.   "I have to stop crying,"  he said.  After some cuddles and reassurance, we asked what was making him sad.  "Chocolate Toast Crunch is the saddest one, " he sobbed.  We asked why it was sad, and he described the commercial by singing the theme from "2001 A Space Oddessy" and saying they all get eaten."  That's pretty much the theme of all of the "Toast Crunch" commercials.  Was there something especially distressing about this one?  Liam couldn't give us more than that and had really worked himself up.

We asked if he wanted to watch some TV with us and he did, so we all realaxed and watched an episode of "Dr. Chris Pet Vet."  It had the intended effect of shaking off whatever had gripped him.

When he was back in bed, I Googled the "Chocolate Toast Crunch" ad to see what might be upsetting him.  "Well,"  I said to my husband, "the song has kind of a monster vibe to it - maybe it was too dark for him."  We both agreed that whatever it was, there was some meaning attached to it, which was a GREAT thing.

In the morning, he was back at it.  As soon as he was on his computer, he brought up that spot.  He was alternately laughing hard, then crying.  And it hit me.

"John,"  I said to my husband, making coffee in the kitchen, "remember when he started crying tears of joy, when you transposed that song on the piano?  I think that's what's going on here.  He always says, "laughing means it's funny," so I think he must believe that crying always means something is sad.  But he isn't sad at all, he's delighted beyond belief with something in this spot."

John went into the bedroom and introduced the concept of "tears of joy."  I heard Liam repeat it, "TEARS OF JOY."  But what was causing them?

Here's the original commercial:
What Liam heard:

A few minutes later, he'd dragged the spot into Video Pad to play with it and I saw what had caputred his imagination.  He heard another song inside the song the squares were singing - Somewhere inside "Thus Spake Zarathustra" he heard the PBS Kids theme song!  He edited it and played it back for me.  We were blown away by his imagination and his editing skills.

Just when I had been feeling guilty for having to spend so much time in teacher training and leaving him on his own this week, he showed me that he'd taught himself how to edit to create a new song from existing pitches in another song.

Tears of joy, indeed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Finding Inspiration

The past few days have been spent on WebEx presentations by BrainPop and STMath - talking about new features and teacher resources.  It felt good to learn new things and see new possibilities.  We're upgrading to the 4th grade level curriculum on both programs (while maintaing access to previous levels on some subjects).

Liam is currently finding inspiration in the idea of parodies.  He was binge-watching the Sesame Street parodies of current movies and TV shows and has been coming up with his own ideas, starring his favorite characters, Gator Boys (shadow puppets we perform before bed) and Spiffyman (an original character based on Spiffy Pictues logo).  He loves wordplay.   His favorite is "The Thirsty Games: Throwing Ice" a "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" parody.

He's also learned to piggyback his own character designs onto other people's  MITScratch videos - changing characters and dialogue, but keeping the backgrounds and actions.  This is a pretty common practice on Scratch, with animators attributing their videos to several previous versions.  It's something he figured out all on his own.  Here is a short Spiffyman video piggybacked onto a previous creation by another animator.  He actually knows enough code now to create this level of animation himself.  I hope to tease that out of him in the next few days.

Today, I found a great quote on Facebook, that really describes the biggest challenge that Liam faces.  Liam is missing step three at the moment.  While this is meant to be an inspirational quote, it works quite literally as well.  Without the ability to assign meaning and create our own story, we can be happy in the moment, but we aren't actively creating our future.  Slowly, an awareness of past and future is creeping in for Liam, but he's a few steps away from weaving it into a story.

Today, we watched a new lesson on digital animation on the upgraded BrainPop program that talked about Flash Animation.  Liam learned Flash from a brillaint teacher a couple of years ago.  As I'd hoped, he lit up when he saw the video and said, "I'm going to make a Spiffy film tomorrow in Flash!" I can't wait.

Here's to inspiration - wherever we find it!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

When Did THAT Happen?

I was hanging a wet washcloth to dry on the railing above the tub and had a flashback to a railing filled with wet underpants.  It was during the "Three Day Potty Training" when Liam turned 3.  I remember how worried I was that Liam's communication delay would make it hard for him to follow the directions.  Day one,  we used 18 pairs of underpants.  Day two, we used 8, Day three, we used one.  It worked!
A three-year-old Liam, self decorated with a Blues Clue

Today I watched my nearly 9 year old dash to the bathroom to answer the call of nature without hesitation and get ready to meet another challenge - taking a bath by himself.  Getting his hair all wet has always been tricky.  Although we recently installed a detachable shower head, so he could hold it and wet/rinse his hair, he still perfers to wash it in the tub, so I've been pushing him to follow all of the steps himself.  And today, he did it.  Yes, I had hang out and remind him of WHAT to do, but he managed it by himself.
Nearly nine and enjoying "foamy gloves" in the tub

And, how did we get to the end of a school year so fast?  On Monday, Liam reached 100% completion on his ST Math program.  He's still enjoying doing the "Challenge" lessons until we switch to the fourth grade curriculum on July 1st.  Lessons on BrainPop Jr. and BrainPop ESL continue on and I even catch him logging on his free time to play the games and re-watch favorite video lessons.  Wasn't it just the day before yesterday when I was worried we wouldn't have enough materials to work with?

Today, we needed to pick out new frames for his glasses and he easily answered the saleswoman's questions and had very strong opinions about which frames he liked (the black ones).

I'm looking forward to a day in the future when he dissapears into the bathroom and emerges clean and dry and I'll wonder again, "when did THAT Happen?"