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Category Archives: Quin Phenomenons

Items (pre-lit and miscellaneous)


Things Inge likes:

  • Ducks (birds) /de eenden en de vogels
  • closing doors, and cabinets.
  • soap bars
  • running water. Pouring.
  • bicycle rides


Saw a glimmer in my children that I believe I should explore…

Quin: for beginning to recognize words better. She can also be regular and persistent – went about with her rag trying to clean everywhere. Then when there was nothing else she went for the windows.

Inge: Try her on some character flash cards perhaps. Observe.

Knox: Does not need to write whole page of characters (about 12 words) to establish recognition of characters. Acts distracted and tired by word 3. But careful with stroke order and wrote most beautiful 牛 (koe)。


Night before Muiderslot Castle visit (2nd attempt). Knox: “We can knock on walls and find the secret passage!”

K points to sky: “Look at those clouds! They’re like millions and billions of sheep!”

This morning, Mike presenting Inge: “Now she (doesn’t cry and scream but) just knocks on the door.”

Inge weaning: Willing to accept when I say no more neh-neh. Pulls my face to kiss her. Went over to pat and comfort Knox who was hurt. Carries stuffed animals into her bed after being rejected from breast and cuddles them.

Eats less messily and no longer eats soap.

At Amstel Park:

  1. Inge stares longingly at kids on merry-go-round. After a long second of staring, points and says 旺旺!(for dog, one of the ride figurines was a bulldog)
  2. Inge sees children feeding goats with grass pulled from ground. Immediately pulls up a fistful of grass (2 pitiful blades sticking out of her tiny fist) and presents to goats. Startles away giggling when the goat gets too close globbering. Goat is uninterested in her meagre offering but keeps on trying. But, I am amazed at her instant comprehension of the situation upon first sight (feeding goats with grass) and action.

Quin tries to read to Inge once in a while.

Knox reads to Inge ditto. He has lost word-for-word instant memory upon hearing story. Sign of leaving the absorbent mind? (for him, Quin never exhibited verbatim memory.)


Knox seems to find blending slightly less arduous. I must proceed with caution here, yet try to capture his developmental windows. His Mandarin word recognition is very good. But he is recognizing many words he finds difficult to write. I believe Mandarin cannot be taught in the same order Montessori English & Italian is taught (writing before word recognition). He is much more ready with responses when I pause during reading. Sometimes he guesses… but I do think he actually looks at the words (because sometimes it is not possible to guess) and reads. There appear to be some inconsistencies in what he can read. Same difficulties with those same 注音letters? Investigate and rectify.

Quin is becoming more stable. Less outbursts. I need to watch myself with this one and how I react emotionally where it is not warranted. Kindness and generous love will not breed entitlement in this child who blossoms and has always a strength and serenity in her when she feel secure and loved.

Inge can now fetch and return many books that she wants read to her. And asks for repeats. It is tiresome but I want her to get as much as her siblings got. And her sweetness makes up for it. I know I will not get anything back from them though we invest. Every moment spent investing in them is something we don’t invest in ourselves. It is a wonder. Examining the mechanisms of our drive to nurture, yet it does not spoil the drive. Just that, when I am in the flow of pleasurable work can be very hard to change track to child. But we have always been individuals who valued our time to plot & ponder. So perhaps 3 children 24/7 is indeed our limit.



Update Knox 47 months, Quin 28 months

As we’re not a commercial enterprise, we’ve finally reverted our blog name to the free

After having put some of their activities and all of the jigsaw puzzles into an accessible cabinet, they have been getting some things out to work on. The other day Quin got out the box of beads.

As a beginner, one-year-old Knox had previously worked on a ‘bead threading box’ where there were only 3~5 large beads, and a stiff, short thick string that was knotted at the end. In his 3 year old class, he periodically brought home threaded straw necklaces and bracelets. Working on the supposition that she has some experience from her toddler class with beading work and that she wouldn’t have selection anxiety (too many beads! Should I throw them?), this time I had the whole box available for Quin in her cabinet.

Also, at this stage I have a reasonable amount of confidence in what these two kids might do given a certain type of setting. Being in a cabinet with a wooden door, the likelihood of them passing by whilst restless and hitting upon it as a mess-around activity is diminished.

And oh boy was I so pleased when she did immediately recognize it as a threading activity, and also seemed inclined to view it as a sorting activity! She saw that certain colors went in certain compartments, and with some frustration and a gentle tip was able to see that certain strings went with certain bead sizes. I had taped the ‘starting end’ of most of the strings that were too soft when I saw her struggle with it.

In other news:

Recently I had the opportunity to be secret Santa to two children, 6 & 8.


For the 6 year old I chose a put it together plane kit. I am estimating this sort would be a good activity for Knox starting maybe around 5. Though I have reservations as I’m not sure that it can be made into anything else. I am hopeful by that time Quin will be stable enough for Knox to not live in fear (of having his projects wrecked) as he gains capacity to build with Kapla blocks, and cuboro, perhaps even circuits! Right now he builds mostly with sets that have magnets, such as magnatiles, magformers, and tegu (less popular due to polarity and limited shape). Or blocks that fit together (duplo, Gigo junior engineer, tube locks). The interest in these basically started with the capacity to make vehicles. The tegu one doesn’t have any wheels so I suspect that may be part of why it has not yet held his interest. I am so in love with his sudden burst into making symmetry these past few months – planes, boats, race cars, race-car airplanes, fire engine airplanes…etc.

For the 8 year old I chose a 3D drawing kit. When I saw it, it reminded me of the one time our high school tech teacher had us do exercises in isometric projection: drawing an item in 2D from frontal and lateral viewpoints, and switching to drawing it in 3D as well. I loved it. It is one of those things I consider ‘adult secrets’ that only people in the trade know, and for us to be able to experience it was such a fun revelation for me! I believe this toy would best be used in the following sequence : For the child to first do exercises in 3D drawing on paper. And then to use the kit to draw and assemble designs she had pre-designs. I recall, as a child, visiting the homes of friends who had very generous relatives. Their rooms would be like a treasure chest (to me), various components of various kits and board games would be scattered here and there. And my friend would often be complaining that she’s bored. I think if you really do give one of these kits to kids, with no preamble, then it is truly very easy to be bored quickly, as the child does not have the sense of order or discipline to plumb the potentials in these toys, and would ‘abuse it’ to the point that it is not considered precious at all.

Good article on not losing your head this holiday season (if you haven’t already, hahah!):

This is my new favorite intro to the Montessori environment video, it’s one of the rare ones which focuses not on the physical environment, but on how the community operates in accordance with rules that foster mutual respect.

and I love how thoughtful this mother is about sending her child to school:


Update: So our kids got their secret Santa gifts. Knox got a hot wheels race track. Quin got a huge Frozen Elsa doll.

Unfortunately as we had already gotten her a baby doll, I have had to hide her Elsa doll (still in packaging). There was something I read in Montessori From The Start a while ago that resonated with me:

The reality is that very young children can only truly love one doll, one stuffed animal, and a few toys at a time. This experience provides a basis for adult life where one must learn to cherish one spouse, one family, one life, instead of fantasizing that it is possible to “have it all.”

I have found this inability to love too many to be my own experience. For a while in Taiwan, before elementary, I had only one stuffed doll. I would sleep with it. One day a friend of my mom’s gave me another stuffed doll. Now I had two dolls to love. I was confused. The concept of equality entered my mind. I must love them both. But one was obviously more superior in appearance than the other! I should love the uglier one more than …etc. I eventually found this somewhat stressful and let go of the concept of ‘loving them both’. At that point, I was able to see them as ‘only dolls’. And thus ended my baby doll stage.

As an aside, I also had barbies, about 2 or 3 I think. And despite being used for role play, dressing up (this helped me understand when I read, later on, how difficult it must be to dress corpses), and having an interesting experience in trying to wash their hair, they do not inspire the same maternal instinct as baby dolls. Also, I do not remember the baby dolls of other little girls inspiring maternal instinct, as I knew these belonged to other little girls and I did not have the right to care for them. If you think about it, the internal worlds of children are really quite complex and (for those of us that remember) has the potential involve many many billable hours in the counseling office if we’re not careful. Part of my natural hesitation to take the lead in children’s play is my understanding that I cannot really understand them if I’m talking at them all the time.

Knox does not appear to have a strong inclination towards dolls one way or another. There was one time when he took someone’s doll, walked a good distance away from the rest of the children, and sat down to ‘nurse’ it (with an expression as if he were in a trance! I still wonder what he was thinking).

From Feb, 2014

From Feb, 2014

However, Quin seems to enjoy holding dolls more, referring to dolls as ‘baby’, pushing doll in toy stroller, looking at babies, and pretending herself to be a ‘baby’. Now she will have one doll to love. We will see how it goes.

On their shelf this week:

Update Quin 2 Years Old, Knox 3.5 Years Old

<<This post is long and rambling. May I suggest you read it while listening to this?>>

We have a Christmas themed rotating musical cookie jar that the Co-op parents had given me before we left Doha. It is rather a delightful object – I suppose a British thing : The creation of such lovely and durable tins for cookies that are gone in a trice. I use it to store the kids’ Christmas stockings. Knox discovered them the other day and asked me what they were. Naturally I wanted them immediately put back into the tin. But I calmed myself and told him they were Christmas stockings, for Christmas chocolates, and they must go back in the tin so they will be available for Christmas, which happens a few days before your birthday.

“Remember the chocolate santa that Oma gave you? And how you had found out how to open it up and was eating it happily. And Quin saw you eating it and wanted it and didn’t know how to open it, but I didn’t help her. And so she discovered how to open it herself? And you guys both really enjoyed the chocolates?”

I do not know if he remembers, but he may have seen the video of it. He asked why the stockings should be returned to the tin. And I told him “because they are for Christmas, for the Christmas chocolates. And not used before then.” Which he accepted cheerfully and immediately set things back to rights. Intermittently in the following days he would proclaim to me, and to others who would listen, that the stockings are for chocolates. He seems to quite look forward to it.
This rotation of toys has been particularly successful. For Quin. She has just turned two and we had a week of dessert celebrations: Chocolate cake on Sunday, candy necklaces from Ikea the next day, pudding on Thursday. She blew out the candle herself. At least, she would have done if Knox hadn’t insisted on helping. I have had to intercede on her behalf a few times due to Knox’s eager ‘assistance’ to her work.

candy necklaces from ikea. Quin turns two.

candy necklaces from ikea. Quin turns two.


We have recently deployed a bubble gun. Knox has yet to tire of it. One time we went to the park and some children were there blowing bubbles. I was afraid of Knox’s bubble gun ‘showing up’ on them and went around to the other side, telling Knox we should avoid competing with their efforts. A boy about 4 years old came up to Knox and invited Knox to chase him around with his bubble gun, which of course Knox was happy to oblige. After a while the bubbles ran out. The boy immediately came over and offered to refill with his own bubbles. And then they went round again.

I feel like an inflexible old codger next to their agile brains. While my mind is filled with worries of equity and fairness and avoidance of violence their game is quite simple. I hear around elementary a stronger hierarchical tendency may emerge. This is the age I recall of cliches and exclusion. I suppose in Lord-of-the-Flies situations primitive humans generally do tend towards such behavior. But I have also read of classrooms where teachers are trained to notice such things, and though not redirect forcefully, to guide elementary students to consider their actions and view their maligned classmates not as others, but rather in partnership. I find this fascinating. For in my elementary experience the teachers were mainly charged with the academic performance of the students. And as long as physical or sexual aggression did not occur, teachers did not interfere in social torture. In middle school there were even teachers that actively encouraged antagonism between students to deflect aggression towards themselves. It was definitely a world of them v.s. us. Eavesdrop on any conversation ‘high achieving’ academic track high school students in Taiwan, and the conversation will inevitably turn to The Game – acing the test, predicting what the teacher shall test next, staying in the teacher’s favor while critiquing their lecture skills behind their backs. There is a culture of worship for those who test well in Taiwan. And I have had the good fortune to come close to some of this rarified air. But listen in on the conversations and you will be astounded by the narrowness of scope. And I truly feel – what cost this is to our human capital, to direct our young brains to a narrow pursuit at the necessary exclusion of other values? And the currency of the reward so situation specific?

Knox said next time he would like to play with that boy again.


Another beloved spraying day.

I would like to note that Knox is very good about not using the bubble gun indoors after I informed him it is only an outdoor toy. He is able to simply hold it when we are in the MRT. This I also find interesting. I am hopeful that this is due to him having a stable environment, and Quin will eventually display as much as her brother, though she seems more impulse driven than he was (at that age) in relation to delectable morsels.

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I really like the linked experiment above because it also suggests what we might employ in means of public policy. It is often said that Economics operates under the (false) presumption that people make rational choices, so the invisible hand will maximize societal prosperity. The disproof of this argument is that voters are shown to often make self-defeating, irrational decisions.

I believe this is a false premise. The fact is the function of society and government acts as environmental impetus for us. We still make rational decisions, but the maturity of our decisions, I would suggest, is dependent on the security of our environment. The more secure and involved we feel, the more likely we are to make broadly altruistic decisions that may not benefit us short-term. Removing social security creates narrow-minded constituents that are actually acting in a rational manner as best they know how within their environment: For there is no guarantee that more community-minded decisions will come back to benefit them. Worship of the invisible hand is a simplistic viewpoint that ignores the influence interest groups and individuals have over the the market, eventually skewing it towards dysfunction. I would also state that, in this scenario, wealthy groups and individuals are also acting rationally in rapaciousness. For individual restraint does not deter others in your field for being rapacious.

And I do not believe that flaming antagonism between rich and poor makes change more likely, considering human nature. Unless we wish to stomach violent social upheaval, which is an uncertain shuffle of resources that involves uncertain physical security for most of us who do not have the reflexes of post-apocalyptic super-heros.

But I was talking about this rotation of toys being particularly successful for Quin. She has been observed to take these out individually, work on them, and put them back, working steadily through most of the items on the shelf. I have rarely seen this in Knox at the same age. Her concentration face is most beautiful.

Note the several activities in one cubby hole. I am trying not to overdo it but space is limited...

Note the several activities in one cubby hole. I am trying not to overdo it but space is limited…

I am wondering how to reestablish Knox’s confidence for building tracks, of which he is capable of but keeps whining for assistance. Perhaps playing this vid of another 3 y/o building tracks in the TV screen. It is calm enough to be just background. So he feels like he is doing it alongside another small person?

One day when Quin was napping, and I was pretending to nap, Knox was very quiet. I peered out and saw that he had taken out the jigsaw puzzles by himself and was working on it.

and then there was the time Quin spontaneous lined up blocks.


“Like a train” Knox said.

Knox seemed to have read something in mandarin the other day: “時間到了。”  I am not sure, for he would not say if he guessed it or read it. I am pretending nonchalance in his presence as I eagerly spy on him.

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Happy sewing! See you tomorrow! Grace

Babies are self-driven to learn

One of life-changing things I learnt through Montessori is that babies are self-driven to learn. Quin is very handsy. She goes all around the room and finds things to touch, to taste, to manipulate. This is Quin at 10 months old. Watching her is like seeing a scientist at work.


Note that babies come in different temperaments. Some prefer to sit back and watch for a while before doing anything, some (like Knox) prefers interaction with people over objects…etc. The key thing is to allow young children and infants the freedom to move around, and design your space so there is not much you need to say no to, so they have the freedom to explore without being constantly checked and admonished.

I am grateful though that Quin seems to be coming out of her oral phase.

Literacy update on the illiterates in our household

Quin doesn’t really seem to have an attention span for being read to too much yet. She will go through a few pages. I don’t take this as an indication of her interest in it though – just that she isn’t connecting the pictures/stories yet. It took a while of consistent reading every day before Knox became interested in being read to, and now he can’t stop asking to be read to, even climbing in between another parent and his child to hear the story! We have had to developed a quota of 3 books each time! Despite being pre-illiterate (is there such a word?), Quin has been turning the pages of books. (Knox never did until he started looking at books by himself.) or, when I turn it part way, she will turn it the whole way. Board books are easier. She will crawl over to a touchy-feely board book and touch through it herself. She also enjoys going over to the bookshelf and taking down the books. If it is magazines she will slide with it, rolling the page with palms. I’ve noticed this interest is in the books in particular because I have replaced a shelf of books with stacked cases of cassette tapes, and it lies there unmolested whilst the surrounding books are taken out with loving attention.

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Knox is enjoying his cassette tapes. He has pulled a few apart though I’ve reminded him that once they’re gone, they’re gone. I suppose the next one he pulls apart I will show him how to wind it up again and put it in a basket for him to experiment with, though I hope there are no more! He also very much enjoys the BBC dramatization of The Secret Garden that we borrowed from the library. He will ask me to plug the player in so he can play it, and then linger around listening. Sometimes he will go off to play while it is still on and if I turn it off within earshot he will ask to turn it on again. I wonder how this works for him? I personally think it’s great as it’s designed for the ears, as most media now are designed for the sight and you lose the ability to do other things when glued to the screen. I think it is worthwhile for him to isolate that sensation for a while.

Knox has also been keen on hearing some early literacy books such as Abe’s Hat, Mouse Soup, Sticker Swap, and the Bob book Joe’s Toe. I find Sticker Swap and Joe’s Toe particularly puzzling, as there is hardly any plot and, in the case of Joe’s Toe, illustration is stick-figurish. Mike suggests that Knox is beginning to recognize some words, though I do not find that he tracks my finger when I point out the words. Something is going on here…

Also, I noticed Knox keeps cycling back to the books we have at home, he will climb on the sofa to get at them from the top shelf. I wonder if there is a particular attachment children develop towards the first books? It may well be worth looking into, as this could mean something for the choices we make when we first start out reading to them. Also, I’ve noticed that he doesn’t seem as keen on naming books (books with a laundry image of items to be named), though he still enjoys them. He will not pull them out at the same time as story books. I think the naming things serves language need that can be slightly separate from the stories.

Also, we have one set of image flashcards on a ring that I’ve gone through with him once or twice. The past few days he will bring it over himself while I am working, and flip through them, asking “What’s this?”, and then naming them himself if he knows it already. It helps me realize that there is no harm in flashcards, as in most materials, as long it is something that fulfills the child’s inner need.

I have started identifying a few sounds to him. The Montessori way of naming the alphabet is to call them by their phonic sound, not by their name. I don’t think he gets the full notion of specific symbolics yet as he will still point to any writing and say “Knox!” or “Quin!” or “Happy Birthday!”

The other day it was late and we were in the car, Knox asked for a book, we had no books on us so Mike started orally telling him the story of “Caps for Sale”. He was enthralled.

Knox has also started being able to trace the geometric shapes, though not yet really fill them in. I also got a geometric shapes app on my phone for moments outside running errands or something and there really is nothing to do, though for the most part I like having him wallow in the boredom so he can notice things and think of things to do himself. Some of the shapes are difficult, particularly the triangles. The squares seem quickest for him. But I’ve noticed sometimes he is just holding the phone and staring into space, but when I try to take the phone away from him he will protest. I wonder what is going on here. Hmmm…

Update: 2014 June 29th
Knox started ‘reading’ this book to himself!

Updates Quin 7 months, Knox 26 months


Hold self upright in sitting position (several minutes)
Hold onto back of couch while standing (several minutes)
Can drink from a straw
Holds spoon longer
Likes crawling into bathroom
Can hold on to food pouch by self and slurp
Less mess eating (still colossal)
Crawls from room to room
Can endure 1 or 2 pages of picture book
Pats things in reaction to Knox patting things
Makes excited sounds and pats things when watching us dance or sing
Very distract-able nurser
Still plays well by self, still doesn’t protest when Knox takes things, still illiterate, still loves peering into containers, still needs outfit change after every meal
Can find partially hidden objects
Pulls sock off, eats people’s toes
Explores everything with hands and mouth
Finds Knox amusing
Protests and rolls during prone diaper changes
Makes hard poop (dislike poop in diapers)


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Can put things back with direction
Willing to help discard Quin’s and own diaper
Can put dirty dishes/utensils in sink with direction
Can organize space (with assistance and direction)
Occasionally puts things back of own volition; finally seems to appreciate putting things back (happy dance!)
Able to pour liquid and stop before overflowing
Wants to pour liquid into other people’s cups, and dunk things into cup, frequently food
Will anticipate phrases in books and say them
Loves naming things over story plot
Will ask to ‘dance’
Enjoys making Quin laugh

Will say “Knock” in his soft voice sometimes when strangers ask his name.

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Nothing much

Seeing as Knox can finally sort colors, he can really use the keys for the B-Toys vet set.