Preschool: Z is for Zebra

I can’t believe it… we’ve finally reached the end of the alphabet!  When you’re singing the alphabet song it doesn’t seem that long, but when you’re teaching one letter a week – with review weeks every now and then – it takes forever.

Granted, in comparison to a traditional school schedule, we’ve finished early.  But we’re not a traditional school and – technically – Gwen is pre-pre-K.  So I’m trying not to worry about it, but I am wondering what to do next time around.  Any ideas for an advanced preschooler who’s not quite ready for K-level stuff?

Bible
After Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day – the story during Easter week – He said goodbye to His friends and family and ascended to Heaven.  Jesus’ return to Heaven was our story for the week; our Bible verse was John 14:2 – In my father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.

Theme
Ironically, all the times we’ve been to the zoo with our membership, we don’t even make it to the zoo when it’s our theme for the week!  I printed out Oopsey Daisy’s Zoo Check-Off List just in case but we didn’t get around to using it.  No worries – we’ll go again this Summer! 

Instead, the kids made their own playdough and popsicle stick zoo cages

 

Playdough is always a big hit and it always evolves into more creative play – and of course a mess.  I didn’t get a chance to make a batch of homemade play dough, but the kids did get a container in an Easter basket from their Meme, one of only a couple non-candy items I didn’t give away! 

Since we were already settled at the table I brought out a few printables I had prepared.  Montessori for Everyone has Animal Families cards in their Zoology section; I printed them on cardstock and had the kiddos match the mommies, daddies and babies.  There are only four types of animals and it’s pretty easy, but we also talked about how each member in an animal family has a different name.

 

 

In their zoo theme, KidSparkz has animal skin patterns so I printed them out smaller and had the kiddos match them to the correct animals.  We didn’t have a snake so we made one from playdough! 


Throughout the week we used some of the zoo-themed printables from 2 Teaching Mommies.  I helped Gwen categorize plant-eaters and meat-eaters; she had to think back to the times we’ve seen what animals were eating, like the giraffes pulling leaves from the trees or seeing pictures of lions with their catch.

 

I’ve used them before, like in our water unit (though I think I forgot to mention them), and the kids love playing with water beads.  I guess they’re all the rage, so I decided to order some from Amazon.  They’re pretty cheap and afford hours of play, but I was surprised how delicate they are.  If they get squished – or dropped on the floor – they break into a gel-y mess.  We pretended this was the aquarium part of the zoo.

Gwen put the whole Little People A-Z Learning Playset together by herself. 


We watched “The Zoo Train” Signing Time DVD and afterwards the kids pretended to be camels – it was the silliest thing!

And since I’m all about the food, I just had to make these giraffe and elephant sandwiches for the kiddos – even though they’re rather laborious to put together.  Phil just kisses my forehead and tells me how cute I am, trying to make them happy.

 

Letter
No surprise here, our word for the week was zebra.  Many of the things we did involved zebras, like Gwen’s Do-A-Dot page, color-by-numberletter hunt and tracing page (the latter from Oopsey Daisy’s Z is for Zoo Mommy Packet).

 
 

The kiddos had fun making their zebra Zs and putting big, googly eyes on them.  Josiah doesn’t care that they’re only supposed to have two eyes. 

 

The next popular zoo animal?  Giraffe.  These are from dry-erase and alphabet dot-to-dot books.

 

Since Gwen love mazes, we did a letter Z maze; she almost always starts from both ends and meets in the middle.


Gwen did the pre-writer tracing pages from the zoo unit, some pages in one of her workbooks (look at the zebra she drew!), a zoo train hidden picture in her Highlights’ Hidden Puzzles magazine and letter Z matching that I put in a page protector for dry erase. 

 
 

For dessert one day I got this great idea to make a zebra cake!  I turned it into more of a banana bread and the stripes were really pretty.  It tasted pretty plain but I would love to make it again, maybe more chocolate-y this time.

Number
We worked on counting with the number clip cards from the zoo unit along with some number dot-to-dot.

 

Color
Our color of the week was red, and it just so happened that Gwen picked an all-red outfit on our color day.  In addition to reading a bunch of books about the color red, Gwen did a page from one of her workbooks and we made sure to munch on strawberries during the week.


Rhyme
Since I didn’t already have a rhyme picked out for our last week, I resorted to education.com’s alphabet nursery rhymes.  Their Letter Z: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a big hit!  It has lots of Z sounds and the kiddos got a kick out of it. 

Bulletin Board

Book Basket
Theme/Vocab
Animal Strike at the Zoo
Never, EVER Shout in a Zoo
Giraffes
Zebras
Good Night, Gorilla
Spots – Counting Creatures from Sky to Sea
A Horse Lover’s Alphabet – Appaloosa Zebra
My Heart is Like a Zoo
Curious George Visits the Zoo

Letter
The Z Was Zapped
Zack’s Alligator
Berlioz the Bear
The Fairies’ Alphabet Book

Number 
Zero the Hero
1, 2, 3 to the Zoo

Color
A Pair of Red Clogs
The Red Book
Llama Llama Red Pajama
Color Zoo

DVDs  
Tarzan
Signing Time – The Zoo Train

Preschool: W is for Water (the four elements)

Since Daddy was away for a whole week recently, I decided to take it easy and postpone the letter W.  I thought he would be able to help with the fire element – being a fireman and all – but he ended up being busy the whole week he was back anyway.

Bible
The Bible story for the week was Jesus feeding the 5,000.  I had a cute little craft idea in mind but wanted Phil to cut some slices of wood for pretend bread and he never got around to it.  We read some stories about feeding lots of people and sharing what we have.  After reading a book about sharing, Gwen graciously gave Josiah one of her grapes.  *grin*  Our Bible verse was Matthew 19:14 – “My God will supply all your needs.”  She had that one down pat. 

The Elements
When I saw this picture I thought it would be a neat idea to do something similar.  In the middle of the table I filled four glasses, one with each element – dirt for earth, emptiness for air, water for water, and a candle for fire.


We made this nifty God’s Eye craft with yarn and buttons.  The middle is God’s eye and the four corners represent the elements; basically, God sees everything!  I let the kiddos pick their yarn and we picked button colors to coincide with the elements, but I did most of the wrapping.  Then I asked them for a couple things for which they were thankful; I wrote them on little strips of paper and put them in the yarn. 

We normally have three school days a week but often work activities in on the “off” days and evenings as well.  My aim was to have one element a day, pairing earth and water.

Fire
The kids are no stranger to fire safety since Daddy always explains why he volunteers at the fire department and tries to work it in here and there.  We worked on a number of the printables from Mama’s Monkey’s Firefighter Tot Pack and Homeschool Creation’s Firemen Printable Pack.

There were pre-writer tracing pages, an alphabet maze, label the firefighter and shape match.

  

Josiah even got in on the action coloring fire trucks and even matching up some of his toys to the images all on his own!



For a snack we roasted my homemade marshmallows over the fire in the woodstove to make s’mores.  We paired it on top of the graham crackers with dark chocolate – yum!  They were sooo good, and now that I know the marshmallows freeze well I can plan ahead for our camping trips. 

Earth & Water
Since we’ll be starting our garden again soon I decided to use Homeschool Creation’s Garden Preschool Pack to discuss the earth and water elements.  We read Jack’s Garden and did the sequencing cards, some pre-writer tracing pages, flower/veggie cut-and-paste, letter clip cards, seed and bulb sequencing cards, and a flower part puzzle.

 

 

Don’t forget our vocabulary hunt!  This has turned out to be a huge hit with Gwendolyn so we’ll stick with this from now on.  

 

It also provided a neat segway into starting our Easter garden, which I thought would be a fun and meaningful tradition to start this year.  We went to a garden center and the kiddos helped me pick a few plants, then Daddy  helped us put it all together.  The kiddos loved placing the stone pathway.


We planted grass seed so it would grow up the “hill” above the pretend tomb and since then it’s grown considerably so we’ll have to give it a haircut.   

For a snack I made dirt cups; the kids were so excited to to be eating dirt, mud and worms. *grin*  Instead of the traditional instant pudding and crushed oreos, I made homemade pudding and crushed some organic chocolate cookies (mm, Pamela’s Bakery Extreme Chocolate Mini Cookies are sooooo goooood and crumble really nicely!) on top.  No way around the gummy worms.

Air
Our shape of the week was a hexagon so we worked on a shape puzzle.  Gwen did a hot air balloon shape cut-and-paste and we proceeded to do a few other balloon-related activities: dot-to-dot, Up Up and Away file folder game and putting together some cardstock balloons.  

 

 

She was so excited about the latter and couldn’t wait to finish glueing the pieces together so she could tie the balloon to Safari’s (her giraffe) head.  She cracks me up.     

 

For dessert we had cloud jello… but I didn’t bother taking a picture because it didn’t come out picture perfect.  There are supposed to be dollops of whipped cream simulating clouds in the sky, but my whipped cream floated to the top and made one big layer.  It still tasted good! 

Bulletin Board

Book Basket
Bible
Emily’s Sharing and Caring Book
My Little Book About Sharing
Spaghetti and Meatballs for All!

Theme/Vocab
Fire Trucks
Fire Safety
Firefighters! Speeding! Spraying! Saving!
Jack’s Garden
Diary of a Worm
The Visual Dictionary of the Earth
And Then Its Spring
My Garden
The Curious Garden
Splish! Splash! A Book About Rain
What Makes the Seasons?
Oceans – The Vast, Mysterious Deep
Weather ABC
Wind

Letter
The Wizard
My “w” Book
Wacky Wednesday
Wiggle

Rhyme
I’m a Little Teapot

DVDs
The Last Airbender

Linking Up…

Tot School

Preschool: V is for Very Hungry Caterpillar

We’re supposed to be on the letter W this week, but it’s been a bit different around here since Daddy has been in South Carolina, training for his department.  I dropped him off at the airport last weekend and felt the ache in my throat as I hugged him goodbye.  I don’t think I’ve ever been apart from him for more than a couple days!  I felt so silly, moping around for the entire day, bawling my eyes out as soon as the kiddos and I got home (they proceeded to point and laugh as I cried in the rocking chair). 

Since I wanted some distractions and company this week to get my mind off being without my hubby, we did things a bit differently.  I didn’t do any school – no workbooks, no printables, nothing planned.  We had our share of reading books and art projects, but virtually zero effort on my part – it was so nice!  The kiddos got to see their friends when Nikki came over with her kiddos, and we breezed through the morning talking and visiting, scolding our children and cleaning up their messes – good times!  I kept thinking I would have a whole bunch of time to write up about preschool the previous week, but my time got eaten up elsewhere. 

Last week was kind of a hodge podge of ideas.  For some reason I had two different ideas down for the letter V – one mountains and valleys, the other valentines.  I had already started accumulating valentine ideas since we had just celebrated Valentine’s Day the previous week, so I decided to carry it over into the next.  I filled in the rest of the week with The Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed activities.

Bible
The good ol’ Good Samaritan was the Bible story of the week.  We read the story in the 100 Bible Stories, 100 Bible Songs, did a hidden pictures coloring page and colored and assembled a story sequence coloring page

For each Bible story in the book there’s an accompanying song, and we listened to “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” over and over. 

I used the printable from Totally Tots’ in my heart section for our Bible verse, which was 1 Samuel 16:7 – Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

We got it late, but I requested a Veggie Tales movie from the library to coincide with the lesson, and the kids enjoyed The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s.  Every week I request supplemental materials from the online library system that I might not otherwise have at home or find at my local library.  And of course I throw in some things for me too – like the latest season of Castle.   

V is for Valentine
We focused on valentines for one day, using all the valentine-related printables and activities we had used on Valentine’s Day and implementing a few more from Confession’s of a Homeschooler’s Pre-K Letter V week.  We had a Do-A-Dot page, pre-writer tracing pages, letter hunt and counting cards. 

 

 

I also tried something new with the word cards.  Instead of just having Gwen trace the letters and then match up the picture cards with the word cards, I placed them around the living room and she had to find them one at a time.  I told her she had to point to each one with her magic wand – and push the button to make the magical sound, or it didn’t count! – and she would bring it back to the table, match it up with the correct word on the tracing page, then trace the word and say the letters. 

 

It took longer this way, but she had so much fun!  A couple times I found myself getting a bit impatient because she was frolicking around, searching for cards that were quite honestly in plain view, but I figured I should count myself lucky that she was having fun with school work. *grin*

V is for Very Hungry Caterpillar
Have you seen some of the ideas on Pinterest for The Very Hungry Caterpillar?  I bookmarked a few of the simpler ideas and utilized the wonderful themed printables from 1+1+1=1.

I think this week I had more food ideas than anything!  Two mornings in the row we had caterpillar-related food; the kiddos got grape caterpillars alongside their pancakes and apple slice caterpillars with their cereal. 



I evened it out on the other end of the spectrum with two butterfly-themed foods: butterfly snack bags and a butterfly-shaped sanwich.  

 

I think maybe their food tastes better when it’s made to look like something else, kind of like the theory that my food tastes better when someone else makes it for me.

I had a bunch of crafts in mind, and they were all fun and easy.  We made pom pom caterpillars and Gwen even helped me thread the pom poms. 

 

I got the idea for this super-easy fingerprint caterpillar, and just so happened to nab some Crayola paints on sale at the craft store.  I did one too!  Josiah just ended up finger painting… finger smudging? 


I’m a sucker for handprint crafts and loved the idea for this handprint butterfly, though ours were slightly more personalized with paint all over the wings and a craft stick and pipe cleaner for the body section. 

 

Gwen did some tracing in her Kumon book, we put together a little cut ‘n’ paste mini book about bugs, cut-and-paste life cycle of a butterfly, and she had a lot of fun making a life-cycle-of-a-butterfly wheel

 
 

Then we started in on the Very Hungry Caterpillar printables with pre-writer tracing pages, word/color matching and a numbered puzzle showing the caterpillar turn into a butterfly.


 

Since she had so much fun with the valentine word cards, we did the same for the caterpillar cards – and there were more of them!  She went around, wand in hand, waving its magic as she found each word. 

 


She even put her own twist on the activity – when she found a word, she would bring it back to the table, find the corresponding word on the tracing sheet, and proceed to wave her wand again at the matching word as she said it.  She cracks me up! 

The kiddos both had fun going through the story and using our play food as props; they had to find the food that the caterpillar ate next (we had to improvise for some of the items).


Color

Sometimes one of the elements of the week doesn’t really go along with anything else – like the color grey.  Yeah, I guess it’s a color you need to become familiar with – like a grey sky could mean impending doom, or a storm at least – but it kind of stood on its own.  We did some activity pages and an elephant dot-to-dot, and that’s about it. 

Rhyme
We stuck with the rhyme from last week, Queen of Hearts.  It’s quite catchy and Gwen remembered it.

Bulletin Board

Book Basket
Theme/Vocab
Be Mine, Be Mine, Sweet Valentine
Valentine’s Day
The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Letter
Octavia and Her Purple Ink Cloud
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies
Giving
The Awful Aardvarks Go to School
I Love You Always and Forever
Move!
The Giving Tree
The Fairies’ Alphabet Book
Olivia… and the Missing Toy
The Velveteen Rabbit
My “v” Book

Number
Olivia Counts

Color
Silverlicious
A Day With No Crayons
The Land of Gray Wolf
The Blue and the Gray

DVDs
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Valiant

Linking Up…

Tot School

Preschool: U is for Unicorn

Unicorns and mermaids and fairy tales – oh my!  I knew we would have fun with this theme, but almost decided to switch it with the following week – V is for Valentine – since I figured it might be more fun during the actual week of Valentine’s Day.  But I had already printed out some worksheets and made my library run for the week.  And who says you can’t have hearts two weeks in a row? 

Bible
We read about Zaccheus, sang the song about the wee man in the tree, and Gwen got a kick out of trying to find him in the lift-the-flap coloring page


Our Bible verse went along nicely with Valentine’s Day (and our shape for the week) – Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

Theme
It was somewhat of a challenge, attempting to narrow down a fairy tale theme.  In the end, I approached it by discussing what makes a fairy tale using this cute “what is a fairy tale?” printable.  Then we listed some of our favorites; Gwen says hers is “Beauty and the Beast” because she likes the magic flower and glittery dress.  *chuckle*  Usually “The Little Mermaid” is at the top of her list because she and Ariel both have red hair; or “Cinderella,” because it’s her aunt’s favorite.    

We both had fun with the Fill-Them-In Fairy Tale to create our own story, though it was interesting trying to ask Gwen to give me a verb or an adjective.  Talk about learning your parts of speech!  I wanted to fill all the words in before we read the story so I just gave her hints to direct her towards an appropriate word.  I now present our fairy tale in its entirety (Gwen’s words are in purple):

Once upon a time, there weas a lovely princess named lollipop.  She lived in a castle with her pet tiger, Scooter.  One day while she was walking Scooter, a pink dragon appeared!  The princess and Scooter were so scared – when the dragon opened his mouth, they though they would be consumed in flames!  However, no flames came out, only a gush of breath that smelled like carrotsThe foul-smelling breath madethem play dress up, but the dragon, who was named Cinderella, was so sweet, he and the princess and Scooter soon became fast friends.

While playing fairies in the woods one day, the happy trio came upon a prince, who was under a spell.  He had been frozen in a bowl of fruit for many years.  The fearsome threesome tried everything to break the spell.  First, they created a potion out of the eye of a bumblebee, some salsa, and cheerios – which they held under the prince’s bum, while chanting.  Nothing happened.  So, the three of them drove to the castle, grabbed “The Book of Reverse Singing Spells,” and together started playing the song, “Free the Frozen Prince.”  Still nothing.  All of a sudden, the dragon sneezed, and his windy breath, which smelled like squash went all over the prince!  Poof!  The prince was magically released from the spell and started to dance.  The happy princess, Scooter, the dragon, and the nice prince became a fabulous foursome and lived happily ever after!

I hastily threw together a hodge podge of shiny fairy tale-y stuff since the kids like exploring the sensory bins I put together.  In the mix was a bunch of irridescent Easter grass, a small purple playsilk, wooden blocks (to build a castle, of course), and a variety of mythical creatures (including  a mermaid and unicorn).  Some other unicorns and ponies came to visit.

 

I almost always leave the sensory bins out for the entire week and it’s fun to watch the kiddos go back to them again and again when the mood strikes.


For breakfast one morning the kiddos were delighted to be served fairy bread.  I lightly toasted some whole grain bread, spread it with whipped butter, sprinkled on some cinnamon, and lastly some rainbow sprinkles and edible glitter.  I figured it was glorified cinnamon sugar toast!       


Some fairies visited one evening and surprised them with fairy wands to take to their Meme’s for a play day; good thing, because Mommy was tired from staying up to visit with the fairies. *sigh*  Gwen said the wands are really pretzels.  I… er, the fairies… dipped multigrain pretzel sticks in melted dark chocolate and decorated them with sprinkles.  Let them harden on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper in the fridge and you’re good to go.


Besides reading all sorts of fairy tales from our book basket and watching a few movies, Gwen dressed up and enacted her own imaginary stories and played with her magnetic dress-up princess.  She already has a mermaid paper doll, and I printed out a Belle paper doll on cardstock – which she discovered right away and immediately began to play with.  We also played a round of Tinker Bell’s Pardon My Pixie Dust Game, which is actually kinda fun!  It’s especially fun watching Gwen get excited when she wins a game piece. 

 

I didn’t find very many educational printables with a fairy tale theme, but I did break out some of the princess-themed printables from our K is for King week on royalty.  And tracing is always more fun if it’s a picture of a castle.

 

Letter
We did all sorts of unicorn-themed activities – like a coloring page and maze.

 

We also did a few umbrella-themed things.  One of Gwen’s Kumon tracing pages was in the shape of an umbrella and her letter hunt was about an umbrella.

 

A couple times during the week we read stories under an umbrella just for fun – it’s amazing what simple things will delight the kiddos – and they decorated umbrella cutouts with paper raindrops.

  

The cutouts were a last-minute idea and if I had planned it more carefully I would have done something more rigid since the kiddos were disappointed they couldn’t hold them up like real umbrellas.  This hanging umbrella craft seems cute, or you could use paper plates.  

Number
As the numbers have gotten higher – we’re in the twenties now – I’ve given up focusing on a specific number unless I can find a story or resource directly related.  Instead, we do number-related activities, like dot-to-dot pages or counting things throughout the day.  I’m a big believer in learning through practical, every day things – like counting the produce we pick at the store or turning an episode of playing with blocks into how many we can find of each color. 

We used some valentine activities courtesy of Homeschool Creation’s Valentine’s Day Printable Pack and Over the Big Moon’s Valentine’s Day Pre-K Pack, including clip cards and a color-by-number.

 

I also broke out the Cupcake Count file folder game – one of the first ones I made!  Gwen’s a pro at it now. *sniff sniff* 

Shape
The heart shape was well reinforced throughout the week!  Our Valentine’s Day morning began with the kiddos walking paper heart trails and ended with heart handprints.  I reserved all the valentine printables for the 14th, including a tracer page, word tracing page (you can see we’re working on compound words!), word matching, letter clip cards and a cutting practice page.

 

 

I got out a shape-matching puzzle and Gwen matched all the pieces; I was shocked when she got “hexagon” right away!  She won’t remember rectangle but she’ll remember hexagon. *shakes head* 


Along with the Cupcake Count game Gwen did the Patterns of Love Matching Game that I made around the same time.

Rhyme
I found a cute little rhyme for the week called Queen of Hearts.  It’s been fun sprinkling in some unfamiliar rhymes with the more traditional ones.

Bulletin Board
So… I know I took a picture but I think Josiah may have erased it from my camera.  He’s taken to turning my camera on and snapping away; who knows what other buttons he pushes.  Makes me wonder what other pictures he erased.

Book Basket
*Gwen’s favorites

Theme/Vocab
The Usborne Book of Fairy Tales*
Rumpelstiltskin
Jan Brett’s Beauty and the Beast
Flutterby
Glitterby Baby*
Whisper the Winged Unicorn*
Claire and the Unicorn happy ever after
Unicorn Dreams
The Midnight Unicorn*
The Ugly Duckling
Thumbelina
The Princess and the Three Knights*
The Secret Life of Princesses*
Princess Hyacinth  – the Surprising Tale of a Girl who Floated*
The Classic Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

Letter
Miss Hunnicut’s Hat*
My “u” book
Duck in the Truck
The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups
A Porcupine Named Fluffy
Lunch Bunnies*
The Fairies’ Alphabet Book

Holiday
Valentine’s Day

DVDs
Up
My Little Pony: Twinkle Wish Adventure
Nico the Unicorn

Linking Up…

Tot School

Miseducation

When we lost power during the hurricane last week, one of the books I started thumbing through was on old copy of Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk that my mother had bequeathed to me. I’m already familiar with the concepts author David Elkind writes about, but began to feel somewhat uneasy as I read his words…

All across the country, educational programs intended for school-age children are being appropriated for the education of young children.  In some states educational administrators are advocating that children enter school at age four.  Many kindergarten programs have become full-day kindergartens, and nursery school programs have become pre-kindergartens.  Moreover, many of these kindergartens have introduced curricula, including work papers, once reserved for first-grade children. 

When we instruct children in academic subjects at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short-term stress and long-term personality damage for no useful purpose.  There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.

I understand there are those that don’t have much of a choice in the matter – families where both parents have to work in order to pay the bills, for instance – but it has often saddened me when parents put their children in daycare programs rather than keeping them at home – especially as early as the newborn stage.  I was fortunate that I was able to take Gwendolyn to my part-time job when she was a baby; despite the inconvenience factor, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As Gwendolyn has gotten bigger, neared school-age, I have been re-examining my role as her mother and caregiver.  The idea of public education has always turned me off, for a number of reasons, and private school has its own issues (aside from being expensive).  I myself graduated from a Christian school; while it has its upsides, and one school can be vastly different from the next, I don’t know that I would choose that for my own children.  However, I was homeschooled for a few years before entering private school, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Having a background in homeschool, knowing people who homeschool their families, having a support network in place and feeling as strongly as I do that God entrusted His children to my care – not wanting to hand over a large part of their upbringing to someone else to raise and instill them with values – homeschooling my kiddos seems like the obvious choice.

As I have researched the vast array of homeschool teaching methods, the one that most appeals to me is unschooling.  The idea of cultivating a child’s natural love of learning, keeping it alive simply by pursuing your interests and learning through those pursuits, finding what works best for us “without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do,” sounds inspirational and freeing.

Because each and every family is different, each and every method will be different, and you will find variations on a theme.  I didn’t worry too much about getting Gwendolyn ready for grade requirements, because we already engage in educational activities and pursuits all the time.  She loves books, we go to the library every week and come home with an armload – she’ll learn to read, no problem.  

I was constantly surprised when people would ask me if – at three years old – she was in school, or would soon be riding the bus to school.  They were often surprised that she was with me every day.  Gwen started showing an interest in the idea of school, of course riding a bus, and I told her Mommy wants to teach her at home.  Since she has enjoyed structured, classroom-type environments – like at Sunday School, one-morning-a-week Bible school, and VBS (vacation Bible school) in the Summer – I thought I’d do a little experiment and plan a preschool curriculum for her.

We’ve officially begun preschool (or what probably amounts to pre-pre-K), and have three weeks under our belts, but I’m constantly questioning myself.  Some days it feels so forced; I have to conjure up the excitement to try and get Gwen (and Josiah, depending on the activity – though he’s up for anything) to “do school.”  I wonder if I’m forcing something for which she isn’t developmentally able, if my good intentioned-efforts will amount to her being frustrated and losing her zest for natural learning.  I try to turn fun things into learning experiences, and vice versa, but sometimes it feels like I fail miserably.  

Parents oftentimes do things for their kids, thinking it’s in their best interest, when really it serves to make the parents feel better – things like buying toys in excess, putting them in lots of extra-curricular activities and not allowing for downtime.  I believe miseducation is one of these things.  How much is too much, and too soon?  As David Elkind says, “We miseducate young children when we assume that their learning abilities are comparable to those of older children and that they can be taught with materials and with the same instructional procedures appropriate to school-age children.” 

I would also take this a step further and say that, since each child is different, traditional schooling as a whole can provide miseducation for a child at any age.  It keeps kids in an aritificial environment (a room full of their peers), relies on specific teaching-learning styles, while discouraging and labeling those personalities that are seen as disruptive. 

Babies and kids are smart – but there are some things for which they truly aren’t ready, and no amount of toys and gadgets and flashcards and memorization will make them learn those things before they are ready.  But in a society where infant education is accepted and promoted, and children are being expected to learn skills at a younger age, how do you realistically adjust your expectations and make the right decision for your family?

Earlier this morning I was reading some of my blog subscriptions, and I was inspired by Passionate Homemaking‘s Early Learning Preschool post.  I liked the idea of their casual, playful-yet-conducive-to-learning Circle Time.  This afternoon, doing some educational things with Gwen I spread a blanket on the floor first, and it suddenly became more fun for her. 

I so desperately want to do the right thing for my kiddos; I know I’m not supposed to be perfect but I want to be the best mommy I can be and do right by them.  I want to keep their love of learning alive, not squelch it with drills and instructions and workbooks.

Early childhood is a very important period of life.  It is a period when children learn an enormous amount about the everyday world.  It is also the time during which young children acquire lifelong attitudes toward themselves, toward others, and toward learning.  But it is not the time for formal academic instruction.  To appreciate this truth, we need to see the early years for what they are and not through the lenses of social, political, and personal dynamics that provide a distorted image of early-childhood competence.

Curriculum Craziness

I bet you’ve never gotten sidetracked googling something, have you?  One simple little search, and you’re in front of the computer way past your bedtime, clicking on way too many results, eyes aching from staring at the screen.  

Despite the fact that I’ve been adding to the ever-expanding list of favorite links for homeschool ideas and activities, I’ve been able to decide on a basic preschool curriculum outline for Gwen.  It feels weird to be doing this, since I never really wanted to do anything official for the kiddos, but it’s kind of exciting at the same time.  My organizing, list-making genes are going haywire!

One of the things that I keep telling Phil and my mom (who homeschooled me and my sibs for a number of years), is that I can’t believe how much work and preparation is going into a simple preschool plan – which isn’t even official school!  How will I survive the coming years, when the content gets meatier?  Someone please tell me it gets easier!  Maybe this is the practice round, getting my feet wet.

Since incorporating Biblical concepts is important to me, I decided to go with the ABC Jesus Loves Me 3-year-curriculum, using the supporting concepts that appeal to me.  I’m scrapping their outline, but I got the idea for having a theme and vocab word for each week from Brightly Beaming Resources’ Letter of the Week program.  I love that I was able to find these resources and tweak them to fit my preferences. 

Each of the two curriculums has different outlines and covers different materials for a different amount of time; it took a bit of time to put it into a schedule that seems doable for us.  And who knows – I may change it as I go!  I decided to put the material into a 3-days-a-week framework so we don’t get overwhelmed, but if Gwen wants to do some school activities on “off” days that’s just gravy.  It’s not like I have a shortage of resources!    

Basically, each week will have a Bible story and verse, theme, vocabulary word, letter, number, and shape or color.  Any supporting materials – crafts, activities, stories or songs – will revolve around these elements.

Thank goodness for free resources on the internet – I’ve found a host of wonderful offerings!  Here and there I’ve been plugging in activities and ideas for each week as I come across them.  I absolutely love the idea for Montessori-inspired Tot Trays and my Mom picked up some trays at Lakeshore Learning.  The kiddos took to them right away, and I love having their projects contained.  I think they would be content to sit at them for most of the day as long as I rotate their activities and provide snacks every now and then. :)

Totally Tots and its sister site 1+1+1=1, the inspiration for Tot Trays, has proved to be an excellent stomping ground for all sorts of ideas.  I’ve linked them to the right under some of my favorite homeschooling resources.  In addition to the excellent content, I love that it was designed for and by Christian moms who choose to homeschool.  Some of my favorite ideas: Tools 4 Tots (I like the Hide n Seek Bowls, Mix & Match game – which I already made! – Ocean Waves Bottle, and Paper Clip Colors, to name a few), sensory binsTot Books, and alphabet memory verse cards.

Here are some of my favorite resources (so far, and in no particular order) for coloring pages, worksheets, and other printables:
Homeschool Creations
Christian Preschool Printables
Preschool Coloring Book
Twisty Noodle (customizable pages)
First-School Preschool Activities & Crafts
Coloring Castle
Activity Village
Nature Detectives
Making Learning Fun
Crayola
DLTK Kids

My mom teaches Sunday School, buys loads of things for the grandkids, and sponsors children with Compassion International, so even though she no longer has littles of her own she still gets all sorts of kid-related stuff and puts together arts and crafts.  She started putting together lapbooks for her Compassion kids, and it got me interested in the concept.  I decided to try my hand at simple file folder games first, and created a few for the kiddos.

File Folder Fun has some cute ideas, and I made a few of their games, laminating the playing pieces and glueing envelopes on the back to hold them: Beautiful Bees color matching (a 2-color combination), Dinos color matching (a simple 1-color match for Josiah), and Cupcake Counting.  I haven’t used any yet, but Bible Story Printables also has some file folder games.



I finally decided to make a couple lapbooks to go along with our first preschool lesson, starting the end of August.  You can customize them any way you want, make them as simple or as complicated as you want.  There’s the basic lapbook, pocketbook, tot book, double lapbook… arrrgh, pick one!  The theme for the week will be the four seasons, and the Bible story is about Creation.  I did a seasons lapbook first. 

 

 

Most of the materials were printed from the season unit study at Lawteedah, and I also found some mini books for each season from DLTK’s database.  I had fun putting it together with all sorts of activity pages, a puzzle, matching and sorting games, and stickers.  I decided to do one on creation as well. 





At first I just printed out a couple activity pages that I found on Lapbook Lessons, but I ended up using some of their other creation printables to fill the lapbook. 

I find them labor-intensive since I’m putting them together myself, but as Gwen gets older she’ll be able to do more of it herself.  And I hope when she does the coloring and activities that it will have the stamp of her personality on it.  It might be neat to do a lapbook on the letters we learn each week, too.

Trying not to get too far ahead of myself, especially if Gwen doesn’t take to the idea – I don’t want to push it.  I tend to get ambitious then get disappointed when my ideas don’t go over well. *sigh*  At least I can be sure that the creation snack (a healthier version, anyway) will be a bit hit. 

Preschool Prep

I hope [that I have the sanity and patience and general wherewithal] to homeschool the kiddos when the time comes, but apart from jotting down ideas and bookmarking websites I’ve kinda been dragging my feet.  This is in part due to the fact that unschooling appeals the most to me more than any curriculum-based homeschool method, so I hope not to rely heavily upon a host of materials that may go to waste if we don’t end up using or benefiting from them.  Many of the materials – especially for younger children – are relatively simple, but the idea of getting them all, putting them together comprehensively, gives me a headache. 

Whenever I see an idea that appeals to me in a magazine – craft, recipe, gift idea, inspiration – I cut it out and put it in the appropriate folder or binder.  I’ve since collected a host of such ideas, and every so often will go through these clippings and actually get around to using them.  Many of them are arts and crafts or otherwise educational things to do with the kiddos, but oftentimes I can’t seem to get organized enough in this area to make them come to fruition.

I’ve found that whenever I come up with an ambitious project for Gwendolyn or get out one of the many workbooks Grandma (who homeschooled me for a few years) has given her, she doesn’t have much patience to finish it and I end up losing mine trying to make it fun and teach her something in the process. *sigh* Some days, the idea of sending her off to school just seems so nice and easy.

Tonight while making dinner, I sat the kiddos at the table and got out some forgotten puzzles and activities.  They became adorably absorbed in their play, and after dinner they reassumed the activities.  I decided to make it extra-educational and work on letters and numbers with Gwen.  Long story short, I don’t have much patience for teaching concepts that should be so simple to comprehend!  I mean, Gwen can count past ten, but when we’re counting “1-2-3-4-5-6….” and I ask what comes next and she queries two? it just frustrates me.       

Well, the whole thing got me thinking about homeschooling again.  After losing all of my internet bookmarks when our computer crashed, I’ve had to scour for some of my old favorites.  I discovered some new places as well, and was delighted to find a Biblical-based preschool curriculum called ABC Jesus Loves Me

ABC Jesus Loves Me

Maybe if I introduced something  a tad more formal, something with a bit of a theme and direction, she’ll take to it and progress in some of the areas where she could use some help (namely, remembering shapes and learning to write).  And let’s face it, since I’m not consistent with devotions, it would be nice to work some Bible in there.

My plan is to start ABC Jesus Love Me’s 3-Year-Curriculum, starting the last week in August.  There’s a lot of information on there to get prepared as a parent/teacher, though, so I’m hoping I can get it all down before then.  I’m sure I can find many of the resources at the library, and much of the craft ideas are printables.  I love this Tot School idea for implenting the weekly lesson on a poster board with clothespins to display the elements.

You know how the internet just sucks you in?  Well, I’m proud to say I didn’t get off on any tangents, but I did end up compiling a list of things I’d like to accomplish to coincide with this preschool endeavor. 

For a while now I’ve had this wooden perpetual calendar bookmarked as a project for Phil to help me with, I even got the chalkboard paint for it.  Not only would this make a cute, practical decoration for the home, but it would help the kiddos learn about the calendar. 

credit: make-baby-stuff.com

I also like the idea of a flannel/felt board for any number of displays – nature, letters, numbers, Bible stories, etc.  I love handmade stuff, but I’m also thinking the ready-made boards would be sweet (albeit expensive).

At my first baby shower, Becky gave me a book by Barbara Curtis called The Mommy Survival Guide.  Just skimming through it again, I’m blown away with how relevant it is to my situation as a mother, especially now that I have two kiddos.  I ended up borrowing her Teach Me! books, also by Barbara Curtis, which give some excellent ideas for keeping kids busy and engaged.  One of the ideas that has stayed with me is using Montessori trays to practice different skills, be creative with different materials, and above all – have fun!  I really like this version of Tot Trays – the colorful trays themselves, the variety of activities, and the fact that they are just reserved for “school time.” 

Maybe I can use one of the trays for another idea I’ve had saved up for a while – weather watching jars.  I love the colorful pom-poms, and it would make a great weekly activity which wouldn’t take up too much time, and it could coincide with learning about the seasons.  And one of these days I will get around to making homemade play dough!  Honestly, I never thought of using it to create letters, and that would be way more fun than trying to write them!  I have such a hard time helping Gwen hold a pencil; it doesn’t help that’s she’s a leftie!   

I’ve got a bunch of ideas up my sleeve, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.  Any advice or suggestions for a preschooling newbie?

While browsing around, here are some other links I found interesting:
Brightly Beaming ResourcesLetter of the Week Preschool Program
Free and Frugal Homeschool Preschool Blog
Homeschool Curriculum for LifeGentle Preschool Activities
Lapbooksinstructions & templates
Nature Detectives – love their seasonal downloads
Raising ArrowsToddler Box