Friday, October 30, 2009

Preschool at Home

Homeschooling a preschooler can be as simple or complicated as you choose to make it.

I am not one to go out and buy a complete preschool curriculum. It seems a waste of money to purchase what can be done on my own.

I also don't find it necessary to make lesson plans for a younger preschooler. With plenty reading aloud and guided play a preschooler can be exposed to a variety of topics and experiences while honing the skills he will need once 'real' school begins. Given the opportunity, a preschooler will learn. Naturally!

That being said, I am still a planner and analyzer at heart, and I love all the 'trappings' of preschool! Thankfully, we have found a balance that works well for us. In sharing it here, I hope you find something that helps you, too!

Our current preschooler, Alan, who is 3, likes to 'do school' with his older brother.
One thing that has been invaluable at school time is Alan's Activity Box. It is just what it sounds like: a box of activities! It is filled with simple things that he or I can choose to pull out and do. Some require my help, some do not.
What's in our box? Among other things, it is filled with....

- Play Dough

- Beads & Pipe cleaners,
for patterns and stringing

- Toothpicks in spice jar

Printed Internet Freebies covered in contact paper, such as:
- animal matching/memory cards
- shape-matching dominoes
- flannel/felt board activities
(Find great ones to print and make yourself from DLTK!)

In addition to an activity from the box, other things we like to do are:

either from a coloring book or a page printed from the Internet. This site has about anything you can think of to print and color.


Chalkboard & chalk

Scissors & glue,
with no other purpose than to have practice holding scissors. Later on I will print or draw scissor practice sheets for him, but for now free-style cutting and gluing is great fun! I usually give him a piece of construction paper and a glue stick, because it is much less messy than the squeezable glue, and let him have at it.

Water Colors or Finger Paints

Writing with Pencil & Blank Paper

Clothes pins
One my most favorite school finds has been from a "Just $1" type store, where we found 100 plastic mini clothespins, 25 each of red, yellow, green, and blue. These are great for counting, sorting by color, and just keeping oneself amused for a while.
Tub of soapy water,
with a couple of kitchen utensils and/or bathtub toys. If you trust your kiddo to know to blow rather than suck, a straw is fun for increasing bubblage.

Small tub of sand or rice or other fine grains.
Alan asked for sand the other day and all I had was a box of cream-of-wheat cereal, so I poured that up for him to play in.



Books, books, books

Occasionally I will print Alan an actual worksheet, especially if he asks for something like Dale's. You can search "preschool worksheets" and find an innumerable amount online. I have several sites marked in my favorites, and get most of mine from this site.

In addition to everything listed above, anything sensory or skill-building gets counted as school.

Occasionally I will actually plan a craft to go along with a theme or season.

Also for themes and seasons I will try to put in a couple of fingerplays, rhymes, or songs for each month.

No Time for Flashcards is an excellent source for crafts and songs.

So, those are all the things we do, some more than others. But here is the thing: I don't specifically schedule these activities. I have them in my 'arsenal' to pull out as needed, thought of, or asked for. Keeping them in a central location, like the activity box and the school cabinet have been very helpful!

While I don't make specific plans, I do work under a couple of basic principles: I set very general goals, like learning colors, letter recognition, and counting.

I also like to work with general themes such as something seasonal, or animals. That can be especially helpful in picking out library books or searching for a planned craft to do.

THEN.... as we go through our day, I make a note of everything Alan does that I feel counts as 'school'. From a learning game to sitting in the floor stacking his blocks, to us reading a book together - I write all those things down.

For easy record-keeping I like to put a small box in the margin of Dale's weekly lesson plan, numbering Day 1, Day 2, etc.

At the end of some days there may just be one or two activities listed. Other days we may have done 7 or 8. The point is, I can look back over the weeks and see how much 'school' he is actually getting. Otherwise I would forget all those little things that add up to a lot preschool experiences!

This is so much easier than spending a great deal of time planning and preparing for what is often an unpredictable age. If he is happily entertaining himself with his toy trains while we are doing math, I'm not going to interrupt him to come complete my lesson plans!

School and learning will happen when it happens! But by keeping a record of it, I can rest assured that it is happening, and my poor little preschooler isn't being neglected while I'm busy with a 1st grader. ;)

Now That's Timing!

How funny - after we had all that blog talk about pizza earlier this week, today's Homeschool Freebie of the Day (not just for homeschoolers!) is all about making pizza!

Go 'check out' your free ebook! :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One trick, no treats

Earlier this week I read a blog discussion about participating in Halloween or not. (We do not.)

Reading and commenting on that discussion got me to thinking (and laughing) about our little no-Halloween faux pas a few years ago.

I was 36 1/2 weeks pregnant with Alan, when early in the morning on October 28th (a Saturday) I started having regular contractions. We timed them for a while, and then decided, yep - we better go to the hospital.

We called my parents to come over and watch Dale, and set off excitedly to the hospital, well before daylight, wondering if we'd have a baby that day.

A few hours later I'd been all checked out, confirmed to be having 'real' contractions, and been given some meds to stop them. We just weren't close enough to my due date for my doctor to be comfortable letting us go ahead and deliver, and he wasn't interested in sending a baby off to Children's NICU that day. (Ironic, isn't it, that Alan ended up at Children's after all, just a few months later?)

Anyway, we spent the biggest part of the day at the hospital working through all that, and got home around 4:00 that afternoon. It was our town's designated "trick-or-treat" night and we were tired and especially
not interested in visitors, even more than in past years.

We went ahead with our previous plan of the 3 of us cozying up in the bedroom in the back of the house with a pizza and a movie.

But then... the doorbell kept ringing!

We couldn't believe how bold and frankly how rude people would be to stop at an undecorated house with no lights on. Goodness! Were they that desperate for candy or what?

Imagine how sheepish we felt when after ignoring and griping about several doorbell rings over the course of an hour or so we discovered....
.... the porch light was on.

It had been on since we left before dark that morning. When the sun came up, the sensor made the light go off. When the sun went down, after we were all tucked away in our bedroom, the switch was still on and well.... that little light was shining a 'welcome' beacon to all who passed.

Oops. My apologies to all the kiddos we ignored that night.

Note to self: check the porch light before 'cozying-up' this Saturday night!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pizza Ponderings

Some time back I was researching online for information about food intolerances and came across a message board where some folks had had a serious conversation about cheeseless pizza.

It seems some people are quite opinionated about their pizza! Some of the participants had said a pizza without cheese was a travesty and shouldn't exist. Others insisted how much better a pizza was without cheese. Really? Better? Huh.

I didn't mention what I had read to anybody, because really, it was a rabbit trail from what I had originally tried to look up.

The internet seems to do that to me.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Greg has an event come up in which he needed to eat pizza long with everyone else, but he had the chance to order his without cheese (dairy hasn't been so kind to him lately). He comes home later, and guess what he tells me?

How delicious a pizza without cheese is! How all the other flavors really come through when not being smothered with cheese.

We'll I'll be. I wouldn't have guessed it.

And while I take his word for it, I can't imagine leaving the good ol' mozzarella off my supreme.

What about you? How do you take your pizza? Fully loaded, or with just a topping or two? Do tell!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pressing (or not-so-pressing) questions

Is it just me, or is making the bed easier in cold weather? In the summer months, our comforter ends up a tangled mess at our feet or on the floor and must be re-situated every morning. But when it's cold out, it spends the night laying smoothly over the sheets, tucked nicely under our chins and only needs a little straightening (once I can convince myself to come crawling out from under it, that is). Is that just me?

Why is it that on the days I have the least patience, my children pull out all their most trying tricks? How do they know? Do they have a sixth sense of "Mama's really on edge let's pull out all the stops today?"

And while I'm at it, how does it happen that on the days I need to set an alarm and get everyone up and out, the boys sleep past their usual wake up time and I have to go in and wake them up?
But when I want to sleep in? They are up bright and early! What is with that?

And finally - is it just me, or is blogging a lot more fun when people leave comments? Hmm? Is that just me?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Bedtime Mini-Drama

Scene: The Bathroom

Key Players: Buffalo Herd

The Victim: Pink & bristly

Time: Bedtime

Mama reaches up to the top shelf to distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste to the little buffaloes.

Things in the basket have tangled themselves up.

When buffalo toothbrushes come out, the pink butterfly toothbrush takes a plunge.... right into the toilet below.

Of course the last buffalo in didn't close the lid (OR put the seat down, for that matter.)

Pregnant Mama Butterfly doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. What begins as a wail turns into a laugh as she fills Daddy Buffalo in on the situation.

The whole fam peers in at the sad pink little soldier, turning slow circles in the white porcelain bowl.

Biggest Buffalo kid sums it up best:

"At least it floats!"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Well I'm glad that's over!

Based on the suggestions in The Well Trained Mind, our 1st grade science curriculum started off with 12 weeks of studying insects.

I never knew how long 12 weeks could be.

It seemed like a good idea in the beginning - learning about wasps and spiders and ladybugs. But as the weeks have worn on... wow. I've about had enough of exoskeletons, larvae and pupae - oh my.

Dale, however, does not share my lack of enthusiasm. As we are finishing up week 12 we have discovered we never learned about the preying mantis.

So he wants to delay our study of birds by one week to work in Mr. Mantis.

I'm all for 'delight-driven' learning, but sorry. No-can-do buddy. Mama's DONE with the bugs.

I did encourage him to check out a book from the library about the mantises (manti?), and if he feels so directed as to do a notebooking page, then more power to him.

However... with all that complaining out of the way.... I have to admit that learning about all those 6-legged critters in the world around us has been interesting, and has had its benefits.

One of the most fun being on a walk recently.

We found a sandy ant hill slap in the middle of an asphalt driveway.

The hill was a flurry of activity from the larger-sized red ants that lived there. The ants had a steady trail heading into the hill from each side of the driveway. You could follow them with your eyes a good ways off the driveway and into the grassy area on either side.

Most of the ones heading towards home were carrying bits of leaves or grass, like this one:

Across the asphalt they went, a little line of green marching along. It was fun to track one all the way on his long journey from the grass, across half the driveway, up onto the sandy mound, and then see him precariously disappear down the hole with his cumbersome load.
All around their door was littered with bits of leaves and grass just like the ones they were carrying. We couldn't figure how those bits had gotten so close, and never made it in! Did they not meet some antish cut-leaf criteria? Was the ant carrying each one just lost when she dropped it? Did she storm off mad?

Some ants, like the one with the HUGE head below, were busy carrying crumbly balls of sand OUT of the hole. A little remodeling and expansion going on, we assumed.
And then there were the non-conformists. Those little workers that couldn't be satisfied with a bit of leaf or grass like the others. Nope. Every once in a while you'd see one of these guys:
That's right, friends. A miniature, ant-sized mushroom. And boy let us observers tell you: that thing was heavy.

This poor little dude got halfway between the grass and home and dropped his load. We thought it was a loss, but he finally managed to hoist it up on his back again, even if the heavy part was now resting on his head instead of his hindquarters:
And just to be good supporters, we watched him make it allllll the way back home and down the hole with his treasure.
We just hoped everyone inside was impressed!

So, bugs, insects, and creepy crawling things, I bid you adieu. Not sad to leave you, but I will admit it's been a learning experience!

Birds: here we come!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Children's Book Tuesday - Pancakes for Breakfast, DePaola

I didn't have a book in mind for Children's Book Tuesday until this one kept coming up:
Or rather, until someone kept choosing this one to be read over and over again!

Alan is especially fond of pancakes, and when Mimi brought this wordless picture book home from the library for him, we felt pretty certain it would be an instant hit.

We were right.

Ironically enough, Alan is at my elbow as I write this, asking to read it again (even though we read it twice before his nap), and is pretty excited to see the cover image on the computer screen.

Therefore, my review will be short, as I am hearing a steady stream of "mama pleeeease let's read it pleeeease" as I try to write.

I think that in itself is review enough, don't you?

For more children's book suggestions visit The Joyful Chaos.

Feeling fallish

Maybe I'm just being impatient, but it seems it is taking the leaves longer than usual to change colors this year!

That is part of the beauty of this project, though - fresh green leaves work just as well, maybe even better!

The whole fam gathered around Saturday afternoon after a leaf-gathering walk to see what we could make.
Our supplies were simple:

leaves of varying shapes and sizes
broken crayons, ready to be peeled
old newspapers

Place leaves on the table, vein side up, cover with a sheet of newspaper, and start rubbing!
Try not to be distracted by reading the papers.
Cut out your rubbed leaf creations, and hang them up on a wall or window!

You could also add twine and pretty fall beads, as seen at this site, where we got our original inspiration to use newspaper.

Or, you may find a practical use for your leaf rubbings, like the Smockity bunch did!

All I know is, I smile a little bit every time I see the fun, colorful arrangement of fall leaves cascading down my wall!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Nature of Things

I have two (soon to be three) boys.

When one boy outgrows an article of clothing, we fold it up and store it away for the next little boy. When little boy reaches a larger size, we open up our box and pull out a little wardrobe, all ready to go.

In theory.

In real life, boys play in dirt piles and mud holes. And fall off bicycles. And ask for tree-climbing lessons. And who knows what else.

And after all that, their clothes end up looking like this:
The britches in that picture? They used to be what we would call BLUE JEANS. And yes, they were BLUE. All over. (and if you need proof these weren't 'staged', take a closer look at the tree-climbing boy above wearing these very same jeans earlier in the very same day)

This explains why there aren't ever quite as many clothes in those hand-me-down boxes as there seems there should be.

This would also be a very good hint that this 3rd boy? He can pretty much forget hand-me-downs!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Apple Puzzle

We've been doing a few apple activities and reading apple books for early fall. One of our favorites - and by far the easiest! - has been the apple puzzle.

Simply take a whole apple and push a paring knife into the core at alternating angles, all the way around the apple. It should come apart easily once you get back to your first cut.

You now have an apple puzzle! Dale had fun putting it together a couple of different times.
After everyone has had a turn, you now have a snack!

Alan was more interested in the eating than the puzzling. :)
Happy Appling!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The man to which I am married...

... took two hours out of his Sunday afternoon,

his day of rest,

and helped me transform a hodge-podge mountain of little boys clothes

- summer and winter, sizes 12month, 18month, 24month, 2T, 3T, 4T, 5T, and 5/6 -

into 7 sorted and labeled boxes to go into the attic,

and a dresser full of folded things for little boys to pull out and wear,

and a closet with neatly hanging clothes for mama and daddy to choose for going out.

I don't know when I've been a happier woman!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I'm sure he meant well. Really.

All the fam was excited this weekend to get a surprise visit from my sister.

The boys are crazy about her and were thrilled to get to spend all day Saturday and even Saturday night with Mimi & Gramps and Kristin. And maybe I was happy about it, too. ;)

Because of all this togetherness, Dale was with Kristin when she bought a new pair of shoes on Saturday.

As we were saying our goodbyes today, Dale looked around and noticed Kristin's new shoes in a stack of things to be taken back home with her.

Wanting to say nice things in addition to all the "I had funs" and the "can't wait to see you agains", Dale pointed to the shoes and said....

"I like your new shoes Kristin. They're going to make you.....

(here he searched for juuuust the right compliment)

... they're going to make you look like a sissy!!"

And out the door he went, leaving Kristin behind in his wake of good cheer.

She was flattered.

I think.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What's on my mind?

- It's hot. And humid. And it's going to rain. Bucket loads. My backyard is already squishy.

- I wish I had already ordered that kids exercise dvd I thought about several weeks ago. Because my boys have a need to burn off energy. Daily. And, well, it's going to be raining, in case you haven't heard.

- My problem is, I couldn't decide on the *perfect* one. Even after reading the reviews. So, all discussions about perfectionism aside, do you own any kid exercise dvds? What do you like?

- I have noticed I don't blog much (hardly any!) about pregnancy. What is there to say really? I have a baby bump. It is on the smallish side of average size. I like carrying it around. Some things hurt. Sleep isn't what it used to be. I have 3 months to go. I have a person that lives and moves inside me. I don't care what the 'official' definition of miracle is: I am growing one daily!

- Facebook: I don't do it, and I don't get it. Twitter: I do it, and I still don't get it. Do you do either?

- School. We have completed (almost) ten weeks! And we only have two more weeks of studying insects - hallelujah! Then it is on to hibernation and birds. Twelve weeks is a lot of time to be reading about bugs.

- My kids. I'm in one of those crazy-about-them-even-when-they-drive-me-crazy phases. I hope it lasts longer than a phase, really. Being a mom is fun these days. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When all else fails...

I am an avid weather watcher.

I check the weather online several times a day. Forecast, current temperature... all that stuff.

I have the radar as a shortcut across the top of my web browser.

But something has gone awry and I can no longer depend on my trusty weather sources.

For one thing, it rained all weekend. And all day yesterday. And all night last night.

But every time I checked the radar? It looked clear!

(Ok, so maybe the clouds were low, and maybe we do live far from the center of the radar, and maybe it was a light drizzly misty rain at times, but still.)

To not be able to trust the radar is a major upset in our household!

And then... as if that weren't enough....
I checked the temperature this morning to see if the boys needed long sleeves or short sleeves and found this:

110? Really? So, uh... I guess that'd be short sleeves?

But it's that heat index of 259 that really concerns me!

Therefore, since all I know of weather predicting has gone completely wrong, I am switching to a new source.

One of these:
It's a weather rock. You hang a rock, any size, in a prominent place outside, with this information posted nearby:

If the rock casts a shadow, it is sunny.
If the rock is warm to the touch, it is hot.
If the rock is wet, it is raining.
If you can't see it, it's foggy.
If the rock is white, it is snowing.
If the rock is moving, it is windy.
If it's gone, there's a tornado.

I figure this ought to be more reliable than the information I've been getting!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Children's Book Tuesday - The Big Red Apple

Time for another Children's Book Tuesday!

We are beginning several weeks of fall books and activities, starting with apples, so we brought home this book from the library:
This is an old favorite of ours that we have checked out at least 2-3 times a year for several years. First for Dale, and now for Alan.

In addition to the story being very simple, easy to follow, and easy for beginning readers to read, the book is filled with bright, pretty pictures!
But even better than them being bright and pretty, they were all made from fabric and then printed into the book. They look so dimensional you'd think you could touch them. And even knowing you will only feel a smooth page, you still can't resist running your hand over those stitched rain drops, or the tiny felt apples!

Or even this happy little guy:
Stop by The Joyful Chaos for more great children's books, and be sure and wish Suzanne well while you are there... their new baby arrives later this week!