Our At-Home Preschool: Weeks 4 and 5

Some sort of nasty plague made its way into our house some two weeks ago. No one escaped its wrath. It’s been tough to get everyone healthy again but I think I can safely say that everyone is on the mend. I missed a few weekly posts, but Timmy and I did manage to squeeze in some learning despite feeling pretty lousy.

Over the last two weeks we’ve worked on more word families/cvc words, learned more consonant letter blends and practiced recognizing them in words, introduced the math concept of counting on, practiced simple ABAB and AABAAB patterns (while making adorable Christmas pom-pom ornaments!) and worked on tracing letters and numbers.

We worked our way through sounding out all of the AT cvc family words- bat, cat, hat, mat, pat, rat and sat. He’s become comfortable spelling and reading these words. It’s so wonderful to watch Timmy pick these words out of books and to read them with such enthusiasm. I also introduced the ET cvc family last week- bet, get, jet, let, met, net, pet, set, wet and yet. Timmy loves using his cookie sheet spelling board (which I posted a picture of in my last post) and his magnetic letters to put words together. We also worked on learning and recognizing more consonant letter blends.

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I gave Timmy small pictures and had him identify with which letter blend the words begin. He was able to correctly identify the blends  BR, BL, CH, CL, CR, DR, FR, FL, GL, GR, PL and PR. Lately Timmy has been proudly pointing out to me when he hears these consonant blends in words. I’ll introduce some new blends in the coming weeks, but for now I’m trying to reinforce the ones he already knows.

Even though Timmy enjoys counting with his manipulatives and practicing one to one correspondence, it really is too simple a task for him. Last week I introduced the math concept of counting on to Timmy. My goal was to see if he could count up to 5 with manipulatives without starting on the number 1. To do this I placed 1, 2, 3 and 4 different color cubes on the paper. To have him start counting with the next number in the sequence, I first asked Timmy how many cubes there were in each row. Once he told me how many cubes there were, I asked him what the next number would be in the sequence. He placed the cubes on the paper as he counted to 5. To my surprise he understood this concept quite well.

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count on 2Timmy and I made some pom-pom ornaments to hang on our Christmas tree. It was also a great way to work on some simple patterns with him. He easily picked up on the ABAB candy cane pattern and AABAAB wreath pattern (using small and large pom-poms). I put a little glue on foam cutouts, explained the patters to him and he got right to work. We made a pretty adorable snowman as well- mostly my work though ;-). I think I had nearly as much fun as Timmy making these ornaments.

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Vera kept busy with her own art project while we made the ornaments.

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It’s amazing how different siblings can be. Timmy is only now beginning to show an interest in painting and coloring, but Vera loved both well before her first birthday.

I discovered recently that foam sticks to glass when it’s wet. I cut out lots of various foam shapes and had Timmy “paint” the shapes with water. Both kids had a great time sticking the shapes all over the sliding glass door. Timmy knows all of the basic shapes but this is a great way to introduce and reinforce some more complex shapes (pentagon, hexagon, octagon, rhombus, etc.) and still have some fun! Timmy even made a truck out of his shapes. This really was a great activity- I’ll definitely take these shapes out again if the kids ever get restless on a rainy day. tim shapes tim shapes 3 tim shapes 2Timmy has been tracing over the letters, first with dots and then lines. We do one letter each week and after tracing over the letter, I have Timmy identify words that begin with the letter of the week.

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He also enjoys tracing over numbers, too. And for the first time ever, Timmy attempted to write the numbers 1, 2 and 3 all by himself.

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I’m glad these last two and half weeks are over. I’m looking forward to having everyone healthy again in the new year and preparing for the arrival of baby #3!

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The Perfect Christmas Photos

I should have known better. I really should have. Sickness had been ravaging our house for the past two weeks and we’d been scrambling a bit to get everything done before Christmas Day. My husband really wanted to send out Christmas cards this year. Eh, I thought, maybe I’m just a little bit lazy but I could have just skipped it all together this year. I agreed, and of course, I just had to include some photos of the kids.

Attempting to take Christmas photos of two sick, tired and cranky toddlers was just a bad idea. I should have just settled for some shots of them in their Christmas pajamas on the couch eating cereal and watching cartoons, but in my head I imagined adorable photos of my two little perfectly dressed angels holding hands and laughing in front of the Christmas tree. Reality took over and this is what we ended up with.

It started off badly and quickly went downhill from there. Timmy insisted on holding his sister’s hand but she wanted no part of it. Vera was also upset because she wanted to sit on my lap.

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Even a little bribe, I mean snack, couldn’t placate my little one.

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Tim was over it by this point.

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One was yawning and the other one was crying.

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Finally Vera was calm but Timmy was just done.

christmas photo 10 christmas photo 11 christmas photo 16I should also mention that we broke two ornaments and I made my son cry during this failed photo session. Our pictures didn’t turn out at all as I had hoped they would, but they couldn’t be more perfect. Life with little kids certainly isn’t all smiles and laughter, but it’s these less than perfect moments that make life wonderful and memorable. It’s real life. And even though it didn’t feel like it at the time, these photos will be more precious to me some day than any “perfect Christmas photos” ever could be.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Week 3: Our At-Home Preschool

Our third week began with an unexpected snow day.

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Apparently it doesn’t just rain in the Seattle area- they get some of the powdery, white stuff, too. The kids and I had a great time making snow angels. Our fun was over all too soon once Timmy decided he didn’t want to wear gloves but that the snow was too cold on his bare hands.

This past week was all about letters, counting with manipulatives, baking Christmas cookies and making Christmas-themed crafts.

By age 2.5, Timmy knew all of his uppercase and lowercase letters and the sound each letter makes. Now that he just recently turned three, he can almost always identify which letter a word begins with (and often with which letter a word ends). We spend a good part of each day reading together and he’s always asking me how to spell words, but I know he’s ready for more.

As someone who is not well versed in early childhood education, I often struggle with exactly what the next steps should be. Searching online only leaves me feeling even more overwhelmed. My mom, who has a background in early childhood education and was a teacher turned stay-at home-mom (who homeschooled her four children through kindergarten), has been a huge help to me. With her guidance, I have a much clearer understanding of ways to challenge Timmy and develop his pre-reading skills. Some of the things my mom suggested were to start introducing word families, rhyming words, sight words and consonant letter blends.

This past week, I introduced Timmy to his first word family- the AT family. I spelled out AT, ET, IT and OT on a cookie sheet with some foam stickers. Once we sounded out the word AT together, I showed Timmy how he could use different consonant letters to form words. We sounded out the words in the AT family together- BAT, CAT, HAT, MAT, PAT, RAT and SAT. Later that evening, Timmy was able to spell the -AT words for me on our fridge using his magnetic letters. Success. I’m going to slowly introduce more word families each week. I love how enthused he is to learn how to read!

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letter families 2On the back of the cookie sheet, I used some more foam stickers to form some consonant letter blends. We went over the first five together. Unprompted, he was able to identify that cheese and choo-choo begin with the CH sound. Once he learns all of these blends, my plan is to make these exercises into some sort of a Bingo game. Perhaps start by calling out the sound a blend makes and have him identify and mark the blend with an animal cookie; once he fills the board then he can enjoy his cookies. Moving on from there, I could call out words that begin with a consonant letter blend and have him correctly identify and mark the blend. I think he’ll enjoy the game- especially the cookie part.

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And speaking of cookies, Timmy and I made some Christmas tree and snowmen sugar cookies together. He just loves being “my little helper” in the kitchen. They were without a doubt the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had- so good that I just have to link the recipe.

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Timmy has been working his way through the alphabet, tracing over the letters with his dot markers. He loves making his letters and telling me what words begin with each letter. So far we’re on the letter E. I’ll include pictures in next week’s post.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how much Timmy enjoys building. He’s always been an extremely clever builder, and with his love of building comes his intense focus. I really have been blessed as a mother with a child who is able to entertain himself for hours on end- I’ve never once worried if Timmy was “bored”. This picture says it all. With minimal help from me, Timmy put most of these tracks together. He worked on it off and on for hours one rainy day.

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I bought some counting manipulatives for Timmy last week in preparation for teaching him the concepts of sorting, patterns, one-to-one correspondence, counting on and addition and subtraction. I chose some classic manipulatives (and ones I used myself as a young girl)- counting bears and unifix cubes.

Sorting by color and simple ABAB and AABAAB patterns using the manipulatives proved to be too simple a task for him, so we moved on to one-to-one correspondence. I already knew Timmy could do this- he loves to count objects in books and in everyday life. Even though counting the manipulatives wasn’t difficult for him, Timmy enjoyed using his new “counting tray” I made for him. To make his counting tray, again I used foam stickers on a cookie sheet. I divided the cookie sheet into 10 squares for him to count out the corresponding number (and color) of manipulatives. I plan to start introducing the concept of counting on to Timmy next week.

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ps3 11 ps3 12I shared a post earlier in the week about a ribbon lacing Christmas tree craft we worked on together. Timmy had a great time making his Christmas tree and worked on some lacing skills as well.

ps3 1 ps3 6 ps3 5We also started making some Christmas ornaments using pom-poms which I will share in next week’s post.

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This was our third week of learning, myself included. What are you working on with your little ones? I’d love to hear from you and hear your thoughts on how we’re doing with our at-home preschool!

 

Ribbon Lacing Christmas Tree

I’ve been meaning to buy Timmy some lacing cards lately. I think they’d be great to keep his little hands busy and work on his fine motor skills as well. In the meantime, I figured I could make some lacing cards of my own.

Now that Timmy has begun to show an interest in making crafts with me, I try to do at least one craft each week with him. Craft time seemed like a perfect opportunity to incorporate some lacing skills. My plan was to have Timmy make a paper plate Christmas tree with a ribbon lacing garland.

Timmy happily painted a paper plate (and a good chunk of the table around it) green. After cutting off the edge of the plate, I cut the plate into 3 pieces of increasing size.

ps3 2I glued the pieces together in the shape of a Christmas tree and cut some holes along the bottom of each tier of the tree. I cut three pieces of ribbon. I knotted one end of each of the ribbons and then taped around the other end of the ribbons. I pushed the taped ends of the ribbons through the first hole of each tier of the tree. My homemade lacing card was ready to go.

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lacingIt only took a quick explanation from me about what to do with the ribbon and Timmy got right down to business- I loved how focused he was on the task at hand.

ps3 1He loved adding the pom pom Christmas ornaments to his tree, but was very adamant about stopping when he did. Less is more, I suppose.

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I think his Christmas tree looks great hanging on our fridge.

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I may have to come up with some more lacing card crafts since he enjoyed this one so much!

Ornament Ball Christmas Wreath

Pinterest and crafting blogs have been flooded with ornament ball wreaths the last few Christmas seasons, and with good reason. They really are cute and simple to make- I just had to have one of my own! I’ve been on the hunt for just the right (and inexpensive) ornaments lately, and when I spotted a pre-packaged assortment of white, red, green and gold ornaments at 50% off, I had to buy them. I couldn’t wait to make my wreath!

I found it’s best to use ornaments of varied sizes. The smallest ornaments did a great job of filling in any gaps in my wreath.wreath 2I bent a wire coat hanger into the best circular shape I could- easier said than done- and then strung my ornaments onto the hanger. I know some tutorials recommend gluing the hooks onto the ornaments before stringing them, but I skipped this step. Ornaments falling off or breaking were never an issue. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of how this would end up when I added the first 20 ornaments or so. The wreath didn’t really start to take shape unitl I had added plenty of ornaments. wreath 1To close the wire hanger loop, I used pliers to twist the ends together- I did this carefully so I  didn’t warp the wire and break my ornaments!wreath 3I glued some of the ornaments together just to give my wreath a more uniform circular shape.

wreath9I just love my new wreath and so do my kids. Timmy wanted to play with it and little Vera just stood there with her tiny mouth wide open in awe. wreath10

Old Sweater Christmas Wreath

I’ve had this green cable knit sweater for many, many years. I loved the color, but it was time for it to go. I just love making beautiful new creations from old sweaters- boot socks, scarves, fabric flowers. Someday I’ll get around to posting tutorials for everything I’ve made from my old sweaters. Now I can add a festive Christmas wreath to my list of new uses for old sweaters!

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I cut the two front panels off the sweater. I wrapped the cable knit fabric around a foam wreath form and used a little hot glue to secure the fabric to the back of the wreath. wreath2

The seams where the two panels of fabric joined were easily hidden- one at the top of the wreath (behind the hanger) and the other behind the decorations I added to the bottom portion of the wreath.

I picked up some lovely glittered pinecones and jingle bells at Target the other day for a few dollars. My daughter loved the jingle bells so much I had to wait until her nap time to get them away from her. The gray and white felt flowers I had leftover from an earlier project. You can find the tutorial here. A few dabs of hot glue to add the bells, pinecones and flowers and I was done.

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I love how my wreath turned out! Not too bad for an old sweater and 10 minutes of work. I’d love to hear your thoughts.