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!

letter families

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.

letter blends

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.

unifix

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!

 

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Week 1: Our At-Home Preschool

I was playing with the kids at a park one sunny morning when I struck up a conversation with another mom. After a few minutes she asked me, “is he in preschool?” I was taken aback. Preschool? Timmy was 2.5 at the time. The thought of sending my little boy off to preschool was the furthest thing from my mind that morning. “No, he’s home with me all day”, I said. “I’m not planning on sending him to preschool”, I added. The mom just gave me a puzzled sort of look.

I’ve been asked this question so many times over the past six months, that I admit, I’ve even second guessed my decision to not send my kids to preschool and kindergarten. Guilt actually started to creep its way in, as if somehow teaching my own children at home for a few years would harm my kids in life. There’s so much pressure (even for us stay at home moms) to send our little ones off to school at age 3 or even 2. But every time I see Timmy and Vera’s eagerness to learn and their excitement and joy in discovering the world around them, I’m reminded of why I’ve always wanted to homeschool the early years. I look forward to sharing all of these beautiful learning moments with my children.

Our journey will be a learning experience for both the kids and I. The idea of homeschooling can seem a bit overwhelming at first- I have no idea what my kids’ style of learning will be, but I’m excited and eager to learn. Teaching my children started the day I became a mother, but this will be Week 1 of Timmy’s “official” homeschooling (he’s 3 now!). I hope you enjoy a little peak into our adventures in homeschooling!

Week 1

We spend a large portion of each day reading- during and after breakfast, before and after naps and before bed. Timmy has always enjoyed being read to, but lately he likes to “read” books himself. He’ll read Vera and I books he’s memorized and move his fingers over the words as he reads. I love these beautiful, quiet sibling moments. And relative peace and quiet allows me to snap some pictures.

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Vera wants to be just like her big brother. She spent a few minutes reading on the couch after breakfast one day.

vera reading

Timmy has always shown an interest in letters. By age 2.5 he knew all his uppercase and lowercase letters and the sound each letter makes. His latest interest is in knowing how to spell everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I have him spell out these words on his magnetic board as I say each letter.

He loves letters so much, I’ve started to introduce Timmy to forming his letters. Timmy loves dot markers- they’re chunky and easy to hold and give the look of paint without all the mess. I drew a big A for Timmy to trace with dots. He picked up on the idea immediately.

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Once he had formed the letter A with paint dots, I had him tell me what words begin with the letter A. “Apple, alligator, ant!” was his reply. After I wrote these words on the paper for him, I had him trace over the dots with his dot marker. He did really well!

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Timmy loves to build. He was building tall towers of Mega Blocks before his first birthday. I think of him as my little engineer. My husband and I are always on the hunt for new building toys at garage sales and consignment stores.  A few of his favorites these days are floor puzzles, Tinker Toys, Legos, Locktagons and his beloved train tracks.

I set out some Locktagons for Timmy on the table after breakfast for him to discover. He took to them quickly and built a tower. I was a bit shocked when he held up an octagon and said, “mommy, I found an octagon!” I worked for a bit with Timmy on patterns using these colorful shapes. He doesn’t yet grasp the idea of patterns- something to work on this year!

loctagonsTimmy used his Tinker Toys to build a system of “pipes used to suck up water”. I love his imagination.

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And as always, he spent hours this week putting together train tracks.

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Early in the week, we took a trip the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. It’s really a beautiful zoo and worth the 45 minute trip to get there.

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After checking out the giant zoo map, Timmy happily ran from exhibit to exhibit stopping briefly to talk to the animals. He’s taken a real interest in animals lately- at times he’d rather watch Orangutan Island on Animal Planet than a cartoon. That’s perfectly fine by me. I need to remember to check out some animal books from the library next week.

Timmy has always been more of a builder than an artist, but I’ve been learning new ways to encourage his artistic expression. Playing off of his new love of animals, I picked up some animal foam stickers from the store the other day. Tim was eager to paint a “jungle” one evening and spent some time arranging the animal stickers. He had a story to go along with it as well.

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He loves watercolor painting, too.

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I re-introduced scissors to Timmy this past week. He’s never really shown an interest in using them in the past. He made a brief attempt to use them and then gave up and tore the paper instead. He got in a little practice with a glue stick, though.

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Timmy celebrated his third birthday last week. I can’t believe my baby is three already!! One morning this past week, we celebrated at our house with some of Timmy’s little friends from the neighborhood. Timmy really enjoyed his first ever party with friends. His sweet smile said it all!

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Our homemade ball pit was a big hit with the kids!

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Timmy’s big birthday present from Mommy and Daddy was a Radio Flyer balance bike. He’s been practicing riding it at the park a few times this past week and each time he gets a little bit better.

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I’d be remiss not to mention all of the pretend play this past week. I love his pretend play, that magical glimpse into the inner workings of his sweet mind. Timmy spends a considerable amount of his day engaged in pretend play. It starts the moment he wakes up and he lets me know who he is that day- a train, an animal, his cousin. And who he is changes every so often. It’s difficult to keep up at times! Today I had a picnic at the beach with Timmy on our living room floor, he had a tea party with his sister, he drove some stuffed animal friends on a school bus, and he made me breakfast in his kitchen.

We had a busy week. And at 6 months pregnant, I’m tired just thinking about everything we did over the past few days. I’d love to hear your thoughts on our first of many weeks to come!