Our At Home Preschool: Weeks 8 And 9

With my third baby’s imminent arrival, blog posts have been few and far between. We have been continuing to do preschool at home and lately I’ve been trying to catch up on all my posts. Here’s what we were learning a couple of weeks ago…

Imaginative Play:

Stickers are expensive and somehow always end up stuck to the kitchen floor or the dining room table. Reusable stickers are a nice solution and Melissa and Doug makes   great reusable sticker books- I bought the animal one for the kids the other day. The pages are large and brightly colored and even my 19 month old can easily peel, apply and reapply the animal stickers. Timmy made up his own cute stories to go along with each page. He played with his new sticker book for easily an hour the day I got it for him.

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Timmy really has a great imagination. I love observing his pretend play. For example, he loves building structures and then uses his steam roller to knock them all over. Little boys 🙂

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The forklift helped pick up the large pieces of wood after the demolition. He also made a barn for all of his zoo animals. He set up train tracks to bring food to the animals.

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Pre-Reading:

We continued working on Timmy’s cvc word families. He’s knows all of the -AT, -ET, -IT and the -OT word families. I also introduced the -AN, -IN, -OG, -ALL, -UP and -OP word families. We had lots fun reading the Dr. Suess book Hop on Pop together.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a big change in his ability to decode simple cvc words. When I first started introducing word families to him, I could tell he was simply memorizing the words. But lately he’s begun to sound out the words now that he understands how to blend the consonant and vowel sounds together. It really is so amazing to watch young children learn, isn’t it?

We also used his letter blend board in new ways. I say a word, for example “flower”, and ask him which letter blend the word begins with. Once he correctly identifies the blend, he marks it with a counting bear. Once his board is full he gets an M&M. My son will do anything for an M&M!

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Now that my three year old is more or less done with naps, I’ve begun to let him “rest” in his bed with our iPad. He plays with the Starfall Learn to Read app ($2.99) for about 30 minutes each day. I credit his development in sounding out words with using this app. It might be something useful for your pre/early reader as well!

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Timmy has sight word puzzle pieces he’s been using lately. He’s put the pieces together a few times and already recognizes most of the sight words.

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He’s picking up sight words from reading books with me, too. “Where’s the word ____, mommy?” he asks. He really is a quick learner when it comes to reading. I’ve ordered a sight word bingo game online to start working on more sight words with him over the next few months.

We completed a few cut and paste rhyming words worksheets together. He picked up on the concept quickly.

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Pre-Writing

Timmy shows little interest in writing letters but he was more than happy to make them out  of playdough. Forming snakes into letters was so much fun for him!

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I was even able to convince him to trace over some of the colorful foam letters with a marker.

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Early Math:

We played our ‘counting on’ game some more this past week. Timmy and I take turns drawing playing cards and count on from whatever number we draw- sometimes to 10 and sometimes to 20.

Timmy played with the Learning Journey’s Match It! Mathematics puzzles last week. The puzzle cards include 10 self-correcting cards of counting, 10 cards of addition and 10 cards of subtraction.

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These puzzle cards are not only useful to reinforce the concepts of number recognition and counting (Timmy’s quite comfortable with these concepts) but will help with basic addition and subtraction. Along with counting bears and unifix cubes, these cards should be a great way to begin introducing addition and subtraction to Timmy. I hope to start working on these concepts at some point this year. 

Arts and Crafts:

TImmy and Vera collaborated on a few coloring and painting projects over the last few weeks. I just love watching them play together.

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Our At-Home Preschool: Fun with Maps

“Mommy!” he shrieked as he returned home from an outing to the zoo with his father.

“I have a zoo map!”

Timmy couldn’t wait to show me where he had been in the zoo with his daddy. He traced along the paths with his finger and showed me in great detail where all the animals lived.

This wasn’t the beginning of his interest in maps. I’d seen him drawn to maps before. During a recent trip to Vancouver, Timmy spent some time in the hotel room tracing over the roads and bridges on a map of the city. I explained to him what the map key was and where the parks and water were. He made sure to bring it along with him in the car to tell us where we should go.

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I wanted to encourage his new interest in maps with a few activities. There are plenty of great map books written for toddlers and preschoolers. Here are some reviewed at Gift of Curiosity. I was able to find some map themed books at our local library to read with the kiddos.

I bought a US map to hang over the kids’ table. The kids love it! At three, Timmy can’t really grasp what the map of the US represents, but he enjoyed putting dots on the map where friends and family lived and places he’s lived and visited. Vera’s even gotten in on the action of learning the states. My husband’s made numerous work-related trips to Hawaii lately. Now everyday when he leaves for work, Vera says, “daddy’s going to Hawaii on a boat”. So cute.

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To make it more to his scale and easier for him to grasp and to encourage the love of making his own maps, I printed a satellite photo of our neighborhood using Google Maps.

I sat down next to Timmy and colored in our house. “This is where our house is. And this is the road we live on. And this is the road we walk down to get to the park. And this is where we take your bike to ride”, I said. He got the idea quickly and began asking questions… Where were our neighbors houses? As I pointed he added colored dots and I ran colored lines along the roads.

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We made a giant roadmap, too. Timmy really had a great deal of fun with this project. I taped an huge piece of white paper to the table and told him we were making a roadmap.  I cut thick strips of black foam and he glued them to the paper. He used a house shaped sponge to add houses with red paint. Adding bushes, ponds and ducks were all his idea. I love how his little mind works. There just had to be ducks in the pond!

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Following his interest in maps was easy to do and has been a delight to watch. Just by providing him with a few maps and some drawing materials he’s learned about basic geography, begun to extend his world view, thought about distances and measurement, and practiced some mark making. I wonder where his interests will take us next!

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!

 

Week 2: Our At-Home Preschool

This was a difficult week for my family. My 94 year old grandfather passed away peacefully on Thanksgiving day, surrounded by loved ones. He was a beautiful person- he loved life and lived it to the fullest right up until the end. He will truly be missed by all of his 11 children and 24 grandchildren. Some of my fondest memories were listening to his many stories while he enjoyed a pint of Guinness and later having the opportunity to enjoy one with him. If I weren’t pregnant, I would toast my Irish grandfather with a Guinnness. Rest in peace, JJ.

The kids also had to say goodbye to their father for 9 days. With my husband away and the passing of my grandfather, it’s been a difficult week. We did however continue with our second week of preschool.

Timmy and I baked some delicious chocolate chip cookies together early in the week. We had so much fun! I’m snacking on one as I type. Timmy really enjoys cooking and baking with me lately and I’m doing my best to encourage his new interest.

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I try to get him involved in the kitchen daily. Not only is helping in the kitchen good for his developing hand muscles and fine motor skills, but he gets plenty of practice counting. Timmy counted everything while assisting me- how many scoops of this ingredient or how many times he stirred those ingredients. I would imagine as he gets older, cooking will be a great way to introduce measurements and fractions. I’m hoping this new love of his is here to stay!

I posted earlier in the week about an arts and crafts activity that the kids and I worked on together. We made a paper plate turkey. Vera happily collected some leaves at the park one morning for the project. The leaves were used for the turkey’s feathers. Timmy painted the dark and light brown paper plates and taped the leaves to the back of the paper plate turkey.

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I was pleasantly surprised with how much of this activity Timmy completed on his own. He’s never really been interested in crafts before now- usually I ended up doing most of the craft. He was so proud of his turkey. Timmy couldn’t wait to tell his daddy all about his turkey when he got home from work that night.

Several weeks ago, I bought a large roll of white easel paper from Michael’s for a few dollars. I covered the entire kitchen table with the paper and let the kids go nuts. The large surface really gave Timmy and Vera the freedom to create on a much larger scale.

They used paint, crayons and markers; their favorite material is dot markers (bingo dabbers). I bought these markers at Michael’s as well. I love that store! The dot markers are great because they’re easy to hold and so durable. Timmy bangs them quite hard on the paper and they stand up well to the abuse. I left the paper on the table all day for the kids. The entire table was covered in marks, lines and scribbles by the end of the day.

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Timmy didn’t just scribble though. I drew numbers, letters and shapes for him and he happily traced over them with his dot markers.

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With the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband enjoyed some rare time off from work. We took the kids to a nearby children’s museum one rainy morning. Timmy and his daddy had a great time building an “igloo”. I love Timmy’s imagination! The only thing he enjoyed more than building the igloo was knocking it down.

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Timmy re-discovered his love of floor puzzles this past week. He completed all of his floor puzzles. Much to his dismay, Vera helped take them apart.

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Timmy, Vera and I also took a trip to the library this week. Everybody must have left town for the holiday, because we had the entire children’s section of the library to ourselves. I wasn’t going to complain- we spent several hours there reading animal books and playing with toys.

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We’ll have to start making a weekly trip to the library as part of our school. It’s a nice library and my little ones had a great time.

 

 

 

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!

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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.

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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!