Moonday! (This year in homeschool preschool…)

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Last school year I was a little obsessed with educating my child. I felt like I needed to spend every moment of his life educating him, but not always on the important things. I was working so hard to “make” him learn his letters, colors, etc… Yeah, I was terrible. Totally not age appropriate first of all, and planning things for him to learn truly bored him. He’d be interested in something else, so the things I wanted to teach him… well he couldn’t stay focused, and got very frustrated with me, which makes total sense. This year, I wiped that crazy board clean and decided to 100% follow his lead.

The first thing I decided to do was set up a “classroom” so that he would have a place to go to focus, and we could still do normal preschool activities like go over the calendar, read books, sit for puzzles, and go over our letters and numbers. These aren’t going to be forced things, but they are available, and if he chooses to do them himself, great! He often does. He loves puzzles, he loves matching games, and he is actually really interested in putting letters together and finding different letters out of a set. Part of the problem last year was that our schedule was always set, I would force him through the activities, and we would be in the living room or kitchen which was set up for other things as well. This year he will have a learning sanctuary that is his choice. It’s also a good way to keep all of his craft supplies, sensory buckets, and blocks in one place.

Now the next thing I did was realize that he had to already be interested in what I wanted to teach, so I decided that every Saturday we’d talk about the things he likes. Trees, weather, space, the ocean, firemen… whatever it may be, is what we will focus. Which leads me to…

Moonday! Last week Caleb let me know that he thought the moon was really awesome. I turned that into a whole week of learning about the solar system, but all he really wanted to learn about/play about was the moon and stars, which is completely understandable since he can actually see and somewhat understand them. At the daycare I work at, I did Moonday (Monday) with all of them, and want to share how it went with you all.

We started when I got there learning about gravity and the difference between gravity on Earth and the moon. We did this in a very simple way. I brought a bunch of Styrofoam balls and asked the kids to each grab a regular rock. We talked about how those rocks, Earth rocks, were heavy. Then I explained that on the Moon they would feel more like the Styrofoam balls and be very light. We played “moon rock toss” and tried to get the balls into a bucket.

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Next was snack time! Let me just add, this was delicious, and it’s my new favorite snack… We started with a rice cake base, smeared with cream cheese, layered with banana pennies and some little pieces of kix. One of our kiddos couldn’t have the cheese, so we used sun butter on her’s instead of the cream cheese, but it still looked really great.

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Then, I had each of the kiddos make their own telescope. I had prepped this activity so that the kids would each have a different color telescope, and wouldn’t have to spend the time painting. Instead they just each got a sticker sheet of stars to decorate the way they would like to.

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From there we went over to the rug and had a blast with this sensory bucket I set up for them. First of all, the bucket itself has a spot for each of the kids to set their wrist so they aren’t fighting for a spot or pushing one another, which I thought was great and a super bonus. Then I stuck on some star stickers, poured two bags of black beans in, added some of the white beans, about 15 glow in the dark stars, clear stones (because space is cold and full of ice!), and these awesome astronaut, ufo, spaceships, and jet erasers that I got at the Dollar Tree. Each child was assigned a different thing to find, and then they were able to just explore freely. They were so wonderfully focused on this bucket, it was a great time to call them over one by one for the big craft of the day…

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These were so much fun, and showed the personality of all of the kiddos. Just looking at them the other teacher and I knew exactly who made what. First each kiddo painted the back ground with their chosen combo of blue and purple. One little girl’s favorite color is blue, and only used blue. Caleb loved mixing colors, so used more purple than the others, because he likes swirling the two paints together. Then they each picked a glitter to sprinkle over the paint before it dried. After it all was dry, they got to glue on five of the glow in the dark stars and a cardboard moon however they wanted. I had painted the moons in an attempt to save time. We have such a limited amount of time the kids can stay sitting, that sometimes we just can’t let them do every part of a craft alone, sadly. Lastly I trimmed up to edges, and these lovely crafts were finished!

Along with these activities we used the sunlight to show how the moon rotates to make different phases, goes around the sun, and the size with little models of the Earth and moon I painted. We sang songs, pretended to be astronauts, and learned the sign for moon and stars. It was an excellent day of learning, play, and creativity, and it was all influenced by Caleb’s love for the moon and stars.

Trust your kids. They will learn if we follow their lead. I’m so incredibly sure of that. You can learn the alphabet during fun activities, you can help them learn their name using sensory boards, themed puzzles, and songs… Children learn through play. When you take the play away is when the learning stops. Trust your kids.

You Are Loved!

Finger Paints and Stamping Fun!

I LOVE painting, and Caleb has been talking about painting a lot the last few days. First thing this morning I made a batch of my edible finger paint, and when my sweet boy woke up I surprised him with this painting station.

I really wanted to do more than just finger painting, so I grabbed straws and toilet paper rolls (two things I obsessively collect which drives Corey crazy) and stuck one of each into each of the six colors I made. I got Caleb naked, and gave him some paper. Then (last picture) I created examples to show him how the stamps work, and also to show him with the straw you can blow the paint around. He LOVED blowing the paint.

He really focused on the color red today. I was surprised. I made two purples and pink for him because he’s been so into them, but red was the cool color today.

After three of the toilet paper roll stamp paintings and one of the straw paintings I gave him a paintbrush. That’s what led to the second picture, and I loved watching him paint lines and then smack the brush against it like a stamp. It was cool to see that the concept we were working on really stuck with him. Lastly I took a straw and drew his name into his painting! I think once it’s dry we’ll put it on his bedroom door.

Originally I planned to do more. I was going to “stamp” his hand to make some Valentines Day cards, animal prints, etc… but he wasn’t having it. My normally messy loving boy really didn’t want to get his hands dirty today, so I didn’t force it. The paint only takes a minute to create anyway, so if he seems more willing later on, we’ll just do it then. I want to get some actual stamp pads and stamps. I think he’d love that, and he liked stamping his hand last Friday.

Daddy-Son Time <3

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One of the benefits of Corey working at Lowe’s is that he gets to bring home the Build and Grow projects to do with Caleb. Soon as he walks in with one of those sets, Caleb just lights right up. I’m actually really impressed with Corey too. He could build the whole thing by himself in a few minutes, or be too worried he’d get hurt to let Caleb help. Instead, Corey involves Caleb in the whole thing.

First Caleb reads him the instructions. Then Corey kind of follows them, but usually has to pull a few parts apart as he goes. Then he has Caleb help him put in each nail before he hammers it in. Caleb has the option of using stickers, or not. He can put them on and rip them off later. It’s totally Caleb led. In general it’s just a blast watching them, and I know he’s learning just so many things! Putting the little nails in the holes? Totally fantastic fine motor skill practice. Following instructions? Puzzling pieces together? Great brain activities.

It’s also education for Corey. Patience, letting go, trust… It’s really beautiful watching them together.

Puzzles Gallore: Day Five of Pre-school Home-schooling

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Today went better than every other day this week. The big problem I was having is that I hadn’t prepped the “class” before we started. I would set him up with a coloring sheet, and I’d sit besides him cutting and gluing. Of course what mama was doing was SO much more interesting. Frustration would ensue, and it would take a thousand times longer to get everything done, and Caleb would have a harder time getting interested.

The big difference today, is I made sure before we even tried to start that everything was ready to go, and we didn’t start at his desk. We sang Old McDonald, and I signed it for him. We went over what a cow was a few more times, and how they live on farms. Then we moved onto the Nursery Rhyme of the week. I made up a little fold book with the characters to “Hey Diddle Diddle.” As I recited the rhyme I pointed out the Cat, Fiddle, Cow, Moon, Dog, Smile/Laugh, Dish, and Spoon. Caleb loved that he had a book to identify the things from.

Once we had danced and sung, and he was calm, we moved over to the desk and I pulled out a cow puzzle I made for him. First he had a completed one where he matched the cut out spots to. Then he had a blank cow shape to “add the spots to.” I got the idea for it from a bus version our Families Read instructor made for him. This was a fantastic Fine Motor activity. Placing the pieces, matching sizes… Another thing, which you’ll probably notice is, rather than a normal or round cow, it’s square/rectangle based. I decided on that because of our focus on squares for the week.

Speaking of buses and our Families Read instructor… We also worked on this awesome name puzzle today. Caleb loves buses, and he’s a big fan of his own name. He liked mixing up the letters and putting them back together. He loves telling us that, “C is for Caleb!” I started by asking him what it said. Imagine my surprise when he said, “Caleb.” This is an awesome example of sight words. Then I pointed to each letter, said the name, and told him to please say it. It was kind of interested. For “A” he said Ah. For “B” he said AB. We repeated the activity a few times, but he kept saying them that way. C, L, and E he had no problem with. Then I mixed them up and just put C and B where they belonged. He took the reigns and put them back in order, though a ended up upside-down. All around it was a good activity for him though.

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Autumnal Paper Chain: Home-school Pre-school Day Four

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Caleb had a very productive day of learning. We were supposed to focus on the letter A and number 1, but he knows those pretty well. We did a coloring page of the letter A, and talked about “one crayon at a time,” but then we moved on to something way more fun, because I kept looking out the window and seeing the beautiful colors of Maine in fall.

I took him outside to go learn about, and pick, leaves. We talked about how they start on trees, and then fall to the ground as it gets cold. Then I showed him all the colors they come in. I asked him to pick a bunch for our craft. I wanted to grab some of the incredibly beautiful and bright leaves… but I’m short. So we ended up with some cool gradient leaves instead. Orange and yellow, green and yellow, and red and yellow are what we ended up with.

Before we went I cut up a sheet of green, yellow, red, and orange construction paper, then when we got home I showed him the papers and how they matched the leaves we collected. Next it was time to talk about patterns and practice our color recognition while building a cool autumn leaves paper chain. I had him hand me ONE green, one yellow, one orange, one red, etc, etc, until all the papers were gone. He would hand them to me sometimes, and other times he would slide it through the last chain. We clothes pinned it up, and Caleb chose which chains would have leaves hanging from them. So much fun!

Even though this wasn’t originally on the curriculum, figuring it’s cow week not seasons week, I decided I couldn’t pass the chance up. We still got to talk about green (the color of the week), read a few books, and the fine and gross motor skills used to identify and say colors, as well as threading the paper through the previous chain, was a great practice, and covered what was planned. Oh, and while we were reading I pointed to a piece of broccoli. I asked Caleb what it was, because he loves broccoli and can say the word, but instead of identifying it he said, “Green.” I was really pleased. It was a fun day of learning for the both of us, and really nice to bring nature into our learning.

Day One, Two, and Three of Home-school Pre-school

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I’m so sorry for the lack of active pictures. It’s really hard to do school and get pictures without someone to work the camera. I’m also really sorry I didn’t post day one or two. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about this anyhow!

Monday was really simple, but a total blast. We started by introducing the learning board, and more specifically introducing the theme of the week. This week we are focusing on cows, the word calf, the color green, shape square, letter A, number 1, and nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle.”

I woke him up with this poem:

Little Calf by Katrina Lybbert

“Good morning, little calf,” gentle mother cow said.

“It’s time to get up from your sweet hay filled bed.”

Little calf jumped, stamped his feet, swished his tail,

And followed mama past a shiny milk pail.

Out into the barnyard, holding his head high,

Little calf look up to the blue, blue sky,

Birds flying past chirped a joyful song,

Little calf smiled, and felt happy all day long.

Then we watched a few YouTube videos about cows, and then we started talking about calves. We’re still breastfeeding occasionally, so I explained to Caleb that calves drink their mom’s milk the same way he drinks mine. As the day went on we sang “Old McDonald” over and over, but just talked about him having a cow. I had him get on all fours with me, and we moo’ed like a cow. It was a lot of singing and moving for the first day.

Tuesday was a little harder for us. Caleb wasn’t a huge fan of sitting. That’s okay with me though. The focus of the day was on green and squares. Because Caleb didn’t want to sit still, we decided to just walk around the house pointing out all the square and green things we could find. I figured we could just do the other activities on Wednesday…

Wednesday, today, was wonderful. We woke up with the Old McDonald song, and an awesome green outfit which to my surprise he could identify. After we got out of school we went to the library. I found a ton of great books today. The best was, “The Great Big Green” by Peggy Clifford. Everything is green until the end, and it ends up being the Earth. We also went through books about farms (to talk about cows), a letter book which we focuses on the A with, and a number book where we counted up to three, because Caleb can count to three and wouldn’t stop at one. When we got home I sat him down with a few worksheets I printed off. One had a tree dropping leaves with dotted lines showing the fall pattern. I showed him how to draw lines based on the dotted lines. He said, no. Instead he drew lines from the bottom of the paper to the top. Totally acceptable to me. A line is a line. Then we colored a square green. It’s part of a set of shape cards we’ll be working on through the weeks. He helped me glue the name (square) to the back of the card, and we moved on. I cut out the template for a cow cube, and he glued… some of the spots that we were instructed to. It came out really cute though. We talked about how there was only ONE cow cube, how a cube is made of squares, and that it was, obviously, a cow. Totally the perfect project for this week!

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Colors and Counting: Pompom Edition!

Counting Color Pompoms

The Dollar Tree is this magical place where home-schoolers and parents go to buy ridiculous quantities of craft supplies, and educational aids. On one memorable trip I walked by bags of 80 pompoms. I may or may not have grabbed five bags… 400 pompoms seems reasonable right? Right?

Now the only question was what to do with these pompoms? Thus the colors, counting, and pompoms game was created! Super simple prep. I took six Styrofoam plates, drew bubble numbers with corresponding circles (aka 2 circles on the plate with the 2, 3 circles on the plate with the 3, etc…), and colored the circles on each plate with a color of pompom. I laid a platter with the pompoms in the middle of the living-room, surrounded by the plates, and Caleb jumped right in. Watching him use his fine motor skills to place the correct color of each pompom on its proper circle was so much fun. We named each color as he put it down, and talked about adding easy numbers.

I totally recommend this activity any time. You could put Velcro on the plates and pompoms so they don’t move around so much.Do as many plates as you want, multiple colors, and any size pompoms. There are so many great options and it’s a very low cost activity with lots of “educational areas” being covered. Enjoy!

Craft Time: Cow Tube Kites

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This week, for our home-school preschool curriculum, our theme is cow. I don’t have specific things written up for weekend activities, but figured we could do a random craft involving cows anyway. I put on a few cow videos to introduce Caleb to cows, and I prepped this while he watched. Super easy project:

White Paper Cut to Fit Around a Toilet Paper Roll

Black Paper for the Legs (cut into strips and accordion folded)

Black Paper Cut for the Spots (or washi tape!)

Marker for the Face

Glue Sticks

To start, I had Caleb put the glue on the white paper, and I wrapped it around the toilet paper tubes. Then I ran out of glue! I ran around trying to find more, but instead found some black washi tape. I drew a quick cow face on each of these, and then cut a bunch of washi tape squares. I helped Caleb glue his tail on, then we each went to town putting on the spots. I showed him how to fold the legs, we cut them out, and we both taped the legs on together. I have seen these with some other animals, and I figured it would be cute with a cow as well.

Right now they are handing on our “project line.” Later we will tie a little yarn to the top, and bring them outside to blow in the wind! This is a very easy project, but it has a lot of steps. By the time we got half way through the spots, Caleb was pretty done. We got up and danced to Old McDonald for a few minutes, and he was ready to go back to the craft. It’s okay to take breaks!

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Two Quick and Easy Fall Crafts

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Every other Friday Corey and I go to a parenting/parents financial/life skills class, and afterwards Caleb joins us for a play group. Today we read Brown Bear as a group, and then did a few activities the instructor had set out for us. My favorite, and one that Corey and Caleb spent a lot of time on, was painting with cinnamon! It was just a little water mixed with cinnamon. It looked really cool. The water turned the paper a light brown, and the cinnamon gave the bear’s fur some really great texture. The best part was how great it smelt. I have a ton of pumpkin spice in my pantry that I’ll be doing this with on a fairly regular bases.

The other activity only took a few minutes, but made Caleb very happy. I was working on his curriculum tonight, and that involved a ton of cutting and gluing. While I was working, he asked to help, but I had to say no. As soon as I was finished, however, I threw this second craft together. I ripped a piece of purple paper in half, cut out two pumpkins, two stems, then let Caleb make a few cute in the orange paper left over. While he was cutting, I glued my pumpkin down (the one on the left), and then asked him to do the same. He put glue onto the pumpkin and laid it in the corner. I smoothed it out, and then he glued down the stem. I grabbed us a couple of green markers, and he drew some scribble “vines” on his while I worked on my pumpkin’s vines.

Using a paint brush, gluing things down, placing the stem… these are all great motor skill practice. The more things you do, especially with little pieces, the better your kiddo will get at it all. I wouldn’t have thought to let him cut something a few months ago. Now, after watching how careful he is with everything else, I can totally trust him to be capable. I love watching this little man growing before my eyes.

Playdough and Fine Motor Skills

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I’ve been working with Caleb’s fine motor skills since he was born. Now that he can take directions, and has sharper skills, I’m constantly on the hunt to find new activities for him. This is going to be a short post, because it’s pretty straight forward, but I figured I’d share anyhow.

Tonight we dug out the playdough. I started by flattening out a little bit, drawing a C, and handing him a straw. I had my own straw, and I showed him how to use it as a hole punch over the line of the C. This was fun, but the most interesting part for him was making the holes, and the C was quickly forgotten about. Then I remembered the beading activities I’d seen on Pinterest. I rolled little balls of the playdough, and showed him how to push one onto the straw. He loved it! He took the straw from me and threaded all of the balls on. A few broke as he pushed them on, but he just flattened them onto the paper, and stuck the other straw into it.

All together we spent about thirty minutes on the activity. It was a good way to spend time together, we talked about shapes, we talked about the letter C, and he got good practice for his fine motor skills. I highly recommend this activity!