Monday, February 28, 2011

Preschool: Interactive Calendar

Today while Trevor napped, I assembled an interactive calendar on the wall above our kitchen table.  Those of you who know me well, know that I often would rather create my own ___________ (fill in the blank) than purchase the same thing ready made.  I get a picture of how I want something in my head, and when the store bought item doesn't match that, I would just rather take the time to create exactly what I want.  This is what happened with the calendar.  They sell many varieties of calendars at teacher's stores, but nothing was quite right.

This is what I put together...
  • A wipe-off calendar (store bought) that I can fill out each month, and I printed and laminated pictures/symbols of things that might happen in a given month to stick on the day they will happen (garbage day, grandma and grandpa, Easter, etc.).  My desire is to help Trevor get the concept of "in two days we will...." or "on Friday we are going...." so he can start to understand the big concept of how time passes. 
  • A list of ways we talk about the day.  I want him to start understanding that each day has a name, a number, and is part of a certain month/season/year.  My desire is that each morning (perhaps during breakfast) we will look at that list and say what the current day is, changing the ones that need to be changed.
  • To-Do Lists for Trevor and me.  I don't think I will start this with him yet, but eventually I want to write down (or find pictures to represent) the things he does in his day (eat breakfast, get dressed, do a chore, etc.)  Also, I thought it would be a good way to show him that I have things to do each day too.

Each of the pieces on my wall are able to be stuck and re-stuck over and over using Scotch Reusable Tabs.  This is necessary since we will be changing some of the pieces daily!  I've never used these before, but they look promising!  Has anyone tried these out? 

Really, I wasn't planning on introducing the calendar concept until next year, but I got too impatient to wait, so here it is!

If you would like to create something like this on your own, here are some printables your can use!

Happy Learning!

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Preschool: Week 11

Day 1 - Theme: Moon

  • Color the moon coloring page
  • Talk about vocabulary word "full-moon"
  • Make a moon cake and talk about "full-moon" and "crescent-moon"
  • Recite "Hey Diddle Diddle"
  • Sing "Hey Diddle Diddle" while jumping over the moon

Day 2 - Letter: "K"
  • Color letter "K" coloring page
  • Talk about the sound the letter "K" makes
  • Talk about words that start with the letter "K" (Trevor came up with Kate, kite, and kitten)
  • Scrabble spelling: "go" "no" and "so"   (we reviewed this the rest of the week)

Day 3 - Number "11"
        ***I was excited to notice a great improvement in Trevor's "numbers" ability these past two weeks.  Just a few weeks ago he was really struggling to get all the numbers in the right order when counting.  He now zips right through them (up to about 15) without a thought.  Also, a couple of weeks ago he was frustrating me to no end when I wanted him to put together his number puzzle.  He just wouldn't put it together even though it is well within his abilities.  He would stack the numbers, push them off the table, ignore them, or whatever, but he wouldn't put them in the puzzle.  This week it took him a minute and a half to complete the whole puzzle.  I was happy to see a greater ability to focus and follow directions.

Day 4 - Shape: Crescent
  • Look at the crescent coloring page
  • Talk about the shape "crescent"
  • Practice tracing a curved line

Day 5 - Review
  • Review concepts from this week while putting the pages into the school binder

Happy Learning!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Preschool: A Closer Look - Spelling With Scrabble Tiles

I was going to wait a while until I started any kind of spelling with Trevor, but he knows what sound each of the letters make, so I thought we'd give it a shot!  Tim had the idea of putting the letters of a word scrambled up in front of him and see if he could put them in the right order by sounding it out.  I liked the idea, so we got out the Scrabble tiles and this is what we did...

I went to the spelling list in Writing Road to Reading and picked out three words that are similar and very simple.  I chose "Go," "No," and "So."  I got out the appropriate tiles and laid them out in front of Trevor.

I asked him to try to spell the word "Go" by putting each sound together.  He did a good job. It was by no means simple for him and he needed some coaching along the way, but I thought it was a great first try at spelling!  I had to teach him the "rule" that when a vowel is at the end of a word you use the its long sound.  I am not so great at spelling or the rules that go with it, so forgive me if I don't have this rule quite right, I'll have to read up on them before I get to teaching him too much!

He went through and spelled out each word.  Then I would say one of the words and have him point to it and other times I would point to a word and have him say what it was.  This was definitely difficult for him, but I think he was up for the challenge!

When we were finished we read the book Go, Dog. Go! and I had him read the word "Go" each time we came to it.  I think he really enjoyed being able to participate in the reading process.

Do you have any fun ways to teach early reading?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Preschool - All about the Moon

This week in school our theme is the moon.  I asked Trevor what he knew about the moon and he said something like this..."When it's in the sky, and it's time to go to bed, and it's dark out and it get's light!"  I thought that was a pretty all-encompassing definition =)  While he colored his moon coloring page I explained to him that the moon is round, but sometimes it doesn't look round.  Sometimes there is a shadow on the moon and it makes it look like a crescent.  We looked at the shadows that our hands were casting on the table and took turns making our hand-shadows cover up part of the moon.  We talked about the terms "full-moon" and "crescent-moon."  The best part came next, we turned it into an object lesson.  I think the best object lessons are the ones that you can eat.  Today we ate the moon.

Our full-moon cake lighting up the night sky!

 We cut the moon into a crescent and got to enjoy some cake!
(I even hid spinach in the cake and you would never know!)

Next we recited the nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle."  I told Trevor that we would listen to the rhyme as a song and he could pretend to be the cow.  We got out our big exercise ball (the moon) and listened for the part about the cow jumping over the moon.  Each time he heard it, I jumped him over the ball.  It's really neat how something so simple can bring a preschooler so much joy!

Trevor pretending to jump over the moon.
(Never mind that he's still in his PJ's!)

Happy Learning!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Trevor has been in love with Valentine's Day ever sense he watched a Valentine's Day episode of Caillou a few months ago.  I'm not sure what caught this attention, but he will now randomly hand us an object (it doesn't have to be a heart) and say "Happy Valentine's Day!"  It really is very sweet.

This has been a really fun year in our household, because for the  first time Trevor is understanding things like holidays and it's fun to see his excitement.  Getting excited for holidays is something new for us.  Tim and I have never been a very traditional couple.  We didn't really date before we were engaged, we still don't go out on actual dates, and we don't make any sort of deal out of "commercial" holidays.  I acknowledge there are positives and negatives to this, but that is just how we are.  So, like you may have guessed, we don't do anything for Valentine's least we haven't until now!

Ok, so I definitely didn't go all out for today, but I have been hyping Valentine's Day up for the past couple of weeks.  A few weeks ago, during our cookie theme for preschool, we made cookies.  I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone, so we made heart shaped cookies.  I promptly put them in the freezer so we could save them for today (don't ask why there was only ONE cookie left for Trevor today =) He thoroughly enjoyed eating his large heart cookie today after lunch!

Last week we took some time one day to make valentines.  I cut hearts and Trevor decorated them with stickers and drew on them with crayons.  Here is our finished product...

It's been fun seeing the holiday through a child's eyes.  So, from my home to yours, we wish you a very happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Preschool - Ideas and Wish List for Next Year

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I think I love the planning part of school more than the actual teaching part =) So, of course my mind is always thinking ahead to what kind of things I want to formally include in school next year. Here are my ideas as of now and the things that I'm wishing for!

3 Year Old Preschool Wish List

Writing Road to Reading 5th Rev Ed: The Spalding Method for Teaching Speech, Spelling, Writing, and Reading (Harperresource Book)

3 Year Old Preschool Ideas

Reading/Writing - Text: The Writing Road to Reading

  • Prewriting Skills
    • Teach the positions on the clock
    • Teach the concept of "midpoint"

  •  Letter of the Day
    • Capital and Lowercase Recognition
    • Reinforce the sounds each letter can make
      • Flashcards
      • Visually identifying objects that begin with each sound
    • Early Writing Skills

  • Story Time

Early Math
  • Addition/Subtraction (Introduce the concept using manipulatives)
  • Counting by 2's and 5's 
  • Money (identifying coins and bills)

The Arts

  • Fine Motor Skills
    • Cutting lines
    • Coloring in the lines
    • Drawing lines
    • Gluing

  • MusicHohner 6 Piece Rhythm Instrument Set
    • Singing songs
    • Using instruments 

  • Memorization
    • Poems
    • Acting

  • Clock
  • Calander
  • Order of events in the day

Sample Schedule

  • Calendar (5 minutes)
    • Change pieces on the calendar
    • Talk about the order of events for the day

  • The Arts (10 minutes)
    • Music (singing and instruments)
    • Poem of the week

  • Reading Writing (10 minutes)
    • Recite sounds of letters using flashcards
    • Letter of the day
      • Sounds
      • Tracing
      • Building

  • Math (10 minutes)
  • Extra (15 minutes)
    • Craft project
    • Independent work
      • Puzzles
      • Fine motor skill work
      • Reading

  • Story Time (10 minutes)

So that's what I have come up with so far!  Just like I learned in my mid-year review, I'm sure I have aimed too high or two low in many of these categories, but this at least gives me some place to start.  I know I will have to adjust my expectations as he approaches 3 years old and then again later in the year.  I've probably also completely missed some important category of learning all together!  I'd love any input you might have to help steer me in a good direction!  If you have any favorite books, puzzles, toys, music, etc. for a 3 year old, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear your ideas or learn from your experience!


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Preschool - Week 10

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Day 1 - Theme: Train


Day 2 - Letter: "J"
  • Color letter "J" coloring page
  • Talk about the sound the letter "J" makes
  • Talk about words that start with the letter "J" (Trevor came up with jack, Jeep, and juice)
  • Trace the letter "J" with your finger
  • Practice writing the letter "J"

Day 3 - Number "10"

Day 4 - Color: Black
  • Color last week's circle page black
  • Talk about things that are black 
  • Practice tracing circles

Day 5 - Review
  • Review concepts from this week while putting the pages into the school binder
  • Quickly review past weeks concepts while putting this week's pages in the binder
  • Activity: Create a train by gluing pre-cut circles and squares onto a paper

Trevor singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad."  He couldn't get enough of it this week!  He never shows his real skills when the camera is rolling, but here's a little taste =)


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Things I Have Had to Come to Terms With

I’ve been married for six years.  There are some things that it has taken me those six years and two children to come to terms with.  Let me start at the beginning.  Growing up, my mother took care of our home. The house was always clean, there was always food in the cupboards and meals on the table, my clothes were always in my closet.  I guess I knew that my mother did these things, and as I got older of course I did my share of cleaning, cooking, and laundry, but I never really felt the weight of the responsibility of it all.  I never really had to sacrifice what I wanted to do in order to help out around the house.  

When I got married I knew that I wanted to do what my mother did.  I wanted to be the keeper of my home.   I wanted to be a blessing to my husband.  I guess I just never realized exactly what the job entailed.  It took me a while to realize that I don’t leave my work a 5pm and relax for the rest of the evening.  I don’t get the weekends off.  Now that we have children I have had to come to terms with the fact that I may not get to have a full night of sleep.  I don’t get to enjoy a nice shower or run out to the grocery store on a whim. 

Some things I came to terms with quite early on, but others have taken me a while, and yet others I’m still holding on to!  One thing is that I need to do a load of laundry every day.  This is probably the easiest thing for me. I’ve always enjoyed laundry.  Before we had children, I had a laundry day, and I always really looked forward to that day!  Now I just know that in order to keep on top of it all I have to throw a load in each morning.

A while back I finally came to terms with the fact that I need to run a load of dishes each night.  Dishes are not something I enjoy, so I would often let the dirty pile get a little too high!  I am also cheap, so I hated the idea of running a load unless it was filled to the brim.  In the past year or so I have come to terms with the fact that each night I have to run a load of dishes, whether it is full or not.  I need to do it or else I will quickly fall behind!   Also, there is nothing like waking up in the morning to a clean kitchen!

Only very recently have I come to terms with the fact that I need to vacuum the main area in our home each day.  We do not have an eat-in kitchen, so our kids make lots of messes on our carpet.  Sometimes I hate that I need to re-do what I just did the day before, but I’m working on it =)

Like probably everything else in life, I’m realizing that this is a heart issue.  I need to quit grumbling about these things and find JOY in what God has set before me to do.  I need to do the dishes with JOY because I know that I have fed my family a nutritious meal.  I need to do the laundry with JOY because I know that I’m sending my husband to work confident and adequately prepared to do a good day’s worth of work.  I need to give up time during my evenings and weekends with JOY because I love my children and because I am showing them Christ’s servant heart.  And even if none of those things mattered, I need to do it all with JOY because doing the tasks that God has given me to do brings him glory.

I am still far from keeping a good house or having a great attitude about it, and I know that there are things that I am still holding onto, but I’m working on it!  What things have you had to come to terms with when it comes to keeping your home or raising your children?  I’m sure I could benefit from your lessons learned!

Happy Homemaking!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Preschool: Mid-year review

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Part of why I originally started this blog was to be held accountable for what I am teaching Trevor (another is to have good reference for when I start teaching Mackenzie).  I thought that even if no one read this, the thought that someone might be is great motivation!

When we started the year, I had a plan that would take us through the end of the year, but being that I’ve never had a two year old before, I didn’t quite realize how quickly he would grow and learn.  He is two and a half now, and I took some time to reevaluate the goals I had set for him at the beginning of the year.  I honestly didn’t know what a “normal” two year old should know, so I just guessed based on what he knew when he turned two.

I would love to hear what you are doing with your 2 year old, too!  Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom.

Goals I set when Trevor turned two to be achieved by his third birthday:

  • Be able to count to ten
  • Be able to count items up to ten
  • Be able to sing the alphabet song
  • Be able to recognize some letters
  • Be able to recognize more colors
  • Be able to recognize more shapes

Two and a half year check-up:

  • Can count to 20 (as long as he is focusing)
  • Can count items up to 10
  • Can sing the alphabet song great, he can even jumble through the Spanish version! (Thanks LeapFrog Learning Table!)
  • Recognizes all of the capital letters, most of the lowercase letters, and knows the sounds for all but a couple of them.  When he looks at a word, he is starting to say the sounds of the letters instead of just reading the name of the letter, like he is trying to sound it out.
  • We haven't pushed any funny colors, but he knows all the basic ones
  • He knows the standard shapes, plus octogon

Modified goals for the rest of the year:

  • Be able to count to 25
  • Be able to count items up to 25
  • Be able to recognize and say the sound(s) of all uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Continue learning new colors and shapes
  • I may start having him trace lines for early writing work
  • I may start having him "build" letters out of cut out lines and curves

Our current "curriculum" should make it possible for him to learn all of this by his third birthday, as long as I stay faithful in teaching him!

I am already getting excited about what we are going to learn next year, but because I don’t want to push too hard or fast (and because I really have a hard time changing my plans!) I’m not planning on adding anything additional to our school schedule for the rest of the year.  Next week I plan on writing some of my ideas for next year and some items on my wish list for three year old preschool!

Do you have any favorite school related things that you do or did with your preschooler?  I’d love to get some tried and true suggestions!

Happy Learning!


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Feature: The Little Engine that Could

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I got The Little Engine That Could  by Watty Piper from someone at Trevor's baby shower, but hadn't read it to him until now.  This week's theme in preschool is trains, so it is a perfect fit!

The Little Engine That Could mini
There are things that I love about this book, but there it also has some glaring issues when it is read through the lenses of the Bible.

What I Love About The Little Engine that Could

First, the things I love.  I love that the story makes you have an attention span.  The original publication of this book was in 1930, and it is obvious that small children of years gone by were a little more skilled in the attention span department. It was very noticeable, even the first time I read it, that this book includes more detail than it needs to.  One example is when the author describes everything that is on the train instead of just saying “And on the train there were lots of fun toys and good food.”  A short description would have been sufficient, but the more detailed description in the book filled my imagination and challenged me to stay focused instead of just rushing onto the next part of the story.  I think it’s great to stretch our children’s ability to pay attention since most things in our world entertain them by quick moving, colorful, noisy distractions.

I also really appreciate the vocabulary in the book. So many books for children only use simple words (which do have their place), so it was refreshing to see more challenging words (both descriptive words and train related words).  It just serves as another challenge for our children, to push them to think a little bit harder, to encourage them to ask questions to deepen their understanding.  

The basic story line made me think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37.   I love the lesson of taking the time to care for others who are in need.  Children (and myself!) need to be taught that it is terrible to think that they are too important or too busy (or whatever excuse they can come up with) to stop and help. 

Concerns I Have About The Little Engine that Could

That being said, there were some themes in the book that made me pause and think critically for a minute. The first example happens during the climax of the plot, which centers on the famous words, “I think I can…I think I can…I think I can.” This is a very self-centered message and when I read it, it left a bad taste in my mouth similar to that of motivational seminars and self-help books.  As Christians, we are to be others focused, and although it’s not a huge point in the book I think we need to be careful what kind of ideas we are letting enter our children’s heads.  If, as parents, we are speaking to them ideas that are not Biblical, it will be much harder to retrain these mindsets later.  With that said, I know it is good to teach our children to try and not give up, so it’s a little hard for me to know exactly what I think about this part of the book.

Quickly, another similar problem I have is a sentence that is used every few pages throughout the book.  It states that the reason the train has to make it over the mountain is to get the toys and food to the “good little girls and boys” on the other side of the mountain.  I know this is turning theological, but I think it needs to.  Our society generally sees babies and small children as being intrinsically good.  This is an anti-Biblical concept.  On top of that, the idea makes it seem like the children deserved these toys.  We are not deserving of anything good, we only humbly accept gracious gifts from the Lord.  Maybe if the train was carrying clean water and wheat for a starving people I could understand more, but making it seem like the world is going to come to an end if the children don’t receive these toys by morning, sits wrong with me.  Just like my previous point, it’s probably not a huge deal, but I want to at least be critically thinking about what I am putting in my children’s brains.

So I am torn.  Do I nix this book from the shelf or do I just emphasize the good and point out the faults?  I am undecided.  I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on this book’s message, if you think I’m being entirely too picky, or if you’ve come across any other books that pose a similar problem.

Happy Reading!


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Preschool: A Closer Look - Numbers

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With each week’s lesson, we learn a new number.  This sounded like a good concept at the beginning, and it was…in the beginning.  I didn’t realize how quickly Trevor would catch on to both counting and visually recognizing the numbers, so I had to think of other ways to supplement our number day.  So instead of just focusing on learning a number, I am starting to teach early math skills.  Some things we are working on are counting objects, copying patterns, recognizing ‘same’ and ‘different,’ and translating between the verbal, written, and symbolic (ex. number of fingers held up or stickers on a page) numbers.

My favorite manipulative is this Lauri Toys Tall-Stacker Pegs and Pegboard Set.

Pointing and counting the number of pegs in the board

Copying the pattern

I also love Melissa & Doug puzzles, and this number puzzle is a perfect passive teaching tool. I like to have set times (blanket time when he was younger, and now table time after we do school) for him to independently work on something like this so he can freely explore a new concept and challenge himself to do something without my help.  Believe me, it doesn’t always (usually) work as smoothly as it sounds, but it’s a goal!

Melissa & Doug Jumbo Numbers Wooden Chunky Puzzle


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!

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